Elections…

Image result for brexit voteBrexit surprised many.  What a mess.  I bought The Times, the Daily Mail and the International New York Times on Sunday to figure out what was going on.

Not there yet.  Mike Dooley posted a quote:  Question everything that doesn’t make sense until it does make sense.  I think I am going to be questioning this for a long time.  What worries me is that so many people voted to Leave without understanding the full ramifications.  Just read about a small county that voted overwhelmingly to leave.  And now they are suddenly aware that the big subsidy they received from the EU might be (?might? WILL) be going away.

And there is no exit strategy.  Not on Cameron’s side.  Not on the Leave campaign side.  The EU is saying hurry up and leave since you want out.  And Britain is saying we are not ready to formally declare our resignation.  Once they give notice, there is a two year time frame to untangle the arrangement.  And the EU doesn’t want to make this an easy process.  And of course they don’t.  If it’s simple and painless, there are several other countries that will want out.  And then the whole thing might collapse.

And of course there’s the complication that Scotland, Northern Ireland, Gibraltar and London want to remain.  And now Scotland wants out of the UK again.  Maybe.  And Spain wants Gibraltar.  And the far right in the Netherlands and in France are talking about getting out too.

David Cameron didn’t have to hold this referendum.  Just sayin’.

Here’s a link to Samantha Bee’s take on Brexit.  Funny.  Adult language warning.  http://www.radiotimes.com/news/2016-06-28/david-tennant-reads-angry-tweets-reacting-to-donald-trumps-scotland-gaffe

Amazing to hear the people who voted to Leave to send a message, thinking their vote wouldn’t really count.  And the lies that the Leave campaign made.  Hoping the US pays some attention to this!

Yup.  Then there’s the US election.  I keep getting reminders from the US Embassy here about registering to vote.  I thought I had registered in May as an overseas civilian but I hadn’t heard from the Sac Registrar of voters.  I called today.  Yes.  They have my e-application to change my status.  But it won’t be processed until after the June ballot is closed up.  So I should hear by September.  However, there should be no problems.  Everything on my app looked good.  I chose the vote electronically option.  Wish I could do that even when home… but if I am back in the States for the following election, I have to change it back.

Seems funny to be classified as a Civilian Overseas.  But I guess that’s what I am.

Oh and more Brexit news – the official working language of the EU is English.  Just read that maybe it will change to French.  Which it was before England got in and the Scandinavian countries joined.  English really is the most commonly shared language but wouldn’t it be awful to continue to speak English when the damned British divorced you?  Even if it makes sense.

Aside from election woes, I have had a fabulous day.  Today was my first formal coaching session with a client using the Enneagram.  I use Myers Briggs Personality Type Indicator and Gallup’s Strengths Finder in my coaching practice.  In March I attended a week-long training on the Enneagram.  Adding that third assessment makes the coaching process much deeper and richer.  I love it when clients have meaningful insights… moments when they just stop and say, I never thought of that!  Or what a great question!  The sad thing is that, while I can find MBTI in French and Gallup has a French version of their assessment, the instrument I use for the Enneagram is not in French yet.  Patience.

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Le Football

And by football, I am referring, of course, to the European football  game which we call soccer.

You’d know the big tournament was going on even if you weren’t a big football fan for several reasons.

  1. The metro is crowded! Boys.  Many. Today it was young hunks from Germany. They take up more space in the metro with their bulk.
  1. Your favorite bus route is now split in two – so you can’t get there from here anymore. It used to go by the Eiffel tower. Now it stops on this side of the river and picks up again many blocks form the Eiffel Tower because that is the Fan Zone.  I can’t describe it because I haven’t seen it for lack of a bus…
  1. Almost every bar has put in a large screen TV with football all the time. A friend said he saw one or two with signs saying Pas de Football– No Football here!2016-06-21 12.57.02
  1. People are draped with flags from everywhere. Or bright green wigs (Italy? Ireland?) I saw 3 guys with the German flag worn as a sarong over their shorts.

It’s a big deal here.  France is hosting Euro 2016.  My friend LB has told me there is an America 2016 going on over in that part of the world too.  But right now it’s all Europe!

Passions run high.  There are hooligans associated with the sport.  Those looking for a fight.  The first week was quite violent – with many fights breaking out particularly between the Russians and the English.  (Yes, English.  They play under the flag of St George – red cross on white field.  Wales has their own team.  As does both Northern and Ireland.)  The Russians were caught on video jumping over barriers to attack and chase the English.  They were disqualified for that and other violent aggressions.  However, the disqualification was suspended.

OK.  That’s effective.  Not.

Three Englishmen were sent to prison.  Some 40 Russians were deported.  One Russian exited France to  Spain and then immediately came back by car and tweeted about it.  Well.  Not too bright.  He was picked up and sent away again.  However, he doesn’t really have a reason to come back – the Russian team didn’t do very well and I believe it is out of the finals.  So there!

All of this going on while the politics are getting hot too.  bleueBut that’s for a later blog.

Go Bleus!  (That’s the French team!)

Speak up!

Sorry about that!  I was wondering why my readers were so quiet these days. Then an email from a friend & reader sent me looking through the FAQs of WordPress. It seems that the comments had been turned off!  

Fixed.  

Comment away…

Odds ‘n Ends

2016-06-18 22.42.42Rain…  Almost too much!   After the many years of drought in California, I didn’t think I would ever mind rain.  OK. This year Paris has proved me wrong.  This spring has been wet.  I decided to return to France in April because I though March was dreary here last year.  Yes, there were some bright sunny spring days, but most of April and May were dreary and wet.  And June too.   Yesterday I went out for dinner and arrived sopping wet.  It wasn’t just rain – it was a downpour.  Tuesday is the first day of Summer – yup.  60% chance of rain.  And then we should have two days of sun and 80 degrees and then Friday back to cool and wet.  (Photos were taken on my way back home last night after the rain stopped.)

2016-06-18 22.27.07And what is up with Notre Dame?  Why is that one light on?  Is it a secret meeting?  Dan Brown and the DaVinci Code???  Really, I don’t think I have ever seen that level with lights…2016-06-18 22.29.53

At least the waters have receded to pre-flood levels.

Time for a blog of tidbits…

My favorite TV show is La Reine du Shopping.  It’s on in the late afternoon.  A little bit What Not to Wear and Say Yes to the Dress.  5 women compete for the title La Reine (queen) for the week.  They are given a theme – Sexy in Pants….  Or Trendy with a Scarf.  350 Euros.  3 hours.  They must find an outfit, shoes, accessories and get their makeup and hair done.  You follow them and see what they try on but you don’t know what they bought until they come back to the studio for their runway walk.  And they all get to comment on each other – not as catty as you might think.  But oh la la some of the choices!  Clearly, the fashion gene did not get passed around to all French women.  And they are all critiqued by Claudia – a Brazilian fashion model who came to Paris at 17.  She’s now in her 50’s I think and is everything tres chic!

2016-06-18 22.37.56And I can understand some of the program.  They talk quickly and all come from different places in France so the accents can be tough.  But now I know that branche is trendy!

TEDex.  Everyone knows TED Talks, I am sure.  I had the opportunity to attend a TEDex event here in Paris.  The Ex indicates that while licensed by TED, the event is not ORGANIZED by TED.  They make the TEDex events show a nice video at the beginning explaining.  It’s a clever way to make sure people know that this isn’t a real TED event but enjoy anyway.  I went out of curiosity.  It was billed as an English only event.  Not.  Well, one out of 3 spoke in French with PowerPoint in English but he said a lot more than what was on the slides.  We split for lunch at the break.  Not necessarily bad speakers – not quite a TED speaker standard but that was to be expected.  No, it was the disorganization that bothered me.  The check-in was convoluted.  Everything was late.  The emcee was rather a disappointment – especially after the chair of the event introduced him by saying how excited they were to have him back as he was spectacular last year.  My organization genes wanted to take charge.  So it was better to slip away quietly.  Bureaucracy is a French word.  Now I understand why it has such a negative connotation.

Travel distances. A Sacramento friend was on a trip to London for 10 days.  At the last minute she decided to come over to have dinner and spend the night in Paris.  We had a great time (yes and it rained!).  All my French friends were so amazed that she came that distance for one night.  On Eurostar it’s only 2 hours.  As my friend pointed out, we travel to San Francisco for a day trip all the time.  Two hours is nothing!  Makes you realize the comparative size of our countries.

La Defense.  The modern business center across the Seine from Paris.  You can’t build skyscrapers in Paris.  So they went there. And there you can find Quatre Temps and CNIT.  Two large shopping centers.  Quite American.  I have gone there often but my last trip was as a conqueror.  No longer the scout, I can make my way around now!  Even can get to the 4th floor movie theatres direct from the Metro without going through the shops.  I know how to get to Auchan (the French K-Mart) and Darty and FNAC.  And how to find the best deal (start at Auchan).

Conquering these little things makes me feel great.  But after a moment or two of enjoying my success, then I wonder well, what now?  Yes, it’s different this year from last.

And that leads to a French update.  Some days have a theme.  Last week Thursday was a pronoun day.  Kept getting the order mixed up.  Remember, we say, I gave the book to Sally or I gave it to her.  Everything after the verb.  Here the construction is I to her it gave.  Couldn’t get that right for the life of me.  And then Friday was verb day.  Every time I used a verb it was the wrong tense.  Today I stayed in to wash sheets and catch up on things so no French yet.  I am meeting friends for dinner and we will see what errors I can make today!

Overnight 2 – Bruges Belgium

2016-06-08 21.55.17The second venture took me to another country.  Except in the Schengen Zone where there are no formal border crossings and passport control, it doesn’t seem like another country.  In fact, I only know I have crossed the border when my  French phone company sends me a text that welcomes me to Belgium and reminds me I can’t use my phone there as my plan is only for France.

2016-06-08 17.08.02Bruges is also called the Venice of the North (a title shared by Amsterdam and Stockholm).  Years past it was a big center of trading, the southernmost member of the Hanseatic League – 14th to 17th-century trade group.  I will let you link over to Wikipedia if you want to know more about that group.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hanseatic_League         2016-06-08 15.24.10-2I had read about them in some history classes long ago but also was reminded of them when I visited Tallinn Estonia on my Baltic trip in 2010.

2016-06-08 19.16.39The architecture is unique and reminiscent of The Netherlands.  The stepped gables.  Pictures will tell the story better than I.

While my friend climbed the belfry (it was a bad knee day for me), I went to the Historium.  Clever exhibit/show.  I was early and actually went through by myself.  You are given an audio set and stand in front of a door.  Then you walk through seven rooms to see videos and hear the story.  The doors open automatically.  And close after the 30-40 in a group walk through.  Needless to say, I waited a bit for all those non-existent others to catch up to me.  It was a story of an apprentice to Jan van Eyck.  So you got to see the city, the docks, the duty collectors, and the painting atelier.  Supposedly you could also smell! the incense and fire etc.  With my allergies, I have lost much of a sense of smell so that went over my nose.   They turned history into an interactive walking tours with multimedia. Probably they were successful at getting people to put down their smart phones for a moment.

2016-06-09 14.23.50That morning we also took a boat ride through the canals.  Being there at 10:00 when they start tickets sales was the way to go – we finally took off at 10:30 but there were only 3 of us – not a full boat of 40.  Clearly, Bruges is a day trip kinda town.  The only traffic on the canals now are the boat tours.  And since the canals are a closed system (he did point out a canal that goes to Ghent but I bet locks are involved), there is no worry of flooding like Paris.2016-06-09 10.41.23-1

We also hit the churches – Our Lady which has a rare Michelangelo Madonna and Child.  Not many of his statues outside of Italy.  And the Church of the Holy Blood which has a relic of the Holy Blood – if you pay a donation you can walk up and see it.  Nice medieval church.  And the Diamant and the Lace Museums which tell the stories of diamonds and of lace in Bruges.

What I came away with – even though it was a good trip – was a sad feeling.  Bruges just feels like life has passed it by.  And in a way, it has.  It was a huge center of commerce in the middle ages.  Just saying something was made in Bruges gave it great cachet and probably upped the price considerably.  Bruges equaled Quality!  But the town feels a bit empty – we walked to the Lace Museum though residential areas.  Lifeless.  I suppose they are off working… but just lifeless.  Just trying to reclaim its former glory through retelling history.

2016-06-09 15.17.08-2Of course, there’s a problem when the tour bus touts all the languages but doesn’t include American…    See – no Stars and Stripes on that van! (That’s joke!  But seriously, a guard in Hampton Court told me that they had to put the American flag on the brochures because Americans couldn’t figure out how to find one in a language they understood….)

2016-06-09 14.52.57But their Belgian chocolates are tasty.  And the Belgian waffle was delicious!  If you ever go, I also highly recommend the Guesthouse Mirabel.  It’s a B&B in a 1850 mansion run by a delightful man, Gaston, who cared well for us – even making scrambled eggs as we requested.  2016-06-09 09.53.03And I found a great scarf – poppies which come from Flanders fields so it’s a great memory of Bruges.

And a closing note on the train.  We took Thalys.  This Paris Brussels route is famous for the terrorist foiled by the three Sacramento boys last year.  So security in Paris is high.  X-rayed the bags and we had to walk through those airport type screening machines ourselves.  Very fast process.  I was impressed.  But on the way back – when we were leaving Brussels which is the hotspot of terrorists these days – where you would expect to have the toughest security: Nothing.  Yup.  We and all the other passengers just walked right on with our bags.  OK, before the train started moving, four big policeman got on our car (we were in the first car) and walked through the train with train personnel checking tickets.  Checking some tickets.  Not ours.  It was very strange.  But even stranger was getting off in Paris and walking past maybe 15-20 security personnel from Thalys, the train station and French police.  Um.  If there was a terrorist, wouldn’t the problem have been BEFORE we got off the train?

No worries.  I am fine.

Rouen

Two recent overnight trips took me to two cool cities.  A blog for each to give them their due and to make reading easy for you

First – Rouen.  An important medieval city.  Famous for Joan of Arc.  And famous to many for the many paintings of the cathedral by Claude Monet.

2016-06-01 15.55.58We stayed in The Hotel de la Cathedrale in the old city. Half timbered. (Garden to the left.) Creaky slippery leaning stairs.  Reeks of old world charm. (Oh. Well. This is the old world after all!.)  I was putting the building into the late 1490s up to 1550s.  Sometimes you just shouldn’t ask.  17th century. Ok. Yes. That is old for America.  But I liked my dream of 1510…

Cobblestones. I thought I’d been walking on them in various places in Paris.  Not the real ones I guess.  Besides needing strong soles on your shoes, you need strong ankles. Mine are in fairly good shape.  (Makes me think of Jane Austen and the days of ‘shapely ankles’).  But they ached a bit on that trip.
First day was the medieval city – cathedral and old market.  Second day the Musee des Beaux Arts for the impressionist exhibition.  My friend went on to the ceramics museum which she found to be spectacular.  I had just gone to two ceramics shows in Paris and so opted for a walk to the Seine (oh my so many river cruise boats – the well-known Viking Line had 2 or 3 docked – and several more.  This explained the many people touring the city in groups.  (After coming back to Paris and the floods, I wonder what these folks did when a few days later those boats couldn’t sail under the bridges… refunds? Buses?)

2016-05-31 11.45.15As for the cathedral – it is not on my list of favorite cathedrals.  Might have inspired Monet but for me it was haphazard.  Didn’t like the energy.  And this reaction was a bit odd – I came here in 2008 and thought I had liked it.  Perhaps first impression – I saw it before Reims and Amiens and some others…    Or maybe I was influenced by the Joan of Arc story… although her hearings took place in the abbey of Saint Ouen which I found beautiful.  And in the old market area there is a relatively new church, supposedly on the place where Joan was burned at the stake.  I didn’t like that new church much either.

Several strikes against Rouen… But I did enjoy the city and the many half-timber houses, the medieval government buildings and, as I said, Saint Ouen.2016-06-01 15.36.45

I also thank Rouen for inspiring me to read more about Joan.  I read The Maid, a Novel of Joan of Arc by Kimberly Cutter.  The interesting thing is there are extensive records of Joan’s trial written at the time by several different scribes.  You can actually joan arcbuy the transcript on Kindle.  Cutter based her novel on this information so it gives a fairly accurate depiction of her life.

And it raises so many questions – f2016-06-01 15.24.18or me, it’s a question that Cutter has Joan consider – how can a loving God send her off to kill the terrible English…..  No answer.  Unless I drag out a Ouija board and that’s not likely and I am not sure I would trust that answer anyway.

Moving Up in the Kitchen

2016-06-11 10.14.39I now have a microwave!  And not just a micro-wave.  It’s a combination Microwave, convection oven (I have the same in Sacramento)  AND GRILL.

You heard me right – grill.

Thank God it came with an instruction book and the instruction book includes instructions in ENGLISH. (That is not always the case.  And trying to figure out instructions for an appliance written in French is not easy.)

It’s a reasonable size.  2016-06-11 10.14.29And comes with a glass turntable.
And a weird metal
stand and tray.  No more descriptions – just look at the photos.   I was chatting with an American about it – she said be careful.  They started a fire in theirs when they first started using it.  So I am a bit apprehensive.

2016-06-11 10.15.04I did make microwave popcorn immediately.  Yum.  Oops- Miam Miam!  All the stove top popcorn I tried here tasted stale.  So now a new world of food has opened up to me at Picard.  (It came in a weird flat box that popped up into a container…)

picard 2Did I ever mention Picard – Les Surgeles?  Frozen food stores.  They started in 1906 in Fontainebleau but I think they really got going in frozen food in the 70s.  Delicious.  Everything I have tried is delicious.  picardMany things can be cooked on the stove but most is made for microwaves.  And without one last year, I had to pass on many choices.  Which was sad because there is Picard store across the street from me!

Not now.  The world is my oyster.  Picard is my oyster – but I don’t like oysters… oh well.

French eating frozen food?  Yup.  Surprise.  I have been served Picard dishes at friends’ houses.  Et pourquoi pas?  The standards are high, the food beyond tasty.   Why don’t US firms copy Picard?

 

Economy

I continue to be amazed by the French economy… People don’t see the links between different sectors.  My French friend who is retired from the Department of Finance and was an attorney looked me straight in the eye and said the people who were striking were not in the tourism sector so the tourism decline didn’t impact them.  After a pause to compute that statement and be amazed, I said what about the hotels that don’t have clients and then don’t have income and then have to decide they don’t need new tables or chairs or beds and must just get by and so then the factories that manufacture those things don’t have orders and there is no work…   She looked a bit surprised.  Maybe they should teach less philosophy and more business economics…

Tourism is still on the decline!  Numbers went down last year after Charlie Hebdo.  And significantly after the Nov 13 attacks.  The strikes and the floods haven’t helped.  I just read today that tourism is down 15.5% from last year at this time – which was down from the year before because of Charlie Hebdo.  By country, British are down%, Italians 28% and Japanese 60%.

My American friend said it doesn’t matter to many of the French because their employment is guaranteed.  I don’t know how widespread that is outside of government, but I do know that one of the employer benefits of the Loi de Travail (that they are striking over) is to make it easier to lay off workers in an economic decline.  Is it the feudal mentality?  The Lord (not up in the sky – in the chateau) will provide?

Next Tuesday June 14 is set for a National Strike!  I have no idea what that will entail – except a lot of manifestations, lots of noise, flares, whistles, fog horns and maybe some burning tires.  Oh and last week some union strikers pelted one of the ministers with eggs.  Easy to toss from a far, sailing right over the heads of the security officials.   How old are these people???

But, yeah, I still love it here.

Les Greves Continuent

It’s Saturday and I heard the recycle trash trucks outside.  Hurrah.  The clatter and noise used to be harsh on my ears.  Now it is dulcet tones – a lyrical melody.  Of course, the sound of the regular trash truck is even more mellifluous now.  Why such a transformation?  Do I need my hearing checked?

No.  The trash guys joined the train and airline pilots and went on strike for a week.   Sometimes you find out things experientially.  When I came back home Monday, the trash was still out.  But then there was a HUGE crane in the middle of the street sA pile of rubbish bags is seen on the Grands boulevards in Paris during a strike of garbage collectors and sewer workers of the city of Pariso I figured the trucks just couldn’t get through.  It seemed odd though because Neuilly-sur-Seine is fanatical about cleaning.  The neighborhood yard sale was last weekend (do you recall the post last year? LINK).  And Sunday night the street cleaning team –truck and two guys walking with hoses on the sidewalks) was going down the street cleaning up after the event.  On a Sunday!  So when the trash remained, it was odd.  But Tuesday on my way out I saw trash out on every corner on every street.  More was going on than a crane!

STRIKE.  Why? I don’t know.  But they decided not to pick up trash for a week.  The government officials scrambled.  I heard they were hiring private companies. But then, of course, there were strikers blocking the entrance to the dumps.  <Insert Gaellic shrug here>

2016-06-10 12.22.19By Friday Neuilly at least got its act together and regular trash was picked up.  And moments ago the recycling was too.

And last Monday I was also caught up in it a bit…   I got a news alert on my phone that railway workers had stormed Montparnasse train station. Rolling eyes. Ok fine I wasn’t going there.  But I did have to talk to the Thalys train people at Le Gare Du Nord.  Thalys is a high speed train that runs between France, Belgium and the Netherlands.  And maybe Germany…  But it’s separate from the SNCF (France) and so was not supposed to be affected by these strikes.  Still, I had some questions.  So I hopped on the metro.  The metro car is noisy- singing, whistles and fog horns.  Puzzling – but the big football games are coming…   We stop at Gare de l’Est before Gare du Nord.  And all these boisterous people get off and now I see the flags unfurling.  SUD – one of the railway unions.  These people – and a lot of them – were massing on the platform to march through the train station.  I had seen the same at Gare de Lyon last week.  Happy to see they were not going on to my destination.  But when I get to Gare du Nord, I see battalions of police.  Ok, maybe not battalion which is apparently 3 or more companies in an army unit…  But MANY.  And police trucks parked down several different streets.  I wanted to tell them that the strikers got off at the last stop but figured they would discover that soon enough.

How Are We Getting There?

Getting somewhere in Paris is fairly easy – between metro, bus and feet.  And yes, in a pinch, Uber.    (I use Uber instead of taxicabs because, as a French minister put it last year during the taxi strikes against Uber, Uber offers perks like polite customer service. [really, he did say that customer service was a PERK!]).

You just have to be prepared to wait.

And wait.

And even wait some more.

Although when my sources say 30 minutes for a bus, no, I don’t wait.  I change my plans.

“Sources?” you ask.  Sounds like backroom connections to RATP (the company that runs the Metro and bus lines).  Nope, just a smart IPhone.  Smartest app for multiple cities is CityMapper.  But in Paris, I do like the RATP app itself.  I can see when the next two buses will arrive at the stop I am at.  And I can see if there is that dreaded “deviation” or if the stop will be “pas deserver” which means it won’t be stopping there today.   It will also tell me the final destination.  Doesn’t that sound simple?

The bus goes from Point A to Point C.  Mais oui –but this is France.  In the middle of the bus ride, the conductor can suddenly shout back to the passengers (nicely but loudly) that the new destination is Point B, somewhere on the way to Point C but not all the way.  And so when we reach that stop, everyone meekly climbs off the bus and then waits for the next one.  Sometimes you can know of a destination change from the bus number sign on the front and side of the bus.  It will have a diagonal across it – top half in normal color for that bus and bottom half black.  That is supposed to draw your attention to the new destination that is now marked on the front.  No longer Point C but now Point B.

I have favorite buses.  Before I leave my apartment, I will check when the buses arrive at stops near my apartment.  Hmmm – can I make it to that stop in 5 minutes? But the next on is 25 minutes – ok, how about bus 73? Any better?

I really prefer the bus – may be slower but you can see everything going on.  But when the bus timing is lousy, I then opt for the metro.  You can be pretty sure that the next metro will be between 2 and 4 minutes.

But have your walking shoes on!  If you are changing metro lines, you might have a real hike between platforms.  Some changes like between Line 1 and Nation at Etoile is just steps.  Same for Line 1 and 4 at Chatelet.  Others feel like miles.  I love the signs in Chatelet-Les Halles which tell you it is a 6 minute walk to Line 1.  Except it continues to be a 6 minute walk after you have walked 1 and 2 and 3 minutes.  I guess they just made one sign and used it multiple times.

So I wait for the bus.  Or for the metro.  And I wait while on either.  And I give up my California need to be there quickly.  And I think about what I see, embrace life in Paris, create fabulous blogs in my mind that never quite make it to paper.  And smile.

Footnote about RATP Group or Régie Autonome des Transports Parisiens, a public transport operator based in Paris, France.  It is state owned.  But it’s a HUGE enterprise:  the RATP’s Paris operations are still a major part of the business, its operations have now extended to include businesses around the globe. These include involvement in the operation of bus, tram, rapid transit and inter-city rail services, located in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas.” Wikipedia.

Almost 60,000 employees.  And here I thought it was just a subway…