Thursday, 17 December 2015

Almost a Vagabond: A Personal Insight

Wow, I must have made a couple cups of strong coffee to feel this motivated today - I am about as restless as a man high on cocaine. Guess my caffeine tolerance is down a notch. It doesn't help with the fact that I'm currently a complete bum, and there's no stressful work to direct all of this energy. God help me, I feel like I can bounce off the walls like a well-coked Spider-Man. 

Anyhow, since I definitely do not possess the superpowers of a superhero nor magical powers, and being a complete Muggle, I have decided to blog it out. 

In this state of mind and being, I feel the need to reach out to see if there's anyone out there who has shared the same life experience I had: moving a fuck-load of times.

I'm not just saying, like, moving interstate in your own country, but internationally and a fuck-load in the same country you've moved to as well.

Here's an estimated summarized table:

Do you believe me now?

The table above is based on what I can actually remember (I am sure I am missing one, but that isn't included as I was only an infant), and yes, this is including my childhood years. Surprisingly, even with my shitty-ass memory, I do have recollections of homes I've lived in.

As impressive as it might sound to some, moving internationally is and always will be a nightmare. To a certain degree.
In a way, I've learnt a lot being in these different countries: you get to experience being a local, as opposed to being a tourist. You see the good, bad and the ugly. Granted, some of the countries I've lived in, I was only a wee lass so I didn't have the first-hand stress of having to deal with the adulthood problems of moving (costs, giving up personal goods, packing, etc.).

I remember the the taste of pure licorice, whilst chewing on the root in the Beamish Museum, to the breathtaking haunted view of the Whitby Abbey in England, to the beautiful penguin-filled Boulder's Beach in Cape Town, and my all-time favourite snack: the biltong. Sincerely, I have so many other fond memories of these places, it would take days to construct a readable memoir.

Good memories aside, moving is, well, still moving so the stress is real. Thankfully, as a child, the responsibilities of costs (and etc.,) fell upon my poor mother.

My mother had the mentality, that English was crucially essential (Thank heavens!) and the key to success in ... well, almost every country I've moved to (or moved back to). Technically speaking, my first language is English, though you might be able to tell that I'm proficient, my grammar is lacking somewhat. During my childhood years, I had to face different language obstacles despite speaking English: I had to learn Afrikaans in South Africa (I only know like a few phrases now), conversational Cantonese to communicate with my grandparents, with a bit of Mandarin/Hokkien phrases, Bahasa Melayu as a compulsory lanugage during my education in Malaysia, basic Spanish in the IB diploma, and now needing to French/Quebecois. Holy. Fucking. Shit.

Don't get me wrong. Learning a new language is amazing ... if you're a kid. There are some adults, with the right motivation and opportunity to be completely proficient in the new language. Me, with my selective memory, find this quite challenging. Especially now as an adult I'm using this as an excuse it is harder to learn a new language. It is also hard to retain a language you've learnt when you do not use it as often: I've noticed that my Cantonese and Malay proficiency has decreased over the time I have not used it.

Language aside, social relationships are hard man. Like, you meet new people, you get close, and then you fucking lose contact (times prior to social networking sites). Even now, even though you are "connected" as "friends" on social networking sites like Facebook, Instagram and whatnot, you're not close. Sure, you maybe have good memories together, and then those times pass and now you're like the person they had fun with but they've moved on. It's exactly like the sad story of your previous relationships. I sit here sometimes, turning green with envy when reading stories of people who have been best friends with their buddy for long periods of time. You just don't have that when you're constantly moving. Eventually you'll either lose contact: people move, move on with their lives and make new best buddies.

Occasionally stating this, you get some people saying "Oh, what about your Significant Other [S.O]? Isn't he meant to be your best friend?". Yes, he is. We've been through Hell and back together, but it doesn't mean that I share ALL personal information with him. Like, there has to be one friend whom you get to rant and confide in about your S.O. If you go ranting about all the negative things you find about your S.O, to your S.O, either an argument/break-up will ensue (especially if both parties are equally as impatient, ruthless & tactless). Sometimes you just need a listening ear who is just not your S.O. A best friend will provide a listening ear, nod, provide occasional great advice (on your side or not) and most importantly, not flare up during a personal conversation/confession; a neutral third-party.

What I find personally disturbing, during a quick Google search about people who move frequently, are the degrading articles of psychological effects of frequent relocation. Articles that state:

"the more times people have moved as children, the more likely they were to report lower "well-being" and "life satisfaction" as adults (two standard measure used to quantify that ineffable thing called"happiness"). And adults who had moved a lot were more likely to have died when researchers did follow-ups 10 years later." 

"We know that children who move frequently are more likely to perform poorly in school and have more behavioral problems" ... The researchers found that the more times people moved as children, the more likely they were to report lower life satisfaction and psychological well-being at the time they were surveyed, even when controlling for age, gender and education level. The research also showed that those who moved frequently as children had fewer quality social relationships as adults."

Both articles stated similar findings, and both agreed with the fact that it does only affect mostly those who are more introverted than others. However, how do you really determine or categorize 'introverts' and 'extroverts'? I would personally classify myself as both: I don't like people, but yet I yearn for human interaction; therefore I'm neither an introvert or an extrovert? How is this then applicable?

I dare say that it is grim to think that I have higher chances of dying because I'm "unhappy", but it is somewhat true. I personally do find life is way below my expectations, and wish there is more. But doesn't this apply to the most of us?

Don't most of us wish that we have more of [x] amount of things that would make us happy? More wealth, have a family, travel more, etc.?

Not to mention, my partner is is the complete opposite, and he experiences "lower life satisfaction" - he has only moved like a few times, performed poorly in school and have "fewer quality social relationships". Yet, he is deemed somewhat successful in his career - above average wage, and the opportunity to travel.  He has the dream to be rich, whereas I want to travel the world. What constitutes as our "happiness" is completely subjective, and unlike the study quotes above.

If we were to measure happiness on an individual scale, it would not make for a good scientific study as is it a very subjective variable. What makes me happy, doesn't necessarily make you happy. I might say that good food plays a large role in my life and provides substantial "content", whereas you might disagree. In addition, my personal observation has proven to me that a person doesn't need to move to display the negative behavioral problems listed in the quotes; you don't need to move to have behavioral problems & have lower life satisfaction.

From a personal standpoint, I would say that I am unhappy because I am sick of moving. I am sick of having to give away or throw out personal belongings which provides comfort & memories (yes, I am sentimental and materialistic). Or having my personal belongings split in different countries. I have books and sentimental items back in Malaysia, but it is there because I cannot afford to ship everything across.

I really do not have a real home. I've lived in so many places that not one place is a real home to me. I'll live in a place for a long time, but am I truly integrated? I do not fit in anywhere, and I am to be a chameleon, learning to blend and adapt to the new society before me. And before I get all comfortable and have "adapted", I move once again to a foreign land, just to repeat the process all over again.


Friday, 4 December 2015

Things People Don't Tell You About Moving from Australia to Canada


It has been almost 8 months since I left Australia, and to be honest, right now I'm rather homesick. Although I'm not an Australian citizen or permanent resident, it will always be a country close to my heart (what do you expect after spending almost a decade there?). It's a shame that I did not manage to get permanent residency there after all that time.

This marks the second attempt in writing a post about my experiences about the pros and cons about this beautiful country. The first draft was scrapped purely because: a) I procrastinated, b) figured I was still a FOB (slang for immigrants; Fresh Off Boat) and therefore didn't have enough experience.

Anyways, onward to the topics of this post:

***** CAUTION: LENGTHY POST AHEAD *****


1. VISAS - GET IT SORTED & SUBMITTED ASAP

When my boyfriend and I decided to leave Australia for Canada, we did not plan it through properly. Truth be told, I was not expecting to immigrate until 2016, but stuff happens and we sort of rushed through the moving process. How rushed? Well, it is like the ultimate "wing-it" or "play-it-by-ear" travel/immigration edition. Both of us decided at the time that I could just get in on a Visitor Visa and wing the rest.

Now, there are times in life when spontaneous decisions results in memorable, happy accidental experiences. 

This was not the case. 

To surmise my position at the time: Malaysian citizen in a de facto relationship with a Canadian citizen, with little time left to reside in Australia. 

This is where it got a little tricky. If I was an Australian citizen, getting a Visitor Visa would have been a breeze in comparison to what I had to go through - As a Malaysian citizen, I had to show proof of finances, career, invitation letter by Canadian citizens and my intentions/purpose of my visit, police check, etc. The list was somewhat exhaustive for just a Visitor Visa. 

We obviously also thought of applying for the de facto spouse visa or known as the Family Class Sponsorship: Common-Law Spouse. However, we did not have the luxury of an additional year for it to be processed. 

I would highly recommend checking out the processing times for both In-land and Overseas applications. Why? Well, depending on the offices in your region, it could either benefit you to reside overseas until your application is approved, or apply from within Canada. To most though, it benefits you to apply from the outside.  


Did you notice the difference in waiting times? If we had an additional year in Australia, the Sydney office would only take 11 months to process the complete application. Instead, I'm looking at 27 months minimum. Also, note on the difference in dates of the application they are working on. 

That's right. 

In-land applications that are being worked on dates back to 2014. WTF. 
[The department is so backlogged, that they have only recently acknowledged that they have received my application that I had sent at the end of August 2015. This doesn't mean they have even started processing it yet.]

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC), does have substantial information regarding what visas to apply for and what not. However, with an abundance of information, it is also easy to get lost/confused as to what to do. Just pull through, and eventually it will make sense to you. 

Especially for those wishing to immigrate to Quebec: They have their own system which makes it a little harder (and assuming longer) to apply. Not to mention, you will have to deal with an additional set of forms, especially for the province of Quebec AND additional application fees. 

If, for any crazy reason you decide to wing it here in Canada, don't be an idiot like me and wait forever to put together the application. Also, I would highly advice you apply for an Open Work Permit (OWP) immediately as well. I made the mistake of waiting for too long and just about a month prior to my 6-month deadline, I applied for a Visitor Visa Extension. Now, stupid me can't work. 

Guess I'm not the only person suffering in this position:
http://www.thestar.com/news/immigration/2014/06/29/foreign_spouses_trapped_in_canada_due_to_sponsorship_backlog.html

Although the information provided here is targeted mostly to those who wish to immigrate to Canada under the Family Class, the point remains the same. Get the required information on the specific visa that pertains to you, and get working on it. 

2. CURRENCY, FINANCE, SHOPPING & SHIPPING

For those of you who are accustomed to paying what you see in stores or online, get ready to be frustrated beyond measure. Remember the luxury you had, when you have exactly the right amount of change leftover to pay for a coffee/snack/food? Yep, it's gone. You go up to the counter, forgetting the additional taxes, and end up being embarrassed that you don't have enough money.

If I see something advertised for $3.00, I expect to pay $3.00. Not $3.45 (or whatever the taxed amount comes up to be, depending on the province).


They probably have this system in place in Malaysia (when you go to an actual retail outlet in a shopping mall), but I haven't really noticed when I do go shopping as I was mainly focused on how cheap things were when I converted the Australian Dollar to the Malaysian Ringgit. Saying that, most places, like the night markets or pasar malam and hawker stalls, you pay the prices that you see or hear. Like, if I want a sausage on a stick, I ask how much it is. "RM1.50", I pay RM1.50.

So, after a while, I obviously became accustomed to this new way of exchanging money and decided to go back to online shopping. To me, online shopping is probably one of the best business system that technology provided to public consumers.

When I was working back in Brisbane, I often did not have the time to go shopping, so I spent my spare time at night browsing the various items for sale online and get it delivered to my workplace so I did not have to deal with the hassle of going to the post office.

Now, you might think I am THAT lazy to not want to pick up my own delivered parcel, but that's not simply the case. Full-time workers will understand that post offices operate on weekdays only, and have normal business hours, which means that unless you take a break from work and dash to the post office, or get someone to collect it for you, your parcel will be sitting at the post office for a while. Which pretty much defeats the purpose of online shopping anyways = convenience.

The initial problem I encountered was the varietal item lack in online Canadian stores. More often than not, you get directed to an American site instead. Which is fine by me. However, what I failed to realise because no one told me about this, is that there are certain items which will be sent to customs for inspection, charged the "appropriate Federal, Provincial and Goods Sales Taxes", and then get charged an additional fee by Canadian Post to deliver the said item(s) from customs to your home. 

My first purchase was an e-cigarette which I really wanted from an American e-cig company. I was elated when the delivered quickly, only to be told by the post man at the door that I had to pay $25.40 in order to receive my parcel.
WHAT. THE. FUCK?

Needless to say, I was furious and rang up the company to ask them as to why they would be charging me an additional amount. The poor customer service guy was just as confused and confirmed that I do not owe them. So, I rang Canada Post, and this man seemed stumped. Frustrated with my questions, he redirected me to go search for the customs website and contact them instead. By that point I was so mad, I could have stabbed someone. Thankfully, the nice lady at the end explained that part of the charge was the sales taxes, which made sense, and the remainder was Canada Post's fees.

I recently had to pay almost $30 to receive jewellery craft items too. You might wonder as to why I simply then just don't go finding an actual Canadian based company and avoid this completely. Here's the thing: there's simply not enough variety. Amazon.ca, most often than not, have the items you want but they are highly overpriced.

Or, if you're like me who happens to reside in Quebec, there are some sites who offer products to everywhere else in Canada except Quebec.

For example: 


Williams-Sonoma:



If you're browsing for a specific item and it ends up on Williams-Sonoma's site, you still can see the full site. However, if you're living in Quebec, Google automatically shows you the Quebec site: https://www.williams-sonoma.ca/quebec (Let's be honest here. That's a pretty lame attempt, just may as well NOT include a Quebec version so we don't know what we are missing out on. Ignorance is bliss).



Next, let's say you're a person interested in sweepstakes. Yup, again, offered everywhere else in Canada except for Quebec. Thanks to their strange laws where promoters have to pay a percentage of the winnings as fees, and adhere to strict rules which were 'meant to protect Quebec residents', most just simply not include Quebec. This article provides a better insight.

In relation to finance, choosing the right bank in a new country can be daunting. My partner decided to go back to CIBC, only to moan about the fees they charge. The worst thing I've heard was being charged $1.00CAD after you have reached the limit of 12 transactions in a month on a debit card. This is so backwards, typing this makes me want to gouge out my eyeballs. 

For Australians (Australian residents), we have been so spoiled: we have Eftpos, debit credit cards, and credit cards. Sure, we may be limited to the set amount by the bank (which can be changed at any time) but at least we are not limited to "how many transactions per day". Most of us would be making the bank even more filthy rich if they started implementing this system. I rarely had cash on me in Australia, save maybe for topping up the card for public transport. 

The only bank I want to try out and hoping that he'll switch to is Tangerine Bank. Based on their website, it sounds way more promising (and no debit fees?). 

Also, in terms of paying a bill online, (most, if not all? I'm not too sure) Canada is a little backwards. I had to endure my partner's swearing after realising that he could not pay a certain bill online, only via a cheque and got billed a "late fee" because they didn't receive the cheque on time, etc. What happened to direct-debit/B-Pay?

As a whole, this might or might not relate to you, but I thought I'd share this information. I sure as hell would have loved to have learned about this prior to my move. 

3. Food, Glorious Food

In today's society, we have an addiction to food. Most of us are self-confessed foodies, who strive to find the best food out there. Unlike the past, where most of us eat-to-live, I think that most these days live-to-eat, and I'm one of them. I would have to blame my Malaysian heritage - exposed to a variety of traditional Chinese, Malay and Indian foods, and a culture with a love for food, it has played a large role in shaping the person I am today.

The best thing so far, would have to be the poutine. As stereotypical as it gets for the stock standard Canadian food. 

Initially, I did not grasp what my boyfriend was trying to say when he said that the cheese was "squeaky". I googled what the "squeaky cheese" was, and realised that it was cheese curds. Let me tell you, that cheese curds are AMAZING. Don't let its appearance fool you (I thought it looked like cheese rubber bits lol), as I find them wonderfully weird - slightly rubbery in texture, but full in cheese flavour which gets even better when slightly melted in the poutine gravy.

How can you not like poutine? It's basically just fries, hot gravy, and additional toppings of cheese curds. Omnomnomnom.

I've heard about plenty of restaurants all over Canada in the cities that offer great food. Unfortunately, I'm based in a tiny suburb about an hour's drive out of Montreal. Which means, I get stuck with somewhat unsatisfactory food. My love for food also turned me into a complete food snob
.
Whilst I see photos of great food in restaurants in main Canadian cities, I'm stuck with large portions of food with little quality. I don't know, like I prefer quality over quantity. I'd rather pay more to get a decent portion of expertly cooked/executed dish than a large plate of boring food that I wouldn't finish anyways.

If you are an avid coffee lover, and especially Australian or from New Zealand, you might just die a little here in Canada. As per my previous post, I touched on the topic of coffee and the reason why I'm dying a little bit day-by-day until I find the right coffee again. In Australia, it feels like there are cafes anywhere you go, and most of us enjoy a good cappuccino/flat white/macchiato/latte, etc. Here, the coffee of choice is percolated. With very little milk. Okay, think of it as a long black, with a dash of milk.

"Cappuccino Chiang Mai" by Takeaway - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cappuccino_Chiang_Mai.JPG#/media/File:Cappuccino_Chiang_Mai.JPG

I suppose, for North Americans, that is the standard coffee they order. That's what they are used to, unless they head on to Starbucks for the fancier coffees, which funnily enough, is the standard I used to drink in Australia.

Anyways, long story short, any coffee made mostly with milk, should have micro bubbles in the foam (micro foam). This is important because it provides the coffee with the smooth, velvety foam you see on coffees where there is coffee art.

This is what I received when I ordered a mocha:

I took like a sip out of it, but the foam isn't right at all. Tastes alright. No soy options too apparently 
:(

Summary:

At the end of the day, moving is stressful enough as it is, let alone having to move internationally. Just make sure that you have done your research on everything, so that you've prepared yourself well - know what to expect, so you don't have to learn from mistakes, like me.

I know I have been moaning and make it sound terrible, and it is

Kidding.

There's always pros and cons, however, it seems like people focus too much on the pros, whereas if you're a pessimist like me, I like to hear about the bad, so I know what to expect and how to handle myself when a situation arises (instead of looking completely shocked, dumbfounded with mouth gaping like a fish out of water).

I maybe quite passionate in my complaints about such trivial things, but trust me, at the end of the day, it matters. 

Friday, 27 November 2015

Stainless Steel vs Sterling Silver Earrings

I have a slight problem with sterling silver. As much as it is coveted in the jewellery world as a cost-effective alternative to white gold, I do not enjoy getting green-stained ears after wearing silver earrings for a few days straight. Yes, I am that lazy that I do not enjoy taking off jewellery unless I absolutely have to. Thankfully, I'm not allergic to nickel; white gold is my favourite metal but I obviously simply cannot afford to have my jewellery all made with it. 

Unfortunately, when you head to a fashion-jewellery store (in Australia for example: Diva or now known as Lovisa), you more than often end up with earrings that very well might tarnish even though they are labelled "hypo-allergenic". 

With most stainless steel earrings I've encountered in the market, I feel that there isn't enough "hook" earrings sold. They are mostly made into studs, or thick hooped earrings - there are simply more choices sold in sterling silver.

Along with my perler bead project, I purchased a few stainless steel earring findings from a wholesale website. However when I searched for some pretty charms to add to the findings, there are obviously more choices made in sterling silver. So, por que no los dos? 

Voila!

 The pair I made for mummy dearest <3 The photo does not do it justice! It's quite sparkly IRL. 

Made with 316L grade stainless steel which is "the same grade used in industrial and food-processing applications ... [it] resists moisture and will not oxidize". The charms themselves are made with sterling silver, so best of both worlds indeed.

If you enjoy sturdier findings, then stainless steel is for you. Like, how can you not love stainless steel? Might not be as shiny as sterling silver but who gives a hoot?


8-bit/Pixel Christmas Wreath

Time surely does fly! How is it that it is almost the end of November already? 

The last festive season was Halloween (which was surprisingly quite dull as I had anticipated more Halloween spirit in Canada), and then BAM, everyone has their Christmas decorations up. My partner has been telling me that Christmas highly celebrated here in Canada in comparison to Halloween. 

To pass time, I had decided to take up Perler bead crafts - I might have jumped the gun a little and overspent on large quantities of beads. 

Whilst "window-shopping" on the web, I stumbled upon an 8-bit wreath for sale on ThinkGeek.com and was like 'Whoa, I really want one', but then realised that it was made of EVA foam. Not that I have a problem with foam, it's just that something about the word "foam" makes it seem 'durable' in my mind. 

8-Bit LED Holiday Wreath 

With much motivation and inspiration at hand, I Googled the shit out of 8-bit wreaths and Perler beads. There were quite a few people who made Perler wreaths with the same design as the wreath above. However, it didn't really pay homage to my personal childhood influences. 

So, armed with thousands of beads and plenty of spare time, I made my own damn wreath:



2.5 days later, the wreath is complete:

Inspiration: Hayao Miyazaki, Pokemon and Sailor Moon 

The problem I encountered (which nearly made me cry out of frustration) was the novice mistake of attempting a large scale bead project without the proper ironing technique. Some beads decided to fuse easily whilst some decided not too .... urgh. At the end, a lot of dedication and patience resulted in a somewhat successful project. 

I don't know whether it is because I didn't iron out the flip-side out properly or whether it is due to its size, but it feels slightly flimsy (this was like an hour after ironing). After cooling down, the wreath has somewhat hardened up a little more.

I am waiting to maybe buy a good temporary wall adhesive to then stick it on our front door! :)

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Beauty Hack: DIY Ziplock Nail Polish Strips

I know, I know: this blog was dedicated to mostly food reviews, but since I've been a bum and haven't had the opportunity to get around and try many restaurants these days, I decided it was time to diversify into hobbies other than dining & cooking. 

This hack has been around for awhile using Ziploc bags to create nail polish decals, however, upon a normal Google search, the top results shown are mostly nail polish decals, not nail polish strips. I figured that since nail decals are simply nail polish, it wouldn't hurt to try to make my own nail strips. 

Why? Now that is an important question. 

Well, if you're anything like me (extremely impatient) and simply cannot wait for the nail polish to dry, this is THE thing to do. You know those nail polish which requires at least a few layers, and you have to wait for a layer to dry completely before putting on the next? Or if you're lazy, think you can put on all three layers and pray to whatever deity you're into that it'll dry in a short amount of time (without accidentally smudging/scratching aka fucking it up completely)? 

Yeah. 

No. 

The first layer of polish already feels like an infinity has passed and it makes me feel like a complete princess, unable to do anything with my distant phalanges, let alone having to apply another couple of layers after. 

OR

Even worse, possessing streaky nail polish that takes FOREVER to dry, which pretty much means that it is a doomed requirement for several layers of nail polish. 

In my experience, I had a great OPI polish which dried pretty quickly, but had a new glitter polish which I wanted to put on top. Long story short: it screwed up my initial efforts, and was left unmotivated and with unpolished fingers [intense cussing inserted here]. 

Anyways, enough with the talk. 

Things You'll Need:
  • Nail polish
  • Ziploc bag (I suggest using the thicker one. The thin ones I have on hand proved successful, but since I actually wanted to reuse the bags, the thin ones pierced through when I tried to peel the polish off)
  • Tweezers or a thin, sharp object (metal nail file in this instance)
  • Base Coat
  • Top Coat
  • Scissors
  • OPTIONAL: Cuticle pushers with a silicone tip

What I did:

1. Apply a thin layer of base coat. Let it dry completely.

2. In the meantime waiting for the base coat to dry, I painted on the Ziploc bags oblong squares (try to paint it so that it is larger than the size of your nails). Paint extras just in case you fail along the way. If you have a streaky polish on hand, put a few layers on, to make it as even as possible. Just remember to definitely put a few layers on, even if it's not streaky polish. 


3. Let it dry completely. I left mine sitting for around 2-3 hours.

4. Use a tweezer or, in my case, a nail file to pick at the edges to lift & separate the dried polish from the plastic. Carefully peel it off the bag completely. (Initially, in this trial run, I freaked out because I thought that it was stuck to the bag, never to come off. After a few hard proddings, I managed to separate it from the bag. Don't give up!)

5. Position the polish strip on your nail so that it completely covers your nail.



6. Press the polish strips down onto your nail so that it adheres. Like the instructions on Sally Hansen's polish strips, carefully bend around the edges of the strips that doesn't cover the nail.

7. The edges of your nails will be the easiest to peel off. My strips were too big, so I used the cuticle pusher on hand to break off excess, overhanging strips. If that failed, I used my nails to peel them off carefully.

8. Finish off with a thin layer of top coat. Focus a bit more of the coating on the edges of the nails, so that the strips don't peel off easily when you scratch/peel things later. Let it dry and you're done!

My horrible result of the first attempt; although successful in adhering, my atrocious peeling skills have left uneven edges. 

The Result:
So, as seen in the photo above, there are some flaws I've encountered. It is technically successful in the sense that: (a) it adheres, (b) it is streak-free and, (c) you do whatever you want when the polish is drying, which normally compromises the outcome (eg: washing dishes, sleeping, pulling pants off, etc.)

I also decided to do the "XO" nail decal as seen on the accent finger, by using an old liquid eyeliner wand to draw on the ziploc bag. It was harder to peel off, but with a little dedication and persistence, it worked like a dream. 

The first problem is that the tearing technique I've employed isn't as efficient - tearing off the excess often results in uneven edges. So, unless you're an expert in tearing off nail polish strips, practice might come in handy. The second is that minute air bubbles formed after the top coat dried. Unless you're actually staring hard at my nails, you probably won't see it, but it does bother me a little.

Otherwise, I call this a success in the sense as I have achieved my goal in utilizing streaky polish with long drying time. Overall, it was fun and I can see a lot of potential with other nail polish I own - I plan to tweak the occurring flaws and update this once it has been resolved! 

If anyone who happens to stumble upon this post and has a great suggestion/advice as to how to fix these problems, please let me know!

Saturday, 19 September 2015

There Are Plenty Out There ...


Hello.

This is my first comic attempt.

I've always enjoyed drawing/doodling ever since I was old enough to hold a pen/pencil/colour marker, etc. 

Who do I owe thanks to? The creators of Sailor Moon

I was like obsessed with that anime, so much so, that when Malaysia decided to dub it in Cantonese, I learned it very quickly (I was like 5 at the time). All I remember drawing was Sailor Moon; I wanted the Super Sailor powers, I wanted to actually be Sailor Moon. 

So, not only did Sailor Moon grant me the focus and dedication to learn a new language, it also granted me the knowledge of Japanese comic art - manga. 

Granted, there was another Japanese comic I was introduced to at the time: Doraemon.
But ... Sailor Moon will always be my first love. 

My mother realised that I had some "potential talent" - this potential is actually the byproduct of A LOT of practice. 

As I grew up, my doodling juices waned. It was like a reserve that I emptied out as a kid, and it took forever to re-fill. I had bouts when I would draw for days on end, and then ... *POOF* Doodling juice gone. My laziness didn't help with the recharge rate either. 

And as with time, technology improved and still no mojo. Wish I could turn back time to spend more time practicing and gain more "social media" fame from the beginning. Now that I want to doodle, it's too late. All these new kiddos who took this opportunity at the time are already reaping the benefits - improved drawings/upgrade in their technique/technique exploration,etc.

Now, I'm stuck with pen & paper, a scanner and a cracked version of Photoshop CS3 ... with no pen tablet, so I've been outlining with my fingers on the trackpad. 

This comic is dedicated to the supposed "talent" I have. 

Wahh!


Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Braun Silk-├ępil 5 Epilator 5280 Review

I cannot stress upon the love I have for epilators! I took the opportunity to discard my old epilator when I moved from the Land Down Under - it was around five years old and the hair-plucking efficiency was lacking. 

Unfortunately, it took me about three months to order a new one as I decided to shave my pits (had some disposable razors). This was by far the worst decision I made in a long time. Why?

  1. Well, razors are expensive. Whether you purchase a disposable or "non-disposable/refillable" razors, at the end of the day,  it's going to end up in the bin. 
  2. Shaved hair grows back at a stupidly ridiculous rate - I don't know about you, but stubbles appear the day after shaving. 
  3. Additional shaving products needed - shaving cream. Doesn't last forever and again, goes in the bin after a while.
I hate shaving. Shaving sucks. Those unsightly, hideous stubbles return with a vengeance in less than two days. I am lazy and I do not enjoy having to repeat this process every alternate day. 

I also had a very, very, very bad experience in my early teenage years. I think I had a disposable razor with minute rust, ended up with a micro-cut (which I was completely unaware of), which turned into an abscess. Thinking it was a horrifically large pimple/boil, I waited a week to see if it will pop. Nope.  
The surface of the skin started showing hues of black and my mother took me to a skin specialist the very next day. The doctor said that he had to operate immediately. This involved a local anesthetic, a small incision, squeezing and A LOT of pus. 

Have you ever had someone pinch your underarm? It's one of the most sensitive areas with a lot of nerve endings. This is where the abscess was located. FML

Took my mother and the nurse to pin me down whilst the squeezing took place. I thought it was over when the doctor stop squeezing, but noo.... the nurse had a very long piece of gauze, dipped into an antiseptic (based on the colour, it could have been iodine) AND STUFFED IT INTO THE WOUND!! Had to return everyday for 3 days to get that damn gauze changed. 

Anyways, long story short, I was really unlucky. Might not have had it happen to you, but who knows?

Back to the original purpose of this post... I did a quick research for a new epilator candidate and decided on Braun

The website then directed me to a list of online shops which sold the product. I decided on Well.ca as it had a good deal at the time (I paid $77.95CAD with taxes included and free shipping). My purchase qualified for some free samples too! The best part? 1-3 business days free shipping for orders over $25CAD!!

So, it didn't take long before I received my parcel.


 Free samples! I love samples! Gimme more!

I love online shopping - every order delivered makes me feel like a child again during birthdays and Christmas!


 So sleek :D Definitely an upgrade from my old epilator


 Pivoting head attachment with pink massaging rollers


Efficiency cap 


Shaver head attachment


Shaver head attachment with the trimmer cap on.


 The cute, small cleaning brush.


 Cooling glove

It also comes with a white storage bag, which is big enough to store the epilator and its attachments, but not big enough for the cooling glove.

The Attempt:

The attachments were easy to swap around; no trying-to-break-your-fingernails in swapping attempts.

As of the writing of this review, I have yet to try out the efficiency cap, shaver/trimmer attachments, and the cooling glove, so I'm basing this purely on the performance of the epilator itself with the massaging rollers.

As aforementioned, as I had been shaving for a while, so my armpit hairs were course. I thought going back to epilating would be a breeze, but no....
After having the epilator hiatus, it felt like it was my very first time - it was painful!

I had to bite down on my lips to stop myself from yelping every time it yanked out those stubborn hairs.

To put this into perspective, my hairs were so course that after the torturous epilating session, I noticed a few small specks of blood. I did not take that as a bad sign, as with a good epilator, you want it to yank those little bastards out fully by the roots. This ensures a longer hair-free period.

The one thing I didn't like so much about this epilator is the bright light which is on the entire time that it was on. It is a very bright, white light, blinding at times. So bright, in fact, I think I might just be able to epilate in the dark. This feature would be very handy if you in a low-light environment, but I wish Braun would have an "OFF/ON" function for this light.

The massaging rollers... hmm. I didn't feel much of the "massaging", but I do like the rollers and the design of it. Makes it feel like it is "gliding" on my skin.

I forgot to mention that it has dual setting for speed. I tried mine out on the first setting for "extra gentle epilation". Gentle? Not really! I would probably recommend the second speed setting instead: the faster it plucks, the better. Efficiently get it over and done with.

Another good feature about this epilator is that you can wash this. I cleaned mine out with the brush only though (who has the time and effort to wash it each time?? Clean freaks) but I enjoy having the option to wash).

UPDATE:
I recently tried out the shaver head attachment and it works well. I used it on the bikini area, and was quite happy with the way it shaved. Mind you, it's more of a trimmer shaver rather than a clean-skin shave. Didn't use it with the trimmer cover.

The Results:

With any epilator, there is no 100% guarantee of plucking all of the hair by the roots - there will always be a few hair strands which breaks off. So, two days after the initial session, I did a very quick round to clean-up any missed hairs.

Flash forward a week and a half later (right now), I have like 30% of hair which has grown back. Most of them are fine hairs, with a few odd thick ones which survived the pulling of the roots.

I am so happy right now with my new epilator :)

Yes, it may hurt like a bitch initially, but with the reduction in hair growth and how fine is grows back, it won't be long before getting used to epilating. The best part is that I can expect a good several years of usage until it goes kaput/experience an electronic malfunction. Save your money and happy plucking days!

Pros:

  • Experience slower hair-growth (with finer hair as a result); longer hair-free period
  • Save a lot of money in the long-run - no additional products to worry about. Buy once, enjoy for years to come.
  • Comes with a variety of attachments and tools. [Update: shaver attachment is definitely a bonus!]
  • Yanks out the majority of hair by the roots - great tweezer hair grip.
  • Completely washable device
  • Has a guide light
  • Has a pivoting head
Cons:
  • There is some level of pain involved until your skin is used to it.
  • Initial out-of-pocket is quite high.

I'd give this product a 4.5 / 5 (the lack of 0.5 for the bright, blinding constant light feature), and highly recommend this to anyone. 



Thursday, 10 September 2015

A Confession: I Hate Kids



I suppose this underlying sensitive issue has been festering inside of me for quite some time now, and there's no better way for me to rant about it than to blog about it. Writing this, I am nearing my mid 20's and I fear that I will never change my mind on this topic (based on all the "advice" of women who previously never wanted children but ended up with some, apparently I will change my mind once the "maternal clock starts to tick" during the early to mid 30's) as I am slowly, but surely getting older. 

Sometimes I feel like I am the only person in the world who feels this way and meeting a person in real life who shares the same view is rare. Mostly I have to avoid the topic of conversation when it is brought up, just to smile, nod, and try my darnest to avoid mentioning my true feelings. Purely because if someone were to ask my true opinions on children, it would be more like this:

"Fuck, no."

This intense dislike of children popped up in my teenage years, when I asked some of my female classmates back in Kuala Lumpur how many children they would want. The average response was scarily identical. "Oh, I would want a boy and a girl. You?". Well, my answer back then was "Zero". Based on the responses I had received, I felt like I was the odd one out - a female who did not grasp the society's norms of bearing and raising children. However, that concern faded for a while as I was too occupied with the struggles of the teenage years and early adulthood.

It wasn't too long ago that this beast of a feeling reemerged from its deep slumber, and it is getting very hard to avoid as years pass. I am in a committed relationship for several years now, and well, sooner or later the topic of children finds its way into a conversation or comment. How do you tell someone you love that you really, really hate kids (or grandkids) and crush their dreams of eventual offspring? I feel that "I'm sorry, but kids aren't for me" doesn't really sit well with people, and the stares of impending disapproval is eminent.



Enough of incoherent rambling on about what I think, I'm going to start off with the whole blown process of my freak ideology.

Let's start off with the process of pregnancy:
Simple: a man and a woman exchange bodily fluids in the most enjoyable manner and if the healthy woman is not taking any contraceptive, naturally she's going to get knocked up. 

I'm going to publicly admit that I was once knocked up, and boy, the symptoms sucked balls. It can turn your favourite smell into the most nauseating experience ever, where you end up hunched over, hugging the toilet bowl, waiting for the smell to dissipate, and throwing up. The smell in question, was the smell of cooking steak. FML. I was about 4-5 weeks in. Let's just say I'm going to hell if there is one, cause my fear of having something growing inside me had led me to the decision to evacuate it. Steak was glorious once more. 

So, I didn't reach the stage where my belly was protruding with stretchmarks and swollen cankles & feet but the heightened sensitivity of the sensory system even in the early stages proved that the 9 torturous months was way too long.

I do not know if a man could ever empathize with what a woman goes through during this phase and men are lucky they don't have to. It is easy for a man to say "Oh, I want to have a family", when all he has to do is stick his body part into the woman's, exchange bodily fluids in a fun and enjoyable manner, and voila! Wait for 9 months and you get a kiddo whilst the woman suffers through it. Life isn't fair, is it?

As aforementioned, when I think pregnant, I think of the growing lump of cells as a tumor, rapidly growing and dividing until it forms a solid mass, which in turn turns into a parasite, leeching off the host of nutrients. What's the first reaction a person has when they learn they have a tumor? Normally, the reaction is to book an appointment with a doctor or surgeon to arrange a surgical removal. Just so happens that this sort of tumor is cuter than the normal kind.

"We rarely ask, “Why do you have kids?” Instead it’s “Why don’t you?”
 Lauren Sandler, TIME article

Onto the topic of childbirth:
How do you tell someone that when my mother and Year 10 Biology classes taught me about the female reproductive system, pregnancy and childbirth, I was so horridly scarred that I never wanted kids? I cannot fully blame my mother as she did the right thing by providing both pros and cons of bearing a kid (not many people are going to fully admit that a vaginal tear is excessively common, especially in Asian women who mostly have a smaller hip girth. To counteract this, doctors cut/snip the sides of the vagina). Yeah, no, fuck no. Like shitting yourself by accident in front of people and long hours of painful labour wasn't enough. 

Post childbirth: if snipped vaginal parts was the case, apparently peeing burned like a bitch. I have also read horror stories of unfortunate recovered women who were so turned-off by sex as it was no longer enjoyable due to the pain. I am too selfish for this shit; I am happy that my sexual organs will remain the same.

Of course, by stating that comment, the sure topic of the Cesarean will arise. Epidural? A needle to my spinal cord? Thinking about that alone is enough to make me cringe. Fuck, if you're going to cut me open for an invasive major abdominal surgery, I want to be solidly knocked out cold. None of that 'baby bonding science' bullshit. That kid can wait til I emerge from my slumber to fed and held, especially having to carry that damn thing around for 9 months. Or, the doctors can maybe plop that thing on my chest whilst being unconscious? Same thing right? Lol. Some people aren't designed to have children and I am one of them. 

The resulting offspring:
Most mothers have told me that the pain of labour and the sacrifice of the torturous nine months are all washed away upon looking & holding the newborn. The "love at first sight" is pretty much nature's way of rewarding you after being tortured, by making the female body releasing a huge amount of oxytocin, endorphin, dopamine and adrenaline. 

Sure, science has proved that the "love" thing does happen, but how do you love something that cries, eats and poops all the time?

I was recently surfing the web to see if I was the only person who feels this way, and so happen to stumble upon this forum/site. Seems like I'm not alone in this world. This user nailed my views (the IKEA reference was genius):

Couldn't have said it better

What I also do not understand is why some people want to have kids when they are poor? I respect the fact that some people are pro-life, however, it must suck balls. I wouldn't dare dream of having children if I am struggling financially. Hell, I can't even afford the things I want, let alone another mouth to feed. There is no doubt that raising a child is cheap. Think about it. If you have a child, for the next 18 years you are committed to feeding and clothing. Some articles to keep in mind:



With all that $$$ I could travel the world. Hell, if I have to wait 18 years to accumulate that sum and then go travelling, I can patiently wait. Costs of travelling as a family is extremely expensive! As a past travel consultant, plane tickets alone could have ranged from $6,000 ++ for a family of four (in this particular example, it was a flight from Brisbane to Danang). You'd, like, want to travel when the child is 0 - 1.5 years of age when fares are minimal (any child between 2 - 11 is considered a child, 11 onwards, an adult fare. Take care when purchasing airfares when your child turns two during time of travel - the airline will charge you a child's fare not an infant).

Being raised in the Asian (Chinese) culture however, makes me understand why people choose to have children. Based on my observation over the years, it is to my understanding that it tied closely to cultural norms; it is expected of the children to care for their parents as they age in return for the care they had received as children. It is considered quite shameful for their children to send them to nursing homes. In the Chinese culture, the eldest son is normally the first to take on the responsibility and even after marriage, he will live under his parent's roof along with his wife and child. Imagine living with your in-laws until they pass. Yikes!

Having children sounds highly unrewarding to me. Like what JerseyGirl1178 said, I am extremely grateful my mother made the decision to keep me and not throw me out a window.

Parents & Discipline:
Having been previously employed in a retail store which sells colourful stationery targeted at children as their target audience, I have learned to put up a fake persona and the ability to withstand kids. In my experience, I would say a large majority of kids that walk into the store are little shitty brats who throw an obscene tantrum.

I do not blame children on their behavior completely as it is natural for kids to be kids (tantrum and all), as they are in the developmental stage - I blame the parents and their lack of discipline. When I was a child, my mother never spanked me, but she would use the psychological, black-mail shit that would guilt-trip me into behaving (I'd much rather have the cane or a spanking as it would have been over and done with in comparison to the days-long guilt-trip affair).

I wonder if some of these parents just don't give a fuck or just oblivious to the fact that it is not normal to have running, screaming kids in public? I grew up sitting down next to my mother/grandparents in social events and behaving - unruly behaviour was shameful. If I was bored, they'd provide me with pen and paper to doodle on, whilst the adults were socializing. Kids were seen, not heard. In a parallel universe, where I had a kid, I'd be so embarrassed if he/she threw a tantrum, I'd drag their ass out of public view, leave immediately and give it a good caning at home. No one likes the sound of a screaming child - you are lying or in self-denial if you said you did (tell me a time when you enjoyed being in a plane/restaurant, only to have the experience ruined by an unholy screaming).

Schools in Malaysia still use corporal punishment for unruly children and boy, I must say it works. I'd never forget the time when I skimped out on my homework and our teacher had us kiddos who forgot to do their homework lined up in front of the classroom. Humiliation was worse than the cane, but that specific teacher had quite the cane. She gave us a nice swollen palm as a reminder. A nice enough reminder that even though a decade has passed, the memory is forever etched in my brain.

It doesn't help either that some countries are enforcing some bullshit "children rights" law which interferes with parents or teacher's ability to discipline children. I am not advocating child abuse where they are being kicked/punched/severely injured. Just enough discipline so that we are not having a generation of shitty, bratty kids getting away with bad behavior. Oops, too late. Wait, maybe there is hope for humanity.

Much to my chagrin, many parents these days are too fucking lenient with their children. Grow a spine and teach your child the consequences of misbehavior. You don't have to resort to my ideal discipline of caning, but grounding or taking away the internet etc., could be useful.

Judgement Time:
Gah! It frustrates me to tears that having children is the socially-expected norm. I maybe a sheep in a variety of ways, but this is one aspect that I absolutely refuse to be a sheeple. Reproduction in nature, is for the survival of the species and I think we humans are doing just a fantastically dandy job of doing so. I hate how I feel judged when I mention my views on this matter, like I'm some sub-human being or a bad person.

My partner asked what would happen when I grow old and who will be there to take care of us? Who was going to be at our death-bed? I do not know how to answer that, and the answer is normally family and friends. Having children doesn't guarantee the fact that you might still end up being in a nursing home with little to no visits from them, so what is the point? I feel that I am able to lead a healthy and fulfilling life without children.

Right now, as of writing this post, this topic also poses a slight problem in my relationship: he wants one eventually, whereas I do not. It is a strained conversation topic, normally shoved underneath a rug upon mere mention. It is the selfishness from both our parts: for him to expect me to maybe eventually have kids despite my strong feelings against it, and for me to think he'll give up the idea entirely.

Eleanore Wells, a market researcher in New York City, says that even in her mid-50s, she finds judgment at every turn. “So many women take my choice personally,” she says. Recently, she told me, a woman on the subway inquired if she had children and then asked, aghast, “Who is going to take care of you when you’re old?” Wells wanted to reply that nursing homes are filled with parents, but she says she just smiled, went home and packed her bags for an annual trip to Martha’s Vineyard with friends. “When I was younger I found it more exhausting,” she says. “Now I don’t give a s — – what anyone thinks. It gets easier.”
TIME article

If I ever get married, it's going to be a child-free/adult-only reception. In an ideal world, no kids at the ceremony too (if there's any, it's to please the groom-to-be's family not mine). I'd hate for a screaming child to ruin a vow and whatnot. Wedding photos only and off with it.

The stigma surrounding this topic should be erased - women should be able to able to make their own decisions of reproducing without being stigmatized. Some women want to have kids, some don't - it shouldn't be expected. It is also not fair to bully a woman to believe that her choice in procreating is wrong.

End note:
For anyone who wishes to have children, go for it; it is your choice to do so and go for it. However, I wish that people will respect mine, and not be under any scrutiny of sorts. I feel that I would be a shitty mother as I find the whole concept absolutely repulsive, and I really do not enjoy being in the presence of kids.

"And no woman should have to submit to society's relentless questioning on the matter."
- Erin Migdol, .MIC article

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Simple Asian Roasted Pork Shoulder Recipe

Ahhh, there's definitely nothing better than the taste of pork! Growing up in Malaysia, pork made its mark as one of the staple ingredients in our meals (for us Chinese mostly? Definitely non-halal lol). I would say that my favourite cut is pork belly *drools*

Since my relocation, my partner decided that instead of bumming around at home all day, he'd ask me to walk all the way to the grocery store (and for the much needed "exercise"). 

Walked over to the meat section, and I was just about to pick up some pork chops, but, I looked over to the other fridge and noticed pork shoulder picnic cuts for cheaper! Me, being greedy and somewhat a cheap-skate at times, want the best value for more meat. So, pork shoulder it was. 

I've prepared large slabs of pork belly in the past, but that chunk of meat is probably one of the thickest (heaviest, largest??) portion I've worked with, besides a whole chicken. 

Since I was walking home, I only bought a few other ingredients wholly unrelated to this pork dish. I realised this as soon as I got home - upon some of my research, if I wanted a tender pork dish, I have to have like either (a) twenty other ingredients which I do not have, (b) slow roast the shit out of the pork overnight, but I don't want an alarming electricity bill, or (c) pop it in a slow-cooker, again, which I do not possess. AHHHHH...

So, I thought to myself, why the heck not. Let's try slow-cooking it at a relatively low temperature and for longer. Turns out, it was a darn heck of a tender roast with awesome, awesome flavours. 

Job well done, Mesha. Job well done. *gloats*

Anyways, decided to keep a record for self-use or for anyone who happens to tumble upon this post. Keep in mind, when I mentioned "simple", its based wholly on a few staple ingredients I have in my pantry. Also, I have a convection oven.

Before I forget as well, I remember that I don't really do measurements either. Mostly a gut feeling.

Simple Asian Roasted Pork Shoulder Recipe
Cooking time: 5 hours

Ingredients: 
1 pork shoulder (picnic)
4 cloves of garlic (peeled, half-pressed, & halved)
1 Brown Onion (sliced)
1 tsp Sesame Oil
Chinese 5-spice 
Black Pepper
White Pepper (the one I am currently using is a white-pepper salt mixture. If it's plain white pepper, add salt)
*Salt

For the homemade teriyaki sauce 
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup mirin 
2 tsp white sugar 


Method:

1. Leave the pork out on a bench until room temperature (or slightly cold to touch if needed).
2. Preheat oven to 250F / 120C. ("Roast" setting)

3. With the pork, create little garlic "pockets", by making a deep slits in the pork. Depending on how big your piece is, you can try and evenly make slits. (I only made 5 slits, so the remaining garlic halves was stuffed into the slits which I had over cut). Stuff garlic halves into slits.

4. The first layer of dry rub is the 5-spice. Evenly, but thinly coat the meat with this spice. It is a very strong spice, so depending on your preference, use more or less. (I coated mine with more!)

5. The second layer of rub is the white pepper, black pepper (*and salt). The best ratio is 2:1. More white pepper than black. *If you are using salt, evenly season it on the entire meat.

6. Drizzle top of meat with sesame oil

7. Put the well-seasoned meat onto a non-stick baking tray and transfer to the second rack of the oven for 4.5 hours.

8. After time has elapsed, take meat out, transfer to a plate and set aside. Re-set oven to 450F /232C

**OPTIONAL STEP**
On the baking tray, take a teaspoon of rendered pork fat and put aside. (I put mine straight onto the frying pan).  You can either keep the rendered pork fat/oil for other recipes or discard.

9. With the onions, layer it on the tray, focusing the amounts mostly on the middle. Take the pork and put it on top of the onions. Pop it back into the oven, middle rack, for another 30 minutes.

10. With the kept rendered pork fat, (if you decided to keep it), transfer to frying pan. Heat stove to medium - medium low. Pour in wet ingredients and mix.

11. Once the sauce is hot enough, add the sugar and stir until dissolved. Leave it simmering until reduced, which should take about 30 minutes as well. 

12. Remove tray from oven. Let the meat rest. Carve to desired thickness and serve with the homemade teriyaki sauce.

Verdict:
Boyfriend-approved. He even dared to say that it was the best meal I've conjured up in a while @#$%! 

The 5-spice, white & black pepper rub is one that I am very fond of; I've tried this with osso bucco, pork belly, etc., Also, the smell of the spices fills the room. Win-win

In summary, this was a success: the meat was oh-so very tender and moist (dare I say, almost falling apart), whilst still maintaining that thin spiced-crust which had formed, which also provided a lot of flavor. The garlic was so soft, it almost became like a natural garlic butter paste. Additionally, I loved the teriyaki sauce with it as it added sweetness and further flavour depth to this dish. 

Lastly, I find this awesome as I am technically kitchen-ware impaired as I have yet to buy myself a slow-cooker and do not have many other spices or ingredient on hand!

** No photos cause we devoured it for dinner. Leftovers in fridge **

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Air Canada Service Complaint/Rant

***Disclaimer: Rant below from previous personal experience***

It has been almost four months since my arrival in Canada! Hoorah! However, I woke up this morning somewhat stressed out and in need of a good rant. I did not realise how much this incident pissed me off when it occurred and it seems that the issue has been bottling up for the last several months. So, now I need to rant. 

I've been very fortunate to have had the opportunity to travel since I was just a wee kid. My mother used to work for Malaysia Airlines as a flight attendant, so I was no stranger to travelling with the said airline. Back before the last two unfortunate incidents, it was a 5-star carrier and boy, was the service amazing. 

More recently, as I had been living in Australia for almost a decade, I also had the chance to try other full-service carriers such as Qantas (QF),Virgin Australia, Garuda and of course, the low cost carriers such as Air Asia, Jetstar, and Tiger Airlines. 

Thinking back, I maybe was spoiled with the level of customer service I received on-board full-service airlines. I never really felt hungry on a plane, and if I did get peckish before/after a meal service round, I would ask for a snack from the flight attendants. In all my experience, I received a snack (mostly crackers & cheese, and peanuts), or two (some attendants were nice enough to give me a healthy re-fill). 

Until now. 

I had never been to Canada, so I was pretty excited. I was a travel consultant, and I figured that the best cost for the flight route that did not involve transit via the USA, was a Qantas and Air Canada code-share. The routing seemed fine, and I was a Qantas Frequent Flyer, so win-win right? Plus, on their website, Air Canada is a 4-star international network carrier. 

Well, since I wasn't technically paying for the airfare, another consultant had to book these fares, and they pretty much fucked up what I wanted to do:

I wanted the tickets to technically be a "Qantas" ticket, which means that we would have gotten 2 x 23kg checked luggage each (although the majority of the trip would be on Air Canada (AC), QF rules would have applied). We received the opposite, where it was "Air Canada" tickets. Too late to change that after it had been booked. We sucked it up and paid the extra luggage fee. Sigh.

My partner and I knew that a long journey awaited us: 
Brisbane (BNE) - Sydney (SYD) - Vancouver (YVR) - Montreal (YUL)

From BNE to SYD, we were on Qantas, and from previous travel, I knew that even though it was a short hour and a half flight, we were provided with a small meal. Transit in SYD, waited for another 1 1/2 hours and boarded the 14-hour long, direct flight from SYD to YVR with Air Canada. 

My previous colleagues at Flight Centre had mentioned their unsatisfactory experience with Air Canada, and thought that they meant that the aircraft was older and maybe lacking certain newer features. The aircraft itself, definitely looks older, but so were the QF planes.

After take-off, there was an announcement which informed us that there would be two meal services during the flight, which is normal. I tried my best to fall asleep and kill some time prior to the first meal service. Meal time came, I ate, and went back to self-distraction. However, a couple of hours past the first meal service, my stomach gladly notified me that it was hungry. I did what I had always done: ring the flight attendant service bell.

A few moments later, the attendant appeared and I asked if I could have some snacks. She looked at me in an odd manner (What? Is this the first time someone has asked you for a snack?! Or is it a language/accent barrier?), and responded with a "No", and reminded me that the next meal service wasn't too far away. At that point, I was hungry enough to pull out money to buy a goddamn snack, thinking that maybe AC was like Jetstar, a low-cost carrier who did international flights. So, I asked if they even sold snacks. 

Nope. Seriously, WTF?

The attendant left, and since I couldn't be arsed to be a complete bitch and ask for the flight supervisor, I decided to try and nap it out. I was uberly grumpy and frustrated, literally hangry by the time the next meal service. 

Reading this, one will assume that it is a first-world problem, and I'm not denying that it isn't.

It is not just the lack of food that posed a problem: I think that it was a combination of how the situation was handled aka customer service. I do not deem myself as an outrageously demanding and irrational customer, albeit a little spoiled. I know that it was going to be a full flight, and yes, I made the mistake of not prepping up on snacks, but I didn't really want to spend top-dollar for snacks at the airport (like, stupidly expensive prices), and assuming all full-service carriers to provide the same level of service. 

HOWEVER...

Maybe a little finesse in going the extra-teeny weeny mile could have gotten a long way. Maybe if she had apologized for whatever reason/explanation that they didn't provide snacks (snacks ran out 'cause of the full flight, Air Canada doesn't provide this, etc., etc.,), I'd have probably swallowed the bitter pill of disappointment much easier. Maybe, if she had offered a beverage instead (preferably at the time, an alcoholic beverage), I wouldn't have been this pissed. Instead, she just walked off after a couple of "No"'s.

Are you seriously telling me that on 14+ hour flights, you actually literally serve one snack & one meal service? No extra snacks on board? Not even for purchase? Even worse, their domestic/North America services does not have complimentary snacks/meals. Only available for purchase. Tell me how is this different from being a low-cost carrier? 

Urgh. Even memories about this makes me twitch.

Lastly, from this particular flight, in addition to our despair, the flight was delayed in Vancouver, which meant that we missed the connecting flight to Montreal. So, that costed us an additional 2-hours (which, honestly isn't bad), and $5AUD for a 1-minute phone call to my partner's aunt who was expecting us at Montreal airport at the original arrival time.

**UPDATE** I forgot to mention this whilst initially writing this post. Oh yeah. Remember the saving grace for the short waiting time at Vancouver airport? Yeah, yeah?
I forgot to mention that we received our boarding pass and noted that we were seated separately from each other. And, Oh! Oh! What a surprise I got when I was literally boarding the aircraft. They had managed to over-stuff the plane, so there was no sufficient room in the overhead lockers, so I had to involuntarily give up my carry-on luggage, for the staff to check-in. 

BITCH, PLEASE. Albeit the fact that I'm moving to another country, and needed extra luggage, I also store items which means more to me personally. So that it is accessible, and I know that it is not very far away. No, no.. can't carry it on. No flippin' choice. 

This is probably the longest and most anger-inducing journey to get me from A to B. 

In my personal opinion, I think Skytrax should re-evaluate the 4-star award for Air Canada. If they are to rate them at par with the likes of Qantas, Emirates, Thai and Virgin Australia; it is a disgrace to the other well-performing airlines. 

Air Canada, please, for the love of god, do what Qantas does! From my previous trip to Tasmania:
 Brisbane to Melbourne in-flight brekkie. This is a 2 1/2 hour long flight.


Melbourne to Hobart: Hot Shepherd pie with tomato sauce as a snack. You could actually do beer/wine, as QF offers it to their clients. I was being a good girl at the time.  Oh yeah, did I mention that this flight was just over an hour?


So, what are my final thoughts on Air Canada? 

Well, let's put it this way: If I ever hold a position as a travel consultant again, Air Canada would definitely be one of the airlines that I would choose to ignore as a recommendation candidate, and pretty much suggest them as a last-resort offer if they have great fares. 

Would I travel with them again? If they have stupidly cheap airfares in comparison to other airlines, and flight duration of around 6 hours, maybe. And that's a BIG maybe. Unless they up their game with the level of service. Until then, my travel money is for the other 'full-service' airlines. 
AC gets the low-cost carrier branding in my book.