I always have the same answer for everyone, another autoplay on repeat: “I think they are things that you just have to face. A consequence for your action. They all come in a package. They’re small if you know where you’re going and why you’re doing what you do”.
The low hum from a vibrating machinery nearby emitted a low F tone. Another two steps forward and there came a C tone from another resonance. I couldn’t resist a smile on my face. ‘Huh, who knows that a construction site can create such a beautiful harmony’, I thought to myself, continuing my pace as I was already late to a morning appointment.
Strolling around the city again after being away for almost ten months, a pang of nostalgia hit me. This used to be home. Or, at least, I was very determined to call it home once upon a time. A lot of people asked me if I missed this city. My answer sounded like a records on repeat in my head, ‘Didn’t occur to me until now that I am here’. Just like a lot asked me if I was sure about my big move when I just arrived in Indonesia, and why the move after such a long nine years in Australia. The commentaries never stray too far away from this: “It’s very different here, you know, you won’t be able to stand the traffic. And the people. And the bureaucracy”.
I always have the same answer for everyone, another autoplay on repeat: “I think they are things that you just have to face. A consequence for your action. They all come in a package. But, they’re small if you know where you’re going and why you’re doing what you do”.
Noticing the road got busier as the morning went by, I made my last crossing up Little Bourke Street and finally found the tiny gem hidden behind tall skyscrapers next to a public parking space. I was not late for my appointment at all, after all.
Patricia Coffee Brewers is what the mini coffee oasis is called. When I got there, a long queue already formed outside of the cafe. ‘Looks promising‘, I thought. I have to say that I’m a shame to the Melbourne coffee snobs society (if there was any!); nine long years in Melbourne and never, not even once, have I been to this coffee shop. Tucked behind office spaces and positioned on hidden laneways – just what Melbourne darlings do best – Patricia Coffee Brewer is a spot that coffee lovers should not miss. Adopting the Italian-style coffee shop experience, where drinkers would have their coffee standing up at a counter or bar, the shop is swarmed with office goers hanging out to catch up on the latest news (I love their news stand concept!) and/or taking a little time down before their day started.
Despite their busyness, their customer service level was not even close to being jeopardized. All the baristas were very attentive and friendly. If anything, I got not only one, but two free cups of their single origins (OK, I may be biased, but hey, I got two free tastings!). Those, plus a strong cappuccino that I ordered myself, cue a very chirpy, caffeinated (dehydrated) woman walking around your town.
I would’ve stayed all day in the shop if I didn’t have another item listed on my schedule. Unwillingly I dragged myself out of the establishment to the cool breeze of a Melbourne summer day, of course not without a warm farewell from the baristas.
Did I miss this city? Yes. Yes. A thousand times yes.
I held my cup of long black in front of me, its warmth added a sense of comfort. “I need to go home”, I said; the words came out of my lips undeliberately, lightly, naturally.
“You should be proud of yourself.”
I stared blankly at the passing traffic, observing nothing to be exact.
“Not everyone has the guts to go all the way back home after spending a long nine years in another country. You’re really brave. I wish I could be like you”, he said while passing me some tissue.
“I’m sorry, I’m just getting a bit emotional”, I smiled at my Uber driver, wiping my tears.
He chuckled, said it was all A-OK.
Dramatic? Yes. But that was literally what happened on my very last day in Melbourne.*
A lot of people asked me how I felt weeks coming to my one-way flight. Honestly, I felt excited and relieved. It’s been too long since I had that nudging voice inside my head. I wasn’t sure if going home was what I wanted – or, more importantly, needed. The epiphany finally came after four years of indecisiveness. It was a cold morning in June last year and I was having an impromptu breakfast with my closest friend in one of the inner suburbs of Melbourne. We were talking about what possibility lies ahead for us, what we craved for, what were missing in our lives and what we wanted to do for our future.
I held my cup of long black in front of me, its warmth added a sense of comfort. “I need to go home“, I said; the words came out of my lips undeliberately, lightly, naturally. My dear friend (bless her) was shocked to hear that apparently, her jaw dropped and eyes widened (yes you know who you are, my dear). Even I, myself, was surprised. This person, this woman, who used to despise her home country so much for all the obvious reasons, wanted to go home. We started laughing; she joked about recording our conversation for a future reminder just in case I changed my mind (yet again). My friend smiled understandingly. I guess deep down we were both relieved about the fact that I finally decided to go back for good. If the words were uttered ever so naturally, that could only mean one thing, eh? ;)
And one thing it meant. That I finally came to terms with my life. I’ve finally found my purpose. It felt so liberating, re-assuring. Contentment, that elusive word that I’ve been searching for these past five or so years, finally fits in the sentence. I am now ready to do what I was borne to do. Some of the seniors that I talked to said that I have a heavy task ahead of me. My plough needs to be as sharp and sturdy as it could be, my being as strong as it could be, my faith as solid as it could be. And one important thing, I must share my burden, “because you won’t be able to do everything by yourself”, they’d said.
I have faith in kindness. I believe that everyone is born with goodness in them and we have all the freedom to choose which seeds we sow to eventually reap in the future.
“So why didn’t you go and do it?”, I asked my Uber driver, after he told me how he wanted to go back home and do something about India, for India.
“I can’t. My wife doesn’t want to. We just finished building our home and bought a Pizza Hut franchise in Footscray recently. A lot are happening at the moment”, he answered. I could see him smiling through the rearview mirror.
I guess each and everyone has their own paths and purposes in life. How they cross or intertwine with ours is a mystery unbeknownst throughout the universe. You just have to try to look closer to get a sense of it, by genuinely caring more about others, about your surroundings. It doesn’t have to be anything grand, simple gestures like words of encouragement will do, like what my Uber driver did that evening.
The comfortable Ford Fortuner made its turn and arrived in front of the black-fenced property.
“I wish you all the best. You’ll be fine and you’ll do great”, he offered his hand.
“Thanks”, I said shaking his hand, “I’ll visit your Pizza Hut joint next time I come down to Melbourne”.
I mean, really, do we have brioche rolls on the streets in Vietnam?
Says the writing on the wall. And the menu.
Back the second time in two weeks at this place with my lovers* for an early Christmas get-together.
Melbourne has been crazed with a million restaurants that serve Asian/modern Asian/Asian fusion/Asian inspired (what else can I add here?) dish. The yellow fever is literally washing up this town (muahaha!). I can’t remember exactly when this Asian food fandom started, but I’m pretty sure that the seed got planted first when Chin-Chin opened its doors to Melbourne’s food scene. First, came the food bloggers. Then, the reviews by local papers & publications. Followed by the foodies (wannabes**). And the rest is history. Many have sprung up, offering local delicacies from any Asian countries you could think of. Some places truly deserve the thumbs up when it comes to food quality and authenticity, although some others are just following the hype without any evidence of credibility (I mean, really, do we have brioche rolls on the streets in Vietnam?). So when I heard that there was a new establishment in Melbourne that offers a street food-y concept, I was a bit skeptical, until a friend (with an Asian background) said that the food is pretty legit.
And pretty legit they were. Named Hawker Hall, the name literally says it all. Taking the concept of those food halls/kopitiams that we often see in Singapore/Malaysia, the guys behind Hawker Hall made the perfect decision to serve exactly what the original hawker halls would have. Hainanese chicken rice, beef rendang, goat curry, char kway teow, steamed dumplings, you name it. Although they do add more sophisticated delicacies like salmon otak-otak, pop corn chicken and pippies with brown rice, at least they hit the right spots at both the locals’ & nonnatives’ palates. My friends and I were quite impressed by their extensive menu.
And they’re winning in the interior design department too.
I have to include this one of my friend’s, too. Just ‘cos. I mean, how awesome is that merman tattoo?!
Until next time, folks!
*Sorry to those who cringe at the sound of this word. I just couldn’t resist! lol
**I mean, really, does anyone even know what the word ‘foodie’ means?
I had the best year of my life. Yep, you read it right.
I have a love and hate relationship with facial therapies. I love the experience of being pampered and treated like a princess during a facial, and more so my skin condition weeks after the treatment. But, at the same time, I hate the direct aftermath that it has on my skin (hello redness, oil and patchy spots) and the process that I have to go through, especially when the lovely beauty therapists (they’re always lovely) start to do what they call an ‘extraction’, in which they patiently and relentlessly trying to squeeze blackheads out of my skin. Sometimes I suspect if they secretly take pleasure in it and have a sense of achievement if they successfully takes out those annoying debris from the customers’ pores, even though the said poor customers are crying in pain. I have been a long-standing return customer to facial therapies. I was first introduced to it when I was 11 (not even kidding), not because I came from a privileged family with parents that believe in early ageing-prevention and maintenance of a perfect skin condition, but more because I am genetically blessed with oily skin that from time to time bursts out acnes. Not just puberty acnes, mind you. I’m an adult and I still have them once in a while.
I did seek help. Worried about my worsening skin condition once I hit teenage years, my Mom took me to this supposedly famous dermatologist in Jakarta. “He’s been famous since my university days. He’ll be able to help you out. If only I had enough money back then, I would’ve taken myself to his consultation sessions as well“, she’d chime. Well he was famous… for the super long queue at his clinic’s waiting room, that is. Looking at how late his practice opens everyday and how long you have to wait for your appointment, innocent passersby may have thought that he was some magic doctor that can save people’s lives, for lack of a better comparison. And he didn’t take his time during each consultation. He spoke veeerrrry quickly; sometimes it was hard to comprehend what he said. There were always 2 nurses in the room, one would hand him all his stationery needs, one would give him tools to poke the patient’s face with or direct a light source to the patient’s face, if needed. Mumblemumblemumble-scribbles prescriptions-no questions and you were out of the consultation room heading towards the cashier. Now, believe me when I say the figures on the bill is not in proportion with the amount of time he spent on each patient (5 minutes each). Not to mention the prescribed medications and future ‘procedures’ (that’s what they call the facial sesh) that you have to commit yourself to. They were always a painful experience, both the consultations (three freaking hours waiting time) and the ‘procedures’ (THEY GO THE EXTRA MILES AT EXTRACTING THEM BLACKHEADS & to make things worse for my skin, LASERS).
Me being underage and still depending on my parents’ umbrellas for my financial needs at that time, I had no options but to go through those processes. At the start, I had hope. I believed that they were worth it, those consultations, medications and painful facials. They did have a good result. Unfortunately it didn’t last long. My acnes and blackheads kept coming back. And so, more medications and more facials, which I believed had caused my skin to depend a lot on them. Once I stopped lathering the prescribed lotions onto my skin, my skin got worse, which as you expected, brought me back to the start of the loop. It’s like a vicious cycle.
I was frustrated and decided to stop taking his prescription altogether once I moved to Melbourne. I thought to myself “Scr*w this! If it did get worse, I’d just go to a dermatologist here“. I did not care at all, and at some point did not bother to put any moisturizer on my skin even in winter. And guess what? No new acnes or whiteheads. If anything, I felt that my skin was free of all the previously heavily prescribed meds. My skin did not get much better, but at least it did not get worse. After a while, I started to buy OTC products with guidance from occasional blog walking and scouring through the beauty section of fashion magazines. I tried several brands (literally had a go at different range, from US, Japanese, Korean to Australian manufacturers) and in the process I noticed that my skin is very sensitive towards some of them. Like, once I put something on, I’d have a major breakout the day after. It was another series of painful and expensive experience.
For the second time, I was frustrated. This time, I decided to see a dermatologist in Melbourne and sought for advice. My dermatologist was an old lad with an all-white hair. Soft spoken yet efficient. I did a quick Google search on him before my first appointment, and found out that he was quite well-known in the medical community. If there’s one word to describe him based on my first visit it would be ‘strict’ (like in that-school-headmaster-that-everyone’s-afraid-of strict). Only after the second & third consultations did he become nicer (that is, after he saw a really interesting lunch bag that I was bringing to work that day). I was prescribed to intake some rhoaccutane for a good 6 months. It did not come without any drawbacks (info on what it is and what side effects it may have here), but 3 months afterwards I felt like a million dollar. My skin had never been cleaner and clearer. No more acnes, no more blackheads/whiteheads. And, to make things better, my skin was glowing. I had the best year of my life. Yep, you read it right. That million dollar feeling lasted for a year, before the acnes started coming back. I don’t know why but they seem to have attachment issues *grunts*.
Since then, I pretty much gave up on prescribed medications when it comes to skin care. I opt for a more holistic approach to treating my skin. Whenever a pimple (or a cluster of pimples) come out, I try to evaluate what I’ve done on the days coming to it (i.e. What did I eat? Did I clean my face before I went to bed? Did I wear any make up for an extended period? Have I been having enough sleep? Did I drink enough water?). One thing I learned by experience: consuming a lot of raw food and lots of water really improved your skin condition. I did an experiment on myself for a good 3 months (eating salad whenever I ate out, not having anything sugary or deep fried, you name it) and I saw a major improvement in my skin condition. And I thought, “Ha! All those monies spent for nothing”. So now I just try to be mindful about my lifestyle. Not that I suddenly became all organized and eat healthy food all the time. Sometimes life gets in the way, but at least now I know there’s a cure for my skin condition, without me having to spend tonnes of monies at the dermatologist’s clinic. I do have scars on my skin which sooner or later will have to be fixed by the said dermatologist. But for now, I’ll work on improving what I have first while saving up for the said dermatologist visit.
As for the beauty regimes, I’ve been using two brands that I found is the friendliest to my sensitive skin: Aesop & Shu Uemura (yep, I finally found the perfect marriage of Asian & Australian brands that actually works on my skin). Some of the stuff that I’ve been using religiously:
I can’t say enough good things about the oil cleanser by Shu Uemura. It’s just amazing at its job: cleanses your skin after a long day, works as an emergency make-up remover (also good if you’re travelling and want to minimize baggage), and most importantly it doesn’t leave my skin feeling dry after I rinse it like several other cleanser brands. Another product that I fell in love with was the Aesop Fabulous Face Oil. The beauty therapist at Aesop told me to apply it only once a week before bed. It wasn’t love at first sight, I have to say, because when I first tried it on my face I felt that my skin was oilier than usual. But the next morning, I found that my skin loved it, all supple and moist.
All the above, plus mindful eating, plus recent visits to facial sessions in Melbourne leave me adequately happy about my skin for the time being. Acnes still come up here and there once in a while, and when this happens I take a deep breath and say to myself, “It’s okay. You will look like a million dollar if you feel like a million dollar”. And so I feel like a million dollar. Teehee! I try to squeeze in yoga and running as well to the former routine but I’m struggling! If any of you who are reading this right now are a committed runner or yogi practitioner, PLEASE GUIDE ME! I WANT TO BE LIKE YOU!
Anyway, enough with my incessant ramblings. It’s now your turn to share, what do you use for your beauty regime? Do you have any skin problems and what do you do to cope with it?
It’s been a quiet Easter for me this year. My 4-day weekend was spent mostly at home, doing some chores, watching Friends and going to church. One thing that I found interesting was how similar the weather was to a particular Easter Sunday last year. Why I remembered it precisely is a story for another day.
Amidst my chillax, sweatpants & jumper-wearing days, I managed to arrange a mini catch up with a few old friends from my earlier Melbourne days.
We originally wanted to go to DOC Pizza in Carlton, but unfortunately they were closed (silly billy us didn’t bother to check their Easter trading hours at all). So we decided to make a quick detour and went to Kaprica instead. It turned out to be a really great alternative for our mini reunion. One friend actually said that he liked the pizza more than DOC’s (#winning). We stuffed ourselves with Queensland prawns with garlic and chilli, clam fetuccine, pizzas (smoked salmon with fish roe, prosciutto and shrooms), tiramisu and mini tarts tonight. (Plus a short mandatory Yo-Chi sesh afterwards. Yaasss!)
I’ve been missing home so badly these past few months. I’m grateful that I still have people in this city that somewhat help me overcome those quiet moments. These bunch are one of ‘em.