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).