mardi, septembre 21, 2004

Where on earth is Loipersdorf?

My company celebrates its 20th anniversary by inviting all the 40 subsidaries around the world to Loipersdorf, Austria for a weekend. For the French, we took the plane from CDG airport to Vienna and travelled by bus to reach Loipersdorf. It is a place known for its thermal spa. By the time we reached there, it was 7pm (due to an accident in the highway). We quickly changed into our swim wear and headed for the spa and pools. At various pools with water temperature ranging from 34 degrees to 38 degrees, we stayed in the warm pools under the night sky of 16 degrees. It was really nice. Dinner followed after and we stayed in the bar talking to other fellow colleagues until the wee early moring.

The next morning, we started our day at 9am. As the Intercontinental Hotel had been booked by the company, there were only the 400 of us. Activities of the day included: portrait drawing, massages, bungee jump, hotair balloon, board games, juggling and sorts, volleyballs, baby-foots, golf (arcade style) and etc... I hanged around with friends whom I met during my training in Delft, Holland. I also got to know others from Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Australia, German, China, Hong Kong, Netherlands, England, Belgium, Austria. It was really a big melting pot where the only common goal was to relax.

In the evening, we had a gala dinner where ladies were dressed in evening dresses and men in black tie. To bring everything to a climax, we even had fireworks set off right in front of our eyes in the maize field. It was just so extravagant and yet just so right at that moment. I stayed in the party until 4am before heading off to bed. There were brave souls, the English mostly, who stayed until the sun rose.

On Sunday, we left for France again. It was really short for a weekend but all of us had fun. A Malaysian colleague told me that he will arrive at 4am on Monday and had to get back to work at 9am. Fun aside, we still have to work on Monday.

I wish I can write more but I am still recovering from my lack of sleep. I know that this entry sounded more like an account of the event and there is not much input of my thoughts. It is for the benefit of Dick de Jong. He was not able to make it for the event. So, Dick, if you read this, drop me a comment.

samedi, septembre 04, 2004

Guy Moquet

The Metro near my home is Guy Moquet. It is named after a dead young guy who joined the resistence army during World War II against the Germans in France. Guy is his name and Moquet is his surname. Guy is pronounced as in 'Khee'.

In August, there is always the big celebration on the liberation of Paris and France during the World War II. The TV will show programs and films of WWII. I watched one black and white film done in the 60s which was based on true events on how the French and Americans liberate Paris from the hands of the Germans. The German commander in chief was ordered by Hilter that if Paris was invaded, all monuments be destroyed. So explosives had been planted in those famous places like Effiel Tower, Concorde, Arc de Triomphe etc. But the German commander realised that Hilter had gone mad and thus, did not follow on this order when the Germans surrended. What a pity it would be if all these beauties were destroyed during WWII. Will people still be flocking to Paris each year? So the son of the German commander was interviewed and he wanted peoople to recongnise that his father had saved Paris. I don't think the French thinks the same way as him.

Yesterday, I went to the Préfecture (Police head office) to renew my 'tithe de sejour' (paper to stay in France). This big building had been siezed by the resistence army at the near end of the war. They were shooting from the windows and even destroyed a tank which was just outside Notre Dame Cathedrale. The Préfecture is just beside the cathedrale. It is amazing for me to think that 60 years ago, there was a war here.

In the Garden of Luxembourg, big poster size of Paris liberation related pictures were displayed outside the park's fence. Last week, Seb and I went for a walk and I took time to visit almost every pic. Again, I was overwhelmed by the events taking place right here in Paris and in France. In a pic, there was a soldier laying in wait for the enemy and a woman brought him some cider to quench his thrist. The pic showed danger and yet tender care at the same time.

I overheard a comment; the Iraqis are the resistence army in their own country today but they are labelled as terrorist. It is true that the methods some used today invoke terror into the lives of the ordinary people. Are their cases justified by all the misery happening in their country now?

Back to WWII. There are French who are against the Germans but there are also French who worked with the Germans pointing out the Jews. Nearby Marais is the Jewish quartier (neighbourhood) in the third district of Paris. We were there last Sunday and I noticed that above a door, there was a plate that wrote that a Jew killed in WWII had lived there. Till this day, evidence of the war can still be found in this area and many others. I stopped for a min (I was waiting for my take away lunch) and thought to myself, can I imagine that right in front of this door 60 years ago, this Jewish man with a name and a family had been dragged away by the Germans and killed in a concentration camp. It was a difficult thought.

To end this, each day I took the Metro to go to work last week, in replace of those unsightful super big posters of advertisement in the Guy Moquet metro station, the city hall put up on one side of the station big poster pictures of the Paris liberation; and on the other side, poems written during the war about Paris. With my limited French, I can understand the desperation and anguish these French were suffering then.

Today I am in Chartres, the 80,000 population town an hour from Paris. Seb told me that at 11 am, there will be a parade of Americans WWII vehicles at the uptown. Let us be reminded again each year, lest we forget.

mercredi, septembre 01, 2004

Je suis une Singapourenne.

The Olympics is over. Most of the evenings, Seb and I were glued in front of the TV watching the games. So many things had past and so many little thoughts on my mind to note down. Yet, I had been busy with work. The summer vacation is over, almost everyone is back in office. For the past 2 weeks, I had begun to pick up phone calls and supporting the clients in French. Yeah, French. After work, I just wanted to sit down in front of the TV to de-stress.

There was once I was asking a client for the amount in the screen. Instead of saying 'montant' for amount, I asked for 'mouton' which means sheep. The client was very much amused I am sure because to be a 'mouton' is to be a blind-follower and you don't tell your client that for sure.

And on the same day, I was creating a procedure document for my client. Instead of writing 'cocher la boite' for check on the checkbox, I wrote 'clocher' which means church bell. Only after I had sent out the document did my superior told me and we had a good laugh.

Some clients tried to switch to English as my French is too heavily english-accented. And it was just so funny as we had a hard time understanding each other.