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.