Friday, December 24, 2010

Happy birthday and Merry Christmas!

One year ago:

One year later:

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Driving under the snow

10 years abroad, I had not driven under the snow. Well, winter in Austin is quite mild, and I managed to avoid the worst snow storm last year (I was on maternity leaves).

There's a first time for everything. This evening when we left Rennes, my carpoolers' spouse called to warn them about snow in Nantes. I got a call from hubby too, but along the highway the traffic was flowing smoothly. Arrived at the parking lot (carpoolers meeting point), the floor was covered with white snow.

I was a bit nervous, but since everyone drove slowly I got calmed down after a while.

The usual 10 minutes journey ended up taking 50 minutes.

Luckily when I arrived home, Aelig was fed, food was ready, hubby was smiling, all Christmas gifts ordered online arrived. Everything was fine until I realized that, I will be the one driving tomorrow and the weather forecast says snowing in the morning. Gosh...

Message from Embassy of Malaysia in France

Received an email + one reminder from Embassy of Malaysia in France , asking all the Malaysians in France to update their registration. If you did not receive it or if you have changed your email address, please refer to the following message:


TO : All Malaysians in France

FROM : Mohd Ridduan Mohd Nor
Third Secretary (Admin & Consular)
DATE : 21-12-2010

SUBJECT : Update Registration of Malaysians in

With reference to the above matter, I wish to thank you for taking your time to read this e-mail.

For your information, the Embassy of Malaysia in France would like to update the Registration of Malaysians in France. Kindly let us know if there is any changes on your house address and telephone number.

Thank you.

Wishing you & your family ‘MERRY CHRISTMAS & HAPPY NEW YEAR’.

Best Regards,


PS: You could send your update information to Ms Rogayah Decombredet at

Monday, December 20, 2010

All I want for Christmas is...

-that all the presents I ordered online would arrive on time before the big day. I could not imagine having to tell my love ones that I'm sorry, but their gifts are stuck somewhere due to the snow. I swear I won't laugh anymore at people who have their Christmas shopping done in Nov

-that the weather condition will not be too harsh for us to go to work and most importantly not preventing us to travel to the family reunion

-that Aelig manages to fight all the winter viruses that are causing her to have running nose and coughing

-that everyone could attend their family reunion as planned. One coworker just have a kid and his parents couldn't come because the train was canceled. Another one is planning to to Germany to see her family but Frankfurt Airport is closed...

-that Rudolph the red nosed reindeer leads Santa out of the snow storm and delivers me those presents I wanted

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Our first gift to Aelig

I just realized, that we had not bought any toy to Aelig. Well, she got some from friends and relatives, plus passed down toys from her dad. So, overall, she has a lot of toys to play with.

Since she walks now, we decided to buy her a baby cart. She could put all her toys inside and wander around with it. We could put her in and push her around in the apartment. I also love the colorful design.

We consider it as her Christmas gift but I could not wait until Christmas, so as soon as we received it (we ordered from internet), I asked hubby to assemble it and immediately let her played with it. She was not too keen at the beginning, but now we see her playing from time to time.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Big traffic jam

I took me 2 hours to arrive at work today. When I thought I was the last person to show up, some coworkers popped in after 10.30am. One told me that she left at 7.45am, got stuck in heavy traffic and only arrive at 10.30am, almost 3 hours even though she lives around 25 minutes away.

It was all due to the freezing weather with ice formed on the roads which led to accidents /slowing down traffic. Since November, we got stuck almost every morning on the highway when approching Rennes peripheries (highway that circulates around the city).

This map shows the usual road we take to go to work. We arrive from the South, get stuck for around 10 minutes, then take the East peripheries to go to North East of Rennes. This morning, there was a very heavy flow on the East peripheries, we got stuck far far before the peripheries due to two car accidents. I was the one driving and at the last minute, I decided that we should take the West peripheries instead. It ended as a good decision, as when we were driving smoothly through West, traffic going to East were forming a long long queue, cars lining bumper to bumper. It took us 20 minutes from the Peripheries to our office.

In the evening when going home, my carpoolers were saying that the other groups coming from Nantes, who left earlier than us, arrived much later than us because they got totally stuck on the East peripheries. We are considering changing our itinerary, which suits me well as we will pass by my office first and I don't have to walk as much before arriving my office. Well, I don't mind walking, but not in this cold winter.

A side note, during winter, with the traffic jams and weather conditions, I think it is wiser to live close by where you work than have to spend time traveling. I could be very frustrating and dangerous.

Friday, December 10, 2010

BCG vaccination - Who could give it?

While preparing for our trip to Malaysia, hubby consulted our family doctor which vaccines should Aelig take before the big departure. She sent the question to The Department of International Travel in the University Hospital of Nantes (CHU Nantes), who recommended BCG vaccine. Our doctor doesn't give this type of vaccination, he was told to contact CHU Nantes and receive the vaccine there. At that time, hubby thought babies need to get the vaccine in a special place.

We started contacting the hospital 3 months before our departure date. All our calls were redirected to an answering machine with a message saying that we could take an appointment with them through email, and that we will get a reply within two days. One month passed, albeit several attempts, we didn't manage to get someone on the phone, and we didn't get any reply from the mail.

So what should we do? I told my MIL about this problem, and she approached the hospital in her town for more information. She was told that no vaccine was necessary to go to Malaysia. I prefer to have second opinion before resting the case, so I talked to the pharmacist in our neighborhood. She confirmed that no special vaccination was necessary.

I went to see our doctor today, she insisted that we should get it done. Only then I realized it was for BCG. For me BCG is not a special vaccine for travel, during my time it was mandatory, I got vaccinated the second day after I was born. Hubby got it before he turned 3 months. But today we can only get it done in a a travel department under the hospital? That doesn't make sense to me.

I started asking around, a coworker who has two kids said it was the pediatrician who did it to her kids. I called her pediatrician but she was not in. I called a general practitioner in our area, the secretary said they no longer doing it. I tried my coworker's family doctor, she said I could come in for a visit, but it was not guaranteed that she would do it. At this point, I was a bit desperate so I seek help from my MIL. She called her family doctor and found out that neither she was doing it. Finally, she got the Protection Maternelle et Infantile (PMI), who finally agreed to give the vaccine but they are fully booked until mid January.

While scratching my head over a possible solution, my coworker thought that the whole situation was insane, that it was impossible that I would have so much troubles finding someone to give a BCG vaccine to Aelig. She suggested that I invent a story and call my pediatrician, to whom I was reluctant to call as with her I always have to take appointment several months in advance. Surprisingly, my pediatrician's secretary bought my story and agreed to receive Aelig on a Saturday morning (but she told me last time that the doctor does not work on Saturday!). Now, I got an appointment with my family doctor for the Mantoux test (to be performed several day before the real vaccination) and another appointment with the pediatrician to give the vaccination. BUT we got one big problem: CHU Nantes recommended us to do this at least one month before the travel! Now we will be 10 days before the travel, if Aelig has any negative reactions to this vaccine, we will be in big trouble.

Please pray for us.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Winter: the beauty and the pain

Whenever I hear people saying how much they love winter, I admire and envy them. I just don't know how to appreciate winter when my body has to fight with the cool constantly and I have to equip myself with gloves, hat, big coat. My inner fear is always about driving in a cool winter day on a slippery road. I still remember vividly a situation last year: I was pregnant, it was my turn to drive, it was raining heavily + windy, and I was passing a truck. The truck was pouring a lot of water towards my windshield and my car was shacking. When I finally passed the truck, my carpooler screamed "bravo" towards me as he was as nervous as me. It was one of the reasons that I accepted my doctor advise to be on maternity leaves earlier than planned: to avoid driving during winter.

But, I cannot avoid driving on winter, just like it is unwise to dislike winter since chances are I have to deal with it year after year. So, I just want to show one positive side of winter: the tranquil scenery!

This is a lake inside a park not far from my office. We went for lunch and discovered that it was frozen and covered with snow.

Hubby said that the weather is getting warmer now that I don't have to scrub the windshield every morning now. What a good news to hear.

Friday, December 03, 2010

56000 Chinese characters 汉字

Read an article recently in (article in Chinese) about Chinese characters. Here are some interesting facts / point of views from the author:

- There are 56000 Chinese characters in one of the Chinese dictionaries (howly cow I didn't know that)
- During the nine years mandatory education in school, every Chinese student is introduced to around 3500 characters (I had 14 years of Chinese classes but I'm not sure I know as much characters)
- The Chinese government considers someone who knows less than 1200 Chinese characters as illiterate (YAHOO I'm not illiterate in the Chinese government's eyes)
- People who know more than 4000 characters are most likely working in the literature industry, eg reporters, writers (Gosh that means I won't be able to be a writer, it was my ambition during my childhood)
- People who know more than 5000 and above Chinese characters are usually expert in the language and they are rare in the society (how can someone be considered as an expert when he or she only knows less than 10% of the total Chinese characters?)

The author concluded that it is not uncommon for a Chinese to not know certain Chinese characters. He gave some example of some rarely used characters here and I know none of them!

This is considered one of the most complex character to write. 57 strokes and it took me close to one minute to finish writing it. It doesn't exist in most of the Chinese softwares. It means one kind of noddle in Shanxi.

It all makes sense to me now that every night I had to practice Chinese characters during my primary school years. There is no shortcut, you just need to learn them one by one and memorize them. I'm glad I learn it since I was little, one should not have problem learning to speak Mandarin when they are adult, but to master the writing part it will need a lot of effort and perseverance.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Cold outdoor, warm indoor

It is snowing outdoor.

But we are overwhelmed with love.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

11 months

Less than one month to go and she will be 1 year old! We are eager to celebrate the first Christmas with her.

New food introduced this month: pumpkin and caramel, surely she is a kid who doesn't refuse sweet stuffs. A headache for us though when feeding her in this chair...

She won't want to sit still and keep standing up and moving left right! She takes longer time to finish her meal now.

There is something about the washing machine that she loves: getting out the laundry and throwing them on the floor :-(

She is also curious what is inside the machine.

First thing in the morning when she walked into the living room: grabbed the bread on the table that her daddy claimed belongs to him.

To compensate daddy's lost, we went to get breakfast for him: a fresh out of oven pain au chocolat, sent directly to the bed by Aelig.

Having a walk outside in the cold weather. She could stand up by herself now without having to hold on to anything first in order to stand up.

Highlight of the month: she started walking 5 days before she turned 11 months! She was with her daddy and great-grandma when suddenly she was walking 11 steps. Even since then she keeps walking and doesn't crawl as much. How long will it take before this girl running around in the apartment and dressing her becomes impossible?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

99 euros Paris Orly - Malaysia

In October 2009 Air Asia annouced that they got the landing rights in Paris. This is for real as they are selling the ticket online now for 99 euros one way from Paris Orly to Kuala Lumpur Malaysia, or RM499 KL - Paris Orly. Good deal eh!

The trick is, you need to book between 22 Nov to 24 Nov and travel between 14 Feb to 10 Nov 2011. From what people told me, to grab the promotion, you need to be perseverance to try their website constantly during these 3 days.

Still, 200 euros round trip Paris-KL, is a steal.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Who is Yujin?

On the way to work yesterday I heard this on the radio:

Yujin needs to be proud of himself since in his country kids know how to make shoes at 4 years old. During the exchange, Nicolas won because he got 4 bags of potatoes and Yujin only got 2 Louis Vuitton bags.

The host kept going on about Yujin so I looked at hubby and had this conversation:

Me: Who is Yujin?
Him: The president of China.
Me: But his name is Hu Jintao!
Him: hmmmmm

I thought for a while, then I realize that it is very easy to make this type of mistake because:
1. The French do not pronounce H, so Hu becomes U.
2. Since the Chinese put their family name first followed by the given name, for the host Hujin = First name, Tao = Last name.

So the next time you see a French talks to a Chinese and the French says something about Yujin, don't be surprised to see a blank face on the Chinese. :-)

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Strike, demonstration and fall

I always thought that strike means a group of people who decided to stop working for a short period of time and would demonstrate in front of their work place. Such was the case of my company a while back and some of my coworkers appeared in the front page of a local newspaper. However, that was it, there was not much buzz in the air since it didn't give much pain to people most of the people didn't even notice it.

In France, a successful strike means getting a lot of attentions especially from the media. People who work in service have edge advances in this because when they don't work, it directly affects the citizen. Example people who work in public transport system, garbage collectors, teachers... Nobody will notice or give a buzz if I go on strike since my action would not directly influence their life.

In this photo one of the high schools in Nantes was blocked for several days.

Some students were gathered outside of the school, I wonder where did the others go, they probably stayed home watching TV?

Garbage collectors were on strike, there were rubbish everywhere.

When the refineries were blocked many gas stations were running out of gas. When people got wind of one station that remained open, they rushed to fill some gas.

Something that I didn't expect: the park across our apartment complex was closed due to the social movement. I went there on Saturday morning as I wanted to show Aelig some fall colors.

Could only took some photos outside the park.

Now I remember why we fall in love with this apartment, we have the perfect view of the season changes directly from our living room.

I love fall, but it is a season full of strike and demonstrations.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Home visit by a doctor

Aelig is sick. She has running nose for quite some times and over the weekend, she threw out after each feeding and had fever over 39 Celsius degree. We waited a day and gave her some medicine, the fever was gone but came back several hours later. Unfortunately it happened during the weekend, our general physician only works on Saturday morning and Monday is holiday so we will have to wait until Tuesday.

But I didn't want to wait. As far as I know fever could be dangerous especially for baby. Her fever lasted more than 24 hours already so I think it was better to call a doctor. In France, during the weekend, we have to call the Emergency Unit in the hospital. Hubby hesitated but decided to call when her fever went over 39 Celsius. After describing all the symptoms, the hospital decided to send someone over within 2 hours.

The doctor arrived at around 10.15pm. He checked the chest and the back, looked at the ears and her throat. He announced that she has Laryngitis or some kind of throat problem which causes her to vomit after feeding. He prescribed us some medicines which we could get from a pharmacy (pharmacies here take turn to operate during Sunday and holidays). The visit lasted for around 10 minutes and only caused us 21.60 euros (which will be reimbursed later).

What a relief to hear that it was not a big problem. Even though I don't understand why in France they don't have 24 hours clinics like what we have in Malaysia, it is good enough to know that doctor could just come to your house when needed. Praise the French medical system and I wish one day, medical care becomes a right to everyone in the world in an accessible and affordable way.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Aelig @ 10th months

Since Aelig holds things pretty good now, we tried to let her hold her own bottle, and it worked out wonderfully. Now, bottle feeding time = parents having peace for at least 5 minutes.

She likes to play with herself in the mirror, we wonder if she knows who she sees in there.

New diet introduced to her from 9th to 10th months: sweet potatoes and the evil pain au chocolat, she absolutely loved it.

Meeting new friends. She starts to development some feelings: fear and jealousy! I forgot what Fabien was doing but when she sees that the other kid was moving towards her daddy she rushed to him at the same times. She knows how to climb up to our bed but has not mastered the skill to go down. She paused at the edge of the bed and called us to help her down.

We went to the forest to pick up some chestnuts. She was quiet all the way, I think she loved her bear sweater and felt good in it.

The highlight of the month: she could stand up without support now. At the beginning it was only for 5 seconds, now it could last for several minutes.

Our baby sitter requested to have shoes on her as she is learning how to walk now. On the other hand I read an article that suggested to let the baby bare foot while walking as this could give them extra sensitivity while stepping on the floor. So, we only let her have shoes on what it is cold.

The little angle is so active that she could turn into little monster sometimes. She started to venture into more corner in the apartment, her favorite being the recycling box where she could tear papers and then put them into her mouth.

Tonight I discovered that she was quietly sitting next to the bookshelf and took off some books and played with them. By playing I meant, tearing off my University class book.

Her happy hours mean our painful hours and we were reminded that the worst is still yet to come. We shall see.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Is silence always golden?

After more than 5 years in France, my perceptions for many things here have changed, mostly towards the positive side. One that hasn't is my opinion towards the strikers / protesters who use whatever methods they could to get heard and to achieve, sometimes, their personal interests. Egoism was the word I used when being interviewed on the TV and on newspaper during the CPE demonstration back in 2006.

Today, unfortunately, my view stays the same. For me, it is very simple, everybody in this country is entitled to go on strike, in the condition that they do let others live their everyday's life. The CPE demonstration had made the commute to my French classes extremely painful. Today, those who are not happy with the retirement reform are once again using methods that would annoy everyone in order to get attention. It has created huge inconveniences for those who are not on strike. I had to face the risk to not have enough gas to go to work, stuck in traffic because the protesters were distributing their brochures, rushed to office to find out that the meeting was delayed because the client got stuck in the traffic jam (due to strike).

My question, who granted these people the right to block schools, public transport system and refineries? Some even go further to destroy public properties. No, the French laws do not allow it's people to do it, but, over the years, it has been tolerated. Not every French agrees on these egoist teleological approaches, but they keep quiet.

This leads me to think, is silence always golden? Like the saying "the squeaky wheel gets the grease", shouldn't those who do not agree on these selfish actions, stand out and express ourselves? I, actually tried to, but chicken out at the end:

- On the way to work, I passed by a high school. The entrance was blocked by chairs and tables; students were gathered outside the school. I told myself that they are wasting the tax payers money but I didn't dare to voice it. I intended to take photos but when I saw the huge group of young kids, I snapped and RUN AWAY. Since when high schoolers look and act like gangster?
- After 1 hour of driving I was 5 minutes away from my office. I got stuck for 20 minutes because the strikers were distributing handouts in one of the roundabout. They were trying to hand it to me but I didn't stop and didn't turn down my window and instead giving them a nasty face. That was all I dare to do, sadly. I almost shout at them but I hold my tongue.

Luckily I can still voice through blogging.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

A moment of pause

A friend sent me a link to an online news site, which announced the lost of a friend we got to know during our day in Austin, Texas. She jumped out from the fourth floor of an hotel in Scotland during her business trip. It comes as a big shock to me as she looked always cheerful and happy when she was surrounded by people.

It is a moment of pause, to wonder, why a bright person like her would choose to end her life? She just got her MBA from London Business School, working with one of the world top management firms McKinsey = leading a promising career life. For personal development, she just got married and found her faith. She was also very close to her family members. She was an adventurer, had traveled to many countries in the world and have friends from different backgrounds and cultures.

All these, we could only see from the outside. We do not know what was her thought and what was she struggling from. There must be something bordering her that she couldn't overcome by herself. Human mine is hard to read.

Melanie, rest in peace, will keep your cheerful face in my memory.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

I park under a chestnut tree

Nobody told me that I should avoid to park under a tree, or be more specific a chestnut tree. I found it out the hard way, after paying 160 euros to repair my car.

It is the chestnut season, almost every minute there is spiny burr falls and release the fruits inside.

Free chestnut and hazelnut on the floor.

Well, it becomes a problem when the leaves and fruits fall on the car and stuck between the windshield and car hood. It prevents water from evacuating effectively. Such had happened to my car and it caused some water caught under the front passenger seat. At the beginning I didn't pay much attention and the car started to stink. And I told myself, luckily it is under under warranty. But no, the garage told me that this could happens anytime so it would not be covered by the warranty. So, 160 euros down into the drain. :-(

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

A stupid mistake

Hubby celebrated his birthday this week so I was planning to buy him a present.
We both love Katie Melua, and coincidently I heard on the radio that she was realizing a new album. I was all excited, I ordered it online.

When he arrived home, I had Aelig holding the CD with both hands and brought her to hubby. We were all happy to listen to the new CD when hubby said: I think I bought you this album last time.

Ah, I didn't recognize the CD cover even though I was listening to the CD over and over again. What a stupid mistake? I just bought a gift to my husband, the same gift that I received several months ago. I'm speechless, I'm hopeless, I'm 无药可救.


Friday, September 24, 2010

9th months

Two days after she turned 8 months, she started to crawl. Now she is venturing into every corner she could reach in the apartment, we need to constantly keep an eye on her.

We have no choice but to put her in a closed playground. She does not stay too long inside, she yells and yells until we come to pick her.

We added French green bean to her diet. You can see that she loves hams, they were added into her mashed potatoes.

She loves to be carried around, so it suits her well to sit on daddy's shoulder.

The highlight of the month is of course her first long distance trip to the Jura Mountain and Switzerland.

She slept most of the time during the journey. When she woke up she got great-grandma on each side waiting to pamper her.

She fit well inside daddy's backpack. She is ready to go hiking with him.

Discovering hiking with us in the Jura Mountain.

Arrived at the destination after 1.5 hours. Bravo Aelig!

Crossing the French border towards Geneva Switzerland. This was the first time both Aelig and the 89 years old grandma visited Geneva. Hubby and me had been there in 2009 when my family visited France.

Posing at the lake Les Rousses overlooking Switzerland.

Visiting a cheese factory. See how many cheeses are stored here for fermentation.

The cheese girl.

This is not an advertisement. Anyhow, if you would like to hire her to endorse your product, please contact me. :-)

Four generation: great-grandma, grandpa, daddy and the little Aelig. She is a lucky girl to have so many family members who love her dearly. The next milestone in her life is to fly over to Malaysia to be with another group of family members. Another family reunion in her agenda!