Monday, August 18, 2014

Building memories

The market is a place I feel I understand the most anywhere in the world. It's where intentionality, interaction, and thoughtfulness converge. I often get overwhelmed at the market but I also feel so alive in the best ways when I'm wandering through the stalls looking for the best deal on leeks, finding the stand who is having trouble selling that day and interacting with the ones who are quick to give me a sample. So it was with great happiness I found the big market in Melbourne was a quick walk from my work. It became a frequent visit for me during my lunch break to grab a few ingredients for my dinner or just simply to peruse and soak up all the life. I'm partial to the smaller neighborhood markets but due to it being winter, and my proximity to this one, I grew to love the Queen Victoria Market.

Another great aspect of the Queen Vic (as we locals call it) is that on Wednesday's during July and August they have the night market. Food stalls replace the fruit and vegetable stands, lanterns are strung to keep the winter darkness at bay and stages with various music can be found on either ends of the covered building. I visited the night market with friends several times and never left disappointed. These were great times for me to share a meal and listen to music with new friends. In spite of the cold and dark winter, the night market was always packed with people. And that's what I love about markets, no matter the time, they are full of life, food and people building relationships.

pictures from google images
Most of my time in Melbourne can't be shown in pictures. The memories I will cherish the most from my time are the moments it seemed inappropriate to take a picture. It was the moments I was completely content to be just where I was. The time I sat around the breakfast table with my supervisor, her husband and her twin teenage kids talking about Australian immigration. The time I cuddled up under a thick quilt with new friends watching Despicable Me 2 and ate ice-cream. When I gave directions to strangers who stopped me on the street and was so proud I knew where to send them. Having friends over to my place to have a writing party where we worked on our dreaded essay's for class. The times I stood in line for brunch with friends and let the sun warm my face and a cup of coffee my hands. All those times walking down now familiar streets to catch the bus to work. These moments are what made my time in Melbourne so special. It's the people, the routines, the conversations I had that can't fit into a photograph. And I'm kind of glad they can't fit in a photograph because they are mine to hold close and be a part of me now. They are what continue to shape me. I am thankful for this time to build memories in Melbourne.

Friday, August 8, 2014

The Great Ocean Road

The southern coast of Australia is absolutely magnificent. Through eucalyptus forests with koala's hanging in the trees to jagged cliffs and impressive land formations protruding from the ocean, there isn't much not to like.

It's winter here in Australia and the weather changes quickly. For most of our drive along the Great Ocean Road it was sunny and beautiful. But then a rain cloud rolled in and we braved a steady mist as we walked the beach. You know those moments where even the worst weather can't damped your spirits and the weather almost adds to the beauty around you? That's how I felt at the 12 Apostles. The 12 Apostles (pictured above) are eroded limestone blocks that were, once upon a time, cliffs of the mainland that became caves which eventually became arches and then when they collapsed they were left as the tall limestone blocks. Seeing them from afar and then walking on the beach near them with the rain coming down made me feel small, in a good way.

And then, as we went further to Loch Ard Gorge and London Bridge, the weather changed and the sun came out to shade the coast line with brilliant yellows. It was much more beautiful than my old iPhone 4 is capable of capturing.

I love the southern Australian coast. It's such a rugged beauty yet a calming place. I hope to make it back here someday.

Friday, August 1, 2014

The San Francisco of Australia

Melbourne. What a fantastic city. I truly love this city. In many ways it reminds me of San Francisco: long lines for brunch on weekends, pop-up coffee shops with fancy pour over stations, colorful street art down alleys, the girl tripped out on meth on the corner, a European influence in old architecture, progressive (I use this word loosely) minded people, Chinatown, Greek Town, Little Italy, Little Saigon, every culture represented - it's all here. I feel so comfortable here. People are exceedingly friendly and everyone has a smile for the bus driver, the old man you pass on the street and the children with boundless energy hopping around the market. It's great!

Things I have learned:

1. Always, always stay to the left. This applied to sidewalks, escalators, even space on a crowded tram. The right side is for passing. If you try to pass on the left expect to run straight into the person coming towards you. They don't get why you are there.

2. In the same spirit as #1, when crossing the street just look both ways always because you'll never remember which side the traffic is really coming from.

3. Double check, then triple check to make sure you are on the correct side of the street when catching the bus. The opposite side of the road really is a confusing thing.

4. Even on the rainiest of rainy days go outside - everyone else is. Melbournites are not afraid of winter. They will be out and about on the most blustery of days. And you'll feel better getting out and seeing all the life around.

5. Take a different side street every time you go walking. They are full of colorful street art, hidden gems of coffee shops and uneven cobble stone forcing you to go slower and really look around.

6. Don't be afraid to eat a Tim-Tam a day. The salted caramel ones really are delicious and you're only here for a few weeks.

Contrary to current Australian politics
I work at the end of this street

So many good smells from the cafe's down this alley

Trams, trains, buses - endless transportation options

Exhibition hall, the first Parliament of Australia
Downtown - Myer's is like Macy's

Flinder's Street train station, my favorite

So much color in my neighborhood
The Docklands. They do fireworks here on Friday nights.

It's a blue penguin!

Even the palm trees have a "California" about them

And so I will continue my exploration of this great city for a few more weeks, soaking up as much culture, friendliness and good coffee as I can.