Thursday, August 28, 2014

Black Paris Profiles™ II: Elizabeth Milovidov - Part 1


I first met Elizabeth Milovidov in March 2013, when she attended the Discover Paris! Big Bang Boom Bloggers' Meet-up and Tweeps' Tweet-up. She stole the show that evening by winning the prize for naming the "Guess the Fesses" mystery sculpture contest that we hosted.

That evening, I learned that Elizabeth is an attorney and that she has a passion for children's rights and Internet safety for kids. Little did I know how deep that passion ran!

Fast forward to summer 2014, when Elizabeth graciously consented to be interviewed for a Black Paris Profile™. I'm pleased to present her fascinating story to you here. Part 1 addresses how she came to Paris and established a full and successful life here.


************

Elizabeth Milovidov
Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Milovidov

After graduating from UCLA in 1988, Elizabeth Milovidov and a girlfriend strapped on their backpacks and hit Europe for two months. The trip was a definite eye-opener - full of history, cultural exchange and dreams. Though they visited several European capitals, Paris was the number one place on Elizabeth's list and in her heart.

It was Elizabeth's first trip out of the United States. She and her friend visited England, the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg before arriving in France. She was enamored with Paris from the start:

We had planned the trip so that we would spend my summer birthday in Paris and we did. Champagne and nibbles on a picnic blanket under the Eiffel Tower. It really was amazing!

My inspiration for visiting Paris was the Paris lifestyle. The stereotypical ideals of Paris: chic women, stylish cafés and bistrots, coupled with the historical realities of how Black Americans like Josephine Baker, Nina Simone, Richard Wright and James Baldwin were received in Paris, provided a wonderful backdrop to my idea of one day living in Paris.

After completing her law degree and going to work in a San Francisco law firm in 1991, Elizabeth came up with a simple plan to relocate to the City of Light. She sent resumes from her San Francisco home base in an attempt to integrate into a French law firm. There were no takers. She then realized then that the best way to get her foot in the door was to be physically present so that she could knock on doors. And she saw that the quickest way to do so was to become a student and obtain student visa allowing her to stay in France. At that time, she already had 3 degrees under her belt and to her parents' dismay, she was quite happy to add two more (MBA and MA in International Trade). She baptized her idea "The Student Plan."

After her first year in Paris (1995), Elizabeth realized that she was getting nowhere. She could not speak French and did not know French law. She had all the right language books, but she wasn’t making a serious effort to speak. So after 10 months of frustration, she went to the American Church in Paris and looked at the housing boards.

American Church in Paris
© Discover Paris!

She found a French student roommate and immediately moved in with her. Her life changed dramatically as she began living a French experience and no longer exclusively hung out with international students. It was a defining moment.

She spent a summer at the Sorbonne taking intensive French lessons, 5 hours a day 5 hours a week. Those lessons, plus the interaction with her roommate, provided an intermediate level of French that facilitated being hired at a French company. Her French is now fluent.

To anchor her future here, Elizabeth put ego aside, rolled up her sleeves, and taught English and babysitting to earn money while attending an English-language MBA program. Some of the people that she met years ago while giving English conversation lessons are remain good friends today. She still advises new arrivals in Paris to offer conversation courses or even simple conversation exchanges as a way to meet interesting people and earn pocket change while doing so.

After having lived in Paris for 19 years, Elizabeth still believes that moving here was the best decision she could have made. When she looks back on that first, fateful trip to Europe, she fondly remembers her visit to French-speaking Belgium. She says that though she found the Belgians to be quite welcoming and Brussels to be historically impressive, her heart was still drawn to Paris. Ironically, she now does consulting work in Brussels and marvels at how the European train system allows her to live in one country, while working in another.


When Elizabeth finally landed her first position, she found that the French corporate world is a very different environment than what she expected:

When I started working in my San Francisco law firm, the first week and even the first day were filled with welcoming activities: lunches, happy hour drinks and so forth. When I started working at my first French company (a subsidiary of a large American company no less), I was surprised at my welcome. Everyone treated me with courtesy of course, but I ate lunch alone for the first several weeks and needless to say, Happy hour was out. It was over two years before I was invited to a colleague’s home.

But none of this is a criticism of the French! It is but a mere illustration of how things can be different. In France and in the French corporate environment, you have to prove yourself, you have to endure, you have to realize that things are done differently - not wrongly, but differently. You are not instantly welcomed "just because," you are welcomed over time and after substantial contribution.

Oh and by the way, I am still friends with my French colleagues from that first corporate experience in 1997. It may have taken a while to create the links of friendship, but once they exist, they are strong bonds.

Because she believes that expatriates need a stronger support system than do locals, Elizabeth has created several networks in Paris. She joined Message for her children (play dates with other Americans) and found herself drawn to Message Entrepreneurs and other subgroups. She has a network of African-American women network, a Child Rights network, and even a professor network. With the exception of Message, none of them are “official” - rather, they are groupings of like-minded individuals around a particular subject. The bottom line is that they all serve to support.

Elizabeth's favorite place in Paris is...

the Eiffel Tower!

Eiffel Tower
© Discover Paris!

I have lived here 19 years and I love so many things in Paris. I wish I could name some little hidden gem tucked away on a cobblestone street, but honestly my favorite place is still the Eiffel Tower. When I first arrived in Paris, I lived in the 15th arrondissement within a 15-minute walk to the Eiffel Tower and I could never get enough of seeing the symbol of Paris. Every time I see the Eiffel Tower, it reminds me of that young attorney who dared to dream big enough.

Elizabeth is married to a Russian citizen and has two sons who were born in France. They are growing up just like any other young boys in Paris, but Elizabeth wants them to grow up being aware of their tri-cultural origin as well:

I try to ensure that have a normal life in Paris, with a blend of my American culture, their father's Russian culture and of course their native country of Paris. It can be a challenge, since they are enrolled in a French bilingual school and I do not always understand the system. But I try to make sure that they have play dates in all three of their languages, while overseeing their education.

Tough stuff, I am not kidding you. Give me the good ol' PhD days anytime. Being an American with children in the French educational system can be another one of those challenges that I mentioned earlier. Different, not wrong, but different.

I just asked my boys what they like to do in Paris and they responded "Disneyland, Playmobil park, Centre Pompidou and the trampolines in the Jardin de Tuilieres." But that's today. If we ask them tomorrow, I'm sure it will be something else. Which is exactly the beauty of Paris and raising children here.

Part 2 of this Black Paris Profile™ will feature Elizabeth's professional life in Paris.

************


Entrée to Black Paris!™ is a Discover Paris! blog.

If you like this posting, share it with your friends by using one of the social media links below!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Female Faces of Africa

The female figure has always been used in the artistic portrayal of the continents.

Here are a few images of allegories of Africa that I have seen during my years in Paris (captions indicate locations).

Bibliothèque de l'Arsenal
1, rue de Sully
75004 Paris
© Discover Paris!

L'Afrique (head only)
Musée d'Orsay
1, rue de la Légion d'Honneur
75007 Paris
© Discover Paris!

U. S. Ambassador's Residence
41, rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré
75008 Paris
© Discover Paris!

Les Quatres Parties du Monde
Jardin des grands explorateurs Marco Polo et Cavelier-de-la-Salle
avenue de l’Observatoire
75006 Paris
© Discover Paris!

Société Générale
6, rue de Sèvres
75006 Paris
© Discover Paris!

Cité Nationale de l'Histoire d'Immigration
293 Avenue Daumesnil
75012 Paris
© Discover Paris!

If you know of others, please share them in the comment box below!

************


Entrée to Black Paris!™ is a Discover Paris! blog.

If you like this posting, share it with your friends by using one of the social media links below!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Seattle Firefighter Michael D. Poole Shows Parisians How to Make *Hot* Caramel-filled Chocolates

By Tom Reeves

Chef Michael D. Poole
Founder of Hot Chocolat
Artisan Firehouse Chocolates - Seattle, Washington
© www.DiscoverParis.net
 
By day he manages firefighters, by night he fires up the burners of his stove. Lieutenant firefighter-and-chef Michael D. Poole came to the City of Light from Seattle this month to show Parisians how to make spicy-hot caramel. If anyone knows about heat and flame, Chef Michael does!

Parisians stand transfixed as Chef Michael makes spicy caramel
© www.DiscoverParis.net

Last Thursday was the occasion for Chef Michael's masterclass at Mococha Chocolats. Roughly forty persons crowded into the boutique and stood transfixed as he deftly demonstrated how to make caramel and then use it to fill chocolate molds to create a caramel-filled-chocolate confection.  He made it look so easy!

Chef Michael's expert hands make caramel making look easy!
© www.DiscoverParis.net

Cayenne pepper gives the caramel its "kick"
© www.DiscoverParis.net

Chocolate molds are filled with spicy caramel
© www.DiscoverParis.net

Melted chocolate is ladled over the caramel-filled molds
© www.DiscoverParis.net

A tap on the table releases the cooled confections from the mold
© www.DiscoverParis.net

Finished caramel-filled chocolates
© www.DiscoverParis.net


Chef Michael poses with Mococha proprietor Marie-Hélène Gantois
© www.DiscoverParis.net


After the class, Marie poured a lovely crémant (sparkling wine) and attendees proceeded to devour the chocolates and line up to purchase more to take home.

They even helped themselves to what was left of the melted chocolate that was used to cover the caramels.

Pouring crémant
© www.DiscoverParis.net


Sampling melted chocolate
© www.DiscoverParis.net

Everyone had a marvelous time. We're hoping that Marie will ask Chef Michael back for another masterclass next summer!

************


Entrée to Black Paris!™ is a Discover Paris! blog.

If you like this posting, share it with your friends by using one of the social media links below!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

July 4th Celebration at U. S. Ambassador's Residence - 2014

The overcast skies and slight drizzle that greeted attendees at this year's 4th of July celebration at the U. S. Ambassador's residence in Paris did little to dampen the spirit of the day.

In the courtyard, guests enjoyed the musical strains of The Ambassadors - a U. S. Air Force jazz ensemble - as well as displays of an American Field Service ambulance and a tribute to Quentin Roosevelt, WWI veteran and son of President Theodore Roosevelt, who lost his life in combat during WWI.

Courtyard of the U. S. Ambassador's residence
© Discover Paris!

American Field Service ambulance
© Discover Paris!

Tom and I made our way through the residence to the grounds out back, where hundreds of people milled about.

Crowd on the lawn at the U. S. Ambassador's residence
© Discover Paris!

When we passed the first set of tents, we were surprised to see two food trucks parked on the lawn. Le Camion qui Fume, the American-owned burger grill on wheels, was supplying free burgers for everyone. The lines were impressively long and they remained so throughout the entire event.

Le Camion qui Fume food truck
© Discover Paris!

Tom waited for over 30 minutes to get our burgers and the best fries I've eaten in a LONG time, while I checked out the rest of the food and beverage offerings.

Tom with his burger and beer
© Discover Paris!

Dozens of vendors supplied food and drink for the event. The most unusual offering was bite-sized sweet "burgers" from the Marriott hotel chain - they consisted of chocolate mousse (the "meat"), a sheet of white chocolate (the "cheese"), and a slice of strawberry (the "tomato") on a tiny sesame seed bun. An almond paste rendition of the Statue of Liberty presided over the table.

Statue of Liberty overlooks "sweet burgers"
© Discover Paris!

Four Marines stood as flag bearers for Old Glory and the U. S. Marine Corps flag.

Flag bearers
© Discover Paris!

As usual, the official ceremony opened with the Dip Tones (the U. S. Embassy choir) singing the French and American national anthems. Then Chargé d'Affaires ad interim Mark Taplin gave an eloquent speech (in French) honoring Myron T. Herrick, U. S. Ambassador to France from 1912-1914 and 1921-1929.

Taplin served as the Deputy Chief of Mission at the Embassy beginning in July 2010 during the tenure of former U.S. Ambassador to France Charles H. Rivkin. Ambassador Charles Rivkin and his family permanently vacated the residence last November, following his nomination by President Obama to serve as Assistant Secretary of the State Department’s Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs.

Then Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo took the stage and spoke passionately about relations between the City of Paris and cities in the U. S. She specifically talked of her visit to NYC and the sister-city relationship between Paris and Chicago. She invited President Obama to come to Paris' City Hall as an honored guest.

Chargé d'Affaires a. i. Mark Taplin and Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo
© Discover Paris!

The ceremony closed with music by the phenomenal vocalist and New Orleans native Nicole Slack Jones.

Nicole Slack Jones
© Discover Paris!

Fortunately, umbrellas were only necessary for brief periods during the afternoon.

Crowd watching the ceremony
© Discover Paris!

After the ceremony, both the Marines and the singers mixed with the crowd.

Nicole Slack Jones (center) and admirers
© Discover Paris!

Marine corporal greeted by a woman
© Discover Paris!

Marines mix with the crowd
© Discover Paris!

Looking forward to next year!

U. S. Marine corporal and Monique
© Discover Paris!


************


Entrée to Black Paris!™ is a Discover Paris! blog.

If you like this posting, share it with your friends by using one of the social media links below!