Sunday, July 18, 2010

THE FIJI ADVENTURE BEGINS - MONDAY JUNE 21, 2010

The day began, (or should I say middle of the night) at quarter to 4 in the morning, when, after Alex’s alarm beeped, mine went off in song. We both groaned in agony for a minute or so before plopping out of bed like the miserable little bed ridden girls we were at that moment. At least we were up and ready though, I mean, on a positive note, we were going to Fiji!!
As we stood in the hall getting the rest of our things in order, Dave got out of bed making groans and yelling “Oh my god!” in a pissed tone when the hall light refused to turn on. None of us were in the mood to be up, but especially poor Dave who works long mad hours and then offers to drive us to the station at 4 in the morning just so we don’t waste money on a taxi; Too sweet.
We were in the car now, set to leave as Dave backed out of his garage, asking me to stay behind and close it. My mind at 4 in the morning couldn’t quite comprehend how to do so however and in the end Dave had to get out to show me how it was done. We drove to the station, where along the way, we watched Dave’s eyes flutter with sleepiness. Trying to keep him awake, we attempted to sing along with the radio playing again “Whatya Want From Me?” but I don’t think any of us were in the mood. 
Alex, the organized one of us, planned for us to be at the station, giving us a half hour to get there, the usual time of a bus, however since Dave was driving, we got there in ten minutes. He dropped us off at the station to buy our tickets while he parked the car across the street and waited for us. While we attempted to buy our tickets an older heavy man wearing a large forest green coat walked past us. As we glanced at him, he stared our way and let out a loud, “SCHWIZZ!”. Maybe I’m behind in lingo, but what the fuck is a “schwizz”? Alex had checked the price of our tickets the night before, however this morning we figured out that the shocking low price of $2.40 to get all the way to the airport was actually $16. We paid and went back to sit with Dave, telling him of our "Schwizz" encounter. Only we, weirdos and workers (mainly weirdos) catch the train this early.
After a few minutes sitting together in the warm car, we got out, took our things and said a final goodbye to David, only to see him, the only car on the road, waiting at the stop light for us to leave. We waved him off with smiles hoping his tiredness wouldn’t affect his drive home. 5 minutes later our train came and we headed upstairs in the carriage to grab our seats. There were 2 men lying down in the rows behind us, snoring at too loud a volume for anyone. A large island looking woman sat at the last seat looking at us suspiciously while lex ate a muesli bar and I snacked on cashews. Finally she too passed out, and she too began snoring, so loudly that she showed the men behind us a thing or two. Nearly an hour of snoring later, one man woke the other man up and they left. We got off a stop later at Central and made our switch to the airport line with help from two janitors. 
15 minutes later we had arrived at the international terminal, checked in with a woman who like us, wasn’t fully awake yet, and then headed through security and on to our gate, number 59. An hour later boarding began in which we were close to the last people to get on. We made our way to row 3, falling asleep almost immediately. After being in the air for a while, the announcement about now being able to turn on electric appliances came on waking us up and in turn, I decided to watch a movie while Alex read up on Fiji. Soon after, she caved in to the screen in front of her face and we both sat and watched films. Breakfast arrived within moments, I gave mine to Alex and after another quarter of a movie, we were finally landing in Nadi!
We had to wait a while for our bags, as they took forever to come out and even if they had been out earlier, it was hard to see from the crowds of families surrounding the carousel. Customs was a breeze, taking less than 10 minutes, the customs man smiling at us, saying “Bula” to me, where I smiled back. He repeated it again, where I responded “Ula” thinking that’s what he had said. He laughed, stamped our passports with force and we walked out towards the exit. 
We had been warned that while walking through and out of the airport people would bombard us, trying to sell us things. When one person said “Bula” and one more came up to us and smiled, I laughed inside. If this was what they were talking about when they mentioned being bombarded, they had obviously never experienced the true meaning of the word. Try fighting off 15 Russian grandmothers from pinching, when you’re five years old with exceptionally chubby cheeks, now that’s being bombarded in an extreme form. If a couple of Fijians want to pleasantly say hello to me, I’ll take that.
The next guy who came up to us however had a bit of good luck. He stood next to us, walking alongside us asking if we had everything booked, needed accommodation, etc. He jerked Alex’s nerves a bit as she firmly told him a few times that we were fine. Finally he mentioned something about the Yasawa islands and her attitude did a complete 180 degree turn. We ended up following him to his office about 3 feet away, where we could book our “Fiji Adventure”. Here we sat for the next 2 hours trying to decide on what we wanted our next two weeks to be. In the end we decided to skip the Coral coast located on the mainland and head up to the Yasawas, go all the way north and slowly head south before having to return to Nadi again. We bought a Bula combo pass which covered our food, accommodation and boat rides, had shell necklaces placed over our heads, were secretly given sulus with the travel company on them, and left in a taxi they had put us in, with nervous smiles and a booking for a hostel in Nadi for that night.
Escape Paradise was our second choice destination for that night’s stay. I say second because our first, that being the beachiest option offered was fully booked and this, being the 2nd cheapest was, I guess, the next best thing. The 15 minute drive from the airport to our hostel on the beach drove along a paved road next to school buses, charming Fijian villas, tin shacks, plenty of tropical flowers and trees, arriving finally at a small drive way where we got out. We grabbed our bags and went to check in and pay, where the woman had no change, letting us to our room, trusting us to pay later. Gotta love the laid back attitude that is Fiji.
We were led to our 6 bed dorm room where we both lay down for a while before I decided to go outside and play in the sun. Alex, completely exhausted, joined me later. After a little more of a sit, we ventured out for a walk to the beach, which happened to be about a 40 second walk around the corner. We strolled on the sand for a few taking in our first (of what would soon be many) sunset and watched the locals, in sillouette form, as they enjoyed the water, laughing and splashing around. 
A group of tourists and 1 Fijian played volleyball outside of a beach front hotel. I watched on, wanting to play but held back seeing as, well I suck! Although after watching a chubby young fellow in a blue speedo miss the ball and a serve that didn’t reach over the net, I knew I’d be fine. It was just for fun! However, I still resisted, I was dead tired. I figured we’d have plenty of opportunity on the islands to play. 
We went inside the resort of Smuggler’s Cove to use the internet for the last time before reaching the islands and then headed back to our hostel for dinner. We were both famished but too tired to really care and also, not wanting to spend a lot of money, we both got fruit smoothies. However I was still hungry so I got some curried shrimp, only to be very disappointed when 5 small pieces came out on top of a large bed of overcooked rice and veggies. I ate the shrimp and fed the rest to what I knew was a still hungry Alex holding back in attempt to save money.
After dinner we met a German girl who sat with us for a while, turning out to be in our room. Tired, we decided it might be a good idea to sleep and went off to bed in our dingy little room. I took a shower first, entering a bathroom splattered with blood stains of what I hoped was from squished mosquitos. The shower was cold and instead of putting me to sleep, it woke me up. I then hopped into what I thought was a damp bed, before realizing it was just the odd material of the sheets. An hour later, I finally started to slowly fall asleep. 
That was until... “Did you set your alarm?” I heard a soft voice say to me just as I had begun to drift off to sleep sometime after midnight.

“What?”

“The alarm, did you set it?” Alex asked, turning over as she spoke.

“No, I asked. You had yours. Now you want a backup?” I was a bit ticked off at this point, finally on my way to sleep and now woken up for something we had previously discussed.

“Yes.” This was the last thing she said to me before making herself comfortable. Damn it all! I set my alarm, rolled over in a cranky manner slightly hoping to wake her up from her slumber she had already fallen into within the last 30 seconds. It didn’t work, I just lay awake for a while wondering what the next day would be like.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

MOCE for now FIJI


I wrote this letter to Fiji as I sat on the giant boat from Kourovou back to Denaru, knowing we were now leaving the islands, feeling heaps more sadness than I intended and expected. 
-Last Day on the Islands-
I’m really not sure what to say. We have 1 more night in Nadi, yet if feels like at this moment, Fiji as I’ve come to love, is over, done, so quickly that within a single moment, I don’t even have time to orientate myself with what has just happened. Fiji has been this miraculous wonderland I dream of coming back to and I haven’t even left yet. 


I’ve learned a lot in the past weeks. If you smile, there will be sun, hence the reason Fiji’s weather is phenomenal. Everyone is always smiling! When someone moves their finger across their throat as they’re looking at you, what most know to be “I will cut your fucking head off” the fijians mean it as a token of their love, “I would die for you”. Bonfire on the beach doesn’t actually mean a bonfire on the beach. I mean, there is a bonfire, but it’s key for “I want to get you alone.” However, kava in the caves, actually means kava in the caves, alongside 30 other fijians all droned out of their minds from the natural anesthetic made from the pepper tree, tasting like herbal muddy water. Nothing is as you expect it, everyone is genuine, and everything is on it’s own time, Fiji time.

The last 2 weeks have gone by like a whirl wind. It’s not like there have been so many new experiences though. I mean yes, I can now say I’ve kissed a Fijian, or 2. I’ve been to beautiful beaches, and snorkeled, but it’s nothing new, other than the place. However that’s the key reason to why this has been such an amazing trip. Within the last 2 weeks I’ve met an abundance of new people from all over the world, most of whom I hope dearly to stay in touch with. I’ve spent time with some of the amazing locals who run the joints in which we stay and make the trip so memorable. Without their kindness and open hearts, this experience could have been just that of a nice beach, but with the memories I have from it, the clear waters, green palms, and white sands are just the start. 
Snorkeling with the manta rays and the look of excitement Alex had upon her face as she saw her first one. The laughs of the guys, a high pitched monkey like giggle, that even when I had no idea what was actually so funny, would spread like wild fire so even I began to laugh hysterically. I’ll remember the hymns they sang to us in welcome and goodbye, and the songs they used at every place to dance to! The hospitable attitude of the men and women trying to make sure that we have/had the greatest time possibly possible. Nene who snuck Alex an extra piece of cake, when every one else was told there was no more, and gave us giant hugs and goodbye lays as we left. I am not an emotional person, and I am most certainly not a crier, but this left me so touched, I had no words.
This is still only the beginning and I can’t wait to get back to this marvelous place of gorgeous lands, and even more beautiful people, to experience it again. And so as this trip ends, I can’t say moce to fiji, because I know I’ll be back. Instead, I’ll say, Vinaka and I can’t wait till I’m Bula’d into Fiji again. 
Love to Fiji Always, Jami

Friday, June 4, 2010

THE END Of ANOTHER CHAPTER HAS COME: wwoofing at Kancoona Valley Winery

It’s hard for me to think, that just a few weeks have passed since we made our way to Kancoona Valley that first day. It feels like so long ago, and maybe that’s just because the connection that we made with the family feels like that of a family we’ve known forever. Either way, the time flew by far too quickly, yet I’m left sense, that it was so long ago. I’ve enjoyed myself (probably far more than the normal WWOOFer normally has the opportunity to) and come to love this family that has taken 2 complete strangers into their home with nothing but warmth and compassion. The Birti family is truly one in a million, or as they say, “Diamonds in the Vineyard”.
I’ve grown attached to all members of this family. The head of the family, the patriarch, and wine making extraordinaire stands just above 6 feet tall, with a laid back attitude, an intuitive mind and a gift for storytelling and comic relief. He works hard and long houzrs on a daily basis, always however making time for a nice coffee break. Whata’ya expect from an Italian eh? He always knew how to put a smile on someone’s face, including that of his wife, as he’d chase her around the house on a bi-daily basis, saying how much she loved playing hard to get, as she’d sit there and role her eyes. It was love. 
The matriarch of this family is one of the most brilliant women I’ve ever gotten the pleasure of knowing. Alex and I both said, on several occasions, we don’t know how she does, what she does! This woman is the mother that all mothers aspire to be, and she does it with a smile on her face. She’s a superwoman if there ever was one. She takes pride in everything she does, and boy does she do a lot! Early mornings and late nights, driving the kids to school, running errands, taking care of her mother, cooking, cleaning, organizing, planning, dealing with the business, running the restaurant... I could go on, but I think that’s enough for one 24 hour a day. Not to mention that she gives attention, love, and a piece of herself to everyone in her life, including me and Alex in our weeks spent there. 
As she drove us to our bus stop our final morning, Alex talked about our first day’s arrival, and even I, the “heartless”, never teary, sans emotional self that I am, began to feel my eyes swell up a bit. Luckily for me, I’ve got pretty good control of my tear ducts, but as we parted ways, handing her a card and giving our final hugs, both she and Alex began to tear up, trying so terribly hard to hold themseleves back from crying. I stood there with a smile upon my face, knowing that one day (hopefully soon) we’d meet up again, and gave her one last hug before climbing onto the bus. 
As the bus pulled out, and we turned around to see where our friends had gone, we could see mother and daughter waving us farewells smiles and tears, a mix of emotions. Alex and I sat on the bus finding it difficult to believe that we were really gone from the Birti household, that was until we began telling stories we remembered, and those thoughts of sadness turned to laughs and joy. We may not always be able to be with them there, but the memories will always stay with us.
Thank you Birti’s, for sharing your stories, your life, your home, and your hearts. I know that both Alex and I can’t wait to do the same for you, 1 day!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

I LIKE TO TRAVEL...

I was on a hike today and began thinking of, if I were, one day, to write a book about my adventures in traveling, what a good prologue would be. My mind began to wonder and I ended up writing this grand story in my head while sweating my ass off  as I walked up a hill. However by the time I got home, the only thing that stuck in my head was, "I like to travel"... hence the inspiration for this piece.... ENJOY.
I LIKE TO TRAVEL
I like to travel. I suppose that’s a strong understatement coming from me. Look at the reality of it; I’ve barely been home in the past few years and although I do quite often miss the comforts of my own bed, my mom’s warm embrace, my dad’s good mornings, my fully stocked kitchen, work, my 3 pooches awaiting anxiously at the door for me, and many other habitual routines I’ve grown accustomed to, after a few weeks home, I quickly grow bored of it, wanting, needing, craving an unknown world, a fresh thrill of excitement, a new adventure to be had, in which case, I promptly plan one for myself and then stress out about it until I finally arrive at my destination, never sure of my next step. Wow, wanna talk about a run on sentence?
Quite honestly, when I do eventually settle down, get married, have kids, a family, a house, a restaurant, everything I’ve pictured would sooner or later play out in my future, I’m not entirely sure what’s going to happen to me. I guess I could look at it as another new adventure, I mean that is what it is. But to wake up in the same bed, with the same person, day after day, as we both grow old and ugly and have a crying baby in the other room, with another one growing in my uterus, while we work long hours, and stress about our financial stability, sounds like a hair pulling, stress ridden long haul situation to me. Do I really want to get myself into that? Where in there was it mentioned taking off at any given point to get out in the real world, to travel and explore?  Oh, that’s right, it wasn’t! 
I realize I’m only 20. Things change. Ideas broaden, some fade. Minds grow, until eventually they shrink... And life, as it always has, goes from phase to phase. You start as a baby, then to a toddler, child, teenager, young adult, norm adult, mid-life crisis adult, old adult, until one day, before you even realize it, you’re dead. You’re born, you live, you grow, you die, as it has always been. Depressing much? Is there someway to change this though? I don’t want to be an adult! It seems like there’s this rule that after the kid to adult transition, one goes from a wild free spirited full of fun, life loving soul, to a more serious version of themselves, focusing on the future instead of the moment. The kid always there in the background, their ideas pent up somewhere inside of their soul, trying hard to escape, but most of the time unable to, unless in a carefree situation. I don’t want to be this! I refuse to be this. In fact, for anyone who knows me, if I ever do become this, give me one of those dramatic “snap out of it” movie slaps would ya?!
I guess what I’m getting at, is that for me, I really can’t picture my life without travel, without surprise, sans the unexpected! In fact can’t really imagine my life. Sure, I have dreams, ideas, thoughts on my future, but if one were to do a study of the way I work, they’d realize that for me to plan out a future, would never work. Some people map out their lives. They dream of their prince charming, their wedding, their white picket fenced house, their high paying job, their family Christmas dinners, their 3 perfect children each going to a top university and so on. I’m sorry to be Ms. Downer here, let’s look at what happens to a majority of those people. They’re miserable. They either end up in unhappy marriages, or brutal divorces, working long hours at jobs they hate. Always thinking about what they wanted for their life, instead of just living. I’m gonna go on, doing what I do, letting everything eventually fall into place as it’s meant to, living in the moment. I will never change who I am, or what I’m doing, I can’t. 

Sunday, March 28, 2010

WEDNESDAY FEBRUARY 24, 2010, “HOW DO YOU SCREW THAT UP?”

I went swimming today. I know! I make it sound exciting don’t I? No, the reason that this is actually an important part of my day, is because I went lap swimming, for the first time in a very long time. I got to the pool, put my stuff down on a nearby plastic red chair, walked over to the medium speed lane and hopped into the water, placing my goggles tightly over my eyes. I went for an hour, back and forth, again and again, stopping every so often to catch my breath and figure out what it was that I was making myself do. I used to hate swimming. I felt like a bowled in fish, enjoying no part of the action I just described, free style stroking my way through a rectangular, laned, body of water, where clumps of hair float around, bandaids wade and most likely children have peed, at least once, within the time that you are there. Hence the heavy chlorination.
Tired, and raccoon faced from my goggles being too tight, I hurried back home where I was to meet Lauren. I ran into the shower and tried to hurry, but the poor thing, still had to wait for me and my always late self. We walked over to an adorable little cafe, a good ten minute walk from the house, that I had wanted to check out for a while, wondering if perhaps there would be some availability in the job department there. I couldn’t possibly be that lucky.
Made, was about the size of my room. Inside a few tables, a large lounge curving around the back corner connecting to some tables and of course, the kitchen or bar at the front. Everything was made using one oven, a hot plate and a crepe maker that they had set up behind a bar at the front. A woman and a man were the owners and did all of the cooking, drink making, waitering and everything else included in the running of a small cafe. 
Lauren ordered crepes with strawberries, I got baked eggs. Both were delicious, her crepes bountifully stuffed with slices of red berries, my eggs atop a spanish tomato sauce hinted with smokey paprika and sprinkled with parsley, served with toasted bread, just enough butter spread on them for me not to feel to bad about eating them. After we had eaten, our bellies full of food, I asked the proprietor if she was in fact looking for an extra member of staff to cook. That she was not, however she did need a Saturday runner, and told me to bring her my resume. 
“See! You just walk into a place and there’s magically a job for you.” Lauren said, something of the sort.
New Market Station was directly across from the cafe, and Lauren left there to head back into the city. Not sure which platform to get onto, I called to two women heading up the ramp for their train. 
“Scuse me!” I yelled, “Does that Platform go to the city?” They nodded. “Thanks!” Lauren later told me that as she stood up on the platform with them, waiting for her train, they came up to her and told her she had a very cheery friend. I laughed.
At 5:30 that evening, I left the house again, this time heading for, non other than Lygon street to meet Clorinda. It was the last day of the Suzuki Night Markets, held every Wednesday at Vic Market and so I wanted to make sure I got the change to go. To my surprise it was not at all what I had expected. I thought a small tranquil little set up, a few food stands and maybe some other junk. No. There were at least 1000 people, walking around, sipping wine, chugging beer, eating, laughing, sitting, as music played in the background, lines waited for their choice of food and pans sizzled. It was completely unlike what I had imagined. The entirety of Vic Market was taken up with people, art stalls, clothing stalls, junk stalls and restaurant stalls serving up to the public.
We had a quick look around, not sure as to what we wanted. 1 in 3 people were walking around with these yummy looking plates of what was supposedly Indian food, and after seeing enough of them go by, we decided that’s what we wanted. Poor choice. After waiting in line for a long 15 minutes, we got up to the front, starving and each ordered the “Monsoon” plate. They rang a bell, yelled our order and a minute later, our food was slopped down onto a plate and given to us. What ever it was, it was not indian food, it was not cooked and it was not good. What a waste of money.
We gave the food another chance and decided to go for Lebanese food this time, getting one thing to share between the two of us. A much better choice. Hummus, falafels, spiced sausage, braised beans in tomato, large couscous and chick peas with sweet onions, dolmas, pickled vegetables, and pita all served to us in a little box. The mezza was delicious and we sat on the concrete outside amongst many others and enjoyed our food and atmosphere. Dessert time. But what to have, what to have... 
Trying to go somewhat healthy (minus the sugar content) we decided on a lemonade slushy. Surely this would be good. Lemon, sugar, ice, refreshing on a hot summer day, and light enough that our full bellies wouldn’t burst, with just the right amount of sweetness. It should have been perfect. After handing over our six dollars for a not very large cup filled with lemon slush, we excitedly looked at it for a while before Clorinda allowed me to do the honors and take the first sip. My excited smile turned slightly straight and my eyes went sad.
“How do you screw that up?” I said. Clorinda laughed, tried it and then made the same expression. Really, how do you screw that up. Bitter, yet too sweet, and overly watery, it was the worst lemonade I ever had. 
Ultimately, the market was not as good as I had hoped. The food overall seemed too expensive and not very good. And not to mention the crowds, there were just too many  damn people. None the less, we still had fun. We decided to get out of there, going for a little walk around where Clorinda taught me since we were on King street, the next would be William, followed by Queen, then Victoria. Hence, King William, Queen Victoria, a good little trick to know incase I got lost. 
Back on Lygon, I turned into my insane self and was transformed into my Barislaki alter ego. Sitting on a bench close to Papa Gino’s, I yelled “Haloo” in accent at most of the people passing by just trying to enjoy their nights. A majority of them smiled, waved, said hello or just ignored me, but then there were two. 
Lygon is notorious for the so called derogatory termed “WOGs” (Western Oriental Gentlemen). In Australia, dating back to 1909, the term wog was used to describe insects and grubs. In the mid 1900s, it was a slang term for illness. Today a wog is an ethnic slur, usually for those coming from a Mediterranean and/or Middle Eastern background. In essence, it’s just another stereotype, that can be taken badly if said to the wrong person in the wrong context. However, like every other stereotype, there are also those that aspire to be image, and so, Lygon is where we go to see the Italian wogs.
As I said hello to these two large, muscular, shaved head italian men, in a normal accent, he one looked back at me pointed to us, and told us to “get ready for the way back”. What did that mean?
“You’re going to get us killed!” Clorinda shouted at me. Surely I wouldn’t. Right? We waited a few minutes, continuing to sit on the bench, when we saw them heading back this way. Without thought, we hopped up, ran around them dodged under their arm, and I began yelling loudly about what a beautiful street this was and my homeland back in Barislaki in my alter ego accent, looking the man dead in the eye as we passed them. It worked like a charm as we quickly passed them, ran further down the street, and then wiped the nervous sweat from our brows.
When the coast was clear, we went back to the bench and Clorinda sat while I stood up and attempted to teach people what I called “the shuffle” as I did the grapevine, chasing a poor Japanese man a good 10 meters away from our spot in effort to get him to try it. He resisted, I looked crazy and others passed us, looking at me like they had never seen a carefree person in their life. 
It neared time for me to leave, as the last bus was about to come. Clorinda walked down to the bus stop with me, until the bus came. She walked back to the lolly shop, telling me that she was going to run, as she didn’t know what characters lurked around the corner from earlier in the evening. I laughed to myself as I sat on the bus home.

Around The World With Jami Epstein ©2010 Jami Epstein       All Rights Reserved

Monday, March 15, 2010

WEDNESDAY MARCH 10, 2010, “DO YOU WANT A TICKET?”

Do you ever look out at the sky and decide that your mood will go along with the weather? Bright blue skies, puffy white clouds and a shining sun providing warm weather usually entails me being somewhere outside soaking it all up, being bright and sunny myself. Moody clouds, shadowy skies and cold chills, usually mean I’m in the mood to curl up inside with a blanket and a glass of tea and drowsily bum around the house all day, wishing it were sunny. As I woke up this morning at 8:30, I yawned, stretched and looked out through the window. Lurking through the glass were ominous gray clouds, a smokey dark sky and a cold wind. Thus, I felt my eyes turn to tired slits and I opted for the blanket option. 
After a while of laying around, I forced myself to get out and go swimming. Usually when I do some form of exercise, it wakes me up. I get the endorphin rush and begin to, not only at that moment but for the rest of the day, feel better, more alive, more awake and happier. Today, I got to the pool, did not want to be there and while swimming continuous laps, I felt my eyes closing slightly and my strokes grow slow. I gave in after 40 minutes, cutting my workout 20 minutes short; shame. 
Back at home, I quickly got myself ready, packed a little salad up and went to Lygon to meet Clorinda for her lunch break. Once in the shop, I handed her a present, Rom’s cookie she had left home, smashed in a little bag, resembling more the look of dog poop, than a cookie. She closed the shop and we sat at the park a block away from the lolly shop. Seeing as it had been raining lately we didn’t sit in our usual shady grass spot, but rather in the middle on the large squares of concrete, in between grass. We both took out containers of salad, oddly enough both containing chick peas and munched on the healthy meals. Then it was fruit time and finally, after eating her cookie, Clorinda had to go back to work. 
On my way home, I was walking on the same side of the sidewalk, towards an older woman, as she walked towards me. I believe she was Ethopian, draped and covered from head to toe in colorful clothes, only her face and hands remained in view. I moved over so she could pass and she smiled, then began to talk to me. I couldn’t hear her, so I turned off my music and stopped. 
“Do you want a ticket?” the little woman asked. 
“Uh..”
“I bought a day ticket, but I go home. Do you need a ticket?” She was too sweet. I didn’t, but I thanked her and smiled. She grinned back and pulled her trolley up the hill as she continued on. It only takes one bit of kindness to make someone’s day and her sweet gesture and kind smile made me smile all of the way home, and for that matter, the rest of the day. 
Things didn’t get much more exciting after that. I walked Zoe using a strap I found since I was unable to locate her leash. Folding laundry and organizing my suitcase was quite fun though. And I baked quadruple chocolate cookies before Rom returned home where we ate dinner while we watched a movie. I went to sleep, still smiling from one woman’s delightful nature and her smile.

©2010 Jami Cakes   All Rights Reserved

SATURDAY MARCH 6, 2010, 4 SEASONS, 1 DAY, I’M STUCK IN A HAIL STORM!

Today my friends, was an extremely epic day for tourists, locals and what ever you call me, alike. Today I witnessed Melbourne weather at its pinnacle. Melbourne is known for its weather. According to Rom, the first day I came here, the first bus ride we were on, she told me, you could conjure up a conversation with anyone, just by talking about that day’s weather. Upon coming to Melbourne, some of the first information given to me was that you never know what to expect with the weather, so just expect it all, it could be 4 seasons in a day. Along with some clever advice, dress in layers. 
Up to this point, I hadn’t really seen too much of a change in conditions. They were a bit bipolar from day to day, one day being extremely hot, the next day dreary, however today changed my presumptions completely. When I woke up and looked outside, it was gray, leaves fell from trees from the slight wind that had blown them off and it looked like a terribly ugly day. However 90 minutes later, when Rom left for the city where we would meet up later and I left for my run, the weather decided to heat up a bit, clouds shifted and the sun came out. I came back home, showered and was ready to walk into town, asking Francesca first what the weather was supposed to be. Apparently it was supposed to be thunder clouds. 
“So much for that!” I said with a smile as I gazed out at the sun. Oh,   if only I had known. 
It was hot and humid outside and I was sweating as I finally made it to the cheese shop in Carlton to hand in my resume. As I started to make my way back to the center, trying to make my way up to Cumulus INC. with my newly filled out paperwork, the bright sun began to damper away as dark gray clouds began to flood the sky. A chill spread across the town and a harsh wind began to blow. This was not looking good. 
On Russell street, at least 20 minutes away from where I needed to be, it began to hail. I’m not talking baby pieces that fall for 15 seconds. They were golfball sized pieces of ice, falling from the sky, smashing into cars and pedestrians on the street. I quickly ran for cover. lucky enough to be within close range of a bus stop, where I stood with a few Asian tourists. Pretty soon things got worse, when along with hail, more hail came, flying quickly and being swept towards us with help from the wind, along with a sudden downpour of heavy rains. I ran inside a sweets and nut shop behind the bus stop and decided to hang out in there, scoping the aisles for things I wanted, coming out of there with popcorn and barley. The young man behind the register laughed as a herd of people crowded inside for safety.
“Is this normal?” I asked him. He laughed and shook his head. 
“Like once every 5 years?!” he exclaimed. Good to know I was here for something exciting then! 
I made friends with a lovely Canadian kid while we waited inside for the hail to stop and the downpour to lighten up. Finally when it went from intensely heavy showers to just pouring rain, I figured it might be the lightest it would get for a while and ran off to Melbourne Central to meet Rom. All through the streets girls were screaming as their hair got wet as if they were made of sugar and people ducked under any space available for shelter. I ran through a long underpass with an open roof to get into Central, getting myself even more soaked than I had already been. I arrived to Rom looking like a wet dog. Inside of the bathrooms were girls waiting in line for the hand dryers holding their sweaters up to them getting their panties all in a know because they had wet clothing. I embraced the look.
Getting home was fun. We waited 40 minutes for 4 delayed announcements of our train. Finally it came and as we exited Macauley station to get to Rom’s house, we realized we were in a bit of trouble. The entire street below her home was flooded. Bikes road through deep waters, people waded through it pulling up their pant legs until they realized it didn’t matter anymore and the best to have been seen, 2 girls sitting in a a canoe; priceless. Rom and I took crazy pictures, standing in a drawer we found there for protection, then ran inside the house where it was safe, dry and warm.


©2010 Jami Cakes   All Rights Reserved

Sunday, March 14, 2010

WEDNESDAY MARCH 3, 2010, IT FEELS SO NICE TO BE CLEAN RIGHT NOW

Today, the highlight of my day was taking a shower. Monday morning, after going for a swim and returning back to the house I was unable to shower, as movers were in the house, loading their truck full of boxes for the new house. I left soon after covered in chlorine. The next day, in the new house, the bathtub/shower was filled up with random art works and framed pictures, meaning yet another day without a shower. For those who know me, they know, I have to shower everyday, every morning. It’s a clean thing. Not anymore. 
With Rom at school and Francesca at work, I went for a run, only to come back, to get to use the shower. It was the epic climax of my day. A shower! Running water, soap, shampoo, I could conditioner my drying hair! I stood under the water, singing in my head, “So Fresh and So Clean Clean...” while I massaged shampoo into my scalp. Oh the joys of things we take for granted everyday.
©2010 Jami Cakes   All Rights Reserved

SUNDAY FEBRUARY 28, 2010, HUBBA HUBBA BOLLYWOOD BABES

We were running late. Both of us. Rom had just finished blow drying the dog, as there were no towels in the house and then she herself had to jump into a quick shower. I used that time to apply my “cat-like” eyeliner and find my “silk” scarf. I had to dress up, we were going to the theatre after all. It was finally my time to see the stage production of BOLLYWOOD! It was a good 25 minutes after we had set to leave the house and we were finally out the door. 

A chilly day, I still arrived in the City, a muggy mess, walking at Rom’s slow pace, a fast pace for my short stubby legs. Lauren sat on a bench in front of Melbourne Central, on Swanston street, looking at her phone, dressed ever so lovely, as she waited for, what she thought was just me. We walked by her, without her noticing, and then came straight up to her face. 
“Oh hi!” She said with a smile to me. “ROM!” she screamed with an even greater smile as she ran to hug her. We walked together to the cheap Vietnamese restaurant down the road, where we sat, talked and ate large bowls of Pho, before we had to head off to the show. Rom left us at that, off to do her own thing while we were about to marvel in the glories of the Bollywood show. We walked down to the theatre at the Arts Center, a good 5 minutes beyond Flinder’s Street Station and headed inside. A large percentage of the audience was made up of white Melbournians, while the remainder was filled with large indian families, grandmothers, sons, wifes, children, generations coming together to see this fun filmed performance. They were dressed in their best, from scarves, to shoes, to earrings, to one grandmother who wore the most beautiful radiant sari, a bright orange, with purple trim and gold pattern. I couldn’t help but stare for a while at the colors and the way it made her glow. Lauren agreed and we both began to think of how badly we wanted to go back to India. Lucky for us, the trip was already in the works. 
We went to sit now, trying to hand off our tickets to the ticket man, who told us,  “Right place, wrong time.” Then told us to come back when they announced it. As soon as we turned around and went back up the three stairs we had come down to get there, the announcement was made.
“Oh, we were 23 seconds too early.” I made a joke. He obviously didn’t get my sense of humor, as he apologized. Hmph. Into the theater now, I couldn’t help but become even more excited. I had been waiting for so long to see this and now I was finally able to. 
We sat in our seats, K7 and 8, waiting anxiously for the performance to start, while a giant curtain containing old version copies of famous Bollywood movie covers (in the style of Gone with the Wind) covered the stage and very eccentric, trippy beated global music played in the back. A woman sat down a seat away from me and within 5 minutes of being on her own, began to talk to us. She looked like a wealthy older British debutant going to see the opera, dressed in a black dress and black stockings, surprise surprise, black shoes and a little black sequined purse. She had perfectly placed slightly curled, wavy short gray hair and the only things missing were silk gloves and opera glasses (AKA classy binoculars). She asked us if we took a Bollywood class. Must you take a Bollywood class to come and enjoy this excitement? 
“No, do you?” I asked. She nodded. 
“Oh yes. The rest of my class is somewhere up there.” She said pointing up to the balcony. “But there aren’t very many people here. When I booked it told me it was all full.” She began to blabber on some more, in which point I slightly tuned out, as I couldn’t understand a word (nor did I really care) of what she said. Good thing for us, her friend showed up a few minutes later, dressed in a jeweled, bright pink, very indian almost sari-esque looking get up, with a large piercing in her nose and sat down next to the classy white broad. She had just come back from overseas and I was trying to figure out where she was actually from. She had an accent, but it was not Indian and she herself was not indian, although from looking at her, I could see she really really wished she were. Seeing as the two of them were together now, one might think they’d carry on their own conversation now, right? Wrong, they continued to talk to us, pestering us about their Bollywood class, until finally they decided that they’d be “bad rulebreakers” and go take the empty seats in the middle. Thank god. Now the family just arriving, passing us to get to the middle could deal with them. We watched as they strolled up, looking at the women and then looking at their tickets. Somehow the ladies convinced them to sit next to them and Lauren and I looked at each other, wide eyed, relieved that they would not be talking to us again (... or so we thought).
The show started. I was already smiling. Within the next hour, it only got bigger. Bollywood Merchants was the story of a rich girl, Aisha, growing up in Rajastan under the care of her religious, ex-Bollywood choreographing grandfather Dadu who stopped because Bollywood was getting too provocative. She danced in his temple, the dance of the gods, with her childhood love, until, she could not keep up anymore, falling to the floor, telling him she wanted more than this, she wanted to leave for the big city of Mumbai, for non other than Bollywood. Needless to say, the story was cheesy, overly dramatic, filled with musical numbers and absolutely jaw droppingly wonderful. I fell in love. They had the same dancers doing every number, running back and forth for quick costume changes, remembering an absurd amount of routines and I sat there in wonder watching them all move in precise time, fluid, every little hand movement, every little detail perfectly done. It stunned me to chills and I wished I were a Bollywood dancer. 
Intermission came and I turned to Lauren, grinning from ear to ear. I was so absurdly happy. The old broads were passing us now to get out for the 20 minute pause, asking us if anyone had moved into their seats and telling us, “that was just the beginning” of the story. 
“You’ve seen it?” I asked. 
“Oh we’re in it.” They answered. I looked at Lauren, both of us puzzled as ever and we tried to figure out what they were talking about. When the 20 minutes were up, they walked back through asking us the same questions as before and heading back to the middle to watch the finale. 
After choreographing a number of block buster Bollywood films and being known as one of Bollywood’s lead choreographers, Aisha talks to a handy man on break who used to work with her grandfather. She realizes now she must go back to see him as he is sick and in doing so, meets up with her childhood love, the hunkiest actor of them all, nearly shirtless in every scene, showing his defined back, chest, arms and 12 pack abs. He looked like a mix of martial artist, break dancer and dancer as he shined on stage and continuously ripped his shirt off and did back flips off stairs throughout the entire play. He asks Aisha’s hand in marriage (well not literally, as he was mute the entire time) and a wedding is had. Then she goes and does the ritual god dance for her grandfather who dies in the process. The last scene is her winning an award for best choreographer and doing a number on stage with all of the dancers, about disco, a number her grandfather had made up, the inspiration that created her love for this genre. This dance went on for at least ten minutes before the curtains shut and the audience asked for more. Like any good concert, there was an anchor of “time to disco” and then the curtains shut again. However this was Bollywood, so there had to be a final number during the credits. The dancers were all out, doing specialty moves and stopping to hold hands and cry “JAI HO” a few times, before the curtains shut for real. I was in awe of the whole thing, so so happy.
We parted ways as Lauren went to her tram and I walked home, replaying the story in my head the entire time back. I opened the door to see Rom sitting on her bed where she asked me how it was. I told her it was amazing explaining the story.
“That sounds awful.” She said sincerely with a smile. Oh Rom, you just don’t understand Bollywood.



©2010 Jami Cakes   All Rights Reserved

SUNDAY FEBRUARY 21, 2010, I’M LOST AND GOING IN THE WRONG DIRECTION

I wasn’t sure what to do with my day today, so like every other person who’s unsure of what to do, trying to find something to do, I walked. I walked into town, over to Brunswick street, down both ends there, back around the long way following the tram, until all of the sudden I wasn’t sure where I was. Something about it was familiar to me, I mean I recognized it, but that didn’t help me to figure out how to get back. I was in a giant green park filled with happy people, sitting, walking, frolicking, children throwing footballs back and forth with their fathers, middle aged women picnicking with full glasses of wine, rosy cheeked and laughing. I had been through here before, I was positive. I saw a couple power walking and decided, seeing as normally locals do exercise outside, I asked them how to get back to the city.
“Well...” they responded as they pulled out a map. “We’re just like you, tourists from Sydney.” Just my luck. They pointed to the map showing me where we were, and I pointed to where I wanted to be, thinking if I just head over in that direction, I’ll get there. Right... with my so called map reading skills this could be interesting. 
I headed through the park, curving around where I probably shouldn’t have and was brought out to another street. Uh huh! I remember. I passed a place serving St. someone’s hospital food, and remembered it from the first day walk I took with Rom where she dragged me the long way around and we walked all day for miles upon miles. I passed it, then the museum, with the imax and the interesting jungle gym set up in bright florescent colors with children climbing the odd tubes, and remembering which day we walked by it when I was first with Rom, went that way. I asked a person along my way, just to make sure, “The City’s that way right?” pointing in the direction I was going. He shook his head and pointed the half a mile back in the opposite direction I had already walked. Never trust me with a map I tell you. I headed back over the already walked path and stopped to ask 2 more men getting into a truck as I neared for the city. They pointed straight ahead and soon enough, I was near Parliament. Then continuing on, Chinatown and finally, back to Elizabeth street. 
I know where I am! The walk home seemed longer than ever as I just wanted to get home. Upon arriving there, I kicked off my shoes, grabbed a glass of water and sat down. I had done my 5 hours of walking tour for the day and now it was time to relax.


©2010 Jami Cakes   All Rights Reserved

SATURDAY FEBRUARY 20, 2010: THERE’S NO ALCOHOL IN THIS, WAIT, ON SECOND THOUGHT...

It was Saturday. Which meant Saturday Night. Normally when I’m home in LA, Saturday night means work. Here, Saturday night means going out. It means I can drink, being over the age of 18...and it means I get to be carefree, hanging around with friends, relaxing and having a good time. I like Saturdays.
The plan was to meet in front of the Lygon Lolly Shop at around 7. I got there, wearing my somewhat dressier than usual clothes, drenched in sweat, as I had walked there, refusing to take public transportation unless I have to, on an extremely humid day. I was smart. Clorinda waited there, as did Lauren and we grabbed a table outside the store front where we could sit and wait. A little bit later Melissa and her “girlfriend” arrived, a bubbly hot blonde, I connected with quickly over our love of hip hop. Imogen came soon after, a gorgeous little red head, ballerina’s physique, wearing liquid eyeliner and her ocean blue indian silk scarf. We all headed off to dinner, the large group of 6 of us walking in a crowd through the crowds of Lygon. 
Past the Italian section and over to the Asian part, we settled for Thai, where they gave us our own private room, upstairs. Perhaps too embarrassed to have us noisy excited young girls, be seen by their more normal customers trying to enjoy their quiet dinners. All of the girls but me and Mel (the designated driver) shared a bottle of white wine and one in particular was more so affected by this dosage of alcohol that the rest. 
After dinner we headed off to Brunetti’s for some delicious dessert, where the slightly tipsy one (she knows who she is) talked about how happily tipsy she was. We shared a little white chocolate and raspberry cake while the others got gelato and stood around like hawks waiting for a table to open up. Finally one did and we sat for a while before our next outing. 
Down the block to the car park where half of the group got into the car with the new arrival Sara and her parents. Clorinda, Mel’s other gf and I got into Mel’s car where we yelled out the window to timid Japanese tourists and genuinely thought we were thugs while listening to T-Pain. Yes, we know we’re cool. 
Russell Street came, and we parked the car, walked a few blocks and met up with the others at a little Irish pub where Mel’s boyfriends’ friends were doing a little jam session. Drunk men dancing and spilling beer everywhere while their slightly more sober counterparts tried to get the beer out of their hands, took up one section. While the other was filled with a group of guys, standing around holding bottles of VB and trying to look cool as they eyed the only group of girls (us) in the joint. A drunk woman talked into Lauren’s ear, attempting to speak in whispers, actually screaming and spitting in Lauren’s general direction. It was steaming hot and smelled of old booze, and so Clorinda, Lauren, Imogen, and I decided to take a little walk outside while the other 3 stayed behind. 
We walked around the block and sat ourselves upon a bench when Clorinda’s feet began to ache from her heels (the reason why I’m always in sneakers). Imogen, Lauren and I began to discuss India when a couple sat down on the bench next to us, the wife covered in fresh detailed beautiful henna. They were struggling to take photos so I volunteered to take one for them. Very thankful, we got to talking, where we all commented on the ink and how we longed to go back. They smiled and we left them to their romantic evening out on the Melbourne town.
We walked back to the pub to watch the band play a song and finally left, up the street to Madam Brussels. A line was out the door and after ten minutes we were let in. Not without a struggle though. The man at the door seemed to have a bit of a problem with the fact that my ID was from California and my passport info was only a copy. 
“You might want to bring your actual passport next time. When I was 16 I went to London and I just used a fake ID from somewhere else so they’d have to let me in.” He said, looking at me as if that’s what I was doing. Clearly!
“Just cuz you’re a douche, doesn’t mean I am!” was what I wanted to say to him, but instead I smiled, told him I didn’t want to lose my important document that was my passport, and that’s why I have a copy that they’ve accepted every other place that I’ve needed document, and thanked him for letting me in with a fake smile and cold bitchy eyes. Made me feel better at least. 
Madame Brussels is very posh. The ground is covered in astroturf; old style couches and random classy garden chairs are placed around little glass tables. You don’t get your drink by the glass, but rather by the pitcher; made for two to four people. Clorinda, Lauren, Imogen and I shared something containing rum, amaretto, apricot liquor and some other stuff. It came in glass pitcher, like the one mom would fill with lemonade and hold in one hand, a plate of chocolate chip cookies in the other and bring them out to the garden (well not my mom, but the good’ol wholesome American moms in the movies). A wooden stick was placed in it to stir everything around and I used it to pull out chunks of dried apricot. 
Lauren poured us all some and I took a sip. It was good, not the best from the little experience I have in drinking, but it was good. My only problem, I turned to Clorinda and pointed to my glass.
“There’s no alcohol in this.” 
“Oh yes there is.” She said back. I seem to have a problem with cocktails; I can never taste the alcohol. I remember this one night at work when Margaritas were brought back to the kitchen. I, being the underage one, didn’t get one, however there would always be someone to share with me. Our resident tequila expert took a sip, made a face and told me it was “too strong” as he handed it to me. I took a sip expecting it to be rank and rather enjoyed the pleasant taste of lime and sugar, with a subtle undertone of tequila. This man does straight up shots no problem, but somehow this was too strong for him and I could handle it. I liked the tequila laden cocktail more than my fellow mexican shooter, solely because of the fact that I could not taste it. Hence my problem. 
So first glass, down, second being poured for me, I began to feel very giddy. I stood up attempted to do our very cool dance and in doing so, began to see the room spin. I sat down immediately, turned to Clorinda, slapped her arm, pointed to my glass and said, 
“There’s definitely alcohol in this.” She nodded and made a happy face, feeling it as well. 
Imogen left early to catch her train home and Mel needed to get going as well, so the rest of us followed, leaving the bar to go home. The girls waited before driving off for Lauren and I to hail our cabs and then we said goodbye. I jumped in the back of a yellow taxi and asked the man to take me to Macauley station.
“Macrey sleet.” He yelled out. 
“Macauley Road, Macauley station. You know it? Or Kensington station?”
“I know Macrey sleet, or Kerington load?” This was gonna be more difficult than I thought.
“So you know where it or not? Macauley Road? near the station?” I finally realized that he was trying to say Macauley street all along and so we drove off. I talked to him. He was originally from Bejing, and been in Australia for 23 years, and had traveled around the states a bit. He liked San Diego and Tucson. He dropped me off at the station, I paid him and walked home, trying to be careful of opening the door as it was after 2 in the morning. I slept quite well that night.



©2010 Jami Cakes   All Rights Reserved