Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Driving in Malaysia : Can't do this anymore

Yes we are back to Malaysia for the coming Chinese New Year celebrations. I haven't been driving in Malaysia for a while, since hubby knows how to drive like Malaysians now. I told myself that I should take up the courage again, so that I could go anywhere whenever I want, but I just can't do this anymore.

 

There are too many cars on the roads. We passed through a roundabout with heavy traffics and I don't think I would ever be able to cross. Cars and motocycles drove at extremely high speed, when there are two lanes, you will have three lanes of car queuing. Photo shows a blue car joining the roundabout through the right lane (in Malaysia we drive on the left lane).

Heavy traffics everywhere especially when we are approaching Chinese New Year.

Here are what really scare me:
1. Pedestriens crossing everywhere, as sometimes they have no choice, there is definitely lack of zebra zones for them
2. Motocyclists sneaking through wherever they can, you have to pay extra attention for what is around you.
3. When I drive in Nantes, there is always several seconds for me to join the main roads as cars waiting for lights to turn green. But here, there is no time, seconds before the light turns green, the motocyclists already waiting at the front would just pass through. As soon as the light turns green, the remaining who did not cross on red light would drive at high speed. So there is really no time to merge!
4. Whenever there is enough space, cars form an extra lane no matter how many lanes are meant for. In the roundabouts, sometimes there are simply no lanes, I won't have know which lane to merge into.

I guess this is part of reverse culture shock! I drove in Malaysia since I was 17 until I went overseas, and I didn't notice all these. French peopld o respect the traffic rules after all!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Cream crackers vs chocolate

I mentioned that I love cream crackers. My girls look them too, sometimes I give them some as breakfast, as many Malaysians do with a cup of Milo (chocolate drink).

Well, this didn't go too well with hubby. For him cream crackers are junk food and we shouldn't give junk food to our kids. Does it mean the Malaysians who are having crackers with Milo are eating junk to provide them energies for the whole morning?

During the whole month of Decembre we had advent calender, so every morning the girls had a chocolate. I didn't like this idea. For me Chocolate provides nothing nutritious except fat and sugar.

So, I accused him of serving the kids junk food (chocolate), which he disagreed, while I didn't think that cream crackers are junk.


We decided to look at the nutrition information. Below is the table of comparaison. We can see that crackers have more carbohydrate, protein and salt whereas chocolate has excessive fat and sugar. Both are to be avoided I guess but chocolate is evil if you ask me.

Nutrition information

(Average Values)

Jacob’s Cream Crackers (Per/100g)

Côte D’Or’s Chocolate

(Per/100g)

Energy

1851kj / 440kcal

2370kj / 570kcal

Fat

13.5g

38.5g

Of which Saturates

6.2g

16.0g

Carbohydrate

67.7g

42.5g

Of which Sugars

1.4g

40.5g

Fibre

3.8g

4.6g

Protein

10.0g

9.7g

Salt

1.3g

0.20g

 

Monday, December 28, 2015

How about a 3€ angpow (red envelope)?

I used to loathe about Christmas preparations. What do we offer to the family members? What do they like? What do they want? And I got to ask the same questions from people who want to offer me gifts. Kids are easy, I bought the gifts in November. But how about the adults? I always thought that the Chinese tradition of offering angpow (red envelope with money stuffed inside) is a much easier and practical way. People just go buy whatever they like, or save it.

But, over the years, I start to understand the meaning behind it. Surely, it is a huge commercial campaign, sometimes you just buy because you have to, not because that person really needs it. However, it could also be a time you share somethings you like with a person (like a book, a CD...), or offering a trip to a place you have been to. Plus, a coworker told me a fact that was so true : you could offer a 3€ book as gift, but if you put 3€ cash or a cheque in an envelope, it would seem so...worthless. Giving out money represents overall a bigger budget than giving out in gifts.

Anyway, I still loathe about Christmas and all the works associated with, but this year, I couldn't help but eagerly waiting for it to arrive. I love the scene where family gathers around the warm fireplace, drinking champagne, openning gifts, nibbing on food... and working on photobooks and calendars till wee hours so that it could be delivered before Christmas, is part of my Christmas tradition now. I love to see people flipping through pages of photos I chose, remembering what we have done over the years, and it is work I put in that couldn't be valued by money.

Still, I feel that my girls were overflooded with gifts, see how much presents Santa brought us this year! We just kept opening from one gift to another that we didn't have time to appreciate, or even take note of who's who bought / prepared them for us (Santa got all the credits anyway).

I think we should probably limit to one gift / person, the kids are happy to be involved in other stuffs, like decorating the table.

 Or covering the cake with Christmas theme decor.

A 3€ book could please her for a while, she would be puzzled if she got 3€ in coins.


Saturday, November 14, 2015

The cursive handwriting

Hubby's family are big in letters, so we still received them from time to time. His grandmothers send us religiously a birthday card for all our birthdays, sometimes including their fête. They send us postcards when they are on holidays.

I love receiving letters and postcards but the problem is, their handwritings are indecipherable, for me. All of them write in cursive and I have hard time understanding them. I learnt cursive writing in art classes, I remember we had to buy a special pen and use it to write connected letters during several art classes.

Here an example of a letter from the family. I never quite understand why my French family chose to write in cursive which makes my head spins each time I read it.

Now that my daughter goes to standard one, I'm seeing her learning to write in cursive everyday. So it is a norm in France! French learn to write in cursive since young age and they continue it into their adulthood. My daughter is learning to write in Uppercase, Lowercase and Cursive (script) in school. And now when she writes a sentence, every alphabet is connected.

 One of her homeworks was to write her name in Uppercase and in script.

She got a letter from a schoolmate, the last sentence was written in cursive.

Hubby was the only in her family that writes in print instead of cursive. He explained that his teachers found that he wrote badly in cursive and advised him to write exclusively in print. No wonder I can understand his writing!

PS: I was checking out why France still implement cursive handwriting in school and realised that it is a tradition back to the quill time. By connecting all the alphabets, it would improve writing speed and it would require less hand lifting. However, this is less practiced in US and UK now, some schools have stopped completely teaching cursive to their students.

The world's aisle

When I go for grocery shopping, I would sometimes check out "The World" aisle. It displays the typical Asian foods (instant noodles, sauces, rice, coconut milks), Mexican foods, African foods... I would quickly browse through the Asian section, but what I usually buy are from the British and American section. Yes, I didn't realise Malaysians are influenced in some way by the British : Jacob's crackers, Marmite, Marie biscuit, pudding, peanut butter. And, I got Dr Pepper softdrink for Hubby (influenced by our time in Austin TX).


Marmite is one kind of yeast extra. I grew up eating rice porridge with soya sauce or Marmite. It has a weird taste but I grew to love it. After I moved to France, I didn't eat it for a while, until I found online that it was sold in an Irish shop in downtown Nantes. Now they even have it in some traditional French supermarkets. French in general have not heard of it or couldn't believe that people are eating it. Yes, once a coworker mentioned that his friend from Australia was spreading Marmite on his sandwiches, he couldn't stand the smell so didn't even take a bit.

As of crackers, French generally spread something on crackers and serve them during apéro. Malaysians dip crackers into milo (chocolat drink) as breakfast, I'm not sure French can accept it.

How about pudding? Have not seen pudding being served in any typical French household. Hubby doesn't like pudding nor agar-agar (a popular dessert in Malaysia).

My kids love crackers and Marie biscuit. I haven't let them tried Marmite (ok I found spreading Marmite on a sandwich weird too). Aelig accepted agar agar in Malaysia. Hubby does eat crackers. He learnts to eat British food from a Malaysian. lol

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

When the dam is drained (Lac de Guerlédan)

Hubby has been telling me that we need to go visit a lake (served as a dam) that is emptied due to maintenance. I was not very enthusiasm on the idea, what was there to see an emptied lake?

But when I set my feet into the lake area, I was more than impressed, I was overwhelmed by its beauty.

Here is the Lake of Guerledan in Brittany.

When the dam is at its full operation, water would cover till where the forest stands.


Stones after years being underwater. Fishes were transfered to other places before the water slowly being drained.
There were houses buried under water for a long time. They all turned black color.

Rocky hills with tunnels.
These rocks were usually covered by water, I'm not sure if this is their natural color.

Grasses grew where the was no more water.

A breathtaking view.

The drainage milestone
March and April 2015 : Progressivement lower the water level of the lake
From mid Mai to October 2015 : Lake drained, guided visits
Starting from November 2015 : Naturally filling up the lake
Beginning of 2016 : Hydro-electrical center back to service

It was Sunday and there were many visitors at all ages. This makes me feel that banning working on Sundays might be a good thing. Instead of running errands like doing grocery shopping or shopping the whole day in a Mall, people get to do something different.

For those who are interested to visit this Lake, you have until 31 Oct.
Here is the link for more information.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Where is the swimming bag!

The swimming classes are held during the weekday, hubby handles the sending and fetching.

One evening he had to go to the teachers - parents meeting, so he sent Aelig to the swimming pool, and I was going to fetch her back.

When I arrived with Awena in tow, I quickly checked through the lockers so I can grab the towel from the swimming bag. I looked for two minutes and still couldn't find it, although hubby had told me that I won't miss it. I rushed to get Aelig, all wet in her swim suit, then spent another 10 minutes looking through every lockers. I left my phone in the car so I had to go pick it up through the rain. I phoned hubby but he was unavailable, and Aelig didn't remember where her dad put the bag.

After all that mess, I suddenly thought of a possibility : would the bag in the male changing room? Aelig suddenly remembered : it was in the boy's room! We rushed to the boy's room and we immediately found the bag.

Ok, I have two daughters so I never have the problem to bring my kids to toilet or bathroom. I had never thought of it would be a complete issue for hubby. Bringing his daughter to a room full of girls, showering and changing into their swimsuits, what were I thinking? He would be considered a pedophile! Not easy to be a dad if you only have daughters.

And this might not only concern dads with daughters. I was in the swimming pools and after a training session, the trainer dismissed the students. One boy was moving towards the girls' changing room but the trainer asked him to go to the boys'. He protested : "but my mother is coming to pick me up, she is waiting for me in the girls' changing room!" Ok, so we have girls and boys taking shower (with swim suit on) together. Not easy also for mothers with boys.


Friday, September 18, 2015

Swimming pool and love at first sight

Aelig loves to go to the swimming pool, so I had been wanting to enroll her to swimming classes. Unfortunately I'm someone who is not very up to date on enrollement dates, so I missed the pre-enrollment day. By chatting with my coworker I realized that she had enrolled both her girls, while I would have to fight with a bunch of people on a Wednesday afternoon. She advised me to arrive 45 minutes early in order to secure a place.

Well, I was not keen on queuing for such a long time in advance as Awena would get bored and complained. So we arrived 15 minutes before they started accepting enrollment. There was a long line outside the registration place, I was given #47. We all wondered if there would be enough place for all of us, seeing that more and more people arriving. There was a pregnant woman coming with a foldable chair. Some moms knew each other so they were gossiping about schools, teachers, activities for kids....

The registration started at 2pm. People rushed inside the gym to form another queue. We were told to go inside the swimming pool in order for the trainers to see which level they should put our kids in. We went into changing room, parents and kids were packed along the corridor. Trainers called out numbers, so there was no use to rush actually. I put Awena inside a baby carrier, she was curious and tried to get free. Aelig was proud to be able to walk from one end to the other in the swimming pool, as expected she was put into the beginner class.

Once the level testing was done, we headed back to the gym to submit all kind of documents : registration form, medical certificate, a check for the whole season, proof of our income group (you pay the fee according to your family income group), proof of our current address. We waited for at least one hour there. The gym was packed with kids so I let Awena out to play with them.

And then I met the boy, and his mother. Apparently he was one of Aelig's boyfriends. They were there for the registration too, so I chatted with the mother. She told me that her boy likes Aelig a lot, and it was love at first sight. She suggested that we choose the same time slot so that they kids can swim together. I agreed to her suggestion.

Now, the little girl is happy to go to the swimming pool after school once a week. The hard part being that she has homework in the evening and she is not keen on doing them. So, after a long day (school + swimming class), there would be dragging, threathening, yelling, crying. How I wish Wednesdays are still no school day (she has class on Wednesday mornings since sept)! At least she could stay later on Tuesday night.

Anyhow, this episod just made me realise that the "kiasu spirit" (afraid to lose in Malaysian language), exists as well in France, at least where I'm. Moms were fighting for a spot for their love one. I hope all the kids enjoy and appreciate the classes after all the hard work their moms put in. :-)

PS : Most of the public swimming pools are run by the local Town Hall. It offers relatively affordable price, that's why swimming lessons are one of the popular after school activities.