I bake, therefore I survive

One of the topics often discussed among Europeans here in Australia is bread.
It is just not the same as at home. And it is very expensive too, compared to what we are used to, which makes it harder to accept the quality. We miss heavy, crusty loafs full of seeds – and no, you do not get that in Australia, unless you live near an IKEA. Yes, that’s right: IKEA (and no, they do not make it from the remaining saw dust, like some people think). This packet was my savior for the five years we lived in Brisbane:

I just spent the weekend in Brisbane, arriving with hand luggage only, departing with a 17kg suitcase. Our survival is secured for a little while yet.

But unfortunately there is no IKEA in Cairns and no bakery either which make this type of bread. Luckily, when I was in Denmark my friend Nina gave me the recipe for cold risen bread, which substitutes nicely (though it is not dark enough, but I might be able to fix that myself). I thought I’d share the recipe with you, just in case your stomach needs some real love.

Ingredients:
350 g of flour
15 g of yeast
350 ml of cold water
1 tsp of salt
1 tbsp of sugar
1 tbsp of oil
1 cup of oats/seeds/sawdust or whatever you like

Mix flour with yeast, salt, sugar and oats. Mix water with oil. Mix it all together – it should be like a thick, sticky porridge. Cover the bowl with cling film and stick in the fridge overnight. This step takes less than 5 minutes. The next morning you spoon the dough onto the plate (no mixing it, leave the air in) to create buns (I use two spoons for this) and leave for 10 min (that gives the oven time to warm up). Bake for 25 – 30 min at 200C. All done.

Look at the love in those! Sunflower seeds, poppy seeds, oats and all. Yum, yum, yum!

Know your Aussie

Australians can be divided into two categories: the Holden people and the Ford people.
You think I’m kidding, but it starts already at birth. Have a look here:

This picture is from a market in Townsville, but it could be anywhere in Australia. The European in me asks the question: where are the “I ❤ Ferrari” and “I ❤ Lamborghini” T-shirts? Because honestly! Which Aussie who would not chose one of those over a Holden? Or maybe they wouldn’t… now there is a scary thought!

Cats and fish…

Mr Husband and I took a Sunday drive to Port Douglas not so long ago. I brought a chair, a really good book (The Long Song by Andrea Levy) and an esky full of food and lovely cold drinks. Mr Husband filled the rest of the car with fishing gear. Then we found a tree with shade for me and a pier for Mr Husband. An hour later came the cat.

Everyone was happy that day. It was a beautiful day as well. We saw this guy on the same day. I think he had a good day too…

Egyptian movie night (with English subtitles)

That headline will wake up a few people!
Never in my life would I have thought it was a problem to get an Egyptian movie with English subtitles. Or any Arab movie for that matter. It is a HUGE challenge (google it and watch the amount of chat forums that have discussed this issue). But there is a solution, or rather a new initiative, which – as far as we (the movie club members) know – is completely legal: YouTube!

After sweating for weeks over what movie to watch, YouTube solved all our problems. There are heaps of complete feature films available; all you need to do is use the search for “Egyptian movie, English subtitle”. So we were set. This is how we set up the cinema/my living room for the evening

Four people squeeze onto the sofa, four on the floor and three on the chairs. The arrangement on the floor has now been substituted with a queen size air-mattress; we do like our comfort.

Normally everyone brings a plate for the night and we have a mixed meal. This time Mohammed was so excited that he decided to hit the kitchen and to cook up a storm of Egyptian food. The home-made falafel deserves an  exclusive photo, they were so good.

The dip for the falafel was amazing (tahini base with lemon) and so were the eggs with pastrami, the bean stew and the pasta (Lebanese style!). The potato cakes in the front were brought in as an extra treat by our Ecuadorian member. They are called Llapingachos and were a first for me and a yummy one at that. In addition we had Vietnamese rolls and tons of chips and cake. As I said, we like our comfort.

So what movie did we see? The Yacoubian Building based on the 2002 best selling novel by Alaa Al Aswany. If you need a good read, I can definitely recommend it. You could also just watch the movie. On YouTube.

Friend Request

Friendship has taken a whole new meaning since I left my country a decade ago. It takes time to become friends and it takes an effort to maintain them. Most of all, I have learned how precious friendship is and how much I value the relations I have created through my life.

There are the people I grew up with in the village I come from, who I used to catch up with on a regular basis without really making an effort.There are the other people I met growing up, like my friends from when we lived on Long Island. Or my pen-pal from Germany. Then there are the good solid friends who I have laughed and cried with for decades. The ones I studied with, worked with, went on holidays with. Then there are the two girls I made friends with the three years I lived in Italy. Those were tough years, I tell you, and I could not have survived without those two. I don’t see them much and I don’t talk to them much. But I would walk through fire for them both. Then there are my new friends, people I have met here in Australia. That again is a totally different relationship. For most of us, we are tied together through an experience of being foreign, reflecting on our surroundings. They are from countries I have never had friends in before. Like France. And Egypt.

Many of my friends are on Facebook. I often sit and look at my list of friends on Facebook and I get filled with a tremendous sense of gratitude. I love Facebook for that reason alone. I really do. I LOVE to hear the stories, love to see the pictures and I try to return the favor.

I listen to the scary parts they tell us about Facebook, about being watched and surveilled. But you know what? I sometimes hope they spy on me and my friends. I hope they see how connected we are and how much we care. How much I care. And I hope it scares them.

And then I love it when I get a friendship request and think: who the heck is that girl with bananas in her hair? Do I really know her? OH YES she is lovely! How good is this!

Cairns Indigenous Art Fair

The Cairns Indigenous Art Fair is on this weekend and it is really, really nice. We went Friday morning, because I’m shooting an archery competition this weekend in Mareeba. I’m so happy that we made it. The art on display was VERY nice. It was also very expensive, but I really enjoyed it all the same. There were some prints I fell in love with, but at $265 a piece and thinking that 3 in a row would be the ideal, that is now just a dream. They were worth the price though.

One really pleasant feature of the art fair was the entertainment. There was a constant change in the many different dance groups and music, mostly Aboriginal dancers from the region. This is the Lockhart River dance group, which we (Mr Husband and I) thought did a real good job. I personally really like that there are so many kids in the group. Passing on culture is such an important thing.

Outside the venue, all sorts of other good things were going on, like the artwork being made on the spot from ghostnets (fishing nets that fishermen somehow do not think they are responsible for and leave as trash in the ocean). I really liked the turtle as the nets are one of the major reasons for turtle death in the Torres Strait. So appropriate.

If you are in the area or know someone who is here, I highly recommend going. If you have half a shopaholic in you, bring the big wallet. If I was rich I would have bought these Items from the Torres Strait. The headgear cost app $4000; I really like the one with the crocodile tooth in the middle. The metal item I didn’t check the price for; I probably would have fainted. But have a look at the artwork made out of the white feathers. Just amazing.

Good to be home…

So it was all so different than I thought it would be.

Before leaving, blogging and the entire writing process was helpful, a stress relief, even cathartic. While in Greenland, it was a catalyst for all the non-work experiences – work being the number one word for that trip.

But then in Denmark. Then it became too confusing, too complicated, too hard (the writing that is – the stay itself was great). I couldn’t do it. Couldn’t get my head around it and write about my experiences in a meaningful way.

Now I’m back in Australia and the urge to write is slowly returning. I have kept a record of many stories I could write about from my trip away and I may just do that. For now, I will see what happens on a day to day basis, the largest upsets being a MASSIVE case of jet-lag and a crashed hard drive. Right now, Mr Husband and I are camping at my workplace on a Saturday night to skype home and write personal emails.

This is the first tentative steps of me returning to the blog. Can I just say: it is good to be home!