Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Our gift from Santa Claus: she is here

On Christmas eve, Santa Claus sent us a gift.
Our daughter, Aelig is born after around 15 hours of labor in the hospital.
We stayed in the hospital for 6 days, receiving excellent good care from the healthcare team.
Unfortunately, due to the swine flu precaution, only the father is allowed to visit the maternity ward . The family and friends only manage to see her after we discharged from the hospital.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Stuck in the snow

Hubby went to work from 7.30am and only arrived at 12.30pm due to the snow! The journey usually takes 1 hour so he was stuck on the highway for 4 hours. He went out of the car and managed to shop at a local market. He also saw my carpoolers (he was going to the same city) who got stuck along the way too. I'm glad I didn't have to go to work that day.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Excellent guide service at Paris Charles de Gaulle

My aunt has arrived safely in Nantes. Despite the pain in the booking process, the escort interpreter and her colleagues from the guide service at Paris Charles de Gaulle have provided us excellent services.

The person in charge called me three days before her arrival to confirm about the service reservation. Once my aunt touched down at Charles de Gaulle Airport, she was immediately greeted by the escort interpreter, Miss Cecile Mo, who happens to be a Malaysian. She was there since 5am even though the flight was schedule to arrive at 6.40am. Well, the flight arrived earlier than expected at 5.45am. So, she brought my aunt passing through the immigration and custom check point, then brought her to check in for her next flight. When she called me at 7am, my aunt was all set to board for her next flight. Since she has no job assignment after, she stayed and chatted with my aunt until 9am. What an excellent service she provided!

I would strongly recommend you to use this service if your friends and family are visiting you in France but have no confident to find their own way in the airport for the next connecting flight. Unfortunately, this service is limited to Air France passengers, I hope they would open up to every Airlines in the short future. This service was established about one year ago. Miss Mo was very surprised how I managed to book the service from France. According to her most of the requests are from Mainland China or Hong Kong. Well, I paid 88 euros + 4 euros transaction cost (I have to pay in HK dollar), but it is worth it.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Buaian / Sarong cradle Vs crib

Everyone in my family grew up with a buaian (Malay) or sarong cradle. It is called "swinging basket" in Chinese. It is designed so that the button part of the buaian is holding the baby, giving baby the feeling that he or she is still in the womb and being held. I was a colic baby, I won't not fall asleep if my mother didn't swing the buaian, it was in the swinging sensation I slept sound. Now they have modern electronic buaian so baby falls sleep without having someone manually swing it. The machine would do the work.

Hubby doesn't like the swinging idea so we didn't ask my family to send one for us. I know that some of my friends in the US got their family sent them one because their baby didn't sleep well in a crib but sleep well in a buaian. I think it really depends on babies as some like the swinging sensation but some don't.

In my generation I don't know anybody growing up sleeping on a crib. In my family, one of my sisters bought a crib, but my other nieces and nephews sleep on the bed with the parents or on a mattress on the floor once they got home from the hospital. They would take the nap either on the buaian or on a mattress or on the sofa.

It is a totally different story in France. As far as I know, you don't put baby sleeping on the floor with a mattress.

New born baby sleeps in a basket. My in laws gave us this, a basket used by my FIL when he was a baby (just guess how old this basket is). We custom made the mattress and my MIL covered the mattress with a silk cloth. According to my midwife, it is better for the baby to sleep in something smaller size instead of the crib so she will feel safer.

I don't know how long the baby can sleep in the crib before needing a bigger size bed. In this case a baby needs a basket, then a crib, then a small bed, and an adult bed. No wonder people need to live in a big house with garage and store rooms, there are just too much things and space needed whenever we add one family member.

A friend lend us this so we can transport the baby in our car. Since the law in Malaysia does not require this, most of the time the mother will hold the baby on her arm while the father driving. Kids here sit quietly in the back as they are trained to sit on baby chair since they are born. Kids in Malaysia sit and play in the car without car chair. My nephews fight to sit in the front passenger seat, leaving the adults jump pack in the back. Well, they have gradually changed the law and I hope one day all my nephews will just sit quickly at the back.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

One month to go

Our daughter will join us in a month and it is amazing how much she has influenced our life even though she is still stuck in the stomach.

First of all, I don't sleep sound like before. During the third trimester I snore a lot due to the blocking airway, and that disturbs hubby's sleeping pattern. Then, it is getting hard to change sleeping position, not to mention that she wakes me up when she does hiccup. By the way, a lot of older generation didn't know about baby hiccup, but most of the young mothers told me that they did experience baby hiccup during pregnancy.

Then, my feet got swollen so it becomes a bit uneasy to walk around. During the day, I keep telling myself to drink plenty of water, making sure I eat somethings rich with calcium and protein, never skipping a meal.

Whenever we plan about trips here and there, we need to consider there will be a baby to think about. We have to contact the in laws for possible baby sitting help.

My doctor asked me to go for the H1A1 vaccination, it I was alone I won't even bother about this, now I need to consider protecting the baby.

The immediate dilemma is how to organize for the coming Christmas celebration. We don't know when the baby decides to come so for sure we won't be able to travel to my in laws place so instead they have to come over. They are not quite comfortable with our lodging arrangement though. Well, in our tiny apartment we couldn't provide everyone with a bed so it is something we still need to deal with. I wonder if every household has so much space at home to welcome their guests for big events.

The baby is becoming the center of our life even before she is born. Wow.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Enjoying my life

It has been raining non-stop these days. How I'm glad that I don't have to wake up every morning and rush to work.

Some people asked me what I'm doing these days while waiting for the big day. Well, I'm not a very outgoing kind of person, so staying at home suits me just fine.

I thought I would miss the working life but the fact is, work is far behind me and I don't even bother to check my work mails.

So, I'm enjoying every bit of my life doing stuffs that I don't get to do while working:
- sleep whenever I want
- chat with friends in Malaysia during their working hours
- call home almost everyday
- make appointments during weekdays
- go to market to pick up fresh food and fruits
- get prepared for the big day
- connect with the baby while she is kicking and doing somersault in the stomach
- received friends at home on weekdays
- cook for hubby

Well, on the other hand I haven't been sleeping well due to the big stomach. Then got annoyed by those religion people who keep wanting to convert me. That day I didn't answer the door thinking it was them again but it was actually the postman. I got all excited thinking that it was the parcel from Malaysia, but when I looked at the note the postman left, it was some documents from our apartment complex. And now I need to make a trip to the post office just to collect this stupid document. I avoid driving now since my stomach is almost touching the steering. Now whenever I see these religion people, I just say:"no thank you" and close the door.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Doctor appointment = long waiting time?

I saw my gynecologist for the first time. My early pregnancy was followed by my generalist and each time I had to wait like 30 minutes passed appointment time, unless I took the earliest appointment spot.

I don't know why but I thought with my gynecologist it would be different. I was so wrong, I waited 2 hours. Her secretary reserved another appointment for me with an anesthetist one hour later, so I actually went with the anesthetist first before waiting for another hour to see her.

Well, she kept apologizing for being late, she actually went to the emergency room earlier. My session with my generalist usually lasted about 40 minutes, and with her, I was out of her room 15 minutes later. During the session, she got a call from her daughter, I heard her saying that she still have one more patient to attend to, then she has to go to another hospital, so she can't be home before 8.30pm. Hard work indeed.

She seems to be a nice doctor, I think she would like to talk more with me if not due to her busy schedule. And, she costs a lot more too, 47 euros vs 22 euros with my generalist. I can see why the French government is encouraging the early pregnancy to be followed by a generalist, it can indeed save a lot of money if every pregnant woman follows suit.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

No, you don't say no to a customer like me

I have a long battle with Air France about their guide service at Charles De Gaulle Airport. Of course, with a customer like me, they lost the battle. I got what I wanted, from Air France Hong Kong. Well, I still lost to Air France in Nantes though.

The battle starts with:
My aunt is coming to France. Initially I arranged that hubby goes to Paris to pick her up. Since she arrives early in the morning, that means either hubby has to stay overnight in CDG airport if he takes train, or he will have to drive overnight to Paris (round trip 10 hours). I found both solutions are inconvenient to hubby, plus I don't want him to be too far away from me in case the baby decides to arrive early.

I did some research online and I found a better solution:
Guide Service at CDG provides by Air France.
With this service, someone who speaks Mandarin can go pick up my aunt, guide her through immigration and custom, and bring her to the gate where she is going to take a plane to Nantes.A perfect solution that would only cost 88 euros, and she will be taken care of once she touches down in Paris.

Now, the challenge is how to get this service. I practically never call any services here because you need to pay for each call. I sent an email to Air France but after 2 weeks I didn't get any reply. I went to Air France office in Nantes, first they had never heard of this, and when they discovered that my aunt was not taking Air France from Kuala Lumpur to Paris, they immediately refused to serve me. I didn't give up and researched further as I don't think any reasonable person would refuse business. Then only I discovered that the service is listed in Air France Hong Kong website with a phone number. I know with my internet provider FREE, I can call Hong Kong for free and usually in Hong Kong the service line is free. So I called up Air France Hong Kong, they told me it is not possible to provide this service without any reservation. I told them that if I'm not sure they could give me this service I will not make reservation for the Paris - Nantes flight and they will lose business. I insisted that if they give me what I want, they will have my business: Paris-Nantes flight + the 88 euros services. The agent was kind of convinced, she gave me a number to contact the service provider directly in Paris.

Apparently Air France has partnership with an independent agent in Paris for this kind of service. I talked to the person in charge, he said no problem, he will take the order. However, he said I just need to twist a bit my reservation, don't tell Air France that it is for the arrival since my aunt comes with another airlines, just tell them that it is a service to assist my aunt for the departure to Nantes. Since he couldn't take the payment directly, I still need to pay in any Air France counter.

So I went again to Air France Nantes and printed out the website. The assistant was very confused as she has not heard of this service but she can't refuse as it is listed in the website that it was an Air France service. This assistant was actually quite helpful, she called here and there for information. It seemed that nobody knows about it so she called the independent agent in Paris. She got confirmation that I could get this service, and she was told how to handle the payment. Well, it seemed that there were still some procedures she couldn't figure out so she asked me to go home and wait for her call.

Two days later I still get nothing from her. I called the agent in Paris to check if they have received any order from Air France Nantes. No they didn't and they actually had sent all the necessary instructions to Air France Nantes for the payment operation. Well, I decided to call Air France Hong Kong instead. This time she told me to have this service, my aunt needs to take a long haul flight with Air France and Paris-Nantes flight is considered a short distance flight. I reasoned with her that the service provider in Paris has agreed to this service, now just let me pay. She kept asking me to hold on so that she can asked her superior for approval. Eventually she gave me a solution: she would request this service to Paris, if they agree, she will let me pay through Air France Hong Kong.

And I got a call this morning from Hong Kong! The guy called me and spoke to me in Cantonese, saying that the service has been approved, now I just need to pay. It was so weird, for some reason I lost the ability to tell my credit card number in Cantonese, but the guy has been very patient. He nicely explained that I will get a confirmation email once the payment goes through.

And I got the confirmation email 20 minutes later. Such a wonderful service.

My philosophy: If there is a business, they will find you a solution.
Well, this probably only works with Asian mentality, as until now I didn't get any call from Air France Nantes. Anyway the business amount is probably too small for them to even bother about it.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Baby's room or parents' room?

We have been attending childbirth classes, sponsor by the government. At first I was skeptical about the usefulness of these classes, as I thought we could get most of the information from parents and friends who have already gone through all these. After 4 classes I really like it as the midwife explains things more from the medical and professional perspectives than what our friends can tell us.

On the third class, the midwife threw us a question: where will your baby sleeps? In the parents' room or baby's room?

We were three couples. In my culture most of the new born sleeps with the parents or other adults, I thought I was the only one choosing the parents' room. Out of my surprise, one woman said she was not sure, she might want to put the baby in her room for the first 2 months. I then expected the midwife to educate us about how it would be inappropriate to put the baby in the parents' room, but again, she surprised me.

According to her, statistically, only one third of the world put the baby in a separate room and it is actually an occidental practice. From medical stand point of view, it is preferable to put the baby in the same room as the parents. The baby was living in a comfortable temperature until he or she is born. Suddenly, he or she has to deal with complete strangeness in the world. It would be nice for he or she to immediately be around with something familiar, like parents' voice, smell, breathing...During the night, some babies can stop breathing, but when hearing the parents' breathing, the baby's respiration system restarts. Moreover, the baby won't realize a thing if you have put he/she in a baby room or dining room during the first 9 months.

Having said that, she assures us this is totally up to the parents to decide. There is no right or wrong answer. She understands that parents want the baby to be independent since the first day, but she reminds us that when a baby grows up, he or she will like to have privacy and would naturally putting distance between parents and child. One couple raised concern about their intimacy, meaning they might not be able to continue their couple private activities. Her response was hilarious, she said you just need to be creative. Well, I personally don't think this is an issue, seeing how my siblings continue to produce the second and third kids while their first still sleeping in the same room as them.

I know the other two couples were not quite convinced since it is a norm in France that baby sleeps in the baby room. I was thrilled and relieved that hubby changed his point of view after this class. He was reluctant to let the baby sleeps in our room but now he has completely accepted it. The baby bed is already set up in the room.

This photo shows the childbirth classroom we were attending. We learnt about using the balloon to ease the contraction. It was very fun as she also taught us how to sit on the balloon while leaning on our partner, and at the same receiving back massage from the partner. Very cool class I would say!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

One more week before my maternity leaves start

It is the tax season again. In Sept and Oct French people received a bunch of request to pay their taxes: income tax, property tax, community tax, professional tax, revenue tax... usually all these have to be settled before the end of Nov. Unfortunately, due to the economic downtown, most of the taxes have increased to cover the lost in government income and big surge in social expenses. When hubby received the community tax, he was like "what the hell?". Well, I was pretty calm about these, all these years in France, I have learnt to accept paying high taxes.

So what does this have to do with my maternity leaves?

Well, I have been getting immense pressure from people around me to stop the car trip. My doctor could just give me a certificate and I could stop anytime if I want. At the beginning I was quite firm about it: I feel great, I do not believe that car trip hurts the pregnancy, my baby is pretty calm in the car... so my maternity leaves will start 6 weeks before the due date, period.

Then, I got more and more pressure: my boss asked shouldn't I stop earlier due to the car trip? My coworkers said I should just take the chance to rest since when the baby is here there will be no time for myself. My mother said why so stupid if the government pays for it might as well take it. My grandmother said I shouldn't put the baby's life in danger.

So I was thinking, if I pay taxes like everyone else, I might as well enjoy the social benefits like everyone else. So I agreed to 6 + 2 weeks (pathology leaves), all will be paid by the French government. This decision seems to please everyone.

So, one more week to go.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Old bed new paint

Can you imagine this was the baby crib for hubby 30 years ago? His father made it and his mother painted it.

Now, let's revitalize the crib by putting on new paints.

It seems like hubby was enjoying the painting process.

Et voila! A new crib for our baby. Isn't it amazing? This crib had witnessed hubby's baby days and now it is going to serve his descendant.

He also bought the baby a dresser. I was not with him when he went to the shop, he sent me photos through his google phone and called me up at work. I checked my emails and looked at the photos. I think it looked elegant, so I said ok. He will match it with the crib, so another painting project waiting for him.

Monday, October 19, 2009

A regular consultation session with my doctor

I have been with this doctor ever since I moved to France. I stay with her because she is willing to listen and try to understand me. Sometimes I couldn't find the words in French, and she patiently listen to my explanations and finally find the words for me. I think I'm her first Asian patient, everytime I call for an appointment, her secretary recognizes me immediately.

However, there is one drawback that I don't like, but this could apply for many doctors: she always makes me wait for 30 to 40 minutes pass the appointment time. I hate to wait when I already made an appointment, so these days I tried to be the first patient, got myself the 9am spot.

I arrived at 8.55am on a Saturday morning. Her secretary doesn't work on weekend.
She was on the phone with a patient. So I waited. At 9.15am she was still on the phone:

Her: Yes Mrs X, I think it is better for you to stay home now, you can come see me next Monday.
Mrs X: blah blah blah
Her: Ok have a nice day. She finally hung up.

So my consultation started, 15 minutes late.
Her: So, I have received your blood test result, let see how it goes. According to this chart...
The phone rang.
Her: Excuse me. (Picking up the phone)
Her: Yes Mrs Y, how can I help you? Oh yes with this syndrome you can use this medicine. For this brand you can just buy over the counter, but for the other one you will need a prescription...ok come see me on Tuesday... ok Thursday then...ok bye.
Hung up the phone.
Her: Sorry for that, I hope the phone won't ring again. So we were talking about your blood test. The glucose level seems fine. Let me check with my book.
While referring to her book, the phone rang.

Her: Dr B here how may I help you? Oh Mrs Z, your son is having a fever? Did he throw out? Since when? Ok bring him in today, I got a spot at 11.30am. Oh don't worry at the mean time just make him drinks plenty of water...
Hung up the phone and back to me.

Her: Ok blood test is good, but your plasma level seems a bit low. Go get another blood test next week to check it out.(Oh my God, another blood test, my arms are still having bruises!). The result also shows that you have not enough iron, so I will prescript you iron for the next 3 months. (Wow, first time she asks me to take supplementary pills, everyone was asking me why I was not taking all those vitamins, folid acid pills, but she thinks that those chemical products are not good for baby). Now let me see how you and your baby doing.

I weighted myself. Gaining normal weight. She then put some gel on my belly to try to listen to the baby heart beat. While she was putting the gel, the phone rang. She quickly washed her hands and rushed to the phone. The usual round of patient asking questions or taking appointments.

After the regular check out, she asked whether I was feeling tired or having contractions. And finally, she wanted me to stop working immediately as she thinks that the 3 hours round trip everyday is not good for the pregnancy. She had wanted me to stop every since I was 3 months pregnant. We negotiated and finally she agreed I will stop 8 weeks before the due date.

And then she went:"that would be 22 euros and I will need your medical card." I quickly wrote her a check while she was running my medical card with her machine. Then I got all the prescriptions needed. We finished at 9.50am.

I was quick short at this phenomena that in France doctors have to do the administrative tasks during their consultation times. My doctor only does that during the weekend, but that's because she is sharing a secretary with another partner. My dentist is practicing alone so he didn't have a secretary. While he was cleaning my teeth he sometimes has to stop to pick up phone calls for appointment. I feel weird each time they ask for the payment. I had been so used to doctors just doing the consultation and everything else handles by their nurses or secretaries.

I wonder, there is 10% of people unemployed. Why can't these doctors hire part timers to help them, so that they can concentrate 100% on their jobs. This could reduce the unemployed rate, best helping these people gaining working experience.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The bloody blood test

I need to perform a blood and urine test every month and one of the tests show that I have high glucose level in the urine. This led to the O'Sullivan test, where I had to first take a blood sample, drink 50g of glucose solution and wait for one hour before taking another blood sample. I did this on a Saturday morning. I did not want to stay one hour in the lab so they made me signed a paper and released me right after.

Well, my doctor was not satisfied with the result so I had to go through another test - Oral glucose tolerance test. This test requires me to stay in the lab for 3 hours. I showed up one Saturday morning in a lab situated in another city, and was told that I needed to take an appointment as they only accept two patients per day. Ok, I didn't know that. Since all the Saturdays were planned with some activities before going back to see my doctor, I had no choice but to take half day off to perform this test.

It was my turn to drive on Monday morning. Unfortunately, there was an accident on the highway, we were stucked 25 minutes and were moving at a snail speed. I made an appointment at 9am and when I arrived at 9.25am, the lab was full of people, mostly elderly. They took my first blood sample at 9.40am and I had to drink 100g of glucose solution at once. Luckily it was with orange favor so I managed to drink it without much problem. They then took blood sample at 30 minutes intervals (twice) then 60 minutes interval (twice). It was 1pm when I finally got out of the lab, starving, feeling vulnerable, both arms with bruises.

The lab sent me and my doctor the analysis result two days after. If I interpreted it correctly, my glucose level is below the dangerous level, need to confirm with my doctor. Just hope everything is going well and I don't have to deal with this again.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Air Asia gets landing rights in Paris!

This is great news! The French president has agreed to grant landing rights to Air Asia in Paris after his official meeting with the Malaysia Prime Minister. Air Asia always offers good deal with attractive price, hopefully going back to Malaysia is less costly when Air Asia starts operating the KL - Paris leg.

Well, the flights will land in Orly Airport, less convenient to take the direct train to Nantes, but still, this is a good news.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Hubby's gadgets

Within 2 months, hubby got himself three gadgets.

First, the LCD TV that he has been drooling for a while, after doing many researches and reading reviews on the internet.

Then, he got himself a witfit set.

It goes well with the TV, since then he has been training almost everyday, and managed to lose about 5kg (plus eating healthier food). I like Wiifit too, it has a variety of exercises, I love doing Step and some yoga exercises.

Then, his cellphone contract almost ended and he has been itching for a Googlephone. Now, he calls me and my Facebook profile photo shows up.

The phone has internet connection plus many applications like Facebook, googlechat and also GSP, now we can go anywhere and just use the googlemap for directions. He has also created a Facebook account (he resisted it for a while) and posted photos from the car.

I love this Googlephone, probably get myself one in the future.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Shit happens - one bottle down

We woke up this morning to discover this:

One of the wine bottle broke! 4 days after the making.

Since we had to rush to work I only clean up the floor tonight. All the alcohol were leaked out. We suspect that the fermentation was too strong so the bottle couldn't take it. I don't know how to clean the bamboo floor, it doesn't smell at this point.

Talking about hard work goes into drain. Pray hard this won't happen to my second bottle.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

No Malaysian citizenship for my children

I expected this, but still had that tiny little hope that Malaysia has changed it's constitution about the citizenship for children born overseas.

I sent an email to the Embassy of Paris a while back and got the reply:
2. The Embassy wish to inform you that according the Malaysian Constitution, a child born in Malaysia is Malaysian if one of the parents is Malaysian. However, the citizenship of the child that born overseas is being determined by the citizenship of the father.

3. In this regard, it is advisable for you to give birth in Malaysia if you wish to obtain an automatic Malaysian citizen for the new born child.

So, my child wouldn't be a Malaysian because I'm a Malaysian female. If I was a man, she could have qualified.

France recognizes double citizenship so it would be nice that my daughter could have the Malaysian citizenship. Who knows in the future, we would move back there for several years, then she can enroll in the public school. Besides, Asian countries might form some Economic zone like the European Union, with this citizenship she would have the choice to work in Asian and venture into Asian cultures.

France is a lot lenient on this. According to hubby, children born to a French would be French no matter what. I don't know why Malaysia practices strict rules like this. If you follow the recent news, even people born in Malaysia (mostly before independence) and have been living in Malaysia their whole life have difficulties getting their citizenship. Some of the reasons being they do not speak Malays, they have lost their birth certificate, or their parents were not married.

I hope it won't take long for Malaysia to grant citizenship to those who are born in Malaysia and to children born overseas, without discriminating its own female citizens.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Homemade Chinese red wine 自制红酒

Ok I need to clarify that this is not a wine only for consumption during confinement. In fact red wine chicken 红酒鸡 or red wine meesua 红酒面线 are two of the famous dishes that use red wine as the soup base.

600g yellow raisins (dried grapes)
600g ice sugar 冰糖 or brown sugar (from sugar cane)
2.52L water
5 wine biscuit 酒饼 (dry them for two days before using)
1 glass jar (can fill about 4L liquids)

I got these two glass containers from my in laws. The above ingredients will produce about 3L wine but it needs some space to raise during fermentation. Make sure it covers well.

Step one: Boil water with all the sugars. Once boiling, pour in raisins and let them boil for one more minute then turn off the fire. Put them aside and let them chill for at least 12 hours or overnight.

Step 2: Use a mortar and pestle to crush the dried wine biscuit. Pour the crushed powder into the glass container.

Step 3: Pour the chilled cooked combination into the glass container. Stir it so that the wine biscuit mixed well with the others. Make sure you leave some space in the glass container as the wine slowly raise during fermentation.

Seal the glass jar finely. Each of my glass jar has an elastic, if not try seal with a piece of cloth. Store it somewhere (not directly expose to heat) for 3 months.

Now fingers crossed for the result!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Package from Malaysia

In the Chinese culture, after deliver a baby, a woman would be on one month confinement, where you hire or have someone to take care after you so that you can have full rest. During this month you will have special diet (ginger, wine, Chinese herbs and medicine) plus some rigid practices.

I don't think I would follow all those rigid practices like not taking shower for a month, but I would like to more or less follow the confinement diet. My mother recommended Chinese red wine as one of the cooking ingredients. I don't think I could find it in France so we think about making it myself. Unfortunately, I couldn't find one of the ingredients which is called "wine biscuit" or "酒饼" in the nearby Chinese grocery store. So, my mother expedited some to me.

These wine biscuits are actually one kind of yeast, serve to turn raisin into wine.

She also would like me to have some Chinese medicine. The local Chinese store sells some of them but according to my mother, after knowing the price, the medicine they are selling are the normal type, not those high quality one for confinement. Therefore, my family also sent me some medicine herbs.

My sister also gave me some maternity clothes. They came on time as even though I bought some here as well, due to lack of experience, some of the clothes I bought are too small to last until the last day. I also didn't find those T-shirts that are getting loose only at the waist line.

Anyway, now the challenge is to make the wine myself, from the recipe it seems to be easy, I hope the taste will turn out good.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

An unfinished knitting project

I mentioned in my earlier post that hubby's godmother is having a knitting project for our little one. Unfortunately, she won't be able to finish it.

She passed away on Friday, after fighting for different illness and going through many surgeries for over 15 years, leaving behind her only son (hubby's cousin), her aging mother (hubby's grandmother) and her life partner.

We rushed to B town as soon as we received the call from my in laws. Once we arrived in the emergency ward, my MIL and the grandma were accompanying her, lifeless. I hugged the grandma, who was in deep sadness, and kept saying that life is so unfair. It is so unfair that her daugther left before her. All I can tell her was that her daughter is in Paradis with God.

My MIL didn't want me to stay too long in the emergency room, so we went back to the Godmother's house. It was sadden to see that all her belongingness were untouched, but she will never step foot in this house anymore. While my parents in laws were comforting the grandma and the uncle, me and hubby took care of the cousin, who just finished highschool and just started his first year of a tertiary studies.

The funeral is scheduled to be on Monday. The hospital is equipped with rooms with special temperature as transition rooms. We saw her again in one of these rooms, dressed in her favorite clothes. I have never been so close to a dead body, but I was not scared. She had always been nice to me, there was no point to be afraid, alive or dead.

The cousin proposed me to sleep in his room. Since he is very close to hubby, it would be nice that they could sleep together so hubby could be around him whenever he needs someone to talk to. At dawn, about 24 hours after she left, I woke up and suddenly thought of a question: how if she comes back to see her son and couldn't find him? In the Taoism believes, someone who just passed away would come back to see their love ones before they reincarnate. Then, knowing how she loves her son, I know she would find him if she wants to. In the morning after talking to my FIL, I realized that the Christians believe that the dead one will be with God forever and will not decend again to earth. So, it was nonesense to even think that she would come back.

On Saturday, grandma insisted to go to see her again. We sent her to the transition room, but suddenly I lost the courage to enter the room. In the afternoon we sent grandma again after lunch, and there were many friends and relatives came visiting, after reading the orbituary in newspaper. I was so curious, are they so many people reading through orbituary everyday to know who passed away everyday? And the answer is yes, some people do especially those working in churches and old people. Also, one person tells another and soon the news are spread.

During lunch, we learnt about all those paperworks that need to be taken care of after the funeral. Get an appointment with a lawyer for all the heritage issues, visit a banker for all the financial issues, inform the different governmental and business agencies of her death... Already, the uncle and my FIL were spending long hours choosing the funeral is just so exhausted to even think of all things that have yet to be done.

Our regret, is that she won't be able to see her Godgranddaugther, whom she was so eager to meet.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009


09/09/09 is another popular day to get married for Chinese couples. 9 in Chinese has the similar phonetic to the word "forever", so imagine being married on a day which wish the marriage last "forever forever forever". I heard that in Malaysia, most of the wedding registration agencies have been fully booked for this day one year in advance.

I didn't realize it is 9 Sept today until some of my coworkers pointed out. I need them to sign something and most of the them have the same reaction : "oh it is 9 9 9 today, such an easy day to remember." So it seems that it doesn't mean anything special in France. Ah should have told them what it means in Chinese.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Baby cloth

We got a parcel from our grandma today. She knitted a set of baby sweater. So cute with the little gloves. I know hubby's mother and godmother are knitting as well for our baby. I think we don't have to buy much for this winter.

Monday, August 31, 2009

The Erdre river and all that jazz

It was a sunny weekend. We had a date with the Erdre river and jazz. The Conseil General was organizing the annual jazz festival along the Erdre river. Boats were parading on river while we were listening to the musics.

People waiting for boats passing by.

Boats parading, some were so old I thought I was at the Pirate of the Caribbean era.

Some musicians just set up a booth and started playing. They even brought wine to share with the audiences.

A classical jazz band. Where were the audiences?

It was so hot so they were hidden under the shade. :-)

Some musicians played on the boat.

And they have got audiences came by boat and stayed on board while listening.

Some people playing, some people drinking, some people cruising

Overall, it was a nice event, money well spent. The Conseil General used the tax money to sponsors these bands which foster the jazz culture, people came for free musics and songs but they paid for restaurants, hotels and shopping. It boosted the local economy plus made the music lovers happy. Win win situation.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Thanks to the electricity breakdown

This morning when I arrived at work, my coworkers informed me that there was an electricity breakdown in several floors including ours. We headed to the office kitchen and I started taking my breakfast there. By talking to my coworkers, I realize that as a pregnant woman, I'm entitled to half an hour more resting time, which I could use to have a nap, take doctor appointments or just leave work earlier. I can also go for doctor appointments and come in later to work.

The breakdown went for more than a hour and I managed to use the chance to get all the doctor appointments I needed to take. Since most of the medical secretaries start accepting appointment calls after 9am, I always find it hard to use the office hour for personal calls. Today, I got appointments with:
- my doctor who does the pregnancy follow up (her secretary didn't give me a hard time today, usually she doesn't like when I take Saturday appointment, she said Saturdays are reserved for emergency cases)

- a gynecologist for the follow up from 7th month to the due date (we were worried as during the second ultrasound last week, we were told that it was too late to take an appointment with their gynecologist, which is necessary if we want to do the registration for the delivery with this hospital)

- a midwife for the delivery preparation classes (I'm so glad she works on Saturday, most of the gynecologist don't work on Saturday except one that are on duty for emergency cases)

Wow I'm so relief now that I have taken these appointments. Everything seems to get back on track. I was worried that non of the gynecologists would have a spot for me.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The 88th birthday

I have never expected that while I'm assimilating to the French culture, my French family is learning and practicing some of my Malaysian culture too. The day after I got my 10 years resident card, my FIL emailed me saying that:" Do you realize that you got the card on 8.8.09, a very lucky date?" I was like, wow no I didn't realize, and didn't know they would even remember that.

(For your information, 8 is considered as an auspicious number in the Chinese culture, that was why the China Olympics' inauguration ceremony last year was held at 8.08pm on 08.08.08)

Then, my in laws decided to celebrate hubby's grandma's 88th birthday since it is supposed to be a lucky age for her. So off we went to a small touristic town in the west of the Brittany. As usual, she greeted us with her delicious home cook meals.

She lives alone since grandpa passed away several years ago. Whenever we come visit, she would cook us our favorite dishes and desserts. She purposely prepared the Lemon Tart as dessert as she knows it is one of my favorite desserts here. During the preparation, she accidentally burnt the tart and was upset for a while. She quickly prepared a second one, but I liked the burnt tart as well and everyone finished it before starting the second tart.

I'm just lucky to have a loving and caring grandma like this. On the other hand, I don't know if I can bear to live alone in such a big house, passing my days reminiscing on everything happens here.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

My 140 euros Renault Laguna keycard

We have finally bought a new Laguna keycard, which costed us 140 euros for both the new key and the reprogramming.

Three years after we bought the car (used), the keys started to have problems. One couldn't unlock and one couldn't lock. We tried to put the battery from one card to another but it didn't work. For a while, we locked the car manually, which involved getting out of car, leaving the back door open and leaning in and hitting the central locking button. Unlocking the car involved taking out a part on the handle and take out the key from the keycard. We were bearing with these for a while until one day, one of the keys couldn't start the car anymore. When push on the start button, a red round light flashes on the car screen.

We were afraid that the other key will follow suit and one day we would not be able to start the car entirely. We decided to pay the price: 140 euros just to get a new car key!

I would like to have another key as a backup but paying another 140 euros is just too much to bear. I decided to check on the internet, and here I found this site teaching people how to repair a Laguna key themselves:

I haven't tried it yet as it involves mending one of the components. We don't have the tool to do it.

Another solution, a garage in UK repairs the key for 25 pounds plus postal cost:

I would like to find a garage that would repair it just for 25 euros, anyone knows any garage like this in France?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

One month pregnant & we already had to do all these...

We went for a doctor visit to confirm my pregnancy.

Doctor: "You are one month pregnant, expecting a Christmas baby. Now, let me tell you things you have do.
- First, register with a hospital/clinic that you would like to have the labor.
- Second, take appointment for your first ultrasound.
- Third, register with your local government run daycare center.
- Fourth, prepare documents to inform the government agencies about your pregnancy."

We were overwhelmed. I thought she was over worried so I didn't pay much attention. Hubby went online, browsed through forums to compare the 4 hospital/clinics in Nantes. About two weeks later he chose the Clinique Jules Verne. He called the clinic and was informed that they are fulled for the whole month of December! How did those people managed to reserve a bed then? They called when they were one week pregnant?

I got awaken by this news. Ok maybe In Nantes we just need to act fast. So I quickly called the second clinic in our list. Luckily the secretary informed us that they have plenty of rooms and I do not have to worry too much. However, for the first ultrasound, they were fully book on the Saturdays I wanted. Since the doctor said I have to do this between 11 to 13 weeks of pregnancy, we had no choice but both me and hubby had to take a day off.

As for the daycare center, there are three in our community with about 70 spots. The one closest to us closes on Wednesday, so it doesn't really suit our need. We were immediately discouraged by these information. They are so many babies in our areas, how can we fit into these 70 spots? We should we put the baby on Wednesday? We concluded that we should instead get a baby sitter. Friends told us that even for a baby sitter, we need to book early as in some cities the demand is higher than supply.

Gosh, so much work to do at 1.5 months, we are not even having the baby yet.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Got my 10 years carte de resident (resident card)

Cool I got my 10 years permanent resident card (carte de resident)! No more renewal every year.

Yesterday morning we walked in to the Town Hall, surprised that they are open during a holiday season, and we were the first to be served. The officer handed me a card similar to this one:

Some differences between this 10 years card and my previous one are:
- The title of the card has changed to "Carte de resident" instead of "Carte de sejour temporaire".
- The motif of stay is "Toute profession en France Metropolitane dans le cadre de la legistration en vigueur" instead of "vie privee et familiale"
With this new motif of stay, I can work in any part of France except her overseas territories.

It was a hassle free process ever since I moved to Orvault and renew my card in the local Town Hall instead of the Nantes Prefecture. This Town Hall opens every Saturday morning so I don't even need to take a day off. No appointment needed and no long queue like in the Nantes Prefecture.

2 months before my card expires, I went to the local Town Hall with a list of documents:
a. 4 recent passport size photos
b. my passport + photocopies of the first page, the entry stamp to France and the visa and it's validation date
c. hubby's ID card
d. le livret de famille (family book you got from the Town Hall during your civil wedding)
e. document that can justify your home address : electricity bill (EDF) or others
f. both me and hubby have to be present and provide at least 2 documents which can prove that we are still living together, example our tax return form (with both our names on it), our bank statement...)

Five weeks later I received a letter from the Town Hall, asking me to pick up my temporarily card (recipissee).

Another five weeks later I received the convocation to pick up the resident card. In the convocation it states that I need to bring along my expired carte de sejour, the temporarily card recipissee and an OMI stamp with 70 euros face value.

Now that I have my ten years card, I'm thinking about getting the French nationality. However, since Malaysia doesn't recognize double citizenship, it means that I would lose the Malaysian citizenship, something that is still precious in my eyes. I just hope that one day Malaysia will change the laws and allow her citizens living overseas permanently to keep their nationality.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

No pressure on boy or girl

In several weeks we should be able to find out the gender of our baby. Some of our French friends here have chosen to not know the gender so that they could have surprise when their child is born. Luckily, me and hubby have the consensus to know whether it is a she or he as soon as we can.

The Chinese community in Malaysia has pretty much evolved and less emphasis on the ancient tradition of having a son. However, the influence of the Confucius thinking of continuing the family name and tree still exist in some families, especially when the person involves is the eldest son in the family. One of my neighbors tried 6 times and have 7 daughters (once she got twin), but she never gave up. Finally, she got a son at the 7th time. In my generation, people who have son at the first try usually feel relief. Those who have daughter wish they could have a son at the second or third try. The younger generation cares less about continuing the family name but most of the time it is their parents who feel guilty if they don't get any grandson as it means the family name ends on their hand. Some people believe they will meet their ancestors eventually one day, so not continuing the family name is a big shame that they could not afford to bear.

I will say that I'm very fortunate to be married into a family that welcome both boy and girl. There is no pressure from anyone around me that I have to have a son or a daughter. From my observation, in general, French families like to have at least a son plus a daughter, but they will not force it by having more kids than they wish. Hubby's paternal grandmother has more than 10 grand grand kids but non of them bear the family name. They are either grand-kids from her daughters or kids from her granddaughters. Our kid will be the first to bear the family name. If he was from a Chinese family, I think I would have all the pressure from the grandmother and even from his parents. But no, the grandmother loves all her grand grand-kids, it doesn't matter which side they are from. Lucky us!

As for me, I wanted a girl but now I'm not sure anymore. During a conversation with my carpooler, he told me that he wished to have a daughter but he is now happy to have two sons. If he were to have a daughter, he would have worried to death about many things: if she will get cheated by other men, pregnant at early age...but now he just need to tell his sons to practice safe sex. I think his logic kind of got into me. As for hubby, he is happy to have either son or daughter, nonetheless he is worried that he has to fight with his daughter to use the bathroom. "Just ask her to put the makeup kit and mirror in the her room", I told him. :-)

Monday, July 27, 2009

It has been 3 years

It has been 3 years we are civilly married. Since we had another one wedding in Malaysia (Feb) and one in France (Sept), we have not decided which date we would use as our wedding anniversary. So, last two years we didn't do anything for this civil anniversary, but this year we decided to go for a nice restaurant. The food were yummy.

After years of sweet couple's life we decided that it is time to add a family member to our life. After many attempts, we are happy to announce that we are impatiently waiting for our little one to join us at the beginning of next year. We are very excited but at the same time are overwhelmed with all the things to do at the moment: medical check up each month, paper works, child care, and me morning sickness every day. We had a very special moment during the first ultrasound, when we visually see a new life growing and waving and kicking in my stomach, we were overjoyed!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Help or no help

Recently I discovered that one of my coworkers actually takes train to work from Nantes to Rennes. She told me that she doesn't drive. In the morning she would leave home 15 minutes before 7am to catch the train at 7.25am. She arrives in the office at around 9.15am. In the evening, she leaves the office at around 5.30pm and only arrives home at 9pm!

Gosh, I can't believe she has been doing this for over three months now. She told me that it is ok in the morning as there is a direct train, but during the evening, the latest direct train leaves at 5.30pm and the one she takes has connections here and there causing her to arrive home late.

Knowing her situation, I immediately try to think of ways to help her. I contacted another coworker who is doing carpooling with me during the summer, and turned out he is living like 5 minutes walking distance away from her! So, he picked her up in the second morning and we gave her a ride home and it had saved her a lot of times.

Unfortunately, we are 4 this week so we won't be able to continue helping her. When I told hubby about this, he said that he would firstly ask why is she not driving. In her case, the company would for sure provides her a rental car if she doesn't have her own. Sincerely, it has never crossed my mind to ask this question. I think this is too private, if she holds herself from driving and suffers from so much trouble, there must be a pretty good reason, like for example she used to have accident or she is panic when driving. Hubby has a different point of view. He thinks that no matter what, it is time for her to start driving. He would only help if she could give a reasonable reason.

Well, I agree with hubby but I still think that if it doesn't cause me much trouble to give her a hand, I don't mind doing so. Now I'm just glad that I drive and have a valid driver license, I don't think I can stand spending 5 hours just on traveling to/from work everyday!

Friday, July 17, 2009

The morning ritual II

A while back I was posting about the morning ritual in the office and how I was glad that no one actually air kisses me. Well, not anymore as one coworker (a man) decided to kiss my cheeks every morning when he passes by. At the beginning I was taken aback and almost told him no (hey I was not very close to him you know), but I held myself and now I have gotten used to it. I notice that female coworkers don't kiss or shake hands among themselves (except with a higher ranking manager), but one decided to shake my hand every morning. Another female coworker saw it and asked why I was given a special "treatment" like this. She replied:"She is from overseas so I want to give her some international touch."

Today, I discovered that people who handle well the morning ritual win the heart of others and could be considered having the right social skills. It was not the first time I heard comment like this :" This manager is so cool, he says morning to everyone everyday". The contrary is true as well. Managers who don't go greet others from office to office are considered rude and bad in communication.

Thinking about it, the morning ritual could be an ice breaking process if one greets you every morning. It could strike into small talks and this is how a relationship starts to build. I notice that when I have an issue, I prefer to discuss openly with managers who shake my hand every morning than managers with whom I rarely see or talk to.

At this point, I haven't built up the courage to purposely go from office to office to greet everyone, but I finally managed to remember whom I have said good morning. However, when this coworker comes to air kiss me, systematically I just hand out my right hand then immediately realize ops I should raise my face instead. I blame it to the Confucius's notion of "Guys and girls shouldn't have body contact" that has been poisoning my little Chinese mind. :-)

Note: Not every company is having the same morning ritual. In hubby's company, he kisses very female coworkers (lucky him!) and the females kiss among themselves.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

National Day / Bastile day

We got a day off since today is France's national day or Bastille day. I remember studying on the form 4 world history text book that 14 July 1789 marks the Renaissance area of France which led to the collapse of the monarchy system and the beginning of the Republic system.

I don't know how much the Bastille day still means to the younger generation as it was happened over 200 years ago. Hubby complained that all the TV channels were featuring the national day parade in Paris and he couldn't watch the Tour de France (annual bicycle tour). When finally he managed to watch the sport in the afternoon, some teams were on strike so it was not really a competing day.

Bastille day, it is a day I do some housework and a day for hubby to play non stop his new Wii games :-)

Monday, July 13, 2009

Working in a complaining environment

My coworkers with whom I share the same office room are all on their summer vacation. I will be all by myself for around two weeks, and since from 14 July to 15 August are the most popular summer vacation period, there won't be much people around in the office.

On one hand it will be quite, on the other hand I really appreciate this break away from the complaining /cursing work environment. I'm not sure if it is the nature of this industry, I'm constantly hearing complains, unsatisfactory comments, curses, long sighs... and a lot of profanity. Since I'm learning French I always try to notice how people express themselves in a certain way but when I hear words like these my ears automatically closed:
He is balls breaking (Il est casse couilles) = He is annoying
I made a conclusion, everything that involves balls (couilles) must be something bad so I shouldn't pick them up.

Besides profanity (which is really not a big deal as long as I don't use them myself), I was not really getting used to complains whenever we start using a new system / project / method. People would say "oh this is never going to work" or "I don't know why they made this stupid decision". Once I told my coworkers that "if you know you can't change it, just accept it and move on", they all looked at me. Eventually, either I complain with them together or I just say nothing.

Once I jokingly told a French friend my observation about this complaining culture, he told me that it is better than the American or the Japanese one. The American, they just say "Gorgeous, perfect, you did a good job" for anything you have done and the Japanese just make a fake smile and will never tell you what they really think. So, at least these French are sincere, and since complaining is just so common, they are actually not complaining or whining, but just making a normal statement / comment on a situation. Basically, according to him, when a French is complaining, he just treat him as saying something.

His comment really impressed me. I hope after a while, I can start accepting that certain complains are just simply a way of expression.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Those Pedros, Sitis and François

I was having a heated conversation with a French about purchasing power. I told him that I enjoyed a higher purchasing power when I was living in Austin with an example that hubby and me were going out for restaurant 3-4 times a week. Here in France, except for lunch with co-workers (with restaurant ticket), we hardly go to restaurant since they are expensive. He immediately replied that restaurants in the USA are cheaper because they exploit those Pedros from Mexico and pay them peanuts. Ok, personally, I didn’t go to the kitchen to check whether there was any immigrant each time I dine in a restaurant. His comment just made me think of some examples I read in the newspaper and a story written by a professor from Taiwan.

Story from a Taiwanese professor:
I was a kid whose daily activity is to wander around the street. My parents had no job so they couldn't afford to send me and my sibling to school. One day, there came a bunch of people with fancy cars and clothes. They built a factory here and hired my parents and other villages as workers. With our parents' salary, we were able to go to the school. I enjoyed learning and playing with my classmates. However, this didn't last long. One day, a bunch of people came to our village. They said they are humanist. They said the factory exploited our parents. Eventually the factory was closed and our parents were once again out of job. I was back to the street. I want to ask:"Why? Why do these humanist made our parents out of job and made me and my siblings withdrew from the school? Who are they?"

A real story from Siti, one of our Indonesian maid:
Siti is from Indonesia and she is currently working as a house maid in Malaysia. She works 15 hours a day, 7 days a week for a peanut salary. She is married and has two kids. I asked her why she wanted to work so far away from her country. She told me that she would never earn this kind of salary in her country as a maid. With her sacrifice, she can now send her kids to school, she will be able to buy a house after several years of work. She just need to continue working for some times and she will be able to change the future, if not hers, the one of her children.

Stories from French newspaper:
François was working in a factory which was a supplier for a car maker. He was laid off recently due to the recent crisis in the car industry. The unemployment agency ANPE suggested him to apply to three job, to which he refused. According to him, two of the jobs are located 100km from his house and this is just too much for him. He doesn't want to sacrifice his family time on traveling to work. The other job was not in his current line and he was not motivated for it.

Françoise was participating in a demonstration in front of her factory. She worked only during the weekend but recently the factory didn't call them to work during the weekend. Her and her coworkers discovered that the management was actually asking the weekly shift (Monday - Friday) workers to work during the weekend to compensate those who only work 3 days a week due to the slow down in demand. The management offered those weekend shift workers to change to weekly shift workers but she refused. She said:"I don't want to do this as I live 50km away from here. I can do it for two days but 5 days is simply too much. Those weekly shifts people shouldn't steal our job!"

Ok, I do not personally know any Mexican in Austin. One of my classmates was from Argentina and he told me that he worked part time delivering pizza and he was earning USD40k a year. "People pay me generous tips, a very big part of my pay". With this part time, he was able to pay off his school fees. He is now an accountant.

Now back to the comment of my French friend who talked about worker exploitation. For him, any job that is not paying minimum wage and has no holiday is considered exploitation. So, why, knowing that being exploited, these Sitis and Pedros are still willing to travel thousand kilometers away from home? For me, yes they are being exploited, but at the same time they are fighting for a better future. Without being exploited, these Pedros, Sitis might still live in poverty and will stay poor for the next couple of generations. They are not as lucky as those French who can simply refuse to travel to work and still receive government help. I just think that French shouldn't use their standard to judge other countries (just like the humanist who closed the factory with a good reason but eventually didn't change the life of the villagers there).

Thursday, June 25, 2009

France new cabinet

I didn't know this could happen: France got a new government cabinet, 8 ministers were out and 8 new one joined in. The remaining were holding different position than the previous one. All these are done without even dissolving the old cabinet for a new election.

Well, I have only partially understood the political system here. Unlike in Malaysia, France really implement the separation of the 3 powers: judiciary, executive and legislative. The president and the representatives are directly elected by the people. These representatives do not hold any position in the cabinet.

So people like Samy Vellu who was elected to represent a department would not be a minister in the cabinet in France. Unfortunately, under the Malaysian system, he was holding work minister of Malaysia for over 20 years, known as the longest serving ministry ever in the history of Malaysia. He was in the executive and legislative branch at the same time. In fact, the Malaysian constitution requires that the Prime Ministry must be a member from the parliament and cabinet members are chosen from among the lower house (elected by the people) and the upper house (assigned by the Prime Minister).

I'm just a bit surprised that there exist countries that actually have different people in the legislative and executive power. And they can just change the cabinet before the 5 years term. It would be nice to different people leading the government every once in a while.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Where to find Marmite in Nantes

I have been running out of Marmite for a while and just couldn't find it in any French supermarket here. I purposely went to Chinatown last weekend as some people told me some Chinese grocery stores might be selling it, but I didn't see any. I need Marmite every time I eat porridge and recently I have been craving for porridge. So where I can find Marmite in Nantes? Posted this question on Facebook and two minutes later someone gave me a link to a forum and someone in the forum mentioned about Comptoir Irlandais, an Irish shop that sells Irish football clubs products plus some grocery.

I have never thought of finding it in an Irish shop. I forgot this product is originated from England. 6.50 euro for 250g, very expensive, but no choice, better than sending it from Malaysia.

The address of this Irish shop (hubby said it is a chain and the owner is from Brittany):
12, rue de Verdun
Angle rue de Strasbourg, between la Cathédrale and les Nouvelles Galeries

Now I can enjoy my porridge with Marmite!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Class duty

I'm very surprised that in France students do not have to perform class duty.

Basically, they do not directly participate in cleaning the classroom: sweep the floor, clean the white board, align and tidy the chairs and desks, wipe the windows, empty the dustbin and decorate the white board at the back of the class with articles, photos, students art work...

My MIL told me that during her time, she had to go collect woods for the school. But Hubby and FIL had never involved in anything like this during their school life. My MIL explained that ever since the 1968 student demonstration, French education system has evolved in a way that students are protected against labor type of works. Their only duty is to study. And, no extra curriculum activities.

Personally I think class duty is necessary to help build the sense of responsibility, teamwork and sense of belonging to the class. During my time, class duty started as ever as standard 1 (primary school). Usually, every student has to perform the duty once a week, either before class started or during the recess time. During the duty, two students sweep the floor, two students align the desks and chairs, one wipe the windows, one clean the white board and empty and dustbin. A class committee would be nominated to handle the cleaning schedule and make sure everyone does their job. A prefect would be given the responsibility to grade the cleanliness of the class everyday. Every class competes for the Cleanliness Award which is given out once a month and class who won would hung the Award (a flame with a certificate) in the classroom. I had been a class committee. For a very long time we never won the Award. I didn't understand it as it was a boy school and only form 6 classes had girl students and usually girls clean better than guys. So, I led a group of students to decorate the classroom with Chinese NY red envelope and the Malay ketupat wrapping plus made sure everyone cleans well everyday. Eventually, we got the Award, but it was immediately broken by our class monitor while trying to hung it on the wall. Well, at least it was something to be nostalgic about.