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?