dimanche, décembre 25, 2005

I am bored

Recently, I received a website on how magazines retouch their photos to make their models perfect looking. Check out this site.

With that aside, what else is new? Have you heard of the game Su Doku? Okay, I think in the United States and Japan, it is not new. Even in France, you can easily find Su Doku games at all newstands. But in Singapore, not many people have heard of it yet. It is a 9 by 9 grid and there are several random numbers in the grid. The whole idea is to fill up the grid with 1 to 9 without repeating the same number for a single row and column and in the box of 3 by 3. Still not getting there, well, check out www.sudoku.com then.

For people who likes numbers and find crossword puzzle interesting, go try Su Doku.

mardi, novembre 29, 2005

My Singapore trip

I am in Singapore. I am delighted to see that not much have changed. I am able to eat the foods which I missed so much in France.

But the journey this time round was not easy. Seb and I left our place at 8.30am to catch the 12pm flight leaving for Singapore. We took the train from Courbevoie to St Lazare, the Metro from St Lazare to Chalete, the RER B from Chalete to CDG Airport terminal 1 RER station and finally a bus to the airport terminal. 4 different transports in order to reach our plane and that took us just an hour and 15 mins.

Still, all is not well. It was snowing in Paris and our flight was delayed by 3 hours. The runway had to be cleared of snow and our plane had to go under a 'car wash'. Yeah, we were finally on the runway and there were lorries with extenable hoses to splash hot water on the plane to warm it up and to unfroze the wings. That was impressive to see when you were inside the plane. As we took Malaysia Airline, the delay cost us to miss our transitting flight. So at KL Airport, we waited 2 hours to get our flight back to Singapore. By the time we touched down Singapore land, we were so tired. We had not really slept since the last 24 hours.

Now, all is well. As the third day of my stay started, I am starting to plan what to eat for today. I do have a choice from the 40 over items I wrote down. :) Seb thinks that I should just stay in a foodcourt. Got to go, no time to lose.

jeudi, novembre 03, 2005

It all started at Clichy-sous-bois

Recently, there has been some social unrest here in Seine Saint-Denis. This department is right beside Paris. In fact, I work in Saint-Denis, which is one of the towns of Seine Saint-Denis.
Things got hot last week when two teenage boys were electrocuted while hiding in an electric power plant. They were trying to run away from the police. People in this poor neighbourhood, Clichy-sous-bois (a town in Seine Saint-Denis) were upset and hooligans started to go on riots at night by burning cars and destroying public properties like the bus stops, rubbish bins etc.
Now, a few other towns in Seine Saint-Denis are also having riots almost every night. The minister of interior is holding talks with the families of the two dead boys. The television is inviting educators, police and politicians for debates on how this incident escalate to such a level.
It is difficult to explain in a few words as the root of the problem goes way deep now. There are high unemployment rate, more immigrants and non-white French. The people felt that they are ignored by the society.
But the first question I asked was ‘Why were the boys running away from the police?’ Are not police there to help us, the citizens? The police in Singapore look friendly and helpful.
In one of the reportage on television, people are scared of the police. There are comments that the police harass them, check on them just because they are not white. The police use dogs to scare them and insult them during checks. The police can accuse them of anything and has the right to put them in temporary detention for any reason.
Yet, there are two side of a coin in every story so it is really difficult to say who is to blame for the two boys. But one thing for sure, the riots are definitely not for a good cause. Cars and factories were burnt. I do not understand why some people are just so ignorant and had nothing better to do in their lives than to be destroyers. I condemn the actions of destroying things.
For more information, check out BBC.

mercredi, octobre 19, 2005

How to cure hiccups the german way

I just confirmed for the third time the most successful way to stop hiccups. Thanks to Nicole who passed me this formula. Oh how I miss her now that she is back in Germany.

Well, the next time you have hiccups, you have two options.
1. Think of what you had for lunch the day before yesterday.
2. Think of three bald men.

It is that simple and it works for me three times already.
You do not have to stop your breath or drink lots of water. Just use one of the option. I usually use the first option. It is definitely more interesting than thinking of three bald men.

Let me know if it works wonder for you.

lundi, octobre 17, 2005

I'm having the blues

I have finally moved to Courbevoie over the weekend. It was a painful move. Not that I am emotionally attached to the old neighbourhood but it is more of the physical pain. We were lacked in manpower in the moving and poor Seb had to labour hard. We had promised to engage the professional movers the next time round. On the positive side, we are sleeping in a really quiet neighbourhood. In our building, there are about 20 apartments and so far, I see mostly elderly neighbours.

As for having the blues, I just added in my cheese list the 'Blue cheese'. In terms of french food; I am not very adventurous in cheese. In fact, I only eat those hard yellow American cheese before coming to France. Yet at every family meals or invited dinners, the host will definitely serve us a cheese plate with the best selected cheese bought from the cheese shop. Of course, best cheese means stinky cheese to me. There are those white runny cheese or cheese with potholes of mouldy blues. There is also that innocent looking goat cheese which stinks. A durian is for Seb like a goat cheese is for me: eternal enemies. Still, I tried to try a different cheese at each occasion.

Slowly as time goes by, I started to eat feta cheese, cheddar, camemberts, brie et finally on Saturday, taste overcome looks and I took my first bite of blue cheese. It is of course not Roquefort (The smell and taste are too strong). I am delighted cos it does not taste so bad. I even had it as breakfast and supper on Sunday.

When I am back in Singapore, I will certainly make friends and family try it. So watch out for the blues!

mercredi, octobre 05, 2005

It is a foggy day

Since yesterday, Paris is very foggy. I have not seen the sun at all. The sky is greyish white and it is weird. It feels as though I am living in a big hollow mushmallow.

As Paris is in a valley, foggy weather is not uncommon. But to have this fog for 2 days, it is rather surprising.

I hope the sun will come back soon and get me out of this grey mood.

To end this weather report, I will do an announcement. Seb, Bao Bei and I are moving out of Paris. We are moving to the suburbs just 5 mins by train from Paris. So, anyone passing by Paris are welcome to help us move on the 15 Oct 2005. If you think you might send me a nice housewarming gift, contact me so that I can give you my new address. :)

mercredi, août 31, 2005

Third deadly fire in Paris

The news seldom bring good news. I mean the news that we watch on TV.
Just yesterday, there was a fire in an apartment block in Paris 3rd arrondissement (district) and several people were killed.
About a week ago, there was a fire in an apartment block in Paris 13th arrondissement and about 17 people, mostly children were killed.
In the beginning of the year, there was a fire in an apartment block in Paris 8th arrondissement and less than 20 were killed. (I cannot remember the exact number.)

Well, so you may ask, what is the whole point. The whole point is that these fires could have been prevented. The whole point is that the victims were all blacks immigrants.

In Paris, there are a lot of poor people. I mean there are poor people everywhere, except in Singapore, of course. But in Paris, it is more obvious if you are NOT a tourist who is just visiting central Paris for 2 days on a 3 weeks Europe, 7 countries tour. Where I live, I see poor people!

So, poor people are often people who migrated from poor countries. France had many colonies in the old times so these people from the colonies can easily get papers to stay in France. As I am not trying to give a history lesson here, please check out for yourself which were the countries. And poor people cannot afford 800 euros a month to rent apartment here. You have to take note that these people usually have many young children.

There are associations that will try to find lodging for these people. Of course, associations like these are never rich and what they can find as lodging are usually cheap. Cheap equals to small, dirty, unsave rooms. As a result of these, fires could be started more easily and small rooms do not always have windows. And there is only a wooden stairway as most Paris apartments were built from 1800s to 1900s.

Can't the government do somthing? As the apartments here are mostly private, the government can only do this much to make sure they are livable. But I am sure the standard in Paris and in Singapore are way apart. In Singapore, 80% of the apartments are government built and sold off to Singaporeans. In France, the government will built HLM, apartments which are simple and rent them out to poor people.

No French wants to stay in a HLM if they can avoid it. Usually the HLM are built in a ulu (isolated) place and since there is a concentration of poor people, meaning unemployed people, immigrants who do not speak French, illiterate people, drunks, gangsters, there is a higher possibility that it is unsafe. I am not trying to be bais to the poor. But this is a social issue and logical thinking and the facts of life here will bring anyone to conclude this.

So the solution to the root of the problem is not so simple here. I do appreciate very much the system of Singapore. There is a ratio of race in each public apartment block. This means a good mix of culture and understanding. There is a good mix of different sizes of apartments in a housing estate. This means a good mix of lower income and middle income families.

The HLM are built in ulu places because the locals do not want to have HLM in their neighbourhood. And if the mayor does built them against the will of the locals, he may not be elected the next time. Also in Paris, there are no space to built HLM as land is scarce and super expensive.

After the second fire accident, the mayor of Paris was under a lot of pressure. He had immediately see to it that the reminding residents in the apartments have a nicer lodging. Still, there are many people out there who needs safer lodging.

There are so many thoughts that need to be expressed. I sympathise the people who have no means. When I said that there are no poor in Singapore, it was really a half truth. When I was living in Singapore, sometimes I think I am poor. What a foolish thought. There are very few poor in Singapore. And most of the poor are living in a better way than the poor here.

The next time you visit Paris, visit the central Paris if you are a tourist. But keep your eyes open at the passer-bys and it would not be too difficult to catch a poor.

I can rattle on but I decided against it. Please do not take whatever I say as truth. These are my thoughts and how I see things here after living in Paris for 2 years now. For better truth, learn French and then ask one.

dimanche, août 21, 2005

Center of France

The 15 of August was a public holiday. It was the Assumption. As that day fell on a monday, we decided to spend a long weekend from friday to monday in Cologne, Germany. All plans were made. My friend has a friend who lived in Cologne and she had a studio apartment available for us during that weekend.

Yet, we spent the 4 days in the center of france. The change of plan was swift. We checked the weather forecast on thurs and realised that it would rain for 4 days in Cologne. As we were not having enough hot weather in France, it was depressing to head up north for worse weather. So we started brain storming and in the end, we found an alternative.

We spent our weekend in Chalon-sur-Saone which is about 300 km from Paris. And we had hot weather throughout. We spent a day kayaking 25 km down the river Loire. It was exhausting as it had not rained much this summer and the water level was very low. So, we had to get off the kayaks to push them when we hit stones. Overall, we did enjoyed ourselves.

We visited other parts of this region, Burgundy. In France, it is known as Bourgogne. On the way back to Paris, we drived past many villages where vineyards were a plenty and we also passed by some enchanting private chateau. In this region, they usually produce the red wine known as Burgundy (of course).

We noticed a lot of Holland and German cars in this area. Apparently, this place is very popular with them.

Now that we are back in Paris after a week, it is rainy and windy. The temperature is about 16 degrees to 21 degrees. I can't wait for my next vacation and that is to go to a place with ultimate sunshine all year round. Of course, it is not hard to guess where I will be going. A little sunshine state that starts with a big S.

dimanche, août 07, 2005


I found a new way to end my hiccup. I know there are dozens of ways to stop it. I used to inhale and held my breath for 7 seconds and then exhaled and repeated the whole procedure several times in order to cure my hiccup.

But last Thurs, after having a beer with Nicole, I had this hiccup that just could not be stopped. Nicole asked me to think of 3 bald men and as it was too funny and difficult, I was just laughing away and that did not help my hiccup at all. So, she asked me to think of the lunch I had the day before yesterday. And guess what, that did the trick. After I figured out what I ate, I was back to normal. So an advise for you people out there, do the same for your hiccups.

Think either of 3 bald men or what you ate for lunch the day before yesterday. Let me know the results, ok?

dimanche, juillet 24, 2005


About a month ago, I spent 4 days at Barcelona with mom. It was hot there and we enjoyed ourselves. We bought this 2 days pass for the open top tourist bus that offers 3 routes. One up north, one down south and one along the beach. With this 2 days pass, we boarded and alighted as and when we like. So it was really cool.

Las Ramblas is the main street that leads from the center to the port and along the street, there is an old market which sells lots of fresh food. There are tropical fruits which I can't find in France and fresh seafood and meat and dried sausages. It was always crowded with tourists but I have to say the prices are reasonable.

Sagrada Familia, a cathedrale that started to be built in 1882, is still under construction. It is the only cathedrale in this world that is under construction. Does this mean that there are no other cathedrale being built at this moment? I have no idea. It may just mean that this is one of the last cathedrale that is not completed from the 19th century. This temple is really amazing and is the main attraction for sight-seeing tourist in Barcelona. In the cathedrale's museum, explanations of the design really made me understand how the architecture use nature to its best. You really have to see it to understand it.

Of course, during the 4 days, we had visited many other places like Park Güell, the Barcelona FC stadium, the old city, Poble Espanyol, Miramar Park ....

As for food wise, we tried the different tapas, tortilla(different variety of omelette), paella but the most impressive food is the bread. We had breakfast each morning in a cafe which serves sandwich with sliced chorizo. The interesting part was that the bread were spreaded with a tomato paste that tasted fresh and unique. We asked if we could buy this tomato jam but after some language difficulty, we understood that this tomato paste can be easily made.

First, cut a big juicy tomato in halves. Take one of them and rub it on the bread. After that, cut a garlic into halves and rub it on the bread as well. Sprinkle some salt and olive oil and that's it. It is so easy.

When we were having lunch at Poble Espanyol, we noticed that on each table, there were 2 tomatoes and some garlics. Of course, we had fun making our own tomato bread to go with our main meals.

All good things must come to an end so after a short 4 days, we packed up and headed back to Paris. In fact, I think mom enjoyed Barcelona more than Paris. The weather was warmer, the people were friendlier, things are cheaper and the food tasted less foreign for her. :)

lundi, juillet 11, 2005

Boite de nuit

I just passed a great Friday and half a Saturday with my company at the Château de Bertichères.
This was where we passed our company weekend for this year. I even did horse riding for the first time and am now recovering from my body ache. Yeah, I was stressed at a certain time when the horse stopped and started to feed on the grass with its head bent down and me trying to keep myself from falling.

Well, today's subject is not on the château itself but on the boite de nuit.
Boite = Box
Nuit = Night
So boite de nuit means night club. Most of our quarterly company meetings finished off in a 'boite de nuit'. So far, I had been to three such events.

1. I guess the first one was rather interesting. It was a restaurant-spectacle-dance hall all under a big top. Yeah, the venue was a top like those of a circus and there, the theme was Spanish. While dining, there was light circus performances. After dinner, the ring was turned into a dance floor and we had fun dancing away.

2. For the second time, we went to ManRay along the streets of Champ Elysee. It was highly recommended by my colleague. This is the club where all jet setters go. So we had dinner fusion style. After dinner, as usual, tables were carried aside and it became a dance floor. I remembered that on that night, there was a promotion on a wine and there was free wine tasting. Added to that, there were 2 pillars in the middle of the dance floor. Soon, there were 2 young ladies standing on each of the pillar and striping to the music. This was happening while everyone was dancing. They striped to their strings and danced with the poles on the pillars. Of course, my colleagues told me this was not normal but I did not appreciate it at all. We were here for dancing and not to watch strip tease.

3. Well, and for last weekend, we visited Le Pharoan. There are 5 halls in this night club. A wine bar, a hall for 30 years and more, a hall for house music, a hall for 70-80s music and a hall for Zouk music. This place was not too bad as there were a variety of music for one to choose from. But I was again shocked when I saw a strip teaser performing lap dance on the men who had bought a bottle of liquor for 100 euros. There you had, 18 year olds girls and boys dancing away on the dance floor and right beside them, a strip teaser working on a man beside the dance floor. Of course, a lot of men's attention was on her and she was just doing her job.

For me, it is really weird to see all these. Especially each time out with my colleagues. I guess for the French, these things are part of life. To pretend that they never exist is being puritan. But for me, to be in such places just makes me feel uneasy. As I told my colleagues, the next time, let me choose the 'boite de nuit'.

mardi, juin 21, 2005

how to read/interpret the french address

My friend Carol sent me an email asking if my address is still correct as she is updating her address book. At the same time, she was wondering how to read/interpret the french address.
Well, I thought it will be interesting for you readers out there as well.

As for my address, it is 10 rue Davy 75017 Paris. (the number has been changed for security reason)
rue = street
So, it means the No. 10 building of street Davy.
In Paris, the buildings are built in blocks.
As most of the apartments were built a long time ago, there were not many apartments in one block. In the old days, one block housed a family from the servants to the head of the family.

For my block, there are 6 stories and 2 apartments on each level. There are no door number. We put our surnames on the letterboxes. The postman will come to 10 rue Davy, check the names on each letterbox and put in the letters into the right letterbox. If someone simply wrote my name on the envelope, then the postman will have no idea where to put this letter. So, letters must always have our surnames. For Seb and I, our letterbox shows both our surnames. In this way, I can still receive my letters from Singapore. In france, my letters are addressed to me with the surname of Seb.

As for the postal code of 75017, the first two digits are the department you are in. 75 is in Paris. Around paris, the departments are 78, 93, 76, 92, etc. These numbers are by alphabet order. So numbers in 70+ are in the range of P. To see someone having postal code 75 means he is in paris. The last three digits means the area you are in. In Paris, there are 21 districts. I am in the 17th district. By seeing the number of the postal code, you can know if the person lives in the 'good' district or not. The posh areas are the 8th, 16th, 7th, 6th and 1st districts. Paris started with 10 districts. So the inner districts are more expensive. During the time of Napoleon, Paris was expanded to add in 11 more districts. Of course, 17th district is not so bad. It is big and there are the good side and the poor side. My area is on the poorer side.

Well, so there it is. The explanation of my address. Interesting isn't it.
I do hope that this gives you an idea how the french address is like. If I miss out on anything or if you want to send me a postcar, just drop me a comment.

lundi, juin 20, 2005

Une sale journee

This morning, Bao Bei puked. We think she ate too much, too fast. Cats!
Work went fine.
This evening, my key was not able to open the door. It was jammed.
I called Seb and he packed his bag to return home.
As it was 33 degrees, I decided to walk up the street to get an ice cream while waiting for Seb.
I reached the ice cream shop. It was closed on mondays.
I walked back and took a Monaco at the brasserie near our apartment. Finally I managed to cool down.
Seb came and used his key and force to open the door.
At home, internet connection was down. Seb had to call the Free provider and reset the modem 5 times to get it to work. Internet connection is important as our phone line is by internet connection and we got extra channels on TV through internet.
We call this une sale journee. A dirty day in french expression.

vendredi, mai 27, 2005

Poor Bao Bei

I received an email from Mike today. Among other things, he mentioned that I had not update my blog for a while. Indeed, it has been more than a month since the last blog. Well, these days, times flies and there was more work, the weather is warmer and I am just feeling slack.

What's up these days? :) Bao Bei is sick again. She has this allegry that makes her scratch her face. This is really bad for a cat so we had no choice but to make her wear a collerette. It is a collar shaped like a funnel so that the wearer is not able to use its paw to reach its face. It took us 30 mins to make Bao Bei wear it. It was really a big, big struggle. She cried, meowed, and used her claws to get her way out. Of course, in the end, Seb's shirt was dead.

When she had the collar, her sight was restricted and her whiskers were not extended. This made her walked very slowly. She looked like a big black caterpillar to me but to Seb, it was more like a slow lizard. She was on all fours and she dared not even jump up the chair.

The next day, we took out the collar as she had not touched her food and water while we were at work. But she started to scratch herself again. So, after a while, I took up the courage to put the collerette back on her. But hey hey, it took me no effort at all. She just lifted up her head for me to put it on. We could not believe this. Just the day before, I had to sit on her and hold her front paws while Seb struggled to put the collerette on her neck.

We concluded that she might think that this is her new collar. Seb thinks further that Bao Bei trusts us so this time round, she obeys us. After all, we fussed over her a great deal during these 2 days.

Life's a bore without a cat.

mardi, avril 26, 2005

Opera - Madame Butterfly

I went to watch an opera last month. It was the famous Madame Butterfly. As a "mountain tortoise", I had only a very vague idea of an opera. As it was performed by the London City Opera, I thought I had a good chance to understand it. How wrong was I.

The story of Madame Butterfly is simple. In fact, Miss Saigon is an adaptation as a muscial but happening during the Vietnam war. Madame Butterfly was about an American who came to Japan and got a "part-time" wife, Madame Butterfly. When Pinkerton left for US, Madame Butterfly was pregnant. She waited for the return of her husband and when he finally did, he brought along his wife. His wife knew that Madame Butterfly had born her husband a son and she wanted the baby. In the end, Madame Butterfly commited seppuku out of sadness.

All the dialogues were sang in a high-pitched tone and in Italian. The performers must have a lot of practices in order to reach this level of singing without panting. And to my surprise, the character Madame Butterfly was played by a Singaporean. Her name is Yee Er Ping and apparently, she had received the 2001 Young Artist Award from the National Arts Council.

The audiences were mostly french and the opera was in Italian. Okay, someone told me after that all operas are in Italian. Is it interesting? Well, for me, I did not understand a thing that was sung. I mean if I were to understand Italian, I am not sure if I could have understood the singing. :)

I don't think I will watch any opera in the near future. If I can recommend something foreign to you, go and watch the movie "Vas, vis et deviens" (Go, live and become). It is really a good film done by France/Israel.

This film is about an African boy from a refugee camp in Sudan. In 1985, Israel decided to save some of the Africans Jews. This boy was not a Jew but his mother made him leave with an African Jew who had recently lost her son. The boy settled in Jerusalem but had a diffcult time to intergrate and keeping the secret that he was not a Jew. This is not based on a true story but on a true event that had happened. So, I think there may be many stories that is similar to this one. Africa is one part of the world that people do not talk about so much nor do people react to the poor Africans who are still suffering there.

To Eternal Sunshine,
Thanks for your concern about my leg.
It is well now. Think it was caused by my heels and the uneven pavement in Paris. ;)

vendredi, avril 01, 2005

To doctor I went

Today is 1 April. Gone were the school days when friends made jokes on each other. This day, I remembered it as Bao Bei's birthday. Yes, we sang her a birthday song this morning to mark her one year of age but she did not really care. Guess birthdays do not count for cats.

In Paris, I had seen doctors thrice. Three times, it was with different doctors.
On the new year, I was sick and a house doctor had to come as there was no doctor who opened shop on this day. This house doctor came smelling like a chain smoker. He examined me, gave Seb the prescription for the medicines, wrote us an invoice for payment, washed his hands and left. Impression: bad.

The second time I was sick, I searched on the yellow pages in the internet for a female general practitioner near my area. Seb called up to get an appointment for me and we went. The doctor is situated in an apartment like most other doctors. The waiting room looks like a living room. There are sofas, a few chairs, a coffee table with lots of magazines. There was no assistance or nurse. The doctor sent out the patient, came to the waiting room, guided the next patient into the consultation room, examined, wrote the prescription, collected the payment and sent the patient out of the door. Then, she came into the waiting room for the next patient. That's how it works here. As medicines can only be bought from pharmacy, setting up shop as doctor is really a one man show.

The third time I was sick, which was yesterday, I searched the yellow pages for the doctor. I wanted to have an appointment in the evening after my work. I called up the female GP but she was totally booked for the day and I had to wait until the next day. I decided to call the next doctor in the list. The GP had retired and now, there is only a paediatrician. Since I am not a kid, this doctor is not for me. So, I called the next one in the list. Finally, a GP picked up the phone and he was able to see me at 18h.

At 17h55, I reached the building. It is an apartment building just a street away from my apartment. Outside the building, there was a plate engraved with the doctor's name. I went through the first wooden door and reached a spiral staris. I went up to the first floor. There were 2 apartments on each floor. On the left door, there was a plate engraved with the doctor's name. I rang the bell but no one anwsered. The door was locked. I called up the doctor and heard a phone rang on the second floor. The doctor was at home and he came down the spiral stairs to open his clinic. Once inside, he invited me to wait in the waiting room with the usual set up like a living room but minus the television.

5 minutes later, I was in the consultation room and I told him the pain I had in my foot. Half way through, the phone rang and he started to chat with someone on the other line giving advise on certain issues. As like with the previous doctor, the same procedure happened. He gave me the prescription, I paid him, he sent me out of the door.

This is kinda weird for me as I am not at all used to this. In Singapore, the doctor does not move. He just sit in his comforable chair and wait for his nurse or assistance to co-ordinate with the appointment, dispensing the medicines, and collecting money.
So this is my experience with the doctors here.

vendredi, mars 18, 2005

Au revoir, l'hiver

Goodbye winter, hello spring.
In 3 days time, we will be back to 6 hours difference between Singapore and France instead of 7. That also means daylight saving is gone. Which in turn means that spring is coming.
Indeed, about 2 weeks ago, when I wrote an entry about heavy snow even in Paris, I am really amazed to break to you the good news that since Tuesday, during the day, the temperature was at 22 degrees. Can anyone back in Singapore believe that? For me, I still can't get over the fact that on Tues evening, I was out dinner with my friend and I was wearing my suit and a winter overcoat. And on Wed, I was just wearing a pull with a thin outer jacket which was hanging in the wardrobe since more than 4 months. Finally, the jacket can be out under the blue sky. It seems like we skip spring and plunge straight into summer.

In the weather report, it mentioned that this surge in temperature is as abnormal as the snow fall 2 weeks ago. Also, as it had not rain much in France since the beginning of the year, this year may be a difficult year for farmers and in turn, difficult for us. For now, I am just glad to have the sun basking on my face.

Oh yes, before ending, I had to pass by a small patch of greenery each day to work and it is amazing to see wild flowers sprouting out of the grass overnight once the temperature is warmer. Isn't that a miracle?

samedi, mars 05, 2005

It's snowing in Paris

Since a week, it has been snowing in Paris every now and then. Usually the snow did not stay on the ground as it snowed during the night when the temperature was lower. And during the day, with all the pollution from cars raising up the temperautre, the snow would have melted away. But this was not the case on two occasions. The snow stayed on the pavement and on these mornings, I had difficulties walking from the Metro station to work.

It was really weird to have so much snow in Paris. And it is already the start of March. People in Singapore were telling me how hot it was these days over there. I even saw from BBC meteo annoucement that Singapore is experiencing the highest temperautre in 29 years with 300+ bush fires reported. So the weather is going haywire again?

I am spending my weekend in Chartres and it was just so lovely to see the 10 cm snow almost everywhere especially in the garden. We put Bao Bei in the snow and it is funny to see her paw prints in the snow. As the sun was out yesterday, Seb suggested to drive up to the Normandie coast 219 km from Chartres to see the coast under snow. We arrived at the beach resort of Cabourg. Normandie is a region with its unique architecture. The houses are built with the influence from the English. As this is a summer resort, most of the apartments and houses had their shutters closed. I gathered that these must be summer houses. It was like a ghost town in Cabourg, Deauville and Honfleur. But I can imagine during summer, it must be super packed with Parisians since it is the nearest beach for them.

Well, the weather turned for the worse on our way up north. The sun had disappeared and we were the only ones at the beach under the snow. It was good to hear the sound of sea waves though it was super cold too. After a nice lunch at Cabourg, we drove along the coast and passed by other resort towns. We stopped at Honfleur to take in the beautiful sight of the old port. Honfleur is famous for the display of flowers during spring and summer. Even with this cold weather, I saw a group of Japanese tourists. I wondered who will come to such a "ulu" place as tourist. But Seb reminded me that France is not just Paris. That is indeed very true. There are a lot of places of interest all over France. Each region offers its own style, culture and food. We stopped by at an old cafe manned by an old man. We had hot chocolate and the view of the old port was just in front of us. The old man explained to us that the buildings on this side of the port used to house the labourers. And the ones on the opposite side housed the bosses of these labourers. He also further explained that these buildings were built around the late 1600s. Of course, there were only us in the cafe so it was nice to have him telling us these information.

On the trip back, it was snowing harder and Seb had to concentrate harder. He was afraid that the road would froze and that would be extremely dangerous. At these times, salt is usually scattered on the road by the authorises to prevent the freezing. I would hope we have another opportunity to go up Normandie. My next place of interest would be to see the beach where the Americans embaked during WWII and also the cemetery of the Americans soldiers. Maybe when the weather will be less harsh.

mardi, février 08, 2005

Chinese New Year

In another 1.3 hours, it will be chinese new year in France. I called mom at 5pm in office today to wish her a happy chinese new year. It is the first time I spent my chinese new year overseas. How does that feel? Well, I miss steamboat and BBQ pork. It sounds simple but reflect on that and the sense of longing is deeper than just the good taste of food. It is habitual, tradition and all those good old feelings.

Seb and I went Chinatown on Sat to check out what we can find. I bought some food to cook tomorrow. After work, I will rush home to dish up some simple singaporean food for 2 invited guests. I would rather do it today as it is chinese new year's eve and it is really important to eat as a family. The invited guests are like family here in Paris. But I had my french lesson and today we were doing subjonctif which is very important in the french language. So I could not afford to skip class today. Seb cooked instead and the two of us had a good meal after my lesson.

I watched CCTV and saw Jackie Chan singing 'Nan er tang zi qiang'. There was this variety show from China and it felt good to be having reunion dinner in front of a chinese program.

Got to get back to watching CCTV now. Have a great Chinese New Year and 'Xin Xiang Shi Cheng' (Heart thoughts become true).

vendredi, janvier 21, 2005

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective House Cat

Bao Bei is only 9 months old but she is already having her own habits. She is so adorable but as you read on, not all habits are desirable by her owners.

1. My cat has a bad drinking habit. No, she is not an alcoholic. It is just that she only drinks water from cups, glasses, taps except the cat bowl. If someone is drinking a glass of water, she will be eyeing on that glass. Once the glass is put back on the table, she will go to it and check if the water level is within the reach of her mouth. She tests this by putting her front paw into the glass. Next, she verifies if her head is able to go into the opening of the glass by bending forward. If all are possible, she will start her art of drinking from the glass. If there is not much water left, she will just use her paw and then lick on it.
Of course, nowadays, we tried not to give her this habit. We drink direct from the mineral water bottle. She meows at us asking for water. And if that does not work, she jumps onto the top of the sink and tries to act as though she is dying of thirst. All this while of couse, there is always fresh water in her cat bowl. Is it a good habit? Indeed, Seb and I are always amused by her drinking habit.

2. Every night, Bao Bei will wake up Seb at 3am and then at 6am. It is as though she can read the time. It is so automatic. At 3am, she will 'lick' on Seb's neck to wake him up. At 6am, she will sit on his chest and bit on his nose. What she wants from Seb is just to go to the kitchen with her, switch on the light, add in a few fresh cat biscuits and she will start eating and leave Seb alone. It is the same thing at 3am and 6am. We think that she is a black cat who is scare of the dark. How ironic.

3. So at 6am when Seb wakes up for the day as he can't get back to sleep, Bao Bei will come to me after she has eaten and sleeps beside my legs. I usually wake up at 7.30am. So we really can't figure out why she can't leave Seb alone to sleep. Of course she bothers me sometimes at night too but the success rate is slimmer as I usually just push her towards Seb. :)

4. The fourth habit is driving us crazy. Each Sat, we change Bao Bei's litter. And the first thing she does right after the fresh litter is put into the litter box is to do a big shit. It is really immediately as though the litter has a special effect on her bowel system. And of course, after the big business is done, she will try to cover up with the litter but splashing the litter outside of the box onto the floor as well. So we will have to sweep up the litter. It is just so ritual.

5. Bao Bei does not like to eat alone. I mean if we are at home, she can go to the kitchen and feed herself. But if Seb and I are not at home for the whole day, once we reach home, she will be rushing out from the bedroom and straight to her feeding bowl. Then, she will start gluping up the cat food. It looks as though she has been waiting since the whole day for us before she starts eating. How sweet right? I have no idea what's in her little brain.

6. Bao Bei likes to sit outside the window ledge. So, each morning when we open the windows to open the shutters, she will be under the window waiting for the instant when the window is opened to jump up on the window ledge. Of course, we are very concerned as she had fallen from the window when she was 3 months old. So, we are fighting hard with this habit. Call this "height-phobia" from concern pet owners.

7. The last habit of course is to do lots of stupid things and then look at us with big, innocent eyes like those of Puss-in-boots in Shriek 2. How can we be angry with her. She scratches while playing, bites when excited, pulls the curtains, chews on the flowers, jump on the dining table, shit or pee when we are eating inthe kitchen, pulls out all the toilet paper from the roll, etc.... yet each time, there are those 2 big innocent eyes. Gosh, they just melt your heart right away.

So, there you are. The seven habits of highly effective house cat. We don't always love all these habits but we do love Bao Bei so much. It is winter and she sleeps with us all the time now. It is just so sweet. If you can live with these seven habits and desire for a full experience, go get a cat. I'm sure SPCA has a lot to spare.