Aug 2-3: Nicolas and Coralie

posted Aug 3, 2012, 1:31 PM by Jan Willem Lindemans   [ updated Feb 15, 2013, 1:56 PM ]
Second of August, six pm, Philadelphia International Airport. The plane had two hours of delay. Normally the plan had been that Ting would have rushed off to Penn campus to take care of some administrative stuff (urgent, since we need access to computers and buildings, because work needs to be done) and I would have taken the luggage to Nicolas and Coralie's place. Nicolas left work early, to be there. Nicolas will be our colleague. He is an advanced postdoc researcher at the Politics, Philosophy and Economics department at Penn, where we will be. His wife Coralie is a researcher in cognitive psychology. They come from France and have two sons, Emile (3 years old) and Max (4.5 months). Ting has met Nicolas and Coralie before. They had been so kind as to offer us a room: we could have the guest room and even the whole house when they are off to France (a whole month). That gives us some time to look for a good place for ourselves. Anyway, we took a cab to their place, just 15 minutes from the airport.

We got a very warm welcome. Little Emile is a wildly enthusiastic boy and speaks both English and French. Interestingly, he only plays in English, since his little friends at the kindergarten speak English. So his playing vocabulary is English only: Crash, cool, etc. Even more interestingly, his French is a tad bit scholarly, intellectual. He uses expressions such as "as a matter of fact" and "I am very disappointed". French is what he hears from his parents. Little Emile is an American player but a French intellectual. (Soon he will combine psychologie cognitive et évolutionnaire with dunking donuts.)

We brought Champagne for the parents and cookies for the kids, and the parents - also a wooden clock. We ate something together, had a good talk and learned how everything in the house worked. The day after they would leave to France and give us the keys. We managed to stay up until 10:30 pm.

The next morning, Ting woke up very early - jetlag - 4:30 am. I woke up at 6:00 am: Emile was alive and kicking! After breakfast, we went to the kindergarten and then to the campus of Penn. It's just a ten minutes walk from the house. A very nice campus: typically American. We did some administration and had hamburgers, onion rings and some salad (Ting's betrayal) in the cafeteria on the top floor of Coralie's building, with a magnificent view over the city of Philadelphia. 

We had a funny discussion about the use and uselesness of gift-giving. As it turns out, both Ting and Coralie are enthusiastic gift-givers, storing potentially useful objects in their basements and planning who could benefit most from them. Nicolas and me, on the other hand, are more skeptical: Is it really worth stacking one's basements with stuff that might some day be of some use to somebody and is it worth all the planning? The answer is probably that sometimes it is and sometimes it is not worth it. But what IS clear - empirically proven - is that Ting and I were very happy with the gifts of Nicolas and Coralie: a place to stay, and some sheets and towels (they kept from a former colleague) for our next apartment. But there was still some uncertainty about how happy Coralie was with the shirt Ting gave her - she had said that she would wear it for the trip bu somehow didn't!

Now, 5:45 pm, Nicolas and Coralie are gathering their stuff in the house and will find their way to the train station, train direction NY, JFK. I really hope that they have a smooth flight... hopefully not British Airways... Ting and I will now go and find something to eat. We just had bad news from Brussels (a burglary at my parents): Let us try to digest it with some chicken wings and ketchup.