They have the BEST snacks here!! How will I ever live without this stuff?!
They have the BEST snacks here!! How will I ever live without this stuff?!
…is what I thought when I left the main building this morning to go teach second grade and first smelled the air – instead of the relatively clear and fresh air I’ve grown accustomed to, it smelled like smoke. I looked up and saw little twisted black spirals floating down, as all the kids ran to class with their hands over their face.
So it turns out that someone decided to burn their trash on the field next to our school, but the wind picked up the ashes and flung them into the air, and they’ve decided to land on the grounds of Changpyeong High School and in the lungs of Changpyeong students. I felt really really bad for the first period PE class…
This is a picture I took a few days ago, before the Trash Dust Bowl of 2012. I took this standing just outside the main entrance looking out at the soccer field and second grade (boys? not sure) dormitory. On clear days you can clearly see all of the mountains that surround Changpyeong… it’s beautiful.
When I first came to school I found another letter from MW, along with a little present. I had talked to her during cleaning period yesterday and she had apologized for not being able to photocopy the letter. I said it was fine and she could give it to me the next day. She asked what time I’d leave school and I said I wasn’t feeling well so I’d probably leave soon.
She made a box out of post-it notes and stuck chocolate inside. She is so cute.
That’s all for today, folks! Stay classy. Don’t inhale trash.
OHMYGOODNESS while writing this blog entry I found out that the hot water dispenser isn’t working. IT IS THE END OF DAYS. Now I have to use a hot water kettle to make tea.
One of the last remaining things to do on my Sydney “To Do” list, was to go on a Hunter Valley wine tour. Hunter Valley is one of the largest river valleys in New South Wales, and is most commonly known for its wineries and coal industry. Pokolbin is the centre of the wine country, and it is located about three hours northwest of Sydney. Much of the rolling countryside around Pokolbin is under vine with the traditional Australian grape varieties of shiraz and Semillon as well as extensive plantings of Chardonnay, Cabernet, Savignon, and small quantities of Pinot Noir. Most of the valley is comprised of vineyards, restaurants, shops, golf courses and country guesthouses.
Doing a tour out there was a somewhat pricey thing to do on my own, but I figured with my mom here, and my dad and my sister not yet here, it would be a perfect thing for us to do. A bunch of my friends had done them and given me recommendations as to which tour company to go with, so mom and I booked a tour with bus pickup from Sydney and met the bus at 7 am on Tuesday morning out of Central Station. Our bus driver, Michael, was very a amiable and talkative old fellow, and since Mom and I were the only people being picked up from Sydney, we got to drive with him by ourselves all the way up to the valley. Before even getting into the valley we started seeing wild kangaroos. They were just hanging out on the hilltops by the dozen. The bus driver was just casually pointing them out, but as soon as he did mom started to squeal with delight. Kangaroos are a fairly common occurrence in the woods of Australia, so much so that they have become quite a pest, but people still get pretty excited to see them out and hopping about. Once we reached the valley we picked up 13 more passengers from various resorts and hotels in the valley and then our tour began.
The first vineyard we went to was a small family owned one that only produces 5,000 cases of wine each year, and grows all the grapes they use on their property. Every time a member of the family has passed on they have named a block of grapes after them. We sampled six different wines, three reds and three whites. Two of the whites, both sweet ones and one sparkling, mom and I really liked. We ended up purchasing them both.
The two vineyards after that were Savannah- which is the only vineyard in the valley that makes champagne, and First Creek winery. We didn’t like any of the wines at Savannah, but one of the Shiraz reds caught us off guard at First Creek. Generally mom and I aren’t that into reds, but this particular one had very soft talons and a lighter taste than most reds and we liked it so much that we bought two bottles.
After first creek we stopped at a hotel cafe for a light lunch. Mom and I ended up chatting with some of the other people on the tour during lunch. We met this family with a 15 year old son who were native Australians of Italian decent. They were saying how they were trying to plan a family vacation to the US to go to Las Vegas since it was only a 15 hour flight. ONLY?! Mom and I were both shocked that he was able to make 15 hours on a plane seem like a pithy amount of time, but he made the point that flying from Australia to another country many flights can be up to 26 hours, so 15 by comparison isn’t all that bad. After lunch we went to the smallest, but most picturesque vineyard, Blueberry Hill.
By the time we reached Blueberry Hill we were somewhat wine-d out. There was one more large winery after that, the only one whose product can be bought overseas, but we didn’t taste anything we really loved at either of these places. We spent very little time in the actual winery at the last vineyard, and more time at the cheese shop that was located right next door. This cheese shop makes all of its cheeses on site and you can do a sampling of everything they have there, so naturally mom and I made a B-line for that as soon as we finished our last wine tasting. They also make spreads and jams which are also available for tasting. One of the best cheeses they make there is their signature golden rind, which mom and I both loved, but at 30$ for a fairly small wheel of it, we both kinda decided we could live without it. The last stop on our tour was a chocolate shop where we got to sample the fudges they make there in addition to some of the other candies they make. What a perfect way to top off the day, with a little chocolate. In this shop they also had a number of food oddities, so we wandered around for a few minutes looking.
After the chocolate shop we dropped everyone off at their respective hotels and the drive back to Sydney we spent in relative silence as we dozed off, woozy from all our wining and dining. We were dropped off back at Central Station where we took the bus back to Glebe Point Road. It had been a beautiful and mostly temperate day, but it had been very windy in the valley, and once we had returned to Sydney the wind was still blowing quite fiercely and since the sun had gone down it was quite chilly. We weren’t terribly hungry, but we thought a bowl of soup and some bread might be in order. Near our hostel was a place called the Glebe Point Diner, which I had never been to, but we thought since it was a “diner” we could get something cheap and basic there. We were quite wrong. Although it looked modest enough from the street corner, once we were inside we found that it was actually quite swanky. We arrived towards the end of the dinner rush, so we ended up being seated at the bar facing a huge wall of wines that they offered. Several of the wines we recognized as being from the vineyards we had toured, which was cool. Mom really had her heart set on soup, and she perused the menu for such an item but came up with nothing. Everything there was quite high end and complex. When she told the waiter that all she was after was a bowl of soup he recommended the crab soup, which she had overlooked on the menu, but happily ordered. I ordered a pumpkin and goat cheese tart. As we waited for our food we watched the chefs in the small kitchen work. There were four of them and we were mesmerized by their grace and precision.
When we got our food both of us were taken aback at how delicious it was. Given the snooty appearance and steep prices we had mentally prepared for small portions of pretentious food, but what we received instead was a wonderful meal. Once we had finished eating we walked back to our hostel and were able to get to bed at a more normal hour- 10pm.
My days and weekends in Oz are really beginning to fill up. This week I worked hard and this weekend I partied even harder, and it all started on Thursday. The night Yaella and Lyndsay and I hung out with the Australian carnie folk we met this lovely girl named Camilla, who is here for a few months from Britain. She took a year off between high school and college and has been traveling around. Had she been at her home university she might have run into my friend Chlsea, a William and Mary student who is currently studying abroad with the Theatre program at Exeter, where Camilla will attend in the fall. The two constants in my life, jews and theatre people, even halfway round the world I still manage to find them.
Yaella had been bugging Lyndsay and I to go with her to check out this fancy chocolatier place on glebe point rd, and we thought it would be fun to have Camilia go with us. So after a long stint in the library on Thursday afternoon I met up with Lyndsay and Yaella and the three of us set out to find Camilla and some chocolate.
San Churro’s is a chocolateria whose slogan is “Chocolate and Churros shall be your Salvation.” A philosophy I was more than willing to embrace. Camilla and I both ordered a traditional spanish hot chocolate, which is a very thick smooth chocolatey beverage, served hot. Its rich and creamy and I’m sure an entire days worth of calories. In addition to this Lyndsay and I decided to split a cinnamon chocolate fruit parfait. That was a more complex experience in terms of my tastebuds reception of it. It was comprised not of the traditional yogurt, granola, and fruit that I am used to, but rather a cinnamon creme, strawberries, bananas, raspberry sauce, raspberries, and chocolate on top. It was quite interesting, and Lyndsay and I had no trouble whatsoever savoring every last bite.
According to San Churo’s website, “In 1528 Hernan Cortes brought the decadent Aztec tradition of chocolate to Spain. So precious was this gift that only the monks were allowed to manufacture chocolate strictly for the Spanish aristocracy. The head monk, San Churro, witnessed many miracles of chocolate including the healing of the Queen of Spain and made it his life’s work to spread the ‘secret’ of chocolate across Europe.” http://www.sanchurro.com/who.php) While this story is cute, Yaella and I were unable to verify any of this information via wikipedia, and since it’s not on wikipedia I am therefore forced to assume it is a flagrant lie made up for the sole purpose of having a cute story. Like anyone cares about cute back stories when chocolate is involved. Priorities people.
Friday morning I awoke to a voicemail and an email from the international student internship office telling me that I had gotten the internship for the Office of Development and that I would start on Tuesday! What a wonderful way to start off a weekend. Plus this meant that I didn’t have to attend my friday class because I would be dropping it since the internship is a 10 hour a week time commitment in addition to weekly career seminars. So not only did I wake up to great news, but shortly after I got to go right back to sleep and snooze through the morning hours. Precisely how I like to start my days. Once I woke up, I poked around the apt for a bit, cleaning up, making food, and hanging out with the roommates. I knew I wanted to do something fun to celebrate my news, so I messaged Lyndsay and suggested that we do something fun together since Yaella would be out for her Shabbat observation and her other two roommates were gone for the weekend as well. We toyed around with the idea of going to a club with the boys next door, but I remembered that the theatre group at USyd was putting on a production of “Cabaret,” and suggested that we do that instead. Lyndsay enthusiastically agreed and we set out around 7 for the Seymour Center where the show was being held.
We were able to get discounted tickets because we were both access card holders (finally that stupid $70 card I bought does something for me). I was rather ashamed that I had never seen Cabaret before, or at least the stage production of it. I knew many songs from the show, but as it turned out, the big number that everyone tends to associate with the show, “Maybe This Time” is not actually in the stage production, but was added for the film version. We were both looking forward to that number and were kinda bummed when it didn’t happen. Also, Australian actors trying to do German accents are often GLORIOUSLY difficult to understand.
Lyndsay and I both enjoyed the show, and were very impressed with the lead male’s ability to put on a consistent American accent. During intermission we were browsing through some fliers for upcoming events and noticed that the following weekend a production of “Spring Awakening” was being put on. I geeked out over this (obviously) and began serenading Lyndsay with every word from the show. Much to my surprise she knew a lot about the show, had the soundtrack, but had never actually seen it. With this information in hand I had no other option but to demand that we procure tickets at our earliest possible connivence and go see it. I have no problem spreading the good word of musical theatre, even to those who don’t want to receive it, although a receptive convert is always easier to handle.
After the show ended we headed back to the apt, but since it was only 10:30 or so there was still time left in the evening to go out. We rallied the troops and Me, Lyndsay, Courtney, Seth, and Kaela headed back out to find someplace for a drink. After scouting out a few locations we ended up at the Landsdown hotel bar, which I had walked by several times but never dared to venture inside. I believe on the first weekend I was here I had remarked to Yaella that we couldn’t go there because I didn’t feel like selling my body on that particular evening. It does look quite sleazy from the exterior, but once we were inside we found it to be quite agreeable. There was a live band and people sitting at tables chatting and hanging out. It was definitely more of a traditional bar atmosphere and not a club.
After a few hours of people watching and casual drinking we headed back to the apt and turned in for the night.