Sunday, July 29, 2012

Reflective Essay (Before Honors Kicks Me Out)

As has happened to every other student in the history of the University Honors Program here at UC, it's taken quite a few "gentle reminders" for me to sit down and write this blog-post-cum-reflective-essay. Somewhere in the ballpark of ten or 15 reminders, probably..

But here I am. It's finally happening.

Really, though, what better time to reflect than a year 14 months later? When I was fresh off the plane last May, I had not yet had the chance to reflect on my semester. Certainly not enough to write a 1,500-2,000 word essay. I am finally in a place where I feel I can confidently produce a "thoughtful, integrative, substantive, and well-crafted" essay that addresses my "experiences and learning outcomes in a personal, cohesive manner." (Those criteria coming from, of course, the Global Studies Reflective Essay guideline/outline/prompt provided by the exemplary Honors staff.) Mostly, though, I am finally in a place where I have the time, energy, and mental fortitude to put forth the proper effort. And, as they say, better late than never.

Before I venture alllllllll the way back into thinking about Switzerland, it might make sense to provide a little context about the point in my life from which I am writing this reflection.

As the timestamp will indicate, it's July 2012. At this very moment, I'm watching day one of the Olympic Games. Though I'm not a tough critic, I thought the opening ceremony was fantastic. Full of Brit lit, Mr. Bean, and the Beatles. Today, Ryan Lochte snagged the first gold for the United States (beating his competitors by 3+ seconds in the 400 IM), the women's soccer team managed a solid 3-0 against Colombia, Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh narrowly won their match against the Aussies, and a bunch of other events occurred relatively unnoticed. Actually, the Olympics do apply to my time in Geneva. As can be seen in one of my earlier posts, we spent a day in Lausanne, Switzerland, during our orientation week; Lausanne just so happens to be the home of International Olympic Committee (and the Olympic Museum). The museum's exhibits - particularly the collection of Olympic torches - were incredible, especially for someone (me) who has a great deal of appreciation for the sports diplomacy epitomized by the Games.

Wow. Already way off track. As much as I'd love to reflect about my passion for the Olympics, I've got a job to do. And letting down Jen Lile (my Honors advisor and one of the most inspiring people I've met) is NOT something I want to do.

Quickly, though, here's a bit of an update on just what I'm up to now (besides attentively tuning into NBC at all times). This summer, I'm living at my home-sweet-home on Rohs Street, working in the mornings at UC's Archives and Rare Books Library and in the afternoons in the Office of Admissions. Clifton is hot and disgusting in the summer, though it doesn't keep me from running most days (and neither do wipeouts or dog bites). I suppose this is my last "summer," as next year at this time I'll have to be a real person out in the real world. With any luck, I'll be preparing for two years a a Teach for America Corps member... But regardless of what happens after, I will be graduating from UC on April 27, 2013 with a B.A. in International Affairs. Wow. More imminently, though, I'll be heading to our nation's capital on August 29 where I'll be spending a semester interning at the U.S. Department of State. I'm lucky enough to be working in the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration's Office of Multilateral Coordination and External Relations. It's a mouthful, but it's exactly where I want to be. I'm actually still pretty sure it hasn't hit me yet that I'll be an intern at the State Department. It's been my dream for at least a few years now, and I don't think it will really feel like reality until I'm on the plan to D.C. After that, I'll return to UC for my final undergraduate semester. Gotta squeeze in those final history requirements I suppose..

Now that I've successfully (?) spent a great deal of my word count on things that aren't necessarily required in the reflection guidelines, I should probably refocus.

So what did I learn? What did I do? And how does it affect me now?

I'm really a lot better at organizing things in my head when I'm writing in list form. So I'll begin with a shortlist of "most important" things:

1) It's very cliché, but the semester I spent abroad changed my life. I am a different person now than I was when I arrived in Geneva. How could I not be? Let's face it; the American lifestyle is pretty far removed from the rest of the world. Europe, of course, is a close cousin, but it's still different enough to notice how much your day-to-day life changes when you live there for four months.

2) Living with 26 other American undergrads in a tiny (though standard by Swiss/European standards) "house" in downtown Geneva is an experience that is completely impossible to forget. And I would never want to. Despite the occasional constant bickering, drama, and food-stealing, my housemates in Switzerland are responsible for some of my greatest memories (and for so much of my current music collection). I still keep in touch with many of them (just saw Riley last night, in fact!), and I plan to for years to come. Genf love <3

3) I learned so. much. Both inside and outside the classroom (and in this case, "the classroom" is not just in the figurative sense - we literally had a single classroom), my brain was on overdrive at all times. Within the confines of the Rue Rousseau, on the streets and in the stores of Geneva, and while traveling around Western Europe, there was hardly a time I wasn't discovering something new, picking up a new word or phrase, meeting strangers and new friends, eating a new food (or trying a new beer), or learning something new about international politics. I often hear my peers dissing the courses they took/their actual academic experience of being abroad, but I simply do not share that sentiment. I could not be more happy with the courses, professors, and material I studied while in Geneva. Sure, it would have been lovely not to have to take 18 credit hours while studying abroad, but our schedule was more than ideal. (I had class on Monday afternoons and evenings, Tuesday mornings and afternoons, Wednesday mornings, afternoons, and evenings, and Thursday mornings - i.e. the ability to travel Thursday through Monday.) Additionally, the classes were (generally) fantastic. At the beginning, I felt as though my classmates/housemates knew far more than I did about international affairs (and the world in general). I spent a lot of time reading and a lot of time listening. But after four months of European politics, human rights, international business, international trade, international organizations, and French, I found that I had learned a lot of stuff about a lot of stuff. I returned to UC much more knowledgeable than I left it; I truly feel that, as a result of this experience, I am a global student and a citizen of the world.

4) On this trip, I discovered that learning while doing is perhaps the best approach (at least in the majority of situations). I had to be on my toes all the time, constantly adapting to new surroundings, new people, etc. My planning and critical thinking skills were exercised all day every day, and I am forever indebted to the great continent of Europe for making me the student, woman, and person I am today.

5) Also of importance, while traveling was exhilarating, I have to take the time to properly express my thanks to the city of Geneva. For a student of international affairs, this is the place to be. To walk down the street and see the World Trade Organization, the World Economic Forum, agencies of the UN on practically every block, the International Committee of the Red Cross and the World Health Organization up the hill, and so on and so on, is unexplainably incredible. In a particular example of how my Geneva semester is still impacting my life and my future, my work with PRM/MCE this fall is a direct result of how passionate I became about refugee issues thanks to several of the courses I took while in Switzerland. Specifically, visits to places such as the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the ICRC truly opened my eyes and my heart to the millions of humans mistreated, marginalized, displaced, and forgotten. So, when I was asked on my State Department application to select the two bureaus in which I would most like to work, I was not hesitant to chose PRM. And in exactly a month, off I'll go..

6) I think, above all, this experience taught me the value of being present in the moment. More correctly, reflecting on this experience led me to understand that. I spent a lot of my time in Geneva and in Europe worried, anxious, stressed over small things, and often wishing to be somewhere else. I'm not sure I've ever been more frustrated with a realization than I am with that one. (This is also something I thought about a lot while I was in South Africa earlier this summer.) Again, it's cliché, but living in the moment is so crucial. Living in the second, even.

And now, a brief advice section. Because there are (small) things I would change if I could:

1) If you're really, really set on studying in Geneva, Switzerland (which is the 5th most expensive city in the world as of this year), plan ahead. Specifically, start working about four jobs several months in advance. Then you may have enough money to eat three meals a day. But really, plan a budget and stick to it. #ThingsIshouldhavedone

2) Live in the moment. Don't let the little things matter. See #6 above. #Thingsthatarecrucial

3) In the same strain as #2, keep an open mind at all times. Bad things will happen, things will go wrong, you'll adapt. Often, it's the unplanned stuff that ends up being the most unforgettable. #Thingsthatpplytoeverything

4) Learn everything you can about a new place before you go. It will make your experience a thousand times better. That way, when you're in Rome, you won't walk by the Vittorio Emanuele II and say "What's that?" #ThingsIhavedone

5) Take it all in. Take pictures. Take deep breaths. Take chances.

I could go on, but I am at 1,800 words, and that feels like the perfect amount. I could not possibly say, in a blog or even in words, how much I have been, and will continue to be, affected by this journey of a lifetime. And I am so lucky to have been able to experience that life, if only for a short time. Though I don't know when my next adventure to Europe will take place, but I am near certain it will never live up to the four months I spent in Geneva in 2011.

But you never know.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Et Enfin, à Paris!

So. This past Friday night, I finally moved into my Cincinnati house. Since then I've been unpacking, seeing friends, and getting reacquainted with college life. I have truly missed it here, and it's so good to be back. I'm sure I won't be saying that come next Wednesday, when classes actually start, but until then I am going to soak it up. And use this bit of extra time to write this godforsaken Paris post before I get in all kinds of trouble.

After returning from Mallorca, it was truly back to the grind for a bit. And by grind I mean three hour classes, turkey-and-avocado sandwiches, 24-hour living with people who were getting under my skin, and coming to terms with the four term papers I had been putting off. April was a weird time for everyone in the house I think. The time of niceties and politeness had long since worn off, and there was quite a bit of (totally petty) fighting between people behaving as schoolchildren rather than adults. So Adrianne and I basically decided to get the hell out.

After a stressful typical visit to the Gare Cornavin SBB/CFF/FFS ticket center (where you'd better believe all the attendants hated our North American, English-speaking guts), Adrianne and I finally managed to book tickets on the TGV. Because of her internship and my Eurail pass limitations, we had to take different trains, which I will revisit later..

So. On Thursday April 14, I had to run (of course) to Gare Cornavin to catch my early train to Paris. Typing this now, I'm just rolling my eyes, like "Oh my god, why was my life so freaking awesome for four months." And to think I ever complained about a second of it. Disgusting.

I remember that ride so well: fast, sleek train, listening to Daft Punk, eating my apple and looking out the window as the incredible European countryside flew by. I remember thinking that I could never get enough of riding these trains, listening to the fast-paced French and people-watching like crazy. Being careful not to be too American, speaking in French when I could, and constantly wearing black like the rest of the Europeans. Train rides were such an essential part of my European experience, and I can't help but think it funny that I was so charmed by public transportation. If only it were so efficient and widespread in the States.

Anyway, I arrived less than three hours later in the City of Light. Totally alone and unprepared in the Gare de Lyon. I didn't have any euro on me whatsoever, like an idiot, and I needed it to purchase a Paris Métro pass in order to get to our hotel. I walked around for 20 minutes or so looking for an ATM before finally asking a lady at the information booth who told me there was one outside. Okay, awesome, there are about fifty entrances/exits in Gare Lyon. Embarrassingly, I was not confident enough in my French skills to ask her to specify where outside I could find this ATM. So I walked around forever, in some kind of "alone in Paris" panic mode. It was during this time that I began to regret wearing a dress. It was apparently some kind of faux pas to show your legs in Paris in April, something that I did not and still don't understand. But I sure did get a lot of rude looks and outrageously obnoxious catcalls. Although I guess that just may be Paris. Or that tan..

I finally found an ATM after venturing several streets into the Lyon neighborhood, whichever one that is. So pathetic how much I have already forgotten. So then I had euro bills, which I soon found out is not an acceptable form of payment in the automatic machines where you purchase Métro passes. There was no change machine, so I had to communicate with a crass employee of a train station convenience store that I needed change. I was flustered beyond belief at this point, and I nearly cried when the employee made fun of me (in French) to another patron in the store. At that moment, I cursed every French man in the world.

FINALLY, I purchased my Métro card, sweating and sore from my backpack straps. My god, did I look stupid. Fortunately (and surprisingly) I had the foresight to write down the Métro path I needed to take to get to the hotel. (It is also fortunate that the Paris Métro is phenomenally logical and well-laid out.) I feel as though I don't even need to point out how fantastic of an experience it was to ascend the stairs at my stop and walk out under one of the iconic Métro signs. Absolutely priceless.

I will spare the details of how long it took to find the Hotel du Plat d'Etain (Tin Plate Hotel?); I had a map with me so I have no excuses. During my search, though, a young Roma girl (no more than 10 or 11 years old) tried to pickpocket me and very nearly succeeded. There is no good way to explain how I felt when I turned my head to see a child putting her hand in my purse. I definitely let her have it, in English of course, but I feel like some expletives are universally understood. I was angry but also sad that this girl's life required her to steal. This was one of many firsthand experiences I had with the current cultural/demographic issues in Europe. It's so easy for us in America to think of Europe as a cohesive unit, but living there for four months certainly changed my outlook.

I had some time to kill before Adrianne's arrival, so I carefully studied my map and made my way to the Centre Georges Pompidou, an art and culture complex that is absolutely stunning to look at.

The Stravinsky Fountain

Église de Saint-Eustache

"L'écoute" by Henri de Miller

Being in Paris by myself was actually kind of romantic. I just looked and looked and looked at everyone and everything. I didn't have to talk, which was strangely nice. And the street art was awesome.

Notice that he is blindfolded. Also notice that no one is showing any of their legs. And notice the cute French child
I'd like to state at this time that there is no place in the world like Paris. There is nothing like walking the streets of Paris in April. Unbelievable.

Finally, Adrianne arrived, and in all my infinite wisdom of Paris after a day of getting lost in it, I picked her up at the Métro stop, took her to our hotel, and proceeded to bitch about my hectic day. Then we partied Paris style.

We walked around Le Marais, the arrondissement/district where our hotel was located, for a while. Had some fancy, expensive dinner at some fancy, expensive French restaurant. Thank god we had learned by April to ask for tap water (as opposed to bottled water or sparkling water, because that shit is expensive). After dinner, we stopped into a market where we purchased some wine which we then consumed at various locations along our route back to the hotel. Again, nothing beats drinking wine in front of famous Paris landmarks.

Exhausted, we fell asleep pretty early so that we could squeeze a ton of touristy stuff into the next day. Which we did. And now that I think about it, I think maybe we got there on Friday instead of Thursday. In that case, we woke up on Saturday morning and took the Métro to Boulevard Hôpital where I did one of the dumbest things I have ever done.

I am very much into human rights. And taking a human rights course (under the instruction of the wonderful Dr. Cecilia Jimenez) in Geneva, Switzerland, only added to my interest in the topic and my desire to incorporate human rights work into my career. And the only reasonable thing to do when you like something a lot and feel very passionately about it is to get it permanently inked on your body, right? Right.

So I decided a while back to get the year "1948" tattooed on my wrist. Lots of cool (and horrible) things happened in 1948, but very importantly to me, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted on December 10, 1948, in Paris. The UDHR is the founding document on all rights to which human beings are inherently entitled. These things are very important to me. I had originally wanted the entire text of Article 1 on my body, but I figured that four digits would be cheaper and more reasonable than 30 words. Plus I take issue with one of the words* in Article 1 anyhow..
(Article 1 reads: "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood*." Like what about sisterhood?)

Anyhow, back in Genf I had done the best research I could on tattoo parlors in Paris and I settled on one called Royal Tattoo. So Saturday morning/afternoon, Adrianne and I rolled up to the tattoo parlor, where I promptly realized I didn't really know any French verbiage about tattooing. You'd think by April in Europe I would have learned to plan ahead much better than I ever did. But no.

So we began talking in broken Frenglish about whether they could do it without an appointment, if I could use their computer to show them the font I wanted, etc. Things were cool, we managed to understand each other very well through the use of both French and English, and the artist was kind of weird in that way tattoo artists are supposed to be.

Now here is where I'm a total idiot. NOT ONCE DID I CARE TO INQUIRE ABOUT THE PRICE.

So he printed off the sticker-thing, and we moved it around on my right wrist for about five minutes until I was satisfied with the placement. He told me he would make me cry for sure, and Adrianne couldn't really watch once he turned on the apparatus that makes that abrasive drilling noise. But obviously it did not hurt in the least and took less than 10 minutes. Cool.

I walked to the counter to pay. Since "sapere aude" on my arm cost $30 in America, I was assuming that 50 euro would easily cover the four digits of black ink and a tip. 50 euro would have been steep, but it was Paris, and I accepted that it simply would be a bit more expensive there. But I was willing to pay a bit extra for the experience and the cultural relevance of getting it done in Paris.

WRONG. He went "Okay, 100 euro." I looked at him with that face like "Okay, tell me how much you really want." Obviously thinking he was joking.

"No, seriously. That is the minimum. 100 euro."

WHAT. THE. HELL. There is where, if I had been smart, I would have run. They didn't know anything about me. Not my name, not my address, not anything. I didn't sign a single piece of paper walking in. It would have been slightly morally questionable, but Adrianne and I so could have outrun that dude. And no one would have been able to track me down. And I'd still be about $150 richer.

But I paid him. I paid for that exorbitantly-priced tattoo. I even gave him a 10 euro tip for reasons I still do not understand. I said "Merci" in the least thankful way possible and walked out the door. Where I proceeded to rant to poor Adrianne for the rest of the day. Had I asked the price ahead of time, had we not been young American girls, had we spoken more French, I am positive I would never have paid that much. I felt like I had been robbed. It was ridiculous. I am still seething just thinking about it. But I did learn some very important lessons that day. Among them: always to ask the price before you get something completely non-returnable and never to trust French men.

Ugh. But I do love the ink, and it will never stop being important to me. Although I've already had enough of telling random partygoers why I have 1948 tattooed on my wrist and receiving obnoxious blank stares in return. It's a simple concept. There you have it, though, one of the most embarrassing things that has ever happened to me. Always ask, people. Always ask.

Thanks Eleanor Roosevelt

After that lovely event, we hit the important Parisian places. First, the Eiffel Tower, which is of course a spectacle. It's always so strange to see something right in front of you that you have seen thousands of times or more in pictures and movies. We walked all around the Champ de Mars (green space in front of the Eiffel Tower) and took bunches of pictures. We also went across the street behind the Eiffel Tower and up to the Trocadéro, the area that houses the Palais de Chaillot. The Palais de Chaillot was the physical location of the adoption of the UDHR, so that moment was of particular significance to me. There also happened to be a ridiculous comedy/breakdance show going on right outside, so we joined the large crowd and watched for awhile. After that, we sat on a bench in front of the Palais, enjoying the gorgeous day and watching some crazy guys longboard down the hill.

Tour Eiffel!

Palais de Chaillot/Trocadéro

Reflection in the Palais window

What's up French bros


Next, we hit up the Champs-Élysées (super, unbelievably crowded) and the Arc de Triomphe. After that, I do believe we had another street crèpe for dinner and made our way to the Louvre. We had decided earlier that, given our limited time in Paris, we didn't really need to go inside and wait in a long line to see the Mona Lisa. And I unfortunately don't know enough about art to appreciate an hours-long walk looking at old paintings. So we went that night (after a failed attempt to see the Tuileries Garden, which was closed) and walked around the outside. I found that one of my absolute favorite things about Paris were the infinity pools outside of the Louvre Pyramid.

Arc de Triomphe

A very crowded Champs-Élysées

My favorite Métro stop!

Horrible, blurry night pictures of the Louvre

Infinity pools!
Our final destination of the evening was the Basilique du Sacré-Cœur. Without question, this is one of the most beautiful places in the world. Adrianne, in all her infinite wisdom (not sarcasm), had us walk up the hundreds of steps on the side rather than walk up the front. That hike was so worth it. Oh my gosh. Even thinking about seeing it right now gives me chills. Walking out of the tree-covered stair path to see the immense structure right in front of me was awe-inspiring. And not only is the basilica itself an unbelievable sight, but the view of the city from the top of the hill is, I think, the best view in Paris. With my crappy point-and-shoot, I was not able to capture even a fraction of the beauty there. But my gosh. And the sparkling Eiffel Tower light show was magical from up there. I wish we had gotten to see more of Montmartre, the "neighborhood" where the Sacré-Cœur is located. It's artsy, picturesque, and has some amazing French history. So the next time I am in Paris, I will certainly be spending some time there.

Blurry but beautiful

City of Lights. In person, the Eiffel Tower at this moment was  sparkling like a thousand diamonds

Totally exhausted, we went back to the Tin Plate and crashed for the night before our early train to Versailles. Which turned out to be a total bust.

We had a train home later that afternoon that we absolutely had to catch, so we took the first train out to Versailles and arrived before it even opened. But so did everyone else. There were already thousands of people there by the time we showed up and some of the longest lines we had ever seen. It took us a while to figure out where to collect the tickets we had purchased online, and after much deliberating, we figured that we simply didn't have enough time to go in. So we sold our tickets to these two French girls (who totally thought we were scamming them) at a bit of a discount, took a few pictures of the outside, and got back on the RER to the city center. Lame. So next time I'm in Paris, I'll need to do that as well.

Hello and goodbye Versailles

We gathered our things, threw out all the uneaten food we had drunkenly purchased Friday night, and took the Métro one last time to Gare Lyon where we had a quiet, quick TGV trip back to our beloved Genève. I was sad, though, as I realized that would be my last European adventure. If I had known how expensive it was going to be to travel (and that I would have the opportunity to do so much of it), I would have had a whole lot of lemonade stands and bake sales before departing. It was especially frustrating knowing that I had two more trips on my Eurail pass left to take that would go to waste.

But that was Paris, in less than three days. Crazy, beautiful, unforgettable.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

My Oh Mallorca

Haha well. For a few more hours, it will be August 29. Which is an embarrassing day to be blogging about March/April of this year. But this summer has been a blur of sleeping, selling paper at OfficeMax, and catching up with friends. (Overall, that's the worst excuse on the face of the earth.)

But. I have two more trips to recap so that I can be officially "done" with this Euroblog. Let's see, where were we.

Oh yes.

I had just returned from Spring Break 2011, ready to buckle down for the rest of the semester. Kind of kidding about that. After the usual class schedule and a French test back in Genf, it was time to hit the beach again.

This time, we were off to Mallorca, Spain, a Balearic island located off Spain's eastern coastline in the Mediterranean Sea. A group of six of us went, Kristi and I ready to continue the tans we had begun in the Canaries.

Eden, Alexis, Ellen, Zach, Kristi

Ellen and me!

We arrived on Thursday, March 31st, and took a taxi to our hotel in Magaluf. Our hotel was gorgeous, spacious, and a three-minute walk to the beach. And, thanks to the off-season timing of our stay, it was dirt cheap. (By dirt cheap I mean reasonably affordable in Euros.) But we soon discovered it was overrun with enormous English- Irish- and Scottishmen who were competing in a rugby tournament being held nearby. We also quickly realized that these large men thoroughly enjoyed getting drunk and flashing each other from their respective balconies overlooking the courtyard. Some things apparently defy cultural borders.

View of the hotel pool from our balcony

We spent the weekend relaxing (as if Geneva is such an overwhelming place), sunning ourselves, and eating lots of delicious island food. Much of our time was spent at the Titanic, a bar/restaurant right on the beach, where we befriended the owner (whom we called our Pocket-sized Boyfriend for too many strange reasons).

I'm trying to reach back into my brain for any interesting facts or anecdotes that don't involve 1) nights of partying, 2) inside jokes, or 3) other things that might be irrelevant to this blog-for-school.

Whether it's the time that has passed or the nature of this particular weekend bender to Spain, I'm having trouble coming up with reasons why traveling to Mallorca was an educational experience. There was, as always, the lurking annoyance that comes from not being able to speak the local language (which was, in this case, Catalan, so I guess I'm not too embarrassed about not knowing that). It will never cease to amaze me, though, how ignorant North Americans are when it comes to language. I still can't believe the amount of people who asked me if I knew how to speak Swiss when I told them I was going to study in Switzerland. No, I do not know how to speak Swiss, but I don't feel bad about it because NO ONE ELSE DOES EITHER. BECAUSE IT'S NOT A LANGUAGE.

But I am getting away from the real point of this post, which is to explain to everyone just how gorgeous Mallorca is. Which I think would be better understood through pictures..

Hello, Mediterranean!

What up tiny island

Can't wait to look at this picture in 20 years


Eden and Ellen!

Gorgeous water

These are my favorite pictures

Possibly my favorite picture from all of Europe


When the sun goes down...

Self explanatory

Best blue ever

That person might be topless..

I love sailboats immensely

LBDs minus Ellen! Haha

On Sunday morning, we were all more than a little depressed to leave such a breathtaking place. Anywhere I can wear a bikini in April is more than okay in my book.

That day, I took my final journey on an easyJet flight. At this time, I'd like to congratulate easyJet on providing an affordable and efficient way to travel around Europe. And for anyone who is fortunate enough to get across the pond at some point, I highly recommend easyJet (in most situations) as the premier way to travel from country to country. The staff is excellent and the simplicity of the easyGroup company is commendable.

Next up, Paris, France (where I had an actual cultural experience and did more than just lie on the beach all day)!