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.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Met other Asians

In my company I was the only Asian looking person. Today I met 2 others.

I was in the cafeteria and I bumped into a typical Chinese looking man. I spoke to him in French and introduce myself. Here goes the conversation:

Me: Hello, are you Chinese?
Him: Yes.
Me: I'm Malaysian, we can speak in Chinese.
Him: ... You speak Chinese?
Me: Yes. (start to introduce myself in Mandarin)
He was speechless for a while. He looked at me very curiously as if he was seeing an alien. He then engaged in the conversation by speaking very slowly in Mandarin. After a long sentence, he would ask whether I really understand what he was saying. I wanted to laugh so much! We ended up having lunch together and talked over an hour. When I left the cafeteria, I asked him why he has that big surprise look when I said I speak Mandarin.

His answer: First of all, you don't look Chinese. Second of all, you said you are Malaysian. Third of all, I didn't know there exist a Mandarin speaker in this company. So the surprise!

Gosh, now only I know I don't look Chinese to a Chinese. No wonder I always have those friendly stares or smile from Vietnamese or Cambodian people, they must have mistakenly though that I'm from their country.

Anyway, at the end of the conversation, we were so happy to have met each other!

About the second Asian: The other day I was telling my boss that the new member in our team has a Korean name so there is probably two Asians working on the same project, which is rare in this office. He was like, well that would be weird. And tada, today this woman showed up and my boss introduced her to me. We stared at each other and don't know what to say. It is so weird, it seems like the company is hiring more and more Asian.

Monday, October 06, 2008

1.5 months probation period

The HR handed us the contract today, and I was very happy to learn that the probation period is only 1.5 months, instead of 3 months as I was told by others.

Apparently, a law was passed in Jun, which indicates that a person who did his or her internship in a company and subsequently become a permanent employee in the same company should have a trial period of only 1.5 months.

I think it makes a lot of sense.

For more information, please refer to the link that Natalie posted on the comment:

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Sarkozy and open house

While wishing my Algerien friend "Selamat Hari Aidil Filtri", I discovered that in Algerien they don't have the culture of "open house", where some family prepare some delicacies and welcome their relatives, friends, neighbores to visit their house. This "visit each other during festival" culture is widely encouraged by the Malaysian leaders, but it is not practiced in every country.

Then I realize that in France, during Christmas or New Year, you won't see the country leaders hosting any open house event to their people. According to hubby, Sarkozy is too busy that he won't have time to spend half day eating with his people. Well, I don't know about French people, but I have personally enjoyed the time when I went to the Selangor Palace to see the Sultan and Sultanah and shake hand with them. You don't get to see your leader so closely all the time. I had fun visiting the Malay friends open house and tried their homecook meals.

The visiting spirit between the politicians might be fake, but the friendship fostered during all these Raya, Deepavali and Chinese New Year are real.

All these photos below are taken from during the Prime Minister open house function with the ministers. Look how many people turned out!