Today was a down day. I had planned to go to an afternoon meeting on trade and climate, but had a hard time getting out the door. First I slept later than planned. Then it took over an hour to get breakfast at the hostel. I have not been happy with the food at the hostel which is basically bar food. A cold breakfast is free, but it is only bread and sugary cereals, and practically impossible to get to with the throngs of people. That normally runs until 10, but for this conference it stops at 9.
To get a hot breakfast, you have to wait until after 9 when the kitchen opens. Then you have to track down a bartender, which is easier said than done. They fly around stacking a lot of glasses, but to get someone to take your order, you have to almost physically detain them – and even then you are often told to wait. Before my trip I bought upgrades for a hot breakfast every day, not knowing the circumstances. I have come to regret that. Not only is the breakfast late, but there is only one option – a huge plate that includes eggs over easy, a hamburger bun, beans, and extremely fatty bacon and sausage. And today was an hour wait. I have tried twice to get the hot breakfasts refunded, but to no avail. The manager of the restaurant claims I should have known the conditions — I have no idea how — and the desk staff says it is “not refundable.”
Lesson learned: Do not buy extras on anything in a foreign country because you can’t tell the conditions from home, and there may be other options when you get there. There are certainly better options in Paris – at least a dozen restaurants between the hostel and the train station serve a very good breakfast at a good price. This may be the last day I do breakfast at the hostel. I’m just not sure I can eat those beans again.
So as I finally got food, then got showered and dressed, and started out the door, I got a Facebook message from my sister that my 84-year-old mother is in the hospital. It sounds like a serious infection that may not respond to antibiotics, complicated by the site of radiation and scar tissue for cancer treatment decades ago. I went back and forth on that for awhile, and finally arranged with my other sister for a time to call her using What’s App since I have no international voice minutes. I’ve been using What’s App to make calls with my husband over the Internet, and it works very well.
I finally set out for the trade meeting, only to find it was raining, the first day since I’ve been here that it rained. I didn’t want to spend money on an umbrella that I have no room to take back, so did the best I could with my coat hood. But coming out of the metro stop for the meeting, I got lost. I couldn’t keep my phone out as usual because of the rain, and in any case, the phone maps sometimes get really confused in the jumble of streets in Paris. That happened today. I walked for several blocks first one way, then another, always being told to do a U-turn and go the other direction, getting rained on the entire time. By then it was to after 2 p.m., and I had not had lunch. One thing these wanderings did was put me near a little sandwich shop, so I stopped for a quick bite and then tried again.
I finally found the trade meeting a little after 3 p.m., so it had already been going for over an hour. It was in what looked like a small meeting hub on a side street, and it was packed. I had to go through a line of smokers to get in — everyone seems to smoke in France, yet no one is overweight. The room was full of people discussing the ways multinational corporations have taken over many aspects of our lives. When I came in they were talking about corporate agriculture, but judging from the notes on a large display pad, it looked like they had covered other areas too. They had also talked about how that widens inequality and affects less powerful people across the world.
I stood in the back of the room for awhile, but it was stuffy and I was wet, so I ended up waiting in the hallway until they had a break. Then I found a chair and laid out my coat to dry and waited for the second half of the meeting. That part consisted of breaking up into small groups and talking about specific solutions to the problems discussed in the first half. I was in a group but didn’t speak since I had missed the first half. But I did observe, and it was very interesting. First they assigned roles to a moderator and note taker. My group had good people in both roles. Second, there were people from all over the world speaking different languages, but that did not stop communication. Several people in the group were bilingual, so for most people who spoke, someone else translated his or her words into one language or another – English, French or Spanish.
Most of the suggestions revolved around major dates of action planned in various parts of the world. By knowing about major marches or boycotts in Latin America, for example, organizers could make plans to coordinate worldwide. Once the large group reassembled, these events were reported back in English and put onto a master calendar. I noticed that as the notetakers were reporting back, there were translators in the back of the room speaking into small microphones, and that several people in the room were wearing headsets with earphones. The event was operating like a mini-UN which was very cool, and impressive considering they had nothing like the resources of governments or corporations.
After the trade meeting, I went to a Sierra Club gathering at the CAN hub, then a quick dinner and another swim, since I hadn’t made it the night before and knew I could not go on Wednesday or Thursday. Over dinner I managed to talk to my mother for a few minutes on my sister’s phone. I was so concentrated on that that I didn’t even see that CCL had posted on Slack that they were having an 8 p.m. dinner that night. But as on Friday, I would have had to choose between getting my swim and meeting with CCL. I am simply not one of those people who can go for weeks without any real form of exercise, so the swim it was. Even so I spent too much time trying to take advantage of the CAN hub wifi to upload the Kerry video onto YouTube or my Facebook page. It had failed several times previously, but tonight it was somehow successful. But the time it took made me late to my swim, and I initially went the wrong way on the subway, also costing precious time. But I did manage to get in 30 laps in just over an hour.