vendredi, novembre 30, 2007

Some photos of the market before it burnt down

Leave benefits in france

It has been more than 5 months since I switched jobs. I do not think I ever wrote about the work benefits in France. I will just mention about the leave benefits here.

In France, the annual leave is 5 weeks. I think this is a standard for all workers. Everyone I know who works here has at least 5 weeks of leave. My company is kind enough to give everyone an extra week. I have 6 weeks of annual leave. On top of that, I have extra days off. In France, the general weekly working hours is 35 hours. Depending on the company policy, workers are compensated with extra off days for extra hours of work. In my present company, we work minimum 39 hours per week. To compensate for the extra hours, we have a day off for every 9 days of work. That is about two off days per month. This day off cannot be accumulated as it is meant to be a day to rest for working extra hard. Of course, there is always an exception for new comer who does not have enough annual leave to go on holidays.

In total, I am paid 54 working days a year for not going to office. This is a big bonus compared to my previous job where I did not have off days even if I stayed back late because I was on 35 hours working week and had only 25 days of leave.

Not everyone has this chance like mine. It is really rare to find such an employee social company. Seb used to work for one such company. But now, he is working for a multi-national company where he has 5 weeks of leave and 12 off days per year.

Days off are really useful in this country where public offices and certain banks are not open on Saturday. Any administrative paper work has to be done during the weekdays and it can take up the whole day just queueing and waiting for your turn. As a foreigner in this country, I do have lots of paper works to be done. Of course, during the strike season, people took a day off to avoid getting caught in traffic.

In my opinion, having so many days of leave does not reduce work productivity and effiency. In contrast, it boosts worker's moral and after a good rest, we are even more motivated and effective in our work.

I remembered that in Singapore, the weekly working hours was 42 hours and yet we worked up to 60 hours when the dateline was near. I had 18 days of annual leave. After we delivered our project, we usually had a day off. I thought I was really fortunate then.

mardi, novembre 20, 2007

Neverending strike?

I am in office at 7am this morning. I am not an early person but I had no choice. France is crippled by transport strike since a week. On this tuesday, almost everyone is on strike. Teachers, judges, lawyers, France telecom staff, electricity company workers, university students, Air France stewards and hostesses and most important of all, public transport workers. 1 out of 5 metros are working. Suburbs trains are greatly reduced. Millions of commuters in Paris and its suburbs resorted to cars, bicycles or walking. There were 250 km of traffic jams reported last week. Now you know why I left home at 6.20am. To avoid the 1.5 hours I took when we left at 7.30am yesterday.

Last week, I was in Helsinki and did not face the strike. While the temperature there was less than 1 degree, the indoors were always warm. I even found the hotel room too hot. It was nice to have a little snow. The main street in Helsinki had a hot water pipe running underneath it to prevent it from freezing and being slippery during winter. Most of the time, we walked through shopping center and underground tunnel to get from the hotel to the client's office. I was not out in the cold that much. From the month of November, cars in Finland had to change their tyres for the winter. By 1 December, all cars must have their winter tyres fitted.

For the moment, my working trip is confined to Finland. As for Seb, he was in South Africa just a week before me and it was 25 degrees there. When we compared our photos, it was amusing to see the differences. One of green trees and lovely swimming pool with bright sunshine.The other of beautiful lights with a snowing background.

mercredi, novembre 07, 2007

The first family breaking up

Nicolas Sarkozy. If you have never heard of this name, it is okay. I can understand that you are not living in France or you do not care about politics. This guy’s name is everywhere that even the Americans know about him. He is the president of France and a friend of George Bush. He is the guy mentioned DAILY in the local news.

He is also the first president to be undergoing a divorce. Aha, did I get your attention now? Ok. I am doing a tabloid entry here.

Long ago, when Nicolas Sarkozy was mayor of Neuilly (a wealthy commune just beside Paris), he conducted the marriage of Cécilia and Jacques Martin (a TV host). Jacque Martin was in his fifties and his bride was 26 years old and heavily pregnant.

A few years later, Nicolas and Cécilia divorced their respective partners and got married in 1996. The marriage was on the rocks when Cécilia went to New York in the company of another man in 2005.

During the presidential campaign, all the candidates tried to make their family life look good. Nicolas was no exception.

This divorce was not that surprising as Cécilia did not make an effort in her role as first lady. Something was already amiss. Like in the recent picnic lunch with George Bush and family, she was absent and announced sick. However the next day, she was seen shopping in full health. In US, this news might shock a lot of people but in france, the common people did not really care. French tends to keep to their own business. It is the opposition party that criticise Nicolas for creating a fake family image. I think what is important is how Nicolas manages this country where companies get richer but there are 7 millions people living in poverty.

More gossip starts at :

Adieu, burnt down market

A while ago, my brother informed me that the market near our old Ang Mo Kio home had burnt down. I just dismissed this news without much thought. Today, I happened to see some photos taken years ago of the hawker stalls. Suddenly, I got awoken. I am a visual person and these photos brought back much valued memories. This market had been a huge part of my childhood and even adulthood. For nearly 20 years, this was the place where we spent most of our family time together. We had breakfast, lunch, dinner and supper there. Food at hawker centers were cheap and when mom did not cook, the most convenient way was to head down to the market for a no frills cheap meal. If going to the hawker center was considered an outing, then it was the place I visited most with my father.

Stall number 1 was the mixed veggie rice stall which used to sell Yong Tau Foo. I love the braised pig trotters there. There was also this white chicken rice stall opposite the community center. I remembered having lunch there on Saturday in between band practise. The last stall sold fish soup with fried fish eggs. Yummy. Beside it was the fried oyster which was heavenly sinful.

For breakfast, we usually shared nasi lemak with prawn mee soup or laksa. Sometimes it was the fried mee hoon with porridge poured over it. It’s not yucky. You should try it. The fresh soya bean drinks was a must despite the long queue. Each of us had our own task to do. One to buy the drinks; the other to queue for the food; another one to grab seats. It was such a normal affair that I never stop for a moment to reflect on this until now. Now that I am no longer in Singapore. Now that there is no hawker center in France. Now that eating out is usually eating in a restaurant on a less frequent basis. Oh what sweet memories of this burnt down market!

For supper, we would get fried hokkien mee and also satays. I better stop talking about local food since there are no plans to go back Singapore for the rest of the year.

The stall holders were hard working people who would start from early morning until late night; sometimes selling different food between lunch and dinner. I wonder how they were affected by this great loss. I read that the government will not rebuild the market unless the stall holders contribute money as well. As the sum was huge, I doubt many would continue. Truly, if the market had not been destroyed, I guess I would never have such strong nostalgic thoughts right now.

I better clear my thoughts fast because I wanted so much to hop on a plane for Singapore and hug my family telling them “I love you all and thanks for the meals we had together at the market.” Bisous.