Saturday, December 30, 2006

Christmas meals

The Christmas celebration started on 24 December, including the happy moment of present opening.

The French emphasis a lot on the presentation. So here's their table setting.

We started with a present from our grandmother. Good chocolat inside!

Champagne + yummy food + warm fire = nice Christmas night

My mother in-laws made this foie gras with apple, yummy.

Oyster is on the menu.

Langoustin on the menu.

We couldn't wait until the end of the meal to open our presents, which are already sitting besides our shoes (it's in the French tradition to put a shoe under the Christmas tree, and everybody will put the present beside the shoe), so each person goes pick up a present for everybody. For the first round, we got some cookies, second round we offered the present, third round we got more presents... these are some of my presents, including the Orang Utan...

More seafood, the scallop from my father in laws.

More presents flew in, from now on we will have our own chairs!

Dessert: The Christmas cake made by my mother in laws.

This year's meal was definitely lighter, so we didn't feel that full full. It's was great bcos we need to have some space for the second day Christmas lunch. haha

Christmas day lunch: Entree

Chicken and chestnut, a must for the lunch.

Christmas Deco

My brother in laws took his time to decorate the Christmas tree with the santons (religious statues) and the characters from Brittany.

Jesus is borned

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Grandmother and Chinese soup opera

Through subscription to Freebox, I got 14 channels of Chinese program.

My husband's grandmother is here for the holiday, and she was watching the Chinese soup opera with me. She keep asking me what's going on, apparently she loves TV, but the French soups are just too boring. It's very interesting for her to see those people wearing in weird costumes. She's just funny.

Mes belles grand-mères? (My grandmother in laws)

In French, mother in laws = belle mère (beautiful mother), father in laws = beau père (handsome father), sister in laws = belle soeur (beautiful sister), is my grandmother in laws = ma belle grand-mère (my beautiful grandmother)?

The answer is no. When I asked my husband's grandmothers about this, they were laughing and couldn't accept to be called "beautiful grandmother". Even though they are both beautiful and sweet.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Christmas Party

We had a Christmas party in the class today. Imagine those foods from 4 continents: Europe, Asia, Africa and America.

Some desserts and some French cheeses

Foods from different countries

The Vietnameses took their time to decorate their foods

A fashion show from Asia: Vietnamese, Malaysians and Thailand

I had the honour to be one of the host of the program of the day, with my broken French I presented Malaysia as well. The highlight was when the Brazilians demonstrate the Capoeira, something like Brazilian Kung Fu. Everybody had fun!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

English Test

After 5 years in USA, I thought that my English level is not bad, or good compare to the French.

Today, I have an English test, and I would say I didn't do as good as I could. Already, I'm confused between when to use "have been" and "had been", and I was tested these grammers thingy in one of the section. I have less problem for the proposition, but at the section about the nationality, I couldn't remember how a person from Copenhagen is called? Man, you need to know all the cities in Europe to be able to answer these questions.

Then, translate an article in English to French. The article was about being vegetarian in UK. Phew, my French is so broken that I wish the English professor who will correct it will know immediately that I'm a foreigner.

The next section was to write an essay, and I chosed to write about France and the French. But, I didn't have enough time, so I only wrote like 8 lines while it requires 15 lines.

The last section is the most rediculous test I have ever seen. We were given a floor plan of a company, and staff D, E, F, G, H were indicated where they seat. The question is to place Mr A, B and C, among all the empty desks on the floor plan. There are a bunch of empty seats and I have no idea where these misters should be placed! There is no other indication for it. I saw two boxes with a human picture in it, so I put them there, but I guess those human pictures indicate toilettes now. Phew. I asked a French girl and she said she had no idea either and she just left it blank. No wonder they all finished the test before me.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Go take a course and get paid!

France is a socialist country, so it exists many benefits for the French and it's permanent residents.

I hate people who abuse and rely on the benefit system, but it can really help people who are seriously in need.

For example, as an unemployed resident, you get a transportation card from the townhall, then you can go anyway in the city for free, by using the public transportation system. It's easy to go for job interview, or training classes. You won't hide yourself at home to try to save some money, instead you can still enjoy life like the others.

Recently, I found out courses that are designed for the unemployed. You need to pay some fees, but you will get paid every month, from the unemployment agencies. For example, I found this export import course, 10 months for 900 euros, but each month you will get paid around 600 euros. This course require the student to do an internship oversea for at least 5 weeks, and I'm not sure whether the student will get paid for the housing and expenses overseas. Anyway, the woman I talked to said that there exist a fund specifically for the foreigners, so there should be no problem for me to get paid.

Unfortunately, the class starts in January, and I need to be absented for 5 weeks in February to go to Malaysia. This trip is fixed, with 11 more French all excited to go with me, so I can't pull it out. Tant pis pour moi.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Nantes at war!

Yesterday when I was walking downtown Nantes, I saw some smokes scattered around, with firecrackers sound everyway. I thought that Nantes is at war.

Che, it was only a strike organized by the fire fighters.

It reminded me of Chinese New Year in Malaysia. I saw one fire fighter lighting a fire cracker that looked like what I used to play in Malaysia. I love the convivial atmosphere like this: for celebration, not for strike. A strike is annoying when everybody is doing it at anytime at any cost of others.

My first Christmas tree

I have never planned to have a Christmas tree at home, bcos it takes some space and it's not a big deal to me.

However, when my father in laws gave us this, we were really excited. My husband missed his Christmas decor, it was a nice moment decorating the tree. The second day, my father in-laws came with the bulk lights, and the tree becomes very beautiful.

In the French tradition, a Christmas tree comes with la créche, the scene when Jesus was born. It usually have some sheeps, the 3 kings, the virgin Mary and her husband Joseph, and some characters I don't know. The baby Jesus is supposed to be added in on Christmas day, but we put him there already. We are not that religious anyway. My father in-laws actually modified the whole scene last year by adding some boats as if Jesus was borned in an harbour of Brittany.

It's not bad to have some decor. I'm just too lazy to do the Christmas shopping, thinking of gifts that will please everybody. They should probably learn from the Chinese, just give the red envelope (with money inside), so that people will save the money in the bank (instead of receiving gifts that he/she doesn't like or won't use), or use the money to buy what they need.

I start to understand why I'm so practical, the Chinese tradition has sure been seeded and grown in me.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Hunting for apartment

We have kind of decided to buy an apartment, instead of waiting for me to get a job and then buy a new house. My husband is quite sad to let go the idea of a house with a garden, but there is no other choice.

So, the hunting process started. With him working in Rennes, I have to do everything by myself. I search through the Ouest France website and sent emails to several agents, but only one replied me. Apparently the agents here don't work well with email. I have to visit them one by one, not something I'm looking forward to.

I'm not very motivated by this task, mainly bcos I don't like the apartment in France. I hate those corridor and tiny rooms and closed kitchen. I loved my big bedroom and closet in Austin. All my friends in Malaysia bought their apartment or house newly built, and I know I could afford one myself if I work there. It's just sad to realise that this country's salary is so low that to own a spacious apartment you will need two salaries.

Monday, December 04, 2006


I found a super good course with the Chamber of Commerce in Nantes. It's in the field of International Business (Export). From their site, I'm qualified for this course, and it's remunerated, which means I might be able to have the class for free. One of the requirements is to be able to speak English and a second language. I thought Chinese will do. This course is interesting because the students will have 3 weeks of courses in the center, then 2 weeks of practical training in a company. Every 3 months they will have a mission in a company. By the end of this course, the students will have the theorical and practical part cover.

Last Friday I went to get more information, and realised that they added more requirements, which are different from what I saw in the website. Basically, the applicant needs to have worked at least 3 months in France. Too bad, but then I thought that I can try to argue about this. The person in charged had left work at 5pm, and I was told to come back Monday at 5pm.

So today, I went, and the person in charge refused to see me. The receptionist was on phone with her, and I was told that I need to have an appointment. Worst, second language for them mean either Spanish or German. The receptionist said that I shouldn't even try since I don't speak neither Spanish nor German.

It's a very discouraging country. No matter how many languages I speak, it's still not good enough for them. They really try to make my life miserable. With the boombing business relationship with Asia especially China, Why can't they accept someone who speak Chinese to do this course?

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Joyeux anniversaire

I'm 30 today. My parents in-laws come to celebrate with me. They gave me a check to buy a pair of boots which I have been looking for a long time. I have never worn any boots before and I don't really like the feeling of wearing it (when I try them). But, instead of wearing jeans all the times, it's good to wear some skirts. In this time boots are very useful to cover the legs during the winter.

I hope I will wear more variety of clothes in my 30ths.

I desperately hope I can have a clearer future for my career.

Happy birthday to me.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Dream of home

Yesterday I dreamt of being in Malaysia with my husband and his family. It's understandable because they are actually coming in Feb 07 for our wedding. It was funny, in the dream, they arrived in my house and none of my family member were at home. It was in the morning, so I brought them to breakfast. Then, one scene that disturbs me: the weather is too hot for my FIL so he looks displease with my country. I hope this situation won't come true.

The weird thing is, I always dream of my old house, the place where I grew up. My family has moved to a new house, and I have never dreamt of being in this new house. All my dreams refered to my house as the old house. I think this house is not replaceable, it has too much childhood memories.

Would my country to unreplaceable as well?

Friday, November 24, 2006

Why are they here?

I have started my French class in a learning center, and therefore met some new students. Most of the students have the same background: married to a French and therefore live in France.

Some of them have arrived long time ago, like 5 years; and some just arrived. You can see people from age range from 20-55 years old.

We have another common point: we are all unemployed. So, sometimes we bitch about the situation, and how we could have found a job quickly in our own countries.

There are two Brazilians, guys, that caught my attention. When they talk about their country, their eyes shine like moonlight, their face light up, their body move happily, their hands wave in the air. They miss their country miserablely. They miss their family, their warm culture, their dance...Today, one of the guy was singing in Brazilian to his friend during the break, at least 15 minutes non stop...

and I wonder: Why are they here? It is really worth it, to give up such happiness?

These two mens met their wives while their wives were having vacation in a small village in Brazil. These French women brought them to France, and from what I observe, this country would not be able to give them the same happiness, at least in a short time. One of the guy is more than 30 years old, and he is giving up everything to restart a life in France. He sure has more courage than me.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Nice civil servant in France: It exist!

A lot of foreigners complaint about the bureaucracy in France. For me, I don't have much bad experience, since the government services in Malaysia can be a lot worst than here.

Anyway, I went to Nantes Townhall to help my husband register to be a voter for the next presidential election. I was received by a very nice woman. She patiently explained to me the documents I need to submit and even wrote down on a piece of paper to me. She then asked me to write it to see whether I understand her handwriting.

Then, I asked her how to apply a job in the region, as my MIL told me that I can get the info from the Town Hall. Even though it wasn't her job to answer me, she looked up in the internet and print out a page for me, where I can post my CV. She then gave me the address of the mayor so that I can send to the Town Hall as well. She was very polite throughout the process with a charming smile.

Conclusion: There exist nice civil servant, it really depends where you are located in France.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

On strike not on strike

I read in the 20 minutes that la poste (the postal services) is on strike, for unlimited period in my area. However we received some letters today. Guess they are providing minimum services?

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Kill Crabs

We killed two crabs today!

I love crab, but had never prepared it before.

In Malaysia, my brother is the one responsible to cut the crabs.

In France, my father in laws would prepare. He knows I love crab and most of the time when we go their house, crabs will be on the menu.

Today, we saw a promotion, 3.82 euros for 2 crabs. Bon marché. I asked an old man to choose for me. People are very friendly here and they are willing to help and share with you.

I put the crabs in the fridge. It doesn't work bcos every time we open the fridge, we saw something moving and that disturbed us.

No choice. We called the in-laws, and was told to boil them immediately during 20 minutes. Ah, my boyfriend/husband wanted me to be the murder, how mean he is! I dropped the crabs in the boiling water and that broke my heart. I keep praying for the crabs, hopefully they will reborn to be a human in their future life. :-)

Thursday, November 16, 2006

6 years anniversary

6 years ago, I packed my bag and went to USA. I didn't know that I will end up living overseas. My objective was to improve my English and get some working experience overseas. The ideal thing was that the company sends me back to Malaysia. They did, but I had to reject.

Life is so unpredictable.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

My lovely family

I have always have soft sports for the grandmothers from my husband's site.

My paternal and maternal grandparents passed away before I was borned. So, I have never experienced the love coming from grandparents. I was jealous when my childhood friends got pocket money from their grandmothers, or always get new toys, foods...from them.

Yesterday, the two grandmothers came to visit us. We had a lovely time together. They treat me like their own grand daughter. One of them sew me a pullover.

The second morning I had to go to school so they left after me. I was so sad to have gone back to an empty apartment without them in the afternoon.

I guess, that their genuine love towards me win over my heart. They are my lovely grandmothers.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


I met an Indonesia who got married in August, but managed to get his recipicee (receipt) the same day he applied for a carte de sejour, which means that as soon as he got married to a French, he has the right to work. He then got his one year carte de sejour in October. As for me, I got married in July, and I was only given my recipicee in October, and the real carte de sejour will only come in end of November. And, we went to the same prefecture.

So, who said the French don't work in August? They were so efficient that they gave him the recipicee on the same day he applied. It's not a big deal actually, but just that I was so unlucky to have the only job briefing session on the same day same time I needed to collect my recipicee. Since I wasn't able to attend that briefing session, the agency never called me again. That's the price I paid for. If I got the recipicee on the same day I applied, which is in July, I could have gotten the job.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

The appointment with the ANPE

ANPE is the national employment agency who try to help the unemploy go back to the job market. I had an appointment with them, and it was totally useless. The woman doesn't know my field, doesn't know how to handle a foreigner, doesn't know how to help. Eventually she directed me to ANPE Cadres, a branch handle people with higher education. I went to ANPE Cadres and they were closed at 3pm on Friday, an hour earlier bcos Sat is public holiday.

What I found absurb is her ignorance to my problem. I requested to join the free French in which I mentioned in my earlier post, and she said that it's totally impossible. Eh voila, I'm starting the class tomorrow! What she said impossible turned out to be possible, just bcos I knew people who already attending the class. Nobody in the center said I'm not qualified to join the class.

Lesson learnt: Don't trust people when they say impossible to what you want. Confirm it directly with the people is in the right position to give you advise.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

The French is not so happy

France is the 62th happiest country on a map of "world happiness" showing the degree of well-being of the population of 178 countries, according to researcher Adrian White of the University of Leicester in England.

Denmark came top, followed closely by Switzerland and Austria. The UK ranked 41st. Zimbabwe and Burundi came bottom.

A nation's level of happiness was most closely associated with health levels. Prosperity and education were the next strongest determinants of national happiness.

The 20 happiest nations in the World are:

1. Denmark
2. Switzerland
3. Austria
4. Iceland
5. The Bahamas
6. Finland
7. Sweden
8. Bhutan
9. Brunei
10. Canada
11. Ireland
12. Luxembourg
13. Costa Rica
14. Malta
15. The Netherlands
16. Antigua and Barbuda
17. Malaysia
18. New Zealand
19. Norway
20. The Seychelles

Other notable results include:

23. USA
35. Germany
41. UK
62. France
82. China
90. Japan
125. India
167. Russia

The three least happy countries were:

176. Democratic Republic of the Congo
177. Zimbabwe
178. Burundi

Wah, Malaysia is doing not bad ha, ranked 17 out of 178 countries. Whereas France, has good access to education and healthcare, and the nation is pretty wealthy, ranked 62. Why? That's because they are French, they will never be satisfied. haha

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Intensive French Class

Every since I stop following the French classes in the University, I feel that my French, especially the writing part, has gone backward.

So, I tried to look for chance to have some classes, for free since I now have the residency. I contacted a center who asked me to wait for a letter, but I haven't received it after 3 weeks.

I thought I stuck in the well known French red tape, but to my surprise, thing just worked out.

One of my friend received her letter to the evaluation session, a process one needs to take to be able to follow the class. I went with her, hoping to be able to get into the class as soon as possible.

It must be a miracle, bcos not only they accepted me even though my session should be in 2 weeks (I saw it in their computer schedule), the allowed me to pass the session today, let me choose the center I want, the hour of French class I prefer, and offer many good advises to find a job.

The young woman who interviewed me is simply wonderful and helpful. I can say that I'm very lucky with the administrative in Nantes so far, no scary story to tell like the others I read.

Gone the day of 8 hours of French classes a week. Entering the era of 30 hours a week of French.

Monday, November 06, 2006

New era transportation: BusWay

The BusWay: a combination of bus and tramway, is started last weekend in Nantes, the first one in France. Unlike the normal bus, BusWay has it's own road, just like the tramway has it's own tramline. Other transports are not allowed to run on this road. BusWay is also more comfortable compare to tramway.

BusWay is runned on natural gas so it's more environmentally friendly.

Science Fiction Festival

Last Sat we went to a science fiction festival organised by the Nantes Townhall in the Congress building. We saw a lot of family with young kids. I guess this is a good way to show them stuffs related to science. We watched series of short movies from around the world about science fiction. I loved one of them: A guy received a weird machine. Basically whatever he put inside the machine will appear from the sky in a gigiantic size, and he can take the stuff outside of his house from the machine and the stuff will be in smaller size. He got inspired, and took the whole polluting industry lot from the machine, which transform into a toy size lot. He then put his flower plant into the machine. Eh voila, he saw a big plant outside his house!

The organiser invited several people from different countries to discuss about democracy. Weird ah, democracy in a science fiction festival? Some of the panels were speaking in French with very strong anglo-saxon accent and some French were laughing at then. I wonder whether I had been made fun of my French when I speak? With Malaysian accent?

There are a lot of games prepared for the public, especially the young. I found it to be a very healthy culture, where people with different age ranges just sit down and play a game that will make you use your mind. It's better for them to go drink and get drunk all the times.

This is a game called Loups-Garous (wildwolves). We played it several times at home.

There are science fiction books for sale and some of the authors are present. We bought a book and the author signed for us.

Comic is very popular among the young French. There are several authors present and there are long queue to wait for their signatures. It's not only a signature, they will draw something on the book you buy and personalize it for you.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Free Hugs

Free hugs is started by an Australian who went on the street, holding a sightboard, asking people to give him a hug. It's now spread in the world, including China. The news in China said that the campaigns in China was failed, as the volunteer who gived hugs was taken away by a police. A lot of the Chinese can't accept this concept as they think that hugging openly is in western culture. Netherless, I saw the free hugs campaigns video taken in ChangSha, I would say that it was a success. I saw the young man hugged many women, that's already a big achievement considering that most of the Chinese don't even hug their own parents when they grow up.

Notice this map. The white flags refer to where the FreeHugs campaigns presented. See it's absent in South East Asia, and most importantly, the Middle East. Will Muslim accept hugging openly, between man and woman? This operation is aimed to bring peace to the world, but this western public embracing action might not be accepted to certain countries who see the contact between man and women openly as some kind of taboo. They have campagnes in Israel too, but Israel is heavily influenced (or controlled) by the American that I won't consider them as one part of Middle Eastern culture.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

All Saints Day and All Souls Day

1 November is All Saints Day and 2 November is All Souls Day. However, only 1 November is public holiday.

In Nantes, I didn't see any festivals organised for the Halloween, so I think it's really something American. In France, people go to the cemetery to offer flowers to their deceased relatives. They usually offer chrysanthemums. This kind of flowers were originated from China, and it's offer to the dead during Qing Ming festival, when the Chinese go to the cemetery to pray their ancestors.

It's it a coincidence that in the French and Chinese cultures (I'm not sure about other cultures), chrysanthemums are offered to the dead? I remembered watching a movie, in which an American was trying to impress his Asian girlfriend, by offering her chrysanthemums during her birthday. Big mistake!

Why is there no photo on the grave? So one day when the grand grand children come visit their grand grand mother, they won't even know how she looked like. Chinese graves always have a photo about who is buried there. Also, in this cemetery, every small place is for a family, not only one person. While in Malaysia, for the Chinese, I usually see only husband and wife share the same grave, but not the whole family.

My professor told me that not everybody in France goes to the cemetery in all souls day. It depends on the family culture. It's true, my boyfriend has never been to his grandfather's grave even since his grandpa was dead 2 years ago.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Tell No One (Ne le dis à personne)

Tell No One is a book written by Harlan Coben. It's now out in the cinema in France. Weirdly, they made it in France and the people speak in French. Harlan Coben even appear in one of the scene.

It's a story about a couple who knew each other since childhood. Each year they go to a lake to celebrate their "kissing"anniversary. One year, they went again to the lake, but the wife was killed. The husband was basically destroyed from then on.

8 years later, the husband received an email, where it provided a link. He opened it and saw his wife! He started looking in the possibility that his wife is still alive. That's where the story started to get very exciting.

I wonder whether this movie will be shown in US.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Air Travel: New mesures of security for all passengers

As of 6 November 2006, and from that date only, the new security measures decided by the European Commission will be applicable in all European airports.

Passengers wishing to carry on liquids, pastes, gels, creams and aerosols exceeding 100 ml will have to buy them in duty free shops. In some cases, their purchases will be placed by sales personnel of Boutiques Aéroports de Paris in transparent sealed plastic bags.

Aéroports de Paris, the company managing Paris-Orly and Paris-Charles de Gaulle airports, is already preparing the implementation of these new security rules with all its partners.

Taken from
Aéroports de Paris October Press release.

It seems that air travel is getting more and more rigid in terms of security. I usually put all my cleansers and toiletteries in my carry on bag. From Paris to Malaysia we are only allowed 25kg of luggages, and since toiletteries are usually quite heavy and breakable, I don't like to put them in the check in luggages.

Friday, October 27, 2006

I love the Free Chinese channels

Ever since end of August I had have the luxury to be able to watch 14 Chinese TV channels in France. They come with our subscription to Freebox, who provide the broadband internet connection, the digital TV and phoneline for 30 euros a month. Here's the list of channels:

180: CCTV4 (in Mandarin)
181: CCTV9 (in English)
182: CCTV Espagnol & Français (News in Spanish and French, other programs in Chinese with Spanish or French subtitle)
183: CCTV divertissement (in Mandarin)
184: China Movie (in Mandarin, mostly old films from 70s-80s)
185: Beijing TV (in Mandarin)
186: Shanghai Dragon TV (in Mandarin)
187: Jiangsu International (in Mandarin)
188: Hunan Satelit TV (in Mandarin but sometimes Hunanese)
189: Xiamen Star TV (in Taiwanese/Hokkien)
190: ZheJiang Star TV (in Mandarin)
191: Guangdong Southern TV (in Cantonese)
192: Phoenix infonews (in Mandarin)
193: Phoenix Entertainment and News (in Mandarin)

Bad news: At the beginning of November, most of channels will require payment. What leave as free channels are 180,181,182 and 193. I probably should pay the 8.88 euros per month for all the 10 channels.

I have been following a lot of the programs especially soup opera in Hokkien. I do not watch French TV here bcos they like to have political debat programs, or dubbed American programs. Basically the French TV programs are not interesting for me.

I know I need to watch French TV to improve my French, but at the same time watching TV is supposed to be an entertainment which I find more in the Chinese channels.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Goodman's bridge

Several weeks ago we went to visit the Goodman's bridge (Pont du Bonhomme).

It's a bridge consists of two big walls facing each other. At the peak of the walls stand a man and a woman who look at each other. It was pretty interesting but sad at the same time. It reminds me of Chinese Valentine's day that has a legend about a girl and a guy who are in love but can only see each other once a year (the 7th day of July in the lunar calendar) through a bridge form by birds.

We walked along the river and it's the season of chestnut again. It has a lot in the forest along the river. It's amazing sometimes that in France, there are so many things to see in an area. I have been to Lorient so many times but still I haven't visited every places worth visiting.