July 29th, 2009 29th

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General Updates

It might seem that I have lost the spark for translating my thoughts into blog posts as of late. While it is true that It has been difficult to find the motivation to dedicate the time to do so as oppose to any other activity, my passion and observation has only gotten more intensive over time. I thought it would be a good idea to fill everyone in with the general updates so that we’re all on the same page.

The end of the Parisian dream

Sad but true story. I head back to the City Victorious on August 9th, for good. The thought of parting is so sad that I prefer not to discuss it much. Nevertheless, I am looking forward to returning to my nest – there have been one too many experiences that I have had to handle single-handedly, and it’s comforting to know that I will make the trip back to the motherland shortly

French classes and language

My last French class was after the first week of July. After that, due to travel plans and the likes, I took time off. Seeing that there was little time left and a lot to get done and see, I have decided not to enroll in further courses. Having said that, I am proud to say that my French is at a developed stage. I have no problems communicating in general. And while I cannot have profound friendships exclusively in the language of romance, I maintain acquaintances and everyday friendship in French. I was confident that I would be able to improve, but I was hopeful I’d reach fluency. Unfortunately, I’m nowhere near fluent, but as a good enough stage to build on in the future.

Visits and trips

Both my sisters Nora and Nevine came to the second capital of love for a week, before all three of us took the Eurostar to London to spend five days with Amr. It was refreshing to have a family reunion, and as always, a whole lot of fun. It was very interesting to try to present the city to my sisters. We grew in the same place back home, and everyone has grown in his or her own way. Apparently, areas like Barbes are not as appealing to everyone as they are to me!

London was cool as well. It’s great when you visit a town such as London with tourism the last thing on your mind. Because you begin to use it as a means to an end, a different perspective than what we’re used to as foreigners in any given country.

Following the family reunion, I made a much-awaited trip to Madrid. I could proudly declare that it was a huge success, in every single way. I was very clear on what it is I was looking for in that trip, it was by no means a regular visit. I saw most of the people I wanted to see, I visited all of the areas that have huge sentimental significance for me, and got to carry out all the activities I was optimistically hoping for.

New website

As many of you know, I have launched a revamp of my website and portfolio at http://www.tarekshalaby.com/ after weeks of non-stop work. The most difficult aspect of building a new website is not so much the initial phase as it is the maintenance. In order to drive traffic, gain credibility, and be exposed to potential clients, I have had to be extremely active, and that is precisely what I have been doing. Between the constant design and technology blog posts, the accompanying tweets, and the design and development enhancements, I’ve been dedicating overwhelming amounts of time.

The good news is that all of the hard work paid off. I had signed up to be featured in CSS galleries (websites that display the best websites across the internet for people to see as example of exceptional design and development) and got featured. In fact, at the time of writing, tarekshalaby.com has been featured in 18 CSS galleries, including big guns such as CSS Mania and CSS Drive. I’m obviously very proud of the achievement, and I hope it helps me become an exclusively freelance web designer.

The everyday life

Generally speaking, especially with the projects and the new website, I have been spending the majority of the days at home working, and the evenings/nights in the streets of Paris. In fact, I have not rejected a single plan of any outing. I make sure I take full advantage of the city, no matter the cost. Therefore, whenever there is a chance to meet and do any activity, I always took part. In many cases, going back home at the early hours of the following day.

I think it’s been great, although it has somewhat changed the second half of the experience as more of a vacation with a part-time job. Fine by me, my priority is to learn the language, and become as familiar as possible with the city.

The final days

I’ll be sure to do some of the activities that I never got around to doing before I take off. I also plan to be making some blog posts before time is up, as much as possible. Whenever a dream is coming to an end, it’s hard to remember just how lucky you are for achieving it. I know in my mind that I shouldn’t be depressed that I’m leaving, but try telling that to my heart. C’est la vie

May 3rd, 2009 03th

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Parisian Nightlife: The Bad Version

Following the enchanting experience of hanging out in the Louvre with friends, I took off to meet up with my buddy Abdul-Kareem Abdel Ghany who’s here from Geneva for the weekend. I thought we were going to a local club, because I guess I’m still very much an out-of-towner when it comes to the night scene here.

We went to this place called Cabaret, very close to the Louvre. It’s the typical club where you have a lot of people waiting in line to go in, but I guess I was with the “right” people, because we walked right through and to our table.

The clubs that I’ve seen in Paris and Geneva, are VERY different than what I’m used to in Madrid, or even Cairo. In the Spanish capital, you go out with a group of friends, go to the downtown area, and walk into any bar you want. If it’s after midnight or 1 am, they might charge you a blasphemous 5 Euros to go in, but even that includes a free drink. When you go in, everyone minds his or her own business, because everyone’s there to enjoy themselves. You feel the positive vibes from everyone, and the music is incredibly engaging – such beautiful nights!

On other hand, this doesn’t seem to be the case around here. It’s the kind of club where as soon as you go in, you become immediately conscious of your appearance and everyone else’s. You get the most snobbish and arrogant individuals from around the planet. The “music” is nothing more than a dozen old scanners combined with the noise from a construction site, and it’s all about who you’re with, and which table you’ve reserved. Because there are the expensive tables, and then the outrageously expensive ones, where you actually need a bracelet to indicate that you are one of the chosen ones to enjoy the enlightenment of entering the VIP section – it’s ridiculous.

There were actually very few Parisians, from what I can tell. It’s basically made for people from outside that want to come to the capital of love and prove a point. They are presenting their case for being members of the elite.

However, that is all nothing compared to the kind of “women” that hang out at the VIP tables. I can’t visualize a way of them arguing against the fact that they are pure and utter objects roaming the salon and willing to do anything for free drinks and attention from the rich ones. One of those escorts was actually hooking up with one guy, and then secretly and simultaneously, hooking with another right before my eyes. Now that’s talent. I never understood the West’s claim of equality between the sexes, but that’s a whole different topic that tends to back-fire, so I’ll keep quite for the time-being.

Did I mention it was a bit expensive? Don’t sweat, though, the bill was only 1,800 Euros, so it’s manageable. I offered to pitch in with 20 Euros, that I had worked REALLY hard to earn I may add, but Abdul-Kareem and his friend Hassan wouldn’t let me.

Don’t get me wrong, it was an entertaining night, and I definitely enjoyed hanging out with Abdul-Kareem (what a character! Out of this world). But between the Cabaret (and there’s a dozen of these type of clubs in town) and hanging out at the louvre, I don’t think it’ll take too long for me to settle on one of them. I miss the good ol’ days of Madrid. And for that matter, I really miss hanging out in Cairo, where the city never sleeps and, for me at least, the options are endless.

May 3rd, 2009 03th

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Parisian Nightlife: The Good Version

Last night I went to a sports bar with one of new Catalan friends, Alberto, to watch the Real Madrid – Barcelona clash at the Bernabeu. As many of you already now, the result was a shocking humiliation of the Madridistas by the Catalan club 6 – 2. Little did I know that I was about to meet the Spanish community in Paris.

The Spaniards are the same in any part of the world, be it Cairo, Paris or even Portugal, they form groups that share the foreign experience together. You can’t blame them, though, infiltrating the Parisian social scene is not a piece of cake, and almost all of them get to know each other from the interchange program between their universities back home, and then ones here in Paris. Nonetheless, it was a lot of fun to watch El Clasico with people from all over Spain.

Following the game I hung around with them as we passed by a liquor store (run by Egyptians from Shobra), where each one picked his of her drinks, and then we took off to the Louvre. Personally, I have never visited the museum, but I always had the intention of doing so. The big surprise for me was how the complex surrounding the museum pyramid is actually converted into a strategic nightlife spot to go with friends, relax, and have a few cheap drinks that you brought along. Apparently, a lot of people know about this. Maybe it’s because I’m from the 18th and am a bit of a foreigner to the central and touristic areas.

The view is spectacular, as the entire complex is lit-up (including the pyramid), and you can see the Eiffel Tower shining from a far – breath-taking. There’s nothing better than being able to enjoys this city’s magic without having to spend too much, and without having to be in crowded, noisy areas. And don’t worry about the space, there’s plenty of room for everyone, and you’re not going to have to be too close to any other group.

I think hanging out late at night at the Louvre complex is ideal for any kind of group. I personally think it serves as a romantic hotspot as well (and it was demonstrated repeatedly infront of us). The weather at this time of the year is glorious (except for the rainy days every now and then), so be sure to live “the other side of the louvre” if you are in the French capital.