Thursday, July 31, 2008

700€ Paris - Kuala Lumpur, doable!!

It has been a while I didn't go back to Malaysia so I was checking out the air ticket online. For a while I didn't find anything below 800€ so I was kind of giving up. Today, I found one under 700€, and I'm really tempted!

I was secretly hoping that Malaysia Airlines will come out with something interesting, but their website shows 1200++ for the trip. Well with this airline one just need to be very patient and keep checking for good deal.

Before I find a job, I don't want to engage in this trip, so this is just a dream to keep me going! Anyone knows of better bargain price for CDG - KUL please let me know yeah.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

It's about presentation

French cuisine enjoys an admirable status among the world cuisines, and one of the main strong points is their efforts in presenting the foods and setting the table. The picture above was taken from our recent trip to a restaurant. I would have never thought of using anise for table decoration.

The presentation spirit is even present in the household. Below are some of the art works from my FIL.

Monday, July 28, 2008

President's automatic email reply

The French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, is having vacation from now on until 21 August. How nice, he gets to go like everyone else. I thought president will work 7/7 the whole year. Even if they take a short break, it will be just for a couple of days, but he is taking always a month off. I presume he has set up the automatic email reply function?


I'm out of the office from 29 July to 21 August. I will be traveling around with my stunning wife. During this period, please contact the below persons or follow my wise advices:

1. For issue related to Europe - my close friend Angela Merkel
2. Issues related to Israel, Palestine, North Korea, Iran, Iraq - my new buddy Barack Obama
3. Strike - there will be no strike since everyone is on vacation in France
4. Shrinking purchasing power - Eat less and work more
5. Striking oil prices - practice health life style: use public transport, bicycle, work to your desire destinations
6. Retirement reform - it's done, retirement age will be increased to 65
7. Medical care reform - take good care of yourself, don't get sick
8. Youth alcohol and drug abuse - let them do it, they will grow up one day
9. Anti-France sentiment in China - Don't worry, I will handle it during my present for the Olympics opening ceremony, worst come to worst, I will charm the Chinese with my wife's songs
10. Others - refer to those still slaving in the government agencies

Sincerely, each time I send out an email to a group, there will have tons of automatic reply like this. I have never worked in an environment that around half of the workforce are on vacation. Vive la France!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Tour de France

Tour de France is an annual cycling tour event that holds the heart of the French. It starts usually in July and last for 3 weeks. Cyclists from all over the world come to France to bike around the whole France. It is the moment to witness the magnificent sceneries in France while the cyclists bike through mountains, villages and towns. It ended today in Paris.


Here is the map showing the routes for Tour de France.


My first encounter with Tour de France was when I visited France in 2002 and the family brought me to the Alpes mountains. Before the tour starts, there will be some parade from different companies who give up sample of their products. With the Malaysian "kiasu" spirit, I managed to collect many cheeses in cube form. I didn't eat cheese at that time so I gave all of them to my brother in law. He still remembered how strong I was when fighting with the crowd to get free gifts. :-)

While chatting about Tour de France, my carpool buddy asked whether there is "vélo" = bicycle in Malaysia. My first impression was that he was making fun of me. Of course Malaysia has bicycle, what was he thinking? He then explained to me that when people ask about vélo, they could be referring to the cycling tour, which was his case. Sincerely I know nothing about bicycle tour in Malaysia. Later one my FIL told me that there is Tour de Langkawi, he saw it on a brochure when he was visiting Langkawi. One thing is sure that Tour de Langkawi is not as big scale and as popular like Tour de France.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

You might find treasure in you spam folder

A recruiter called me in the office while I was busying with my work. I told her to send me an email and we will set up an interview from there.

I waited for the email but nothing arrived in my mailbox. I thought she must be offended that I didn't have time to talk to her when she called.

I tried to contact her for the next three days. She was either in a meeting or was interviewing someone. Basically, she didn't call me back even though I left a message.

And then, she was on leave for a week.

While I thought I had lost this opportunity, I found her email in my spam folder, two weeks after she sent it. I replied. She finally called and we set up an interview.

An efficient spam guard, still long way to go.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

My favorite dessert

Raspberry and strawberry tart
Prepared by my MIL
Ingredients fresh out from the garden

I have a darling MIL who pampers me with my favorite desserts each time we go visit the in-laws. This is one of them. I don't have a sweet tooth so this sourly and sweet combination suits me well.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Weekend activities

End of Friday, I decided to "faire du lard", meaning sitting and do nothing for the weekend. For some people, I might had wasted the time staying at home since the sun was shining outside, but one of my hobbies is to just lay down and read the whole day. Ended up I was doing the "menage", housework the whole Saturday while hubby took care of the cooking. Hubby laughed at me and said:"wow you are like a working Bee!"

Unlike me, hubby loves to do stuff during the weekend. He started his decoration project, and the result is very satisfying.


Water plant

I like this purple color plant.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Crazy holiday session

These days the office is half empty as people are leaving for holidays. From 14 July onwards to 15 Aug, the peak summer session in France starts. My co-worker told me that usually they have to take at least 10 days off during summer. Thus, less traffic jams, more parking spots, but also less collaborators available at work.

I read on newspaper that around 40% of French could not afford to go for holidays this year, one main reasons being the infamous inflation. They have to stay at home or just visit around their family. Some choose to stay in camp sites instead of hotels to save some cost. Still, there are 60$ of French traveling around.

People like me who are doing internship or only started to work in a company do not have this kind of compulsory vacations. So, it is very hard to see people going and us staying. :-(

Prostitutes pay taxes too

Me and my carpool buddies were talking about how can some illegal immigrants managed to pay income taxes, and one of them told us this:

"What so amazing? Even prostitutes pay taxes!"

We looked at him like he was crazy.

He insisted that it was true. To prove that, he immediately called his wife to have the confirmation about this issue. His wife confirmed this as a fact, and he will research more and tell us what he found.

While waiting for his research finding, I found this article. It seems that prostitution is not illegal in France and they do pay taxes.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

French national day

14 July was France national day to mark the commencement of the French revolution. Since France was never colonized, they don't celebrate Independence Day.

On 13 July, we went to watch a parade. It was a very small scale parade, with armies, marines and firefighters dressed up in their uniform. I was very surprised that the parade was not accompanied by any "pancaragam" or musical band performed by high school students. In Malaysia it would be the time for those bands to shine and show up on TV after countless rehearsal.

During the night we went to watch the firework show at a port. It was the best firework show I have seen so far. In France the show comes with musics. This year the theme was cinema music, so we got to watch the firework danced and played along dynamically with songs like "Pretty Woman", "Mission Impossible", "Big Blue", "Pulp Fiction"...The show lasted for 20 minutes. I saw on news that the one in Paris lasted for 35 minutes and it was so beautiful with the Eiffel Tower as background.

Firework show in Brittany

Firework show in Paris. Source

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Primary school reunion: After 20 years

This afternoon we went to hubby's primary school, where he met his teachers and classmates, first time for some of them after 20 years.

I was very impressed. The teachers were aging and students had grown, but they greeted each other with blissfulness and warmness. Most teachers said they still recognize the faces of their students despite the fact that they have not seen each other for the longest time. They air kissed, shaked hands, dug out old memories, enjoyed lunch and caught up with each other.

Amazingly, some people didn't change at all. Even though I was not there when they were in the primary school, I could still recognize them from the photo. Some look older some look extremely young. Most importantly, there were at least 5 or 6 babies, strongly imply that these people are not young anymore.

I wonder how I would react if I was going to bump into some primary schoolmates. These days I found some high school and Uni mates on Facebook, and many have either wedding or baby as their profile photo. With the power of Facebook, I'm sure some old school mates will pop up.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

French first lady renounced her Italian citizenship


French first lady Carla Bruni renounced her Italian citizenship in order to obtain the French citizenship. Wow. As a citizen of Europe she could have keep it and still be able to live in France.

A little backgroup:
French first lady, Carla Bruni, is an Italian singer and composer and she used to be a supermodel. She got married to the French president in February 2008 after only 3 months of courting.

Apparently her artist life continues as she will release her new album "Comme si de rien n'etait" (As if nothing had happened) on 11 July. Fans can login to her website to listen to the 14 tracks for free.

Well I don't know which country has a first lady who used to a supermodel, and I'm curious as how well she sings. I asked my carpool buddies whether they are going to support their first lady, as all the sales will go to the charity. Their answers were a plain "no" as they have no interest on their first lady's affair. Maybe she will gain some support from the die hard supporters of the president.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Horror movie: Rec

We watched this movie two days ago and it was scary to dead. It is in Spanish. I would recommend it to anyone who love horror movie.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Abalone bah kut teh

Photo source
My siblings treated my parents abalone bah kut teh for Fathers' day celebration. Well, several years ago this is unheard of but recently all kind of innovative ingredients have been added to bah kut teh especially in the Klang area. Apparently one bowl of this could be sold at RM40.

This got me thinking, what is actually abalone? In Chinese it is called "bao yu" and "yu" = fish, so I thought it was one kind of fish. But I was wrong, according to wikipedia, abalone are a group of shellfish or marine snail.

Just like shark fin soup, abalone is considered one kind of delicacy or symbol of luxury and usually served during a banquet dinner.

Well I just hope that the increase consummation of abalone will be compensated by increase surprise (abalone farming) and will not endanger their existence. I sincerely hope it would not be the next victim of human ignorance just like what happened to the sharks.

Monday, July 07, 2008

They are the lucky one

Last Friday on TV, a bunch of high school students where excited over the fact that they got their "bac", an high school diploma in France equivalent to Malaysia's SPM or SAT in US. They called their parents and cried over the good news. All because they passed their "SPM".

I was like, why? Why is that a big deal to pass a high school diploma? I would jump all over if I got 10 A out of 10 subjects and would had called my family, but jumping up and down just because you "passed"? Unbelievable.

But later I discovered that it is indeed something to cheer about. In France when you get your bac, it symbolizes a big cornerstone in your life: You are finally an adult, you can choose the courses you like to study, you can move out and start your own life, and finally finishing the boring high school.

They are the lucky one. Once they got their bac, they can almost guarantee a seat in the University. Don't need to cry over not getting 10A, get yourself killed bcos you can't enter certain University, or feel ashame bcos your neighbor get more As than you.

Some students already got accepted to private school through these school entrance examinations with condition that they got their bac. Those who want to go to medical school, law school, engineering school, will have their place. The difference being, the system let a bunch of people get into the University, but only certain students will be able to pass through all the exams and graduate at bachelor or master level. It is a system that allow you to pursue your dream, if you are capable. So, if you want to be a doctor, you can get in first year medical school, but you need to fight with hundreds of others for a limited spot in the consequence years. Some go all the way to become a doctor, some drop out and choose something else.

Hearing the explanation, I was wondering why people bother to study hard for this high school exam if only "passed" will get them through their tertiary education? The answer being, for some prestiges private school, they do take into considerations the grades you got from bac. So for students who aim to go to these schools, they need to pay the price by studying harder than others.

I like this system. I don't aim high at prestige school, so I can study just be able to pass the bac, and choose courses I like and study for interest.

Of course this raises another question: If anyone can enter University, will the degree still as valuable after graduation? Another way of saying, what market value do you have compare to a bunch of other who have the same qualification?

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Goodbye great aunt

On the right hand side: My great aunt

I called my mother Saturday to talk about the surprise birthday party my siblings threw her, Sunday I had to call her again as my sister informed me that our great aunt passed away, aged 85. How atmosphere could be changed so dramatically in such a short time.

My great aunt is actually my mother's cousin but she was very very closed to us. She bears 10 children and worked her whole life in a coffee plantation. Our childhood memory is fulled of happy moment with her, as she was a loving lady that treat everyone with warmest and kindness. We love to treasure in her fruits farm looking for rambutan, mango, pamelo, durian, star fruit and guava. Our family didn't have to buy any pamelo as she would kindly offer us some during any big Chinese festival.

In her old days, she traveled a lot to China and was bravely inviting my mother to visit me when I was living in USA. Unfortunately, before she had the chance, her health condition deteriorated, mostly she couldn't walk too far due to the legs pain. She left in peace yesterday without much struggle, which is considered "having lived a great life" in the Chinese believe. Her family grows to almost 100 members so I can foresee the conviviality in her funeral.

One of the hardness of living in overseas is that each time I go home, I could no longer see some people who used to be in my life. A childhood friend died a few months ago. A closed family member is laying on hospital, discovered on bed one morning and could never open his eyes. He got stroke and doctor diagnosed that he is just waiting for the end. Seeing people left and down one by one, I couldn't resist to think what if one day it was my parents turn? Would I be able to even say goodbye?

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Highway Scenery

Since I'm carpooling, I don't have to drive everyday. In the morning I'm usually sleepy but in the evening, I got the chance to sightseeing around the country side.

This region has a lot of farming activities, so the landscape of both side of the highway are very green. I sometimes stick to the car window and quietly watching the cows resting in the field or a big scale of green plantation. When approaching the city I work, there is a breathtaking view: houses spread among hills and the surrounding is just natural green. Very refreshing.

Last two weeks there were some road works on the highway so we had to make some detours. We drove past small villages with very cute Brittany style houses and most of the small towns are very flowery. I was just seeing extended postcard scenery, on live.

These photos here are just meant to give you some ideas on the highway scenery I pass by everyday but the effect is far from justified the actual beauty. Didn't have a chance to capture those lucky cows sunbathing and enjoying the summer atmosphere. :-)

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Angelina Jolie will give birth in France


So the famous Angelia Jolie is going to give birth of her twins in France. She, Brad Pitt and their 4 children are enjoying their time in Nice, in an area facing forest and vineyard. She has admitted to a local clinic until the due date in August.

I wonder why she chooses France to have the babies, and whether she is entitled to enjoy the free medical system. Of course she is rich enough that she won't mind paying, but just curious whether any foreigner who seeks medical services in France could enjoy the free system. Also, will her twins automatically become French citizen and subsequently European citizen?

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Dog surfing

Saw this on Monday's newspaper in the "weird thing can happen" section. I found it so cute, these dogs can really surf! It is a competition in San Diego, where they had categories for small dog, big dog and dog and human for this exciting event. I wish I was there to witness this!