24 March 2011

Lost in Translation in Paris

This is a story about my very first day in Paris. After flying 13 hours by Air France from Singapore, I arrived in Paris - Charles de Gaulle airport around 6 AM, together with 2 colleagues. I had one day to walk around Paris before flying to Marseille on the next day. No problemo in immigration, they just asked me to show working assignment letter from my company. There was free 15 minutes wi-fi in the airport, and suddenly everybody's busy with their phone for a while.

As my friend Audi, with whom I was gonna stay in Paris, told me, I needed to take RER B train from airport to La Croix de Berny metro station to go to her place. Later she would pick me up in that station. Okay, sounds easy, there were many signs of Paris by Train in airport terminals, we just needed to follow that. Three of us took the same train but we alighted in different station, I was the last. During that one hour commuting by train, I already informed Audi via SMS twice with "delivered" status, but I didn't get any reply. I started to worry when I reached the destination station. It was a small and desolate metro station, where no one speaks English. I did not find Audi, did not have any credits left in my Singapore number to call her, and I could not speak French at all. I was doomed. What did I do?


1. Look for Convenience Stores
My first mission since arrived in Paris was buying France simcard. That was really the most important thing to do. Do you think it's easy? No, I did not find any place to buy it since in the airport until La Croix de Berny metro station. I was thinking I could buy it in convenience stores like 7-11 (later I knew from Audi that we cannot buy a France simcard in usual convenience store like other countries). So, with big luggage and backpack, I walked a bit from the station to explore the surroundings. Hopeless. It was all residencies. I went  back inside train station to ask the lady in ticket counter (who could not speak English, of course). "Supermarket?" with my arms rotating above my heads, means "is there any supermarket around this area?". She said "Nay!" with arms crossing and head shaking. Okay, that's clear, no supermarket around here. I sat back on my luggage in front of station, thinking what to do next.

2. Ask Friends in Singapore to Top Up My Singtel Credits
Actually I did not think about it, until suddenly I got SMS from Singtel telling me that I could ask friends or family at home to fill up our Singtel credits. What a coincidence! Hopelessly I used that feature to send message to some friends of mine in Singapore. But later I realized they would not believe or buy credits for me just like that. So what next?

3. Use People's Phone to Call Audi
I approached a not-so-old guy next to me: "Phone?" while my right hand was put on my right ear like I use phone, what else?! He replied me with some French words while pointing to streets downstairs. Okay, maybe he wanted to say that there was public telephone down there. I pulled myself and my luggage downstairs. There was just a bus stop, no telephone! I asked again to a lady near bus stop: "Phone?" I didn't have any clue at all of what she said, so I just went back to the station.

4. Go to More Hectic Place Where I Can Buy Simcard, Use Public Telephone or Meet Someone Who Can Speak English
On the train from airport, I saw many tourists exit in Notre Dame station. That might be one of the central places in Paris (by the way, this business trip was so sudden that I could not have proper time to browse about Paris. In fact, I did not know which tourist places to visit, except Eiffel, I just depended on Audi's guide). So I bought a ticket to Notre Dame station in the ticket counter. The train should be in the other platform of my previous train, but I did not know how to go to the other line. I asked a lady next to me: "Notre Dame?" while showing my ticket. She spoke in French while pointing to the other side (yeah I knew, but how to go there ma'am?!)... and then she moved her arms again, somehow I understood that I should cross the bridge upstairs. Owkaaayy.. merci, ma'am! With the heavy luggage I took up the stairs and went to the other platform. Suddenly a familiar voice calling: "Rika!"

And there was an angel, I mean Audi, standing across the platform (imagine like a movie haha). She actually had been there waiting for me quite long. She got all my messages and replied 4 times, but somehow my phone did not receive them. Anyway, that was such a relief to finally meet Audi after one hour lost in translation. What an experience!

I went to Audi's place to put my bags, take shower and eat some foods, before we went around Paris. We visited Musée du Louvre, Notre Dame Cathedral, Arc de Triomphe, Champs-Élysées and Eiffel Tower. It was really beautiful, of course. It would be more beautiful if I was not suffering from jet lag.


More pictures here.

Merci beaucoup Audi for your hospitality :)

5 comments:

  1. you made it to paris!!!!!

    i loved paris. i've been there a few times. always in love with eurodisney :)

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  2. that's quite an adventure...
    I like being lost...^_^

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  3. Whew, what a relief!!! Even when everyone speaks the same language it is stressful trying to find someone in a strange place. But what a great experience. =)

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  4. Paris is surely fun !...don't miss out Versailles..beautiful jardin and palace

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