Daily Post #71-74: Peeling Off My L's (1/3)

After hours and hours of doing driving lessons, I am happy to say that I already got my full license! However, getting it had not been a flawless process as there had been some bumps along the way. And the bumps are what I’m going to share with you today.

I started taking driving lessons when I was still in Sydney. I did not have any work yet back then and I was still job-hunting. Commuting was still convenient for me as it was miles-apart better compared to my commute experience back in the Philippines. What prompted me to take lessons that early though is the fact that it had been brought up during a phone interview by one of my interviewers. She was interviewing me for an engineering position.

 

Interviewer: Do you have any local experience?

Me: Not yet since I just got here in Australia two weeks ago. But I was a Process Engineer back in my home country and I have a lot of engineering experience under my sleeve.

Interviewer: Do you have a car and a driver’s license?

Me: No, but I am willing to commute everyday. Is the place reachable by public transport?

Interviewer: It will be hard for you to reach. Our client needed someone who has has a car and can drive since their production sites are far from the city center. You’ll expect another call from me if you progress in the interview process.

 

Of course she did not call back. But that’s when I realized that if they can easily turn me down without me having  a full license and not having a car, I had to close that gap the soonest so that we can already go past that and focus instead on what’s more important: my skills and what I have to offer. â™Ą

I was able to find a Filipino driving instructor when I was in Sydney. His name is Ron. I can still remember the first time that I drove a right-hand car. It felt very awkward to sit at the right side of the vehicle and drive on the left side of the road. When Ron first asked me to turn left, I pushed the wipers instead of activating the indicator! It was embarrassing! Slowly but surely though I overcame it and progressed in my driving. We drove around the suburbs first, then moved on to driving in highways. Before I knew it I was already driving in freeways and expressways. The lessons cost me $45/hr but since I was not doing anything yet that time and I wanted to get my license the soonest, I would normally book 2-hour lessons with him. Add to this fact that I hadn’t had that much driving experience back in the Philippines.

I was using my overseas drivers license then. In Sydney, Australian temporary residents can use their overseas license during the whole length of their stay in the state for as long as it is still valid. For permanent residents like me, the rule is different as we are only allowed to use the license up until 3 months from our date of arrival in Australia. Beyond 3 months, we already have to obtain a Learner’s permit which we will only get if we pass the written exam. After passing the written exam, we can then take a driving test which if we passed will earn us the much-coveted Driver’s license. I took my written exam in driving, which they simply call Knowledge Test, but did not get my Learner’s permit when I passed the exam since my overseas drivers license was still valid that time.

I was very persistent  in getting my license that I would usually book two to three 2-hour sessions with him in a week. However, a month into my driving lessons, my circumstances changed. Even though I was going somewhere in relation to my driving skills, I was actually going nowhere with regard to my job-hunting. I still forward my resume to various companies everyday, tweak my resume as necessary but I would only get a call or two every now and then. Most often than not, the phone interview or invitation to an interview would come from Melbourne. So I tried my luck in Melbourne and completely dropped every progress that I had been doing in Sydney, including my driving lessons. As luck had it, I was able to obtain a job in two week’s time. All of these happened November to December last year. â™Ą

Juggling my new job, the adjustments I had to deal with from living solo and the long-distance planning I was doing for our wedding then, I completely forgot about my driving. It was only until eight months after, 4 months into my pregnancy, that I decided to pick up where I left off.

In Melbourne, the rules are different as compared to Sydney. Permanent residents are able to use their overseas license up until 6 months of coming into Australia. Since I was already staying in the country for almost a year then, this was not applicable to me anymore.

I booked my Knowledge Test last August 10, which was a Thursday. I marched into VicRoads and was able to obtain my Learner’s Permit (like a student license back in the Philippines) also on that day. After getting my permit, I immediately tried to book for a driving lesson that coming Saturday. I called up a lot of driving schools but everyone was already fully booked the coming weekend. I asked a friend who had just passed his driving test then of his instructor’s number. The instructor’s name is Sam. Sam told me that he was also fully booked that coming weekend but he can accommodate me the next weekend. And so I was forced to wait for another week to start with my driving lessons. â™Ą

Sam and I started my first 1-hr driving lesson in Melbourne from my house. For our first lesson, he just observed and assessed my driving skills. He continued doing this until our second or third lesson. Sam is so nice and calm. He takes everything slowly but surely. This teaching style though did not suit me as I had a goal of getting my license the soonest time possible. Maybe it was my fault too that I haven’t informed him early of how fast I wanted to obtain my license. So I tried looking for another driving instructor from a different driving school who I can do an express lesson with.

Luckily, I found John. John is one of those instructors who replied to me quickly when I was still looking for a driving instructor. Since Sam and John were offering me the same time slot then, I just went with Sam as he was recommended by a friend.

John is in his sixties and is already retired. He did not divulge this bit immediately but I was able to ask him about his age later into our lessons. I did an express lesson with him the first time. That express lesson really lived up to its name since he went through with me everything that the examiner will ask me to do during the test. I felt bombarded! My head hurt after the lesson. Nonetheless, I felt confident that he’ll be able to guide me into what I wanted to achieve. At the end of our first lesson, he asked me how I did feel about it. I told him that it was information overload for me! He replied that it was expected because that’s how usually an express lesson goes. Since I liked his teaching style, I decided to transfer to him.

Peeling Off My L's (2/3)

Daily Post #69-70: QVM Finds

While my pork ribs is simmering away, I’ll write.

These past few days had been really tough for my lazy bum. I now feel heavier and I do notice that I get tired easily now. Last Sunday, I took advantage of the sunny weather in Melbourne. I left the house at around 12 noon and headed on to Queen Victoria Market to food-hunt. I ordered some Butter Chicken with Biryani in the Food Court as I was liking some Indian food that time. That sweet dish was what I expected it to be!

I first knew of Butter Chicken from my Indian colleague at work. Her name is Raj and she once brought this huge container of food filled with this yummy-looking yellow dish for lunch that I was so afraid to touch at first because I thought it would be one of those spicy curries. You have to know that I have a love-and-hate relationship when it comes to spicy foods. So I only took a spoonful of the Biryani rice and topped it with a spoonful too of the sauce, followed by the chicken. Oh my, Cupid hit my palate! It was the yummiest Indian dish that I have ever tasted! There was no hint of spiciness at all but just some lovely spices and aroma that I would never forget. I went back and took a second serving. I then got a dish bowl and filled it with rice and the Butter Chicken!

The Butter Chicken at one of the stalls in the food court at Queen Victoria Market did not disappoint. Though the serving size was kind of small compared to the ones that the people who were standing in front of me in the queue were getting, I was still beyond satisfied. But of course, ultimate satisfaction won’t be reached without having a treat for my sweet tooth. So I stood up, abandoned my plate of Butter Chicken that looked like it had been tongue-scraped and roamed around some more.

I love the Queen Victoria Market because it is huge and there really is a lot to be discovered! I went to the Deli Hall, which is just adjacent the Meat and Fish Hall and my favorite spot in the market for its very-European feel. The Deli Hall is filled with a wide range of produce. You can find there every imaginable dips, pates, cured and preserved meats you can think of and for cheese lovers, it also has one of the most extensive ranges of local and imported cheeses found in Melbourne. An ultimate cheese-lover heaven! Which I am admittedly not! There is also a nice range of poultry produce and a variety of game meat, such as crocodile, rabbit, kangaroo and venison, to choose from. Aside from the fresh produce, many stalls also offer cooked foods that you can try while you are busy roaming around the hall (mental note: try the Borek next time). And for the sweet tooth like me, a nice number of patisseries abound the place so you’ll surely find cakes, pastries and chocolates in there.

I found a patisseries shop just across the Bratwurst shop and stall that sells Borek. I had been wanting to try the Vanilla Slice for so long now but I just could not bring myself to get one as its slice is usually bigger than the other pastries. Good thing I found this amazing Lemon Slice which is smaller in size but so sinful as the base below the lemon frosting is so compact and dense! However, the tanginess of the slice is a winner. It already proved to be enough to clean my palate and satisfy the sweet tooth in me. A perfect ending for my short trip in the Queen Victoria Market!

Daily Post #66-68: For The Love of Food

I love watching food shows. Whatever it is, as long as the show centers on food, I will watch it. Watching a food show is a torture upon one’s self. Even though I am well aware that I won’t be able to eat or, at the very least, smell those delicious food that they were displaying on the screen, I still watch them. Perfect definition of torture! I am such a masochist.

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No Reservations, Man Vs. Food and Bizarre Foods are my top favorites. I came to adore No Reservations because of Anthony Bourdain’s dramatic and soulful take on hosting. It’s just so nice to see a travel and food show host who also has a penchant for the spoken word. When he speaks, it felt like he is always reading poetry to me. I get drawn to the flow and sway of his words.

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Man Vs. Food had been a favorite because the show does not fail to make my mouth water. I love grubby foods and that’s what Man Vs. Food is all about - grubby, delicious food in huge servings. Because of that show, I’ve always dreamt of taking a trip to the United States, renting a car and hopping from one state to another just to food-trip. It will only be about food, nothing else! It’s really bad!

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And of course, how can I forget Bizarre Foods. I haven’t tried that many exotic foods yet but I do consider myself to be an adventurous eater in the sense that if I will be immersed in a situation that would allow me to try an exotic food, I would no doubt try it. I am so game when it comes to food.

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When I came here in Australia, I was introduced to more local cooking and food shows. There’s Luke Nguyen’s Street Food Asia. Luke Nguyen is a big name here in Australia, particularly in Sydney where he grew up. He is an Australian chef of Vietnamese descent and is known for his modern take on traditional Vietnamese dishes. I just arrived here in Australia then when I came to know of Luke Nguyen. It was during my first week in Sydney, while we (my aunt, mom and I) were doing our weekly market trip to Cabramatta when I first saw Luke Nguyen. He was in location to shoot a food show (it must be!). Of course, being a noob that my mom and I were, we did not have any clue who he was until my aunt pointed out that he is a celebrity chef. Being a true-blooded Filipino that my mom is, she asked me to take a picture of her with him. He did not mind at all!

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Then came in My Kitchen Rules. It is an Australian cooking show that I came to love because of its authenticity. The show presents various teams composed of two contenstants with pre-existing relationships (much like The Amazing Race) from different states across Australia. They would initially compete against each other by transforming their own home into an instant resturant complete with a theme and decorations, welcoming the panel judges and their competitors into their home and serving them with three-course meals which they will prepare from their own kitchen. At the end of each night, the judges as well as their competitors would score them based on the dishes that they’ve concocted. Surviving the “instant restaurant”, the remaining teams will then be subjected into a series of challenges numerous process of elimination until a winning team emerges.

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Lately, the Nine Network started to air The Family Food Fight which if I’m not mistaken is their first series ever. It is unlike any other cooking show that I’ve watched and I got instantly hooked when I first saw the trailer. The show presents various teams composed of 4 people that are amateur cooks and are related to one another! Can you imagine that? A family making up a team? That must be chaotic! And you know what? I am right! It really is chaotic but that’s what I love about the show - the pureness and realness of it. The love-and-hate relationship that you see in a family is very evident. I really think all families are like that. There’s no perfect family. There are a lot of instances that some of our family members get in our nerves and most often that not, they will push our buttons but at the end of the day, they are still family and the love is always there no matter what. The show presents multi-generational families who are there to showcase family recipes and food traditions and compete against each other in various cooking challenges to win an ultimate prize of AU$ 100,000.

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I am putting my money on the Shahrouk sisters because I love their humor, passion and frankness. I would also love to try their food! They all look amazing and I really think that these guys have that potential to be amazing. If ever they open their own restaurant, I would definitely be the first one to fall in line.

Daily Post #63-65: On Cooking

Living on my own forced me to learn how to cook. Before coming here in Australia, I do not know how to cook. I do not have any idea how to cook. Well, I can make rice, fry eggs and cook some instant noodles but the idea of coming up with a dish proved to be a daunting task for me then. My mom and my grandmother were the designated cooks in our household. Moms are naturals. I had a very easy life when I was still living at my parent’s house. Breakfast is already prepared in the table when I wake up. My lunch would already be neatly packed on the table and I just have to grab it before I go to work. After a tiring day from work, there would already be a lovely dish prepared for us when we come home. It was so easy since we are pardoned from cooking and we can just go about and do our thing.

That is why when I moved here in Australia, I did not know anything about cooking. It also hasn’t been an immediate thing for me to learn when I came here though since I was very lucky to had been able to stay with my relatives when I initially decided to stay in Sydney and try my luck there.

My relatives are such amazing cooks and it really fascinated me to see how effortless it seemed for them to conjure a dish or two, sometimes even more, every single meal. It was evident that they loved to cook and you can taste the love that they poured in into every dish that they make. I think I gained a couple of pounds each week that I’ve stayed with them. â™Ą

Because of this fascination, I became interested even more to learn. My appetite to learn how to cook had been satisfied by one of my uncles in Sydney. He made cooking for dinner a Cooking 101 class for both me and his daughter which he tried to conduct every night. During those nights, he would direct us on what we should do and we just had to follow suit. Easy peasy, right? But for me who does not know how to cook, it was different. I remembered being so self-conscious and awkward in the kitchen. I did not even know how to hold a knife that my uncle would just stay by my side and oversee what I was doing, making sure that I haven’t cut my fingers or anything. He was so patient and I was so thankful because he gave me an opportunity to learn some basic stuffs and it did help me in building my confidence in the kitchen.

I stayed in Sydney for about two months before I decided to move in Melbourne. In Melbourne, I stayed in a friend’s house for about two months. My friend and her husband treated me as a guest in their house. Aside from the free accommodation, they also included me in their everyday budget which had been a very great help since I was still looking for a job then.

While I was staying with them, I discovered how great a cook my friend is. After work, she would whip up something for dinner and after dinner she would still have the energy to cook up another dish which we will eat for next day’s lunch. It was amazing. There I was, just having sat in their house the whole day, already tired after job-searching in front of my laptop and sending out resumes to companies practically the whole day while she still had the energy to cook two dishes after working the whole day in the office. What a superwoman. In short, I wasn’t able to continue on with my cooking saga. â™Ą

After less than a month of staying with them, I was able to get a job. When I already felt that I can already stand on my feet, I moved out and found a place of my own. That was my first taste of independence. Such a bittersweet taste for me. It was lonely at first but since I had to do everything for and by myself, I eventually did not notice the loneliness anymore.

This time around, I was left with no choice but to continue to learn how to cook for myself. My experimental journey in the kitchen had been both awkward and amazing. I commited a lot of mistakes. I burnt a lot of fried foods. I overcooked eggs. I almost triggered the smoke alarm. I made too salty, too sour and too sweet dishes. My bloopers were endless the first few weeks. Nonetheless, it was still amazing in the sense that I was able to commit those mistakes without any fear or worry that someone would laugh at me, get mad at me or think that I am some kind of a joke. It was pure, unadulterated, unfiltered learning. With these essential mistakes, I became better.

After a day’s work, I would find myself looking forward to having to cook my dinner. I now understand how my relatives and my friend who were already tired from work still had the energy to cook after coming home. Cooking is therapeutic. There’s just something in being able to create something that makes me feel empowered. Having cooked a dish feels like I have achieved something and this feeling builds me up and carries me on for me next cooking engagement. It felt wonderful.

I am still learning. I still had a long way to go when it comes to cooking but the journey’s what makes this so beautiful. I do not think I would ever stop learning. When I think of cooking something, I just do it. If it turned out to be good, I improve on it. If it’s not what I expect it to be, I make a mental note of it, tweak the process the next time until I get it right. It is a never-ending process and I am so excited to see how my cooking style would evolve over time.