In my time, I have seen quite a few governmental buildings, whether due to traveling or conferences or applying for a visa. I have also been inside of a few of them – sitting in counsel rooms and whatnot (thanks HOBY NYE) heard a few politicians speak live and in person, but never an international politician – until this past Thursday.
We had a planned visit to the Conseil Général de Bourgogne – the General Counsel of Burgundy – which represents the region of Burgundy and consists of representatives from the region’s 43 “counties”.
On the schedule it just said we’d be visiting the building with a person from the school, so I was surprised when I found out one of the representatives would be speaking to us while we sat in one of the assembly rooms.
The room was much smaller than the assembly room we sat in during HOBY, and neither was there a screen displaying all our names – but there were other main elements – chairs, microphones, and ancient architecture – from the building originally built for religious purposes in the third century! Also the chairs were apparently designed as replicas of those in Paris for the national government.
The discussion was quite interesting and I learned quite a lot about the divisions of the French government, a little about the recent reforms that have been put into effect and those being debated, as well as a breakdown of the budget of Burgundy, so the types of things the money is used for.
In general the national government takes care of the medical care, unemployment and housing, whereas this Conseil Général focuses on other things and has an entire section for the middle school program. Half of its budget is used on social aspects, and the other half for things like transportation, sports, culture, etc.
The politician spoke only French (well like 99%) and we had an American woman from the Burgundy School of Business as an interpreter. At the end she put me on the spot to explain to the politician who we were and what we were doing in Dijon, etc. It was ok in the end, but I was a little taken aback.
Overall it was quite an interesting experience.
Then once we got back to the hotel, there was apparently a demonstration happening – in the form of a parade! I think that it was against the recent reform to extend the age of retirement from 60-62.