It has often been said, accompanied by an exasperated voice and furrowed brow:
If only there were more hours in a day.
Well, my readers, there are about to be many more hours in my day, for tomorrow, I journey to the U S of A.
I will wake at 4:30 in the middle of the night on Dec 17th. (I reserve the title "morning" for those times when sunlight may be seen and I have had approximately eight hours of sleep, though even then, I detest speaking during or of this time of day.) And after approximately 23 hours of travel I will arrive in Texas at 3:30 pm December 17th.
As you see, my tomorrow will hold approximately 16 more hours than usual, amounting to a rather long and tedious day. (If my math is wrong, just know, that's why I'm not in med school right now.)
I should be packing, but instead I decided to write.
I always leave my packing to the very last moment, under the guise that I like to have as much clean laundry as possible with me, but really, I'm just a through and through procrastinator, and I run off adrenaline. (Also, my husband is on afternoon shift till after 10pm and he's not here to molest me into packing.)
But what I really wanted to write about was this feeling I've been having. This feeling of ennui towards the country, and some of the people in it, that I've been living in. (Now, to be fair, I base my not-liking of Australians based on how annoying their various accents are, and I would expect the same from them regarding mine.)
This feeling has swooped over me like that fog of arrows from 300, I don't feel it everyday, but at the moment, I'm definitely ennui-ed.
I've become someone who sends links to things like this Commonwealth bank commercial to my friends and family back home accompanied by diatribes demanding to know why their advertisements, apparently, focus on the message that Commonwealth bank is an Australian bank and therefore understands the needs of its Australian customers better than these U.S. advertising execs. I don't understand why this is even a selling point when most banks, as far as I know, in Australia ARE Australian not American. (Furthermore, Commonwealth bank has abominable customer service: my husband and I had to switch our home insurance from theirs when we had a ceiling leak that took them 8 months to properly take care of. (I am SO happy we were with AAMI when both of our cars were stolen the next year, huge thumbs up for them.)
Anyway, I've been trying to pinpoint what it is exactly that's pissing me off, and I don't think I'll arrive at a clear answer, but I'll have a go. All I have to compare Australia to are the other three countries I have spent a total of 4 years living in (I won't go into the various U.S. states and cities I've lived in because they were more or less similar to each other for the purposes of my arguments here. I will say however, rural Illinois, thumbs down from me.) and at times even though I was depressed and angry for living so far from my friends in Texas, I always loved those countries. (Ok, Ok, save England... I have a hypothesis that maybe I just don't like commonwealth countries.) But I did enjoy England, it was just too much of a hassle to live in London and commute 2.5 hours one way to some of my classes on the other side of the city. Also, it was too bloody expensive when you're living off the dollar. (And, my adorable boyfriend that I had been dating since high school in Germany also moved to England for university at the same time, but he was now living a very long train ride away, attending an art school with (what I thought at time) lots of art school "sluts" and I grew tired of all the self-created drama surrounding our long distance relationship.) ...
I also think perhaps things are different now that I'm not a "carefree" student like I was in those countries, and I have to actually make my way in a work environment and after two years, it's just getting to be a bit much. In an age when many people in my generation are living at home into their late 20's, sometimes I feel a bit gypped.
At the same time, I think one of the reasons I'm most angry is because I've moved around so much I feel like I deserve a phD in cultural anthropology. I've been through cultural shock so many times, and reverse cultural shock (it's evil bitch sister) an almost equal number. I know what it's like to sit here and seethe over my situation in one place while greedily eyeing the grass on the other side, and then once I'm there speaking non-stop about how things were different where I was before, and suddenly realizing how good I had it.
For instance, I know that here my husband gets 4 weeks paid annual leave and unlimited sick days, yet if he transferred to the U.S. to work for the same company he would only get 1 week paid annual leave and a limit on sick days. I also know that when speaking to friends about our post-college salaries I feel pretty happy with my 23 that I've been getting. (It's apparently a sub-par number considering I'm in a position that requires a uni degree, but compared to the U.S. I think it's quite good.) Then they say things like "oh I don't make much more... I make $27. Later I realized that I was talking in dollars per hour, and she was talking thousands per year, with a Masters degree. Insert, OMG thank God I don't live in that hell-hole moment here.
So in some ways I know that these lifestyle factors are different, but who wins? Which place is better? I'll know I'll have to live in both places post-school to really decide, I just hope I don't hate myself if we move over there for a few years to figure it out and then I realize we had the better deal over here.
I really must pack now... so I'll leave you with this half-finished stream of consciousness and this lovely bumper stick that I've recently seen: and say, why thank you, I will leave this stinking red-sanded pit (hey it was 105.8F today!) to celebrate the holidays with my family and friends in a climate that is more suitable to such festivities.
This version is based on one from a famous Brooklyn bakery.
Sift your dry ingredients ('cept sugar) into a bowl: plain flour (450g) unsweetened cocoa powder (165g) bicarb soda (2 tsp) baking powder (1 1/2 tsp) salt (large dose! you don't want diabetes without hypertension!)
You can use a food processor, but I like using a whisk,
it makes me feel all colonial.
The secret ingredient, I might add, was the 4 eggs which my lovely neighbors gave me from their chickens :) My advice when accepting eggs of dubious (read: cross-cultural French and Italian marriage) origins is to crack into a bowl first to make sure it's all ok in there.
Will look kind of like this:
Check out those real vanilla seeds in there!! Step Three:
Combine the two bowls of ingredients in the biggest bowl you can find. Until just combined, don't go crazy.
Will look like something that, were it in a giant vat, I might try to take a swim in, only to drown to my glorious, chocolate covered, death.
Pour into 2 butter-greased 25 cm cake tins lined with circles of baking paper. I didn't have 2 cake tins so I used 2 cheesecake tins of differing diameters....
(Hey when the urge to bake a $22 dollar cake arises, I don't back down!)
If you use 2, 25cm tins it should take 40 mins in a 170C oven to cook. Mine were done at 30 minutes and 40, respectively.
Meanwhile, make the filling:
Sugar (300g caster) Corn flour (4 tbsp) pinch of salt (again, don't be stingy!) Vanilla seeds (of 1 pod) 750ml whole milk
As my husband would say: don't fake the funk on a nasty dunk.
I got the real stuff.
And please do: shake well. Bonus: the leftover milk goes very well with the finished product.
Put all your filling ingredients in a pan (including the milk, but here are shots of before and after the milk)
Put your vanilla pod in there too. Put it on medium heat, let it boil, NEVER leaving it's side, always wisking. Once it boils, continue to wisk for 2-3 minutes until it has a custard consistency. Turn off heat, remove vanilla pod, then drop this much expensive Lindt chocolate into the pan (200 g, 70% cocoa):
Once the chocolate has melted, tip into a large dish so that it cools quickly. Resist the urge to give up and eat the whole thing. I recommend having a stand-by chocolate custard on hand to eat while you make this cake. It ensures you can make it through successfully, and
preps the pancreas for the sugar intake later.
Once cakes are done, cool completely on wire racks. Then cut each one into 2 (horizontally) to make 4 rounds. It was only with the grace of God that I managed to do this. (And the recipe helped too, these cakes are much more substantial than any other I've made.) Spread the filing in between each layer and again on top.
"That's the best cake I've ever tasted." - The Hubs
And for the more astute of you, with 900g of pure sugar, it damn well should be!
It has no butter though, so it's pretty healthy, right?