Saturday, July 11, 2015

Summer camp around a Castle

Last summer I read on our community newsletter that they were having a summer camp for kids of 4-6 years old. I immediately contacted the Town Hall, but I was told that all camps were fully booked.

Around March this year, a friend told me that the Town Hall was organizing different activities for kids and we could get all the information during an exhibition in a castle. We went there to check out, and Aelig was intrigued by the camping coordinators who dressed as a queen, a fairy, a knight and an elf (lutin). So, on a Saturday morning, hubby set his alarm clock to make sure he woke up on time to enroll Aelig to this camp, as we were told that the spot would be gone within the first 20 minutes. The enrollment went through, Aelig was going to her first summer camp.

We chose the first week of July for her camp, right after her summer holidays started. We brief her about the camp, she realized little by little that she was going to sleep in a tent with people that she didn't know. But, she was brave, she didn't protest. So off we go. On Monday and Tuesday, she got introduced to new friends and got used to the new environment. She still came home in the evening.


Starting from Wednesday, she slept in the tent, we only picked her up on Friday evening. On Thursday morning, we got an email from the organiser, who gave us some news of what was going on in the camp.

Friday evening, we went to pick her up. Her first reaction was crying in hubby's arms. After hugging us, she calmed down and started showing us what she did.

We were invited to a performance where some of the kids (total 18 of them) describing what they did during the one week camp. They drew castle, forest, tent, queen, elf and knight to show us the adventure they went through.

Before we left, Aelig was surrounded by her new friends. They hugged her and said goodbye.

Overall, it was a good experience, for us and for Aelig. I was worried that she would be scared to participate in this camp since she knew nobody. Most of the kids enrolled with their friends and asked to sleep in the same tent. But, she did well, and she enjoyed it as she was so excited she wanted to join the camp again. Well, 120€ well spent.


Sunday, July 05, 2015

School year end performance : The Little Prince

The last Saturday of Jun, we went for Aelig's school year-end festival. I learnt that if it is a private catholic school, it is called "Kermesse", and if it is a public school, it is called "la fête de l'école", meaning the school festival. These year-end festivals are meant to mark the end of school year while raising some money to finance the school activities including field trips.

Around March, the kids started having rehearsal for their stage performance. This year, the dances were designed around the theme "The Little Prince". It is such a clever idea, as the film will be released this summer, now parents could tell their kids that the film is related to their stage performance.

The woman raising her right arm was the dance teacher. She designed all the dances and the costumes. Not very school has the budget to hire a dance teacher, some schools have their teachers handling the performance. In the photo, the kids dressed as The Little Prince, with green shirt and orange scarf (in our book at home The Little Prince is more wearing a yellow scarf than an orange one, maybe every book is different?).

 Then come the pilot.

 This is the scene where The Little Prince asks the pilot "Please draw me a sheep?"

His rose. While these roses were beautiful, it was painful for the kids who had them around their head.

 The Little Prince ventured outside of his planet, he met the king.

Aelig's class was splitted into two groups: one as snake and one as fox. She was in the snake group. She already showed us her dance at home. I almost told her The Little Prince died due to the poisionous snake, but I figured it would be better for her to figure it out herself.

Afterall, the film is coming out on 29 July, she could have chance to watch it. I told her about this film, she has been waiting for it. We brought her to cinema yesterday, she thought she was going to watch it, but instead if was another movie. Since then, she has been asking, when are we going to watch The Little Prince?

Jun was the month where most of the schools have their year-end festival. We went to tour around town one Saturday and attending two of them. One school had Disney characters dance this year.

 Those in green dress must be Thinker Bell? I was not sure.

This one was from a public school, their performances were simpler, but they had more interesting games.

Back to Aelig's school. Beside the stage performance, the school also prepared some stands (at the far edge in this photo).

Schools sell coupons to parents, they can then use them to play games or buy food (sponsored by parents). Some games are simple yet creative, for example on the photo, Aelig was using a broom to push a round shape thing into holes at the other edge. They would win something if they succeed.

Overall a fun day for the kids. It is also a good way to raise money. I think Malaysian schools could use this model. Instead of asking parents to directly donate money to the school, they could raise money through students / school / parents participation.

PS : The stage performance continued on The Little Prince theme, but we went for games (hubby was holding a game stand), so didn't have photos for the performance after Aelig's.


Sunday, June 14, 2015

The Asian cliché

Around once a week my coworkers would bring over something to share at coffee break hours : croissants, chocolate breads, brioches (sweet bread)...Most of the time is for their birthday, or someone leaving the company...

I only go when I really know the person. I'm not a big fan of these pastries especially I have already had my breakfast at home. One day a coworker brought over something and he was asking everyone to join him. It so happened that I was walking back to my office so he stopped me and invited me to go. I reluntantly joined them as I had tons of work to finish.

When we were in the office pantry, he asked me why I never join them for breaks, and I really do fall into the Asian cliché as someone who works too much. And this relatively show that French work less in comparaison. I was taken aback when he threw this question to me. It was not my purpose to show that I work harder than anyone. I do not take break because:
- The vending machine proposes a bunch of coffee drinks except one type of tea and tomato soup. I do not take coffee.
- Most of the time people spend like 30 minutes to chit chat, two breaks/day meaning one hour's gone. Since I need to respect a certain amount of working hours per day, I prefer to spend time enjoying my lunch break, then go home early.
- Sometimes the conversation topics bore me, a lot of bitching, complaining, I prefer conversations that give me positive energies :-).

Frankly it is just a matter of habit. My pace is set at working, lunch break, working, go home. Some people would take several breaks because they couldn't stand to sit down for too long, or some need to go out for a cigarette, everyone is different. Having said so, generally I like my coworkers in the company. I enjoy working here because most of the coworkers are easy going, friendly, there are less office politic... As for Asian cliché, I'm fair from it, I know many Malaysians who work long long hours, I'm more on the French rhythm, 37 hours / week, and I'm so eager to be on summer holidays! :-)

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

She wants 5 kids

One day, my 5 year old told me that she would like to have 5 kids.
She would have three pregnancies.
First pregnancy would bear boy girl twins.
Second pregnancy bears a boy.
Third prenancy bears twin girls.
Total 3 girls and 2 boys.
And her sister would have 7 kids.
That means I will have 12 grandkids. Wow.

I then had an interview with her, to let her know that having 5 kids demand a lot of works.

Me: How do you handle the bath? The bathtub wouldn't be big enough to put 5 in at the same time.
Her: They would take turn to go in one by one.
Me: With 5 kids you will have to do many loads of laundry. During the evening after work, you would have to fold them, iron them, and then you would need to go inside 5 rooms to put clothes for each kid in their closet.
Her: No! There will only be one closet with 5 levels. Each kid would have one level to himself, the oldest at the top, the youngest at the lowest. When the clothes are too small for the older one, I will put them to the lower level so that the younger kids can wear them.
Me: With all the housework, most likely you will finish around midnight. You are exhausted, you go to bed, but at 5am, there is one crying and this wakes up the other 4. Now you have 5 kids crying, how would you handle this?
Her: I would tell them to go back to sleep, if they don't stop I would let them cry.
Me: But they would wake up the neigbors!
Her: But there won't be neighbors around since we will be living in a house.
Me: If all of your kids ask to have a hug at the same time, what would you do?
Her: I would ask them to make a queue, then I hug them one at a time.

It seems that she has it under control. But, life would be so simple if we could simply ask our kids to make a queue or shut up just go to bed.

I only have two kids and I have hard time handling them. 
I was cooking dinner in the kitchen while the kids were having their bath. I heard them laughing together, then at one point the younger one crying. 
Cooking interrupted, I went to the bathroom to calm them. Helped one washing her hairs, took the other out and dressed her.
Back to the kitchen, both kids were playing / messing in the living room.
Both kids crying because the younger wanted to throw everything on the floor, including what her sister was playing.
Cooking interrupted, helped one brought her games to table so that the younger one wouldn't be able to mess up her game.
Cooking resumed, the young one crawled towards me and started crying and yelling (see photo above, she would move her legs each time she protests). She wanted me to hold her. Took her with me and used one hand to cook, as soon as I put her down she cried. 
Cooking interrupted, I heated up her food and fed her.
While she was eating her bread, I finally managed to put food inside the oven.

5 kids, I couldn't imagine how my life would be.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Money and friends don't mix

A friend told me recently about a 50€ story.

She was at work and everyone was going to go for lunch.
One coworker couldn't go because she needed to go to a shopping center to pawn her glasses.
This coworker needed 50€ badly, as she would have a bounced check if she didn't bank in 50€ immediately to her bank account.
Hearing her reason, the coworkers around just nodded in understanding and went to mind their own business.

When everyone was gone, my friend turned to this coworker and noticed that she was desperate, tired and sad. She immediately proposed that she could lend her 50€.
This coworker was shocked, and touched. She didn't expect anyone would lend her money.

Indeed, French in general believe that money and friends don't mix. This could also apply to family members. In my case, if I so badly needed 50€, I would have asked to borrow from a friend, or a family member. This friend who told the story is also an Asian, so we share the same culture. For both of us, it is no brainer, someone needs help, as a friend we help. Come on, we are taking about 50€, it is really not that much if we could help a friend.

But, we live in a different world. I talked to hubby about this, his immediate response was like the general French, money and friends don't mix.

Monday, May 11, 2015

6400 French on company sponsored trip to China?

There are news all over the medias regarding 6400 Chinese traveled to Paris and Nice, sponsored by their company. Indeed, it was an eye opening event for a lot of French, it was reported on prime time's news. This 4 days 3 nights company trip was estimated to bring in 13 million euros of business to France.

I wonder, what would be the possibility of a French company offering 6400 of their employees on a trip to China?

Well, financial wise, considering that the labor cost is expensive in France, and a company has to pay 50% extra for an employee on social charges (if you earn 1000€ a month, the company has to pay 50% extra to the government to cover all kind of charges, so you actually cost the company 1500€). Having said so, I know of someone who's company offers an oversea trip every other year for his whole family (4), and they will pay you cash if you don't redeem this right. So in my opinion, companies in France could totally afford to do so.

Source

However, it is less likely they would organise a trip so high profile. Just look at the photo above, it was like an army matching on the street!

Source

And, I don't think the French would enjoy dressing up in company uniform and forming a wall of characters just like the photo above!

Source

Rich bosses in France, are in general quite low profile. Showing off too much of their wealth will only bring negative image to their employees instead of admiration. My bosses do not drive fancy cars, they drive cars like everybody else. In short, they are not going to "parade" on the street in a foreign country with their wife.

As a conclusion, I think financially French companies could afford to offer their employees a trip to overseas, but it is not in their culture to come in such a huge number and to catch the attention of the whole nation. In one of the news, an employee told the media that she spent 7000€ in the morning buying luxury bags and she was very very happy. I think these employees are very proud to be one of the members of this trip. However, I wonder, would they prefer to have a trip overseas once a while, or would they hope to enjoy the social coverages just like the French?


Monday, May 04, 2015

Applaud, or not?

We were having our company annual information session in a castle.
The environment was perfect, peaceful with green scenery, except that it was raining.
So we were restricted to a conference room, with top managers at the front row, and employees following behind.
A manager finished his PPT presentation and the next one was ready to give his speech.
I was going to clap my hands, but I noticed that nobody moved.
I looked at my coworker who sat beside me, he shaked his head, dispproved of what I was trying to do.


And I was just trying to applaud. We do this when someone finished a speech, right?
Well, not when the person is a manager, and in a company internal meeting, appearantly.
So, during the whole presentation, several managers stood in front of us, informing us on various issues, but non got any applause. The only applause we got that day was when someone provoked the managers with questions difficult to answer. Yes, the spirit of challenging the authorities is in the blood of French people.

Anyway, later, I was having lunch with a group of coworkers, and the coworker who stopped me from applauding told everyone what I was trying to do. They all said no no to me. I defended, that  it was out of politeness!

Yes, I'm the weird one, again.  lol