Sunday, January 29, 2012

being homeless - rant

I am still on a search for a new home. It’s not just a room that I’m after, but a place where I look forward to going to after a long day. A place where I know I can sleep without worrying what’s outside. A place where I can live and chill.

I am currently staying at a friend’s place – it’s a fantastic house and I get the best quality of sleep here. I feel like I’m back in Sydney. Nevertheless, I am exhausted. This could be from stress or even from the accumulated hours in front of my friend’s new 50+ inch flat screen tv watching sci-fi movies.

Typical of any unstable person, I am shuttling between two perspectives:
  1. Holy crap, I am homeless. I am looking for a home close to a job which I’m not even enjoying at the moment. I urgently need a new home. I seriously want to move back to Sydney. Don’t talk to me because I’m grumpy.
  2. It’s fun and interesting to see and live in other areas of Canberra. My closest friends and family are supporting me and I’m so grateful for this. It’s a lot of fun to stay at my friend’s place. Things could be worse – at least I don’t have kids following me around and have the responsibility of looking after them.
When I was travelling overseas, I lasted weeks and weeks living out of a suitcase. However, this is the first time that my homelessness was indefinite. On the note of homelessness and not having enough money, I found this placard in
Garema Place
interesting. It highlights how a person’s budget and perhaps amount of disposable income prevents him/her from participating in the café culture. Without enough money, you are excluded from many things.
Of course there are many things that don’t cost anything – but when you think about the times you hang out with your friends, on how many occasions do you not spend money? In this society, your income has a large impact on the social circle you are in and what you can/can’t do.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

my experience of being Asian in Canberra

I am having another mid-morning freak out. I woke up at 1.30am from a dream… 3 hours later and I can’t stop thinking about food, moving homes and my own ethnicity.

The other day, I made an Asian dish with vermicelli, julienned zucchini and carrots and rib eye steak. The ‘dressing/sauce’ was Vietnamese-inspired as it consisted of lime, fish sauce and sweet chilli sauce. It was definitely delicious – sweet, wholesome and tangy.
Since I can’t get to sleep right now, I’m going to try to articulate my thoughts about Asianess, particularly my experience in Canberra… Looking for share houses has been confrontational. I responded to heaps of online ads for shared accommodation using my personal email (which includes my Asian last name). Over 50% of the email responses made an ethnic comment, such as ‘Hi, I am Korean’ or ‘We are Asian too’ or ‘Where are you from’. Several things bothered me about these comments:
1)      That’s nice that you are Korean. Is that the most important part of your personality?
2)      Just because I have an Asian cultural background doesn’t mean that I identify with it in the same way as you. Don’t assume that we’ll have things in common just because we are Asian.
3)      I am from Australia, thank you very much

Last year, I received an email from a prospective housemate saying something like, “I noticed you are Chinese. I am open to all cultures and backgrounds”. Well Mr, so am I, but because you said that so conceitedly in an introductory email, I question how forward-thinking you really are. This was a shock because in Sydney, as a young adult, my ethnicity would rarely be pin-pointed by friends, aquaintances or strangers. NESB people were everywhere and generally accepted in mainstream society. I figured that it was a ‘Canberra thing’.

I work in a Department which has a very low percentage of NESB employees. While most people are accepting of my Asianess, sadly some of the harshest racial comments I’ve received were at work. I hope that these words are attributable to the individuals rather than a comment on the field I work in.

My closest friends and family have criticised me a lot for not ‘accepting’ my Chineseness and for not speaking Chinese. I enjoy some parts of the culture i.e. food but I don’t find a need to speak Chinese and this isn’t my parents’ fault. But why the rejection? I guess I grew up in an environment where the language and ethnicity wasn’t welcomed. My extended family in Australia didn’t speak Chinese and I was constantly bullied by my wider circle of (non-Asian) friends. And many Asian individuals rejected me or felt a need to compete. So I’ve kinda internalised this and now randomly get offended or feel threatened when people ‘box’ me into the Asian ethnicity.

I don’t completely reject being Asian or being non-Asian. I probably shuttle between the two and, unlike many people coming of age, refuse to decide whether I’m more Asian or Australian. It’s a constant state of confusion, which is a new culture of its own right in Australia.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

"no fixed address"

Okay, I’ve been avoiding this blog – I’ve been overwhelmed with things recently and have been dealing with them in pessimistic and over-analytical ways. I didn’t want to project these thoughts in the blog as these would often be read out of context. In such mindsets, I prefer to have two-way discussions, as opposed to ranting on my blog, as it allows me to clarify what I mean and gauge the other person’s response. And plus, typing these thoughts in a blog would mean that it’s forever captured in the interweb, which is unnecessary (pleasurable memories over painful ones)
ANYWAY, this cute picture is from an online article about housing affordability. Sorry, I’m not going to try to replicate this and give you instructions for doing this. I have no stats on housing affordability in Australia but heaps of studies have been done on the area and they are pretty grim. Sadly, I've had of stories where paying rent in Sydney will get you less than what you'd get for the same amount in Manhattan, New York. I guess I should feel fortunate for renting in Canberra as I'd pay a bit more if I was living in Sydney.

As of Sunday, I will officially be homeless – no stable accommodation. Funny considering I used to volunteer in this area. And if I happen to get arrested in the next few days/weeks, I can say that I have “no fixed address” hahaha.

So I am currently/will soon be a nomad – no fixed address, a lost work ID tag, a 10 year old mobile with super old contacts. My food will likely be pre-cooked and frozen in takeaway containers. I should be used to this considering I travelled around Europe and America living in hostels with other hairy and unshaven people. Maybe the difference is the excitement of seeing a new culture and eating new food overseas rather than facing a full-time job.

Monday, January 16, 2012

nibbles at floriade... achew!

Food, family and flowers at the Floriade Festival in Canberra. We bought a couple of Lindsay and Edmunds chocolates and it was the best that I’ve eaten in a while. It’s not only organic and fair-trade but ever so creamy, not too sugary and real. Highly recommended.

Yum Cha in Dickson

A while ago, my family in Sydney visited me in Canberra. I made the most of this by bringing them to yum cha in Dickson – a suburb in Canberra which is the closest thing to ‘Chinatown’ as there are heaps of Asian restaurants and groceries packed into one street.

This was one of the better yum chas that I’ve been to in Canberra. The pastry of the dumplings had a sufficient bounciness, the typical dishes were on the menu and there were many menu options that weren’t deep-fried. While all the popular yum cha dishes were on the menu, it somewhat lacked the innovative dishes that you’d get in Sydney. Despite this, it is still one of the most decent yum chas that I’ve been to in Canberra.
The Scholar Chinese Restaurant
23 Woolley St

Thursday, January 5, 2012

not quite hand-sized sweets at the handmade markets

As cute as Canberra's handmade markets sound, when my friend and I visited, the place was filled with young-wannabe-housewives. Maybe the overwhelming amount of craft and felt items just wasn’t my cup of tea. I gazed through the crowds and caught a glimpse of stalls selling sweet treats… I was saved!

We got a lime macaron and a gingerbread cupcake. The macaron wasn’t bad for Canberra standards, as it had the great softness and chewiness that good macarons have. I’ve never had a lime macaron before so it was a shock to the palette – still good nevertheless.

The gingerbread cupcake was decorated ever so cute-ly. The cake base was moist and seemed to be made from ‘real ingredients’ and used crushed walnuts, which I really appreciated. This was a great comparison from cupcakes from some Sydney and New York franchise bakeries which just taste like sugar and flour. Unfortunately, the gingerbread flavour wasn’t very prominent – I wouldn’t have guessed the flavour of the cupcake unless someone told me.
Sweet Petite @ Canberra Handmade Markets
National Convention Centre


Ages ago, I went to Dubbo for work. My supervisor and I went to the Sticks and Stones Pizza Restaurant. The service was good, toppings on the pizza were plentiful and salads were filling.
Sticks and Stones Pizza Restaurant
215 Macquarie Street
Dubbo, New South Wales

On another night, we went to Two Doors: Tapas & Wine Bar. This was a classy place. Unfortunately I didn’t take many photos as I was conscious of my higher managers and NGOs judging me… But the food was amazing and satisfying. Each tapa was quite rich, which is perhaps the nature of tapas - to share.

Two Doors: Tapas & Wine Bar
Macquarie Street
Dubbo, New South Wales

And just some pictures of transit food, which fascinates me for some odd reason:

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

hairy food at Badde Manors

I’ve eaten at Badde Manors several times and was never disappointed. I boasted the place to my girlfriends who have never been there before as it has a wide range of vegetarian dishes, was relatively cheap and the food was delicious. The atmosphere is casual, diverse and welcoming. However, this time was different. I left disappointed and embarrassed for recommending the place.

One of my friends and I ordered the tofu burger and falafel burger. These were simple, large and satisfying. My tofu burger may have had too much sweet chilli sauce on it, but this wasn’t a big problem as I could just scrape it off with a butter knife. The tofu was just your average (probably Western) supermarket deep-fried tofu. Nevertheless, I appreciated the thought of having a vegetarian-friendly burger.

However, my friend had an unfortunate run of experiences. She ordered a Morrocan tagine. When it came out, we were all jealous at its wholesome and home-made appearance. However, it didn’t take long for my friend to stumble upon a small curly blonde hair (luckily not a pubic hair) in her food. She called over the waitress and complained about it. The waitress seemed embarrassed and hesitated to decide how to solve the problem. In a daze, she offered to replace the meal.

The second tagine came out in 10 minutes. By this time, I had already finished my meal (maybe bad manners on my half). As my friend carefully picked away at the dish, she found another blonde hair – this time it was around 10 cm long. This was disgusting and barely forgivable. I took a blurred picture of it as my friend hurriedly called another waitress. After explaining the situation, the second waitress gave a half-blank stare to my friend. Utter awkwardness. There was no casual apology, but an offer to refund the meal. Overall, my friend probably ate half a full sized meal. She was too disgusted to order anything else from this place which is understandable.
The same friend’s tap water also had black debris floating through it and the waitresses constantly forgot to give her cutlery to eat with… She might have been better off to not eat the tagines anyway.

A few years ago, my friend told me that Badde Manors was infamous for the shocking customer service. The restaurant had to improve this because they were losing customers. However, it seems that the bad manners have made a come back. What a pity – I loved the food in that place. Maybe better luck next time.

I’ve worked in restaurants for many years and have been on the other side – the young clueless waitress who has to deal with customer complaints. I’ve heard horror stories of bandaids being found in dishes. However, in the face of a complaint, I would always be extremely extremely apologetic and deal with it immediately, usually through a refund or direct apology from the chef.

The best customer service I received in response to a food complaint was at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. I was eating a risotto and bit into the chipped-off corner of a plastic take away container. I complained and the waitress was genuinely apologetic. She spoke to her manager and offered to refund the meal and give me a free slice of cake (cake always wins my heart).

Monday, January 2, 2012

Brunch @ Cafe Essen

I had a couple of really tough (work/personal) weeks late 2010. What I needed was to catch up with Sydney friends who know me best and understand. I feel 'lucky' to be a girl as I can easily catch up with a friend over a meal and just talk about what we are thinking. Or maybe I wouldn't feel such a strong urge to express my 'innermost thoughts' if I wasn't a girl. Anyway...

We went to Cafe Essen in Garema Place. Both of us were a bit emotional but didn't say anything about it. I ordered a massive fruit smoothie which was dairy free and had every in-season fruit that I can think of. It was deliciously thick and I'm craving it in this instance. My friend had a big breakfast, which looked like amazing comfort food. We ploughed through our meals, debriefing each other on the simple stuff in life- are we enjoying work? Have you caught up with mutual friends recently? Why are you in Canberra?

With the comfort of a half-full stomach, I mustered the courage to say a little stuff going on in my head. And so did she. It was the perfect location and meal for us to go 'I'm glad that you feel crazy sometimes too'. I couldn't recognise anyone at the other tables, the other customers were from a range of backgrounds (not just mid-30 public servants) and there were plants concealing us from the passing pedestrian traffic.
Cafe Essen
Garema Arcade
6 Garema Pl

Flavours of India in Woden

A while ago, my work team had lunch at Flavours of India in Woden to farewell my old supervisor. I shared with a colleague Malai kofta, which are cottage cheese dumplings stuffed with raisins & finished in a rich creamy tomato & cashew based gravy. We also shared (if I remember correctly) Kadhai paneer, which is fresh cottage cheese tossed gently in a wok along with onions, capsicums, tomatoes, herbs & spices.

Both dishes were average. There was heaps of sauce in both dishes and the kofta in the first dish weren't very tasty compared to others that I've had before. However, I'd still go to the restaurant again to try other dishes... although I'd still prefer other Indian restaurants in Canberra.
Woden Plaza (near Grill'd, Nandos etc)
Corinna Street

Phillip, Canberra

Sunday, January 1, 2012

hello Grill'd, please come again

I usually have Grill'd when I'm in a 'lets stop philosophising, over-analysing and thinking about other people' mood. It is my view that Grill'd burgers are indulgent yet simple, delicious but takes down the layers and complexity people create for themselves in life. The burgers are bloody awesome.

Once I had the Garden Goodness burger (top picture). It had a premium quality veggie pattie with beetroot, tasty cheese, avocado, salad, relish & herbed mayo. This was a while ago so my memory ain't clear. It was an okay burger. The veggie pattie didn't shock me as something that was packed with veges or something extremely tasty. I would not avoid having the burger, but I still prefer the Field of Dreams as the char-grilled flavour comes through more with the latter.
Another time, I had the Tuscan Delight. This had a grilled chicken breast, roasted peppers, basil pesto, tasty cheese, salad & herbed mayo. Taking the first large bite was just like taking a step off a landed plane onto a warm-weathered country - escapism. The burger was juicy (haha) and decent. Although I still found myself comparing it to the Field of Dreams. The field mushroom was much tastier than the chicken breast.

My friend got a 'Found' Organic Sour Cherry Juice. OMG. I like cherries, but silly me - I should've took the drink for its name. Taking the first sip of the juice is like sucking the sourness of every cherry imaginable. I've put this drink on my personal mental blacklist. ew ew ew.

Westfield Woden (Restaurant Precinct)
Woden, Canberra

jelly-like passion fruit cheesecake from Mawson Asian Bakery

At the end of my grad program, my colleague bought a Passion fruit Cheesecake to work to celebrate. I didn't really find my graduation significant. To me, it just meant more money to spend on food and alcohol, which wouldn't really increase my happiness at the end of the day. Anyhoo...

The cheesecake was purchased from an Asian Bakery shop in the Mawson shops (next to the green grocer). Honestly, the cake wasn't all that great. I could smell the cheap Asian gelatin from a mile away. The pastry was soggy, the cheese was a jelly-like and the passion fruit pulp was just ordinary. Oh well - now I know to never buy anything from there.

sprouted onions

Anthea takes red onions out of pantry.

Anthea: (whispers under her breath) Holy crap!

Anthea speed dials 1 on mobile which is running low on credit... Mum???

Mum: Yes???
Anthea: Something has happened...
Mum: What?!?!?!?!
Anthea: Okay, I'm in my kitchen and I don't know what to do. Okay, I'm probably freaking you out right now. It's really not anything major... but there are these green things sprouting out of my red onions. And they are around 20 cm long. Oh my god, they are moving... Hold on, no, that's just my hand moving them... AHH!!! Take them away! I actually feel like they are going to eat me alive. I'm really scared. Okay, this is ridiculous.

Anthea bursts out in laughter.
Apparently, there's still a few things you can do with sprouted onions. Check out:
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