Melts in your mouth (again).

https://twitter.com/#!/spinstercompass/status/186528533475110912

I wrote a post about the Chocolate Festival a few months ago. Well, it’s back in a few towns again and unlike the last time, I went with a friend & met up with 3 people from Meetup. I also got to buy myself a couple of treats this time (no laughing ATM for now). Rather than write the same things that I wrote in the last festival post, take a look at a few new photos instead. In the meantime, I’ll have a bite of my brownie with white chocolate chips & a bite of my piece of red velvet cake, please & thank you.

Churros sprinkled with cinnamon & sugar (R) with melted chocolate (L).
Churros sprinkled with cinnamon & sugar (R) with melted chocolate (L).
Chocolate vodka chillies.
Chocolate vodka chillies.
Black River (Jamaica single origin).
Black River (Jamaica single origin).
Rabot Estate (Saint Lucia).
Rabot Estate (Saint Lucia).
Hotel Chocolat quail eggs.
Hotel Chocolat quail eggs.
Chocolate porter (beer).
Chocolate porter (beer).
Chocolate liqueur. (One can easily get drunk from this, it tastes that good.)
Chocolate liqueur. (One can easily get drunk from this, it tastes that good.)
Demarquette.
Demarquette.
Seashell.
Seashell.
The Pancake Bar.
The Pancake Bar.
Easter eggs (Philip Maes).
Easter eggs (Philip Maes).
More Easter eggs (Philip Maes).
More Easter eggs (Philip Maes).
Philip Maes chocolatier.
Philip Maes chocolatiers.

As an added bonus, here’s some beef chilli flavored with dark cocoa and topped with pico de gallo & shredded cheese. It was surprisingly good.

Beef chilli.
Beef chilli.

And these are for me. Sorry, no sharing. 😐

Brownie with white chocolate chips.
Brownie with white chocolate chips.
Red velvet cake.
Red velvet cake.
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Short commercial break: Trayvon Martin.

This isn’t a 100% travel- or expatriate-related post, but it’s important enough for me to stray away from those topics for a second.

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https://twitter.com/#!/spinstercompass/status/181834199068721152

(written March 17, 2012)

Trayvon Martin.

This isn’t a 100% travel- or expatriate-related post, but it’s important enough for me to stray away from those topics a bit. As an expatriate, it’s important to me to keep abreast of current events in my home country. The following story is also one of the reasons why I left the United States and, therefore, somewhat relates to my expatriate experiences. I’m going to keep this post short because Trayvon Martin’s story infuriates me to no end, and I refuse to read or listen to anything about it until this cold-blooded racist asshole killer gets locked up. However, I wanted to give this story another platform so that it can reach all corners of the earth if possible.

When I first heard about this, I read that the scumbag killed an innocent & unarmed Black American 17-year-old named Trayvon Martin because he looked suspicious in the neighborhood… even though his father lives in said neighborhood. I checked to see if this boy had any criminal history because sometimes, people protest certain things even though the person involved was less than savory while alive, but of course this boy has no criminal history whatsoever. Then I read that when police searched the 17 year old’s body, they found a bag of Skittles & a can of iced tea – no weapons whatsoever. (I guess that Skittles & iced tea are really fucking lethal weapons that either I didn’t know about or described as such in state or federal legislation since I moved over here, unbeknownst to me.) Then I read that this scumbag is still walking the streets 1 month after he gunned down this innocent & unarmed Black American boy who went to the corner store to buy his little brother some candy & something to drink. As a matter-of-fact, this scumbag just started college courses to study criminal justice!

Who looks more dangerous?
Who looks more dangerous?

Now do you understand why this infuriates me? Now do you see why I refuse to read or listen to anything about this until this scumbag gets locked up & sentenced to no less than 25 years to life?

I’ve said enough; I feel the fury & rage again so I’ll end here.

Please, I beg of you, sign this Change petition. While I’m not listening to or reading about this unless real justice gets served, I suggest that you read more/do your research about this senseless & needless killing on your own. And if you feel so moved, raise hell about this case. One way that you can do that is by calling Sanford (Florida) Police Department’s Bill Lee at (407) 688-5070 (overseas – 001 407 688 5070). Tell Bill Lee to arrest George Zimmerman, the scumbag who killed this boy for no valid reason. Call Bill Lee until he can’t take it anymore. As for me, I’ll repeat this one more time:

I refuse to read or listen to anything about it until this cold-blooded racist asshole killer gets brought to justice. I don’t want to hear anything less than 25 years to life. Anything less is unacceptable.

UPDATE: Over 1,000,000 signatures. GREAT!!! 🙂 http://www.wesh.com/r/30738229/detail.html Keep on signing, keep on calling, keep on raising hell.

New York Times op-ed piece http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/17/opinion/blow-the-curious-case-of-trayvon-martin.html?_r=1&src=tp&smid=fb-share
I’m not the only one blogging this. http://showedupandshowedout.wordpress.com/2012/03/19/trayvon-martin/
Witnesses to his death heard his cries before he got shot http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/03/15/2696446/trayvon-martin-case.html
Audio – 911 call http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KmnqKotpSD0
Change.org petition to arrest this scumbag killer http://www.change.org/trayvon
MoveOn.org petition to arrest this scumbag killer http://www.moveon.org/r?r=272971&id=37516-14438746-KyhaBix&t=2

Customer service.

One of the best inventions known to man is online grocery shopping. As someone who has a hectic job, no car (yet) or energy sometimes, this is a (lazy/tired/exhausted/working) woman’s dream come true. So once I got settled into my own flat, I took full advantage. I pick up items from the big-box versions of (online & non-online) stores when basic items run out or I need something quick, but most is online.

Most people in the United Kingdom get paid only once per month, so we’re careful with grocery shopping. While I don’t have a family to feed, I make sure that I have enough cash to buy food along with paying annoying bills. So I was quite annoyed a few months ago when I missed my grocery delivery from a certain store because of its terrible customer service.

I’d just been paid and, as usual, placed my grocery order. I thought that everything was fine until I received a text message from the grocery store (something to the effect of)

Please contact customer service as soon as possible at (phone number), otherwise today’s order is canceled.

Again, I don’t have a family to feed, but I have to eat just like everyone else. So even though I was on public transportation and hate talking on the phone in public, food is important so I called back. The customer service representation, a woman, said “We’re having trouble getting your payment for your order.” I said

Alright. I’m on my way to work, so I’ll go to the bank and see what’s going on because I know that the money is there. I’ll call back afterwards; maybe there’s an issue at the bank.

So instead of going to the office, I went to the bank first. After waiting in the queue for a few minutes (rare), the bank teller (known as “cashier” in the United Kingdom) was ready for me. I explained the situation, she checked my account and said

Everything’s fine. You have more than enough to cover the order.

I said

Would you mind if I called (grocery store) in front of you to see what happens? For some reason, my order isn’t going through.

There were very few people in the bank (rare) so she let me go ahead.

I called customer service & spoke with a different representative. I explained the situation, requesting that he attempt the order again. He tried it and the order didn’t go through. He said (something to the effect of)

It’s isn’t going through. You don’t have enough money, so you need to go to your bank and see what’s going on.

I said

Sir, I’m in the bank now standing in front of a cashier who already checked my account, and there’s more than enough to cover the order. Please try again.

He tried again and said

It’s not going through. You don’t have enough money. It’s not a problem on (grocery store’s) end.

I repeated myself again and added

It has to be on your end. I’m telling you, the cashier is showing me the computer screen with my account information as we speak and there is more than enough to cover it. You can even speak to her if you’d like.

(By this time, she was speaking loud enough for him to hear that the account is fine and that it has to be on [grocery store’s] end and not the bank’s end.)

He stated that it wasn’t necessary because it was the bank’s fault and “the bank needs to fix the problem, not (grocery store).” I asked to speak with a manager or supervisor, and he said that no one was available (liar).

By this time I was late for work, annoyed & hungry since I didn’t have breakfast, and pissed that I wouldn’t have groceries because my refrigerator was close to bare. I also had a strict exercise schedule after work so if I had to go to the store myself, it threw a wrench into my after-work plans. So I let him have it nice & loud. (That’s also the day that I realized the strength of my New York City accent and boy, did it come out that day.) I can’t remember every word, but it went something like this:

I’ve lived here for a year. I’ve ordered groceries from this store ever since I moved here. I’ve given you my business each month without fail, and this is how you wanna treat me? I told you for the hundredth time that I’m in the bank in front of a cashier and the money is there, I asked you to let me speak with a supervisor and you said no, and you refuse to bend. You refuse to consider that (grocery store) have the issue, not me. So you know what? Cancel my order and my account. I’ve had it. You’ve lost another customer.

He said “Okay.” and I hung up on him. Friggin’ jerk.

I thanked the teller, apologized for being loud in the bank (she understood), and went to work. I told my co-workers what happened and while they found it amusing, they also found it annoying. I didn’t know that customer service in this country was so… lacking.

Coming from the United States, I’m used to better customer service overall; some representatives even brown-nose when it’s unnecessary. I salute good customer service representatives because I know the nonsense they have to deal with – rude & downright disgusting customers, terrible pay, sometimes no health or vacation benefits & terrible bosses/employers. I’ve worked in customer service as a teller & in other capacities and know how bad it is. I’ve walked away from a few customers in the past – didn’t wanna catch a case. 😐

So, I “get” it. Customer service isn’t the best job to work in. Been there, done that, the customer is not always right. I also understand, having been to European countries, that Europe’s overall culture isn’t into customer service that brown-noses like the U.S. But no matter the country, representatives should offer a level of service such that the customer is helped as much as possible. That level of service is lacking here overall; even native Britons complain about it. (I’ve heard that France is worse.)

I doubt that it’ll ever change and that’s fine. I don’t have to like it but I’m used to it. I’ve written this rant for wanna-be expatriates and/or travelers: no country is perfect, including so-called First World countries. You’ll run into annoyances like this sometimes. You don’t have to totally assimilate into the adopted country’s culture, but understand that some things are standard & may never change. Figure out ways to deal or return to your home country.

Epilogue: I e-mailed a complaint to the store. A woman e-mailed me and her response was utter garbage – no apology for her colleague, no request to stay with the store, no offers to make me reconsider leaving the store – nothing. That evening, I skipped the gym and went food shopping at another store. I order online from the new store instead & haven’t had any issues since. I also found out that the former store is a Wal-Mart affiliate. Now it all makes sense. 😐

Does anyone have any annoying customer service stories? What’s customer service like in your adopted country? Do you prefer customer service in your home country, or is it better in your adopted country?

Melts in your mouth.

What does chocolate remind you of? Does it bring back childhood memories?

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What does chocolate remind you of? Does it bring back childhood memories? Does it bring back adult memories? (*evil grin*)

When I think of chocolate, I reminisce about being a kid and drinking Nestle Quick chocolate milk. I remember learning how to make S’mores in home economics class. I reminisce about the different varieties of chocolate chip cookies that my mother would bring home – Chips Ahoy, Keebler, Pepperidge Farm, Mrs. Fields, Sean’s cookies, local grocery store bakeries. I think of my all-time favorite ice cream cake, Carvel, with the layer of chocolate ice cream and chocolate cookie crumble. Baskin Robbins ice cream cakes aren’t too bad either.

The memories. *drool*

While I’m far from a chocoholic, based on my nostalgia I can understand how millions of people worldwide have such unconditional & undying love for chocolate. So when I found out that the annual Chocolate Festival was coming back to town 12.09-11.2011, I decided that unlike last year – when I was more lazy & colder than I am now – I’d definitely attend to see what the big deal is. I wanted to go with at least 1 person, but life doesn’t work out the way that I want it to so I went solo. And as usual, it was nice.

(Well… except when the cash machine laughed at me when I tried getting cash to buy some chocolate. Maybe that’s a good thing for my health.)

The Festival was held for a full weekend and took place on 2 levels – street level and inside a venue. I didn’t feel like going into the venue so I stayed on the street.

Street level.
Street level.

For someone who isn’t a die-hard chocoholic, that was enough for me. Check out these photos to see why:

Red velvet & chocolate cakes.
Red velvet & chocolate cakes.

Santa Claus.
Santa Claus.
Pretzels.
Pretzels.

Along with buying ready-made chocolate products, one vendor sold kits for people to make their own chocolate and has a program specifically for 16-24 year olds to make & sell their own chocolate – entrepreneurship at its best. One of the partners, Kieran, said that he & his business partner are available to visit schools to showcase the business. In this terrible economy, I applaud them for giving others the opportunity to make a little legal change.

Click me & make your own.
Click me & make your own.

Although I couldn’t buy anything, I took many samples and collected many business cards. I plan to give 1 or 2 of them my business in the future.

Chocolate sesame.
Chocolate sesame.
Chocolate with raisins & etc.  I HATE raisins but didn't know until afterwards that there were raisins inside.  That's how good it was.
Chocolate with raisins & etc. I HATE raisins but didn't know until afterwards that there were raisins inside. That's how good it was.

Did you miss the Festival? Don’t worry… it’ll be back and it might be in your area when it returns. In the meantime, check out the long history of chocolate (Wikipedia).

Thanks for coming.
Thanks for coming.

Crack & Fairy.

“I’m the one you’re looking for because I’m the one that called”, I said, walking behind the police officer when he walked past me. Police officer, you ask? Why are the police involved in this story?

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“I’m the one you’re looking for because I’m the one that called”, I said, walking behind the police officer when he walked past me.

Police officer, you ask? Why are the police involved in this story? Because despite living a pretty uneventful life, something pops up every once in a while that changes it for a moment.

It was Friday, about 2 weeks ago. I’d been too lazy to make lunch for work, so my co-worker/team member, whom I’ll refer to as D from now on, asked if I wanted anything from outside. I said “You know what? I need to take a walk. I’ve sat in this office all day and I need some fresh air, so lemme walk with you.” She didn’t know what she wanted either and had to buy something in a particular store, so that gave me an excuse to spend more time outside. As I didn’t have to see any kids that day, I spent most of the day doing paperwork, sucking in the stagnant & boring air in the office. Don’t get me wrong, my team members are quite entertaining and we get along pretty well. But it was time for a break.

D and I left the office, walking & talking – I about my quick trip home to tie up some loose ends and take a quick mental break, and she about her weekend plans. We wound up getting something to eat at Subway, which is likely the healthiest choice available (outside of bringing lunch from home and going to the local supermarket) among all the chicken & chips shops, McDonald’s, Burger King & KFC franchises in the ‘hood. D had a craving for something sweet to snack on, so we walked a few doors down to what I call a corner store/bodega in my hometown. She got me a bag of Doritos and was deciding what candy bar to get for herself when the foolishness began.

As we stood at the counter whilst D looked at the candy bars, the store owner’s voice quickly rose as he said “Oi! Put that down!” D is very good at being aware of surroundings because she said “(Spinster), look.” She motioned for me to turn around.

Well what do we have here. A man and a woman came into the store trying to steal. One of the items being stolen was….. wait for it…..

A bottle of fabric softener. Fairy.

Here the hell we go. 😐

He and the woman got caught. I’m not sure what she tried to steal, but whatever it was, she likely dropped it and quickly disappeared out of the store. The store owner repeated the command to return Fairy & what was a Brillo pad (I can’t make this stuff up) and after a few repeats, the man, who we found out was a crackhead (I’ll refer to him as Crack), angrily walked up to the counter and tried being defiant by not giving the stuff back right away. Instead, Crack cursed the owner in Jamaican patois, as if the store owner was stealing from him.

Bumbaclaat blah blah….. Rassclaat blah blah…..

D is watching all of this while I mumbled under my breath: “Sigh. Here we f—ing go. Is all of this really necessary? Does (Crack) really have to be so loud? He needs to give the shit back.” D, ever the quiet observer, was listening to & laughing at what I was saying while keeping an eye on Crack. Then suddenly as I kept mumbling I hear

(Spinster)!!! Move! Watch out!

I turned around and wouldn’t you know it, Crack had grabbed a bottle of wine a few feet away from us, went toward the store counter, and menaced the store owner, going as far as to try to get over the counter to smash him over the head.

She didn’t have to tell me twice. I quickly made my way to the back of the store right along with the other store customers. 😐

I can’t remember much else in the following few seconds because I was dialing 999, but I think a couple of workers in the store attempted to stop the man from going over the counter (they succeeded) and I said “I’m calling the police.” D said “Good idea” while I dialed. I described everything we saw, including Crack’s appearance. The operator gave me a reference code and said “The police will be there in 12 minutes.” 12 minutes seemed quite long, but I said okay. It actually didn’t take that long; a police car arrived less than 5 minutes later.

We didn’t want to wait 12 minutes; however, before we left, D made sure that the store owner was alright. We came to find out that Crack has stolen/attempted stealing from the store many times before and “We’ve beat him many times but he still comes back!”. Yes….. Crack is so wack that he’s had his ass beat in that store before, yet still comes back for more.

What a shame.
"Crack is wack." (What a shame.)

(picture from http://shavarross.com)

When the police car came, we were leaving the store since we thought it’d take 12 minutes. A police officer got out of the car. “I’m the one you’re looking for because I’m the one that called”, I said, walking behind the officer when he walked past me. I briefly ran down what happened, he thanked me, and we walked back to our office.

When we got back I said to my other co-workers “You won’t believe what just happened with us.” We told the story and one of my cheeky co-workers said

Maybe he needed Fairy to cut the crack.

Stick a fork in us because we were done.

Moral of the story: Life happens when you least expect it. Oh, and in the wise words of my aunt J:

Don’t commit any crime in front of me because I’m telling. (That’s right, I “snitch”. I’m not going to jail or prison for anyone.)