Tuesday, December 30, 2008

No, don't say Happy New Year now!

When my carpooler dropped me off this evening I pre wished him "Happy New Year" since we would only see each other after the New Year. He told me:"no, you shouldn't say that, you should say bonnes fêtes (happy holidays). You only wish someone Happy New Year after the 31 December."

I felt so upset as I was feeling like a foul again. Since last week I had ended most of my emails with "Merry Christmas and Happy New Year 2009". Nobody at work was telling me that it was not appropriate to do it this way, they might be laughing at me at my back?

This probably only applies to certain French but hubby confirmed that people don't say Happy New Year before the New Year. However, you can say Merry Christmas before Christmas. So, for everyone who have visited this blog, come back in January and I will wish you all Happy New Year 2009!

Monday, December 29, 2008

The bastard road

While looking at a check we got over the Christmas, I exposed in laugh and yelled at hubby:"Look, this bank is located on the Bastard street!"

I quickly check on the internet and found a wine shop "Nicolas Rennes Le Bastard". You can go to the link here and check out their interactive map to find out where the Bastard street is, if you are interested.

Can't believe people actually named a road with this kind of name.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Scallop fishing 2

Hubby went for scallop fishing again and within two days, he has gotten 18. Of course it couldn't be compared to those experts who filled the quota of 30 scallops per person per day, but for a newbie he was doing well.

Look at this scallop, it seems like it is angry and trying to raise high to defend itself! On the other hand, I like her "hair", I would like to call it a she as it seems to me that she is wearing a hat. :-)

According to hubby scallop fishing is fun, for me scallop eating is fun, but preparing them is actually a tedious process.

It was sunny and the scenery was gorgeous, with the diving equipment they didn't feel the cold, so it is actually an ideal activity during winter.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Scallop fishing

It is winter. These guys are going diving. Crazy. The result? They got some scallops, and oysters, and they are going again. Well I'm happy to be waiting and get my portion of scallop, an add on to the Christmas feast. :-)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Appraisal system - it happens again

When I was at form 6, my school organized a 5k run event. In my school, only form 6 has girl students, so we were like 150 females running for the top 10 places. Despite being the third one to pass the arrival line, I was not called up on the stage to receive the trophy. Everyone who knew me were surprised, they thought I had been disqualified. The fact was, the girl who recorded the top winners didn't have her glasses that day. Coincidentally the fourth one who arrived was also from my house (with purple house shirt), she thought we were the same person, thus listing the fourth winner as the third one and subsequently I got eliminated from the list and everyone behind me got upgraded a place. I was very upset as I was waiting for the glory moment on the stage, receiving the trophy from our handsome headmaster. Realizing the mistake, the organizers wanted to make another trophy for me, but I had lost my interest. It was about the moment, not the trophy.

The same situation happened when I was in my MBA class. Each year before the commencement day, a professor would dress in her gown and announcing and distributing a certificate to graduating students who managed to get first class on their grade. I was waiting for the proud moment. Surprisingly, I was not on her list. Later the secretary told me that they had forgotten me as some of my classes were taken outside of this main campus. I was disappointed.

Recently I experienced this injustice moment once again. I was at our class gathering and some classmates mentioned about the ranking on our grade transcript. They laughed about it as someone who has higher grade were ranked lower than others. One guy was noted as "unrankable" as he didn't take the full exam. I was confused as there was no ranking on my transcript. When I got home, I checked my transcript and I saw some number and thought I was ranked 21 out of 23 students. I couldn't believe it. Hubby just laughed it off and said grade was not important. I agreed. But I have always thought that we should give credit where it is due. Also, I couldn't be sure if I won't need this transcript to apply for another courses in the future in case I move to another country and ranked 21 out of 23 is simply unacceptable. So I wrote to the school secretary. And guess what? She replied and said indeed I should be ranked number one in the class and she didn't know why it didn't appear on my transcript. She didn't know whether it is still possible to change it. Seems like luck is not on my side, again.

Hubby couldn't understand what is to be upset about. From his reaction, I realized that we grew up in a completely different environment and education system. Since primary school, I was given grade and ranking. You would be praised if you are able to be on the top three of the class and you would receive present from the school in front of everyone. Your achievements are to be shared with everyone else. During graduation ceremony, those who got first class are going to receive the certificate first then followed by second class and third class.

The appraisal system just work differently here. No gift if you are number 1 in class. No graduation ceremony. No competition within classmates and peers. I don't know which system is better, but I do prefer to have some praises from time to time.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Dynamite found at Printemps

5 dynamites were found at the famous Printemps department store today in Paris. They were tied together but without a detonator. The store has to close in the morning and only reopened in the afternoon. According to a report this store attracts 100,000 shoppers per day, that means literally exorbitant loses on sales, especially during the peak season right before Christmas. A French media said they received a letter said to be from a revolutionary group from Afghanistan, urging France to withdraw its troops from the Afghanistan before February next year.

It seems like nowadays people could just easily place explosive stuffs in any places and create chaos and economic lose to the targeted country. I'm sure not 100% of the shop patrons will dare to go back to the shop in the immediate future. Some tourists might even avoid Paris all in all. It will be heart broken if one day these terrorists manage to get down the Eiffel Tower. If the trend keeps going we might foresee a third world war. Just my two cents.

Sunday, December 14, 2008


Last weekend I invited my coworker over to visit Nantes. She is an expatriate and will be staying in France for two months. Most of the time she is in Rennes so it would be nice to visit around. At the end of the visit, she concluded that Nantes is more beautiful than Rennes and most of her friends feel the same (from the photos she posted online). Well, I don't know whether Nantes is prettier but her visit has made me realized that Nantes is indeed a scenic city. I regret so much that I didn't make my own family visit this city due to their hectic schedule.

One of her comments was that Nantes has so many places to walk around. True, this ancient mansion is just 5 minutes walk from my apartment.

Another ancient building, or should we call it a castle?

The architecture of the Brittany castle.

This park is situated just across the street of our apartment complex.

Since 2007 the walking elephant has become an attraction in Nantes. It was a beautiful day so this elephant was out for a walk.

I love his eyes, so "lifely".

The "Passage Pommeraye" is well decorated and is filled with Christmas spirit.

The tranquil Erdre river, quoted by the French king François I as the most beautiful river in France.

Nantes downtown is lit up with colorful lighting. It was crowded with people hunting for Christmas gifts or simply going out for a walk.

The Christmas market. It could not be compared to the Christmas market in Alsace, and I was disappointed that they didn't have hot apple juice. Most of the stuffs here are expensive so I was never keen to buy anything here.

Nantes is indeed beautiful isn't it?

Friday, December 12, 2008

It's freezing

It is freaking cold in the morning and night these days. This morning it was under 1 Celsius. When I arrived at the parking lot, cars parked outdoor were all covered with a layer of ice.

In this kind of weather I can't even wear my new boots, afraid to fall down with the high heels.

I'm so eager for the vacation in Malaysia and that winter will be over soon.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Tell me I'm not stupid

The conversation after the incident:

Me:"Tell me I'm not stupid".
Hubby:"...hesitating... you are not stupid" He obliged.


Well, this afternoon I broke another car tire. I just broke one exactly three months ago. Same thing, I was driving a friend back to his office. The road was narrow in my standard so when a car coming towards me from the other direction, I moved slightly right and the tire hit the side barrier. I keep telling my friend that it should be ok but it was not. When we arrived at his office we heard the air leaking out from the tire. I simply hate these stone barriers. I was driving at 40km/h and this "kiss" on the barrier will cost me 350 euros, again. Remember in France you will need to change both tires even if you only damage one?

This was not the end of a bad day. My friend had a hard time changing the tire so we had to call the insurance company. Luckily he was there to handle everything. I left the car at his office parking lot and walked back to my office. The insurance sent someone to change the tire later.

In the evening I got the key from the friend and was preparing to drive home. When I put on the key, the engine won't start. The back tires symbol kept blinking on the car screen. I tried again and the car just won't start. I had no choice but to call the insurance company again. After several transfer my phone credit ran off and I still didn't know whether they will send someone over or not. Luckily hubby called at this point and took thing over. Since the battery light was on I thought the car was running out of battery. It was raining and dark, I didn't have courage to ask for help as everyone seemed so eager to go home. I finally spotted a man at the entrance so I went to ask him for help. He apologized and said he didn't have a car, plus if my car is running with diesel, recharging my battery will decharging other's battery.

1 hour 20 minutes later a mechanic arrived with his towing car. His first try to start the car failed. Miraculously, he succeeded at the second try. And you know what was the problem? ---- The car was parked on first gear, that was why it was not starting.

I felt so stupid.

But you know what? Why would people park on the first gear anyway on a flat parking lot? Beside the car responded so differently, in Malaysia it would have moved forward at first gear, but this one just act like the battery is dead. Man, this is definitely killing my festive mood.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Going for shopping again

Last week experience was fantastic so I'm continuing my shopping activity today. Beside a list of Christmas presents to buy for family members, I also received more sponsorship from the grandmothers for my birthday. So will be busy buying things for myself as well.

To top it off, the sun is shining high in Nantes, a perfect day to go out and spend money. :-)

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

The exchange

I was at the in laws' over the weekend and as usual we slept in the guest room, which is now turning into a "Chinese" theme room. The wall is red, the bed is red, the window is red, the cloth stand is red.

Then I saw this. My FIL has finally finished his master piece art work. All the Chinese style symbols were gifts from my parents when they came visit last summer.

Let just say, 5 years ago when I had not appeared in my French family's life, they didn't use as much red and certainly would not have a room full of Chinese stuffs. Now they do. This is the power of exchange I guess.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The happiness ratio

Hubby was talking about his high happiness ratio when he was shopping for wine. This weekend, I was doing my own shopping and I can say that my happiness ratio = 80.

My birthday is just around the corner so I got a generous budget from my in laws to shop for myself a handbag. Hubby also wants to sponsor something so I set in mind to go home with a pair of new boots and jeans.

The depressing weather didn't stop me and a good friend from hunting the gifts on my list. The first item bought was the jeans. I like it at the first try and almost bought two identical pairs at different size. That is why you always need to shop with someone to stop you from doing stupid shopping mistake. :-)

I almost giving up looking for the boots. I wanted it be neither brown nor black but it is the fashion now in France. Most of the shops we went sell only these two colors and I stubbornly wanted just colors OTHER than black and brown. After two hours of popping in and out different shops, while entering a new target, I went straight to the seller and requested "do you have something rather than these two colors?". Obviously the shop only offers two colors but she was intelligent enough to check in her store room and came back with 4 pairs of boots with the light brown colors. I bought this pair in just 10 minutes. Once I like something I don't want to look somewhere else. It cost 69 euros, below the budget I thought hubby should sponsor. :-)

I was a big worried that I won't be able to find any bag and going home empty handed. It would be horrible as we were having the birthday party on that evening and my in laws wanted me to have the bag wrapped so that they would have the surprise at what I chose. Again, the fashion for this Christmas is opposite from what I had in mind. Most of the bags are huge like a travel bag. Eventually we spotted a shop that offers small bags. I was hesitating among many and changed my mind several times. Finally I picked this one, and it was...140 euros!!! The most expensive hand bag in my life. Way over the budget but I know hubby would sponsor the reminding amount. :-) Later I told myself "Gosh, I just spent RM700 on a handbag!!! With this money I could have bought an extremely luxury brand in Malaysia.

During the dinner everyone was happy at what I picked "as the gift they would offer me". I didn't dare to tell about the over budget deal and luckily nobody asked. At one point I told hubby and he didn't complain. How dare he complains when he has bought all these: close to 200 bottle of wines, occupying one third of his father's wine cellar!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Back to the badminton court

It is so cool I got to play badminton again. My company reserves two courts twice a week during lunch time for its employees. The sport center is located just 5 minutes away from the office. I won't have thought French know about this sport but to my surprise a lot of them actually know how to play. The center has 8 courts and all of them were filled with players each time we were there.

Badminton is a very popular sport in Malaysia. It is the only sport in which we managed to get medals during the Olympic games. As a kid, we would play on the road side. The house gate would serve as the net, or we would tie both end of the rope to something (like two trees on the photo) and the game would start. There were always enough kids to play during the evening. The better and the older one would teach the younger one and little by little you learn how to hold the racket, how to serve, how to be able to touch the shuttle cock, and how to smash. Since we were playing the games outdoor, you need to know how to play against the wind, how to raise the rope to let the car pass by, how to use the bamboo stick to retrieve shuttle cocks that stuck on the house roof or within a bunch of leaves. Everyone would get so disappointed when we lost all the shuttle cocks (either stuck on the roof or disappeared in between leaves) and we would get mad at the person who did that.

Those were the days when badminton was my childhood game.

Monday, November 24, 2008

A trip to the local market

Sunday morning, I was craving for some kaki so I dragged hubby out of the bed to go to a local market. In fall you can usually get some good deals for kaki and grapes.

Remember this mushroom species? I blog about it here a while back. It is being sold at 16.90 per kg.

Have I told you that Brittany is the heaven to seafood? This is one kind of crawfish that you could find in the West of France.

Crabs here are quite cheap but even since this kill crab incident, I no longer buy crabs, I eat them only when I'm at my in laws.

France is one of the biggest exporters for oyster. It is one of the popular dishes during Christmas gathering.

Hmmm, I love mussel, my MIL makes the best dish out of it: cook them with some onion and white wine and you are good to go.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Wine & gastronomy exhibition

Nantes is hosting a 3 days exhibition (22-24 November) for French wine and gastronomy.

Saturday afternoon I had a deal with hubby: I would go with him to the exhibition and he would accompany me to do some cloth shopping. Ended up we bought 27 bottles of wine, spent tone of money and only left the exhibition at 7pm when all shopping centers were closed, and arrived one hour late to my school reunion party.

I'm not a big fan of wine, luckily there were all these goodies to spare myself from getting bored. After several years in France I grow to love saucission, we bought 3 different kinds of favor: pepper, spicy and goat cheese. All these for 10 euros.

We tried this cheese and decided to go back to buy some. This small piece cost us 13 euros, didn't know it could be that expensive!

Thursday, November 20, 2008


Have you experienced this? You just heard about something ridiculous and you feel sad but you laugh instead because it is just too much to bear.

This was how I reacted one day when talking to one of the carpoolers. The topic of the day was about how people take the social programs for granted. I was a bit surprised when he openly condemned his countrymen for abusing these programs while the usual conclusion I got from this kind of discussion was that these social programs are still benefiting 90% of the people in need.

So, I was telling him that I pay taxes now and that I disagree on certain social programs. He agreed with me in many situations and proceeded to describe a situation that pissed him off the most: After three weeks of summer vacations, one of his coworkers would take several weeks of sick leaves for "the anxiety that the vacation is over". That was when I felt sad but couldn't hold my laugh at the same time. It was simply too ridiculous!

Well, I know that anxiety is not something you can control. It would be dangerous for this person to come to work for risking an anxiety attack. But apparently, this happens EVERY YEAR. And who are paying for this? Us again the poor tax payers. The company will pay one part and the rest is financed by your contribution toward "accident maladie". Yes, you are paying for that person to stay away from work as "he or she is too sad that the vacation is over".

Put it in another way. Let say these sick leaves are unpaid. Do you think he or she will still take it every year? Maybe one can try to break up the vacation in shorter period instead of a continuous 3 long weeks and not during the summer?

Sorry for the rant. I still feel bitter seeing all those line of subtractions on my pay slip to finance different social programs that I do not approve.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The seating issue

I have never known that car seating arrangement could provoke the issue of cultural differences, until we had a bunch of French visiting Malaysia. My seating arrangement had actually led my in laws think that me and hubby were not in love anymore lol.

In Malaysia, we usually let the elderly sit on the front passenger seat. It is a way to show respect. So, it is very common that you don't get to sit beside your husband or your boyfriend. Since women are relatively small compare to men they usually sit in the back with children.

It is different in France. Well, you see, my in laws are very much in love even though they are in their 50s. They would hold hands wherever they go and they have no problem showing their affection to each other in public. There is an implicit rule that I still couldn't get it: they want to sit together (side by side) inside a car no matter where they go. In the earlier days when hubby drives, I would propose my FIL (for respect and size issue) to sit in front so that the three passengers in the back seat will have enough room. After a while, I got it, he and my MIL prefer to stick together and don't mind the "crowded space issue". Fine with me.

The problem arose when we were in Malaysia. We were a huge group, we always traveled in 2 or 3 cars, where seat assigning became a dedicated issue. I always put my FIL in the front passenger seat for "space maximization" purpose. After a while they made me realized that they don't like to be separated (they were still in the same car!). Fine. Then I learned another rule: couple should be seated in the same car. Fine. More rule kidding in: grandma should sit with her daughter or grandson. As for myself I considered me and hubby as the host, so when he was with his friends (one group) I would be with his family (another group).

Several days had passed and my in laws couldn't hold themselves anymore. They confronted hubby and asked why we were not in love anymore as we had never sat together in the same car! Their "worryness" amplified when they saw that we weren't sleeping in the same house and we were not holding hands... Long story short they wanted hubby to sit in my car (I was the driver) instead of with the other group. I refused and explained that if both of us were to be with them, then the other group will not get as much information and introduction to my country as I wish.

It was interesting to discover this difference. In my family when we travel together, there is less notion of couple but more on everyone as a group member so whatever decision should be based on the benefit of the group instead of personal preference. Well, you do what the people in Rome do. Now In France I would sit in front when hubby drives and do not feel uneasy / guilty even though those at the back have to bump together. :-)

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The retirement age

Air France is on strike as some pilots oppose the new law amendment which allow Air France pilots to retire at 65 instead of 60. It seems that the law is not forcing everyone to retire at 65, it simply gives the possibility to people who want to work longer. I wonder why people were on strike then if they can choose when they want to retire? The answer: they want the senior citizen to get out of the workforce to make way for the young.

The legal age of retirement in France vary depending on the sector you are working on. Usually the civil servants retire earlier than those working in the private sector. That's why some times you have SNCF on strike as they don't want to lose their privilege to retire at the age of 50 or 55 compared to those at 60-65. Below is a table which tells you the average retirement age by different sectors:

I was quite shock when I learnt that in France people can't work when they reach certain age. That means if you are still healthy and you are passionate about your job, you can't stay on when you hit the retirement age. Someone told me that this is how France lost their researchers, as scientists would like to continue their research but are restricted by their age, so to continue they have to move elsewhere. In Malaysia the legal retirement age is set at 55, but I have seen some people stay on their job until 65 or 70 depending on their sector and their employers.

I work in private sector. To enjoy a full retirement, I need to allow certain amount of money disappear from my bank account for 41 years. Since both me and hubby were working overseas for several years before returning to France and since the retirement platform is set at 65, we will be forced to retire before fulfilling the 41 years retirement fund contribution. That means both of us won't enjoy full retirement. Worst, the pension you get is not proportional to how many years you have paid. For example, if you have paid for 20,5 years and you decide to retire, you will not get 50% of the pension fund, but someone who works for 35 years might get higher than 85% for the retirement fund.

One day on TV I heard an old couple complaint that they couldn't make ends meet with their 1200 euros month pension. They need to pay 500 for their apartment rental the remaining is not enough to pay for all expenses. They both look healthy but they can't work as they are over 65 years old. Now, how can these people increase their income if they are not allow to work? Isn't it just drive more people into demanding help from the government?

I also heard that in some companies, you won't see people above 57, as even though they have not contributed for 41 years, the company would propose them an early retirement package. They will get paid in the form of benefits so that the companies do not have to pay all the social taxes for them which could result in 50% of saving for each employee. At the end, the employees are happy as they got to retire earlier than expected, and the employee can reduce their operating cost. The only "people" lost out in the game is the government, but who cares?

I'm so support the laws to push the retirement age to 70. But, it is kind of sad to have to work at 70 also. Man, we so screwed up.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The end of the probation period

My probation period ended this week. That means I have become a permanent employee of my company. Cool!!!

I almost have a heart attack when my manager sent me an email for an assessment interview. I had to fill in a form and rate myself on how well I handle my job and how integrated I'm with the rest of the team. I was secretly hoping that he will just forget about the whole trial period thingy. So when I received this email a week before the end of the probation, I told myself that crap he is going to renew it for another 1.5 months!

The true is, until today we still didn't have this interview as he was too busy. At one point he was telling me that don't worry he is happy with my performance and the whole interview thing was just to go over things and fill in some paperwork. I jokingly told him that well you should have told me earlier! He laughed and asked me to relax. :-)

For you information, the end of probation period means job security in France. I know in USA you could just get fired in one day but in France to lay off someone take longer time and it comes with huge cost. So retrenchment is a rare practice unless the company is not doing well.

Life is finally cool here.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Thanks God it is holiday today

Isn't cool to have to work only one day and then get one day off? It's like buy one get one free. :-)

France is celebrating the end of world war I so the 11 November is a public holiday. Since it fell on Tuesday this year a lot of people took the Monday off to have the continuous 4 days holidays. No traffic on the road and when I arrived at work yesterday most of the office doors were shut. I was alone in my office so I was getting a lot of work done without being disturbed constantly.

How I wish Thursday is a holiday too. :-)

Sunday, November 09, 2008

The stupid mistake

Being a foreigner in this country, I might not know things that are obvious to the local, thus make me look stupid in certain situation. Here I'm sharing one which at the time of the occurrence, I just want to bang my head into the wall.

By Oct 1 every car in France has to be equipped with an emergency kit. The company committee (CE) proposed to buy this kit for its employees at an attractive price. This was announced through emails and one of them stated that payment will be accepted through check, credit card or restaurant ticket.

On the day of distribution, I was happy that I remembered to bring a restaurant ticket plus cash to pay for it. When I handed it to the guy, he looked at me and said:"but it was a joke!" Turned out that the email about paying with restaurant ticket was an obvious joke that everybody understood but me. I felt so embarrassed and yet relieved as we were the only two at the scene, at least no one else will know that I believe I could pay anything with the restaurant ticket! What was I thinking!

Worst, hubby told everyone in his office about this incident and they had a good laugh. They just couldn't understand who on earth can miss out this kind of joke. Well, I can. :-)

Friday, November 07, 2008

Hilarious - post deleted

I talked to my friend with African background and he found the dollar bill photo I posted here extremely insulting. He didn't even see it, he reacted strongly just from my description. I think I'm too ignorant and insensitive by posting this photo. I apologize if I offended anyone.

There is a saying:" you can joke about everything, but not with everybody." It is so true in this case as I didn't intend to humiliate any race. It is purely a joke.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

The ticket to go to restaurant

Ever since I got my ticket restaurant, I have been to restaurant almost everyday, usually during lunch time.

These tickets are provided by my employer. The face value is 7,65 euros, and my employer chips in 4,60 euros for each of them. The face value could defer from company to company and from region to region. You get one for every working day. That means if you are off for vacations during a month, you won't get any for that month.

Most of the restaurants accept this as one of the payment methods, but they usually won't pay you the change. It is aimed to pay for the lunch but some restaurants do accept it for dinner. Most of the time a meal costs more than 7,65 euros (unless you grab a sandwich), so you still need to pay a little.

Finally, eating out can become a less expensive option. I'm glad.

PS: The red 10 euros face value tickets are gift tickets provided by the company for Christmas shopping.

Monday, November 03, 2008

The language we speak

Now that we are living in France, a lot of people feel amaze that me and hubby still speak to each other in English. They think that for my sake, we should switch to French so that I can pick up the language as fast as possible.

The idea of switching to French only crossed my mind once. At that point I did not work and stayed home most of the time. I can go without speak any French for a long period. However, despite the fact that I don't speak good French, hubby chose to speak English with me, as it is the language when we first met. I gave in as most importantly, both of us want to practice our English as much as we can.

By going back to the workforce, I interact more and more with the French and have to speak French almost everyday. Even though it would still be logic to speak French at home, I still think that having a break from French is necessary for me. I do not want to force myself too much. I think my energy quota of learning a language has long run out in Malaysia, having to learn three languages and different dialects at the same time. So, sure I could have spoken better French if I spoke French with hubby, but, just give me a break, let thing comes naturally.

I like the way we are now: speak English for serious stuff, tease each other with French or Chinese. One day we were teasing each other with mixing up the three languages, I got totally confused by what hubby was trying to say: shoe. Coincidentally the sound of "shoe" is quite close to the French "chou" = cabbage or the Chinese "shu" = book. I had to ask him three times to get what he wanted to say. It's fun speaking "rojak" = mix language again like what we do in Malaysia! :-) Sometimes hubby would come out with words in Malay (satu roti canai!) and Hokkien(my family language) by imitating the persons he learnt the words from and it really cracks me up!.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Just can't avoid this presidential election

I haven't followed this presidential election religiously, but it seems that you can't just avoid it, as updates on both candidates are on the first page of many news websites. The above poll result is from a Malaysian Chinese website that I frequent. I know that McCain is not popular in Malaysia (I think he is unpopular due to George Bush and Iraq war), but didn't know it could be until this level: 91% voters wish Obama win over 9% for McCain.

In 2004, I followed the election result until 5am in the morning and was disappointed that George Bush won again. That disappointment was mainly due to the Iraq war, I didn't research on his domestic political views, even though I was living on the State he used to be the governor.

Now, I wonder how the Americans decide who are they going to vote for? Surely their decision won't be based on only international policies and what the world wish (poll results show that the majority of the residents in the world prefer Obama over McCain). Personally, I don't really care if a president prefers abortion or gay marriage, I would vote base on the economy policies.

In France, I have a feeling that the medias are in favor for Obama. They have reports on how McCain was lying when he said he was being tortured Vietnam, how Sarah Palin has exorbitant spending on her clothing. There were no news (or I didn't notice) about the fact that Obama refused to show his birth certificate to clarify the claim that he was actually borned in Kenya thus not an US citizen, nor the fact that he has raised huge fund for his campaign and his spending on advertisement was ridiculous, compared to McCain who only uses public funding.

If you are interested, here is a table comparing the policies of the two candidates:

No matter who wins, I hope that the new president will interface the world issues in a genuine way, instead of playing the world big bully role for their own economic and political interests.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

My craving for murukku


I couldn't help it. It is Deepavali (Diwali)festival and all I could think about is the number of murukku I had missed. Murukku is my favorite Indian snack, and you can get it easily in Malaysia. Even in Austin, I ate it once a month after my monthly shopping trip to the local Indian grocery shop. Sadly, murukku is no way to be found in France, except maybe Paris?

I fell in love with murukku the second I put one in my mouth. Living in a village full of Chinese and going to Chinese dominated school, I didn't have chance to mix with any Indian (except Indian teachers in school). I was fortunate to get known to some during my form 6 classes, which I still considered as one of the best moments I had mixing with classmates from different races.

Anyway, my mother brought me to the Deepavali open house every year and most of the time I was eyeing for murukku, and I have to say that must of her Indian friends made good murukku. Because of me, my mother learnt how to cook murukku and each time I get home, she will try to prepare some.


Besides murukku, I love these cookies too.

Now that I think about it, I hardly see any French making cookies like this. It seems that French are more into pastry. Anyone knows where did these cookies originated from?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Exam result

I finally got my exam results. The University screw up as they sent it to my old address. I don't know how this could happen considering that I received all other correspondences (ie letter of acceptance) on my current address.

Anyway, I was not super happy nor upset about the result. My first impression was that cool I didn't flunk it. Before I entered this course I thought I would fail all the subjects required to be written in French. I was just a bit disappointed that I didn't get pass the 16 point mark to get the "mention très bien" which I could have gotten if I manage to send out one of the assignments on time.

Well, basically, I got 6/20 for a subject and I was 100% at fault. We need to submit an assignment for this course before the internship presentation, and I totally forgot about it. The thing is, this professor gave us the assignment 6 months before the deadline, so of course I waited until the last minute. Once the presentation was over, I got too overwhelmed by the joy of finishing school and for me "homework" was a total history.

Of course, the joy was cut off when I got a reminder email saying that I still haven't submitted the assignment. Worst, emails sent to the mailing list always appear one day later in my inbox. So, when I saw it, I had 8 hours to do it and I was still at work. Eventually, I rambled up something and had to beg hubby to proof read it = face the hubby who got fed up with reading my bad French writing. Still, I managed to submit it before the deadline according to that email, but I think the professor punished me with the poor note.

Well, such is life, you don't get by easily every time.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The mushrooming mushroom

I finally got the chance to collect mushrooms in the forest, something that I have been eager to do for a while.

I'm a huge fans of mushroom so I was able to drag myself outside for a walk even though the weather was not so corporating. Among the group, everyone was a newbie except one person so he was demanded at all times. Some people started losing patience as for the first few minutes we found nothing but some uneatable mushrooms like these:

This one looks so poisonous to me with the gooey surface, I didn't even dare to touch it.

Deeper into the forest, we finally found one eatable species, and they were mushrooming everywhere. Once we discovered one, we just look under the grass and woods and they were abundant. We got nearly two kilos, not bad for the first time experience.

We made a delicious omelet out of them. So far nobody got sick so we can really say we passed the first level of "mushroom picking" class.

Unfortunately, it is closed to the end of the season so my second experience would have to be next year.

Friday, October 24, 2008

The morning ritual

Bonjour (good morning), salut (hi)s, are two common greetings you hear in the morning, in the office environment.

In some companies, people will pass by office by office to shake hands with their coworkers. If they are close enough, they will do air kisses to the women.

In my office, the big boss and some colleagues do this, but not all of them. Actually, not everyone is at ease in doing this, some just say "hi" when you say hi to them.

There is a catch in this morning ritual. You need to remember who you have said bonjour, and should not repeat it to the same people.

I'm very bad at memorizing who I had said "bonjour", so I will just say "bonjour" to whoever just happen to pass by the corridor at the same time at me. Amazingly, the French remember well whether I have said it or not. So, very often, they will correct me by saying "oh we had said this already" or "it's rebonjour" or they will just look at me.

To avoid making mistake, I just smile at everyone passing by and until they say bonjour, I will reply a bonjour to them.

Not a smart move I know. On the other hand, I'm so glad that the guys don't air kiss me. We only do this between interns and since they are on other floors and the only intern on my floor is a Chinese, I blissfully avoid this whole air kiss ritual.

Yeah I know I'm so not French.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Back to good mood

Got home. Hubby asked me to sit down as it will be "my night". I was kicked out of the kitchen.

He then brought in my favorite junk food and some appetizers.

Followed by chicken in mushroom sauce and hubby's style rice.

The dinner ended with a glass of fresh made banana kiwi smoothies.

And I'm all happy again!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Not in the good mood

The pressure of life is here.

Work wise, politics start pouring in. On one hand people asked me for information, on the other hand people prevented me from replying.

After a long day, at around 6pm, no sign of carpooler preparing to leave. Another day of leaving late. Thinking about the 1 hour 15 minutes drive + grocery + gas station before I can even set my foot into the apartment.

Passed 8pm. Arrived with heavy grocery bags and a tired body. No time to sit down, head straight to the kitchen, as two mouths were waiting to be fed.

I don't know how long I can hold up to this. First of all, I hate driving, second of all, I hate doing grocery, third of all, I super hate cooking after a long day!!!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The never ending taxes

I had never paid income tax in Malaysia. My monthly salary was less than RM2500, the minimum income to start paying tax.

In the US the income tax was automatically withdrawn from the monthly pay. I didn't see the pain, but was rather happy to get tax return every year. When I was working as graduate assistant in my University, beside getting back all the taxes they withdrew, they paid me extra as my salary for the fall and spring semester didn't meet the minimum salary requirement.

It is a different story in France. My first shock was the tax d'habitation, a tax that everyone has to pay if by the time of 1 Jan, you stay in an apartment or a house. Basically by occupying a space in the city, you need to pay a tax, even though the apartment or the house belongs to you. It sounded really ridiculous to me, but little by little I just accept it as the city has done a great job to maintain the parks, roads and provides many good services to the citadin. Just to give you an idea, we were paying around 400 euros per year, which included 116 euros for the TV tax. Last year we moved to a bigger apartment, but still, I couldn't believe we have to pay close to 1000 euros for this tax!!!! We are not living in a space twice the size as the previous one, so why is the tax increased 150%? Anyone has the answer? I can't imagine how much it could cost for a house.

Moral of the story: before investing in a property, take into account all the extra taxes you have to pay including the tax d'habitation and property tax.

Poor hubby, his dream to own a LCD TV will have to postpone to an indefinite date.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Lesson learnt

A coworker was asking for a document from someone and he was over the phone over 20 minutes listening to that person about reasons why that person couldn't provide a letter with 2 lines of information.

He got mad, hang the phone, and went over to see that person. Problem solved within 10 minutes, that person even offered to fax the letter to the party concerned. Suddenly the concept of customer service came to life.

He told me, it is easier to say no over the phone than saying it face to face to someone. So, in the case you need to get thing done quickly, use the face to face option.

Lesson learnt.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Got scared

It was 9:30pm. I was walking on a street with the fastest path as it was dark and quiet. Suddenly, a guy approached me to ask for a cigarette. I politely told him that I don't smoke. He has to gut to ask:"Why don't you give me some money so that I can buy some at the cafe?" You got it right, I said no right away and just turned around and start walking. And you know what, I heard him asking "Why?"

I was speechless. I don't know why I should buy a stranger a cigarette. And I don't know where the nerve he got to even ask this question.

When I walked away, fear took over me. What if he decided to stalk me or grab my bag or keep following me?

The moral of the story: don't walk alone during the night if you man is not with you.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Supporting La Petite Anglaise

While shopping for hubby's present, I conveniently bought myself this book to show support to our beloved blogger Catherine Sanderson. I'm still on the first topic, but I like her writing style and the rich English vocabularies that she is using. Her love for Paris is just so passionate and unbelievable. I wish I fancy France as much, it would have made the transition to this country a lot easier.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Special gifts

Hubby got two very special gifts from his parents for his birthday:

Several wooden hot plate stands which consist of the 5 regions in the west of France. His father crafted these himself and make them a puzzle.

These hot plate stands even have a home. When they are not being used, they could be arranged on this wooden rack.

His father also made him a Japanese zen garden.

I was very touched when I saw these gifts. I found them very special and well thought. These things took time to make. In today's world, people just buy gift, I have never thought that once can actually make something like this.

To thank them, I prepared some satay. Sad to say that the result was not as good as expected. I think satay has to be baked over bbq instead of oven.