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Category Archives: Travel

Things I Miss About the US

Living abroad for over four years now, there are things I miss about my home country: USA. I have read numerous expats’ homesick lists and decided to make my own. Aside from obvious things, such as missing family and friends, I will include the top 5 things that I miss the most about living in the US. These are not in any particular order.

1. Food

Melbourne offers fantastic international cuisines, especially of the Asian sort, which I could never have gotten in my small-town America, but that’s not what I mean. I miss the idea of sitting down in a nice restaurant and not paying a fortune (i.e. Olive Garden, Applebee’s). I miss the sports-themed restaurants that weren’t trashy, but for the whole family. I miss “easy” food (i.e. Chipotle, Panera), where you didn’t quite go to fast food but it’s still “fast”. I miss REAL Mexican food.

Of course there are specific foods I miss (like Pistachio pudding for making Watergate Salad. Yum!), but the biggest things I miss about America are free refills, complimentary bread baskets, and drinks included with meals. Oh my goodness, why can’t my drink be included with the already over-priced lunch menu? And why must I order a $15 appetizer when all I want is to munch on cheesy bread?

The food selection is great in Melbourne, but I miss the way that eating out is in the US. It satisfies me completely, without an empty wallet.

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2. Shopping

This category encompasses many things, from customer service to paying with cards. In America, you can pay for anything and everything with a card and there are no minimum spending amounts for this luxury. In Australia, almost every place (except big stores) has a minimum you must spend in order to use your debit/eftpos card. Why? I still haven’t figured this out. It actually affects the way I shop. For example, sometimes I just want to get a coffee on my way to work, but I know exactly which cafes accept card and which cafes have a minimum. I will gladly choose a café with none of those rules, even if the coffee isn’t as great. Why? Convenience. I hate carrying cash, because I spend it more.

The other thing is store hours. The city is a ghost town by 5pm every day, and even earlier on the weekends. I understand that it is nice that people don’t have to work past a certain time every day, but sometimes I really need cold medicine at midnight or a random trip to get ice cream at early hours. Even the supermarkets close at 10pm, when I use to love doing shopping between the hours of 11pm-12am. I won’t even go into my evening coffee fix. Why does no one believe that someone could want good coffee (not from McDonald’s) after work?

Customer service… Customer Service… Customer service. I really don’t think I can say much on this without going into an outright rant.

The last thing I miss about shopping is the online shopping (and mostly free shipping). I miss the availability of items and not expecting to pay more than your shopping bag’s worth in shipping. It is depressing, sometimes, to look on Amazon and know that you can’t have something, because the shipping would cost too much.

3. Banter & Stranger Talk

This is something people do not understand here. I miss the people. I miss opening the door for someone at the bank and they talk about the weather or the construction on Main Street. I miss shop clerks asking about my day while I buy groceries. I miss the general attitude of people walking down the street, smiling and giving you a compliment. I miss being able to do the same without getting that weird look that I’m crazy or about to ask for money.

I once asked a coworker how her trip to the US was and what she liked and didn’t like. I enjoy knowing how foreigners look at my home, but something she said surprised me. She told me that the one thing she really didn’t like was that complete strangers would talk to her. It freaked her out. I was shocked and told her that was one of the things I missed MOST about home. I think we were both in disbelief that the other would like/dislike something like that.

I miss the politeness, the laughing, the making of friends easily. I miss getting jokes and making jokes and sarcasm. (I don’t know if it’s just my sarcasm but some people find it rude here.) I miss the culture, the sports (American football!). I miss belonging.

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4. Reading the Newspaper

Oh, how I miss reading the newspaper! During my university years, I would read three papers every day: the local, the State, the Country. I miss being able to read ACTUAL news and relevant things happening. I miss this SO much, because I prefer it over television news. I can’t even buy the paper here, because there are basically two kinds (both on opposite political spectrums) and the big news stories are about a puppy or an old headline with a new twist. Not to mention the advertising. It covers a WHOLE page sometimes, while the news article is shifted to the side. It’s more like reading a fashion magazine than an actual newspaper.

5. American Optimism

I miss the American can-do attitude that we seem to have. I didn’t realize this was a thing until I left. People are generally more optimistic about everything: weather, sports, future, etc. We have a go-get-em way of life and we never give up on our dreams, no matter how unrealistic. I love this.

There are small things I miss on top of these major 5, but I decided to stick to the biggest things that make me homesick while living abroad. This list is just my opinion and what I miss most, which may differ from other expats. Oh and one more thing I miss: Good ol’ American patriotism.

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Posted by on November 24, 2015 in Stream of Consciousness, Travel

 

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The Coffee Cupboard Cafe

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There are not many times when I am surprised with the flavour of my coffee but, boy, this place sent my taste buds into a party. I had started a new job for the Christmas season and was doing my training in a suburb far from mine. Therefore, I needed to find my coffee fix and fast so I googled nearby cafes (as we do) and found this little gem.

The Coffee Cupboard doesn’t look like much on a street that is trying to renovate their look, but the inside is pleasantly warm and cozy, like that perfect throw on a winter’s night.

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It had enough seating for a nook and was clean and inviting. The tables were littered with coffee facts and magazines, while they politely advertised their coffee selections.

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After making small-talk with the barista (was he the owner?), I ordered their house blend in the form of my go-to coffee: the flat white. Then I sat down after the barista told me that I could pay after I finished, not before, which is what I like in a cafe, because it creates a consumer-owner relationship rather than a fast food joint ready to get everything out of you.

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I flipped through a few coffee magazines as I waited for my flat white and then the barista delivered this beautiful stoneware mug to me, with a perfectly shaped heart. It was the taste, however, that gave me a punch. It was the best coffee I have had in Melbourne and this is not an exaggeration. I have never had a coffee as smooth, as sweet, and oh so perfectly brewed as this in Melbourne. It was beautiful.

I could go on and describe how wonderful this coffee was (compliments to the barista as well), but I feel you just need to go and taste it for yourself. I only wish it were closer to the city.

Without further ado, let’s get into the rating of this cafe:

  • Proximity: ☕☕☕
  • Quality: ☕☕☕☕☕
  • Price: ☕☕☕☕
  • Atmosphere: ☕☕☕☕☕
  • Service: ☕☕☕☕☕
  • Creative Connectivity: ☕☕☕☕☕

Total Rating: ☕☕☕☕ +.5

This cafe would have gotten a perfect 5/5 if it wasn’t in the suburbs and difficult to get to for people unless you are a local. I have already talked about the coffee so I will just mention that the cafe itself was a great space for writing. It had plenty of natural lighting, space, and a welcoming atmosphere. I would go here to write everyday if it were in my suburb.

Some fast facts about The Coffee Cupboard:

  • Coffee: $4 (50¢ extra for soy)
  • They don’t have a website but do have a Facebook page.
  • Their address: 37 Puckle Street, Moonee Ponds
  • I’m not the only one raving about their coffee: Reviews
  • Oh, the coffee!

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Posted by on November 14, 2015 in Australia, Cafe Culture

 

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Flipboard Cafe

 

 

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Flipboard Cafe is an innovative cafe, where the designer took a small space and made it work in so many ways. The style of the cafe is mostly plain wood, but the simplicity of it is ingenious that you appreciate how it looks.

So, let’s get into the rating of this cafe:

  • Proximity: ☕☕☕
  • Quality: ☕☕☕☕
  • Price: ☕☕☕☕
  • Atmosphere: ☕☕☕
  • Service: ☕☕☕☕
  • Creative Connectivity: ☕☕☕☕

Total Rating: ☕☕☕ +.5

The overall rating of this cafe is 3.5. The proximity of the cafe, though it is in the CBD, can be a bit of a walk from any train station. It is closer to trams. The quality, price and service were all good but did not ‘wow’ me, which is what it takes to get a 5 coffee rating. The atmosphere is wonderful in warm weather, but during winter, it is too cold to sit outside and the inside is usually crowded, which can make it difficult to find a seat. If this cafe were in a warmer city, I would give it 5 coffees for atmosphere. The creative connectivity was the hardest part I found about rating this cafe. The design is amazing and I could sit in a cubby hole all day, sipping coffee, but for the purpose of writing, it was more difficult to feel it. I think this cafe is great for meeting up with friends and chatting over a hot cuppa, but I think it tends to be a bit too small or not comfortable enough for writing purposes.

Some fast facts about Flipboard:

  • The cafe was designed by Brolly Design.
  • They are closed on the weekend.
  • It is considered a niche cafe.
  • It sits above a jazz club.
  • The small tables are up-cycled magazines.
  • Coffee price: $4 (extra 50¢ for soy milk)

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The below images are credited to Flipboard’s website:

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Posted by on October 16, 2015 in Australia, Cafe Culture

 

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Cafe Culture

I go to a lot of cafés. This statement alone did not make me decide to start rating every one I go to. A friend, whom explores the many cafés around Melbourne with me, suggested that I start rating each cafe, since I tend to go to so many. Thus, I will incorporate this into my blog from now on. 

My rating system will be out of 5 coffees (☕☕☕☕☕) and based on:

  1. Proximity to public transport & CBD (city centre)
  2. Quality of coffee
  3. Price
  4. Atmosphere (decor, location, noise, etc)
  5. Service/Staff
  6. Creative Connectivity (how it gets the juices flowing)

Each of these six things will be out of 5 coffees and then averaged to get a total rating. Most of the cafés I review are in Melbourne, but because of my travels, I will review every cafe I go to. This is mostly for my own amusement, but I hope people will find it helpful. 

 
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Posted by on September 25, 2015 in Australia, Cafe Culture

 

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Little Buckeye in a Big Forest

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Who am I?

I sometimes ask myself that question and I have many answers that are logical, spiritual and truthful, but sometimes when I answer that question, I want something more.

What more could I want than to answer who I am? Well, I think it is more about answering who I am not. More often than not I think of all the things I am not due to change or growth. For example, I am no longer a child even though I would like to keep my child-like curiosity. It is much easier said than done. Then there are times when I am reminded that I am neither here nor there and I suppose those are the hardest answers.

Who am I? Am I a nationality or do I not belong anywhere because I have been too many places? Have I seen too much of the good and bad from different countries to not belong in one place? Sometimes I wish I could have my ignorance back, because it can feel lonely. I know I am a daughter of God, but I am talking about this earthly realm, not the kingdom that awaits. Who am I when I understand things but am still kept at a distance? Who am I when I visit my hometown and feel like a foreigner? Who am I when I go to new countries and love it but also am logically aware of social standards and discrimination that I cannot see unless I live there?

Who am I?

This past weekend I met a lovely couple from my home State, who taught me many things, but the biggest thing they taught me? It came from one sentence as we were departing;

“I need to give my little buckeye a hug.”

I am a Buckeye. It had to take someone I had just met to remind me that I will always have my roots. It doesn’t matter how tall I grow, my roots will be just as big. I had forgotten that I had such significant, underground growings, and that they are still nourished each day. Perhaps it was because they are hidden or perhaps it was because it is hard to see them when other things are so confronting. Either way, I see my roots now, thanks to these people, and it makes me miss home a little less and a little more, but I think it is a good thing, because for that moment that I was reminded of who I am, I felt like I belonged.

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Amazing Beauty

There are so many projects that I would like to do, such as write a children’s book, write more travel blogs, write a travel itenerary book, write a fictional representation of my love story, etc. So many things I would love to do… I know I can do all these writing ideas, but one step at a time. My characters have been taking up all of my spare time with writing as of now, but I would like to reflect on one of the most beautiful and culturally enriching places I have visited in my life thus far.

Uluru, Australia.

Most people think “it’s just a rock” or “it’s a rock!” depending on if you are a glass half-empty or half-full sort of person. This place really made me appreciate the essence of a small town (again), a constantly changing environment (every sunrise and sunset was different), and the (really) slow way of things.

This was one of my favorite vacations so far and I think it had to do with the spirit of the land. It is sacred to the Aboriginal people, especially the Anangu people who still live in the area and use the land for over 30,000 years. That alone astounds me. Even so, for a place that most people think is just a desert with a giant rock, it offers so much more. The skyline is what I looked at most. The blue hues and white cumulus clouds captivated me. I had never seen a place where the sky changed every hour, every day. The colors were so vibrant and alive, that even though it seemed to be desolate (like a desert is), it felt filled with life.

Perhaps there is not a lot I can say, but just show. If you do ever get the chance to see this beautiful place, my advice is to take your time. We were there for 5 days/4 nights and were afraid it was too long, but by the end we weren’t ready to leave. The solitude, the silence, the warmth… it takes you someplace where you need to be.

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Cartagena, Colombia

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Enjoy these pictures I took while traveling. I do believe Colombia is one of the most beautiful countries I’ve ever seen.

 
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Posted by on January 22, 2015 in Colombia, Photography

 

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A Writer's Soul

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