Lost in Translation

Sometimes… when I want to show people how cultured and sophisticated I am, I like to throw in one or two words of French in my conversation like this:

Hey… do you know if Mark and Jess are still together?

Hmmm peut-etre. Pourquoi???

Meh, I just heard some stuff.

In most circumstances I’ve been in, the individual I’m having a conversation with me understands what I am saying because they are:

a) Canadians from Ontario and have suffered through the same poor Ontarian educated French classes that I also endured or;

b) fellow exchange students studying in Belgium with me.

But recently I find my conversations these days going something like this:

Wait, did the lady say we only pay 20% and insurance covers rest?

Je ne sais pas.  Je suis confused. Je miss l’healthcare libre.


I’m then reminded that there’s a language barrier between Americans and me.  The language confusion goes both ways when one day I asked my roommate over GTalk:

Are you going to the gym after work?

No. Por que?

Huh?  Does she not know how to spell?

I turned around to point it out to her only to be met with her response “It’s Spanish”, followed by a We’re in California so duh it’s Spanish look.

So my fellow Canadian friends and readers, be prepared that when I return to Toronto, I will be dropping Spanish words here and there to look sophisticated, well traveled, and worldly.


A California Bucket List

Inspired by Katie on her 2012 Bucket List – Things to do before I am 30, I’ve put together my own bucket list of everything that I want to do in California while I’m living in this gorgeous state.

  1. Go to Disneyland.
  2. Spend a weekend in Napa and enjoy the good wine and good food.
  3. Learn to sail.
  4. Visit the Walt Disney museum in San Francisco.
  5. Join a wine club.
  6. Take a cooking class.
  7. Road trip it down from San Francisco to San Diego.
  8. Visit Laguna Beach and Newport Harbor… I need to create a clever hashtag that describes being a teenager/coming of age in the ’00s.
  9. Try surfing in SoCal.
  10. See San Francisco very own band Train perform in the Bay Area.
  11. Weasel my way into being a movie/television extra somewhere Hollywood, CA.
  12. Scuba Dive in the Pacific!
  13. Grape stomping in San Francisco.  I thought I was trying to be funny when I put this on my list but then a quick Google search showed that the Bay Area host several grape stomping festivals.

What would you have on your California bucket list?


    15.  Visit Marcel the monkey from Friends at the San Diego zoo!

    16.  Camp in Yosemite Park

    17.  Visit Huntington Library and Botanical Gardens in San Marino.

    18.  Giant Sequoia National Monument

    19.  Go to Death Valley

    20.  Visit Lake Tahoe in the Summer

    21.  Follow the mission trail on El Camino Real

    22.  Watch the swallows come back to San Juan Capistrano

    23. See Kongo when you get to San Diego!

How to [Not] Make Friends – San Franciscan Style

I recently started taking an Introduction to Digital Photography class at the San Francisco Art Institute.  The course is part of their continuing education program and attracts a mixture of individuals with varying degrees of experience in photography.  My purpose of taking the class was two-folds:

  1. Learn how to use the manual settings on my camera
  2. Go beyond the walls of my office and make some new (and hopefully local) friends

But of course things don’t always come that easy.

On my first day of class, I sat next to this man probably in his mid-30s.  As part of our ice-breaker activity, we had to interview the person next to us and then present them to our class.  The man next to me was my partner and I believe his name was… hmmm let’s call him Cliff.

I found out a few things from our interview.  Cliff is not an amateur photographer.  He is taking the course to learn how to use photoshop and print his own photos.  He has a scary, intense looking DSLR.  Wanting to steer our conversation away from the obvious topic of photography and our class, I asked him

So… what do you do?

I’m a deportation officer.

I’m sorry… a what?

A deportation officer.

Sirens!  Red flags!  Defense wall shoots up immediately.

Oh wow!  Your job must be insane eh?

Frak.  Did I just say eh?  Your Canadian is showing.  WTF is wrong with you?  Why are you panicking?  You have a visa, he can’t deport you.

Hahaha.  Ya, I’ve seen a lot of crazy things happen on the job.  People hiding in closets, lying, running the minute they see us.

Note to Future Me:  Don’t hide in a closet three years from now when your visa expires and Cliff comes to hunt you down.  

It was Cliff’s turn to interview me.

So where are you from?  What do you do?

I just moved here from Toronto but like I’m legit.  I have a visa and everything.  I guess you would be a good person to be friends with.  You can help me cheat the system if I ever lose my visa.  Hahaha.

My brain is sending strong signals to tell my mouth to zip it.  I babble on desperately for another minute.  Cliff looks at me strangely.

Um… yea… hope you’re enjoying San Francisco so far.

We’ve had four classes and Cliff hasn’t spoken to me since the first night.  I think I came on a wee bit too strong.

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Big Sur, Carmel, Monterey, you SUR are beautiful!

Here are some photos from my weekend in Carmel, CA.  I also wrote a blog post on the debaucheries of the weekend.  You can check that out here.

Kelp on Monastery Beach, Carmel, CA

Pulling over near our cottage

Exploring the town of Carmel-by-the-Sea

Julie Pfeiffer Burns State Park, Big Sur, CA

Point Lobos, Carmel, CA

Point Lobos, CA

Waves vs. Kiley & Marci.  Kiley and Marci won by a smidge.

Point Lobos, Carmel, CA

Brunching in Monterey, CA

Big Sur, CA

What a Belle! Carmel, CA

On Wednesday before the long President’s Day weekend, my two coworkers – Kiley and Amy who recently moved from Toronto, Marci, and I decided to do a road trip down to Carmel, CA.

We left the city on Friday around 4pm.  The drive to Carmel took about 3 hours and I suggest not driving up to the area when it is dark.  The roads to our cottage on Palo Colorado were windy and the dark with no streetlights made it semi-sketchy (ie. we could have easily drove into the ocean).

The first morning there we went into the beautiful town of Carmel-by-the-Sea.

Brunch at Carmel Belle.  Simple, homemade food.

We started off with brunch at Carmel Belle, an adorable cafe where the focus of the food was on the taste of the fresh veggies it used rather using lots of sauce.

Afterward, we wanted to go hiking but the cute town of Carmel lured us into wandering around and we ended up spending too many hours browsing through the shops.  We did, however, stop by a tourist information center and learned that Monastery Beach near Carmel is one of the few beaches that still allows bonfires and open alcohol.  A throwback to the old school style of beaching.

Kiley, Amy and I were really into the idea of doing a bonfire on the beach.  It seemed so quintessential California that we just could not not do it!

We got to the beach around 9:20pm, hoping that maybe we could bandwagon off of someone else’s bonfire since we were four girls and 3 out of 4 of us had threw back a few already.  Fire + alcohol = Smokey the Bear saying “Only you can prevent wildfires”.

There were no bonfires… actually wait, there wasn’t even another living soul there.  Luckily, we brought wood from our cottage, propane, and a lighter to start a fire.  Mankind has been starting fire even before we learn to fish so how hard can it be?  (Disclaimer!  I’m not an anthropologist, I have not a effin clue if fire came before fish).  Ignoring the fact that we were the only ones on the beach which is the start of horror films, the fire plus the abundance of stars in the sky made for a beautiful night.

Fire was made thanks to Kiley and Amy.

Kiley and Amy successfully started up a fire!  We let the fire go until it burnt out.

Sunday morning we went hiking in Point Lobos which was one of the highlights of the trip.  The park was a combination of walks along the coast and hikes in the trees.  The girls and I chose to walk along the coast.  Minus some sketchy moments where I was legitimately afraid of falling into the ocean and being another lost soul to the sea, it was one of the best walks I’ve ever been on.  Nothing like standing at the edge of land and next to the ocean to make you think all your grand life problems are meh small.

Walking along Point Lobos, Carmel, CA

California is surely one of the prettiest states.  For more photos of my weekend, click here.

In and around the city

View from my roof.

Day after a rainy week.

Fog sitting over the city.

Dog lazying in the sun in the Mission.

Lanterns in Union Square.

Oh Those Hills and Wheels!

There has to be a trick to this.

Oh em gee



This car’s insured right?

FRAK!!! Do I have health benefits?

Summary of my thought process while I was waiting at a stoplight, foot on the brake, light just turned green, on a close-to-90 degrees angle hill, car starting to pull backwards as I lift my foot off the brake to hit the accelerator.

“Uh, maybe try putting your foot on the brake and your other foot resting on the accelerator and then gently let go of the brake as you press on the accelerator” my poor colleague, Rob, advises.  Somehow, he was the unfortunate guinea pig in my first attempt to drive in San Francisco.

I followed his coaching and up my little Zipcar went. YES!  Thank GAWD!

“There you go!  Thatta girl!  Great job!” Rob enthusiastically says to me.

I turned to Rob who somehow has scarily morphed into my driver ed teacher from way back when.  Sadly, I knew he was genuinely trying to be encouraging and supportive but I still couldn’t suppress the terse “thanks” reply I gave him nor could I suppress the facial expression I gave him.

A replica of the look I gave him but less cute because no one is more adorable than Michelle Tanner!

Driving in San Francisco is a whole different ball game.  You need a new level of skill here – one that involves going up steep hills, then being expected to stop at a light or stop sign while gravity is still trying to pull you down.  This post should not discourage you from letting me drive you places.