July 29th, 2009 29th

0

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

April 27th, 2009 27th

5

Back Home, In Paris

I’m back from Gran Canaria, and even though I knew this has been home to me, I wasn’t sure what would be the things I would do or feel that would leed me to think so. So I paid attention and realized that the Paris metro is probably the best indicator of whether or not you are at “home”.

One of my best friends, Waleed Fateem, once told me that when you’re in the Egyptian army, you take so much crap until you reach a point when you become a soldier. That’s when nothing matters to you, nothing scares you, and no thoughts are strong enough to penetrate you and trigger feelings such as fear, nervousness or exhaustion. That was very inspirational. Not that coming to Paris is in ANY WAY related to joining the Egyptian army, but here too, you reach a point when you’re no longer a visiter – you’re a habitant, and this is your home.

The following are the traits that come to mind:

  • You jump over the entrance bar leading to the metro to avoid paying an “airport supplement” (it’s almost 8 Euros, can you believe it?). More importantly, you’re not bothered to look around you when you’re doing so, because you’re confident of yourself. In fact, people will look at you and say “this guys is from around here”
  • You know where exactly to stand so that the door opens right in front of you, and you get into the wagon before others do (hence a higher possibility of finding a seat). Moreover, when you arrive at your station, you find yourself right in front of your exit
  • When you swipe your card (assuming you have a pass – because buying tickets is for out-of-towners), you don’t even pay attention – you know exactly where to go and don’t hesitate for a second
  • You never look at a map, and if you do, you’re usually too embarrassed and worried someone might see you
  • When there are various options as to where you can sit down, or stand up, you know how to calculate it so that you’re comfortable, but you don’t have to go through too many obstacles to reach the door when you need too

There’s probably a few more. But I would say that those are the kind of actions you would be taking when you reach the point of considering Paris home. This reminds me of the days of Madrid – such beauty!

April 27th, 2009 27th

3

Yeray The Magician

To get from this:

haircut01

To this:

haircut02

You need Yeray the Magician:

haircut03

To do this:

haircut04

The price:

haircut05

A hug!

Beats any barber’s place in town (although this was in the Canary Islands, not Paris, but I’m sure you can find similar service near you).

April 24th, 2009 24th

0

Traveling While Traveling

As you might already know, I’m in the Canary Islands for a long weekend. And even though it hasn’t been that long since I have settled down in Paris, I already feel like I have left home to travel elsewhere. Such an act allows you to look at things from a different point of view.

For example, I was at a cafe this afternoon with a group of friends where I ordered a coke. When we got the bill, I came to realize one of the fundamental differences between Paris and other “European” cities: I paid 1.50 Euros for something that would’ve cost at least 4 Euros anywhere in the French capital. That’s crazy.

Surely we don’t expect Paris’s prices to be close to those of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, but perhaps we should recognize that it is disproportionately expensive. And with the fall of the Sterling, Paris may well be the most expensive city on the planet.

When you live in a place where you don’t have to even look at the prices, you’re experience will inevitably be significantly different than if you spend half an hour at the local ED (grocery store) to make sure you spend the 20 Euros wisely. For better or for worse, it’s a different experience.

Perhaps living in Paris with loads of money wouldn’t be a lot of fun. There’s something about being broke that gives you the sensation that you’re having an authentic experience. When you know that you’ve worked hard to earn a Nutella and banana crepe, the taste is to die for. But how long can anyone endure such a lifestyle?

Life in the Canary Islands is extremely different. And it’s good to be appreciating the low cost of living, the quality of homemade food, and the freedom from being tied by a tight budget. I wonder how my fellow Arab immigrants from the 18th arrondissment are surviving the rough conditions of Paris?