Thursday, December 27, 2012


Regardless of how much i researched and thought I was prepared before I left for Paris - I still forgot to do a bunch of things I should have done in the last few months:
1. Pay my remittance for tax witholding
2. Change my address of my bank accounts to Paris
3. Set up automatic banking for my property tax (completely missed the deadline)

Things on the government side that should have happened but did not:
1. driver's license never showed up
2. NR6 Approval for 2013

Things I still need to do:
1. Change my address for all the banks, close some accounts
2. Call about NR6
3. Figure out my Driver license situation
4. Submit NR4 and NR4 summary
5. Change my address for property tax

Things I need to do later:
1. File for my T-1159 when my tax info are around
2. continue to submit my remittance.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Formation Civique Experience

Last month I was at the L'OFII Convocation and they booked my "Formation Civique" or the French Civics Training. After getting my date and location, I made a little note in my Outlook calendar to remind me of my appointment with the location being "20eme arr." and then forgot about it. So at 7pm, the night before my training, i'm on the RER on the way home and i see the reminder on my phone. The first thing that came to my mind was, "crap, i have so much work to do tomorrow!" and then continued my merry way home. By the time i got home, opened the outlook appointment and saw that i didn't write down the address, I realized all my paperwork from l'offi was at work....i had no idea what i needed to bring with me nor where the place is. I tried googling for the information, but nowhere on the websites gave me anything. No address, no what you need to bring, nothing. This meant that I had to travel an hour into the office at 7am past the west end of paris, grab the stuff, and travel to the very very eastern tip of paris. I was miserable. Later, after some investigating, I found out that these types of training are ran in various community centres that are available for booking and not in any set locations so nothing is online.

After I got the stack of paperwork I was running behind on time. I didn't get on the train until almost 8:30am and I saw on the appointment papers that I just needed to bring  a piece of ID and that was it and that I was supposed to arrive at 8:45am. There was no way I would have made it on time and I was a bit concerned that they were not going to let me in on the training and reschedule it for another day despite my efforts of waking at 6am to do this. Nevertheless, when I got there at this community centre at 9:15, the class was nowhere near to getting started, she hasn't taken the attendance nor could she even get the projector started (no power or something). It was a rather informal classroom where you have a trainer at the front with a projector and a laptop running Windows XP. Every time the slide changed, you'd be watching it in slow motion. We got started at around 9:30am: she passed out three pieces of paper for us to sign our name next to the attendance sheet while she came around to collect our appointment form and our ID.

The lessons began with the history of french, starting from the roman period that goes all the way to present and then there was french values and french laws, etc. Although the slides were in bullet points, the woman loved to talk. She did not skimp on any point at all and went deep into every bullet point. It didn't help that the smart alec next to me who thought he didnt need to be there kept interrupting the class with stupid comments or show-offy questions. The training was supposed to have ended at 5pm but because she loved talking, there were stupid interruptions, and we had really really really long breaks, the training went 30 minutes past the mark. We had a break at around 10:30am, and coffee, tea, and water were brought into the room. The break was almost 30 minutes. Lunch was even worse. She gave us 1h30m but she didn't start the class again until 1:45pm and then the same thing happened at 3:30pm when she gave us a break that lasted until almost 4pm (at this point she still had more than 20 slides left). The lady was so slow that i felt like having to sit through her class is the real training, not her content. By 4:45pm, when she realized how late she was, she would click on her computer really fast, so all the bullet points for each slide would appear all at once, which made it seem like she was trying to hurry, but then she would still go through each bullet point for 10 minutes, so her fast clicking really saved us 1 second for each slide.

Since everything was in French, I had a bit of trouble keeping my focus and i literally realized what being bored to tears was. By 3pm, both my phones completely died and i kept yawning and tearing and the girl next to me thought i was crying. Lunch made me realize that if anyone ever had to depend on the government for providing meals, this would be the type of food one would be eating. A tiny portion of food that is ethnic and meant for you to be healthy, but they'll stuff you with starch. It was some sort of tiny portion of curry chicken with a bit of carrot on the side. We were filed into a cafeteria and these boxes were waiting for us. The food didnt taste bad, but there were so much rice and very little chicken. I ate the little chicken that was in there in 2 minutes, grabbed the apple, and went wandering around the area looking for more food to eat. On my tray I still had a heap load of rice left, carrots I ended up having another meal at an Asian Traiteur (fast food). By the time I came back at 1:15, the class room was still locked and the trainer was still having her lunch (she didnt stay in the caf to eat the crappy food).

At the end of the day, while she was handing out the certificates, I found out that they had this course translated in six different languages and I don't know why I had the French version - although i don't remember them asking me what language i wanted, i wouldn't be surprised that it was probably me being stupid and picked the french version because i thought that it would be good to immerse myself with the language.

At any rate, the course was done and I got my last of the four certificate. Hopefully I'll remind myself in time to renew my Visa for next year.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

"Foodie" Rant

I think I will start out this entry, before I even put down any content, by apologizing. Generally when I begin a blog post, I don't actually plan out what I'm going to write. I have very specific stories I want to tell, but I never know how i'm going to tell it and i just write. It's the same for this post, but i'm still going to apologize, because I have a feeling whatever that comes out hereafter may sound haughty. So I apologize if I sound like a snob or have offended you.

The other night, while we were sitting at Figlmuller, a famous schnitzel restaurant in Vienna, I started to talk about the type of food I want to try in Vienna. Out of the left field, Caleb asked me why I hated the word "foodie."  I have mentioned to him here and there about how I don't want to be called a foodie when the word is being used on me, but latest event in which the word came up was not that long ago. About a week before we headed to Vienna, he and I were at a casual Yelp event in Paris. I met this pretty cool girl from California and we started chatting about living in Paris. And then we started to talk about restaurants and food in Paris, and she told me about the various places she likes. That got me pretty excited, which prompted her to ask me, "are you a foodie too?" I played it off casually and joked, "I don't like to use the word foodie, but I do like eating a little too much." Somehow she caught on to that, and consciously avoided using the word throughout the conversation.

"Why do you hate that word?" Caleb asked me, "You are clearly a definitive foodie."
I cringed. Hard. And then I gave him the two definitions of foodie for me and how I fall into neither of the categories. Now, there are many various definitions that are out there if you google the definition of the word foodie, but the following are the two that i subscribe to. The first being what I called the denotation of foodie (the definitive meaning of the word), the second being what I call the connotation of foodie (what the word means to the mass public).

Definition one and how I dispel my association:
The first definition is its original definition, as stated in Wiki (,
"The word was coined in 1981 by Paul Levy and Ann Barr, who used it in the title of their 1984 book The Official Foodie Handbook. [...] Foodies are a distinct hobbyist group. Typical foodie interests and activities include the food industrywineries and wine tasting, breweries and beer sampling, food science, following restaurant openings and closings and occasionally re-openings, food distribution, food fadshealth and nutrition, cooking classes, culinary tourism, and restaurant management."
According to this definition, a true foodie is someone who enjoys food a lot so they study it, they learn to cook it, and they try restaurant that make good food. They try to figure out all science that surround food. That's not me at all. Yes I like cooking and yes I do sometimes read about food, restaurants, and cooking, and I like trying new things. I even  fall asleep reading menus because I like planning what I want to eat the next day or next time I'm craving a certain type of food. But I am not a connoisseur at anything, not even coffee, a topic in which I am quite interested. But I don't study anything like it's science and there's no bible for me on what good food is. I would never turn my nose up at something or tell someone they're doing something wrong when it comes to food, e.g., "oh, you should only drink your coffee black" or "you shouldn't eat at this restaurant because the chef uses Vietnamese basil instead of Italian basil."

For me, eating is personal. 

It's what I like and why and it's what you like and why. My opinion of a restaurant does not supersede another person's opinion of the same restaurant. I don't keep a food blog and I've never been to a culinary class (although i'd like to one day). I like flavour and I like spice. IMO, anything with a dash of garlic tastes better - in fact, the more the garlic and chili the happier I am (a big faux-pas in culinary etiquette). I don't really like lobster not because it's a poor man's dish but because i find it rubbery and I like yam leaves not because it's considered a poor man's dish and I need to be different, but because i like the flavour. If I don't like something, it's because it doesn't suit my personal palate, if i like something, it's because it does suit my personal palate. I will never like or dislike something because everyone else likes it or dislike it. I'm not too cool for popular dishes, nor am I going to like something because it's the current fad. In fact, most of the time, eating at a Fine Dining restaurant is like playing piano to a cow (a Chinese expression): I simply don't get it. I have no nose for refined flavour or subtle nuance of tastes. Most of the fine dining restaurants I've been to don't compare to anything from the street  (which I LOVE). In fact, I have an unhealthy obsession with street food, but that's probably not something that I'm going to get into today. So by this definition, I am not a foodie. I dont not analyze my food and try to figure out the science behind a great restaurant or a great dish and I do not go around telling people what I think about food unless the topic comes up naturally and it's a part of being in the conversation.

Definition 2 and how I dispel my association
This brings me to the second definition I provided for Caleb, the connotation of the word foodie, as verified in Merriam-Webster: "a person having an avid interest in the latest food fads." 

The thing is, I've met quite a number of people who call themselves "a self-proclaimed foodie." They posts pictures of food, calls trying new restaurants "food adventures", are always looking forward to trying out the latest restaurant in the scene, follow celebrity chefs because it's the untapped niche of cool, and/or posting every dish they cook or eaten at that new hip restaurant on Facebook into a "Food Album" just to show people how much they love food because that's the cool thing to love nowadays.

Look, the reality is, I do like food a lot and I spend a large amount of time reading about food and where to eat them (who doesn't like eating?!). I like cooking. I like trying new food, especially in different parts of the world, and I do want to try that restaurant everyone is raving about. But I don't do any of the things above because I want to be cool but because I derive pleasure from eating food I like and I want to know what in this world gives me pleasure so I can keep obtaining it. It's really quite simple. So, no. By this definition, I am also not a foodie. I do not have "Food adventures" - I don't like raw food, and I won't try things that I think are weird or disgusting. I like intestines, but I won't try deep fried insects. I'm only starting to know some celebrity chefs only because people around me talk about it, and I do not have a food album on facebook, or do i get food-gasms, whatever that means.

My disposition with and on Yelp
A lot of people know now that I am an avid Yelper, a site that allows you to review businesses, especially restaurants) although I don't really like to advertise that fact, which begs the question, "You claim that your opinion on a restaurant is not better than another person's, and you claim that you don't have food albums, but then why do you write so many reviews and posts so many picture for your reviews? Do you not advertise it because you'll sound like a hypocrite?" The short answer to the latter question is no, but I cannot expound on it without answering the first.

Here are the reasons why I like writing Yelp reviews:

  • It's like a journal - I document all the places I've been to and all the food I've eaten, what I like and what I don't like, and I can often go back into it and remind myself of the day I ate at a specific restaurant in a specific city.
  • I like writing and I like expressing myself. I don't think my opinions really matter, and I don't think anyone actually cares or should care about what I think, but I like doing it, and Yelp is the perfect medium.
My absolute favourite thing about Yelp is the sheer fact that each restaurant's rating is aggregated. On Yelp, my personal opinion matters and it doesn't matter.  I do not have to rate a restaurant 5 stars because they've done everything right and I think people will love it, even if I don't and vice versa. I can rate the restaurant on my personal preference and I can explain why. Yelp will take my opinion, mixes it up with everyone else's and form an average score. There can be hundreds of written reviews for a single restaurant and no one has to read mine. And if someone does read a review of mine, and find it helpful, they can just vote it up by electing it as useful. If they really enjoy reading my reviews in general, they can read all my reviews on my personal page and then subscribe to me by following me. The truth is, I don't even write very good reviews on the site. I write them with the understanding that i'll be the only one reading them. They're generally written quite quickly, unedited and full of grammatical mistakes, documenting what I think is interesting to me, because it's my freaking journal and it will just get submerged into everyone else's. This is also why I don't like advertising about my Yelp account - because my reviews are not written for you to enjoy. Just because I gave this restaurant a five star, does not mean you should try it. I am not an expert food critic and I have no ambition to be one. You could take my layman's opinion into consideration, but you should also go read more reviews on the restaurant and not just mine to get a better idea, like what I do when I research on what I'd like to eat next.

My philosophy on eating, travelling, and writing
Labels are stupid. You know it and I know it. So the label of a foodie need not to exist to begin with, but I can't control the fact that there are labels out there. I probably at times label myself various things, because I can be stupid (who isn't sometimes, or all the time?) But the label of foodie just doesn't jive with me and what I believe in.

Yesterday, I noticed that Anthony Bourdain's show No Reservations is on Netflix, so I started watching the episodes of the places I've been to. I have no prior knowledge of this guy or what the show is about, but the more I watch it, the more I am enjoying his philosophy. He travels to various cities, finds a couple of locals to take him around, and tries whatever the locals tell him to try (not always just food!). Ever since I started to travel, I have started realize that you can never really fully know a city, no matter how long you visit, because everyone's perception of that city is always going to be different. There's always the tourist view of a city, which is sadly a similar experience in every city. And if you want to get to know the city from a local's perspective, then you may get a few perspective, but there is no one local perspective. As he says in his show on Vancouver, "it's not what you know about a place, it's who you know" and who you know will define what the place is for you.

If I wasn't so lazy, I'd be writing blog entries on my travels so i can record my findings and my thoughts. But I am lazy, so my reviews of restaurants, local or international, is, in some way, serves as an attempt to capture what defines that city for me. These are the things I ate, here is what i like, here is what i dont like, here is what i learned.

To me, food is simply just food; eating is neither a science or a self-expression, it's an innate pleasure. I enjoy the context that surrounds it, including the cultural connotations, when it exists or is in my face, but I don't go looking for the cultural connotations. There's no doubt that food gives insight to a culture, and it's often a by-product for me when I want to try local food while I travel and thus i record it in my reviews. I like food, but I am not a foodie, just like I like travelling, but i am not a traveller. I also like writing, but I am not by any means a writer.  At the end of the day, I'm just another person who likes eating, writing, and seeing world to the best of my abilities. There are a ton of personal blogs out there based on eating and travelling, but i put mine on yelp with the half-hearted attempt at effacing some amount of that self-importance which comes from any form of self-expression.