Sunday, September 29, 2013

Going to work with the little girl

It seems that Family Day has become an annual event in my company. They organized it again this year, on a Wednesday afternoon when kids are off school. When I told her about it, she immediately shouted : "Yes, I want to go to work with mummy!"

On the way to my office, to my surprise, she yelled "I have been here!". I'm not sure if she really remembered that she had been here last year, but hubby was convinced. We went to every offices and said "bonjour" to most of my coworkers. She was shy at the beginning but was greeting everyone later.

And then it came the highlight for kids : the snack time! She asked for drinks and cookies, and had no shame to ask for candies later.

We then went to my new office and met up with coworkers who did not work on Wednesday (so that they can take care of their kids at home), but decided to come in to show their kids around. Coincidently one kid was born on the same date as her but a year younger, who was as tall as the little girl. Ok everyone agreed that she is short compare to average kids in France, she has certainly got my gene on this.

We then lingered around my desk while I was checking emails. She ran around looking at people, everyone was kind to her. When I suggested that we should leave for home, she protested :"but I like here!". And then she asked:" Will your boss pay me since I'm working here?". Lol.

Here is the little girl who sat in the parking lot refusing to go home. I guess she had fun.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Bilingual road : Learning at her own pace

I was chatting with my coworker about kids. I was telling her my worries about my daughter's seemingly weak command in French compared to kids her age. She suggested that I should start speaking French and Mandarin at the sometimes with my daughter. She couldn't understand how a family can function like ours, where three languages were practiced at the same time at home.

Well, there were times that I have doubts about what we were doing.

The initial plan was that I take care of Mandarin and hubby takes care of French. One thing I didn't that into consideration was that a mother naturally interacts / handles more things with her child than a father. The outcome was that the little angel prefered to speak Mandarin than French, as she knew more vocabularies in Mandarin. We spent time together singing, reading and chatting in Mandarin. And then I wondered if I have put her in disadvantages compare to her pals at school.

1. At school while kids were singing songs that they have probably heard at home, she learned about them for the first time. Well, she did know a couple of French songs but not extensively.
2. She might not be familiar with instructions in French (while doing craft, drawing...).
3. During story telling times she might not understand much compare to her pals due to her weak vocabularies.

I suspected that these have made her behaved reservedly in classroom. While kids in her classroom started to form groups, she didn't belong to any and would usually play with boys or older kids. Her teacher used to tell me that she didn't speak much at class and sometimes didn't understand her instructions. Her after school carer told me that she was a quiet girl. I noticed that she spoke less fluently in French compared to kids her age.

And then this coworker told me: "Well, according to the National Education guideline, a kid that has finished the first year of Kindergarten should recognize 1 to 5. Does she know this?" The true is no. Yes, after one full year of school, she doesn't read 1 to 5. Another fact is that she doesn't know A to Z either. I'm restraining myself to teach her alphabet because I don't think I pronounce them correctly in French. I thought she would pick all these up at school. The coworker continued : "Some days I asked my daughter whether she had to work a lot at school, she told me no they were playing all days. The fact is, she was learning a lot but she thought it was games. They have a talented teacher who knows how to make learning fun, we are very lucky." I hope Aelig will meet a similar teacher, her current one has 33 kids to take care of, not sure if she could handle it.

At that point, I had all these questions to myself:
Should I change the method and start conversing with her in Mandarin and French?
Should I start teaching her writing and reading, even in Mandarin, even though kids here do these formally the first year they are in primary school?

In fact, kids in Malaysia start reading and writing since they enter kindergarten. They have dictations and small tests. I believe kids are capable of doing these before they turn 6. But I do ask myself what the rush? She still have a lot of time to learn. I started learning writing and reading when I was 7.

Before making any decisions, I decided to talk to her teachers. To my relief, her second year teacher thinks that she speaks well and blend in without problem with her classmates. Her after-school carer (the same one from last year) told me that she has improved a lot in term of expressions. And she eats well in the canteen. What a great news!

Now, we will continue the three languages practice at home (she doesn't speak English, she just tries to imitate us sometimes). And, I want to make learning a fun game for her. No pressure, she learns it at her own pace.

Teaching her how to write one to five.

She decides which exercise books she wants to "draw" with. Sometimes she writes a word, I write another one. She doesn't do it everyday.Well, learning is a lifelong process, way to go!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Her feminine side

I caught her applying lipbalm and perfume before going to school.
She insisted to wear only skirt.
To not dirty her white dancing shoes, she wore the black one out, then changed into the white one when arriving in her friend's house. She doesn't want to wear crocs anymore.
She plays with necklace and wristband.
She wants me to tie her hairs the way she wants.

Where did she get all these from? Certainly not from me. I do not do anything she does above.

"From my mum." I heard hubby replied.

Oh, indeed. My MIL did offer those accessories including a pair of ear rings to my daughter.
But, she is not the only one. The sitter gave her perfume as Christmas present.
All these are not a problem, I just feel weird seeing a three-year-old wearing perfume. Isn't it too early?
And, her winter clothes are mostly consisted of pants. Among the limited skirts I bought / passed down from her cousins, some are not allowed to wear to school, too bitchy according to hubby (such as the one in the photo above). So, we have had little scenes in the mornings as she wanted only skirt and I had nothing to offer her.

And, she got so tanned after one month with her grand-parents, with lots of time spent boating.
I grew up believing fair skin is the king. We even have a saying "fair skin hides aways many flaws".
I can hear my mother complains "oh no why got so tanned she is as black as a charcoal!"
Each time I see her tanned skin I just tell myself what a waste! She used to have glowy and smooth skin.
Maybe it will come back after winter.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Two photos on table manner

Found these two photos while researching on table manners.
This photo shows men squatting while eating. It is an habit in a province in China.
Well, I have seen many Chinese Ah Pek (Chinese old men), including my father, eating with one leg folded up, rice bowl on one hand and chopstick on the other. I raise my bowl too while eating noodle or soup in Malaysia, but I was told that it is impolite in France. And, I will not be acceptable to eat noodle like the guy in the photo.

Dialog translated in English : You forget the good manner, Fred one doesn't not put the elbows on the table.

I wonder if in France it is acceptable to rest your tits on the table. lol.

Salary increment : How about a week of baguette?

Manager : I would like to tell you that we are very satisfied with your performance. I believe you have been informed of your salary increment.
Friend : Yes.
A blank in the conversation. Apparently the manager was waiting for some form of appreciation.
Manager : Well, it seems that you are not happy about it.
Friend : Well, the increment is equivalent to my one week consumption of baguette, would you be happy if it were you?
Manager : ...(speechless).

As I have mentioned earlier, salary increment is very slow in my industry. Some people don't get any this year, except those who are doing an outstanding job. One year I got a merely 200€ (before tax) annual increment, which could buy me maybe an extra lunch per month? The manager who announced it to me was quite embarrassed to even spell out the amount. So nowadays when I receive a call from HR to inform me this kind of news, I politely say thank you and get on to my life. I don't feel anything for it anymore.

The true is, France has taught me to appreciate other aspects in my life than money. I'm staying because of all the reasons mentioned in the other post that are more important at this stage of my life.

Anyway, I kind of feel sad when this friend told me about the conversation above, as it really happened to him/her.

Monday, September 09, 2013

Another table etiquette


I was talking with my coworkers about the "no clinking of glasses in a crossover manner" rule, and there I discovered another table etiquette.

Coworker:"Often, during dinner,  I have to tell my son to keep his hands on the table."
Me: "What do you mean, why should your son put his hands on the table?"
Coworker:"Well, that's another table etiquette that we learn since we are a kid."

I have never heard of this, neither did hubby. I'm glad his family doesn't practice this. I was imagining how hard it could be for a little boy to have to sit still, hands on the table but elbows off the table. Especially, some lunches or dinners could last forever. Anyway, I'm not criticizing here, it is just hard for a foreigner to understand why these table etiquettes are being imposed.

Before checking out on google, let's have a little fun and guess why this rule exists:
1. In the medieval times, people died over dining table as weapons or poisons were hid under table. To prevent this, everyone should put their hands on the table.
2. To make sure everyone has cleaned their hands before eating.
3. To make sure that no one is flirting around with their neighbor under the table.
4. To make sure no one steals or hides food away.
5. It is a superstition, someone who doesn't respect it would be condemned to 10 years without sex.


Sunday, September 08, 2013

From green apple to table manners

It all started with a green apple.

We had a gathering in hubby's grandmother's house. There was an apple lying down on the grass, not far from the apple tree. It was still green, so it would be left rotten on the grass.

My MIL saw it, pick it up for me as she knows that I like eating crunchy apple. This immediately put my grandmother unease, "that can't be eaten!' she screamed. Seeing how she reacted, I hesitated between eating it or throwing it. Later, I decided to eat it as I didn't want to waste it. While cutting it to check if there was worm inside, I heard my FIL explained to grandma that my family doesn't mind eating apple when it is crunchy and acidly. "They actually plucked the apples fresh from the trees when they were visiting us" said him. "What's wrong with it?", I wanted to ask but I just kept quiet.

This led me to think about another incident several years back when I was having lunch in grandma's place. She offered me some fruits as dessert so I took an apple. She quickly rushed to pick up a knife while I was already taking the first bite. When the knife was handed to me, I looked at it and didn't know how to react. Ok, this might sound odd, but I actually don't know how to cut an apple without a peeler and a cutting board. In my family, we either bite it directly or we cut it into pieces then present them in a plate. While my BIL peeled his apple and cut it into pieces in his hand, I put down the knife and decided to eat it the way I'm comfortable with. I sensed that she was quite disturbed by the way I ate my apple but she didn't say anything.

While thinking about how different we are in eating habits with all kind of flashback to several similar incidents, we started our lunch with champagne toasting. There I was confronted with a table manner, as I was crossing my glass to toast with someone. Hubby nicely reminded me that this is a no no in their culture, that I should not cross my glass over others' arms while toasting. I suddenly burst up and said I do not want to respect a tradition that doesn't come with a good explanation. In fact, nobody ever told me why we couldn't do this. I made the point that eating for me is a pleasure, I don't want to think about all kind of rules that restrict that pleasure. My French family didn't say anything. I felt guilty but on other hand I really have enough of all these rules including the "elbows off the table" rule that I have violated on purpose in many occasions.

When I finally calmed down, I thought about my daughter. I can ignore these manners as I can pretend that I'm still a foreigner, she on the other hand has to know these rules and respect them. But to convince myself I have to first know why these rules existed.

Strangely, I couldn't find much information on the no crossing rule, it seems that it is not a common rule in the western world. One article explains that it is actually a kind of superstition, that a cross could only be made by the priests, and other who makes crosses will bring bad luck to oneself. As a non-believer it is hard to accept this explanation. As for the elbows off the table rule, many articles said that by putting elbows on table it risks knocking off things or bumping into people sitting beside you. Once again I'm not convinced.

I have yet decided what to do. We will see.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

French tolerance : The traveling people II

About 6 months ago I blogged about The Traveling People. Guess what, they are still here!

I got back from our summer vacation and I saw more camping cars parked on a piece of land in front an office building. We pass by it almost everyday while walking to lunch. I think the land was too packed, some of them decided to settle down in smaller lands close to our office. Now we can see kids running topless, women doing laundry (they got washing machine) and dishes, people eating...some kids even climbed to our floor and observed us from outside.

It seems that our office area was not the only one attracted them. They also spotted a big piece of field close to offices and restaurants. One group settled down on a land right in front of a housing area. I don't know how the residents take it.

I was amazed how they manage to find water and electricity supply in empty land. This group invaded the area, some parked their camping cars next to pedestrian walk. To avoid them we had to walk on roads. One afternoon we were dining in a restaurant just beside the land, we saw the owner asking the driver of a camping car to leave same space between the restaurant and the camping car. The driver said he was only staying for two days, but the owner insisted that he moved further from the restaurant. Well, he just ignored her.

Kids from the group playing on the pedestrian walk. It is back to school time but it doesn't seem that they go to school.

Frankly, they looked just like someone who are on vacation.
It just that, their vacation lasts longer than majority of the population.
And, it seems that they are staying.
And, finally some reaction from our property management : we were informed that due to the present of traveling people in the area, the access to buildings are now secured with a digicode (instead of pressing a button).

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Back to school

In France the school year normally starts during the first week of September.

The little angel woke up early in the morning, all excited to go back to school.

When they arrived, they had to make up the bed for her afternoon nap.

This year the teacher has to handle a mixed of 4 and 5 years old class. She has her hands full I would say.

All the stationery required at school.

A focus on the slate. I had never used this at school but hubby said in France students use it since very young age.

This is how they use the slate in class. Everyone writes the answer on the slate so that teacher could easily knows who got it right and who got it wrong. Maybe in several years they will be using a tablet?

I wish her a very happy school year.