Around the World With a Vagabond

Day of the Dumpling August 20, 2010

Filed under: Day of the Dumpling,What Happened in Australia — christynichols @ 9:24 am
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Meal One

The first time was the best.  Well, let me take that back.  The first time it was an entirely new experience for me.  The rich soy air, the narrow dark wooden steps, the thin baskets in which our food was steamed.  Myself, the boyfriend, and another American-gone-Aussie had reunited and were celebrating – dumpling style!

I am not even sure what day it was, but recent experience has taught me that dinner reservations are almost always a must at this particular Chinese Dumpling Bar no matter what time of what day.   In fact, this “first time” was almost a “not this time”, and we were allowed to sit and be dumplinged only if we could finish and be gone in 45 minutes.

Upstairs, laughing and happy, and surrounded by Chinese people, we let our friend do the ordering.  He expertly ordered two rounds of Shao-Long Bao, 2 orders of Steamed Pork Dumplings, 2 orders of Steamed Shrimp Dumplings, 3 orders of Garlic Chive Dumplings, an order of Wontons with Hot Chili, and another order of Shao-long Bao just for good measure.  For any experienced dumpling fans, this comes close to about about 60 or 70 dumplings. Smacking our lips, we poured the wine and dug in with our chopsticks.

I believe the Chinese enjoy the traditional dumpling as a delicate snack to be gingerly lifted from its steamy bed and gently set into a simple saucer of soy.

We savages knew no better.

We scooped and stabbed our dumplings and stuffed them one by one into our greedy fat faces.  Steaming basket after steaming basket of dim sum arrived at our table.  Little rice bags of hot drippy happiness that we could dunk into dainty saucers of soy and ginger and chili and then dunk into our open mouths.

Over and over we did this, laughing, drinking, and eating while taking group photos of ourselves with happy Chinese people eating happy dumplings in the background.  Hurray for dumplings!

We ate until we were full, and then ate a few more, and then, as another steamed basket arrived, ate even more. We ate until we could do nothing but lean back in our chairs, bellies out, arms hanging limply at our sides while the Chinese servers silently removed our empty plates from the table.

By then, our 45 minutes had expired and we were expected to vacate the premises as we promised.  The best we could do was slump onto the floor. We tried to appear both apologetic and grateful to the staff as, using their feet, they nudged our swollen belly bodies away from the table. As we were rolled across the floor with glazed eyes and satiated smiles, I thought just how awesome my dumpling initiation had been.

Meal Two

A month later, the boyfriend and I decided to visit the Dumpling Bar once more.  For all our travel accomplishments, we are relatively poor planners.  It was 7pm-ish on a Friday night and we optimistically hoped for an open table.

When the boyfriend called, the line was answered by a hurried, stern, and no-customer service Chinese man.  The conversation went something like this:

The Boyfriend (talking all slow and friendly-like): G’Day, Sir! I was calling to see about making a reservation for to- – – –

Stern Chinese (fast talker, all chopping knife-like):  You-Ha-Reser-va-shone??

The Boyfriend: Well, no, but I—-

Stern Chinese: We-Full.

The Boyfriend: Well. . . . . . . how about tomorrow, or – –

Stern Chinese: We-FULL!

The Boyfriend: Um –

Stern Chinese: We-FULL-WEEKEND!

The Boyfriend: (intakes breathe – – – )

Stern Chinese: Call-Three-Weeks! Click

My memory of the Chinese at the Chinese Dumpling Bar was that they were much happier people. This definitely put a slant on the whole experience. Meal Two was not to be.

The Real Meal Two

Not ones to give up, a week later we again made our way towards the Dumpling Bar.  This time it was a Wednesday lunch hour.  We had no reservations, but we were determined. And we were real people asking, rather than voices on a phone that the Stern Chinese Chopping-Knife Man could disconnect from so easily.

The Chinese servers were there. They seemed to not recognize us from our beastly gorging a few weeks back.   Militant, but not unfriendly, they pointed to a table for two in the corner.  Sweet success!!

The boyfriend and I kept the dumpling count down this time.  We drank no wine and tried to stab the dumplings with our chopsticks with more class. When we finished, we were able to walk our own selves out the door.  Happy Chinese.  Happy Us. Happy Dumplings.


Things Once in My Head

Filed under: Uncategorized — christynichols @ 8:54 am

August 3, 2010

After 6 weeks in Australia, I am finally bored out of my mind. I’ve kept a “To Do” list and done everything except the things I don’t really want to do but feel I should.

The result of this boredom and procrastination is that I finally decided to update my own blog and chronicle my experience of moving to Australia.

Sound good? Yes, it do.

I am awaiting my visa anyway, and without a full time job and a withering money tree, I need to fill my time with something. These are the things I came up with:

  1. Chris’s mom said I could help cook dinners, so I am learning to cook.
  2. There is a river I can walk around.
  3. I have read two novels of gargantuan length
  4. Walks to the nearby fruit stand to practice counting out Australian coins.

Here are the problems with attempting those things:

  1. I have set fire to 3 kitchens and flooded one. Plus something always gets cut, burned, or broken, usually one of my body parts. I did not tell Chris’s mom these things.
  2. I dropped the spare house keys into the river while trying to protectively keep them in my pocket. They are gone forever.
  3. The novels nearly devastated me and have thus sent me into a spiraling obsession of wikipedia-ing, documentary downloading, and library checking-out of every WW2 book within a 50-mile radius.
  4. I buy chocolate instead.

The way I figure, Australia is my next country to go crashing through. Plus, being given all access to a kitchen full of things I don’t understand, there’s sure to be some good writing material here somewhere.

So yes, the chronicles of the move Down Under begins.

Today Chris asked me what was the biggest most Australian thing I have noticed about his country. I thought for a moment, then came up with two things: kangaroos and chicken parmigiana.

He shot me a look somewhere between disgust and disappointment. What did I say?? Chicken parmigiana is a very tasty dish! And kangaroos are just awesome!

I was getting very discouraged, actually, after week 5 went by and no kangaroos BOING BOING BOING-ING into the yard. Finally, after much pleading and carrying on like a snotty-nosed 5 year old, Chris drove a happy me to the outback to see some wild kangaroos.

The outback was only about 15 minutes by car down a freeway. We pulled off the highway and down a road, past a field with some trees . . . . .some more trees . .. . .another field. . . and there they were! Kangaroos!! About fifty of them!! They were grazing like a herd of deer, so we parked and proceeded to cross the field toward them.

One by one they lifted their little heads and stared at us. It was cute. Then it was creepy. They stared at us unblinking. Like the moo-cows in England. Just stared. And stared. And then, BOING BOING BOING! Off they went!! Scared shitless of us. ☺

But there we have it. Let adventures begin.

April 28, 2010

Too much is in my head now, but I’m pretty sure that’s a good thing.  I’ve been writing, but not blogging.  Reading up, but not reading novels.  Yoga-ing, but not breathing.  Learning, but not teaching.  Picked up my guitar, but not picked. Seems I am only half able to do the things that keep me feeling vibrant.

I need more sleep in the night, more energy in the day, and maybe a side-life to have lunches and bbqs and sushi with loved ones. Then another side-life to devote to my writing and music. And while I’m adding side-lives, let’s just throw another one in to be constantly jet-setting to everyplace in the world where I have left – – mid-conversation, it seems – – the people who have taught me how to play, to write, what to read, how to yoga, and how to teach.

But – keeping at it.  Working towards the neo-pangaea project will keep me focused, driven, and able to get away with halving myself for the time being.  I’ll read, write, yoga, and play again in full  – better balanced on the other side of it all.  Soon.

December 21, 2009

It’s very hard to bounce from hostel-living, sun-bathing, and travel by bus to a setting where no one changes my bedsheets, it’s cold, and my car battery is dead.  Such is the life of someone who can’t sit still – regardless of available funds.   Traveling South America was awesome, and far too short of a trip.  So until my next exploration of Latin American countries, the recent stories I collected from abroad will have to hold me over.

Let the job hunting begin.

November 13, 2009

Today I woke up and I felt absolutely free.  I woke to a grey-bluish room, earlier than I would have liked, but I felt like it was my birthday.  Or graduation.  I just felt like this was going to be a great day, because from here on out, things will be different.

It’s my last day of work.  I have 6 weeks of I’m not sure what, but I’ll be wandering through South America, eating lots of rice and plantains, and meeting lots of interesting people.  Writing, definitely. Plotting, probably. Improving my Spanish, let’s hope. Great things will happen.

Then, it’s 12 months of I’m not sure what, but teaching kindergarten Korean children in Pusan is going to be  . .. . . . an experience?  To call it an experience seems too broad and predictable, but I have no idea what kind of experience it will be.  I only know that I can’t wait for it!

I hope I don’t offend the elders, or scare the children.  I think it will be very cold.

So I’m off, then!! Friday the 13th can do its worst . . . . . I feel great! I am free, and very excited, and so ready for this.

October 23, 2009

Goodbyes suck.  For all of the years that I lived overseas, saying goodbye to my family after a visit never became easy.  My brother dreaded being nominated to drop me at LAX because he hated to see me cry.   Hated the sight of me in his rear view mirror as he left me sobbing on the curb by the luggage racks. I usually didn’t stop crying until I was somewhere over Greenland. Every six months this happened.

As for travelling  – those are hard goodbyes too.  In a different way than goodbye to family I will see at the next holiday, or call in a few hours to reassure them of my safe arrival.  Goodbye to a place, a local, or another traveller is saddening in a completely different way.   It’s difficult to explain, maybe, how a whirlwind encounter with someone that perhaps only lasted a few days can strike a chord so deeply.  Sometimes those dull aches that grip me when the time comes for farewells to people I will probably never see again are the worst to bear.  Paths are always criss-crossing and criss-crossing again, though. Right?

What a heart-breaking world this would be if every goodbye was a goodbye forever.

I’ve postponed far too many of these moments.  The last embrace, the last kiss, the last backward glance, and it has sometimes cost me dearly.  Missed planes, calling in sick. I’ll sometimes go to extravagant lengths just to squeeze every drop that I can out of company. Or out of a view.  It’s always worth it. Life is too short to not look back.

Maybe I am being too nostalgic, or slightly depressing here. However, there is a sunny side to this melancholy thought. It’s reminding myself that a goodbye wouldn’t hurt so much if everything and everyone building up to the dreaded goodbye hadn’t been so damn good.

How many mountainsides have I left crying? How many coastlines have I walked away from in tears? Sometimes places just get into my blood.  Seep into my soul. Take over my thoughts on the long train ride home.  It’s a good thing. People wedge themselves into my heart and stay there. Who are these people?  Where do they get off clinging to me in such a way? And how can I ever thank them?