Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Mission accomplished

I started this challenge in August 2008. It took a bit more than 8 months to finish. Hubby helped at the beginning but soon his patience worn out. Well, he managed to put 4 pieces of the blue sky at the right place.

Last part to finish: the blue blue sky. It required a lot of patience as it was difficult to distinguish the subtle difference between layer of blue color.

It was not a smooth process. Sometimes I spent minutes and still couldn't put one piece on the right spot. It is about perseverance. I kept on going and finally managed to get a clue from the shape or the color. One led to another, piece by piece, all of them are at the right place.

Now, the questions are: where to store this and when are we going to visit the real place.

The rich British are here

Saw these cars in front of an hotel parking lot. The British are invading Brittany with their luxury cars. Some of these cars are from Jersey, England's tax haven. Since there are so many radars on the highways here, I wonder if they can fully enjoy the power of their cars. The French authorities might not have access to the British car registration system to track down their address to send them a fine?

Saturday, April 25, 2009

I found jacob's and Dr Pepper

I can't believe we found jacob's cracker and Dr Pepper in Auchan. They are placed on the rack of British food products. Cool I don't have to but Jacob's from Malaysia now. It tastes a bit different though but well just have to get used to it. I wonder if Dr Pepper is sold in England since it is a local drink from Texas?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

About table manner

Curious about why some French couldn't stand to stay with their parents once they turned adult, I talked to some people and the responses are almost identical: they want their freedom. There are different aspects of freedom they are referring to but I will just focus on one point: Eating manner. For example, freedom to eat at whatever time, whatever food, at whatever speed and freedom to choose where to eat.

Thinking about how the eating manner goes in my family, I would say that I have most part of these freedom when I was staying with my parents. At one point, my mother would come home from work and usually she would rant that she didn't know what to cook. But eventually, like a magician, she managed to put yummy food on the table: usually a plate of meat, a plate of vegetable and a big bowl of soup. We do not have a very formal eating manner in which everyone has to sit together when having dinner. It happened quite often that my mother would go to take shower once she announced that the dinner was ready, someone would be on the phone, someone hasn't arrived from work. Those who are ready to eat would sit around the table and start eating. It could happen that when my mother is out of the shower, some family members have already finished eating and go mind their own business: watching TV, reading, on the phone, go dating with girlfriend/boyfriend. My father is usually the first one to eat and the first one to finish. I was usually among the first to start eating and the last one to finish. Since all the food are in the middle of the table, we could eat more on the dish we like and less on those we don't like. Everyone washes their own dish after dinner.

Down the time line my siblings got married but they come home very often. Sometimes they call my mother to ask if there is anything left to eat. My mother would heat up the leftover or add another dish. Sometimes they bring in a fish they just bought from the night market and my mother would steam it at no time. My happiest moment was when my father suggested to have supper (my gosh I have never have supper in France!). We would go to have a bowl of noodle or just send someone to get the food. The dining table does enforce the family ties, but at a very different way.

Now back to France. My French family has a very formal table manner. Before eating, someone would place the plates, utensils and glasses on the table and they are rules in placing them. Then, my MIL would announce everyone "a table" and everyone has to show up if not the dinner won't start. We usually start with some appetizers while the main dishes are being cooked. Then we pass to main dish and my MIL would serve food from the frying pans and place them directly on our plate. The meal is then followed by some cheese and salad, dessert and a cup of coffee/tea.

It takes some time to finish all 4 courses of food. Sometimes I get bored and have nothing to say so I just keep eating the appetizer and eventually got fulled before we pass to dessert. When I first got here hubby was teaching me many unsaid rules: close your mouth when you eat, can not fart, can not burp, can not start eating before everyone is there, can not leave the table before everyone finishes, can not place your elbows on the table...

When I told my family about the table manner here, they just couldn't understand how people have so much time and so much things to talk about over a dinner. I was amazed at how young adults could having long conversation with their parents' friends or just sit quietly until the end of a meal (I would have long gone to mind my own business to escape boring conversation).

So, staying with my parents in Malaysia, no problem. Staying with my in laws in France, no, I prefer not. :-)

Sunday, April 19, 2009

A screaming neighbor

This evening, while I was enjoying the quiet and peaceful scenery outside the window, I heard sharp screaming coming out downstairs. It lasted for a while so we rushed out to see what happened. A women was yelling that "My baby is dead, my husband left, help, help..." I got scared thinking that she might accidentally kill her baby or something. Neighbors rushed out to look after her and several people were calling the police at the same time. Unfortunately, the police refused to show up even though the woman was threatening to kill herself.

Several neighbors stayed to comfort her but she kept yelling "my baby is dead, I want my mother, help, help...". From someone we realized that her baby was dead one month ago and she still couldn't get over it and apparently her boyfriend just broke up with her. From the smell it seemed like she had been drinking.

Since she was still unstable after a while, a neighbor proposed her to call her mother as she kept asking for her mother. Eventually she refused and said:"That wouldn't help, she lives in an apartment, what can she do?" Neighbor suggested she stay with her mother for a while but she kept saying that it was not possible.

I ponder for a while about this, the fact that most French adult do not live with their parents even though they are poor or having problems. It seems that once being adult, the relationship of parents-children changed.

I have a coworker who recently bought a piece of land and is planning to build the house by herself. The construction is going to take about 4 years so to save cost, she plans to stay with her parents. To my surprise, she was referring to stay in a caravan in her parents' garden. Yeah, so even though she is alone, she couldn't really move inside the parents house, but just outside in the garden. She explained that both her and her parents would like to have some privacy, but it really astonished me that once adult, children and parents couldn't live under the same roof anymore. The opposite is the same, my French family couldn't understand how my parents live with their child and grandchildren.

We really come from a different world.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A romantic moment

Yesterday when I got home with an exhausted body, I saw this laying down on the floor with a note:"Mommy, we will take care of you." Hubby was not in.

I advanced, and bumped into the second note:"Follow the numbers lah!"

I made a detour to the kitchen and discovered the note number 1 "Boil the water, once it is boiling, put the pasta for 8 minutes." Ok the dinner is almost ready, I just need to follow the step.

Another note for cooking instruction:"Get the sauce and pour it over the pasta." Simple.

In front of the fridge a note saying :"Get the cider lah!" Yeah for sure I will have dinner with a cup of Brittany apple cider.

Easter bunny was holding a note:"Enjoy!". Beside the bunny was the cup and a plate.

"Hmm banana", the monkey says. What about it?

Oh, my favorite banana cake as dessert! Cool.

Just want to share a happy and romantic moment with you all. :-)

Friday, April 10, 2009

Is 1800€/month enough to have a good life in Paris?

A French school teacher was complaining that she doesn't earn enough money to enjoy a good life. She was very disappointed that the government didn't compensate her enough for all the hard works she has put in (3 years of higher education + 1 year preparation for the exam to be a teacher). She is 31 years old, single and has no children. She earns 1800€ net a month, in which 750€ goes to apartment rental. After deducting all the necessary expenses, it leaves her 20€ a day to survive. To reduce her expenses, she brings her own food to work as she considers that the canteen food in her school is too expensive. Information shows that she lives in a popular neighborhood in Paris.

Well, there are two ways to improve her financial situation:
1. Increase the income
2. Reduce the expenses

To increase her income, she could offer to teach in a tuition center, take in private students, do some part time job. To reduce her income, she could share the apartment with someone else or move to a less popular or smaller apartment (I know of a friend who used to live in an apartment the size of her room). Say that he rent drops to 400€, she can put the extra 350€ in a saving fund and eventually use it as a down payment for an apartment and make use the 0% loan she is entitled from the government.

I would really be worried if she doesn't act on her own and only wait for the government to increase her salary. The government has a deep deficit hole to fill and has been cutting costs. What would happen when she has a kid to support? What would happen in 20-25 years when she is retired and still couldn't afford her own apartment and half of her pension has to go into rent? We are witnessing a lot of retirees who couldn't meet their ends these days as they don't own a property and seeing their purchasing power deteriorating. I hope she wouldn't become one of them.

I'm sure they are a lot of people living in a poorer conditions than hers but who still hang in there and do not complaint. Marion, please act on your own, you need to set a good example to your students.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Liberty vs conformity

It is hard to believe, as a foreigner in this country, that in France a region has only one kind of roof color. If you are living on the north side of the Loire river, chances are you will be covered under gray slates; else living under the red clay tile on the other side of the Loire. No choice for other colors in a residential area.

Looking at one of the French mottos, Liberty which consists of being able to do anything that does not harm others. Well, I don't think having a different kind of roof color is going to harm anyone, but I guess in this case conformity takes over the personal liberty in choosing what roof color his or her house going to be. On the other hand, it means that the group of students who took over the University president's office in order to get passed this semester without exams are violating this motto (they hurt some officers there).

Conformity in this case would mean that in France, you either see villages like this:

Or like this:

No choice for a sky blue color (maybe in very exceptional condition?)

No choice for a natural green color neither

In new residency areas, you rarely see anything like this: houses with different roof colors.

So, if all this life I'm dreaming to live under a blue roof, I need to pack my bag and move out of this country now or start dreaming of a gray slate roof for my future house. Sometimes adapting means giving up as well.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Which roof is prettier

I'm having a poll on the right hand site of the blog. Please vote which roof among these two houses that you would fall in love / love at first sight! I will tell you the purpose of this poll later. Thanks!

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Malaysia is blacklisted as the tax haven

I didn't follow much the G20 meeting besides the news about Obama kissing the queen and giving her an Iphone.

I didn't know what is a tax haven until my coworkers and French family expressing their astonishment that Malaysia in one of the four countries being blacklisted as the tax haven who do not follow the OECD international tax standards, together with Costa Rica, Uruguay and the Philippines.

Oh wait, they are actually taking about the Labuan financial center, one of the territories in the East Malaysia. See how a media can manupulate the readers, everyone was believing that the whole Malaysia is doing this, but actually they are referring to one territory. It is just like people missundertood that the whole France is blacklisted while only the Martini island was involved.

I have to admit that I'm equally surprised. I would have thought that those in the blacklist should be those from Caribbean Islands (impression from US movies about money laundry) and Switzerland (thats why they couldn't join the EU).

If Malaysia (Labuan) does not cooperate with the international financial agencies, why would our politicians all hide their savings in Switzerland? They might as well having their accounts in Labuan.

A little background research, what are the factors that consider a juridiction is a tax haven:

1. No or only nominal income tax
2. Protection of personal financial information
3. Lack of transparency
4. Attracting companies having fake activities

Good to know, I should start transfering my saving here to Labuan so that I don't have to pay the exorbitant capital gain taxes in France. I hope it would be easy to open an acount there. Anyone wants to join me? I will only charge a small fee if you want to use my account. :-)

The fish story (cont)

I didn't have chance to blog about this on the April fool's day.

Photo source

The French TVs like to play joke during the fish day and some people really believe in them. This year, the French 2 channel was informing its audiences during the 8pm news that wind turbine (éolien in French) that produces electricity from wind energy is slowing down the earth rotation, thus adding one hour per day to our current time system. It showed an interview with a watchmaker who was worried that he won't be able to sell his clocks and watches and would incur a big lost in his business.

At this point, hubby was all shouting and saying that there was no way this was real and it should be an April fool joke. We waited until the end of the news and there was no clarification from the channel that it was indeed a joke. Until this point we are not sure whether this announcement was from a solid research studies or it was simply a joke. So, do you believe in this report?

Between, our teddy bear got fished!

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Did you get "fished"?

I didn't know why April fool is called "poisson d'avril" = April fish in French until someone explained it to me. During the first day of April it is a common practice to stick a drawing of fish on someone's back. I didn't get fished today but I managed to fool hubby. I was trying out on three people and only him got tricked. He trusts me too much I guess. So, did you get fished?