Monday, March 30, 2009

A piece of shit

Hubby was home earlier than expected this evening after his diving class.

Me: Why did you get home so early?
Him: Let's play a game. You can ask me any question and I can only answer yes or no.
Me: Ok. Something happened during your swimming class that was why you got home early.
Him: Yes.
Me: Your teacher was sick.
Him: No.
Me: Your semester is over.
Him: No.
Me: Not enough students came to the class.
Him: No.
Me: Water shortage in the swimming pool.
Him: No.
Me: Something weird happened.
Him: Yes.

At this point he broke the rule of yes and no by giving me some hints.
Him: The class got canceled due to one thing that I said.
Me: The water was dirty.
Him: kind of but not exactly.
Me: You saw shit in the water!!
Him: Bingo!!!

Me: What? You really saw shit in the swimming pool?
Him: Yes, I saw a piece of shit and I told everyone about it. They decided to close the swimming pool so everyone has to go.

Holy shit, how could this happened?

Friday, March 27, 2009

Old hobby: watching Hong Kong series

It has been a week I haven't posted anything as I have gone back to my old hobby: watching Hong Kong drama series, which consumes most of my free time.

I used to watch a lot of HK series with my family. We would discuss about the scenes and the characters over dinner. We would compare the stories with what was happening in real life. I stopped doing this ever since I moved to the US and then France. In France I was subscribed to some Chinese channels and managed to watch some Korean, Taiwanese and Chinese dramas, but Cantonese dramas were either unavailable or have been duped in Mandarin on these channels. I miss watching HK series in Cantonese.

This hobby came back after my trip to Malaysia. "The gem of life" was on air at that time and everyone was talking about it. The day I returned to France, coincidentally someone gave me a link to watch it online so I was hooked over two weeks, finishing the 82 episodes in two weeks. Since it was very time consuming I decided to stop.

Last week I spotted some of the DVDs my sister lent me and one of them was the series of "Heart of greed II". I started watching them and immediately glued to the screen. I follow it religiously every day after work. The storyline is so interesting and it reminded me of many blissful time watching series with my family.

Well, I would have to stop after this series and these dramas are very addictive!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Sakura à Nantes

Today, 1,2 million of French were on the street, protested against the deteriorating purchasing power, the explosive cost of living and the insecurity of employment. The economy crisis seems to have scared off a majority of the population and they urged the government to take immediate actions. I share their views that the country is facing big challenges. However, a layman like me has no solutions to the current situation. What I can do is just to make myself happy by enjoying the transformation of the nature around me. This evening I was happy enough to not be blocked from any demonstration and managed to arrive home on time, to be able to snap some photos of the sakura around our apartment.

Hopefully France will become stronger after the crisis.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The super spring

We have a perfect weather this week. The signs of spring have gotten me permeated in immense happiness. These mornings I have been passing by abundant of trees similar to cherry blossom, in white and in pink. Too bad I didn't have chance to take photos.

Cherry Blossom in Rennes, photo taken from here.

This afternoon I decided to visit the park across the street from my company. Seeing the trees and plants, I have a feeling they are eager to be alive again and see the beautiful world.

Winter is almost over.

The sun is shining, the birds are singing, the flowers are blossoming.

This is a weird plant. The old leaves have not completely fallen but the new leaves are pushing out.

This one is coming out earlier than everyone else. He is the winner!

While snapping photos around the company building, a coworker saw and couldn't understand why I'm taking photo. He actually asked:"What happened to you?" I told him nothing happened to me, I'm just enjoying the spring. We then chatted for a while. He is usually a shy person, I didn't expect the spring could bring us to talk together, cool.

Just thought this is a cute photo. It says "I should not enter" in French. Dogs are forbidden to enter this park.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Made in Malaysia

A friend was celebrating his 30 years old birthday so we bought him some silly small gifts.

An apron with a "sex" recipe on it.

Beer coasters with his name on it.

A roll of toilet paper with the word Happy 30 years.

Well, how can condom be left out? This one is with the chocolate favor.

I couldn't believe this condom is made in Malaysia. Since when Malaysia exports condoms overseas? Weird.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

My first French graduation ceremony

Last Friday I attended my first French graduation / commencement ceremony (remise des diplômes). Well, I didn't know it existed until I received an invitation card. According to hubby, he has never attended any school ceremony that marks the end of a class. So, graduation ceremonies from kindergarten, primary school, secondary and higher education might mean nothing to the majority of French.

As expected, no graduation cap and gown, no graduation hall so the ceremony was held somewhere far from the campus. Very unexpectedly is that only a few students were called up on stage to receive their diploma (real one instead of a cover) . The majority of the students have to collect it outside the ceremony hall.

The ceremony was supposed to start at 6pm but it only started around 7pm. If I knew this I won't had to leave work at 4pm to make sure I could arrive on time.

I know the ceremony would be very different but didn't know it could be so different from the one I know. No students queuing up to go on stage, instead they were called up on stage with their professor. Turned out the ceremony was about introducing all the master degrees and they invited some students to talk about their experience. At this point I became panicked as in our program only 4 students turned up and I was the only international student.

Eventually for our program only the program professor and one out of 4 of us were called on stage. This kind of professor advertising about the program and student sharing about their feeling speech lasted for two hours. Personally I believe the advertising got the wrong audiences. People who present were mostly students who just finished their studies or their family members or the University employees. Shouldn't they do the advertising to students who are still in their 4th year and haven't decided their major on the 5th year?

We finally got our diploma outside the hall.

The ceremony was followed by a cocktail party, a very common practice for the French. They invited some artists to entertain the guests.

A jazz band for the night.

After several glass of cocktail hubby was not sure if he could still drive. He tried the alcohol test and he failed. So, I have to drive him home instead.

The whole ceremony was an eye opening for me. Since it was only the second year they organize this event there are still room to improve. If I knew the whole ceremony is about advertising the master courses I wouldn't have come. But on the other hand I was glad to see the other classmates and the professor again. As for hubby, he was the real "victim" of the night as the only purpose he came was to see me getting my diploma on the stage and feel proud for me. Well, now we know what a French graduation ceremony looks like.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Grab a deal with Malaysia Airlines

Recently I signed up with Malaysia Airlines grab a deal program which targets at student and expatriate. Since then I have been receiving email alerts about their promotion and this one sounds really interesting: go home for Hari Raya Puasa (Ramadan festival) for 756.82 euros.

Well, it is a good deal considering that it is a direct flight. I was paying around 640 euros in 2006 but for this kind of price you have to book 9 months in advance.

Now I'm struggling between going home for Raya 2009 or Chinese New Year 2010? It has been ages (8 years?) I haven't celebrated Raya. I'm all for the Ramadan Bazaar and open house with the Muslim friends. Besides Hubby has never experienced Raya, I even told him that he could shake hand with our Sultan at the Palace during the open house, he didn't seem to be impressed though.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Mount Kinabalu Trip: The Kinabalu Pine Resort

It has been a month since we conquered the Kinabalu mountain. Here I'm sharing some information for people who would like to take up the challenge in the future.

After comparing different tour packages available, we decided to take things on our own and have a free and easy trip. Climbing mountain is a real challenge for me so as an encouragement plus to ensure a good night sleep before the big day, we reserved a deluxe room with the mountain view with the Kinabalu Pine Resort.

This resort is located 7km away from the Kinabalu entrance park. It is within walking distance to the Kundasang town, but getting a public transport to the Kinabalu is a real hassle. I would recommend this resort to people who come with their own car. It took us sometimes around 30 minutes to get a minivan with a RM2 fee else you have to pay RM20 for a taxi. I was surprised that the resort didn't provide transportation, they actually asked for RM44 a way just to send us to the park!

As you can see from the name, this resort is surrounded by pine trees.

A nice place to stay if you come with a group of friends or families, can chit chat at the deck outside.

The view of mount Kinabalu from our room. It was very foggy that day and we could only see the half mountain.

Getting more foggy and we prayed hard that the weather condition would be better on our climbing day.

One night internet rate with this resort was RM284. However when we checked in, they forgot to include our dinner voucher. When asked for it, they actually reduced the price to RM250. We didn't know what was happening, but was happily accepted a reduce rate plus a yummy dinner set. We got to choose two meat, two veggies dishes and a soup with market price of around RM60. Eventually we chose a plate of chili shrimp, fish with shrimp paste sauce, local mushroom, mixed vegetable and tom yam soup.

After the satisfying dinner, the sky started to clear up and we managed to see a tip of the mountain.

The condition on the morning of the climbing day. The sky was crystal clear and we finally managed to see the whole mountain.

Mount Kinabalu, here we come!

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Passport renewed within a day

My passport was going to expire only in late 2010 but I figured it would be a lot easier to renew it while I was in Malaysia. I arrived at 8am and got out of the Immigration office a little before 9am. Got back to collect the new passport 2 hours later. Simple, easy and efficient. Just need to bring in your IC, passport, fill a form and take photos there. I needed to write a letter for the early renewal though. I paid RM300 for a 5 years duration but I heard that the fee will be reduced to RM150 in June 2009. Some immigration offices will operate on weekend too.

Unlike in the USA where I could send my passport by post to the nearest consulate for renewal, in France I would have to go in person. There is only one consulate here and it is located in Paris. So, not only I have to travel to Paris, I will have to come back later to collect it as all passports will be sent to London for processing. All these are time and money consuming.

For the Malaysian service, there are only two points I wish they could improve:
1. The application process could had been a lot faster if the payment officer didn't chat non stop for like 5 - 10 minutes with his coworkers. Everyone was waiting to pay and leave as soon as possible to continue with their daily errands.

2. Sometimes the processing officers reject photos taken elsewhere so everyone was taking photo using the machine (RM7) there. Unfortunately, the worker there asked us to take the photo down stair (RM10) as she was "busy" photocopying ID.

Well, she had only one customer for photocopy and she sent all of us down stair and we had to pay extra RM3 for it. We seriously suspect the photo shop down stair is her business and she was just an employee at the immigration office to operate the photo machine.

I used this machine to print my EPF statement. The administrative processes are surely simplified nowadays with all these facilities.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

With Free: calling anywhere from France for free

At this point, with our Iternet Service Provider (ISP) Free Telecom, we can call the fixed line of 97 countries for free. I didn't know that they could do the reverse, where technically, we can call France and any one of these 97 countries, from anywhere of the world, for free.

We did that with this software, X-Lite. While vacationing in Malaysia, we called France using this software and it worked well. All we need was just a SIP account with our ISP, an internet connection and we are good to go. The quality of the phone call was so excellent that people we called thought we were calling from France.

I was told that there were many abuses so Free decided to block phone call from certain countries to certain countries. For example if we are in Malaysia, I'm not sure if I can call China for free as if I were calling from France. Well, calling France from Malaysia for nothing is already good enough for me. I just simply love all these value added services.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Hatyai is about eating, shopping, massaging, praying &

We were a group of about 40 adults and kids. Except Fabien and some kids, most of us have been to Hatyai at least one. Therefore, we were not going to the typical tourist destinations but mainly the goals were to eat, shop, pray and do some massage.

Thai food is famous in the world. Look at all these different spices at a market.

We were told that seafood here is a lot cheaper than Malaysia, so we grabbed as much as we can. :-)

The famous fried pork at a restaurant facing the Buddha statue.

The Buddha statue from the restaurant.

Beside seafood, a lot of Malaysians come here for the bird nest and shark fin soup. This bird nest + coconut combo = 500 Thai baht or around 10 euros. Fabien didn't touch any of these as he found the concept of bird nest weird.

Hubby wanted to try pathai in Thailand but it seems that pathai is not so popular in this region. We had a hard time finding it and I think a lot of the group members were disappointed to eat a plate of noodle as lunch instead of seafood or some typical Thai dishes.

There was a lantern exhibition and I found them splendid.

Hatyai is a shopping heaven for many Malaysians as suddenly we feel the strong purchasing power. At the end of the trip everyone brought home many Made in Thailand products.

We had an oil massage the first afternoon when we arrived and we really enjoyed it. It was 600 baht per person for 90 minutes. Hubby was skeptical for the Thai style massage at the beginning as he didn't enjoy the Indonesia bone cracking style. He finally tried it while I was doing shopping and he felt very good after. A traditional Thai massage only cost 240 baht for 90 minutes. We then tried the foot massage twice, 250 baht or around 5 euros for 1 hour.

Beside all these activities, Thailand is famous for it's sex tourism industry and Hatyai is no exception to this. We didn't go to the infamous "Tiger show" or "Thai Girl show" or "ping pong show" as we were not really interested. Usually these shows are popular among some old and lecherous looking men. In this kind of show, Thai girls use their private part to perform some sexual related show. Last I heard, these girls pull out fire cracker from their private part and light it after. Scary.

We heard that we can see prostitute everywhere in Hatyai but after some observation we couldn't spot any of them. We tried to look at some "Stop" sign junction but nobody was pulling any man passing by for business. The only "suspect" we saw was an "ah kuah" or man dressing as woman waiting for business.

After some consultation, we were told to look at old man or western man with a young Thai girl. The girl usually come along with a bag for her changing clothes. They would dress sexily and would not talk much with their client. With all these tips we started noticing them. True, they are usually with older man. At one point we spotted a woman who dressed extremely sexy with heavy markup and we told ourselves that she must be one of them. Surprisingly, we saw her again and this time she was with a man and two kids who call her "mummy". After this we simply gave up.