I missed morning class today and hopped on an early train to Paris to meet up with the ringer I imported for the MBAT coed volleyball events. My adventure began around 7:30 AM at the train station, where the official refused to sell me a ticket for the 8:03 TGV to Paris. According to him there was a 7:03 train which I had already missed and a 9:03 train but nothing in between. This was perplexing since the online schedule indicated that there was an 8:03 train. Even more perplexing was the fact that an 8:03 TGV was showing as on-time on the Departures board. Weird.
After exhausting my French vocabulary arguing with him about the existence of such a train, I finally gave in and bought a ticket for the 9:03. I did NOT want to waste an hour of Paris time hanging around the station so I decided to check out the platform where the phantom 8:03 would allegedly arrive. Sure enough, it came right on time. I was a little nervous about hopping on board. After all, my ticket was for a different train and, hey, this wasn’t Vietnam; there were rules here. What would happen if there weren’t any seats for me? Or the conductor didn’t accept my ticket? Would he throw me off the moving train?
I decided to be WILD AND CRAZY and climbed aboard, taking the assigned seat I would have had on the 9:03. So much for my worries about competition for seats; there wasn’t another soul on board. Perhaps this actually was a ghost train . . . Oh well, no matter; it got me into Paris on-time and the scenery on the way up was lovely. Fields of bright yellow (flowering canola) abounded on both sides and the weather was beautiful.
After a four-hour trip I arrived at Paris’s Gare de Lyon. Now it was time to find IMD’s hotel, which was supposed to be just south of the main city. Two hours later (partially due to Paris’s slow, late trains and partially due to the fact that the hotel was WAY out in BFE), I checked in. It turned out to be perfect timing, though, as my ringer was just arriving at the same time. The rest of IMD wouldn’t be arriving for another 4-5 hours so we passed the time with a leisurely lunch/wine tasting out on the veranda by the pool. SDA Bocconi and Cranfield were at our hotel as well so we met some of their students while we waited on my classmates.
Several vans of IMD students finally arrived and we were ready to head to HEC (our host school/campus) for the official opening ceremonies. Or were we? We waited for the shuttle bus, which was supposed to come to our hotel every hour, for over two hours, finally arriving just after the ceremonies ended. Great logistical planning; strike one, HEC.
Our students, led by Trinbagian Paul Holmes, had lit a torch in Lausanne with the Olympic flame at the World Olympics Headquarters and transported it all the way to HEC and now did not have a chance to share it with the rest of the participants. Oh well, it was the thought that counted. Except that apparently at the ceremonies HEC people brought their own torch and told everyone they had lit it in Lausanne and transported it themselves. They were taking credit for our moves while we were standing around waiting on their poorly organized bus system! Strike two, HEC.
Oh well, no problem, at least they were about to serve us dinner. Unfortunately, dinner was terrible. It was served in a cafeteria that would make even the worst elementary school lunch line look good. The highlight of dinner was the HEC representative telling us we had three options: Chinese, Italian, and Middle Eastern. The sign on the “Middle Eastern” section was clearly labeled “Morocco,” not exactly in the Middle East. The other highlight was finally receiving our schedules for sporting events that were less than 12 hours away. Strike three, HEC.
At least we are here, though. It is great to be here with my volleyball ringer and classmates, unburdened by schoolwork. The Bocconi kids are great too and the weather is expected to stay beautiful so I think it’s going to be one heck of a weekend. Pictures of the first day are in my facebook album.