Monday, October 20, 2008

A Minute in Paris, A Second in Nairobi

I have accomplished quite a lot since 5 days ago when I published last. Thankfully, my plane rides were uneventful which was quite a feat since I have been on 4 planes touching three countries in two continents. Maybe there will be some juicy plane gossip on the way back. As I indicated earlier, my first stop on this current journey was to the City of Love, Paris. Although I found no love, it proved to be a beautiful experience. In brief, the following were interesting to note:
  • Everything is designed for small people--the elevators, the hallways, the roads, the clothes. I see why it is the City of Love, you become quite intimate with people when crowded into a lift.
  • The subway system was extensive and efficient (as reported in Barcelona) leading me to the conclusion that European subway and railway systems are far superior to our best in the U.S.
  • The computer keyboards are quite different with added and rearranged characters. This becomes a challenge for those who have had the structured 10-fingered typing classes of old to shot an e-mail to a friend.

  • Some interesting 3rd party information: 1) It was heard from a fellow from the Philippines who has lived in Paris for 17 years that he has never witnessed a fight meaning that the city is pretty safe 2) There are many tunnels, including the one where Princess Diana had her fateful crash; it was told that people still leave flowers and mementos at the site; in addition, it is thought that she might have been saved if she was rushed to a hospital instead of treated at the scene where they may have missed her internal injuries. This appears to be standard practice in Paris, so be advised to not get into any accidents.

  • The Eiffel Tower sparkles at night.

  • The wine menus at French restaurants tend to be larger than the food menu. Our table was provided a two page menu of entrees and a 10-15 page menu of wine.

  • Erotic art is the norm and you will find naked breasts and other naked body parts in the most common places--the subway terminal, a restaurant, a hotel room or hall, a prime time commercial. As a matter of fact, the french are comfortable with the naked human form.

  • Achieved goal #1--Have sumptuous meals: I had 2 wonderful meals--Cameroonian and French.

  • Achieved goal #2--see the Eiffel Tower: I not only saw the Eiffel Tower but saw many of the well known landmarks including the Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame, Musee du Louvre, and other architecturally impressive building for which I do not know the name.

  • Achieved goal #3--buy outfit: This one was only done in part. I got a hat although a very cute hat. In addition I was able to get a few souvenirs as well which I wasn't sure was going to be possible given my itinerary. My meetings were so close that the stores all closed except for a small souvenir shop next to Notre Dame (shops close by 7p.m. yet restaurants are open all night)--God's grace was upon me that day for I was almost sure to have left empty-handed otherwise.
So that is Cherise in Paris. Early Friday morning, I was flying to the African continent. The plan was to stay in Nairobi for 3 days to connect with an old friend. I met Chad at Hopkins when he was a medical student and I was a public health graduate student. He was the twin of a guy I knew in undergraduate who either I did not know or forgot had a twin. This was quite a surprise to come face to face with the spitting image of someone you know but knew they were not supposed to be there. Awww, the funny moments in life. From this point, Chad was to be my friend. That was 7 years ago and since then we have only spoken by phone, each making moves in our respective fields.

It ended up that Chad decided to work for a mission in Kijabe, Kenya for a year after finishing his residency in Boston, and it just so happen that I take periodic trips to Kenya with my current job. Thus, the two meet again face to face. Alas, it was but a brief meeting due to his clinical obligations but a fun one no less--a taste of authentic African cuisine, bartering at an open door market, and strolling around Nakumatt, the equivalent of Walmart. I must say that Chad is one of the most beautiful people I know and he is doing wonderful things in medicine so look for his name in the near future.
It is a national holiday in Kenya today; I am not sure which one. It is my impression that they have many more holidays then we do in the States. In the morning, I will be headed to Kisumu for 2-weeks so expect more updates. Au revoir and kwa heri.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

On the Road Again

It has been about two months since last I wrote which was a nice break and gave me time to get organize and socialize. But, with true-to-the-bone travelers, the itch begins to rise. It is definitely time to fly the friendly (hopefully) skies. Just as an aside, one of my coworkers got stuck beside a rowdy drunk guy on a trip to Europe who put his stinky feet on her and then when she moved them started aiming all types of vulgar language her way. One of my colleagues ended up in a guest house in Uganda that had rats and where they rented out the room by the hour--don't worry, she found better accommodations. There are more horror stories, but I will not frighten you so. The upsides of travel can far outweigh the occasional negative encounters or incidences. Fortunately, I have been wonderfully blessed as I have gone to my various destinations with only the random surprise. Right now, I am sitting in the British Airways Lounge even though I am still a blue member and not flying in the premium class. The receptionist was so nice to let me in which is especially nice since my flight isn't until 6:55 p.m. and it is now only 3:45 p.m.

So where am I going you ask. Well, my first stop is Paris, France--I know, I know. This will be my first time in Paris. It is going to be a tease though because it will be only two days, but I am known to make the most out of whatever time I have in a place. In Italy while attending a 3-day conference in Milan, I fit in shopping, sight-seeing, train ride to Stresa, and train ride to Venice. It was exceptional. My goals in Paris are to have sumptuous meals, buy one outfit, see the Eiffel Tower, and take tons of pictures.

From "Aah, Paris!" (say with a French accent), I will be headed to increasingly familiar spot--Kenya. First on the agenda is to spend a few days in Nairobi connecting with an old friend and then on to Kisumu. I am already preparing myself to be greeted with shouts of "Obama!!" Last time I reported visiting Obama's grandmother's house and father's grave. If only Kenyans could vote.

For news in Cherise's world, I have finished my third running race participating in a 4-person relay marathon. Again, we were not the first, but we were not the last.

Place: 647 out 689
Race # 9028 Team Name: A.I.R
Members: Cherise (Time: 1:22:31), John (Time: 53:55) (in place of Shea who was sick), Charlene (1:24:50), Sylvie (Time: 1:21:50)
Team Total: 5:03:07

Another aside, you know there are people in this world (mostly Kenyans who live on thin air) that complete a marathon (26.2 miles) in a little over two hours which is like 4 1/2 minutes a mile. The current world record holder is actually a Ethiopian by the name of Haile Gebrselassie. The human body is amazing with limits that defy the imagination.

Don't forget to check back in the coming days for updates on my travels. Au revoir!