Karl’s Blog 7-11-16

We left Chicago one week ago, landing in Paris 6 days ago. This first week has been mostly about acclimating to everything – the 7-hour time change, technology set-ups at our apartment, new apartment, football vs. soccer, etc… Such first-world problems, eh? We are coping! Our first night here, we went out to dinner and were seated next to a couple on holiday from Holland who spoke decent English. They asked what we were going to do in Paris for a year. Jean said she did not have anything specific lined up, but would be investigating some volunteer opportunities. The man said to her “A year is a long time to be in Paris with nothing particular to do.” He then asked me what I would be doing and I told him I’d be working on a book. He said “A year in Paris is a very short time if you are writing a book.” So, there you have it – this next year is either a very long time or a very short time! We are considering that first week as a kind of “vacation” week, necessary for acclimating before the real sabbatical work begins. Our older son Patrick was here the first five days, with his girlfriend, Kathy, so we did some sight-seeing with them. One of our rules for visitors is that we will not take them to the Eiffel Tower, so they did that on their own. We did go to the Arc de Triomphe with them, because Kathy had heard one could go to the top of it for a unique view of Paris. You could, we did, it was. We also went to the rue Mouffetard, walked along the Seine river at night, and hit several of our favorite dinner places together. Patrick and Kathy went many other places without us, too, as us older folks adjusted to jetlag and did mundane tasks like getting French SIM cards for our cell phones and setting up banking with a French bank. Jean and I were happy to hear their tales of Paris hot spots at day’s end. They are off to Budapest, Vienna and Prague now, and we already miss their irrepressible energy. Another highlight of the week was dinner on Saturday evening with the four of us plus Amy Houston, who was Reading In Motion’s director of development about 20 years ago. Amy is one of those people you want to know for the rest of your life once you have worked with her. We have stayed in touch over all those years, seeming to intersect at some key life moments, even though she and her husband Tom and their two children have lived in New York City for most of that time. This time Amy was in Paris at the end of a bike tour in Provence and we met up for dinner at one of Jean and my all-time favorite French restaurants, L’Ardoise. Wonderful meal, sparkling conversation, lots of love all around! “Anybody still there who I know?” Amy asked. Yes, I told her, Liz and Little and Avo are still there, at over 20 years each. “That’s remarkable!” she said. Then a few people who have been there 6-10 years, I told her, and lots of folks who are two years or less. “That’s how it ought to be” she said. And thus began a longer conversation about hiring and developing employees, and whether it would be better for everyone to stay for 20 years. The whole conversation reminded me that I have had the privilege of working with some amazing people on Reading In Motion’s staff over the past 33 years, some of them for 20 or more years apiece, some for less than that, and some who just got there. A few made a huge impression, then moved on and we kept in touch, like Amy, who left to go to business school and now works at Robin Hood Foundation in New York. Others left and quickly lost touch. Perhaps that is all “how it ought to be”, as Amy said. Perhaps I will keep thinking about this over the next year. Or maybe something else will rise to the top. It is exciting to be at the start of this great Paris adventure, unable to see ahead to what will be the themes and ideas that make the biggest impression over the next twelve months. As I keep saying, this sabbatical is an unfolding story. We’ll have to keep paying close attention!

Posted on July 11, 2016 in Karls Blog

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