Saturday, May 27, 2017

Big boy's toys showcasing in Bourget
-          I would like you to accompany me to a meeting this afternoon to take some notes, my boss Jee Eun Kim said when I arrived in the office this morning.
-          Sure. In the Athena Palace Hotel’s bar as usual? I asked knowing that she seldom met her business part ners in the office.
-          No, this time it will be at the Bourget Air Show, she replied.
-          Excuse me? You are talking about the international fair where the French defense industry companies present their latest toys to foreign armies? I asked.
-          Yes. Big boys’ toy shop, she smiled satisfied at my astonishment.
-          Do I need to book tickets? I asked.
-          I have two invitations here, Jee Eun Kim said holding me the cards.
She drove her Jaguar by herself in the afternoon when we headed to the Bourget Air Show. After a security check we entered the military airport, showcasing the latest military products of French and foreign companies. We soon realized it was a no woman’s land. Literally, as I and my boss were the only women around. We walked through full size cockpits where ultramodern flight display solutions were presented by defense companies’ male representatives to their male clients. It was not like a car show with half-naked women lying on the engine bonnets. It was more serious except that some clients couldn’t hide their childish joy when testing the latest flight simulators.

The day was shiny and my boss had her white lace umbrella to protect her ever-young skin from the UV-rays. Finally having my social Navigo card I had stopped scooter biking and started to wear skirts again. As I didn’t know beforehand that I would be attending an air show, I was wearing a skirt too short for the occasion. I was now asking myself whether we looked like serious war makers, my boss with her umbrella and I in my skirt. Or rather a pimp with a Ukrainian hooker. Strange enough, men didn’t look at us at all. Too charmed by the glittering army toys. We crossed delegations from Middle and Far East dictatorships. Asian delegations were as big as whole army sections or even squads. They walked in military formations in their Mao-like uniforms and looked down when passing us.

 Jee Eun Kim was supposed to meet French defense company representatives. But something went wrong and the meeting was councelled. We wanderied between fighter jets, combat helicopters and air crafts. Some army representatives politely explained to me how their peace keeping equipment was supposed to be used. Some others waited until male customers showed up before starting their sales pitch. ​My boss looked bored and the sales officers couldn't guess that I hadn’t brought my shopping list either. Because, according to a military point of view, I was representing a neutral country. 

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Tourist get crooked by fake petitions

Paris is the world's most visited place, but the square behind Notre Dame was now empty of tourists. 
I still saw some children having fun on the playground behind Notre Dame. I first though they were holidaymakers from India wearing Saris. When I got close I recognized the Romanian gypsy pickpocket gang. They were eight girls of about ten, some of them maybe twelve. It is difficult to tell their age because they are constantly undernourished and don’t grow tall. The new comers were wearing long flowered skirts, headscarves and colored socks in their sandals. The others looked like any Parisian teen girl in their skinny jeans and leather jackets. They try to abandon their traditional looks as soon as possible because it is neither easy to run away fast nor merge into a crowd when wearing a longue skirt.
   This gang is acting close to the Notre Dame Cathedral. Their tactic is to ask tourists to sign a petition for a fake organization. Both to avoid any speaking and gain more sympathy the gypsy girl pretends to be deaf-mute. She holds a paper on which she has photocopied known handicap organizations logos. Right after signing the tourist realizes, too late, that next to the signature there is a blank place for an amount to pay. This is a kind of a double-scam. In addition to the fake charity money they place the list against your belly in a way that they can lift your wallet or mobile phone while you are occupied to sign.
   Now the fake petitions were negligently thrown on the ground. One of the girls snatched another's flowered scarf and ran around the playground like mad. Others tried to catch it and followed her laughing out loud.
Million euros a year
I used to look at these teen mothers with hate and anger when they carried babies and begged for money in plaintive voices in the metro. Like most people I couldn't understand why they would have babies when they were living a miserable camp. Then I heard about the collective rape punishments to those who didn't bring enough stolen money at the end of the day. Some time ago French police dismantled a Europe-wide ring of organized pickpockets called the Hamidovic clan. Mister Hamidovic and his sons purchased young girls from poor families in Bosnia Herzegovina and brought them to Paris to pickpocket every day form 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. The girls were told to give Hamidovic every time the police asked their name. Mister Hamidovic himself was living in luxury thanks to these children who brought in altogether more than one million euros yearly income.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Special Forces guy protecting bagel store
I almost broke my arm when I hurried back from work and rode the scooter bike too fast. I took a short cut through an oyster stand on the street corner and my front wheel slipped on an empty shell. I was lucky to escape unhurt and the oyster man helped me back on my wheels. I collected the empty lunchbox that was ejected from my handbag by the shock and had found its way to the oysters.

It was one of those cloudless starry evenings. A couple of white swans followed each other down the Seine River while I rode across the bridge. Illuminated buildings looked golden contrasting the black velvet sky and the black flowing water. An armed patrol of six soldiers in camouflaged battledress had stopped in the middle of the bridge to admire the view without loosening their grip from their semi-automatic rifles, deeply touched by the beauty of their new battlefield. I couldn’t help thinking that they wouldn’t be like that on this bridge now without Dietrich von Choltitz, the general who disobeyed Hitler’s orders in 1944. He was supposed to destroy Paris but even a career military officer can have such a strong affection for this magnificent city that he risked his life and reputation for it. 
Since the beginning of the Paris terrorist attacks around six thousand soldiers patrol the streets of Paris every day. Their main duty is to secure monuments and railway stations. Most soldiers come from the countryside and some of them have never been in the city of lights before. They can be as lost in Paris’s streets as in a foreign country. After the terrorist attacks most of the soldiers patrolling the streets of Paris are sent by the Ultramarines legion or the Carcassonne parachutist troops. But then again I wonder how a Special Forces guy feels standing all day long in front of a Jewish bagel store.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Hiding barbie dolls from terrorists

When I arrived at home in the evening I found Laura’s Barbie dolls hiding in the living room. All eight were placed in different hideouts. Some of them under the sofa, one in a flower pot, one was even under the carpet. When I started tidying up I heard Laura’s alarmed voice from the bathroom:
-          Don’t touch them! They will all die!
-          Why are the Barbies dying Laura? I asked.
-          If they stay still the terrorists will not find them. The police said if you can’t get outside you should hide or lie down on the floor, she explained.
-          Where did you meet this policeman? At school? I asked.
-          Yes. He explained what we should do when terrorists attack. I know everything now and I can even build a barricade to block the door when they are coming, Laura said.
-          They are not coming. Come here. Let’s tell your Barbies they are safe here, I said taking my daughter in my arms. She still had toothpaste in her mouth. We uncovered the hidden doll’s one by one telling each of them that everything was all right.
I put my daughter into bed and wondered whether is was a good idea to teach children at school to hide in case of a terrorist attack.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Paris is too expensive for parisians

My watch had run out of battery. I considered getting it changed by a watch maker during the lunch hour but as soon as I learned the price I gave up. Everyone knows that the tiny Chinese made battery doesn’t cost a penny but if you are unlucky to work close to the Eiffel tower, there it has become a fifteen-euro luxury product. I added the battery to my list of cheap essentials “to be purchased in some working class neighborhood”. Also in my own neighborhood close to Notre Dame, I could easily spend half of my salary on expensive sticking plasters, safety pins and toothpicks. Once bought in intramuros, all these little somethings quadruple in price. It can be all right for a tourist to buy once twelve-euro shoe strings because they are Chinese made Parisian shoe strings, but it is not the same for locals. 
   Even food gets more expensive the closer you get the center. Parisians carrying heavy shopping bags in the bus or metro has become a common sight in the city center. In fact, only the minority of Parisians have a car. At the same time more and more ordinary citizens now take a trolley and go shopping in working class neighborhoods, or even outside of Paris to get more bangs for their buck.
It reminds me of the ex-Soviet Union where western goods could only be purchased by western money in beryozka, particular hard currency stores, whereas ordinary Soviet citizen purchased only local goods with their rubles. Jeans, sports shoes, stockings or even empty plastic bags became such a status symbol that many Finns, mostly males, crossed the border to deal those articles. A colorful western fashion magazine could pay your bill in a restaurant and a pair of cheap supermarket stockings was enough to buy a one-night stand.
   Ever changing tourists don’t protest over Paris prices. Therefore, the city center stores are becoming kind of hard currency stores where ordinary Parisians seldom find anything for their budget. My list was getting longer every day.

All these household essentials could be collected cheap at Boulevard Belleville’s street market. The next Friday I was there. 
 I crossed a pell-mell of fruits and vegetables, cheap cosmetics, wooden African sculptures, fake brand sport shoes, clothes and accessories. Some vendors also called bwana-bwana had put their articles on a piece of fabric on the ground in front of them. This is in case of a police check the articles can be bundled at a glance by tying the corners of the fabric together before running away. I easily gathered all I was looking for. I purchased a packet of two watch batteries for one euro, the same that were sold at fifteen euros each next to the Eiffel tower. 

Saturday, May 6, 2017

The gas company threatened to cut the gas
I had applied some months ago to a small gas benefit aimed at helping poor Parisian families. The social worker assumed that the money was on the way but the national gas company started to lose patience and threatened to cut the gas. I decided to write to the mediator who was in charge of problems dealing with public administration. I was so used to boosting myself by playing “claiming music” that I found it hard to start the letter in silence. But I was not alone in the workplace. The elderly woman was still splish-splashing in the bath tub and since French people prefer chansons to good old rock’ roll, I considered that Abba’s “Money, money, money” wouldn’t make the lady swallow the bubbles. I put the music on on my computer and started typing.
“Dear Mediator,
I’m requesting your mediation regarding my one hundred thirty-eight euro energy benefit claim which was accepted by the Paris Social Services the 14th of October (please see attached the letter of acceptance of the claim). The payment was supposed to be made directly to my electricity and gas supplier.
After almost four months of waiting I now feel obliged to ask for your kind assistance to facilitate an early resolution of my claim. In the meantime, I have made several requests and according to Social Services the payment has been made. On the electricity and gas supplier’s side the payment is not in sight. I have settled the remaining balance excluding the 138 euros aid which is still on the way. However, the company now threatens to cut the gas (see the attached letter).

I thank you in advance for your kind attention to my problem and I am confident that your assistance will help to unblock the situation.