The challenge, as an introvert, of spending a week in a city you don’t know, with someone who is busy in their on life, is finding productive and enjoyable ways to pass your time while they’re busy. I had significant time to practice that this week. haha
Last week I left off after returning from Sydney and getting food, because that’s what we do. Always. Food.
Sunday morning was a simple affair, I’m sure. I don’t totally remember all of the specifics. I believe that we just went grocery shopping to prepare for future cooking endeavors, then returned to execute some of them. First up were the magical brownies (not SPECIAL) and a bomb fruit salad for a birthday potluck in the park – you gotta balance the unhealthy with the healthy. Although, we may have dropped a bit of whipped cream on the fruit salad… It was a birthday gathering for one of the students in the medical school program my friend is in, so I got to briefly meet and and interact with a couple dozen of the other people in the program who I hadn’t met before. A lot of friendly, nice folks, but that’s about all I could figure out from the couple hours. Their midterms had been the day before, so the night before had consisted of substantial partying for many. That evening, many of the same students met up again for the first of many rugby games they will be playing over the next several months. There is a 7s (7 players to a side at a time variation on the game) rec league that many of the UQ students participate in. I went along to watch (and it was just an absolutely beautiful evening to be outside, gorgeous sunset) and everyone had a great time. For almost the entire team, it was their first time playing and even awareness of the rules was next to zero. They caught on quickly and managed to keep the game to a 1-1 tie with great enthusiasm for the rest of the season (which is the important part). After the game, most everyone came back to my friend’s apartment for a cook out. Chicken and burgers and sausages and salad and “party pies” and lots of social fun. I even convinced several of the students to let me fly them and I was so grateful. Just did a bunch of lunar restorative stuff and they loved it! Great skill set to have available. Late in the evening it was off to bed, back on the floor. Which, surprisingly, still totally cool with. Apparently, I’m good to sleep most places now. Spent last night in the Singapore airport on the floor and a bench and actually found some restful sleep. Neat.
[Side note: if I haven’t mentioned it already, HUGE shift in what kind of food is commonly available and eaten coming from India to Australia and now to SE Asia. And not just in “cuisine” but there is just SO MUCH more meat! Its actually shocking. It feels like most everything has meat and I’m just staring at the menu like “ok, how do I eat vegetables?”]
Monday took my friend back to class, so I had to entertain myself for the morning. Some yoga practice, a little food prep, and some computer work for job applications and YTT planning took up time until lunch when I caught the ferry (CityCat) over to campus to meet up. I took a couple hours to eat lunch with my friend and then walk myself around the 50,000 student campus to just kind of see what was going on. UQ is definitely not a bad campus. Lovely grounds with green space and a pond, the buildings are highly architecturally consistent, the people seem friendly enough, and there are places to purchase coffee and food everywhere. That was most surprising, but I guess it makes sense when all I really have to compare it to is a <2000 student campus, don’t need quite as many dining options. What surprises my friend is the wide availability of good coffee, not just on campus, but throughout the city and the country. Instead of drip coffee or french press as the main mode of consumption, like in the states, espresso takes the lead, so most any place that serves coffee has an espresso machine, and they’re good at working it. This is only a second hand impression, as I don’t drink coffee… haha. After my self-guided tour, I returned to the apartment to do a little more computer work and chill before my friend got back. With his return, we went fancy for dinner, preparing some absolutetly bomb homemade butternut squash tortellini in a brown butter sage sauce. He had some left over pasta dough he had made, I roasted the squash earlier in the day, which we mashed and mixed with a little marscapone, brown sugar, and spices, stuffed and shaped the tortellini, and boiled ever so briefly. Then browned butter, add sage, and tossed the tortellini to coat until they shimmered with butter. Yummmmmm. We enjoyed them over a viewing of Inside Out with one of the other roommates. Terrific. Oh yeah! And with the extra butternut and some coconut milk we made some chia seed pudding, which you should absolutely make if you haven’t before. The creaminess of full fat coconut milk and the texture of soaked chia seeds make it down right delicious! Flavor it however you want.
Tuesday morning started similar, he went off for his day, I practiced and relaxed a little, and put some work in. Back from class, we headed downtown to the Central Business District (CBD) of Brisbane just to see what was going on there. It, uh, isn’t a whole heck of a lot. Super commercialized few blocks with a lot of potential, but unfortunately just like most anywhere else. Lots of chain types of places. Highlights were food related, of course. Brown butter and pistachio donut from Donut Time, a local favorite, taro buns from a korean bakery, and chocolate from Noosa (a local producer a couple hours to the south). We have sweet teeth… Oh, through crazy random happenstance there is a Spoon Deli and Catering business there! Pretty sure it has nothing to do with the Spoon in Wooster. Back up town at the apartment, we made egg casserole/sunrise squares for dinner, and followed it up with chocolate chip banana bread (a roommate had overripe bananas) and cinnamon sugar bagels to be boiled the next day. All items turned out delicious, no surprise there!
Wednesday started like the rest of the days, practice, chill, and work, then I headed downtown to the Cultural Centre just to explore the stuff they have going on by the river, namely some very lovely green space. There is also a large ferris wheel and a giant 3D sign of “BRISBANE”, which seems be something a lot of cities like to have now (of their own name). I walked around, took some pictures, acted like an noninvasive tourist. How I do. Then I experimented with my ability to find my way around all on my own – walking downtown and back by different roots, finding my friends favorite Banh Mi place in the West End on my way. Very enjoyable. Back at the apartment after classes wrapped, we finished making the bagels and another pleasant, calm evening.
I took a trip down the coast to Coolangatta, a southern beach town of the Gold Coast area, just to see what was going on down there and meet up with a couple I had met during my last couple weeks in Mysore! Its pretty much a quintessential surfer’s beach town being invaded by high rise apartment buildings. The soft, sandy beaches, which seem to cover the entire coast, are just lovely (a little too windy when I was there, but kept the heat of the searing sun at bay). The surf is world renowned – the surfing world championships take place there every year. The people all seem perfectly chill. Its moving towards the type of space I would enjoy more than a city. Coolangatta is located right at the border of Queensland and New South Wales, and there is a big lighthouse marker at Point Danger, which marks the border. Even more interestingly, south of the border (into NSW), the buildings just disappear. There is one high rise visible and several clumps of houses, but the difference is dramatic. My friends from Mysore said that traveling the coast south is just magical so if/when I come back, that is definitely a point of interest – work down and around to the GBF. Lovely way to get outside, walk around, enjoy the sun, and see something different! All by way of public transport. Can take a train that runs from the airport all of the way down to Gold Coast (an hour and change of travel there) and then a bus from there to Coolangatta – all on the same card. Super efficient. When I returned to the apartment that evening, I found my friend making a cake which he told me was for another one of their friend’s birthdays. Turned out it was for mine (not until Saturday). Some sort of Japanese sponge cake with vanilla butter cream and strawberries. It was SO DELICIOUS. Simultaneously dense and flavorful but with a bit of the lightness that comes with a sponge cake. Super cool. And that was my last night in Brisbane.
Friday morning I did some laundry, packed my stuff up, and hit up a local supply driven breakfast place which is on top of their game. We walked around West End a little bit until it was time for me to hop on the train to get to the airport. [“Fun” story, road the yellow line to both ends over my time there – the one that runs from the airport to Gold Coast. Feels like some sort of accomplishment for such a short visit.] Travel was thankfully uneventful. I spent about twelve hours in the Singapore airport – which I think I discovered is a very solid airport to over night in if you’re going to pick one. The middle of the terminal I was in was pretty much a mall with lots of shops and places for food, gardens, and koi pond. Plus, there is a hotel, several places to get massages, video game rooms, a movie theater, and a lounge that includes showers, a nap room, and a gym. Now, most everything needs to be paid for at prices that seem to be fairly exorbitant, so I spend the night on the floor and a bench, as I mentioned, but both were not unreasonably uncomfortable.
Today I find myself in Chiang Mai, Thailand in a lovely family run hostel-home sort of place. They picked me up from the airport, pointed out some important places, have two dogs, and are very friendly, so I feel good about it. Tell you all about my first week of Thai Massage school next week! Happy Birthday to me! Thank you for reading.