July 15, 2005

My Paris Trip: Episode IV: Bureaucracy

My internship with Ernst & Young was supposed to start on Tuesday, July 5th, like the rest of the interns in the program. However, my partner Scott and I were not able to start because our original internship contracts (conventions de stage) somehow never made it to Paris and E&Y's HR required them before Scott and I could get computers and/or access to E&Y's network at the office. We needed the original so we could could go to some temporary work permit office, which would stamp our conventions, allowing us to be interns in France for the month. After a lot of emailing back and forth about the whereabouts of the original conventions, our boss' boss decided that Scott and I should just come in for a "meeting" to at least get started on our projects.

On Wednesday, July 6, Scott and I went to E&Y, met our boss and had lunch with him and another collegue. After lunch, my boss' boss gave us the address of the office we'd need to visit to attempt to get our copies of our conventions stamped. When Scott and I got to that office in the afternoon, there was a note on the door saying that the office that dealt with stagiares (interns) was only open from 9am-11am. We decided to meet at a nearby cafe the next morning to be the first in line at 9am, but when the office opened on Thursday, we found a note on the door of the lady we needed to see that said she would be out until Monday, July 11. Great. To try to make something of the day, we headed out to E&Y at La Defense, which is technically outside of Paris and at the last stop on the western end of the 1 Metro line. Our boss gave us a rundown on our assignments but since we had no computers or network access, Scott and I decided to go to the Senate trip the school organized for all the students. The school asked people to wear "lawyer dress" and luckily we were already dressed up, but some students were still in jeans and tennis shoes. Quel faut-pas! The Senate building is not open to the public so we were lucky to see how beautiful it is from the inside, although we weren't able to see the main chambers because they were in session. After the trip, a bunch of us set out to explore the area around the Senate (which is located by my favorite fountain), but it ended up being just Dave and me checing out sites and getting super grubbin' tandoori sandwiches and beers. You can see all of Dave's pictures here (he was in the Florence program before coming to Paris for this program)

Me in the Jardins du Luxembourg in front of the Senate (from Dave's blog)

The next day, just to get some work done, I did some on-line research at home and emailed my boss a bunch of cases I wanted to read so he could print them out for me. Scott and I met up with him that afternoon and clarified some points on our projects, but had to leave early again because we had no way of working there. Also, the whole week we had to check in at the front desk every day as guests and couldn't open any of the card access doors ourselves. So, to get to our office, we had to wait in the elevator area until someone walked by to let us into the office area. Super lame.

On Monday, July 11, Judge Laro, a US tax court judge and the intern advisor came with us to the work office to try to convince the administrator to stamp our convention copies. However, it turned out that we needed to fill out a form but she was "gracious" enough to accept the photocopied signatures on the conventions in lieu of orginal signatures on her form. When we turned in the forms, she informed us that she'd have our papers ready by the next morning. Scott and I then went to E&Y because we were supposed to have lunch with one of the French corporate law partners, but he had to cancel so we ate sandwiches from the "cafeteria". We were also supposed to attend a meeting, but it turned out to be all in very fast, very technical French and all we were to do was say a little blurb about our projects when our attorney host was up to speak. We bailed immediately after that and went to get our access cards for the building per our boss' secretary's note. It was fairly easy and fast (and my picture looks great), but we were kind of surprised that we had our own phone lines and v-mail boxes and key cards, but no computers or access through other people's computers. That afternoon, because we still couldn't work at work, I went shopping at the Galeries Lafayette, where I got some more formal business clothes for work (business casual doesn't seem to be popular here) and some lingerie because, hey, I'm in Paris and this place has some excellent lingerie.

When Scott and I went in on Tuesday, she was hopping mad because our work was in La Defense (postal code 92037) but her office only covered Paris proper (postal code 750xx). I managed to get the papers back from her, but she wouldn't give us the location of the corresponding office for the 920xx area, so Scott and I came to my apartment to email E&Y and ask them where we should go next. Later that day, we were told we'd have to go to an office in Nanterre, which is one RER (RER:Metro::Caltrain:BART) stop after La Defense. Althuogh we had to wait longer at the Nanterre office, they were open during regular business hours instead of just 2 hours a day and they were actually helpful and seemed to care about getting us our work approvals. The administrator said he would mail our papers to E&Y on Wednesday morning, so we figure they'll be there by Monday and Scott and I will actually be able to start working at work... a full 2 weeks after the rest of the interns.

While you'd think that I'd enjoy not working, I did pay a lot of money for this internship and need all the time and resources I can get my hands on to tackle my research project. The whole bureaucratic process was very frustrating and time consuming, making it hard to feel like I really have a position or a real purpose for being here. It'll be good to finally get going on my project and even better once it's done and I'll have something that will be worth 4 units and a passing grade.

Dave and I visted St-Etienne-du-Mont the day we all visted the Senate; located very close to the Pantheon that honors St. Genevieve, she's actually at St-Etienne-du-Mont

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Today, Monday, our papers arrived from the Nanterre employment office. We were instructed to give them to the big boss' secretary and have her make the necessary arrangements to get our computers... but when we went to her desk, she wasn't there and her desk was conspicuously neat and clean, as if she too was on vacation because her boss is on vacation. So, we asked our other boss' secretaries to see if they could find out when she'd be back. Later in the afternoon, one came to tell me our computers were ready and where to go them. Scott was in a meeting, so I went and got mine (a Dell laptop)... and no one even asked for my papers from the employment office! We should have just said we had them two weeks ago so we could start on time. It took me a while to figure out how to change the keyboard settings to "English" so I could at least touch type normally instead of having to figure out the French keyboard layout but I wasn't able to log onto the network so I still can't print. But I'm sure that'll all be settled tomorrow and I can finally get really rolling on my project without having to lug a laptop on the Metro every day. Hooray!!

P.S. The corporate attorneys that have been helping Scott with his project took us out to a very nice French lunch today (sans wine). I got the "saumon" and it was exquisite. I also got an awesome tan and got to bitch about media laziness/conglomeration when Frederic made the innocent mistake of asking me why the US media doesn't report on W's obvious lies and manipulations.

Posted by: Kristina at July 18, 2005 01:56 PM

As I was going through customs in Washington D.C. on Sunday cute Dutch couple were walking in front of me. At the top of a set of escalators was a huge banner that read: "We the people...WELCOME you to the United States of America." The cute Dutch couple wanted to take a picture of the banner, which was on a wall by itself with nothing remotely sensitive in the area. They asked a near-by security guard if it was okay to take a picture of the banner. The security guard said no in a very unwelcoming manner. Call it irony, call it stupidity, call it another example of how my country disappoints me.

The cute Dutch couple took a picture anyway and I gave them a big thumbs up.

Posted by: Cody at July 25, 2005 09:33 PM