mercredi, octobre 31, 2007

We have moved.

We had finally moved into our new place. Having professional movers eased our lives a great deal. Still we were kept busy with cleaning the apartments (the new and the old ones); buying the essentials for the apartment; unpacking and organising our stuff etc....

With the coming public holiday on Thursday (All Saints' Day), we will continue with our post-house moving work.- To assemble the cupboard we bought, choose paint color for our coridor, buy a microwave oven, stock up food in the fridge, visit our old apartment for last check before doing a hand-over. Friends had asked me to show them photos. That would have to wait as there are still boxes lying around and we do not have all our new furnitures yet.

As we had some furnitures that we did not bring over to the new apartment, I decided to give them away. There is this interesting website that allows you to publish items to give away. It is a donation/exchange website. You can give almost anything you no longer want. I posted my fridge and immediately got 16 replies. Some were students starting their school year in Paris and needed to furnish their studio. I would prefer this site than eBay. And looking at the replies I received, there are needy people out there who could benefit from things we no longer want.

As for the transport strike, it was over last week. However, this is the season of strike. Lawyers and judges were on strike. So were the staff of ambulances. Even the Air hostesses and stewards of Air France and KLM just ended their strike. On 20 Nov, there would be a general strike. I doubt I will take a day off but I will definately leave home real early to avoid the traffic jam.

dimanche, octobre 21, 2007

Strike three and maybe more days to come

The general transport strike started on thursday. Since it was announced a few days earlier, people organised themselves for alternate transport. Some took a day off to avoid the traffic mess.

On thursday, things were quite okay. There was no long queue at the train stations and metro stations. There was no major traffic jams. People used bicycles, car pool or walked. I walked to work on thursday. It was 3 km away and it took me 35 mins. After work, my colleague sent me home on his scooter. That was peaceful thursday.

However, the union decided to prolong the strike as their demands were not met. On friday, Paris was a mess. People could not take another day off. There were crowds waiting for metro and trains. Mostly 1 out of 3 trains or metro were functionning. RER A and RER B were totally down. I drove to work on friday as I had to visit our new apartment after work. What a bad day to do that. Driving to work was okay. The return trip from my new apartment to home took me more than 1 hour. Everyone was breaking traffic rules. Traffic was really slow and cars just cut lanes and driving on the road shoulders. The usual journey would take me 30mins.

Seb had it no easier as well. He had to travel to Belgium on wed evening instead of thursday since there was no guarante that TGV would work on thrusday. When he was returning on friday, his train was cancelled and he had to take the one before. That was still not too bad. At Gare du Nord, the queue for taxi was so long that he decided to take a bus until Gare Pont Cardinet and then took a train back to Becon des Bruyères, our station. Long story short cos' there were other bothering details. In brief, he reached home late.

And yesterday, the strike continued. :( Seb left for Boston in the morning and I had an appointment at our new apartment. My kind renovation contractor sent me to the new apartment and I discussed about the remaining works to be done. After that, he left me and I was stranded. In the internet, the transport website updated about the situation and RER D was supposed to be working. At the train station, I waited patiently until someone told me that she had been waiting since 45 minutes. We both gave up waiting and tried to find an alternative. In the end, I took three buses to reach home and that took me 2 hours in total.

Today, I stayed at home. There were only one train every two hours to go Paris. Usually, there were four each hour. I chose to pack the boxes and prepare for our house moving.

I have been too busy to go into the details of the strike. But it seems that railway workers retirement age is at 55. The government had been trying to make them work longer. The government reasoned that this retirement plan was created long ago during the time of steam trains when it was a hard and dangerous work. Now, train drivers had an easier job and should work longer. As usual, no one can touch this group of workers. The union replied that their jobs were not easy. Their responbilities were great, they worked on irregular hours and their workloads were heavy.

I will keep a watch out on the news this evening. I guess there is a high chance that I would have to walk to work tomorrow. Do I mind the strike? It is a mix feeling. I am frustrated when I was in the traffic jam. But it was my fault due to my lousy organisation. I am glad that people can manifest and go on strike. Freedom to the people! Something that we will never experience in Singapore.

mercredi, octobre 17, 2007

Some updates

I am moving next Friday. The kitchen is 90% installed. 2 cupboard doors and some pieces were delivered wrongly. They were not of the right size. The important thing is that the kitchen is functional though not completed.

During these 3 weeks, we had made a lot of last minute decisions based on the advices given by different experts. We had to change our microwave to find a size that fits. We decided to paint the living room.

We removed the skirting board and would replace them after the parquet is installed. We removed the sliding doors of the placards so that parquet could be installed in the placards as well. Initially, we wanted to leave the skirting boards and put quarter round against them and we had wanted to leave the interior of the placards as they were (carpeted).

Yesterday, we changed our mind about the presentation of our shower room. Even our bedroom location had been changed. At first, I wanted to use room 1 but now, we decided to use room 2 as our bedroom.

This is a stressful period as there are so many tiny details and things to take note of. We had made many trips to the hardware shop. Books were all packed in boxes. There was also different administrative stuff to be done.

Back at our present place, there had been a blockage problem with the water pipe. We had water on our kitchen floor thrice. Once the neighbour above us launched the dish washer, water would gush out from one of the drainage pipes that we do not use. Seems like everyone else had this problem. I hope that we could leave this place in peace.

Seb is leaving on business trip for 6 days. The responsibility is on me to supervise the works at the new place. To add cherry on top of the cake, there is a mega transport strike tomorrow and may last until Friday. I drove to work today and experienced heavy traffic. Tomorrow would be worse.

On the bright side, things are going on schedule. My mom and friends mentioned that I could move in a month after getting the keys to the apartment. For them, it was fast. Well, there were people who moved in right after getting the keys. As this is a brand new estate, there are many inconveniences at the moment. I will write about them when I am more ZEN.

lundi, octobre 08, 2007

Being multi-lingual is important, isn't it?

In office, we communicate in french. But since most of our clients are international, we communicate with them in english. In Singapore context, it will really mean that in office, we communicate in chinese and with our clients, we communicate in english. Can you imagine that? I'm posing this because based on my 5 years working experience in Singapore, all internal and external documents were written in english.

Being bi- or tri-lingual is really important. In Helsinki, during our meetings, the users were speaking in swedish or finnish among themselves. My colleague and I spoke in french while the other consultants spoke in english. Having a foreign language helped as we were able to discuss on internal issues. When the users clarified on certain issues among themselves, we had no idea what they were talking about. When the english consultants spoke among themselves, we could understand their constraints and problems. They could not hide their game. You might think that it was rude to be speaking in a foreign language in the presence of other people. I agree too but only if you want to include the others in your conversation. During the meeting, it was sometimes necessary to have private discussion among ourselves.

I can speak chinese well. But am I able to work with the chinese language? I doubt so. My written french is better than my written chinese. If I have to go China to work one day, I wonder if I can write documents in chinese. I have a few Singaporean friends working in China. I often thought that the working environment would be in english as I had doubts on my friends' chinese. Maybe I was wrong. I better check with them.

In any case, just being fluent in english is not enough. It is important to know other languages as well. When I was in Chinatown yesterday, I felt so at home listening to the roast meat seller speaking in Mandarin, Hokkien, Teochew, Cantonese and French with the customers. It just reminded me of the market back in Singapore. I wish I can speak Hokkien with someone. With my mom, we speak mandarin and english. I wonder if the young generation can speak our dialects now. It is so important to be able to speak our own mother tongues keeping in touch with our roots. At the same time, mastery of other languages can really get you further.

This revelation of being bi-lingual only hit me when I am here. Just knowing English in France is not enough. Just knowing French in France is essential but if you know English, that is a plus. I am glad that my circumstances in France obliged me to learn french. On the other hand, I hope that I will never lose my Hokkien.

dimanche, octobre 07, 2007

Another Sunday

After church this morning, I headed to Chinatown. As I wrote many times, Chinatown in the 13 district (arrondisement) is in the south and very inconvenient for me to get there by public transport. As Seb had left for Spain, I went there by public transport. I do not like to drive in Paris.
Why such desperation? Because I was craving for home cooked chinese food. I was sick of dining out for the past week. In Helsinki, half the time, I did not enjoy my meals. There were many Tex Mex resturants in Helsinki and the one we tried was enjoyable. Maybe I will just stick to Tex Mex places next time.
What did I cook? Well, the usual suspects. Chicken fried with ginger and sesame oil. And my fav big veggie roasted meat soup. I was speaking to Claire earlier and she was trying to give me ideas on what to cook since I often cook the same usual stuff. Sadly, the supermarkets here were not like those in Australia. They did not sell soba, tofu, chinese vegetables.... Best thing was, Claire remembered that I did not like fried rice. That brought back memories to our uni days. On a tight budget, fried rice was often the best choice for a quick lunch. I only like salted fish fried rice. :) Too bad, I had finished my salted fish. I am running out of "comfort food" and do not anticipate going to Singapore any time soon. If you are passing by Paris, please let me know.

Oh, France won the match against the All Blacks yesterday. There was a "kelong" cos one of passes leading to the touch down was forwarded. Only backward passes were allowed. Guess the referee did not see that. Everyone here was just happy that France is going to be in the semi-finals.

To end off, for your info, I am typing slower than usual. Normally, I type without looking at the keyboard. But after 4 days of using a Finnish keyboard, I am getting my 'a' and 'q' and a few other keys all messed up. Why can't we have a standard format for keyboards? Sigh. The english, french and finnish keyboards are all different. Headache! Working in a mutli-cultural environment, I appreciate the fact that I can speak different languages. I will elaborate on that next time. It is time to sleep and get ready for another week of work.

samedi, octobre 06, 2007

Busy month

We finally received our keys to our new apartment on 27 Sept. The promoter even gave us a bottle of champagne to celebrate. What class!
Buying from plan was really a risky business. I realised that the balcony was closer to the road than I thought. Other than that, everything built was pretty close to the plan we had.

Last weekend, Seb and I went to order the furnitures and spent several tiring hours in Leroy Merlin. This weekend, we were not spared. We continued our hunt to complete the list of things we need to buy. I was in Helsinki for 4 days and just returned yesterday. Seb is leaving for Spain for 3 days tomorrow. His travel plans for this month could not have come at a "better" timing. I just hope that renovations would carry out smoothly. The thing is, we have 3 different parties working on different areas. If one is late, the others will be affected. Let's just see if we get to move in by end of Oct.

Right now, it is the World Cup for Rugby and this year, France is the hosting country. There is a strong following for this sport and right now, most french are in front of their televsion sets watching France against New Zealand. The All Blacks had beaten the Blues 7 consecutive times. The chances of the Blues winning seems slim. We shall know the result in 20 mins. For the moment, the score is 13-13.