Wednesday, June 25, 2014

the geographically blind - living up to my standards

So Feeder and I were at the Subang Airport, checking in our luggage for a flight to the east coast (for open water diving course).

Me : I would like to check in our luggage.

Firefly ground staff : Flying to?

Me : (mind went blank for two seconds) ...
        (looked for the destination on the printed flight itinerary) ...
        (and failed to locate it) Kelantan...

Feeder : What? No, we're flying to Kuala Terengganu.

Me : (still reading the flight itinerary) ...
        (and found it) Oh yes!

Staff : ... (proceeded with check in procedure)

Me : (to Feeder) Are you sure we are flying to Kuala Terengganu?
        What if the hotel staff pick us up in Kota Bharu airport?

Feeder : I am sure.

Me : But last time we went to Lang Tengah, we took the boat from Kelantan.

Feeder : No, we didn't! We went to Terengganu!

In the end the hotel staff picked us up in the Kuala Terengganu airport. And we got our diving license.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

How did I survive Paris - the people and their language

All my life I have been fascinated by the idea of staying in a foreign country and experience their culture. I guess I was granted this opportunity last August. I had been sent to Paris, France for a 3-month-assignment.

The biggest challenge I found was understanding the people, and making them understand me - obviously not all of them could speak English.

The most important phrase, to me, is not "bonjour" or "merci". Nor it is "bonne soirée", that is my favourite word instead - something I muttered everyday when it is time to be released from the office. The most important phrase - so important that it involves the matter of life and death - is, "beaucoup sauce s'il vous plaît". That was something I had to say everyday during lunch in the office canteen.

My colleagues who worked in the same project are very nice and friendly people. Some are Venezuelan. One of them told me she had been working in Paris for 6 - 7 years and married to a Parisian. Like me, she was really excited when she first started working in Paris. And traveled almost every weekend. So she could totally understand how I felt - wanting to see and experience as much as possible.

However some Parisian can be really "unbelievable". My first culture shock was on the first day that I arrived to the office. At the lobby we were registered as visitors with a temporary access card, and were told to obtain a permanent one from the administration department. So we took the elevator to the administration floor and apparently we were not able to access the secured gate with our temporary card. We knocked on the glass door to attract the attention of a lady (obviously French) sitting near the entrance. With sign language we tried to tell her we couldn't enter and would she please open the door for us. Perhaps it wasn't obvious to her that three foreign, yellow-skin noobs were seeking help - she took one look at us and continued to her business. I watched in disbelief as she went on typing on her keyboard. My two other colleagues gave me the get-used-to-it-if-you-want-to-survive look (it wasn't their first time in Paris), and turned to the other entrance.

At the other entrance, we did the same trick and this time it worked. The plump lady (also obviously French) let us in. I gratefully thought the world is still beautiful after all. We said thank you and this was what she replied us:

"No English, please!"

When I told my friends this story, CA suggested that I speak Bahasa Melayu to her. And she'd be too frustrated and switched to English herself. But Feeder said given his experience in France, she'd just ignore me. I couldn't agree more.

Had I been treated like this the whole time in Paris? Of course not. Like any other places, there were both good and bad people. The universe always had to keep its balance, didn't it? 

So Feeder and I were near to the Palais Garnier, trying to find our way to Galeries Lafayette. We knew Paris was not a safe place. Hence even when studying the map we were keeping a lookout. Two ladies approached us, told us in English that a few pickpockets were right behind them, about to reach. They only target tourists and obviously we looked like one. They would come ask for donation with a piece of paper appearing to be list of donors as distractions. Do not talk to them - just wave our hands and get them going. We thanked the kind ladies for their warning and was being even more cautious. A minute later a cute guy nice gentleman in suit and tie approached us with the same warning. Wow! Two good deeds in a row! I was rather surprised.

Inside of Palais Garnier.

Another time we were in Dinan, an outskirt town 400 km away from Paris. Again I was studying the map (that's what tourists do). A lady came pointed at the map and said "Vous êtes ici", to which I replied "Merci".

The old medieval town of Dinan.

A similar experience when Nicole and I were looking for the China Town near Place d'Italie (we were craving for char siew and roasted pork). A guy who looked like a gangster gentleman came throwing us sentences in French, which I could catch only one word - "adresse". Obviously he was asking us if we had the address so he could point us the right direction. He performed sign language when I said "China town". Another good deed gratefully accepted.

So, did I enjoy Paris? Yes.
Am I willing to stay there again given the chance? Yes.
Am I willing to stay there for long term (more than a year)? No.

I guess Paris did not live up to my expectations. It was not a city of romance, no! There were always people kissing and making out on the street but city of romance? Definitely not what I had in mind. At least I didn't feel anything when I was travelling with Feeder.
Paris. Is. Overrated.

It's not very convenient when you can't speak French. And the people, no offence but they're not very... patient and considerate. And the weather, towards the end and beginning of the year, was getting freezing cold.

I guess I can give a lot of excuses for not wanting a long stay in Paris. But then it all comes down to one reason.
Do I love Paris? No.

Monday, June 9, 2014


Last August, I was sent to Paris for a 3 months short-term assignment, together with a few of my colleagues. Seizing this opportunity, I asked my colleague, a semi-pro photographer, to help with my pre-wedding photo shoots.

Feeder was going to travel to Paris, bringing the wedding gown which I have booked from Malaysia. I would need to hire a make-up artist and a hair stylist in Paris. With the help of Google I settled with Charles Gillman. He had good testimonials, experienced with Asian facial features, responsive in emails, reasonably priced (85 euro for photoshoot), and most importantly, he could speak English.

In our email correspondence I asked for reference of a hair stylist and he introduced me to one whom he always worked with. Her name was Danielle Carson, charging at 80 euro. I paid Charles the deposit, confirmed the appointment, and scheduled for them to arrive at my hotel at 6:30 am.

Therefore I had all the items on my list checked, or so I thought.

On the day of the photoshoot, at 6:30 am I checked my email, and saw this:

From: Danielle Carson <>
To: shinloo <>
Sent: Sep 28, 2013 1:08:21 AM

Dear Shinloo,

How are you? I hope you read this e mail in time, I am right in the middle of fashion week and I had a show booked on the day of your shoot at 10 am. Unfortunately they changed the call time to 6 am just today. I am just e mailing you now because I just got in from doing three shows and haven't had a second to stop all day and they just informed us a couple hours ago.

What I can propose is I can do your hair for you at 5 am today, if you read this in time, but unfortunately it's impossible to cancel the show.

I'm really really sorry this has never happened before I will happily try and accommodate you at 5AM and I tried calling other hairdressers I know but unfortunately it's too last minute.

I hope we can figure something out in time,

Again I am so sorry,

Danielle Carson

I stared at it for 2 minutes. Re-read and re-read. The email was sent 5 hours before our appointment. I almost cried. What could I do without a hair stylist?

Then I started calling Charles, who told me he went to the wrong hotel branch. He was supposed to come to Residhome Hotel in La Defense, but instead he went to another branch in God-knows-where. But fear not, as he was on his way. He said he couldn't get in touch with Danielle and then I told him about Danielle's email.

At about 7:30 am he arrived. We wasted some time to discuss whether or not to go on with the photoshoot. And then we decided to get the make-up done first and think of the hair later. Charles was nice and helpful. He tried to search for a salon nearby that I could go to. And he kept apologizing on Danielle's behalf.

Charles working his magic hands on me.

After Charles left, my colleagues and I spent some time having brain storming session on what to do with my hair. Couldn't have done it without them. =)

From left - Nicole, Chloe and SeeYee. Me sitting in the middle.

In the end I still decided to leave it to the professional since the salon nearby was already open for business, which, as far as I know, was very unusual in France. After some hand-waving and picture-showing we finally got the salon to understand what we wanted.

Me and Feeder, in front of my office building in La Defense.

This was how I began a long day of pre-wedding photoshoot in Paris. 

Hence fellow brides out there, heed my warning! DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT hire Danielle Carson the hair stylist in Paris. I pray that the same fate will fall upon her on her wedding, and her birthday, and her prom night (I guess she's too old for that), and any important event in her life!

Don't get me wrong - Charles Gillman did a fabulous job! But this Danielle, she's irresponsible, unprofessional and useless! Below was an email I sent after the photoshoot:

From: shinloo
To: Danielle Carson <>
Sent: Oct 4, 2013 6:18:34 PM


Sending your email 5 hours before our appointment, I am sure you already knew I will not be able to read your email in time. This is equivalent to not showing up at the last minute and totally unprofessional. 


I am grateful for your effort to try to help. I believe it was a bad day for both of us. I hope you will be wise in selecting your partners in the future. 


Below was Charles' reply:

To: shinloo
Sent: Oct 7, 2013 1:44:50 PM

Hello Shinloo,

Sorry for the delayed reply, this weekend’s been rather busy. I just wanted to thank you for your email and I really hope that your shoot was enjoyable despite the actions of Danielle that morning. I wanted to let you know that we had a firm two hour discussion on Tuesday morning to follow up on her bad client service with yourself. Following on from this, we’ve made a decision that she will no longer be working with Charles Gillman Cosmetics – Paris, as she doesn’t fit our philosophy of superior customer service. 

Once again I apologise profusely, it was lovely to meet you and I hope that you enjoy the rest of your stay in Paris.

Kindest regards.


Great! Serves her right! I hope this ruins her career!