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Wednesday, 6 February 2019

Catching up and reflecting on 2018

Tempus fugit. Time flies. Here we are, comfortably into 2019, and I haven't written a post since last August. As usual, the delay is not due to an inactive life, but life and work so full of activity that I had not the time to reflect on it.

But, after long last, here we are! I finally received word that my latest report is complete, and on the road to publication, so I am finally able to come up for air, and take the time to reflect on a 2018 well-concluded.

The last time we checked in here, I had just returned from my first trip to Singapore! I was flying high, literally, enjoying my promotion to Senior Analyst with Northern Sky Research, and proud to represent the company in our major project with the company in Singapore. It was a pleasant experience, all around.

Let's see what happened afterward...

Every September, NSR hosts a "Breakfast Briefing" for our clients. It's an exclusive event where we take a deep dive into one or several topics for an exclusive audience. This year, I contributed by explaining the opportunity behind satellite-based Big Data analytics. The event went very well, one of our best yet. Afterward, the day was balanced between networking, meetings, and evening socializing. Juliette was able to come, so she finally met some of the team! It was nice bringing her into the NSR family, and seeing the team socialize outside of the work environment. The highlight of the trip was a reception at the Musée d'Orsay, which was lovely. Juliette was very happy, knowing much more about the work, its history, and significance than any of us, and it was great seeing her in her element.

We also had a chance to tour around Paris and check out museum exhibit on meteorites, but that's a post for another time.

Afterward, I took another trip to Singapore. I'll have more to say on this later, but it was another successful trip, busier than before, and I spent most of my time in my hotel room working.

After that, Juliette and I went to Canada!

Due to all sorts of timing issues, Juliette and I ended up pushing our vacation to the end of October. This worked out well for us since one of Juliette's favourite events is Halloween. First, we stopped in Montreal for a well-deserved week, empty of socializing, empty of responsibility.

The week was wonderful. It was the first time in months I had turned off my phone and computer, and it was really, really nice to just be with my girlfriend and not have some deadline in the back of my mind. We stayed at the Auberge de La Fontaine, which came with a lovely breakfast service and was located right beside a park. While it was starting to get cold there, it was still full of life.

Juliette feeding the local "pigeons"

We also had the chance to see some of Juliette's friends, and catch a show from comedian Paul Taylor. Funny little story: Juliette's friends asked me ahead of time if we wanted to go to a sugar cabin, where they make maple syrup. I emphatically said yes, thinking, "Great! Now Juliette can get this authentic Canadian experience!" Little did I know that "going to the sugar cabin" is just a French-Canadian way of saying, "go to the cabin, and have brunch, that's it." So, here I was thinking we would get to see and be involved in the making of maple syrup, instead it was just brunch. A nice brunch, but still. Kind of funny for me, personally, since my family has made maple syrup before, so it was like taking an adventurer glamping. But, it was a lovely drive, a great excuse to be together, the locale was quaint, and the gift shop was well-stocked.

Between Montreal and Stoney Creek, we stopped in Ottawa. There, we had lunch with my parents, grandparents, and some close friends of the family. Everyone seemed to be doing well, and it was nice to spend quality time together. We brought some gifts, which included sweets and cookbooks from the region we're from in France, Alsace, which everyone seemed to enjoy. There is an old Russian tradition of bringing gifts with you everywhere you go, and I'm liking the idea more and more as I travel and visit family and friends.

Stoney Creek
Our big Halloween event was taking place outside of Toronto. There, for the past few Octobers, my friends had transformed their front yard and garage into a Haunted Garage! Juliette and I caught the first, missed the second, and were happy to be there for the third. Halloween is not really celebrated in Europe, it is a very "American" thing. While there are some remnants of it here, it is seen as too much of a commecial event to be celebrated in France, and too much associated "with the harvest" to really be celebrated too much in the UK, or so I'm told. In any case, given Juliette's love for the gothic and macabre, she loves Halloween, so we were of course excited about celebrating it!

Juliette had outdone herself this year on my costume. Aiming a little too high, I had decided that I wanted to go as Thor. I don't exactly have the body type (ecto vs mesomorphic), but I have a fine beard and mane of hair, if I say so myself. Juliette wonderfully volunteered to make the costume, and in true fashion, pushed me out of the process. Not exactly her fault, as much of the project was a 1-person job. In any case, she slaved over the work, almost every evening for two months, but it all paid off!

You know, as I write this, I realize I am in a sort of boyfriend trap: if I detail just how much effort it took, to show how amazing my girlfriend is, I look like a lazy, demanding person. Yet, if I leave any of this detail out, I do her a disservice. Oh well. Suffice it to say, she was very happy to volunteer, but I don't think she'll want to do anything like that again anytime soon. At least, not without more time to prepare. Thankfully, Juliette had several costumes of her own, already prepared, so she just brought one, which looked amazing, of course!

For the rest of the decor, we gutted the garage, except for the faux walls we had built in the first year, covered them in black fabric and then in fake spiderweb. Created some "scenes", added more decoration, music, and automated creepy figures, including my sister whose costume (the red one, above) was so freaky that people kept questioning if it was a real person underneath!

It was another fantastic event, with over 60 kids going through, some coming back for more, and a few good scares! I think the next year will involve more automation, since coordinating the scenes can be difficult, and creates a feeling of isolation between performers and the rest of the group. However, it was well done, and it was nice to spend more time with friends and family.

November and December were a whirlwind. Professionally, I was working on two projects: the Singapore project and my recently published Flat Panel Antenna report. The former took up almost all of my time. It was one of the largest projects at our company in 2018, and it involved bringing together a lot of data and analysis from many different fields of study. Additionally, the client was exceptionally curious, always asking questions which involved more analysis, more data.

In the end, I was able to go to Singapore once again. This trip was much better than the one before, with everything coming together well. The clients were happy, we were happy (to be done), and my colleague and I had a chance to see more of the city. We rented electric scooters and toured around for much of the last day. I don't know if I'll ever have a chance to go back to Singapore, but it was an incredible time and I am very, very grateful that I was able to go. It involved a lot of hard work, so while I feel spoiled, I do feel as if I earned it, but either way, it was an amazing experience!

The end of the year was bitter sweet. The bitter part, was that while I was in Singapore, there was a shooting in my fair city. Five dead, eleven others injured, it was a terrible thing. Thankfully, no one I knew was involved or hurt in any way. Still, it was a very sad time. Whatever opinions and feelings this engenders, I will just say that I was glad when it was over, and glad everyone I knew was safe.

The sweet part was the Christmas market! During December, the city of Strasbourg completely fills up with tourists and Christmas festivities. Little cabins spring up everywhere, selling every possible ornament, treat, drink, and toy possibly connected to the holiday, and while it can be a little too busy at times, it was lovely to walk the streets, order a hot wine (for Juliette), and some gingerbread! After the bitter episode before, it was a relief to find joy and mirth throughout my fair city.

Side note, I am really enjoying living here, and feeling a closer connection to the city of Strasbroug. I try to stay connected with city events, and explore new shops, locales, and streets, and I feel more connected with this city than any prior. My love is closely connected with many places, those associated with friends and family, but I love the familiarity of "my" city of Strasbourg.

2019, and beyond!
After the holidays, I went straight to work on the flat panel report. The Singapore project really ate up into this report's timeline, so I have spent the last few weeks chained to my desk. Thankfully, everyone has been very supportive. My family and friends understand why I dropped off of communication, and my girlfriend was so very patient with me, not once rolling her eyes when I became too focused on my work. Today, the report is finally done, and I am so very relieved to be moving on to the next adventure.

2018 was a tough year for most, but for me, it was a fantastic series of adventures. Last year, I was in Hamburg, Milan, Paris, Washington DC, Ottawa, Montreal, Toronto, Stoney Creek, and Singapore 3 times! I had the chance to see family, friends, became promoted at work, and continued my quest of self-improvement.

As the year gets going, I look ahead to what more awaits me. My main mission? Transitioning to a dual citizen of France and Canada. I have a lot of paperwork to look forward to, but I want to become a dual citizen. I love both countries, and I want to become as much of a part of both as is possible. I know it will be a tricky, possibly messy road ahead, but I also know that I have plenty of amazing people by my side.

Thank you all very much for reading. I hope 2018 went well for you, and that 2019 is off to an even better start. Remember that anything worth doing usually involves a lot of work, but also that any goal is achievable, if you set realistic expectations and work toward them every day, especially if you have a great support network. I'm looking forward to posting more content here, and on my other channels (look to the left for relevant links), and keeping 2019 rolling well and positively forward together!

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