Letters Home XI. Winter, Avocados and Lattes.

Almost to good to be true, the de facto visa has finally been lodged. Now it’s only a matter of waiting (and waiting and waiting and a bit more of waiting) as the process can take up to 14 months. The good news is that my bridging visa has full working rights, what a relief! I’m almost a real Aussie, mate!

The autumn leaves are still giving a beautiful charming reddish color to the city, but winter is fully upon us. Seriously the idea or notion that people might have (yes, you included) that I’m living in a warm country is completely untrue. Australia yes, has many warm regions, but Victoria is not one of them. I can’t stress this one enough. And oh-how-I-miss-the-warm-insulated-Danish-houses-with-double-glazing-and-central-heating. But don’t get me started as I can talk for about this for hours. It’s not even funny. Or that interesting to most people really. I’m just obsessed. My only life goal seems to have a toastie home.

Since the first week of May I’m no longer working at The Usual. The goodbye was quick and swift – almost felt unreal it was my last day while I walked around with full coffee cups and took lunch orders. The irony is that I just started (finally) to know some of our regulars by name (I’m pretty bad at remembering names as it turns out). I’m not missing it yet. But the hospo scene in Melbourne does have it’s charm. And my colleagues were weird and lovely.

If you’ve never experienced the café culture in Melbourne, it’s hard to understand the sacredness behind it. From your cup of coffee and your Smashed Avo On Toast to your high ceilings and exposed brick walls, you don’t just go anywhere in Melbourne to consume your morning ritual. The recipe for success for a good brunch café in Melbourne, is first of all the location and space. Best would be to convert an old warehouse; have your own bakery and coffee roaster in it works well too. Use wood and steel. Hire baristas with skinny jeans and moustaches and dress your staff in leather aprons. Recipe for success is opening it up next to an overpriced flower store. Brunch is probably the most popular type of meal among Melburnians, nobody goes out as much for dinner or lunch as they do for a real good weekend brunch. Then there is the fashion statement that goes alongside it. If you’re in the South East suburbs, you’ve got the unmistakable yuppies in their activewear (not because they went to the gym or will go for a run after) with little lap dogs and leather clutch under each arm. Moustache wearing hipsters with round sunglasses, skinny jeans and even the occasional mullet, are populating the Northern cafés.
What’s on the menu? You might ask. The quality of the coffee goes above all. If the coffee is not up to standard, you will never survive the fierce competition of your neighbouring cafes. But Melbourne’s coffee ain’t that easy. People don’t just walk in wanting a Flat White or a Latte. It goes from 3/4 Extra Hot Decaf Soy Latte to Skinny Flat White with Cacao in a Glass. Being a barista in Melbourne is not an easy ride. Then you have the group of people that come in ‘for a coffee’ but order Chamomile Tea & Hot Almond Milk Chocolate. Although Melbourne brunches are the most elaborated, tasty and pretty plates I have ever had for breakfast, the menus tend to copy each other after the ‘perfect formula’ got invented somewhere. There is:

      A Granola, with fresh fruit and edible flowers. All the flowers;
      Some Chia Pudding – Coconut flakes – Goji Berry related healthy bowl;
      A Smashed Avo. Aussies love their Avos. Sometimes they are not smashed but crushed, or even shattered;
      One Sweet Dish for all the sweet-tooths out there (hey, don’t point fingers, that’s just rude!) which can be either a Ricotta Hotcake, a stack of Buttermilk Pancakes or French Toast obviously with all the syrups, creams, chocolate ganache and pink decoration you can immagine;
      Then there’s Eggs. All the Eggs. Runny, poached, fried, shakshuka, croque him and croque her.

Don’t get me wrong. I love it all: the caffeine, the flowers and all the clichés.

To sum up other things that happened, here are some highlights of the past months(in random order of importance and time):

      Completed my first 14.6 kilometre run (for a good cause)
      Officially a permanent and full time employee of One
      Regularly making my own kefir drink with grains (very good for the gut!)
      Proud owner of the pasta attachment for the KitchenAid, making homemade pasta like a true Italian
      Started coding & networking with the junior dev community in Melbourne
      A, currently not working, cooks a lot of great dinners
      Planning a trip to Japan

That’s all folks.

Miss you all,

M.

Letters Home X. Introvertism, Perspectivism and Ukulelism.

It’s Australia Day. It’s my first Australia Day. I should probably be having a barbie, slip-slop-slap in my thongs. But I’m not. Truth is, I’m not doing anything special. I’m home strumming on my uke, watching some tv and cleaning the house. A is in New York, has been for a couple of weeks now and will be gone for some more and I’m getting into my own little routines. I miss him a lot, especially on a day like this, but I finally have the idea that I have a life here for myself as well. I’m not drooling on the ‘past’ although now I’m probably looking too much into the ‘future’. I went to a yoga class this morning (just started hot yoga in a new studio) and the teacher was explaining the importance of being in the ‘now’. We really never truly are present to the immediate and it requires a lot of practice to be able to live in the moment, which is the only way to appreciate what is.

I always identified myself as a shy person until reading an article – can’t remember where – a few days back when I realized that maybe I’m not shy, maybe I’m just an introvert. Not like an extreme one, but I did recognize certain main trades like, for example, the exhaustion of being with strangers, the energy required of having small talk and being amongst people I’m not familiar or comfortable with. I do it, often forcing myself to it, but it’s never a pleasant or easy thing. Being aware of this, makes me sometimes just tell myself: cut the crap, it’s no big deal. And on the other hand, I’m also just trying to enjoy and be ok with being by myself, without the social pressure of always having to do, needing to be, all the fear of missing out. Spending time alone is great too! Writing or reading, having a run, a walk or playing the ukulele can often be immensely satisfying and they can be done on your own.

Yes, I started ukulele lessons. I got a beautiful new uke from A for my birthday and I’m trying to master this cute little instrument. The first lesson took me back to being a kid, so all those feelings of “I’m not good enough”, “I didn’t do my homework” came right back slapping me in the face. Turns out, I am good enough and that I actually enjoy ‘doing the homework’ aka playing the uke. I have spent already hours and hours until my fingers are too sore and I’m forced to stop. I’m far away from being good, but I’m excited and I enjoy it.

In a couple of days, you will not believe this, but it will be my one year anniversary in Straya. One year. Holy Guacamole! I can finally apply for the partner visa. The whole process of getting ready for this is a troubled journey and makes me anxious every day; they need so many documents from all the countries you’ve been living in for the past 10 years (and that’s quite a few!) and so much proof of your “genuine and continuing relationship” and other insane checks, it’s stressful and tiring! I’m learning – and hopefully will soon master – the technique of distancing myself from myself, looking at my life from outside, from a different view point. Getting perspective makes stressing about these things feel utterly ridiculous. As soon as I step out of my own little world my humane little troubles suddenly disappear within seconds. Then I start thinking wider and deeper until I’m overwhelmed. Maybe the only way is getting out in nature. Reconnecting. Breathing. Learning our instincts all over. We are only a teeny tiny drop, an invisible dot in a whole lot of nothingness. Everything is meaningless, so let’s not get troubled. Let’s love and love only.

Peace out.

M.

Letters Home IX. Merry Chrissy & Other Suburbian Tales.

A month or so ago on a sunny afternoon I was walking in the city center – which doesn’t happen often anymore (if not to come and go from The Usual) – wearing my Mom jeans and a green top.
A random stranger stops me in the middle of Flinders Lane.
Random person: “Hi, sorry, are you Spanish?”
Me: “No, I’m not.” I was surprised and puzzled. Was he Spanish? Did he need my help? Did he have a question? Did he need me to translate something?
Random person: “Ah, ok. No just ‘cause your style is very cool today so I thought… well… where are you from?”
Me: “I’m Dutch.”
Random person: “Oh, oh, ok. That has nothing to do with Spain.”
Me (feeling bad for him as I’m hiding the fact that I’m actually Italian as well so the ‘Mediterraneaniss’ is certainly present): “Well, I lived in Barcelona if that’s any consolation.”
Random person: “Yeah well, but that doesn’t give you Spanish features. Maybe after generations. You know.”
Me: “Hmmm, maybe.” Not sure what he was trying to say or where he was getting at. Was there a point to this weird conversation?
Random person: “So you know all about the cha cha cha? Or what is it that they dance in Spain? Cha cha cha? Or flamenco?”
Me: “It really depends where in Spain you are, each region has their own traditions. Spain is quite big and culturally diverse.”
Random person: “Aha. You’re a smart girl.”
What did he want?
Me: “Well, I gotta go. Was nice meeting you”.
Random person: “What, no, wait! Where did I go wrong?”
I laugh while walking away.

Life as a Suburbian is alright. It’s nice and quiet, we know our neighbors -saluting them with ‘G’day’- some of them even became our friends and we go camping with them, we can have parties in the backyard. Nothing to complain about. But still, when on a hot summer day I walk down a stinky lane in the city with a homeless guy on one corner and a crappy 7/11 on the other I think to myself: this is what I love about cities. I love the city, any city, because it’s smelly and dirty, it’s busy and anonymous, it has the right amount of scary and familiar at the same time.

Summer is here – finally! After a long and shitty spring, I’m sweating and cursing about the tropical heatwave that has taken over the city. But it’s good. It’s real summer. The one you hate and love. The one where your skin smells like salt and sunscreen, sticky days are followed by sticky nights. Life is good.

Since last time a couple of things happened: I turned 31 and am now officially old, Jesus’ Birthday got celebrated again and A and I had a long Christmas-Summer-Camping-Trip in Tasmania. Now let me tell you, I’m not a Christmas person. I like Christmas, don’t get me wrong, but I’m not attached to any traditions per se. I enjoyed Christmas Eve the most during my childhood years when it was spent in my grandma’s beautiful old house on the Oude Delft – tables were elegantly laid and a big Christmas tree towered at the end with real candles (and a bucket of water next to it, just in case) but even then there wasn’t really a ritual about what was going to be eaten. Christmas is just a cozy day with family on a cold winter night. Or how Schmidt from New Girl calls it, it’s a ‘White Anglo-Saxon Winter Privilege Night’. So when Christmas arrives in Australia, I just don’t care that much. I don’t feel it, it’s just not there if you just setup your tent on a beach in Coles bay and have a swim in the clear blue sea because you’re melting from the sun (the ozone layer hole in Tasmania is even bigger than in mainland Australia). Also, I realised a wonderful thing this year: having the months screwed up, living upside down, has an amazing perk: my birthday is not in the winter! I can have a BBQ in the sun while drinking margaritas. I forgive you Australia.