Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Why does USA have different labor day?

I always thought that the world is celebrating labor day on 1 May until I worked in USA. Well, they celebrate their labor day on the first Monday of September.

Anybody knows why?

I will see you on Monday. Departing to Barcelona soon.

Monday, April 28, 2008

We are going to Barcelona

Car rented. Apartment found. We are heading to Barcelona on the Worker day's holiday.

In France, May is a vacation month. My company is giving all interns both Friday 2 and 9 May off so that we can have the long weekends since both 1 and 8 May are holiday in France. I get Monday 12 May off too. That means I will only work 3 days this week and next week, and 4 days the week after. Yeah!

It has been a while I wanted to go somewhere outside of France. People keep saying that the Europeans are lucky that they can just drive around and will enter another country. It might not be true for every Europeans, as I have known of many French who prefer to stay inside France than to visit around the neighboring countries. Well, not me! I will definitely go around whenever I have chance.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

My in laws garden is a place for treasure

I love to wander around my in laws garden to discover some new species of flowers or vegetables. Today I discovered that apple flowers are as beautiful and stunning as other famous flowers.

And these are strawberry flowers.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Should I adapt a French name?

I'm not talking about last name.

It has been 4 weeks I started working, and there are only two coworkers who manage to call me by name. One of them is my manager. The rest, they would say excuse me before continuing with their business.

All because I have an Asian name which is not so common in France. Since they don't use batch and the door is broken, there is no visual object to display my first name. So, I brought a name tag with my full name to the company, still they couldn't recall, and was afraid of the wrong pronunciation I guess.

I got by in US by letting them call me Bee instead of Bee Ean. In my master class in France everyone managed to call me by Bee Ean after several weeks. I know it is very painful, but I have resisted to adapt a Christian name all along. Now, I'm seriously thinking about make everyone's life easy, by simply calling myself Jennifer, or Catherine or something like that.

What do you think? Any suggestion on name?

PS: We are heading to Brittany this weekend to meet with a bunch of cousins whom we have never met or only meeting them once. Great food on the way...

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Daddy, she is looking

Have you guy made the mistake where you accidentally entered the toilet of the opposite sex?

I did. Once during camping, I was brushing my teeth and a little girl entered with his daddy. She starred at me, then said:"Daddy, she is looking!" And the response? "Let her look if she wants." Gosh I didn't know why the dad answered this way but I was not looking at him on purpose. As soon as I realized that I made a mistake, I quickly ran away. So embarrassed.

And today, I discovered I have been using the male toilet in the company for almost a month. I thought the company is having unisex toilets, even though it has a man head on the toilet door. One of the toilets has mirror so I thought it was meant for the ladies. Several times some male colleagues saw me entered and left the toilets but nobody says anything.

Well, apparently there are two more toilets with the woman head on the other side of the building. Nearly a month I was asking myself why there was no dustbin in the toilets, now I know, the men just don't have the same need as the women.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Being the minority

I'm the minority in the company.

Out of the 17 interns, 2 are women, including me.
Out of the 17 interns, 16 are developers, one is from management, that's me.
Out of the 17 interns, 16 are French, one is foreigner, that's me.

It is actually not fun being the minority. During the internship presentation today, I raised a question, repeated twice, and the manager couldn't understand me due to my accent. Luckily the others told him what I meant. Sad.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Yes, my honourable Mr Small

The French has a lot of weird family names. They could sound so normal to a French, but totally bizzare to a foreigner like me. Imagine you are seeing a small guy and he is called Mr Big. You could be facing a thin guy and he is called Mr Fat. You have to call the most unhelpful and unfriendly civil servant Mr Niceguy. Imagine you are meeting your director and he is called Mr Small. What would happen if a judge is called Mr Small? Do you still say:"Yes, my honourable Mr Small"?

Monday, April 21, 2008

I'm blessed with nice in laws

Once a month we would go to my in laws place to spend weekend with them. We usually arrive late during the night so they would be already on bed.

Every time we enter the room, we will be greeted with some dessert. Hubby will be all happy enjoying the yummy food, most of the time including my part since I don't want to eat sweet before going to bed plus I would always be super tired when we arrive.

Once my brother in laws spotted the leftover and immediately got jealous. Apparently he doesn't enjoy the same treatment. My in laws treat me like a daughter but they are not kepoh (busy body) kind of parents. I'm blessed with such a good in laws.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Do you want to live in a round house?

We saw this cute house during the weekend in Brittany. It is so small, but yet it seems someone is living there. I'm curious how the owner decorate the house.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Malacca strait: The danger of pirates?


My French family was eager to visit Malaysia again, and this time I recommended them to take a cruise trip, from Port Klang to Singapore. "No way, it will be too dangerous", was the response from my father in laws.

Before I visited France, I had never known that the Strait of Malacca is dangerous due to the devastating piracy activities. Either I was not reading enough, or the Malaysian medias failed to report the seriousness of this matter. Never once I heard a Malaysian said they won't visit the Strait due to the pirate activities. We went to Pangkor, toured Langkawi, boarded on Star Cruise without second thought.

And here, a foreigner is telling me that my country is full of pirate activities. I really don't know what to say. Has anyone heard of people being kidnapped in this Strait? Any pirate story to share?

If you are interested, you can read this piracy report on National Geography.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Weekend in Brittany: What did we eat

It was my in-laws 30 years anniversary. They prepared these little cuisines, all yummies. One thing for the French, they like to be their own chef and decorate home made food like those in the restaurant.

The weather was nice so we got to have bbq.

BBQ on the way.

Dessert: Chocolate cake. The chocolate was running inside. Usually it goes with English cream or raspberry sauce.

Just a nice way to spend a lazy weekend. We eat very well each time we go to in-laws place. They both like cooking and we both loving eating. :-)

Friday, April 11, 2008

Car pooling to work

I have been carpooling to work for exactly two weeks now. Besides saving on petrol and share the driving task with others, I get to practice my French with these cool guys everyday.

There are 4 of us so I need to drive only once a week and twice every three weeks. When it was my turn to drive I got very nervous since I drive slower (the other three are guys) and don't want to make anyone arrives late at work. Luckily in this industry working hours are quite flexible. I mean your boss won't blame if you arrive 5 minutes late.

In the morning usually those who don't drive try to catch up with some sleep. The journey is about 1 hour 15 minutes. On the way back we usually chat all the ways home. It is such a good training as I found myself to be able to eloquently express an opinion and not afraid to be judged. Since they are on the same industry and in the middle of their professional life, I get to ask them questions that I don't dare to ask at work.

I have since driven twice and it seemed that they are not scared of my driving skills, so I think I passed my probation period with them. :-)

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Hubby's way of cooking rice, without rice cooker

When I cook rice, I use rice cooker. I actually didn't know how to cook rice otherwise before coming to France. Now I can do the Indian Pilaf rice.

When hubby cooks rice, he uses his father's recipe, which is believed to be one kind of Indian rice as it is called "riz pilaf".

Preparation for two people:
1 1/2 cups of rice
1 tbsp of cooking oil
2 1/2 boiling water

Boil water. Put the rice in a pan. Add in oil. Keep medium fire and stir the rice constantly, make sure every single rice coats with oil. Continue until rice become white and turn a little bit brown.

Pour in boiling water. Cover the pan with low fire for around 15 minutes.

Done. Yummy with some slow cooked pork and green vegetables.

Monday, April 07, 2008

The French are not kiasu "afraid to lose"

Over lunch I was discussing with a friend the practice of some French Universities that publish the exam results over the notice board.

I asked her:"Won't people feel ashame if they got a bad grade compared to others?"
She paused and think. Then she said:"Maybe not, but you know we are not like the anglo-saxon culture who instill competitive spirit in life."

I was so curious to find out that the French has a complete different education system and mentality in class. The system does not reward you if you do good in class, which mean you won't go receive a gift from your headmaster because you were ranked number 1,2,3 in the class. On the other hand, you would have to redo your year if you don't pass.

I remember vividly how my teachers distributed the exam papers. People who have the highest grade would be on the top. So if you were the last one to receive it, you know how bad you are. In my report card I would have my rank in class and the overall ranking with all the students same age as me. My neighbor, beat her daughter because she got 96 instead of 100. These days, parents literally ask kids "What is your ranking in class? How many As did you get in PMR?..." We are living in the world where everyday people compare our achievement to others, and less, in our own progress. This is not so the case in France.

My friend couldn't believe when I told her that during my Uni time, some students stole others lecture notes so that others won't be able to get good grades in class. Yes, this is how kiasu the system makes us. It was difficult to make real friends with the coursemates, as we were fighting constantly with each others. People tend to hide information for themselves so that they would get better grade than you.

Now, I do see the bright side of the French education system. In my class, people are willing to share, and we don't fight much among ourselves. If you get good grade, good for you, but seldom people would get jealous over it. I was very impressed by how people can be good friends during the college life and keep in touch after graduation.

I think it will be good to have a balance between reward and competitiveness. Reward those who work well, but let them strike for themselves, not due to the kiasuness. So, next time if your kid is not doing well in class, help him improve, but don't tell him:" Why you so stupid lah, Ah Beng also got A and you are even worst than Ah Lian. "

We don't have to be kiasu to perform.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

French pao (bun)

After lunch hubby said he prepared some "pao" for me. He was referring to "pao" as the Chinese bun I showed him in Malaysia. When I look at it, it was actually some bread stuffed with chocolate. What a nice way to eat a bun. Hubby actually had a hard time to accept the concept of the Malaysian pao or bun which stuff with roasted pork, red or green bean paste, coconut or peanuts.

Living in a foreign country I have seen various way of appreciating the similar foods. Just this morning I was in the fruit section of a grocery shop, and I was attracted to the green pears. While drooling over how crunchy they would be, the French women besides me commented that the pears were too green and not ripe enough. Apparently French people prefer the ripe pear then the green one. And, I discovered that a ripe pear tastes very good too. You should try one day.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Exam results: Should they make public or keep in private?

I got two of my exam results and I still couldn't get used to "everyone can see your grade" kind of mentality. One of our professors literally sent the result directly to us, so everyone in the class knows the note of everyone else.

As contrast, when I was working in my University in USA, I have to help my professor to key in one by one quiz, test and exam results online. Students can then consult their results through internet. They need password to login to their account so they won't know others' results except told by others. In Malaysia, my University sent me the semester results by post.

It is hard to understand this concept as the French emphasis privacy principle a lot but this practice is certainly against it.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Should the government authorize DNA test to everyone

In French laws only a judge can authorize the DNA test.

With the internet, now the French can do the test anywhere in the world. A lot of them choose Spain since it is just closed by. It costs around 300 euros with a very simple process.

Now, do you think the French government should make DNA test available to everyone? In the news today, a woman did that to identify the father of her daughter. She risked being sent to jail for one year and a fine of 5k euros since she violated the French laws. Some criticize this action as they think it would destroy the harmony of a family.

What do you think?