Sunday, December 27, 2009

Different Paths

I've just spent the last 10 minutes analyzing pictures of an old high school classmate's boobs, observing them from different angles, wondering if they're real. Even I'm a little disgusted at how fascinated I am with them - I'm not the kind of girl who's particularly interested in breasts - but they're just so different from how I last saw them. SHE'S so different from how I last saw her.

And then it hit me - how different our paths are, since we went our separate ways after high school. I mean, we were never really close friends - actually, I didn't even know her that well - but I consider many of the people I went to high school with quite similar to me. Middle-class, Asian, reasonably good at school, reasonably well-behaving...

And here we are. She's...I think she's a shooter girl? A bartender? An alcohol promoter? And a "glamour model" (i.e. men's interest model) on the side, with very large, very fake breasts. (Side note: Why would someone so naturally well-proportioned and lovely make such a choice? Now she has a date with the knife every few years - so painful and scary and unnecessary. I hope it's at least made a huge difference in her income.) She has a boyfriend who looks like a total douche (not unlike her high school boyfriend, actually) who apparently makes enough money to buy her diamonds for Valentine's Day and to own a few very expensive cars.

I, on the other hand, am still an impoverished student, doing postgraduate studies, who just spent all my money applying to law school - to the point that I don't have any funds at all to buy anyone Christmas presents this year :( - still struggling in my quest to become self-sufficient. Single, by most definitions of the word, and, though not unfortunate-looking, not model-esque by any stretch of the imagination. Too chicken sh!t to go under the knife for anything that's not absolutely necessary for my health.

I guess I'm a little self-centered. I always thought that Asian girls my age are all doing what my friends and I are - going through too much school or starting to break out into the workforce doing jobs that require us to be, um, fully-clothed. Apparently that's not so!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Santa Stories

Do you remember when you found out the truth about Santa Claus?

I honestly don't. I do remember, however, that I didn't let on that I found out for a year or two because I wanted that extra present. :P Sneaky, I know.

It's like the biggest but also the most well-meaning hoax in the world, Santa Claus. (If you're one of those crazy folks who argue that he's a satanic figure, blah, blah, blah, SCREW OFF GO AWAY and read something else!) Finding out about him though, seems to be a symbol of a loss of innocence, or an awakening of logic, depending on how you describe your glass.

I personally hate it when people don't play along (like one of my uncles, who very seriously broke the news to my cousin when she was in grade one) because I think children lose their innocence and become alarmingly cynical too soon these days, and particularly because their children tend to ruin it for everyone else's kids on the playground. Also, it's because I really like the idea that it's a big game that everyone plays together all over the world, that unites all of us, even though there are different interpretations in different countries.

A couple weeks ago, my sweet friend, Dutchman, enlightened me about Dutch Santa Claus (or, rather, Sinterklaas). He said that in North Holland, where he's from, children are told that Santa lives in Madrid. He travels on a steamboat from Spain to their country and then he gets on rooftops (to access chimneys, you know) with the help of his horse. I think it's much more reasonable for every country to have their own Santa, don't you?

Anyway, Dutch children put their shoes in front of the fireplace and Dutch Santa will put a small gift in them, like a bag of chocolates or some other treats - the Dutch aren't as materialistic as we North Americans are, you know. :P If they've been bad, however, they will only get a bundle of sticks. The horse helps Santa climb onto rooftops, so to award/attract him, children will leave "horse food" (like carrots or some other veggies) in their shoes for him. Oh, and their Santa is also not obese - more proof that he's not the same guy as his North American counterpart!

I asked Dutchman how and when he found out about Santa, and he said he was about seven or so. He said that he noticed that the food he left out for Santa's horse ended up back in his fridge the next day, so he put two and two together. So clever, right?

And you, how and when did you discover the truth about Santa? If you didn't grow up in North America, what were you told about him?

P.S. Happy Holidays!!! XOXOXO

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

My Winter Break To-Do List

The following might be - *gulp* - tangible proof that I'm growing up. After a particularly depraved and messy night, I've decided that I need to come up with a to-do list for myself for this very long break, to ensure that I am, to some degree, still being productive. So this is what I want to accomplish during the break:

  1. Find a job.
  2. Clean my sh!thole of a room. (If that's not evidence of growing up, I don't know what is.)
  3. Read El amor en los tiempos del cólera and Le Comte de Monte-Cristo in their original languages, just so I don't lose all of my Spanish and French.
  4. Read Lolita.
  5. Cook and eat healthy food and, by extension, not fall off track with my project when Christmas rolls around.
  6. Drop a dress size.
  7. Apply to UBC and maybe UVic.
  8. See my friends a lot.
  9. Watch all the TV shows my mum's saved up and veg out next to the fireplace with her.
  10. Find an internship, maybe.

So there it is! I'm putting this up here so I can't go back on my word - hold me accountable!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Mr. Nice Guy

Wikipedia was right about him. How convenient for me. Personal observations I've made independently, however, are as follows:

He absolutely lives up to "Mean what you say and say what you mean," and he also expects it of people. That's why he's the most unassuming person in the world, which is as endearing as it is frustrating.

It's almost as if he believes that everyone is well-intentioned. He's very child-like in that way. He sees la vie en rose and he is optimistic and he's pure of heart. He also sees the good in everyone. And if you win him over the first time he meets you, he'll always be on your side.

He doesn't dislike anyone, even if they're unpleasant, and he'd never talk smack about someone behind their back, which is why it makes him rather uncomfortable when he is an audience to such activity. It took some creativity and gentleness on my part when he asked me why people do this and I had to explain the fact of life to him that, honey, some people are just vindictive. And/or nosy.

But the paradox is that, while he's cheeky and child-like in some respects, he's also very street smart, probably because he's seen so much of the world. He's quite cosmopolitan, although it's somewhat common for "his kind." He's also a techno-nerd but musical. He's a party animal but he's very chill. Interesting combinations.

He's not that charming or charismatic, but he's so good-looking it makes up for that. Because of him I know that "big, brown eyes can hypnotize." He does this zapping thing with his that goes straight to my spine.

His most fascinating characteristic, to me, is that he's intimidatingly observant. He can perceive all kinds of things visually at a single glance that most people wouldn't see. It's made me wonder what he sees when he looks at me, but then I have to stop thinking about it, because I conclude that he probably sees all kinds of things about me that I hope he doesn't notice. Thankfully, he's too nice to ever note those things, or to make a person feel uncomfortable because of them.

And everywhere he goes, everyone he meets probably has the same reaction when they meet him: "Wow, what a Nice Guy."

Saturday, November 21, 2009

This Is Why Some Girls Fall for the Creepers

I was having a nice dinner with a boy that I loved. It was really, really early into the relationship and we were still in the getting-to-know-you stage - in fact, we were so eager to find out anything and everything about each other that we were going through the pictures in each other's cell phones. He came across a photo of me where I was very heavily made up and bathed in flattering light, and my hair was professionally done. He asked me who it was and, surprised, I told him that it was me.

He looked totally flabbergasted, eyes wide open, and exclaimed (what would translate to), "No way! It can't be!"

I get that I look like two different people with and without makeup (see picture - but note that the one on the right wasn't the one we were disagreeing over), but really, was that necessary? I promised him that it really was me, and after a few back-and-forth denials and assurances, which eventually turned to vehement insistence on my part, he looked at my picture really closely and handed my phone back to me with his eyebrows still up in his hairline and told me, in his dreamy, exotic lilt, "Very beautyful."

Um, wasn't I very beautiful to him bare-faced, which was how he saw me most of the time? Sexy accent aside (I'm a sucker for those), I should have been annoyed with him. And I would have been, except I was TOTALLY besotted with him at the time and I was still gaga over a picture I found on his phone. It was a shot of his breastpocket, on the long, white jacket that he wears to work every day, with the words "Dr." and his surname embroidered across it. (Intelligence is the most potent aphrodisiac.)

Now, he was actually a really great guy and he made me feel a lot more beautiful than I ever thought I'd get to feel, but this is how guys seem to treat girls they don't think they need to impress anymore because they know they like them for sure. This is how they act when they feel like they don't have to always be on their best behaviour anymore.

Today, some rando just tried to add me on Facebook. I didn't recognize his name, but his photo didn't look totally unfortunate. He wrote:

"so after lookin at ur display pic ive decided u are drop dead g
orgeous and even if u dont add me back i just had to let u know that you have a new # 1 fan and its me so keep on smilin babe"

Then I saw the groups he belonged to and was so disgusted I couldn't even look at his face anymore.

But disgustingness and poor punctuation aside, isn't it nice to be told out of the blue that you're drop dead gorgeous? Too bad random creepers tend to do it a lot more than boys I actually like. If only the boys I date would take a hint...

Being Productive

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Spirit Me Away

I have, what the French call, la bougeotte. I'm feeling so restless and I just want to be somewhere else so badly. Granted, I feel restless anyway, but I've never been this...gripped before by a borderline obsession to be somewhere else. As such, I'm already planning my summer.

I'd love to be back in Europe. When I left, I felt this it? This can't be it. I'm not done with Europe yet. So I know I'm going to be back, and soon. However, I also wouldn't mind being in Asia - preferably in Japan, even though Hong Kong would be more feasible.

My two main obstacles are that 1.) I don't have the funds...yet and 2.) my mom's totally not into the idea because I "JUST CAME HOME FROM FRANCE!!!" and I find it really hard to pursue anything my mom's against because we're thisclose. But this is something I really want, so I've been doing some research anyway.

I've looked into au pairing, but my friends who've au paired almost all have bad things to say about it. I've looked into language schools that provide field trips and lodging, but they are all heinously expensive. I've even looked into agencies that supposedly find tourism/hospitality jobs for people and find you a place to live, but they all sound too good to be true, and my hunch would always be proven whenever I'd look for reviews of those companies on Google.

My girl B, who's on exchange here from Holland but originally from Bali, is going back to Europe in like a month and I keep begging her daily to take me home with her. :P

Two people I know felt like moving to a different country for a while last year. They bought tickets, booked a few nights at a hostel and found seasonal jobs and apartments when they got there. That is so ballsy, but I'd never have the guts to do that! Well, I'd consider it if not for the fact that my mom's shrill and penetrating voice rings in my head, "DON'T DO IT! THAT'S SO UNSAFE!!! ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR MIND?!"

So does anyone have any ideas on how I can find a legitimate excuse to go somewhere else? GET ME OUTTA HERE!!!

P.S. I apologize for the Kanye-Capitalization Awesomeness of this post. :P

Friday, November 13, 2009

Being A "Pretty Girl"

I was on the phone with a bakery, ordering my mom’s favourite cake for her birthday.

“I want the one that’s heart-shaped and covered with pink and lavender cream roses.”

“In rows, right?”

“Right. The one with the groove marks in the side that makes it look like a basket.”

“Basket? There are no basket grooves on that one, pretty girl.”

Um, we were on the phone. How did she know what I look like? I wanted to reply, “Actually, my face is covered in warts and I have four boobs, but I appreciate the sentiment.”

There's this trend in Hong Kong culture, usually among blue-collar workers, male and female alike, where they address complete strangers directly as "pretty girl" and "handsome guy." It's distasteful and coarse and fake to me. And who are they kidding? It's not flattering to be called pretty or handsome when the ogre next to you is being addressed the same way. Just sayin'. :P

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Brooder

He’s irresistibly attractive. He’s very polished and put-together because he has a strong sense of self-awareness. But he rarely smiles, and everyone who doesn’t know him well thinks that he hates them.

He can come off standoffish and impatient; he might be a little impatient, but he isn’t really standoffish. Some even perceive him to be pompous and self-important, but he really isn’t, because he actually has a very soft heart. His compassion can often get the better of him, although he rarely shows it.

He has a habit of staring out into space with an intense look in his eyes, a slight frown marring his dark brows. He often looks like he’s pondering the secrets of the universe – or like he’s pissed off. He doesn’t speak very much, but when he does, he speaks with a raspy whisper, with thoughtful pauses between his sentences. If you try to start a conversation with him he can be very engaging, albeit only for a minute or two before he stares off into space again, lost in his thoughts.

It must be such an intriguing place inside his head. I always want to ask him what he’s thinking about when I see him brooding, but I never do, because it seems like such an invasive question.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Bad Form

I've witnessed too many examples of bad form lately, so I thought I'd share.

*hitting on a girl you're old enough to father in a university eatery and bombarding her with texts full of improperly used big words while she's in class
Bad Form because: If you come off as a creepy, old man, you're not getting any girls. Even if you offer to ply her and her friends with alcohol. We're not prostitutes, and we were in between classes - hello?! And for the record, the phone number was very carefully wrested and not given voluntarily.
--> Side Note: Unless he's exceptionally good-looking, rich, famous, charismatic, successful, lucky, or any combination of the above, no man really has any business trying to snag a girl half his age or younger. Save it, old man.

*trying to get a girl to dance with you by shoving your butt in her personal space in the club FOUR TIMES
Bad Form because: If it didn't work the first three times, it probably won't again. And the thing was, he was kind of cute, even though he was drunk off his tree. If he just introduced himself and at least pretended to try to make conversation, I totally would've given him some time.

*trying to impress a girl with your conspiracy theories
Bad Form because: That's just like having "WEIRDO" printed on your forehead.

*just gripping a girl's hips on the dance floor to try to get her to dance with you
Bad Form because: That's just rude. It's an invasion of personal space. And unless a girl's very young or very insecure, it just won't fly.

*sending love letters to confess your feelings that goes something like: "I have nothing. I'm not good-looking, I'm not rich, I probably will never get rich, I have many character flaws, including laziness, impatience, a short fuse, etc. I'm not a genius. But I genuinely like you; all I have is my love for you. Be my girlfriend."
Bad Form because: If you're going to stomp yourself into the ground, why should anyone like you? What right do you have to ask for anyone's affection and love if you have absolutely nothing to offer? Go easy on the self-deprecation - it's not endearing.

Have you witnessed any other examples of bad form lately?

***Housekeeping message: I've been having my butt handed to me on a regular basis for the last while now, with school and other things going on. So instead of posting essay-length entries every time, I'm going to post more often, with shorter entries. Sometimes it'll be a few pictures with some captions, sometimes it'll be an anecdote...come check out often what I've been up to!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

I Sold Out...

...I'm sorry! But it's not THAT big and obtrusive, is it? Forgive me? And besides, you guys, being a student blogger doesn't pay - you know how it is.

How can I make it up to you? Let me some recommend some good food. It's great value too, for those of you who are living in glamorous poverty, like me.

Just Thai (534 Church St, Toronto ON) is a little gem my girl Stacey and I came across inadvertently. We made plans to lunch in The Village (Church+Wellesley area) right after it was announced that World Pride will be held here in Toronto in 2014. I was going to show her around, despite the fact that it had been a while since I'd been there, and I was going to take her to Zelda's, this restaurant my friend Eddie once took me to, that I loved. Let me give you some background info:

It was at least three years ago, and it was very warm out. Eddie and I didn't have any plans besides just hanging out together, so we were walking along Church Street to pick a place to eat at. I can't remember how we decided on Zelda's, but somehow we found ourselves seated on the patio there. Zelda was the drag-a-licious hostess of the restaurant. She was statuesque, with platinum blond curls and she wore very sparkly makeup that was rapidly melting under the harsh sun. Her spaghetti-strap dress was covered in scarlet sequins and it was skin-tight. She was also workin' ankle-high, pointy-toed, white stiletto boots and she was on her feet all day long; she was such a pro. I remember Eddie and I shared some kind of a spinach dip that made both our eyes roll back in pleasure. Since then, I developed a soft spot for this restaurant, and I vowed I'd go back to see some of the superfun drag shows Zelda told us about.

Fast forward three years. When I brought Stacey to the area, I didn't really remember where Zelda's was, precisely, but seeing as The Village isn't very big, I was sure we'd find it by wandering. We did, but unfortunately, it was closed down. We actually watched a worker remove the name of the restaurant from the building - it made me so sad. (Edited at 11:25pm: Zelda's didn't close! They moved to a new location on Yonge - yay! I'm definitely going back this time; I'm not going to wait until it's too late. :D)

So we set about looking for another restaurant to eat at. We came across several, but our eyes lit up at the sight of a sidewalk board for a Thai restaurant. Red curry chicken with mango for $9.95 - yes, please! We walked in and were greeted by this adorable boy who was as nice as he was cute. He clearly loved his job and he had a very positive attitude.

The menu was great - all sorts of classic Thai favourites at very reasonable prices. Combos were generally just under $10 and included an entree with either a spring roll or a fresh roll. Stacey's spring roll was great, according to her - I thought it looked more Vietnamese than Thai but it was delicious nonetheless. My fresh roll was really two slices of a MASSIVE fresh roll, and the veggies inside really were very fresh. I didn't love the dipping sauce though, because it was a little syrupy.

But both of us were very happy with our entrees. Our server made a mistake and put down green curry instead of red for me, but it was sooo tasty. It was on the sweet side, just like I like it, and there were a ton of chicken and veggies in the sauce. The balance between the spices and the coconut milk was perfect. Stacey ordered the special of the day, the red curry chicken with mango, and it was very yummy as well. The portions were also quite generous. At first I thought the rice could have been cooked just a little longer (personal preference) but once the rice was mixed with the sauce, it was perfect. It absorbed the sauce completely and developed the perfect texture. We were stuffed and both our combos were $9.95 each - score!

So if you're downtown in the Church/Wellesley area, I'd definitely recommend Just Thai. The food is awesome, the price is right, the decor is chic and the service is good. I'm definitely going back soon.

And if you ever find yourself hungry on Yonge St between Bloor and Wellesley, go visit Zelda! :)

Friday, October 23, 2009

C'est l'Halloween!

"It's a stupid American thing," my Austrian neighbor when I was living in Nice told me brusquely when I asked if Halloween was celebrated in Europe. I was crushed because it's my favourite holiday!

So now that I'm back home and I know that I can celebrate Halloween to my heart's content, I've been thinking about my costume for a while. I entertained very elaborate ideas to make up for last year (Poison Ivy and Jessica Rabbit, for example), but eventually I decided to be super frugal because I am poor, poor, poor after living in a European vacation city for a year.

I was going to dress up as a hula dancer because a) I've been asked a few times if I'm Hawaiian and b) all I'd need to get were dollar shop leis and a grass skirt. But I didn't like the selections offered at my local dollar shops and decided to think of something else.

I looked in my closet, caught sight of my corsets and thought - perfect! As long as I make good use of makeup, I'd only need to get fangs and maybe a cheap cape to be a vampire. So I set about creating a vampy makeup look. I was pretty happy with what I came up with:

Seeing this picture made me briefly contemplate being Gong Li's character in Memoirs of a Geisha, but the kimono I own is butter yellow with white bunnies on it, so it probably wouldn't be right for draping loosely around my bare shoulders in a sexy way. Back to Plan B.

I then Photoshopped some fangs in to get a better idea - I like it! Only challenge now is to find some decent fangs, which is harder in Toronto than I'd initially thought.

I was getting really psyched about my new costume plan!

When suddenly, the doorbell rang - it was my sweet auntie delivering flowers to me because I'm attending my convocation ceremony tomorrow! Yay for graduation! After four longish years, I finally get that all-important "HBA" beside my name on that piece of paper.

They smelled so pretty! I LOVE roses and brightly-coloured gerbera daisies. :)

I fall for flowers every time! I'm a HUGE sucker for flowers. I love everything about them - except for actually growing them myself. Thought I'd throw that out there in case anyone ever wants to get on my good side... :P

Anyway, so I put a picture of myself with my flowers on my Facebook, and people have been very generously telling me that I look nice, which means I'm going to have to re-think my makeup...

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Sometimes, when I’m in a really good mood and I’m feeling a little bit arrogant, I like to think that all these nice things in the world happen just for my benefit. For example, when I’m in one of those moods, I like to think that the sun is shining so brightly just for me. The sky is such a beautiful shade of blue just to make me happy. Similarly, I feel like we were at the same place at the same time just so I could meet you.

No one else comes close. No hay igual.

I miss you so much.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Car Egos

Someone once said that she doesn't like it when a man calls her "Shorty" because it's not respectful, implies inferiority, etc. etc. I'd concede that it’s not the cutest pet name ever, but I have to say I don't mind that long as the boy really is significantly taller than me. Because if a guy were only slightly taller than me, I'd feel like he was trying to soothe his ego by calling me short.

Don't get me wrong; I don't have a problem with short men. I don’t usually look down my nose on people based on their appearances, especially if it’s something they can’t help. And goodness knows I’m not exactly statuesque myself at 5’5” – not bad for a Chinese girl but slightly below average for a Canadian. But there's a variety of small men out there who are obsessed with proving…well, whatever it is they’re out to prove. They’re like chihuahuas – big dogs in small dogs’ bodies, or little dogs with loud voices and lots to say, depending how you look at things. And they always, always overcompensate for their smallness with big toys.

Like this guy I used to work with. He was this teeny, tiny man, with a teensy bald head and the biggest odour I’d ever had the displeasure to encounter. Every time something went wrong, he’d march his tiny, little legs up to the second floor to yell at me. He thought he could yell at me for anything that went wrong because I was new and female and young and therefore didn’t have enough brains or knowledge to fill an eggcup. Consequently, he embarrassed himself each and every time because I could always back my stuff up with a paper trail – they were inevitably his mistakes. But he yelled at me every time anyway, hoping to get me even once, because dogs are linear-thinkers and persistent like that.

He also liked to throw around unwelcome, suggestive comments that just bordered on sexual harassment. Just offensive enough to disgust me, but not quite bad enough to get him in trouble, and to other low-ranking people in my hearing instead of directly to me.

One day, I was pulling up to work, about to park when I passed by him getting out of his vehicle – and his car was enormous! Absolutely the hugest pearl white SUV I’d ever seen. As I glanced at him climbing out of that thing (using the step below the door, of course, because his legs were so short), I had to exercise a huge amount of restraint to stop myself from rolling down my window and asking if he was sure he can handle a monster like that.

So because of him, I learned that it’s totally true that (some) small men compensate for their smallness with big toys.

But I picked up an unpleasant piece of knowledge about myself recently, and that is that I, apparently, have a car ego, too.

Those of you who read me regularly might have noticed that I wrote a eulogy for my late car, Grasshopper, a couple posts ago. That’s because two weeks ago, I totalled it in my very first accident and the whole event made me very, very sad. Not having a car in Toronto is like not having legs, and Grasshopper was my first car.

My very sweet and supportive family sat me down on Saturday and told me that they were going to help me get a used car that was in really good condition. They would start making payments on it, and when I finish school and get a job, I’d take over paying for it. I was very moved and I’d been getting really excited about this new, little, red car. It’s four years old but it only has 35k kilometres on it, and most importantly, it’s fully loaded, with power locks, power windows and a sunroof! I was beginning to fantasize about impulsive mani-pedi getaways, romantic trips to the supermarket with the sunroof rolled open...

Then my mom called a good friend of hers to come take a look at the car with us, and he told me that I could stop looking because he had an old car that I could have. He had a friend that returned to Hong Kong and left his car here. Since he wasn’t going to use it, he said I could. It was super generous of him, and I could hardly believe my good fortune, but very honestly, it totally took the wind out of my sails because I was prepared to get a really cute car!

I went to see this new car, and it’s in even worse condition than my previous one. It needs a thorough cleaning inside and out, and it literally is a pile of rust. Part of the bumper is falling off. It’s even older than my old car, although the engine and transmission are new(ish). I was just speechless when I saw it because it wasn’t what I was getting all psyched about, but who am I to complain when it’s free? It’s financially going to be way easier because I’d only have to get liability insurance on it, like with my old car, and it really is SUCH a generous gesture...but I hope you can appreciate why my weekend went from jaw-droppingly awesome to just nice.

Then my best friend said to me, “If money is on the line, your car ego will have to take a hike.” She's right.

Thus, I have discovered that I, too, have a car ego - just like wee men. :P

Thursday, October 1, 2009


When I’m supremely pissed off at someone, I fantasize about taking my stiletto to his or her face in a grand, sweeping motion. Facekebob! Facial skewers! It does wonders to take the edge off my anger.

I’ve also threatened to beat my best friend if she got a tattoo.

But despite all this, I still don’t think I’m a violent person.

My tendencies aside, let’s get back to my best friend.

She’s a huge Snow Patrol fan. HUGE! And I’d call her a groupie because she follows them around, except she’s my best friend and except she follows them around different cities but she doesn’t follow them to their hotel rooms.

Anyway, she’s told me on several different occasions that she wants to get a snowflake tattoo. I didn’t threaten to beat her right away; I’m a relatively reasonable person most of the time, you know. I tried to reason with her first. Then she threw the flimsiest excuses at me (“Winter is my favourite season! It’s a deeply personal symbol to me!”), so of course, I had to threaten to beat her.

It’s not that I don’t like snowflakes. And it’s not that I don’t like people who have tattoos. I love asking people about their tattoos because there are often very interesting stories involved that lead to great conversations. But I just don’t think tattoos are very classy, and I’m of the opinion that if someone doesn’t have one, they shouldn’t get one. Besides that, I know she wants kids one day, and who knows what directions different parts of her body will grow in one day? Better safe than sorry.

Speaking of pregnancy planning - an idea that unnerves me, by the way, because I think I'm way too young to be thinking of this - someone I know once worried about not being able to get an epidural if she got a "tramp stamp" (tattoo at the small of her back). Wouldn't it suck if she didn't find out until she was in the delivery room? So she called up Mount Sinai, I think, where she was born and plans to give birth at, and asked about this. An anesthesiologist assured her that as long as her tattoo isn't enormous, they can shift her skin over the space between the two appropriate vertebrae and puncture her where there is no tattoo. Completely satisfied, she went ahead with it and is very pleased.

But I especially don’t get foreign language tattoos, and by that I mean when people get tattoos in languages they can’t read. There’s this blog I really like called Hanzi Smatter, where people will send in their kanji (i.e. Chinese character) tattoos to ask if it means what they think it means. More often than not, they don’t make sense at all. Why would anyone get anything permanently inked on them BEFORE they find out if it’s right?

Then again, I once had someone ask me to verify a term for them, but despite the fact that I thought it didn't say exactly what she wanted it to say, she decided that it was close enough.

My friend Ahsan also makes an especially interesting point:
hahaha an interesting read. Anything concerning tattoo work gets my attention(despite my stance of never getting a tattoo)

This made me think, firstly about cultural tattoos.. I just dont get why some people get kanji characters.. Ive seen a lot.. usually on people who cant understand the transliterated meaning behind the symbol let alone bare ... Read moresome sort of deeper connection to the language they chose to brand on themselves. Its weird at times seeing people create meaning rather than find it.

I've been asked to draw arabic names and quotes for people willing to get it tattooed who have no idea what the language and culture are all about. Tattoos have been around for eons and these days they are treated not like fine art or cultural crests, but another fashion accessory.

What do you think?

Monday, September 28, 2009

Mixed Company of Yale: Single Asians

In light of all the interest my Yellow Fever posts have generated - this is too funny! I first saw this on Margaret Cho's blog.

Keep sending me your Yellow Fever stories! :D

Friday, September 25, 2009

RIP, Grasshopper

Beloved Car

I used to talk a lot of sh!t about you. I know that. I used to complain all the time about how inefficient and old you were, how beat up you looked, and I used to refer to you as a ___teen year old piece of crap. Whenever someone saw you for the first time, I’d preface it with an explanation about how it’s not my fault that you looked as awful as you did.

But I want you to know that I actually really cared about you. I used to feed you instead of feeding myself, even if I were down to my last $20; if that’s not an act of love, I don’t know what is. If/Until I have kids, there probably will not be anyone in the world that I’d feed before myself if we were both starving. And face it - you were very expensive to feed...not to mention high-maintenance. But I loved you, so it didn’t matter.

I still remember how I thrilled I was the day you came to me. I was breathlessly happy, and as I looked at you, I thought, Here is my freedom. You were my legs!

I’ll always remember the numerous secret shopping trips you and I took together. Whenever I really, really wanted a new book, or a killer outfit, or some gorgeous shoes, or a manicure before I really needed one, we’d just go. Whenever I needed to escape, you whisked me away and effectively saved my sanity many times over.

And when I came home from France, I was so antsy when I couldn’t go out with you right away. It wasn’t until I took that long-awaited first spin with you that I fully understood just how much I missed you; I was beaming the whole way.

Thank you for being such a loyal friend. Thank you for always being there for me. And most of all, thank you for doing your best to protect me even in the last moment; you did spectacularly, and no one got seriously hurt. You did good, kid. I miss you.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Yellow Fever cont'd

So my last post started a lot of discourse. I love discourse! Who knew so many people had so much to say about Yellow Fever? (By the way, this post won't make much sense if you haven't read the post previous to this one, so scroll down if you need to!) I got a lot of great comments and stories, so I thought I’d address some of them:

What? Who wouldn't want to talk about anime? lol, j/k But I don't think all expats go because they have yellow fever and it could be nice that they have experienced your culture and might have a better understanding of you in some ways? I don't know... Obviously no one's ever come up to me and claimed to be super into me because of my ambiguous Western European origin, but I support that these people are missing out on getting to know a person by reducing them to a stereotype

True, not all expats have Yellow Fever. Some people are just really high up in their organizations and get sent places all over the world. Some have an honest interest in other cultures. My grandpa’s a romantic. :) The person who wrote this particular comment is my really good friend Sabrina, who’s teaching in Korea this year. Actually, girl, now that you’re living where you’re a minority, you might get one of these experiences – not that I wish it for you! But I know definitely that in Japan, a lot of people love your kind of look, so maybe in a nearby country...? Hee. Just teasing!

So I noticed you had a blog. I just read your Yellow Fever post. Really interesting. Although I'm obviously not Asian, I have definitely noticed this. When I went to China to teach English a good number (not all) of the *MALE* volunteers seemed to fetishize Chinese women. They would then degrade white women as being bad for relationships. We were rude and shallow, etc while Chinese women are cute and so soft-spoken and so on. They didn't seem to get that they were being just as offensive to the Chinese women as they were to the white women.

I have never thought that foreign teaching gigs can be breeding grounds for Yellow Fever Creepers! Ew, ew, ew. The guys you worked with are asswipes and don’t ever deserve to get laid.

I got another comment from a Chinese friend defending guys who exclusively date Asians saying that it’s because white girls are rude to them, that they cruelly reject them...but I think that’s an unfair stereotype, too. I get it that some people are once burned and twice shy, but they might be totally setting themselves up if they go for Asian girls strictly because they’re supposedly “gentler.” I’m Chinese, and trust me, I can cut a jerk down just as scathingly as a girl of any other colour can – and I’m not unique in this respect. :P

As for the yellow fever thing.. hmm i looked at it from a different perspective. Naturally raised on the outskirts of scarborough I was immersed in a culture that was not my own. Growing up,interacting, and socializing in an east asian community has created this comfort level. I mean Id rather eat at pho's than go to montanas. So maybe these ... Read moreindividuals you run into may be products of diaspora? Familiarity with a culture shouldn't be mistaken for obsessive creepers.. which is why its hard separating the diasporic individuals from the other kind; however when people fail to justify their connection/intrigue (and booty aint justification!) they're usually the ones to avoid. You will always find these pretenders in every cultural/religious aspect of society. Ignore them and burn any connective bridge they establish..In the end you are an multi-layered individual and that will probably shatter the "yellow fever individuals" 2 dimensional take on a culture and its people.

I totally agree; familiarity with a culture shouldn’t be mistaken for obsessive creepiness. But there’s preferring pho over Montana’s...and then there’s going up to random women with golden skin and dark eyes and saying the few words you know in “their language.” And shopping nearly exclusively in Asian supermarkets in the hopes of picking up. And getting Chinese or Japanese tattoos so that you have a conversation-starter with hot girls that you assume can read it...but I digress.

I think you hit the nail squarely on the head, my friend. The main issue I have with Yellow Fever is that we get stereotyped and clumped into a group instead of being valued as individuals. It’s just unfair and gross and wrong.

The other issue I have with this is that we’re stripped of our cultural identities. We’re all shoved under the umbrella of “Asians,” whereas usually, people from other parts of the world get their own identity – French, British, Italian, Greek, etc., instead of just “Occidental” or “Caucasian.” Every country has its own unique identity, but it doesn’t apply to us because we’re all Asian so we’re all supposedly the same, and we all supposedly look the same too, and have no personalities because we’re all a certain way. So wrong.

Now! I want to hear your Yellow Fever stories! I got sent some really fun ones, and I’m compiling them into a post sometime next week for your enjoyment. My life has been endless rounds of homework and projects and studying for the past month – do a girl a favour? It can have happened to you or you could’ve just been a witness, but it has to be real.

As always, I'm always here for you 24/7 at thesoapheiress(at)

Get’em in! :D

For my initial post on Yellow Fever, click here

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Yellow Fever Debate

Sh!t, I thought to myself, another Yellow Fever Creeper. I totally asked for it.

Class was out for the day, and I asked a classmate if I could see his tattoo, which was just peeking out from under his t-shirt sleeve; my curiosity had been grating at me for a while now. He bared his shoulder to me and proudly proclaimed that it was a dragon, although it's not done yet.

I asked why he got a dragon on his shoulder and what his tattoo means to him, and his first response was a rather curt, "Just personal reasons." Then after maybe a second, he seemed to be a little sheepish, and he added, "I've just always been really interested in Asian culture and stuff. You Japanese?"

Ugh. I got asked "Êtes-vous japonaise ou chinoise?" (Are you Japanese or Chinese?) nearly daily in France by the ickiest of guys, who were even creepier than their North American counterparts, and I was always tempted to snap, "Connard! Chuis cambodgienne!" (Idiot! I'm Cambodian!) to mess with them a little.

I'd never get a tattoo myself because I'm too chicken sh!t (why subject yourself to unnecessary pain?) and I don't think they're very classy, which is also why I've threatened to beat my best friend if she really gets one (she wants a snowflake for Snow Patrol and supposedly because winter is her favourite weather). However, I always like to ask people about their body art because it says a lot about them, there's often a very interesting story involved and also because I'm nosy like that.

In my experience, people's tatts either are very personal and mean something profound...or they just got it for some silly reason (like it looks cool or they were going to the parlour to accompany a friend, etc.) so when someone nosy like me asks such a question, they scrabble to find an excuse. As it turned out, my classmate wasn't really a Yellow Fever Creeper, but just another boy who got a tattoo for reasons he had to make up to me on the spot. Phew!

Those of you who know me know that I have a lot to say about Yellow Fever. I think it's gross and weird and actually, it's a form of racism. Getting fetishized and harrassed and disturbed by awkward, strange men is almost as bad as getting beaten up or discriminated against in more conventional ways by bigots. The effects of obsessive adulation and hatred are both bad. Sure, there are women out there who exploit Yellow Fever to their advantage (see Bai Ling, Tila Tequila and Zhang Ziyi) but I'd much rather have to work to make my own living than to work on a man to support me.

So imagine my surprise when one day, my grandpa said to me, "Yan, if you want to marry a white man, you should find a husband in Asia - an expat. That way, you can be sure that he truly appreciates and loves your culture!"

First of all, I don't necessarily, as my boy Ramir puts it, prefer "white meat." Hotties come in every colour; why limit yourself? Secondly, that pretty much means that my grandpa thinks I should marry the big granddaddies of Yellow Fever Creepers! Guys who are so obsessed that they physically move themselves to a whole different continent to be surrounded by little lotus flowers! Ew, ew, ew.

Then my mom promptly told me that I'm a jerk. What's wrong with a guy who appreciates my culture? Some people prefer blondes over brunettes, tans over pastiness; what's wrong with having a preference for golden skin and dark eyes?

Cosmos help me, but I couldn't think of a retort. I couldn't think of a reasonable argument. But to even consider dating people who "Konichiwa/Ni hau!" me on the streets, who follow me around parties telling me how much they love dim sum, who change into red shirts when they hear I'm Chinese because "Chinese people LOVE red, right?", who want to talk to me about anime and manga and want to take me to Cosplay parties, who want to drink sake and smoke opium in my pagoda...

...I just...I just can't!

For my follow up post on Yellow Fever, click here

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Single Parenthood & Procreating with My Main Gay

Remember the deafening thud heard around the world nearly a year ago, while a violent storm raged globally? It was pathetic fallacy - the heavens crying in sympathy of broken-hearted Claymates, as they collectively collapsed into grief-stricken heaps after Clay Aiken came out via People Magazine, because he just had a child and "cannot raise a child to lie or hide things."

Obviously, no one was surprised except for a vast number of Minivan Majority Housewives, those whose ovaries he shook, but the one thing that really struck me about the whole event was his baby mama’s choice to have kids with her main gay.

To quote Lainey at Je suis fag hag long time. I have a group of gay boy friends who I absolutely adore and have known for a long time now. But as much as I love them, I can't see myself having kids with them, because honestly, I would be so, so sad if I couldn't manage to find someone who was sexually interested enough in me and loved me enough as a person to want to have and raise kids with me within my baby-makeable years.

I once read an interview of Marcia Cross where she said that she was so elated to be suddenly married and pregnant because she'd thought that life had passed her by, at...44, I think? I can relate because I'd feel the same way. In fact, I'd be pretty bummed if I didn't find someone who wanted to be in a committed relationship and raise a family with me by the time I'm 35, and I'd probably be downright depressed if there were no takers at 38 - *knock on wood!*

I know - how ridiculous, right? What happened to girl power? What happened to being an independent woman?

I believe that these things aren't mutually exclusive. Getting married isn't my Holy Grail of happiness, but having kids is something I definitely want to do, and I want to be sharing the adventure with someone I'd be in love with (and who could do all the heavy-lifting and bug-squashing in the house).

Jaymes Foster, Clay's baby mama, brought to my attention a group of very forward-thinking women who are creating their own trend of getting themselves pregnant and starting a family without a partner because they are getting to a certain age and a suitable person hasn't shown up. In this case, Foster made the decision with her main gay, and in some others, women have employed the help of anonymous donors, exes, friends, surrogates...

I wouldn't be able to do this because I'd be resigning myself to single parenthood and my child(ren) to growing up in a single-parent family. Don't get me wrong; my mom did a great job and I'm always thankful that I grew up in my situation instead of in a family where there should have been a divorce. But I witnessed firsthand all the hardships my mom had to face with no partner, and I will always have a Daddy Void in my life. Maybe this wouldn't have been the case if the two-parent status quo were different when I was growing up, but while I do think that it's changing, I don't think it will be drastically different by the time I have to decide whether or not to have kids.

So Ramir, honey? Your little soldiers are safe from me. ;P

By the way, did you know that I'm on Facebook? Because I'm on Facebook! Was going to start a page for this blog, but it felt a little unsettling to have people join it as "Fans" - so I made an old-fashioned group instead. Please join; it would make my month! Also, will be holding a giveaway soon exclusively for group members, so make sure you check that out!

Monday, July 20, 2009

High-Low Fashion/Multiwear Garments

In my August 2009 edition of Fashion magazine, there’s this naughty photo in one of the spreads of a blond-bobbed siren in her underwear, this pretty concoction of wisps of lace, standing over a man sitting in a chair. According to the corner of the page, the sexy, little bra is $170(CAD), from Agent P (that’s Agent Provocateur, of course) and the lacy, black tanga is a $10 H&M original.

My first reaction was – Genius! They look like they could be part of a set, and this is a classic example of mixing high with low. Wearing high-low fashion is so Kate Moss, right? She famously wears Hanes tees and tanks with couture blazers and trendy jeans.

However, when I really thought about it, I wondered about the practicality of the whole concept. If I could afford Agent P lingerie, would I really buy cheapie H&M undies that everyone’s sifted over? Would you? It applies from the other end of the spectrum as well. Being a poor student and used to of living in glamorous poverty as I am, I rarely spend $10 on a single pair of underwear; I’m a fan of the 5 for $25 deals at La Senza and AE. If I were to be really frugal and save up money for something, would I spend it on clothes? Flimsy lingerie doesn’t last very long unless you take super meticulous care of it, and pieces of high-end “outer clothes” cost way more than a high-end bra does.

Besides all that, I'd rather buy a ton of cheap but cute lingerie pieces instead of a single pretty item that costs a lot because then there'd be more of a surprise every time. It's not like guys can tell the difference when you're nearly naked, anyway. They like just about anything; they're on our side, I promise. If I had $170 to spare that I was going to splurge on something, I’d more likely spend it on shoes, which last longer, books, which last even longer, electronics or some other kind of accessory.

So really, wearing high-low fashion is a nice idea, but it doesn’t hold up well as a principle to be executed

Another nice fashion idea that doesn’t work all that well in real life is multiwear garments. You know, the Le Sac Dress and Cotton Spandex Jersey Bandeau Dress from American Apparel, the 4-in-1 dresses and skirts from Tristan & America, the Infinite Dress from the 90s... I found out the hard way when I bought one of those “Magic Wrap Skirts” from an outdoor festival last weekend.

First of all, the material is really low-quality (I saw several varieties and I can assure you that none of them would last past a few washes) and the handiwork is shoddy at best, so it’s really not worth the price you pay. Secondly, it’s really annoying to have to think about how to wear it after you buy it, even if it seems fun at the time of purchase; I don’t think anyone should ever pay for a garment that they don’t know for sure will make them look drop-dead-gorgeous. Lastly, they typically only look nice in maybe one or two styles. The other styles look nice in the brochure, but they often look odd from the back or the side, and I think an effective outfit should look stunning from every perspective.

It’s really attractive to think that you’re sort of getting multiple pieces for the price of one because you can wear it several ways, but don’t bother! Save your money for pieces that are already cut and designed to be hot on you as it is.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Vain People Fascinate Me

Or perhaps it’d be more accurate to say that narcissistic people fascinate me. Have you ever met someone that was truly, completely and irrevocably in love with themselves? Because if you have, you’d know exactly what I’m talking about.

I once had class with this girl – she was very nice, and for the first semester that I knew her, she seemed pretty normal. But then when I took a multimedia class with her, I noticed that she spent at least 50% of class time admiring pictures of herself on the computer and inviting others (often me, because I sat beside her) to do the same.

Can you imagine what it must feel like to be so besotted with your own loveliness that you are compelled to stare at pictures of yourself every chance you get? Okay, maybe I’m being unfair with my remarks about the frequency of her conducting this activity, since I wasn’t with her 24/7, but I know for sure that she at least did this for three hours straight EVERY SINGLE WEEK.

Then I met this woman at work last summer at an international conference. She was about 30 at the time, although, like most Asian women, she looked easily five years younger. She really was quite lovely, and she must think so too, because 75% of the pictures she has on Facebook is of herself, usually self-taken in front of a mirror, with a very smitten, aren't-I-so-beautiful-but-I-don't-really-care expression on her face. She also has an entire Facebook photo album dedicated to all the flowers she's ever received; she's had many admirers, and she's probably received more flowers than I ever will. Heck, if I were that lovely, I'd be totally in love with myself, too.

There are many other examples, and if you take the time to look, you might see that they are easily identifiable. They usually have tons of photos of themselves online, often taken by themselves, and often all of them look exactly the same, with the same smile, the same poses, the same expression - that they are utterly enamored with their gorgeousness, and so they have to capture as much of it in photos as they possibly can to share with the world.

The male equivalent is even worse because it often includes a lot of nudity in photos - super low-slung pants, casually undone buttons, blown-open shirts, casual poses with muscles all flexed, and tight shirts if they are gay or European, with the notable exception of tank tops. The interesting thing is that guys tend to have their faces covered at least partly by hats, aviator shades or by looking in a certain direction, but their female counterparts inevitably beam sweetly at the camera, with fewer body shots.

I am utterly, utterly fascinated by people like this because I know that I can never, ever be like them. I will always be aware of my flaws. My self-consciousness isn’t debilitating or destructive (hello, Marjorie from ANTM!), but it's like my love for chocolate – constant and always present. The focal points of it might change from time to time, but I don't think I've ever been completely at peace with every part of me, not wanting to change anything, completely besotted with my own fabulousness.

At the back of my mind, I always have the idea of, "I should try to lose a few pounds or avoid certain foods that might aggravate my skin or be more hard-working/whatever," encouraged by certain people in my life who always impressed upon me that I'll be more loved, more beautiful, more popular, more successful, or any other number of qualities, if only I didn't have the imperfections that I was born with. I'd frequently deliberately do nothing about my flaws to spite the people who made me feel like I'm not good enough as I am, but at the back of my mind, I always felt like I should take actions to improve myself...

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Eating Well in Southern France cont'd

We have discourse! You know I love discourse – yay! :D My friend Katherine writes:

"I'll be in Marseille and Nice for about 5 days, combined, in the coming week or so. Do you have any restaurant suggestions?”

I personally didn’t go to Marseille last year, but I hear it’s awesome. Because it’s the second most populated city in France, I would suggest that you stay in Marseille for three days and Nice for two, or to stay in Marseille for two days, and stay in Nice for a day and three nights, taking a day trip to Cannes and Monaco each. From Nice it’s just a short train ride to Cannes (maybe less than an hour and about 9€?) and a super scenic, 1€, 40 minute bus ride to Monaco – and those two places are worth seeing.

Food-wise, I think you’d probably have better luck in Marseille, because as my general rule goes, the more populated a city is, the better the quality and cheaper the food is. In Marseille, you of course should have some bouillabaisse (fish stew), since it’s the regional specialty. However, it’s pretty pricey; I have it on good authority that you shouldn’t pay less than 35-40€ for a decent bouillabaisse, and some people even insist that you should only visit places that requires you to reserve the day before - but I have friends who were very satisfied with walk-in experiences. So that translates to $57-65 CAD, but it might make you feel a little better if you keep in mind that it’s a total meal – the soup and then all the ingredients in it.

In Nice, I’d definitely go to the place I just mentioned, of course, and another absolute must-go is my favourite bakery. Formerly known as Boulangerie de France, now I think it’s either called Gosset or Cosset or something – the sign is a little ambiguous – but it’s located right beside 82 rue de France, on the NW corner of rue de France and rue Andrioli. Don’t mix it up with Le chant du pain, which is two doors east of Gosset. They have all kinds of beautiful sandwiches, and the earlier you go, the more choices there are. I highly recommend the pan bagnat, a niçois specialty, with tuna, hard-boiled eggs, anchovies, olives, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, fresh tomatoes, and lettuce in between a delicious bun. It’s also great value – about 4 or 5 euro and it’s enormous! But most importantly, you MUST, MUST, MUST have their pain au chocolat (aux) amandes. A pain au chocolat is a chocolate croissant, but this version is far superior because above the layer of chocolate, there’s a layer of almond cream; it’s not so much a cream as it is a sort of fine, grainy paste. I can’t even stress to you how amazing it is. It’s way better fresh (go in the morning!), but even after it’s been sitting in the display case for a while, it’s still good. They are very generous with the almond cream, and the almond flavour just punches your taste buds in the guts. There’s less chocolate, but it complements the almond perfectly. It’s just incredible. And at 1.80€ a piece, I often had two at a time.

You may want to try out les farcies, les beignets, pissaladière, salade nicoise and le socca, other Nice specialties; there are plenty of places you can get them at in Vieux Nice (make sure you go there because there’s a lot to see, but not at night because it’s not the safest!) and they taste pretty much the same everywhere, but personally, they’re not my cup of tea. Les farcies are various veggies stuffed with fatty meats and onions and seasonings and such – it’s not bad, but pretty oily and not that great. Les beignets are pretty much just HEAVILY battered foods (onions, sardines, etc.) that are fried and often soggy with oil because they’ve been sitting for a while, and for the life of me, I’ve never been able to find fresh beignets no matter what time of day I eat them. Eating those are like drinking oil, and the sardines are super fishy and bony. Pissaladière is basically tomato sauce-less onion pizza often served with olives and/or anchovies, and salad niçoise is basically a pan bagnat without the bread - the only dish out of all these I like. Socca is a flat kind of bread-type food made with chickpeas, sprinkled with olive oil, salt and pepper. I don’t love it because A) it’s made of chickpeas so it’s sort of rough on the palate, a big no-no for Chinese tastes and B) it tastes like overcooked eggs without much flavour to speak of. But you may want to try it because it’s very typical Nice food, and I feel like I should tell you about these things so you have some basic knowledge of local cuisine. Oh, and because Nice is so close to Italy, there are an absolute ton of wood-oven pizza restaurants, but these pizzas are characteristically paper-thin, not spectacularly tasty and so not very filling or worth it, in my opinion.

Now, what else would I eat? I’d go to my favourite gelato place in the city, Crema di Gelato. There are tons of gelato places in Nice again due to its proximity to Italy, but after lots of tasting, I’ve concluded that this parlour is the crème de la crème. Don’t believe anyone who tells you that Fenocchio is the best – they have lots of choices, but the quality of their product is mediocre at best. Crema di Gelato has the best gelato in town, and they also have pretty little gelato cups (like in the picture) and gelato truffles. I always just get scoops of gelato because you get the most ice cream for your euro. I’d highly recommend the flavour Crema di Gelato, aka crème pralinée, which is vanilla gelato with what I suspect is Nutella gobs on top of it and sprinkled with crunchy pralines. It’s like a vanilla-based, gelato version of Ferrero Rocher and it’s divine. I also love their mint chocolate, hazelnut and caramel flavours. It’s a perfect ending to an Indian meal at the place I described in my last post, and they are located in Vieux Nice, right in the square of the Palais de Justice.

If you’re on a budget, there’s a so-so place right across from the Palais de Justice, the restaurant closest to the beach, that has this great value combo – a salade niçoise or another salad plus a pasta dish, one choice of which is seafood pasta. The salads were good, but the pasta wasn’t that great – but it’s 14€ (or was it 11?) for both.

If money is no object, I’d highly recommend going to Michelin-decorated Keisuke Matsushima, a very classy hole in the wall located at 22 rue de France right on the edge of the zone piétonne (also a must-visit in Nice), where I always wanted to eat at but was too poor to go to. They have seasonal menus, and you have to get their combo, which starts at 35€. For various menu choices you can upgrade if you’re willing to pay more, and I think for 60€ you can let the chef just do his magic and serve whatever he wants. If you do go, let me know how it was!

You might also want to have moules frites, which are mussels with fries. I think they’re nice but not great but worth eating. I’d suggest going to all-you-can-eat restaurants – there’s one in Cours Saleya in Vieux Nice that I don’t recall the name of, and one in the zone piétonne called Il...Borrotolo? Barratello? I don’t remember, but it’s somewhere on rue Masséna. Just look for stand-up signs that say moules frites à volonté – à volonté means all-you-can-eat. My beef with moules frites is that the mussels are often teensy, they don’t pull out the beards of the mussels, they don’t pick out the ones with yucky growths stuck to the shells, and the sauces are too salty, which makes you eat more fries and fill up faster as a result. But if you love mussels, they’re nice. I also hear there are good moules frites restaurants in Belgium. Anyway, the place on Cours Saleya offers I think maybe five flavours at 11.90€ (and you can try any of them) and a bunch of other flavours for 13.90€ - but in this case, I’d recommend being conservative since the basic flavours are the best, from my experience. The place in the zone piétonne offers just three flavours for 13.90€ but they are nicely done and like I said, basic flavours are the best anyway. There’s marinière, which is white wine with onions, napolitaine, which is tomato sauce, and poulette, which is cream sauce. I personally like the first two, not so much the third. I’ve heard good things about having moules frites in Monaco, but they’re not all-you-can-eat.

There’s also a decent Japanese restaurant in Cours Saleya, but it’s also a little pricey (18€ for a 14-piece set meal) and so not good if you’re a bigt eater like me. The quality is pretty good though, and the chef is actually Japanese. But if you don’t mind splurging about 20-30€ once, I’d also suggest eating at one of the beach restaurants because the Mediterranean is just a stunning backdrop. I’d recommend the restaurants Lido Plage, or Le Sporting. The beach restaurants in Nice are cheaper than in Cannes, but the shopping in Cannes is way cheaper, so I’d suggest eating in Nice and shopping Cannes.

Hope this info is helpful, feel free to ask if you have more questions and have a great trip! :)

Monday, July 6, 2009

How to Eat Spectacularly in Nice for 6€

There’s something about Indian food that sets off a craving in me every three weeks or so, like clockwork. One night last week at about midnight, my girl Ceci and I were chatting on MSN about Indian food, and it made us so hungry that we decided to get together for lunch the very next day. Although basically satisfying, it wasn’t drop-dead-amazing, but it called to mind fond memories of Nice, where I was living in very glamourous poverty – glamourous because I lived right by the Mediterranean where there were palm trees everywhere, and in poverty because, vacation-spot prices aside, a euro converted to over a dollar sixty Canadian at the time.

Because there was a three-month-long strike at my school (striking is a national sport in France, you know), I took to taking daily walks by the sea and into Vieux Nice. There was so much to see, and you just can’t do the same thing here in suburban Toronto because you can’t get anywhere without a car! It was during one of those explorations that I stumbled across Shiva Snack*, this tiny restaurant, literally a hole in the wall, right on the edge of the Old Town.

I’d walked past it several times, intrigued by the much lower prices for Indian food than other restaurants, but for some reason, I never went in until about a month before I was to leave the country. I was ravenous that day and nearly desperate for Indian food, which I hadn’t had in a while because I was so poor – a dish and naan or rice at other restaurants cost about 14€ on average. I ordered outside and was promptly showed to the entrance of the place, which I never even noticed because it was so inconspicuous.

When I took my girl Maggie there, she described it perfectly when she said that it looked like they found a hole in the wall and tried to make it as homey as possible. The back wall is a mirror to make the area look bigger, and all the other walls are draped in gorgeous textiles, no doubt from India. The tables are small but pretty, with colourful mosaic surfaces, and the most tantalizing aromas emanate from the open chicken. But the most trustworthy indication that this place is awesome is the fact that almost every time I walk past it, there are Indian people sitting on the seats outside, chatting with the people who work there, just eating and watching the world pass by. It’s a family-run restaurant, and they often have their children with them there. Their adorable little girl sometimes helps wait the tables there, and she’s so sweet, so attentive, alert and eager to please.

I have a soft spot for this restaurant because it was the only food I could afford to eat out and really enjoyed; my only other options were fast food (ew!), sandwiches (which get old fast) and paper-thin pizza, which I don’t love. There's nowhere else in the city that you can buy a full meal for an adult for just six euro - not even McDonalds! And the quality for price of their Menu à 6.00 is just out of this world.

For six euro, you get a complete meal: your choice of a tandoori chicken leg or a scoop of chicken tikka (hunks of perfectly-spiced, roasted chicken breast in the most delicious, savoury tomato sauce, like, ever) with a serving of fluffy basmati rice and a small portion of salad with delicious sesame dressing and a cannette (canned soft drink) – and you can pick Orangina without paying more! After a month of pitifully subpar home-cooking, it was a little taste of nirvana. During my last month in France, when I wasn’t in Paris, I went there probably around twice a week.

Because I’m a big eater, to say the least, the combo isn’t quite enough for me, but it’s perfectly satisfying for my friends with normal appetites. But then I discovered their naan (1.50€), which is excellent, and an order of that combined with the combo is just right for me. I love their naan because it’s even all around – I don’t like it when naan is thick on one side and thin on the other. They also make a tasty cheese naan (2€) that is more filling and flavourful and tastes good even on its own.

Apart from my girls Amra and Raissa, this restaurant and their combo are what I miss most about Nice. If I am lucky enough to go on exchange to Europe again in three years, like I want to, I hope I’ll get to visit them, and I hope their business would have grown by then, because they’re fantastic!

*A note about “snack” restaurants in France: They refer to grab-and-go establishments, sort of their alternative to fast-food restaurants, and they usually sell hot and cold sandwiches (baguettes and croque monsieurs, hello!), cold pizza slices, or kebab sandwiches. In Nice, most Middle-East restaurants sell kebabs (as opposed to doners or shawarmas). Shiva Snack piqued my interest because they have a variety if kebabs that are Indian-style cooked meat wrapped in naan – sadly, I never did try them, because I already fell in love with their Menu à 6.00 combo and once I like something, I can pretty much eat it forever.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Happy Birthday to Us!

It's our first birthday! Many thanks to all 4000 of you who have been to this blog, both regulars and one-timers - you rock!!!


Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Cupcake Chronicles: The Cupcake Shoppe

When I was living in Nowheresville Nice, France, I was very deprived of good food, and I had this masochistic habit of torturing myself by watching Hong Kong food shows and cooking tutorials on Youtube, as well as reading colourful food blogs. My brother would encourage me by sending me food pictures he took himself and links to Toronto food blogs, so that I could keep a list of all the things I could eat and restaurants I could visit when I came home (and had no access to at the time).

One day, I was suffering from a particularly violent bout of cupcake craving, so I decided to look for cupcake bakeries in Toronto, to add to my list. I found this link, which is an excellent place to start, except none of the bakeries have particularly high ratings, so either there are no excellent cupcake places in Toronto or we’re just really hard raters. Unfortunately, all the bakeries with the highest ratings are kind of far from me – in the beaches area – so I set my sights on going to The Cupcake Shoppe first. It’s closest to me, I’ve been past it a couple times, and I’ve always wanted to go in, because their branding is so well done. They definitely have the nicest website and cutest illustrations/signs out of all the local cupcake bakeries I’ve seen. Everything about this place seems so attractive, and I was going to go with an open mind, regardless of the paltry, barely-passing 2.7/5 stars it’s rated.

Well, I wish I’d paid more attention to the reviews, because they were pretty accurate; there are good and bad ones, but there’s a pronounced trend towards the negative. The store was adorable, but the products themselves were nothing to write home about – not that cute, not that tasty, and just not all that exciting. I bought six different flavours, and if I were blindfolded, I wouldn’t have been able to tell the difference between any of them besides chocolate or vanilla cake. They were dry, stale, hard and completely disappointing. My mum remarked that mine taste way better, and my cupcakes all come out of a box. She also said that the ones we buy in six-packs from the supermarket are better.

She has a point, because supermarket cupcakes really are good. My super serious, super distinguished ER surgeon Uncle Alex would know; he proves that anyone can have a soft spot for cupcakes. Even he couldn’t resist the ones I had sitting on my dinner table when he was visiting once and asked me if he could have one. Of course he could, I told him, and after he demolished it in the most dignified way I’ve ever seen anyone eat a cupcake, he dabbed his mouth gently with his napkin, set it down and said to me in his very refined New Zealand accent, “Well, those are very nice and moist, aren’t they?”

But you know what? At least 50% of the cupcake experience isn’t even about how it tastes. The quality is just as important as the appearance, the childhood memories, and, in the realm of cupcake houses, the whole shopping experience. A big reason why all these people (including myself) have such a bad opinion of The Cupcake Shoppe is because the service is so awful. When I was there, the staff barely acknowledged my existence and they acted as if they would rather be anywhere else in the world. They didn’t say hi or even speak to me except to tell me how much I had to pay. According to reviews, I wasn’t the only one. The store had all the makings of a spectacular shopping experience – cute décor, cute displays, inherently cute (albeit only passable quality) product – but the service ruined it all.

So if idiot-proof cake mixes and generic supermarket bakeries produce better quality cupcakes than specialized, boutique cupcakes houses, what does that say about the Toronto Cupcakescape? But I’m not going to let this unsatisfactory first outing deter me. I won’t lose faith. I’m going to continue on in my search of a slammin’ cupcake in Toronto, and I’ll document every step in my Cupcake Chronicles. :)

Happy Canada Day!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

I'm Home!

I am a changed woman after living in Nice for a year.

It was pleasantly disorienting to see all of the people and things and places that are very familiar to me, that I hadn’t seen in a long time. It was also strange eating all the things I’ve missed – after pining for my favourite foods for a year, they are somehow less delicious to me just because I know I’ll have access to them for a good while from now on.

Also, the first night I was home, I stepped into the washroom to take a shower before going to bed and nearly wept; I could hardly believe that I wouldn’t have to worry about not having hot water anymore! Not getting to take a hot shower in the dead of winter in an apartment where the central heat isn’t on yet is something else. I’ve also made the following discoveries:

*European boys are generally more smooth, polished, charming, interesting, cosmopolitan, multilingual and better-dressed than their North American counterparts, but

*I have a renewed appreciation for the relative conservativeness for my homeboys because I don’t have to worry about getting harassed every day when I go out

*the contrast between Major Brand Name Schools and public schools in France (and in the States too, I’d imagine) is so stark; more than ever, I’m grateful for the fact that all higher education institutions in Canada are public – I can’t imagine the despair I’d feel if I were at a disadvantage simply because I couldn’t afford to go to a good school

*“art deco” is apparently code for “old, disintegrating piece of crap” in terms of describing apartment buildings

*renting property in France is super, super sketchy and one must never rent a place with out-of-country landlords

*BNP Paribas is officially The Worst Bank in the World if their branches in Nice are fair representation

*Niçois post offices are the best places to learn how to swear in French, because even if you only have two or three people before you in line, the wait could be up to 45 minutes

*you learn to develop a sense of humour and an elevated state of patience from French bureaucracy – the other choices are to go mad or to move

*many French people – especially old ones – are charmingly honest and therefore politically incorrect

*growing up in Canada makes us a super aware and appreciative of different cultures – I’m super grateful for that as well

*Yellow Fever is a Very, Very Serious Problem in Europe

*Dutch people are very tall; my eye-level in the Netherlands is chest-level of all the locals

*the cultural atmosphere of Germany is very similar to that of Canada in that people are very laid-back and down-to-earth – but they are more punctual and their beer is better :P

*when there are Ferraris zooming around everywhere, a dime a dozen like in Monaco, they aren’t nearly as impressive

*living right on the Mediterranean with palm trees everywhere is just intoxicating

*I’m not done with Europe yet; I’m going to go back there to live temporarily again

It was an indescribably wonderful year – what a way to end off my undergraduate career! Now I’m home spending quality time with my mama, studying my tail off in the hopes of going through another four years of school. Wish me luck!


Friday, March 20, 2009

Ignorance and Hammeredism

"The Chinese are taking over the world!" a new acquaintance hissed to me secretively today at the inauguration of the Canadian Embassy in Nice, "They're EVERYWHERE!"

This delightful conversation went on in the same vein for a good chunk of time until my friend Vince stepped in to save me from this eccentric lady and moved the topic from the overwhelmingly enormous Chinese population in the world to various aspects of Chinese culture.

I find that this type of make-you-wince-with-discomfort-because-you-can't-believe-people-are-saying-what-they're-saying conversation is actually not all that uncommon when speaking to many European people, particularly if they're a bit older. I'm not suggesting that all Europeans are ignorant, but many, especially the French, just don't censor themselves when speaking. Many believe absolutely crazy things wholeheartedly, and they just want to tell you about it. It's actually very honest in an almost charming way, if you don't get offended.

Over dinner later on that night, my friends asked me how it makes me feel when people say stupid things like that, and I realize that I didn't give them a very complete answer, because I was interrupted by our meals arriving.

It actually doesn't really bother me if I think or know that the person isn't purposely trying to insult me or my race or my culture. Often, they're just trying to relate to me, even if they might be doing an awful job about it. I get that some people are just ignorant, but they're not actually trying to be rude, so I'm ok with it. If they're not uncomfortable, I'm not uncomfortable, and I'll humour them. Besides, I can laugh about it later over dinner and it makes a great story!

And I know people like that won't likely ever get to appreciate awesome poetry like the following. Also written by the great (Li Bai), this poem urges readers to enjoy life while they can because time is fleeting. Now, at first it sort of sounds like he's only repeatedly telling everyone to go get hammered, which isn't entirely untrue, but it's actually more of a metaphor; this lonely, depressed genius always felt like his talents were not appreciated or utilized by the emperor, so he he derived his greatest pleasure from alcohol. Thus, drinking, in the context of his work, means enjoying life.

The translation is done by Professor Ying Sun of the University of Rhode Island, and "is intended to be idiomatic, apprehensible for western cultures, and rhyming whenever possible."



Bring in the Wine (Li Bai, 701-762 AD, China)

Can’t you see the Yellow River coming from heaven,
Running to the sea with no return?
Can’t you see the mirror, high and bright,
Weeping over black hair at dawn, but white by night?
Enjoy life when there is prosperity.
Never tip a gold cup to the moon, empty.
Heaven has given me a gift and it’s my turn.
All my forture is squandered, but it will return.
Let's have fun - a feast with veal and beef.
Empty three hundred drinks before we leave.
Master Cen, Pupil Danqiu,
Bring in the wine and I'll keep pouring for you.
And I'll sing you a song.
Please listen and hum along:
The life style of the rich is all fake.
I’d rather stay drunk, never awake.
All sages in history were solitary,
Except those drinkers who left their glory.
When Lord Chen entertained in Ping-Le Palace,
Pricey wine was poured just for joyfulness.
Why worry about spending money, my host?
Bring in more wine and I’ll drink the most.
Take my spotted stallion and fancy fur.
Ask the lad to trade for the wine I prefer.
Drink away the eternal sorrow we all suffer.