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