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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

12th Stop - Brussels

So I’m driving to Brussels and I’m looking at the odometer: 188,800 km. Cool, soon it’ll be 188,888 which means a lot of 8’s, which are incidentally harbingers of good luck in China. I was so excited, I even took pictures. After my experience in Brussels, I’m now convinced that you have to be Chinese in order to get the luck because mine seems to have had run out!

Everything started out well, I found David’s apartment with little trouble. I met David, a former English assistant from Skerries, Ireland, a few years back through our mutual friend, Erik. David is now working in communications for a political grouping in Brussels, but also recently finished studying filmmaking and directed a short documentary on mirrors and people’s relationship with them. Thanks David for giving me a copy; I’ll put you in touch with Katelijne and Manus! David’s roommate, Rose, also from Ireland, was recently promoted to editor-in-chief of an agricultural magazine that reports on the CAP policy. Great! I’m sure Katelijne would love to meet you for her next documentary!

David introduced me to his boyfriend, Mario, and we had a cocktail before going out for dinner. Mario is from Portugal and is working as a legislative assistant for an MEP. Despite his recent promotion, Mario is looking to change fields and start translating! What a great idea, did you know that translation is one of the top ten most promising professions for the next decade? Good luck Mario!

On Monday, I met up with my former host father, Claude, from when I was an exchange student in Belgium. We went to lunch and had a very interesting discussion. Claude has a great job. He oversees Solvay’s involvement as the main partner in the Solar Impulse project. Solar Impulse will be the first airplane to make a round-the-world flight using only solar power. Claude explained how important it is for a project to have a vision that others can believe in. This dream of Bertrand Piccard, to fly around the world without using any fossil fuels, has motivated a team of sponsors, engineers, physicists, computer scientists, and more for over 6 years. Claude gave me some promotional material and I would like to cite Bertrand Piccard:

“If an aircraft is able to fly day and night without fuel, propelled only by solar energy, let no one claim that it is impossible to do the same thing for motor vehicles, heating and air-conditioning systems, and computers. This project voices our conviction that a pioneering spirit with political vision can together change society and bring about an end to fossil fuel dependency.”

It’s amazing but true; the constraints imposed by such a challenge (without going into the details) have required all of these people to literally “invent the future” or find new solutions to reduce weight, increase efficiencies, improve materials and more. Several applications from this project are already finding their way into different industries.

Claude also told me how at a certain point they had to stop thinking, researching, and inventing and start building. This meant that they had to go with what was available at the time when they started building the prototype. Some would say to him, “But today we can find even lighter, more efficient batteries.” Sure, but if we are constantly waiting for the next breakthrough, we’ll never get anywhere. A word to the wise about project management, especially if you are a perfectionist. Nothing will ever be perfect, so know when to draw the line and start doing.

Later that evening, I met up with Mario, David, Eva, another legislative assistant from Denmark, and two JCI members from the English-speaking JCI Brussels chapter, Laurent and his business partner, for dinner. They recently created an on-line retail company called Zack Brand It. After dinner, Laurent and his partner went home and the rest of us went to a café terrace for a nice cool Belgian beer. This is where my luck started to take a turn for the worse.

Brazil had just won a play-off game and there was a little too much commotion in the streets. The smell of caipirinha was getting thicker and the samba louder. After paying and before getting up to leave, someone managed to steal my handbag with my wallet, telephone, and a metal encased notepad and card stocker with pen that Melda from Izmir gave me in Denmark :-(

We went straight to the police and file a report. I also managed to cancel most of my credit cards. What a bummer! Thanks Mario and David for going with me to the police station and consoling me. Despite the frustration and hardship this was and will continue to impose, I did learn some valuable lessons that I’d like to share with you:

  1. Don’t keep all of your credit cards in one place. There were at least two of them I rarely use and should have kept them in a my suitcase.
  2. Murses (man purses) get stolen just as easily as purses. Unfortunately, we don’t have the years of accumulated experience that women have with stolen purses. Keep it on or attach it to a chair if you are sitting in a public place.
  3. Don’t take your car registration and insurance papers with you when you go out, unless you really need to. Great, five more countries to get through with my car and no driver’s license, proof of insurance, or registration papers.
  4. Copy important phone numbers into your smartphone asap and synchronize with your computer. How am I going to get in touch with my Indian friend's family in Calcutta now?
  5. Friends are a godsend in times of need. David and Mario both offered to help me out with some cash until I got new cards or could withdraw cash from my bank. David ended up lending me €100 so I could get to London with no problems. A few days later when I asked him for his bank details to wire him the money he told me to use it to buy some bednets. Thanks David for this donation and thanks again for helping me out in my time of need.

I spent most of the following day on the phone with insurance companies, my bank, telephone company, etc. In the evening, we all went out to a Portuguese restaurant to watch the the World Cup game between Portugal and Spain. I was reassured when Mario told me that our fried steak, french fries, fried egg, and rice dinner was typical Portuguese junk food. I couldn’t imagine having the same on a daily basis! Sorry Mario that Portugal let us down; if it’s any consolation, I’m sure Spain is going to go on to win this World Cup (the advantage of not keeping your blog to up-to-date is that you can make fairly accurate predictions about the future ;-).

We went out for another drink to talk more about translation and filmmaking, then said our good-byes as I would be leaving extra early to catch my ferry to England. Thanks again David and Rose for hosting me, that’s three bednets, on top of David’s donation. It was a pleasure meeting you Mario and best of luck if and when you decide to start pursuing a translation career. Thanks to Claude for lunch and a most interesting conversation about goals, visions, and project management. Best of luck with the Solar Impulse project, it is very inspiring and I for one will be following your progress closely.

Next stop: London!

Monday, June 28, 2010

11th Stop - Amsterdam, part 2

Perfect, well almost. I just barely made my flight. Unfortunately, I couldn't check in luggage in Nice because I was too late. What to do with the four nice bottles of rosé wine I bought as gifts for my hosts? Had to think fast, lest they end up in the trash... Who is always hanging out at the airport in Nice? Mister Limousines of course. I had Laurent on the phone in a matter of seconds, and he told me to drop them off at the Heli Air Monaco desk. He'd swing by to pick them up later. Ok, that was done, time to get on my plane. It isn't very nice to be going through the security check and here your name being called, "Passenger John Di Rico, last call for the flight to Amsterdam!" I grabbed my things in both arms and started to run... and sweat profusely. "Wow, you just barely made. I was just about to close the flight."

The flight got me back to Amsterdam and I was soon in my car. Thanks Chantal for the tip about the free parking outside of the RAI train station! I picked up Marion and Hilde from JCI Amsterdam International and we headed over to Sugar City in Halfweg for a visit of a new office building built in and on top of an old sugar processing plant. They actually kept the existing sugar silos and turned them into office towers! For those who don't know, Halfweg is halfway between Amsterdam and the ocean.

The next day I had a training with 3 translators. I got there extra early to make sure everything was in place. Perhaps too early, I thought to myself, when I showed up and was greeted by an iron curtain in front of the training office. No big deal, I'll go grab a coffee and come back in half an hour. Coffee was grabbed and I got back in front of the office. Still no one there. Then one, two, all three of my trainees show up. "Ok, maybe the person is running late. Let's do introductions outside and then..." Fifteen minutes later and still no one! Luckily, they have a sister organization not too far away. More running, this time in a suit and tie. We finally got the door opened and had a fabulous day of training. Despite having confirmed in person, next time, double check to make sure they received the confirmation by email.

I learned some interesting things about Dutch culture from my trainees. Let's start with the birthdays. Apparently, when it is your birthday, you have to hang around at your place and receive guests all day long. You also serve them coffee and cakes when they pay you a visit. The Dutch also have a thing called club friends. This is a group of childhood friends that remains intact forever. Some clubs even chip in money and plan reunions every year. If you weren't part of the group as a child, there's no way you'll get in as an adult. Thanks again Marlies, Zena and Jean for attending the training and the interesting discussions at lunch!

This time around in Amsterdam, I stayed with a friend (Maureen) of a friend (Chantal). Maureen is an exceptional host, amazing cook, and great conversationalist. She is also a very talented listener. I appreciated the time we spent together talking about family, friends, and life in general. Unfortunately, as the days went on, we started to see less and less of each other because of scheduling conflicts! I want to wish her the best of luck finding a new job in the cultural industry.

The first night, we took the bikes and went out for dinner. Maureen warned me that the brakes weren’t working and she seemed rather concerned. Little did she know about my years of experience riding bicycles, but more importantly, that I used to work in a bike shop. What a great opportunity to fix her bike (didn’t get around to it until Sunday but got it done!). After a delicious dinner in her old neighborhood (pizza with truffle oil and fresh riccola), we watched the end of the World Cup game (the Dutch versus Cameroon).

I made breakfast Friday morning and Maureen’s friend Katelijne stopped by with an apple coffee cake. Katelijne is an up and coming filmmaker and was having a release party later that evening for her latest documentary called The Last Polder. She has some great ideas for future films including an in-depth look at how the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) radically affected small farmers in the Netherlands over the past 50 years. Sounds promising, best of luck and looking forward to seeing it on the big screen!

After taking a ride to the bike shop to get the brakes for the repair job, we had 25 minutes to make and eat an avocado, tomato, feta, garlic, olive oil and lemon juice pasta salad before we were supposed to go to the movie theater. In fact, I got confused, I thought we were going to the release party but it turned out Maureen was meeting a friend of hers to see a new Japanese animation... with Dutch sub-titles! I appreciate the invitation but I think I’ll do something else. Maureen’s friend started recommending good films to see and others to avoid. I’m sorry guys, I know you’re going to lose all esteem for me but I really enjoy watching action-packed Hollywood movies on the big screen. I didn’t find out until later that Maureen’s friend is a film critic!

There wasn’t anything playing I wanted to see so I left them and met up with Enrico, Manus, and Renato for some Belgian beers at Golem. I met Manus 7 years ago when I came to visit Janet in Amsterdam. I was surprised to learn that he just started making movies (corporate films) and wants to start making documentaries. Wow! Going to have to hook him up with Katelijne. Around 11 pm I got a message from Hilde to join her and her friend Uke at a club. Manus and Enrico left and Renato and I headed over to what we soon realized was a 90’s music theme evening. Fair enough. We barely had time to get a drink and find Hilde and Uke when Enrico shows up! I guess he couldn’t resist the urge to dance. Thanks to everyone for such a fun night!

On Saturday, I grabbed some croissants and another one of Maureen’s friends came by for breakfast. Then I left to go to the beach with Hilde and her colleague from work, via Halfweg of course. I rushed into the water only to be scared out of my wits by a giant jellyfish on patrol two feet in front of the spot I planned on diving head first. I think I’m just going to suntan and play the djembé for the rest of the day...

We made it back to Amsterdam and went directly to the riverside restaurant to meet up with Marion, the JCI Amsterdam International local president, and other members from their chapter. She had organized dinner and drinks partly because I was in town. Thanks Marion for doing this and to everyone who joined us!

It was getting late and time to go to a club or bar. Jasper and I were the only two with enough energy so we said our goodbyes and were off on the bicycles for a late night on the town. Jasper grew up in Amsterdam but recently returned from working in Madrid. He’s now looking for a job here in supply-chain management. Good luck to you too Jasper!

We hit up several places: a hard rock bar with a live band playing Metallica covers, a boilerplate bar with top 40’s pop hits, and the Bourbon Street Club with live soul and funk music. We closed out the latter and ran into an Indian friend of Jasper’s cousin on our way out. This friend either really liked his cousin or was really drunk because all of the sudden, I was his best friend and if I went to Calcutta, his family would take care of me. Ok, that sounds nice, can I have your number?

We left and headed back to the first place we had stopped, a former newspaper production facility, but never actually went in. There were some top DJ’s from Berlin spinning and the party was supposed to go on all night, until 3 pm the next day. Sure enough, by the time we got there at 5:30 am, there were people outside waiting to get in. While the sun rose, we waited until the doors re-opened at 6 am (legal requirement to “close” for an hour) and went back into the night.

We met some nice people in there, including Melanie, who told me all about her business plan and recent participation in a young entrepreneurship contest. We danced until about 9:30 am and then reemerged from the night. It’s strange coming out of a pitch black underground dance party at 9:30 on a Sunday morning. You feel almost ready to start the day.

After getting some shut eye, I packed my things, fixed Maureen’s bike and was on my way to Brussels. Thanks again to Enrico, Janet, Hilde, Marion, Jasper and everyone else for such a wonderful time in Amsterdam and especially to Maureen for hosting me. That’s 4 bednets to protect 4 families for at least the next 4 years.

Next stop: Brussels!,

Thursday, June 24, 2010

10th Stop - Nice

Looks as if this round the world trip is turning into a round in circles trip! Why back to Nice? That's simple: family. I've been meeting a lot of people, telling them about this adventure and many of them think it is amazing; some are even envious. However, it isn't all as easy and fun as it may sound.

The morning I left Nice back in May, I dropped Louis, my 4 and half year-old son, off at school. I'll never forget the expression on his face and him saying to me that he's going to miss me. As I walked away towards the car, the tears welled up in my eyes. I didn't imagine how difficult it was going to be to leave him. Sure, we have Skype and get a chance to see each other often but it's not the same as a hug, holding hands walking down the street, swimming in the sea, laughing together...

I wanted to get back to Nice before getting too far away. This was the perfect chance to kill two birds with one stone since my mom and her boyfriend Danny were passing through Nice on their European tour. The first night back, I got in very late and slept on the floor of Louis' room. Early the next morning, he woke me up by caressing my face; the best way in the world to be woken up!

On Saturday, I took Louis to see his first World Cup soccer game (mine too for the 2010 edition!). We met up with our Dutch friends Chantal and David and Jacob to support the orangemen. Later that night, we went to Chris' ginguette garden party and met a lot of nice people. Thanks Chris for inviting us! Sorry to all my friends in Nice that I didn't see. I wanted to spend as much time with family as possible. I may end up back in Nice for another visit with Louis this fall before he comes to the States to join me for part of the tour... I'll keep you posted!

Thanks to my Mom, Louis, Danny for the great time at Marineland with the dolphins, killer whales, sharks and other marine life as well for the rest of the time we spent together. And a special thanks to Anaïs for hosting me during my stay.

Next stop: back to Amsterdam for the main course!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

9th Stop - Amsterdam

I left Copenhagen bright and early Wednesday morning and had a long drive ahead of me. Instead of racking up the mileage on my car and taking the cheaper route (toll bridge), I headed south for the ferry to Germany. Coincidentally, I was on the same highway that I took three months ago when I went to Iris’ birthday party in Malente. No time this time, however, to stop in Luebeck for Germany’s best Marzipan or Hamburg for a visit of Europe’s second biggest harbor!

I made it to Amsterdam early evening for what could best be called an appetizer visit. Indeed, I was there for less than 24 hours. But 24 hours was just enough to get re-acquainted with Janet and meet the rest of her growing family.

I met Janet about 10 years ago on a beach in the South of France. We managed to stay in touch at first through e-mail, then with a visit to Amsterdam seven years ago and also by helping connect her with my friend Nate while she was in Mexico... Facebook eventually came along and that just made things easier. 
Now I got the chance to meet her son, Antonio, and his Italian father, Enrico. We had a lovely visit, and I was very happy to hear about all of the exciting things on the horizon for them, including a second child only a few months away! Enrico is also studying computer programming and will be making a major career change a year or so. I told him about a couple of great sites where he could start out working as a freelancer: and

After her pregnancy and some time off to take care of the newborn, Janet will be looking for work in international development agencies based in Amsterdam. I want to wish them the best of luck and thank them for hosting me for a short but sweet appetizer. I’m really looking forward to seeing them again next week when I return for the main course in Amsterdam ;-) and in Cape Town, South Africa in August!

Next stop: back to square one, Nice!

8th Stop - Copenhagen

After a wonderful closing night to the JCI European Conference in Aarhus, I set off with Erik and Valérie for Copenhagen around noon. I dropped them off at the airport for their flight back to Nice and managed to get myself a map of Copenhagen to figure out what to do next.

Jacob had introduced me to two friends of his, Malene and Susanne, members of JCI Copenhagen International, whom had offered to host me a night or two (thanks Jacob!). Now I just needed to get in touch with them. Malene apparently wasn’t receiving my SMS messages because I had the wrong number! Thank you Facebook--I sent a message to Malene before I left Aarhus with my number and she ended up calling me!

I planned to meet her at her place around 8 pm which meant I had a good 2 hours to kill and what better way to kill time than on the internet... I found parking in the center of the town and set off to look for an internet cafe. On the main drag, I spotted a Burger King and thought, they must surely have it. WiFi? No. Well, how about their nextdoor neighbor, MacDonalds? WiFi? Of course. What a shame, I was really looking forward to eating at BK for the first time in 6 years (does not exist in France because of some tainted beef scandal 20 years ago).

It was getting late, so I headed over to Malene’s. She hadn’t eaten so we went back out, this time to the Hard Rock Café. I know what you’re thinking, you’re in Denmark and all you can do is go into McD, BK, and the Hard Rock Café! You’re right, I’ve had prouder moments. Nevertheless, Malene had a great burger and I lopped up my Carlsberg with joy while we talked.

The next day, a work day. Kicked off the morning with a run along the waterfront. That was beautiful, a nice clash of urban industrial landscape, dunes, sea, and windmills. Later that evening, I met up with Susanne, Pouline, Jason, Jalena, and JCI Denmark’s National President, Peter Mangaard, at Tivoli, Europe’s oldest urban amusement park, to celebrate Bie’s birthday. Dinner and rides, swings, slides, and laughing--we felt like kids again!

One more day in Demark, time to visit a little. I picked up Hélène and we met up with Jacob, Delphine, and Virginie in a beautiful area called Nyhavn with tasty treats at quaint Danish restaurants, a large canal lined with sailboats, and a cool breeze. Herring and beer, yummy.

Later that night, I organized an informal meeting of translators, called a powwow, and invited members of JCI Copenhagen to discuss Corporate Social Responsibility. we had a nice dinner and discussion about values and implementing them in business. Thanks to everyone who came out for this meeting and to everyone who donated some change to purchase 2 bednets! I went to the home of my new host, Susanne, for the night. Susanne is currently looking for work in international product management, product marketing, project management or strategy/business development, preferably at a Danish company with international subsidiaries. She has a MSc in International Marketing and Spanish. If you know anyone who knows someone who is hiring in Copenhagen, please let me know!

Big thanks again to Malene and Susanne for hosting me during my stay, to Bie for letting me tag along at her birthday party, to everyone at the powwow and to Jacob for putting me in touch with Malene and Susanne!

Next stop: Amsterdam!

Monday, June 14, 2010

7th Stop - Aarhus, Denmark

The moment we’ve all been waiting for (and by “we” I mean Delphine, Valérie, Jacob, Maxim, Erik and Charlotte, all members of JCI Pays Niçois): the 2010 JCI European Conference in Aarhus, Denmark! This was extra special for us since both Jacob and Charlotte come from Denmark and what better way to discover their country than at an international conference with more than 1000 other young active citizens from around Europe...

Erik and I left Potsdam together and arrived just in time to meet the others at the train station and take everyone to their respective lodgings. A big thanks to Delphine and Jacob for exchanging their apartment in Nice for an apartment in Aarhus. It was great to feel almost at home during our entire stay, with a big table for breakfast and great music (finally got to listen to an album from the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, 10 years after I saw them open for Spiritualized in Salt Lake City...).

The theme of this year’s conference was “learn, explore, share” and I think this aptly sums up the 6 days we spent in Aarhus. We kicked off our stay exploring Den Gamle By, literally “Old Town”, which is a replica of historic Danish village life. Whenever an old building in Denmark is slated to be torn down, if it has historic value, they take it down brick by brick and reassemble it in this park in Aarhus. Exceptionally well done, but what else could you expect in the land of legos!

The exploring continued Thursday afternoon with the public speaking competition on the topic “let us be the change”. I had the privilege of representing France and competing with some brilliant speakers. Congratulations to Solveig Malvik from JCI London who went on to win the competition and will represent Europe at the World Congress in Osaka, Japan!

The sharing had already begun Wednesday night with a fantastic welcoming party by our hosts the Danes, but I must say that the Germans took it to the next level with their party down at the docks in an old hangar on Thursday night. Try to picture a thousand people dancing with painted smiling faces, hagermeister and delicious German beer, sausages of every stripe and color, world cup soccer, smoke and lights, and music to keep you dancing till 4 in the morning!

I ended up learning the most on Friday morning. I am so happy I attended what I think might as well have been the best talk of the conference given by George Kohlrieser, Professor of Leadership and Organizational Behavior at IMD Business School in Switzerland, psychologist and professional hostage negotiator. George gave us quite a few insights on what it takes to be a leader. The things that stick out most in my mind however are that people aren’t born leaders. About 95% of being a leader comes from experience and learned skills. We also learned that people aren’t naturally opposed to change, but rather to the pain and fear of the unknown. I see this a lot in the translation industry. Translators are like nervous hens when you start talking about machine translation. They fear that they are going to lose their relevance in the near future. Only when they understand the benefit of change (such as embracing machine translation to become more productive) will they overcome the fear. Finally, he told us that meetings can be up to 70% more productive (meaning faster and better!) if you have everyone stand up. I can’t wait to try this during my next 6-hour Wordfast training ;-)

Later that day, members from the French delegation met with the Honorary French Consul in Aarhus, Jørgen Hansen, and the JCI World President, Roland Kwemain. This is a unique opportunity for JCI France members to meet with French ambassadors and other foreign service officials when attending international conferences. Mr. Hansen talked about Franco-Danish relations and trade. Annual French exports to Denmark amount to €2 billion while Danish exports are worth €3 billion. In Denmark’s biggest university town, with 40,000 students, less than 50 of them are studying French. I think that language is probably the biggest barrier to trade and that if France ever wants to balance its trade deficit with Denmark, they ought to learn more Danish. Perhaps it would be even more practical to learn English since virtually everyone in Denmark speaks it...

The rain finally let up on Saturday for the duck race and street painting events. Conference attendees purchased 667 plastic ducks for $10 each to compete in a duck race on the river through the city center. The proceeds from this action will be donated to the Nothing But Nets campaign. After lunch, Maxim, Valérie, Jacob, Delphine, Virginie and I did a giant mosquito street painting to promote an international sports challenge our JCI chapter is planning in the South of France next year. Proceeds from this event will help fund mosquito bednet purchases as well.

The conference ended with an awards ceremony and gala dinner, a great opportunity to share one last night of talking, laughing, dancing, and singing before saying goodbye. Thanks to everyone involved in the organization of this event (Danes and JCI World HQ), the French delegation and national board members for taking care of us all week, and the members who made this conference so cheerful, interesting, and fun! Looking forward to seeing everyone again in Osaka, Japan.

Next stop: Copenhagen!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

6th Stop - Potsdam

Potsdam? This story starts last summer at the JCI European Conference in Budapest. I met the members of JCI Potsdam over lunch one day and we had a very nice discussion. One of their members was in Nice later that summer, en route for Corsica, and I invited him and his friends to stay at my house in Saint Blaise for a few days. We had a great time that culminated in a Franco-Americano-German summer party till 3 in the morning!

Steffen insisted that I come to Potsdam with some Jaycees from Pays Niçois, so we organized a visit! Erik Bottier, one of our newest members joined us.

Erik’s flight was delayed but he did manage to get in. First stop, Steffen’s house for a BBQ. Perfect weather and delightful evening, with kartoffelsalat, beer, sausages, steaks, whisky and Cuban cigars. Thanks Tammy and Steffen for an amazing welcome dinner!

The next day, we had the privilege to have a guided tour of the Sanssouci Park. for those of you who don’t know, Potsdam is home to Germany’s Versailles, and even slightly bigger. Beautiful chateaus built by German kings over the past few centuries, the most famous being Sanssouci which was built by Frederick the Great, the enlightened King of Prussia and friend of Voltaire. Our guides were Didier and Jorn, an historian and staff member from the Chancellor’s cabinet. A special thanks to both of them for their explanations, translations, and good humor! Thanks Olaf, JCI Potsdam local President for organizing this day.

The weather was too nice to have dinner inside so instead we opted for a lakeside beer garden and picnic. Thanks Ilona, Christian, Steffen, and Erik for a lazy summer Sunday evening next to the lake!

Early Monday morning, Steffen and I picked up Erik and we went to visit a local company, Pro Potsdam. Pro Potsdam builds eco-friendly apartment buildings and offers solutions for retired persons to prevent domestic accidents, including curtain rods that can be lowered so you can put on and remove curtains easily. Jörn-Michael Westpahl, the company CEO and former JCI Potsdam and National Board member, took time out of his day to show us the concept. Thank you Jörn-Michael!

After taking a quick tour of the Potsdam city center, we stocked up on goodies for the picnic later that evening. We initially planned to go canoeing on the river before dinner but there was too much wind. Instead, we talked some handball players into a soccer game! We were on our way to a crushing victory (sorry Erik, who played on the other team) when Axel got hit in the face with the ball and looked like Rocky after round 3.

The rest of the members joined us for BBQ dinner after their JCI general assembly. We talked about meeting again next year, but in Nice just before the JCI European Conference in Tarragona, Spain. Erik and I and the rest of Pays Niçois are looking forward to welcoming JCI Potsdam next summer and taking you up to the mountains for a pre-conference outdoor adventure! We sealed the deal with a toast of fine champagne cognac.

Thanks to Suzanne and Steffen for hosting me for my stay in Potsdam and in particular to Steffen and the rest of JCI Potsdam for making us feel so welcome! See you next summer in Pays Niçois!

Next stop: Aarhus, Denmark!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

5th Stop - Berlin

Probably one of the foggiest drives ever from Prague to Berlin. I guess it was the barrier from bad weather to good weather because I was truly blessed when I got to Berlin. Clear blue sky and sun for my stay (the clouds you see above cleared up the next day)!

Claudia, president of JCI Berlin, whom I met in Stockholm during the European Capitals Meeting, put me in touch with one of her members, Chuy-You Phow, for a home-stay. Turns out, Chuy-You is from France! I made it to Chuy-You’s flat in the former Eastern side of Berlin and then we went out for dinner at a Thai restaurant. Chuy-You recently started a marketing business and is currently completing a degree program in sustainable development. She’s aiming to do consulting work for companies in regards to sustainability issues in the near future. After dinner, we went for a drink with Marcus. Marcus told me about a great IT-related advertising idea that his company, Godot, is working on.

The next day, we both worked in the morning, but couldn’t resist the nice weather for long. We headed over to a nearby park for a walk and lunch, bratwurst, beer and Kartoffelsalat (potato salad, one of the few things I know how to say in German!). After lunch, we walked around the park some more and soaked up some rays.

On our way back home, we took a detour and went to an old bread factory that has been transformed into studio space for artists. We ran into Sara from Italy and Javier from Colombia and chatted a while with them. Sara painted some wicked shoes, I can see them now: hot blue, orange, and yellow.

As we made our way out of the building, we were intrigued by some nice music coming from one of the studios. We hesitated for a minute in front of the door, then said to one another “If you don’t dare to do anything, you end up with nothing”, opened it and walked in. Inside, we met Pat Matshikiza from South Africa. Pat was very nice to us and told us about his work in South Africa and what he likes about working up in Berlin. I hope I get a chance to meet up with him again... maybe in Capetown in August!

Chuy-You left that night for a trip to Paris. She also left me her apartment which may come as a surprise to you... Knowing that I am a member of JCI, she had no worries and full trust in me. Apparently, I even managed to fix the leaking faucet in the kitchen sink and the washing machine. I don’t know how, but am happy to have unleashed the magic nevertheless!

Thursday night, I had the opportunity to attend a business training on how to dress for success, organized by JCI Berlin. Thanks to Claudia and all the members for welcoming me to this training. You’ve encouraged me to learn German! Good weather and good people in Berlin, I think I’ll come back one summer for a couple of months.

On Friday, I ran a one-to-one Wordfast Pro course with Christa. We had a nice time and covered a lot of ground. Best of luck to your Christa for your future translating endeavors!

Thanks to everyone for making my stay in Berlin so nice and a special thanks to Chuy-You for hosting me; I’ve bought 3 bednets in your name and you’ll help protect 3 families from malaria for the next 5 years.

Next stop: Potsdam!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

4th Stop - Prague

After finishing up a translation on Monday morning, I hit the road again for Prague. As I got closer to the city center, I felt more and more lost. For some reason, I decided not to follow my printed out directions. Big mistake. An hour or so later and a spin through a parking garage by accident, I ended up getting pulled over.

Apparently, I turned down the wrong road. As I was following the patrol car, I must have missed the sign. Fortunately, I didn’t have a Czech money on me for the “fee” and the policeman let me off with a warning.

I met up with Milan Condak, another Wordfast Trainer from the Czech Republic and we talked about training and the future of Wordfast. Milan also showed me some machine translation software that works with Wordfast called PC Translator. Thanks Milan for traveling 8 hours for our meeting; it was a pleasure meeting you and I wish you lots of success for the future.

Milan and I parted ways and I went on to the Corporate Social Responsibility Powwow I had planned via Generally, a powwow is an informal gathering of translators to network, share experiences and have fun. During this powwow, we talked about values and how to transform them into concrete actions via your business. I also invited local members of JCI Prague to talk about what they are doing in the community to create positive change and network with the translators in attendance. A special thanks to Ewen, Anthony and Adeline for joining us and sharing with us what you’ve been doing in JCI Prague. Thanks as well to Pavel for helping with the organization of this powwow. Pavel is going to be organizing a International Conference in Prague in early October and I know he is going to do a great job! I hope I can make a special detour for it... Finally, a tremendous thanks to the everyone in attendance. Together, we all chipped in a raised enough money to purchase 5 bednets!

During the rest of my stay in Prague, I mostly visited with Marika, Ewen, and Adeline. I learned that there is no tolerance for drinking and driving in the Czech Republic (0.0%) despite being the country with the highest consumption of beer per capita in Europe (the world?). Marika also showed me a really cool video on YouTube of a Spartakaida in 1985. Imagine 240,000 people coming together in a stadium with enough room for 6 soccer fields and performing a synchronized dance routine... if you don’t believe me, check it out for yourself!

Thanks again Ewen and Marika for hosting me in Prague! I bought 2 bednets in your name which will help protect two families from malaria for the next 5 years. Looking forward to a weekend in Prague next time ;-)

Next stop: Berlin!