Archive for the ‘Yaella’ Category

Fort Lost In The Woods

Saturday, September 3rd, 2011

Justin and I rolled through the gates of Fort Leonard Wood in the early evening hours, and as soon as we did Justin was all business. We had stopped at a Wal Mart to do some grocery shopping,(where I learned that you can buy hard liquor at grocery stores and at Wal Marts in the state of Missouri, which says to me that they are well aware that their state is dull and are doing all they can to help) but after we got back to his apartment and ate dinner, Justin was very adamant on getting to bed since he had to be up at 4:45 am the next day. I begrudgingly agreed to an early bedtime, because when you are living in a one bedroom studio apartment supplied by the Army you don’t really have many other options for entertainment or other places to go if someone wants to sleep. He got up at the ungodly hour he needed to on Monday and I was left to my own devices, and they were limited. I did some laundry and spent some time on my computer, but that was about as exciting as my day got. Fort Leonard Wood is a training base, and a large one at that. This means that it is full of lots of vast empty spaces (much like the rest of Missouri) which surround just about every building. Since everything is so spread out Justin drives to work every morning.  Fort Leonard Wood, MO is affectionately refereed to by soldiers that have passed through it as “Fort Lost in the Woods of Misery,” and this is a fairly accurate description of the place. If I had really gone loopy I could have pulled a Maria Von Trapp and gone twirling and dancing in the open fields that I found myself stuck in the middle of, but as my friend Yaella pointed out, someone might have thought I was some loopy terrorist and shot me.

 

So with nowhere to go, no way to get there, and nothing to do I was left sitting in his one room apartment, by myself, without a car, and copious amounts of free time. I couldn’t even shop or go anywhere on base because I was without a Military ID. I had thought that coming there I would just fill my days with cooking and make complex dinners and deserts every day and be the perfect little desperate housewife and have dinner ready every day when Justin got home. I could have done that for a week. Well, not only could I not grocery shop by myself, but even if I had, Justin had no oven, well, I shouldn’t say that, he had an oven, but it had been disconnected by the Army and had a large sign placed over it that said “Inoperable oven, storage use only.” Some short-coming with the electrical system of the building made it so that the ovens could not be used, leaving each room a range with three lopsided electrical burners and a toaster for cooking. I knew from the first day I was there that it was going to be a long week.

Lost in the woods of Misery!

I ended up filling most of my time that week catching up on my blog entires from my family’s trip to Australia, watching DVDs that Justin owned, and talking to friends from home. The internet connection in his room terribly slow, but its not like I was in any rush. Each day Justin would leave early in the morning while I was still asleep to go to physical training for an hour, then come back, shower and go to work, usually without me even noticing he was up. I would wake up around 11 am and whittle away the hours in an off-hand way until he returned home around 4:30- 5pm and then we had a three-four hour window to eat, do any shopping we needed to do and just generally spend time with each other until it was bedtime once again. It was a thrilling life I led for that one week in Missouri.

From Monday to Wednesday I never left Justin’s apartment. I suppose I could have if I had developed a bad case of cabin fever, but the week I was there temperatures were sneaking over 100 degrees every day, and I saw no reason to sit outside in 100 degree weather just for the sake of going outside. Wednesday night Justin took me to the officers club to meet his friends and hang out, it was also karaoke night which is a weekly event. Justin had never participated in this, which I found to be odd since he sang in high school and in college. I pushed him to get up and sing, which I think he was a bit embarrassed to do in front of his friends, but he did anyway. He picked a song from Third Eye Blind that was really too low for his tenor voice, but I fairly certain he intentionally batched the song so they would never ask him to sing again. O well, can’t say I didn’t try.

On Friday Justin had plans to take me to a barbeque that his class was putting on for the incoming class of officers. All the guys had pooled their money to buy hot dogs and hamburgers, but I wanted to contribute a dessert.  I did some research on no-bake recipes and ended up putting making chocolate and peanut butter rice krispie treats which were a bit hit. Before going to Missouri I baked three dozen oatmeal chocolate chip cookies for Justin to hand out to his friends, and I brought them in a giant Tupperware container with a red lid. Of course these were enthusiastically received and he came back with only crumbs in the container. So, when I showed up to the picnic with the same container everyone was delighted and asked what baked goods I had brought this time. I think I might have developed a reputation for being the baked goods girl, which I’m totally fine with. I was happy to bring a little home cooked happiness to his friends.  Friday while Justin was at work I also made a big batch of guacamole and a mint infused simple syrup that we used later that evening to make mojitos. Housewifery at its finest. After the picnic we headed back to the officers club with his friends and stayed there until late in the evening. By the end of the week the heat had finally broken, so after everyone was a few drinks in they headed outside to the volleyball court behind the club and played for a little under an hour before calling it a night.

 

We woke up on Saturday and had a leisurely morning before headed back up north to St Louis where we would spend the night so I could catch my early flight back in the morning.We got into St Louis late afternoon, and after we made the mandatory stop at Chipotle so Justin could get his fix, we headed to the mall to kill the rest of the day. Since Justin had recently gotten into golfing with some of the guys on base, we set out to find some golf clothes that would breathe well in the oppressive heat. We had an awful time finding anything in a size smaller than a large, apparently people who wear L, XL, XXL, and XXXL sizes don’t do much golfing because all those sizes we found. We did find a few things though, and jokingly Justin picked out a hot pink shirt. We were speculating as to how flamboyant he would look in it, but it was on clearance for $10 so I insisted that he at least try it on. Turns out, pink doesn’t look half bad on him. Looks a little fabulous, but not too bad. He actually ended up buying it with very little provocation from me. The real test will be if he wears it, as this remains to be seen.

only a little fabulous

 

Later that evening we hung out with Chucks family and took Chuck out for ice cream before going to bed so we could be up in time for my 730 am flight back to Charlotte, NC where I would catch my connecting flight back to Dulles. We made it to the airport on time the next day, but when we got there we found out that my flight had been cancelled due to “crew availability,” whatever that means. What it ended up meaning was that I stood in a very long line of disgruntled and whiny customers while everyone waited to be re-ticketed. While that was somewhat frustrating I ended up getting a direct flight to Washington National instead of the layover in North Carolina, but this flight left at 11. I didn’t mind the extra wait as I got a little more time with Justin and I didn’t have to deal with a layover.

All in all it worked out. I’m glad I went to see Justin, but I am not terribly eager to go back to Missouri anytime soon.

Where Friends Became Family

Tuesday, June 14th, 2011

Before coming to Australia I had been concerned about finding friends that I would really connect and want to travel around with. My friends from home are so important to me and I am usually slow to make meaningful connections that I was concerned about meeting people while abroad. I am so glad that this fear turned out to be completely unfounded. As the semester is ending and people are starting to return to the states I find myself excited to return home but sad to leave my glebe family.

The first people I really got to know were my roommates. Jill is a brassy bostonian with a razor sharp wit and an old soul who could be found most nights knitting and waiting for Law and Order to come on TV. For the first three months we shared a room together and would fall asleep talking about home and our lives there. We also spent a few evenings bailing out our balcony which would flood with a few inches of water every time it rained, but we always laughed and smiled as we did it.

Kaela is an adorably southern shutter bug who is kind to a fault with an infectious laugh and a tremendous weakness for chocolate. She is a hopeless romantic who would read us the poetry of Pablo Neruda at night and take dozens of pictures whenever we would go out. The Australians would always pick on her for saying “Ya’ll” but within the apartment we would just giggle and tell her that her Alabama was showing.

Courtney is the trendy street smart californian turned New Yorker who knows how to find a good time and is always ready for an adventure. She was always the one to initiate our take out nights, and per her suggestion we shared many meals of Thai and Mexican food ordered in.

Together the four of us shared meals, movies, drinks, and laughter. Together we are Samatha (Jill), Charlotte (Kaela), Carrie (Courtney) and Miranda (me) to a T.

Apt 18 ladies

The first night in my Glebe apartment Jill, Kaela and I decided to go out on the town (or at least up the street) to get a drink to commerate our new digs. Yaella, who lived down the hall, had agreed to come along. As per usual I made a memorable first impression. This is how Yaella described it (copy and pasted from her blog)

“What is the origin of your name” Valerie, a tall blonde haired girl asks me as we walk around Glebe, hunting for a bar where we can get a beer.

“Hebrew” I respond without hesitation.
“Oh I should have guessed, what with the hair and the nose” she causally replies. Like a boxer punched the stomach, I feel a whoosh of noise leave my mouth that sounds vaguely like “what!”
Valerie is not trying to hurt my feelings or make racial slurs. In fact she has many Jewish friends, has eaten Matzah, and attended  a Jewish funeral (which she swiftly endorses and tells me she wants one). Quite honestly, Valerie is just the most honest person I have ever met in my life.
We find a karaoke bar and it turns out Valerie not only has a penchant for the truth but is also a very good singer. As we sit around the bar, we (Valerie, Jill, Kaela, and myself) all belt out the lyrics to popular songs from the 90′s while Kaela deflects the advances of a 30 something man. However, before we can get up in front of the crowd to sing and make fools of ourselves, karaoke night is over.

Despite my brassy beginning Yaella and I got to talking and  discovered that neither of us had class on Tuesdays  so we made a plan to walk a differnet suburb of Sydney every Tuesday. While wandering the side streets of Sydney we shared conversations and slurpees and found a fabulous pair of $15 leather pants. We weren’t fast friends, but we definitely became great friends.

As Yaella and I got to know eachother we also got to know eachothers roommates. Yaella lived with two Lyndsays, one of which was a tiny sorrority girl who is full of life, laugher, and is always ready to rage. One rainy weekend in March Lyndsay found herself sitting alone in her apartment for most of the weekend, and I wanted to go see the USyd production of Cabaret, and no one would go with me. Somehow Lyndsay and I found eachother that day and ended up going to the show together that weekend, and had such a great time trying to decipher the german accents done by Australians that we planned many other adventures. We went to see Spring Awakening, skipped school one day to go to the beach, and then spent a long weekend in Melbourne together. After one fateful night at the Flying Fajita Sisters where we agreed to split an amazing coconut bananna desert, one of the major tenets of our relationship became the splitting of deserts. We have split pies, cookies, puddings, a questionable chocolate pear parfait, the most amazing mango lime cake and countless wild nights. Suffice to say that life with Lyndsay is always sweet. She also taught me that you can never be too tired to go out and have fun. She would never let me skimp on an evening out, she taught me how to rally and rage!

Lindsay Yaella and I have spent just as many nights watching movies and eating baked goods as we have going out and painting the town red. We have danced till we dropped and color coordinated our outfits to get into clubs for free. We even spent an evening getting thrown around by shirtless Australian circus performers. I am so lucky that the two best friends I made in Australia both live in Maryland because this means our good times can be continued in the northern hemisphere.

The other Lindsay in Apt 29 was my roommate all through Thailand, and my fellow connoisseur of hotel breakfasts while we were there. We graduated cooking school, went snorkeling, made pad Thai, and rode elephants together. We even shared a lavish honeymoon suite in Krabi where we stayed up late watching HBO movies and chatting. She was always down to party and we had a crazy Thailand adventure together.

The lovely ladies of apartment 23, Alana, Amanda and Megan have always been the most welcoming hosts and some of the greatest party companians. Their apartment has been the location of many of our Glebian group evenings and they never show up anywhere without a bottle or a plate of something for everyone to enjoy. It’s hard to go over to their room and not end up sitting on their couch chatting for the next twenty minutes. They are always up for an adventure and excited to join any adventure already in progress. They party hard and the six of us always end up having a great time together reguardless of the activity.

The boys of apt 30, Andy, Seth and Jordan were always up for going out or staying in and watching a 1$ movie rental from blockbuster. They were also usually the first ones to show up when I announced that I had baked something. They even allowed us to borrow their apartment kitchen when Kaela and I needed to bake a cake for Courtney’s birthday without letting her know. For some reason the boys in this room decided early on in the semester that they would never pay for a haircut so every month in their room they would put a whole bunch of newspapers on the floor, get out the trimmer kit and have hair cut day. Jordan experimented with some odd hairstyles over the course of the semester. Andy and Seth are both from Iowa, but Andy is the only one I ever picked on about it. Andy is also the one who would insist that we stop in at McDonalds every time we passed one.

Yaella, Jordan, Andy, Lyndsay, and Me

Lyndsay, Seth, me, and Jordan on our weekend in Melbourne.

Seth was the father figure of the group when we went to Melbourne. He was the only one who ever knew where we were and could get us from point A to point B. I was the maternal one who was always suggesting activities and making sure we had eaten, but Seth could be counted on to make sure the logistics were taken care of.

If ever I was looking for little Jordan I knew not to even bother knocking on his door, for he would always be in someone elses room sitting on their couch and chatting. He fielded the most questions about Jersey Shore being from New Jersey but he always answered them with a laugh and a smile. I edited many a paper for him throughout the semester but we made sure to always celebrate with a gin and tonic once we had finished. He was like the stray puppy of Glebe, if he knocked on your door he was sure to be let in and stay for a while.

This group of people from all over the united states assembled in Australia and became friends and then a family.  I am so fortunate to have met and spent a semester with all these wonderful people, and I will miss all of them once I return home. Thanks for a great semester guys!

Glebians!

Sunday Shopping at Paddy’s Market

Monday, February 28th, 2011

Ah Sunday, the day of rest, and if you aren’t tired,  grocery shopping. Wednesday through Sunday in Haymarket (about a ten minute walk from my Glebe residence) Paddy’s Market is open. Paddy’s Market is basically a large warehouse where vendors rent stalls and sell all sorts of clothes, giftware, australian souvenirs(read: TACKY t-SHIRTS), discount (probably illegal) electronics, UGG boots, and all sorts of other odds and ends. If you can manage to hold onto your money past that, you get to the back area which houses the fresh fruit and vegetable stalls.

Yaella (resident of apt 29, the whose internet we have all been stealing) is an orthodox jew, (how do I always find the jews? or how do they find me?) and she and I had discussed on friday that we should check out the market over the weekend because we had heard tell of crazy low prices on locally grown produce. Because she is orthodox she could not do anything on saturday (she isn’t even allowed to use electricity on saturdays, im learning so much about judaism) so we agreed we would go sunday.

We discussed meeting up at 11 am but true to form I slept till 11:30 and we didn’t end up leaving till closer to 1. She was a great sport about it though, and after getting general directions from another girl in our program who had been to the market the day before we were off! Little did I know that I had made a friend who was more directionally challenged than I was. Yaella and I did very well for the first part of the journey (which basically involved going straight until we hit the broadway, the main road through our neighborhood) but then we got a little turned around. Being females, we felt no shame looking for an Aussie who could point us in the right direction.

DO WANT!! Spotted this puppy as we were waiting to cross the street. ADORABLE!!!!

We approached a friendly looking man with two kids and a stroller and politely asked in which direction the market was located. Before he could summon the breath to push out the words to answer us, a burly fellow with tattooed arms literally jumped in front of him and launched into a boisterous and detailed explanation of how to get to the market with a big goofy smile on his face. He was so enthusiastic and seemingly thrilled to be giving us directions we half expected him to rip open his shirt revealing a street map tattooed to his chest and tell us to go around the left nipple and stop when we reached the belly button.

Fortunately Yaella and I had not reared off course, and only needed to make a right and continue down the main drag to reach our destination. We wandered for a few minutes through all the stalls selling clothing and touristy junk. Yaella kept wandering towards the vendors selling Kangaroo pellets. I told her she should get one and put it on the floor in front of a fireplace. Her intention was to snuggle with it. Frankly I think my suggestion was less alarming.

We wandered around quite aimlessly for a few minutes before growing impatient and wanting to know where all this cheap produce we had heard so much about was located. We asked a friendly teenage girl working at an information desk, and on her instructions found it without incident.

Inside the fruit market. There are so many vendors, and most of them are selling locally grown produce which is awesome!

There was an obnoxious amount of produce, it was glorious.

We walked around the fruit market for a few minutes and while I was just marveling at the buffet of colors and smells Yaella was busy using her jew powers of observation and bargain hunting to find the cheapest prices. What she noticed was that the produce stalls located around the perimeter of the market had the highest prices, but the further into the center you walked the cheaper things got. This is why I hang out with jews, I don’t think I would have ever noticed this on my own. Shalom.

I purchased six bananas for $1.50, which in Sydney is an ABSOLUTE STEAL because things here are so expensive. I also split a 60 cent bunch of basil with Yaella because there is only so much basil one can use at a time. I got six tomatoes for $1.30 and 250 grams of dried mango for $4.00. Basically we got away with produce robbery because the prices we found were insanely low. I am never buying produce from the grocery store here ever again. Lesson learned.

We spent at least an hour walking around checking out all the different types of produce. We found all sorts of weird things we didn’t recognize, and some things we did recognize but were weird none the less. I present you with exhibit A:

Giant mutant sweet potatoes. What. The. Heck.

There was lots of Dragon fruit, also known as the strawberry pear. To me these looked like some sort of poison grenade from an alien planet, but apparently they are chinese in origin, I would be very interested to learn how to cook/prepare one.

There was also a fair amount of Papya, also called a pawpaw, which I never knew, even though I grew up singing "The Bare Necessities" from the Disney movie "The Jungle Book"which says "when you pick a pawpaw or prickly pear, when you prick a raw paw, next time beware! Don't pick the prickly pear by the paw, when you pick the pear try to use the claw!But you don't need to use the paw when you pick a pear from the big paw paw. Have I given you a clue?" I feel like my elementary education failed me since it has taken me till my third year of college to properly decipher these lyrics.

After a few hours of bumming around the market we headed back to the apt and Yaella made some homemade soup with the fresh basil, pieces of the mutant sweet potatoes and some rice. It was quite delicious, and she was generous enough to not only allow me to steal her internet from inside her apartment while she was cooking, but let me sample some soup once she was done. I spent the rest of the evening hanging out online and catching up with the roomies. It wasn’t until late that evening that it occurred to me that it might be a good idea to figure out when and where my classes were taking place the next day. I grabbed my laptop and headed out into the hallway and OF COURSE this would be the one time since I’ve been here that the internet was completely down. There are people that will tell you that it doesn’t pay to procrastinate, but it does, it just deals in the currency of agony and stupidity.

I resolved that I would get up early the next day to check my schedule, because there was nothing else I could really do about it. Thusly my lazy and thrifty sunday ended in a brief moment of panic, a sudden realization that I am an idiot, and an equally swift separate realization that there was no use having a panic attack over something I could do nothing about.