mercredi, décembre 27, 2006

Grey Paris

The sky is grey and not a single sun ray manages to peep through the thick cloud. It is like the sun is turning its face away from this place and we are enveloped in a blanket of marshmallow. The whole Paris is grey. Without looking at the clock on the computer, I have no sense of time. From the moment I woke up until now in office and I’m knocking off in an hour's time, the sky remains unchanged. It is as though everything is in a standstill. Other than 4 of us in the office and some slow traffic along the road just outside the window, I can imagine myself in the plot of Stephen King’s The Langoliers. It is kinda eerie.

I can hardly wait to leave office and be at home to light up my Christmas tree. That will make my day a little brighter and warmer.

samedi, décembre 23, 2006

Year end festive season

We wish you a merry christmas,
We wish you a merry christmas,
We wish you a merry christmas and a happy new year.

Seb and I are in Chartres to spend our Christmas with our family. The images on the left are what I took today in the uptown of Chartres and in my parents-in-law's place. It is colder here than in Paris and there is a constant fire dancing in the fireplace. The big pumpkin on the garden table is still shining orange since October. There were birds feeding from the bird seeds that we supplied.
In the streets, vendors were selling their fresh oysters from number 0 to number 5 (size of oysters), smoked salmons and foie gras; the essential food for christmas. People were doing their last min shopping for gifts. The most crowded shops were perfume shops and bookstores. I was glad that we had already done our shopping so it was a stroll in the uptown for me today while Seb went swimming. The festive atmosphere was high and bright. There was even a mini carnival with marching band, clowns and pretty little girls on ponies. Everybody was in high spirits.

Tomorrow is christmas eve. We will roast some chestnuts over the fireplace after dinner like what we did today. Life is so peaceful here. It is so pleasant. We are away from the stress of Paris. Je vais profiter de mes journées ici.

I will write again after I receive my christmas gifts. Do click on the image to enlarge it for a better viewing.

samedi, décembre 16, 2006

Winter 2006

Winter is here. Technically speaking, winter starts on 21 December but it has been rainy and cold in Paris.

In my balcony, I replaced my summer flowers with winter ones (left and right). I have no idea what is their name. I am a novice in gardening and I do not bother to get to know the names of my plants. I do know that the one in the middle is a bruyère and it flowers in winter as you can see. Still, I must say that the greens are growing well under my loving care.

As Christmas is around the corner, we spent last Saturday and today looking for gifts. It was really easy for the kids as a quick stop at Toys 'R Us completed their wishes. For the other half of the family, we went to FNAC to get books and BD (french comic books).

There were so many people at Opera area that while crossing the road from Galleries Lafayette Maison to Printemps, Seb commented that it was like at Orchard Road. That was so true. I was not even able to appreciate the windows displays that Galleries Lafayette and Printemps put up each year for children with toys animations.

I have forgotten how winter is like. This is my fourth winter in France and yet each time, I have to relearn about the cold and get use to it. And with the train strike still going on, we have to walk 15 minutes in the cold to reach the nearest Metro station. I hope that the strike ends soon. I am glad that there is Christmas to warm up winter.

Afternote: the flowers are cyclamen.

mercredi, décembre 13, 2006

Strike strike strike

Yesterday, SNCF went on strike. I depend on SNCF train to bring me from Becon to Saint Lazare. From Saint Lazare, I will take the Metro train to my work place. As notice was given a day in advance, I made arrangement with my manager to come pick me up. All was beautiful. The return home trip was a little bit unpleasant as I had to take the Metro line 3 until the end and walked 15 mins in the cold back to Becon. Still it was not as bad as 3 weeks ago when there was a similar strike and I had to walk in the rain and cold. With strong wind, umbrellas are not of much use here.

This morning, the radio announced that things were more or less back in normal. 3 out of 4 trains were in operations. My foot! I reached Becon train station at 8.15am. There was a train at Quai A at 8.18am. Following that, two trains were cancelled. And the next one would be at 8.53am. At Becon, I had a choice of taking the direct train that stopped at Saint Lazare or a train that stopped at 3 stations before reaching Saint Lazare. For the direct train at Quai C, two trains were cancelled and things were no better than at Quai A. I managed to squeeze my way up on the train of 8.18am. We were really packed sardines. Once reaching Saint Lazare, there were a lot of people. Just imagine the narrow streets in Chinatown on the eve of Chinese New Year. You really had to be patient and take one step forward at a time. But in this case, everyone was just in a hurry to get to their offices.

I would say that SNCF strike is not as bad as a Metro strike. If the Metro goes on strike, it would be impossible for me to reach office. We little people depend on the public transport. Buy a car and drive to work? With traffic jams everywhere, this is not a good solution as well. Car is meant for weekend getaways. Not for driving in Paris.

I can only hope that tomorrow, everything will be beautiful. Smooth journey, I pray.

mercredi, décembre 06, 2006

Anime craze

I may have never mentionned this in my blog but Seb and I are consistent anime viewers. Seb follows more anime than me. For me, I am just following on Naruto and Rurouni Kenshin.

Naruto was a ninja boy in training. In the beginning, the story line was more interesting as one of Naruto's classmate, Sasuke, had been abducted by the bad guys to be trained to be evil. But now, the story is slower and we are at episode 211. Each episode now is on Naruto's training in the ninja school and the assignments he has to do with his teammates. I am just waiting for the final showdown when Sasuke will return to face Naruto.

As for Kenshin, he was a super swordman turned vagabond. He got to know some friends along the way and some times, his past came back and haunt him. It is interesting as the story line followed the period of the Meiji era in Japan.

Of the few anime I had completed, the most impressive one is Elfen Lied with beautiful music. It is short, bloody and full of body pieces. I also liked Fullmetal Alchemist. The Japanese have such great talent and imagination in coming up with the scenarios and story lines. And at the end of each story, there is always something to reflect on and to learn. It is always simple, humane and meaningful.

lundi, décembre 04, 2006

Visitors from India

Vincent and Lobke came and visited us for 5 days. Vincent was in Paris to apply for his India visa. We enjoyed their presence at home.

I did a steamboat for them on Tuesday night and they totally adored the idea of cooking vegetables in a pot of soup while dining. They told us about their stay in India and their activites. Laurent came and joined us for the first night on Monday and he showed us photos of India which he took when he was there in July. We really would like to visit it one day since we will have great local guides.

Vincent is french and Lobke is belgian. They met in India. They love India so much that they make it their home. Like Seb, they are vegetarians. Lobke loved my green beans soup. I made it once in 2003 and she still remembered that. I tried to make red beans soup this time as the weather is cooler and red beans are more heaty than green beans. However, I was not able to find pandan leaves this time. It is not always available in Chinatown. I guess this time it was not as good. Pandan leaves do make the difference.

Now, they are back in Belgium. In a week's time, they will be flying back to India. It may be another year before we will meet them again.

dimanche, novembre 19, 2006

Wrapping for X'mas

Each year near the Christmas period, charities will organise gift wrapping services outside boutiques. I signed up to help out Salvation Army to offer my service with the boutique "Modern Man" at Saint Lazare.

Yesterday, I was alone at the counter from 10 am to 1pm. There were a lot of shoppers and they bought things from the shop. However, these people were shopping for themselves. In the end, I only wrapped about seven gifts. As Christmas is still a month away, people usually start shopping next month. I did enjoyed myself as the gifts were easy to wrap. They came in rectangluar boxes. I remembered that last year, I was helping out Red Cross with the similar service at a computer shop. It was really difficult to wrap up a big printer box or those irregular packages like MP3 player.

There is always a money box at the counter. People will give coins for the gift wrapping service. I had seen men donating as much as 10€. I had also seen women who did not buy anything from the shop asking for the wrappers and ribbons; without donating.

Next Saturday, I will be at Saint Lazare again from 10 am to 1 pm. I hope that there will be more shoppers. Wrapping 3 gifts per hour is kinda boring.

vendredi, novembre 17, 2006

Metro line 13 and knitting

I often had so much thoughts on my mind in the morning rush hour. Walking from the train station at St Lazare to Metro line 13. Walking from Metro line 13 to my office in the cold.

Yet when I am sitting in front of the computer, my mind is a blank. What should I write? The trivials in my mind?

So what's up in my head? Well that depends on the surroundings that distract me.
Well, for one, I hate line 13. It is the worst line in Paris. Every morning, lots and lots of people use this line and often there are problems with the metro trains. They are often late and too crowded. Line 13 runs from the south of Paris to the north. In the north, there are more poor neighbourhoods and a few office areas. This means that a lot of the people have no private transport and the only way to get into Paris is by line 13. In the morning, we are packed like sardines in the old trains which have poor ventilation and no automatic door. People are short-tempered and agressive. Each one pushing to get up the train.

The transport minister mentioned that all Metro lines are running well. But obviously, he has a chauffeur-driven car. Metro line 1 was given a big budget to upgrade the lines. Line 1 runs through the central of Paris. The trains are new with automatic doors. The stations are generally clean and the trains are efficient. Any tourist visting Paris will most likely have taken line 1.

For me, I take line 13 almost every day to go to work and it is really stressful at times. Reaching office late with half my energy gone in getting my way into the train, it is really not pleasant.

That is just part of my life in Paris. I hate the underground.

On the brighter side, I took up knitting. I have never done that before. I always like to do jig-saw puzzles. However, Seb is not keen to frame up my puzzles so I usually left my completed puzzles on the coffee table until Bao Bei destroyed them accidentally. She usually lied on the coffee table and sometimes while playing, slipped off from the table bringing part of the puzzle down with her.

In order to do something more productive, I decided to try knitting. I went to Printemps and took up a lesson with the boutique Phildar. After 2 lessons, I am starting on a scarf. It is really easy. I just need to keep repeating the same gesture until I get a really long scarf enough to roll around my neck twice. As usual, I have to watch out for Bao Bei. She loves to play with the thread.

It is weekend soon. And november is here. I realised that I wrote so little these days. I will try to write more. Even trivials. It was really pleasant to hear friends commenting that they regularly read my blog when I was in Singapore.

vendredi, octobre 20, 2006

September vacation

Seb and I went visiting Nicole in Munich in Septembre. We took the night train at Gare de l'Est and the journey took us more than 10hours. This was not the first time that I took an overnight train but it was the first time in a sleeper train. It was of course not easy to sleep as the beds were small and the train was moving and sometimes stopping abruptly at small train stations.

Once we reached Munich, Nicole was there welcoming us. It was so good to meet her after so many months. We took the metro to her place. And interesting in Munich, there was no barrier or gate for entering the metro station. It was based on a trust system. There was a machine for validating the tickets but just no gate.

Our tireness was pushed away after a good coffee at her place. After a quick shower, we started our Munich walk. As she lived near the English Garden, we started with it. The park was really big. There was a big lake and home to different species of ducks. There was a beer garden and we drank beer and ate roasted chicken while listening to the Bavarian brass band playing in the chinese pagoda nearby. The atmosphere was really festive. And it was a working day. People were really cool and you could see families and friends chatting over beer. As we walked around the English Garden, Nicole pointed out to us the nudist lawn. Here, there were naked bodies suntanning. The nudist lawn was separated by just a small stream. There were however one or two naked people lying in the non-nudist lawn just along the path we walked.

We continued our walk in the heart of Munich. We visited the Theatinerkirche church, Viktualienmark; where there was a brass band playing, Hofbräuhaus brasserie; where there was another brass band playing and the City Hall (see pic on left). We also visited the various monuments and historic buildings in Munich like the Olympiapark constructed for the 1972 Olympics, the site for the coming Oktoberfest. It was a pleasant city with colorful buildings. The interior of the churches were white and clean and well maintained. A big contrast to the cathedrales of France.

I drank beer at almost all meals. One breakfast I took weisswurst (the white sausage) that should be eaten with Suesser Senf (a sweet, grainy mustard) and brezel with a beer. That was impressive.

After spending two days in Munich, we took the train to Salzburg which was about 2 hours from Munich. We crossed the border and arrived in Austria. Salzburg, birthplace of Wolfgang Mozart. There was Mozart written everywhere in this little town. We spent our day walking along the small streets with their famous metal shop signs hanging outside shops.

For lunch, we tried the famous apple strudels as dessert. After that, we walked up to the fortess Honensalzburg. It was big and like a mini-village. The view from the fortess was beautiful with the surrounding Alps.

At the end of the day, we took the train and stopped mid-way of Munich at Lake Chiemsee. We stayed at Nicole's summer apartment for the night.

Lake Chiemsee was huge and had 2 islands on it. We took the boat for visiting the 2 islands. The first island called Herrenchiemsee had a castle modelled after Versailles built by King Luwig II. He revered the French Sun-King and created with this castle, a monument to absolute monarchy.

The second island Frauenchiemsee housed some beautiful houses and a convert. There were plentiful of blooming gardens. We had a fish sandwich there. The fish was caught from the lake.

In the evening, we continued our journey back to Munich. On the last day of our stay in Munich, we walked along the river Isar and visited the outskirt of Munich the baroque palace Nymphenburg SchloB. We spent a great 5 days of vacation and it was really kind of Nicole to be our guide. Munich is really a nice city to live in. The people are sociable and the life style is cool. The streets are well planned and big with large pavements for walkers. It is not at all a boring city. We will definately be back there to visit the Bavarian region one day.

jeudi, octobre 19, 2006

You are mighty

Want to make yourself feel good today?
Try this website.
Replace sohcool with your name and check it out.

Thanks to Tim for this wonderful, uplifting self-motivational site.
I hope you guys out there won't get too self-centered after viewing it.
As my colleague puts it rightly, he will view it every morning to make his day.

mardi, octobre 03, 2006

It was fun

The BBQ was a success. Thank you for coming.
It was a great way for me to catch up though I must apologise for not spending more time than I should with each of you.

As usual, food was excessive and we had to ta-bao (bring back) them. People have not changed much though their kids have grown up a lot.

This trip in Singapore is really a relaxing time for me. It is a pity that the sun is hiding behind the haze.

I received positive feedback about my blog. A few people were telling me that I stopped writing from 18 August. :) I will try to write more often even on trivals. At the moment, I will continue to 'rot' in Singapore and write more when I am back in France.

Next up, watch out for my Munich's trip entry.

mercredi, septembre 27, 2006

This annoucement is for friends in Singapore

Back in Singapore for a limited period
Hi friends,
I arrived in Singapore on 26 Sept at 7am and I am leaving in 11 days time.

I would like to get some news from you. So, I am organising a BBQ at the park in front of my block this Sunday the 1 Oct starting from 7pm. If you know me, you know how to contact me. Let me know if you are coming. Don't be pai-seh, ok?

Best regards,

vendredi, août 18, 2006


15 August is a public holiday here in France. This year it fell on a tuesday. As everyone in the office except two of us were on holiday, my boss decided to close the office on monday. This means that I had four days to go for a short trip.

Anca would like to go to the beach. Seb would prefer to go to the mountains. I just would like to get away. As it was such a last min planning, we could only get accomodation in the mountains and not near the sea.

So, we set off for the town Clermont Ferrand which is about 400km away from Paris. The region is Auvergne . It is a beautiful region with old volcanos, lakes in craters and valleys.

Once we reached there, we left Bao Bei in the hotel room and set off for the nearest peak. Yeah, it was so last min that we could not find a cat-sitter for Bao Bei. Hotels here usually accept animals for a small fee but do not provide any food or bed. Still, we think this moving caused stress to Bao Bei. It is really not a good idea.

We visited the town Clermont Ferrand. It was not very colorful and in no time at all, we had finished visiting the up town. We headed to the nearest peak, Puy de Drôme. As we were there late in the afternoon, we decided to take the bus to the peak. Trekking up the mountain will take about 1h 45mins. It was really windy up there but the view was fanastic.

Below is the Lac Pavin. We took an hour to walk round the lake. It was crystal green and calm.

We visited villages in Auvergne. In the village Saint Nectaire, we bought cheese Saint Nectaire which is produced there.

One of the last place we visited in our stay in Auvergne was Mont Doré. We trekked along Puy de Sancy. During winter, there is a small ski station beside. There were cows grazing along the fields. I saw this lovely mountain flower and could not resist to take a photo.

mercredi, août 09, 2006

Singapore's National Day

I am a Singaporean.
When I was in Singapore, I called myself a chinese.
When I was in Australia, I had an identity crisis.
-"Are you a chinese?"
-"So you are from china!"
-"No, I'm a singaporean."

When I was in US, the same situation occurred.
-"You are a chinese."
-"Yes, I am."
-"You are from china."
-"No, I'm from singapore."
-"Oh, yes. Singapore. It is the island that was colonised by the British ....."
-"... and was returned to China..."
-"No. That was Hong Kong."

Now in France, I simply said that I am a Singaporean. Still, the story reminds much the same on my identity....
-"Are you a chinese then?"
-"Your ancestors were from China?"
-"I never thought about it but I think so. I have no family in China."
-"How many chinese are there in Singapore?"
-"Almost 75% of the population."

I am proud to be a singaporean. There are only 3 million unique pure singaporeans in this world. How rare that is. The foreigners I came across either had personal experiences with Singapore like having visited it, read a special article about its cleaniness etc; or had never heard of it and do not know where on earth it is.

Today is 9 August. Singapore's birthday.

For non-Singaporeans who do not know about Singapore, I hope this blog will make you go search a little more about this sunny island.

For fellow Singaporeans, I hope that you enjoyed the National Day Parade. I will try to catch it online.

samedi, juillet 22, 2006


Each year, my company organises a company weekend. This year, we passed a weekend in Ardèche which is about 600 km away from Paris.

At Ardèche, we did a full day of kayaking down the gorge of Ardèche. I was glad that my partner, Mehdi, and I had good coordination and had no problem paddling down this 25 km journey. The mountains are impressive though I would prefer the scenery of the Delaware River in United States where I did 9 days of canoeing few years ago. Still, the lavender fields are impressive. There are fields of violets. Pretty!

I would definately visit this area again. It is very picturesque and there are many ruins to discover. Little towns and nature as well.

A hot saturday

France is hot this summer. Even with our fan at the highest speed, there is no cool air but only warm air circulation. But compared to Singapore, this is nothing. However, the french are not used to the heat and a dozen lives had already been claimed by this heat.

I guess this heat was announced as an international news in Singapore because my mom advised me to drink more water, stay indoors and blah blah blah. Mom! I lived in sunny Singapore almost all my life. I am more heat resistant than the french here. And I am a grown up. I know how to prevent myself from dehydration.

I am kinda glad of the weather cos I get to wear my summer clothes more often than I did last year. I remembered that I only wore my sleeveless blouses for two weeks back then.

I just went to Chinatown to buy some essentials like mee hoon, green chinese vegetables etc. And guess what I saw there. Durians!! It is the season again. Whole durians are selling at 6.50 euro per kilo. I have no experience in opening durian so that is not an option. Durians fruits are selling at 18.50 euro per kilo. This is too expensive. I started to think about my coming trip to Singapore and resisted from buying the durian. I promise to eat all I can in Singapore. Finally, in order to calm my taste buds, I ended up with a durian ice cream. Price: 0.85 euro.

When I reached home, I cooked mee siam with the pre-mixed paste from Prima Taste. It was really simple to make. It reminded me of my primary school canteen's mee siam. 50 cents for a plate of mee siam. Just mee hoon and gravy. Just yummy.

jeudi, juillet 13, 2006

Baghdad Burning

It has been months since I started to read this blog regularly. There is even a book published. Please do give it a read. When will Baghad stop burning?
I sincerely hope that one day, she can bring a close to this blog. In order to achieve it, we need to create awareness about the situation in Iraq. It is beyond me. But if you can do something about it, please do.

dimanche, juillet 02, 2006

France in semi-final and the french went crazy

When France beat Spain to go into the quarter-finals of the World Cup, cars on the street started honking and waved the french flags. People were heading down to Champs Elysees to celebrate.

When France beat Brazil to go into the semi-finals of the World Cup, cars on the street started honking and waved the french flags. People were heading down to Champs Elysees to celebrate.

The difference was, there were more people this time round for the semi-finals celebration. This time, Seb and I were at Anca's place watching the game together. As the game ended at 11pm, Anca offered to send us home. We drove along the périphérique of Paris to get to my place as she lives in the south of paris and we in the north.

There were cars and cars heading down the same direction as us. The exit to Champs Elysees is one exit after ours. The traffic was slow. Everyone was honking for joy, even Anca. People were waving french flag, algerian flag (Zidane's origin is algerian as his parents came from there), and portugal flag. France versus Portugal in the semi-finals.

That's not all, people went crazy. They sticked out half their bodies out of the car windows and sat on the window ledge. There was even extreme cases when people sat on the roof of the car. One must not forget that these were moving cars and though traffic was slow, if the driver jammed on his brake, these people could easily get thrown off and be hurt seriously. There were even cars driving recklessly cutting on the shoulder of the highway to over take other cars. Motorbikers without helmets, a driver on a convertible standing and waving while driving with one leg on the steering wheel. Boys running on the highway and at one point, pulling down their jeans to show off their boxers.

These people were drunk in excitement by the fact that france is going into the semi-finals. They totally went out of control and they were heading into Champs Elysees to party and get drunk further.

When we reached home, it was very late. Traffic was never so bad on a saturday night on the périphérique. France semi-final will be on this wednesday. Seb and I had decided that we will avoid going out this wednesday and this weekend nights. I am sure you can understand why.

mardi, juin 20, 2006

Irene came and went

Irene and Mag came to Paris during the week of Roland Garros. They are such big tennis fans that they travelled all the way from Singapore to France just for 2 days of "live" Roland Garros. Of course, they stayed for a week to profit on sight-seeings and shopping.

Well, I am glad that they came. Firstly, Irene acted as my "DHL". I am stocked again with some singapore local delights. Cool. Secondly, they brought along with them big sunshine. Just a week before they came, it was grey and cold in Paris. I was still in long sleeves. The day they arrived, it was so hot. Amazing. The ladies were even complaining that it was too hot for them.

I took leave and visited Musée d'Orsay with them on Friday. I had always wanted to visit it but the last time I was there with Nicole, it was so crowded that we decided not to waste our time queueing. This time round, we did not have to queue long. It was so interesting to see the impressionist paintings. Earlier on in Delft, I watched a documentary about the lives of the impressionists. The founders of this type of painting. People like Claude Monet, Edgar Degas, Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Paul Cézanne who started their first exhibition had critics saying that these artists should wear glasses as the images were all blurry. I will write another blog about these artists when I have the inspiration.

On Sunday, we visited Mont Saint-Michel and on the way back, we made a short visit to the Americian Cemetery in Normandy. It was really impressive as rows and rows of white crosses greeted us on green american lawn. These are the americans who sacrificed their lives during WWII to liberate Europe from the NAZIS.

A week came and went. Very soon, it was the end of the vacation for Irene and Mag. Now, I am waiting for the photos from Irene . . . . .

vendredi, juin 02, 2006

Amsterdam and Den Haag

During the first weekend of my training in Delft, Seb and I spent a day at Amsterdam and the next at Den Haag. Den Haag is the local name. In English, it is known as the Hague.

After a good lunch in a chinese street, we made our way to House of Anne Frank. Along the way, we passed by Dam Square which is really crowded with people, a row of windows with bikini girls exhibiting their wares and lots of bridges crossing the canals.

The house of Anne was not big and the visit did not last more than an hour. The atmosphere was solemn with people whispering in respect of the event that had taken place here during the holocaust. However, this is worth a visit lest we forget how humans can be so inhuman and treat other humans inhumanly. I really could not imagine how all these people allowed themselves to be loaded up into trains leading to the deathcamps. How their neighbours can turn against them. How their neighbours can turn their backs on them. It is just so sad.....

We walked around Amsterdam and eventually took a guided boat ride along the canals. It was interesting as there were explanations on the artitecture and other trifles about this city.

For dinner, we stopped by a street full of little resturants and settled for Tibetian food. It tasted like Indian anyway.

Overall, we did enjoy Amsterdam. The center was a bit small so it was really crowded. There were less bicycles than in Delft but more coffee shops.

Den Haag
We met up with Elisabeth and her friend Evelyn at Den Haag train station on sunday afternoon. In the morning, Seb and I passed a peaceful time having breakfast in the center of Delft.

The first place we visited in Den Haag is Madurodam, the miniature Holland. With Evelyn as our guide since she had visited it at least 6 times, we had a better understanding and view of Holland. All famous landmarks and buildings in Holland are there. Acurate to the finest details.

Next, we visited the art museum that is next to the Parliment House in Den Haag. We viewed paintings by Dutch painters who made their way to Italy during the 18 century before the impressionists made Paris the center of art. As it was a small museum, it was very enjoyable. I remembered more of what I saw here than I did with le Louvre.

For the rest of the day, we had an afternoon tea and lazed around Den Haag until Seb left for Paris on Thalys and I headed back to Delft. It was a pleasant weekend.

mercredi, mai 10, 2006

I'm in Delft

I'm in Delft, The Netherlands. I will be here for 2 weeks of training. The last time I came here was more than 2 years ago during winter. So it really surprises me that this week, the weather is warmer than in Paris.

Delft is the second most popular destination in The Netherlands after Amsterdam. It is really a student town as there is a university. The famous painter Johannes Vermeer lived here and painted here. There is also the House of Orange museum telling the stories of some royal family history. The last time I was here, we had a pleasant visit there. Also, it is important to know that Delft is famous for its ceramics. The Delft Blue .

There are good food in Delft as well. I met up with Dick yesterday and we ate good ribs at Billy Beer. (Beer is bear in Dutch) It is really nice to catch up in person as we had not met since our last training and had only commuicated by Skype and emails.

For next week, I will be looking for the good indonesian resturant that Seb and I had once 2 years ago in Delft. I cannot really remember where it is now. The indonesian food here is really good compared with Paris. Indonesia used to be a colony of Holland so they is a high population of indonesians here.

Class is over and we are all heading to the nearest beach. We have to enjoy this great weather while it lasts. I will update on my coming weekend at Amsterdam. So come back again next week.

jeudi, mai 04, 2006

Singapore Election

This saturday will be election day in Singapore. It will be the first time in my life where I will be able to vote. Not that I just turned 21 but because in Singapore, there are not many candidates up against the PAP government so usually it is a walk over. Meaning no election.

Election is mandatory in Singapore. Yet, this time round, I will not be able to vote because I am here in Paris and the nearest polling center is in London. Well, I wrote to the Election Department informing to be excused and to be included in the next election. Till now, I have yet to receive a reply from them.

At the same time, living in France had made me become more aware about politics. I started to check out on the Singapore Election Watch blog and also on a site dedicated to Yeo Cheow Tong. What a revelation! Maybe you are already awared of the happenings behind the scene concerning the Lee Dynasty. Still, check this out.

For now, I am waiting to get my hands on the banned in Singapore book, Escape from Paradise. Mean while, have fun voting in Singapore for those concerned and tell me how it went.

samedi, avril 01, 2006

My saturday

Spring is finally here. And in this blog, I will take the opportunity to show you readers with visuals on what Seb and I did on this lovely saturday.

After lunch, Seb decided that he wanted to go to Saint Michel to buy a book from a bookstore that sells a wide range of technical books. In order to reach Paris, we had to take the train from Becon station to get to St Lazare Station. The journey is 7mins by direct train.

This is St Lazare station and it is always crowded at all times. From St Lazare, we walked to the bus stop of bus 81 to bring us to the Louvre. I needed to go to the central post office as it is the only post office still open after 12pm in Paris.

As you notice, in Paris, for small narrow pavement, there is hardly any space to install a bus shelter. So, we really have to look out for the bus stops at times.

Along the way to the post office, I noticed 2 smart cars will dress up advertising Nesquik. Isn't that an idea?

After buying the stamps and posting my letters, we walked towards Saint Michel. It was really a fine day to take a walk in Paris. As you can see from the first photo, spring flowers are blooming and the sky is blue. Above is a photo of le Seine. Isn't it lovely?

And finally we reached Saint Michel, one of my favourite hang out in Paris. It is a lively area with lots of foreigners. There is a bistrot which serves great onion soup. Mirama which serves the best roast duck rice in Paris is around the corner.

Walking past a cafe, I could not help myself but to take this photo as prove of the life style in Paris. Notice that the chairs are arranged in such a way that the clients are facing the streets. This is very Parisians. We like to sit and watch the world passes by in front of us. Now as the weather turns better, people are enjoying this past time to the fullest.

To sum up the day, Seb bought the book he was looking for. We both had a great day walking in Paris. It is really enjoyable and I do hope that these photos will enforce your determination to visit Paris.

dimanche, mars 26, 2006

CPE, the new reason for the riots here

Less than 6 months and France is in the news for the same reason. There are riots again. It started as peaceful demonstrations by students and ended up with hooligans burning cars and rioting. CNN was first at hand to show the amercians footage of burning cars. I spoke to mom and she asked if everything is fine here. Everything is fine. It's a wonder how the TV news reports out of proportion the situation. They usually make a small news spectacular with sensational headlines, music and some seconds of disturbing footage.

Once again, I had to explain. These riots had nothing in connection with last Nov's riots. There are only a few. The First Minister recently set up a new contract for the first employment. It is known as CPE (Contrat Premiere Embauche); Contract of the first employment. This is meant for young job seekers below 26 years old. With CPE, you can be sacked anytime without any reason in your first 2 years of so-called probation. What horror!

Well, you have to understand the economy in France. This is not a simple right or wrong contract. There are about 10% of unemployment in France and a high percentage of youths could not find jobs after graduation. So, the right-wing government decided to create this contract to combat this issue.

Of course, employers are very happy as France's strict labour law makes it really difficult to sack an employee. There must be valid justifications that are quantitative. Just saying that this employee is under performing and he has to go is not enough. You will have to compensate him. However, there may be a risk that large companies will employ youths and sack them before their two years contract is up.

So, on the other side of the fence are the students and labour unions. Think about it, after many years of studies, you ended up with a CPE job. You cannot commit into projects like buying a house, planning the future etc. One, you have no idea if you will still have your job after two years as your company can replace you without reason in order to employ someone younger than you. Cost saving for the company? Also, how can you borrow money from a bank if you want to buy a house? Will banks be willing to lend money to someone with a two years contract? The risk that the person cannot repay the loan if he is sack is too high.

And there you are, students protesting in the streets, at schools. Who's side are you on? I guess it depends if you are under 26 or if you are a patron of an enterprise. For me, I am neither. I prefer to sit on the fence.

For further reading, check out on BBC. But I can't say if the reporting is fair. From what I read, they seem to be interviewing more of the bosses than the under 26.

jeudi, mars 16, 2006


Last Sunday, I had lunch at rue Saint Anne which was nearby Opera. While walking to the train station, I saw this interesting ad at the bus stop. An idea isn't it?
It is not a poster but a hang up of real clothes. 100% 3-D and I feel it real cool.

vendredi, mars 10, 2006

Are you at a cross junction or T-junction?

I thought of this song today. A song that I had not heard or sung since a long time. At this precise moment, I could not get this song out of my head. I need it as I feel like I am standing at a cross junction. There are roads ahead but my engine is dead. I can't move forward. I need a start-up and a signal light. I hope this song will minister to you as much as it does for me now.

God Will Make A Way
Words and music by Don Moen
Proverbs 3:6
"In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. "

God will make a way,
Where there seems to be no way
He works in ways we cannot see
He will make a way for me
He will be my guide
Hold me closely to His side
With love and strength for each new day
He will make a way, He will make a way.

By a roadway in the wilderness, He'll lead me
And rivers in the desert will I see
Heaven and earth will fade
But His Word will still remain
He will do something new today.

lundi, mars 06, 2006

Marching to an Oscar

I am so delighted to annouce to those who still have no idea which film bagged an oscar for the Best Documentary Feature.
It is none other than 'March of the Penguins'. I watched it in french during my flight on Malaysia Airlines last year. It was super touching. It was simply narrated and there were many moving scenes.
It really deserves this award.
Now, this french produced film has been translated by Morgan Freeman for the US market. Friends, if this film is aired in Singapore, I strongly encourage you to watch it.
If you complain about raising your kids, wait until you see how the penguins do it.

mercredi, mars 01, 2006

1 Mars

1 March 2006. My first blog for this month.
Nicole came visiting last weekend and I took 2 days leave to visit Paris with her. We had fun. It is amazing the number of places we had not visited in Paris. Nicole was in Paris for a year last year and I met her through our french lessons.

We visited Basilica of Saint-Denis, the cathedral which houses the tombs of the royals. There are tombs of 46 kings, 32 queens, 63 princes and princesses as well as 10 great officers of the Crown who laid there until the French Revolution. Today, we are still able to see the tombs from many hundred years ago. It is really amazing.

Catherine de Medicis was laid there with her husband. She was the one who instigated the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre on the eve of her daughter, Queen Margot's marriage to Henry IV. There are great paintings of this massacre. But we will leave the painting topic to another day.

There is also the tomb of Philip le Bel (the fair). The tomb of his son, Louis X is also there. Louis X's wife had an affair and Louis X was never sure that his daughter Jeanne was really his. However, I was surprised to find her tomb just beside his. Also, the tomb of the baby son of Louis X by his second wife is there as well. It is really interesting to have read and watch this story from 'Le Rois Maudits' and then to really see these tombs for real.

We visited St-Germain l'Auxerrois. This is the church favored by the kings who attended mass there as it is just nearby the Louvre. This is also where Queen Margot married her husband, the future king Henry IV. The St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre happened just nearby this area. To understand this day better, I would invite you to watch this film, La Reine Margot.

We visited Sainte-Chapelle. This is really the place that one should not miss. I am in Paris since two years and I never really bother to find out more about this small chapel hidden in the court of the Palace of Justice. I cannot describe more about this chapel. You have to see it to believe the beauty of the stained glasses.

Of course, we visited the streets of Paris and the places we used to hang out. Including a beer at Coolin's.

lundi, février 06, 2006

How rich are you?

Last friday, the prize money of the lottery EURO millions reached nearly 200 millions euro. There are 3 people who won. 2 in france and the other one somewhere in Europe. That is about 61 millions euro for each of them. That is mega, super lots of money.

Yesterday, the news showed some african kids who were kidnapped to be boy soldiers. Young african girls were forced to be slaves and child bearers. Some westerners volunteers were trying to save these kids out of their poor situation. A boy of 11 was asked if he had killed someone with his gun before. He shyly nodded his head.

On friday, I wish I could be just a million euro richer. Yesterday evening, I thank God that I am rich. How ironic isn't it?

Have you watch the movie with Nicolas Cage? The title is Lord of Wars. It shows exactly how guns were given to these poor boys in africa. This is an international conspiracy. If there are no warring countries, there will be no demand for weapons which is a powerful industry in the western countries. With the end of cold war, big countries do not need to stock up weapons for the unknown enemy. Thus, the arms were sold off to warlords for their ethnic cleansing and what not.

Africa is a rich place. It has a lot of natural resources. Yet it is a shame that its own people do not profit from it. Outsiders make sure that there are chaos in Africa so that the natural resources can be conveniently shipped off to the richer countries.

Back to the movie. In the end, Nicolas Cage who is the main supplier of arms did not gave up his professional. He justified himself by saying that if he quits, there will be someone else taking his place.

samedi, février 04, 2006

It's cold.....

aWeather report from Paris, France. These two weeks, it has been cold. In the morning, the temperature ranges from -2°C to 0°C. In the afternoon, it raises to about 5°C. The sky is mostly grey but snow does not fall often.

Frankly, I am still not used to this cold weather. Even all wrapped up from ear mufflers to gloves and boots, I can still feel the cold. For the weekend, we choose to stay at home and watch the Manga animation Naruto. Nothing better than a warm, cozy place and doing nothing in this winter time.

I do hope spring comes soon so that I can start to take walks in Paris.

samedi, janvier 28, 2006

Chinese New Year

Today, we had the most important dinner of the year. For all chinese, Chinese New Year's eve dinner is a time where everyone in the family eat togather. This evening, Seb and I had steamboat in keeping with our customs in Singapore. We put a pot of chicken stock on a stove and made do with our improvised steamboat. The dinner was great.

In order to get the new year mood here, we turned to CCTV to watch the variety program. It feels good to know that there are chinese all over the world and everyone keeps to this tradition of celebrating chinese new year.

In New York, Sydney, and other parts of the world, there are chinese new year celebration organised by the mayors as there is an important population of chinese.

For tomorrow, I will cook a feast for my invites. It is sure a good way to start the Dog year. To feast and drink. And I wish all chinese a prosperous and happy chinese new year.