Sunday, June 26, 2016

Referendum for New Airport in the West : Yes or No

So more than half of the British have voted Out for the European Union. There are many analysis going on.

Today, residents in the Nantes region is facing their own referendum:
Are you favorable of the project transferring the Airport in Nantes towards the Notre Dame Des Landes community?

And, the result is only consultative, not decisive to the government.

The idea of building a new Airport in the West to replace the current one has been on going for more than 40 years. It is met with disagreements from the farmers who would have to sell their lands to the government, ecologist, politicians... Today there is a zone that is formed, known as "Zone à défendre" (Zone to defend). People going in and out the zone are controlled from time to time. The local authorities have decided to carry it out in 2008, and the Airport was supposed to be inaugurated in 2017. However, the angry opponents to this project has held many demonstrations, some turned into violent, and the blockage to the Zone to defend is still on. Finally, the government proposed a referendum to the resident living in the region to consult their opinion.

When I first heard of this project in 2008, I thought that I would soon be able to fly from Nantes to many international destinations like Kuala Lumpur. I was surprised to see that so many people opposing this project. You see, in Asia, when this kind of project is announced, it is like the land owners have won a lotto. Suddenly, their lands values multiplied, the community evolves bringing in new opportunities and business. All we see is the money it brings in, seldom its destruction to the existing activities (farming, manufacturing...) and most importantly, its environment. Because, in these countries, what's more important is money.

This new Airport project has opened my eyes. How a project in a democratic country could be influenced and blocked by its people. I mean, if this has been in Malaysia, the airport might have been built within 3 years. And in France, it lasts for already 40 years, and we still haven't seen the end.

Well, if I have the right to vote, I would have voted YES to bring in jobs, new projects, dynamics to our communities. But I'm bias due to my background. The air and ground transports are too centralized in Paris, except flying to limited European cities, everywhere I want to go have to go through Paris. And this is just annoying.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Please go to Nantes downtown

Yesterday, The Town Hall of Nantes and the businesses around Nantes downtown organised an event "Nantes à cœur", encouraging people to go to downtown by offering free public transports, up to two hours of free parking,  and numerous concerts and spectacles. They did that in order to bring back the crowd, who had stop dining and shopping around the Heart of Nantes, due to the frequent demonstrations (almost every Tuesday and Thursday since March), in which some of them turned into violences.

Apparently, the businesses around the area have been suffering, especially the banks and assurances, seen as symbol of Capitalism. Several banks on the main street around "Commerce" were closed, with their external windows being covered with wood. These windows were the easy target for a group of "breakers".

HSBC after vandalism

It just happened that we were downtown yesterday so I got to witness what had been downtown after weeks of demonstrations. This was a bank located not even on the main street, but it didn't escape the voilence.

BNP Paribas being attacked. It shouldn't be the first time since the window on the left was already covered by wood.

Now they have to cover the main door, and protect both the ATM (at the left).

The shop Go Sport selling sports related items were robbed.

The management of Go Sport has decided to continue operating, they just covered the windows with wood.

Seeing this, I just wondered whether the French police are able to protect its citizenships and their properties. The publics are condemning these voilences, but there are people seeing it as a right to express itself. Some people explained that these breakers were from very poor families with no hope to come out of the poverty. This is the only way they could make themselves heard. As for the business owners, well, they have earned enough money and probably got rich through it, so they shouldn't cry to the publics on what happened.

I'm not convinced that breaking is the only way of expression. But it is a popular ways and the French goverment is too scared to provoke them. They have been lenient, the breakers are captured and thrown into jail just for several months, then they are out again, waiting for another opportunities, and demonstrations are the best occasions to show their talent.

Vive Nantes!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Rice and Constipation

One day, during a conversation, someone told me that eating rice could cause constipation.

I have never heard of this. Coming from a country where rice is the staple food, this comes as a shock.

Then hubby jokingly tell me something he read on the internet:
Why do the Chinese have slanted eyes?

One of the responses: Because they are constipated due to all the rice they eat.

Ok, so the rice causes constipation and constipation gives slanted eyes.

I don't know what to think about this. I'm not sure if this is scientifically proven. Saw these on internet with totally opposite views:

Eating plenty of rice will help you get more fiber into your diet. It is a fibrous grain that can promote bowel regularity and a healthy colon. A cup serving of brown or wild rice serves up to a 3.5 g of fiber, which is much more than you can get from white rice, which has 0.6 g of fiber for the same serving.


White rice is the main culprit you’ll want to focus your attention on if you’re looking to prevent incidences of constipation.Rice starts off healthy enough, but to make it white rice they do away with husk, germ, and bran that it contains, and then put it through a polishing process so it comes out nice and white. Unfortunately this removes the parts of rice that are best for the human body.


Well, because of my Asian background, I cook quite often dishes with rice, and both my girls like rice. This day I was cooking fried rice, and the little one couldn't wait for long. She kept saying "fan, fan, fan" (rice in Chinese) so I just gave her some rice in a bowl. She kept coming back and asking for more so eventually she ate her white rice and ingredients for fried rice separately.
Mommy, I love rice!
So happy with my rice!
I have no problem eating rice. When someone tells me that rice makes her constipate, it stresses me out because if that person is staying for several meals, it means I have to cook something else instead of my usual rice dishes.

Tough day in Nantes

Yesterday, at 7:15pm, the traffic around Nantes was horrible. Usually at this hour the traffic jams start to ease but the traffic was densed starting from 5pm all the way to 7:30pm. My coworker said he left work at 5pm, headed straight into the jams, and waited 2.5 hours until finally manage to exit where he wanted.

Look at the map, areas with red lines mean severe traffic congestion.

The causes : accident in the North, and snail operation by farmers in the West. 

Snail operation by the farmers : trucks were advancing at a snail speed, everyone was blocking behind. Farmers here do this maybe 3-4 times per year, sometimes they even have animals walking on the highways.

I don't work on Wednesdays, so I managed to avoid this. Imaging parents rushing to pick up their kids...As for hubby, he bicycles to work, as the demonstrations for the labor laws reform has been carried out nearly every Tuesday and Thursday, so certain public transport lines were cut off. 

Friday, June 03, 2016

The stressful request for parents signature

As parents, we stress out when Aelig comes back from school. We wonder, if we are going to see a request from her teacher for a signature.

When we have this message "Signature des Parents" in her homework booklets, most of the time it was because she didn't do what her teacher asked. Like to memorise a poem, find a word that starts with certain alphabet, did badly during a dictation, forgot to bring her sport outfits... We just wondered if we were ever going to sign because she did something wonderful.

And for almost the whole week, she was fussy in the morning because she was supposed to bring back this book lend by the school, but she couldn't find it. I looked through the whole house for it, didn't manage to spot it.

And finalement, we got a "Bravo" from her teacher! She got 100% right on one of the dictations. We were relieved, she could actually do something that worth a praise from her teacher.

And guess where I found her book : it was stuck between her bed and the wall. 

Sunday, May 29, 2016

The word of the day

At standard one, she has peer pressure, from her classmates.

At the beginning of the school year, she cried in the evenings because she didn't want to do homeworks. Now she is getting used to it, but there is a new challenge : the word of the day.

Her teacher gives the definition of a word, and she is supposed to find the word with the help of her parents, write it down on a paper, and bring it to school the next day. If she gets it correctly, her name would appear on a paper that lists the words of the week, and she gets one  point.

One day she got home and started crying. She forgot the definition of the word. She was so sad that she was moody for the whole evening, saying that her best friend is going to win again, that this friend has already 22 points, the other guy has 8 points, and she has only 3 points.

It is true, at the beginning, she went blank when we asked her what was the word of the day. It is rare that she could remember. But little by little, she got the pressure, and wants to see her name appear on the list. It would go like this : Aelig thought us that "brebis" means... She is thrilled when she sees her name.

I have to admit, I could never help her because I have no clue of the words she has to guess. If she ever remembers the definition, she has only hubby to depend on. For example, one day I picked her up, she ran to me excitely asking what is "le monde v"??? I had no idea what she was talking about. But hubby immediately got it : "le monde végétal" (the vegetal world). The other day she told me in the car the definition, when we got home we both forgot about it. I'm just not good enough in French to even remember the description.

With the help of hubby, she got 6 points, she was very proud. However, she has loosen up a bit. Now if she forgets she is not that upset anymore.

Friday, April 15, 2016

All those ça se fait pas

"ça se fait pas", it is a phrase I often hear during conversations, which for me means "we don't do this". It touches the things that French won't normally do / ask, but they are more tolerated in other cultures. Since I'm a foreigner, I sometimes take advantage of the situation, by simply pretending that I don't know that it is not a common practice in France, and would go ahead to do it.

Example 1:
We went to a restaurant with grandmas and there were plenty of leftover. I suggested that we asked for a doggy bag, and the grandmas told me that "ça se fait pas en France" (we don't do this in France). After some thought I decided to ask anyway, the worst was that I get a "no" in answer, or I could take home the leftover and not waste the food. The result : they got me a doggy bag, the grandmas were surprised.

Example 2:
Recently we were invited to a birthday celebration. We asked around if someone would collect money to buy a common gift, but we were told that we would contribute financially as they were inviting a band to play traditional musics so that guests could dance. We had a great time.

The second morning, after greeting each other, the first thing I asked was how much did the band cost and if they managed to collect enough money to pay the band. I got an answer, but I was told later that "ça se fait pas", basically topics involving money are mostly taboo in France. I would know a French for long time and we are good friend, but we won't tell each other how much we earn (I'm willing to tell but I think it would make people uncomfortable because they would feel oblige to tell me theirs). Whereas money (how much you earn, how much you paid for your house, your car.... ) are something so commonly asked by the Chinese, even by those living in France, and during the first encounter.

Example 3:
When I go to Asian restaurants, and if I know the chef well, I would ask for things like changing to another table, asking to switch a dish I like that is à la carte to be included in the menu of the day. Hubby told me you don't do this in French restaurants, he was amazed to see how we always negotiate with the waitress / chef.

So over the years I get a lot of "ça se fait pas" comments on what I did, sometimes I respect and follow it because I was convinced of the reasons, but sometimes I just don't care or old habit dies hard the question just came out naturally. So far nobody got offended, or they were but they didn't show it.

On the other hand, there are things that the French do that the foreigners would think "mais ça se fait pas!" (but we don't do this!).

Example 1:
People on strike or on demonstration publicly destroying shops / blocking highways & public transports / burning cars.... We have many recently : demonstration against building an airport (the talk of building this airport was started like 40 years ago), demonstration on the new labor laws, farmers' demonstration due to falling livestocks prices. It was always a shock for me to see how much things got destroyed after each demonstration, and how the police were just there watching, and people in general tolerated these behaviors. I read in an article, the unions argued that having demonstrations and sometimes destroying stuffs is the fundamental right of each French people. Destroying, is just a way of expression, and that's in the French cultures. Ok these might only be the point of views of certain unions, but in general, French people just give a shrug of shoulder towards these behaviors.

Example 2:
When the season changes the flu virus has gone viral. People clearning their nose openly in public, in the office, that still amazes me.

Example 3:
French men, when they need, just stop their car in the middle of highway, and pee.
I have no word for this.

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Her bla bla bla

Awena can pronounce some words and she loves to repeat after me. It has become a game between us.

Here would be how it goes (we speak in Mandarin):

Me : Mao (cat)
Awena : Mao
Me : Ma (horse)
Awena : Ma (this is her favorite word, whenever she sees a horse in a park or on a book, she will scream this word until I repeat after her)
Me : Zhu (pig)
Awena : Zhu
Me : Ji (chicken)
Awena : Ji (there is a book with chicken shape she would yell "Ji" each time she sees it)
Me : Niu (cow)
Awena : Liu (she couldn't really pronounce it)
Me : Gou (dog)
Awena : Gou
And it continues with other animals : Yang (goat), Yu (fish), E (goose), Ya (duck), Wa (frog)...
She understands but couldn't pronounce these : Xiao Tu Zi (rabbit)...

And then I noticed this:
Me : Papa
Awena : Papa
Me : Mama
Awena : Mama
Me : Jie Jie (big sister)
Awena : Aeyi (she wanted to say Aelig)
I paused as hearing her saying Aeyi.
I repeated : Jie Jie
Awena : Aeyi
Ok now I got it, for her Big sister means Aelig, which is her big sister.
I continued : Mei Mei (younger sister)
Awena : Mei Mei
Me : Ge Ge (big brother)
Awena : Ge Ge
Me : Di Di (younger brother)
Awena : Di Di
Me : Ah Gu (uncle in Hokkien)
Awena : Ah Gu
Me : Ah Kim (uncle's wife in Hokkien)
Awena : Ah Kim
She still couldn't pronounce Wai Poh, Da Yi, Er Yi, San Yi, my other family members' name.

And then this:
Me : Xiao Xiong (her stuff animal)
Awena : Dodo (French way to call stuff animal)

So each time I say Jie Jie (big sister), she would call the name of her big sister, and when I say Xiao Xiong (her stuff animal), she would say dodo.

She can also point to her body parts when I ask her where they are, but she couldn't prononce them : Tou (head), Tou Fa (hair), Yan Jing (eyes), Er Duo (ears), Bi Zi (nose), Zui Ba (mouse), She Tou (tongue), Tu Ji (belly button), Shou (hand), Jiao (feet). She could say Bao to represent Mian Bao (bread) and Fan (rice). She says Bei (cup) when she wants to drink. Mei You (finished) when finished something.

As for songs, she likes to listen to Da Xiang (Elephane), Xiao Zhu (Little Pig), Xiao Xing Xing (Chinese version of Twinke Twinke Little Star).

In French, she could say : Pain (bread), Au revoir (goodbye), paule (épaule) (shoulder - when she wants to sit on her dad's shoulders), ballon (ball), bateau (boat), feuille (leave), main (hand - when she wants us to hold her hand). And, Noooooooooo (with her mouth stops at O shape), this is the word that she learns fast and uses often.