Tag: cheese sandwich

I’m not an idiot but…

I’m not an idiot but I’ve ‘failed’ the Australian passport interview twice now.

The first time, I didn’t bring my birth certificate. There’s small print on the form saying that if my Citizenship papers don’t have my place of birth and sex on it, then I need a birth certificate (and if the birth certificate isn’t in English, then it needs to be officially translated).

Today, I was knocked back straight away for having my form printed double-sided. Now this really annoyed me. Why didn’t the first interviewer tell me this? Why doesn’t it say on the form to print single sided?

Two other missteps averted: again in small print on the form, you have to bring photocopies of some (but not all) your original certificates. Also, your passport photo can’t have shadows. So I went to Officeworks to get photocopies and redid my passport photos on the weekend.

So. Why is the process for getting a new passport so hard? Unnecessarily hard, is my view.

What donating blood is like

This week is National Blood Donor week!

I started donating blood when I was at university, whenever the mobile blood bank showed up at the Engineering Examination Halls.

I get an email every three months, telling me that I’m eligible to donate again. My donations count towards my company’s position on a league table.

I try make an appointment for 7:30am. You can show up without an appointment but I like to get in while it’s early. You have to drink around four cups of water before you donate so I usually wake up and start skolling.

I like to go the Bourke St donor centre because it has free muffins, biscuits, coffee, chocolate milk, sultanas, chocolate bars, milkshakes, hot pies, lollies, cheese… (not that I let myself have any. I’m trying to be healthy, you see).

When I arrive at the center, I fill in a questionnaire that asks me what countries I’ve been to recently, what medication I’m taking, how healthy I am… It takes five minutes to fill in.

I put the the questionnaire into a box and read the newspaper while I’m waiting.

When my clipboard gets to the top of the queue, a staff member calls me into a small office. The person asks me a bit more about the answers in my questionnaire. Then I get my blood pressure, weight and the iron levels checked.

For the iron test, the person pricks my finger and squeezes out two drops of blood. It stings a little. My iron levels are usually very good, although my next donation will be during my pescatarian experiment and I wonder if the lack of meat eating will show up in my iron results.

Often, my blood pressure is on the low side. Once I wasn’t allowed to donate because my blood pressure was too low.

After the five minute interview, I’m taken to a reclining chair and handed over to someone else. This new person checks what my preferred arm is (I like to donate with my left arm), straps up my arm, looks for a vein, then puts in the needle.

I like to watch the needle go in. It always hurts less than I expect. One time, the nurse commented that I was brave for watching the needle insertion.

Then comes my favourite part — 15 minutes of enforced idleness. Sometimes I read a gossip magazine.

In my left hand, I have a squeezy toy (like a red foam football). Rolling the toy around in my hand or squeezing it gently makes the blood draw faster. The quickest I’ve ever done this bit is around ten minutes.

The machine beeps when it’s collected around 460 mL of blood. Someone comes around, bandages me up and encourages me to the kitchen. I’m meant to stay for a while, have some food and drink to recover. Usually, though, I’m in a hurry to get to work so I have some water, grab a snack (I’m still eating the snackbox of sultans I got at my last donation in June) and go.

The whole appointment takes around 45 minutes. It can take twice as long if you go in the middle of the day so I do recommend the early slots.

Sometimes, I ride the Melbourne Bike back to work. The donation staff said it should be okay to do that, I just shouldn’t operate any heavy machinery or public transport.

I arrive at work with a big bandage on my left arm and get lots of sympathy from my colleagues about my ‘injury’. Then I tell them that the bandage is for blood donation and they say, ‘Ah, I should do that too.’

Yes, indeed you should! Each donation helps three people. You also get guilt-free relaxation time and sugary fatty snacks. Good, eh?

Mega mango

I know it’s summer because I get to eat steaks of mango! Mango is one of my four favourite foods.

Here is a mega mango that my mum and dad gave us. I tried to take a photo to give you a sense of scale but the best I could do was to put the mango next to a glass pig, which was a gift from Ian and Caroline’s wedding last year.

A very large mango
A very large mango

Pig on mango
Pig on mango

Carving up mango steak
Carving up mango steak

Banana house

My mum gave me a yellow banana-shaped box. It says ‘banana house’ on it.

I’m doing my best to avoid owning things and cluttering up our new apartment, so I thought maybe this banana house was one of those ‘over the top’ items, invented to solve a problem no one has.

But I gave it a go and now I like it. It is a regular vistor to my workplace.

Banana house
Banana house
I have just started working at a client’s office. I brought the banana house on the first day and word got around that I had this strange thing. People asked me about my ‘banana box’ when we met at meetings.

Banana in case
Banana in case
It’s necessary to choose bananas of the correct curvature. Occasionally, too, bananas can be too thick to fit in the case. Sarah at work asked me if I bring my case to the market and test out bananas before putting them into my shopping basket.

Truncated banana
Truncated banana
One week, we bought very large bananas. None of them would fit into the case so I had to cut the top third of one them in order to get an unsquashed banana to work.

Girl renewed

Today, I restocked on the things that make me a girl. I met up with Bettina, who I studied with last year. We very efficiently traipsed down Oxford Street and Kilburn’s high street, and I emerged with two new pairs of shoes, two pairs of tights, foundation and matching brush, and hair conditioner.

I don’t often go shopping for non-food. It’s not that I don’t like it; there’s just some inertia to overcome.

Walk through my day

Yesterday was a fun day. I wrote some sub-sub-sections of my dissertation in the morning. In the afternoon, my college held its annual garden party, so I sat in the sunshine while eating and drinking with friends. I left the party to meet a classmate for coffee. We then walked to to a local architectural practice because the director had agreed to be interviewed for our research. After the interview, I walked home, changed, then went to Parker’s Piece for our weekly class football game. I left the game early to go to a meeting; I’m helping to organise the orientation camp for the next batch of 100 students on my scholarship. The meeting ran over time, so I was late for The Round Ceilidh at Emmanuel College. I danced English folk dances with a libraryful of people until 10:30 PM. Then I walked home.

Food for the weekend

Last Thursday night, I was sitting on the grass chatting with my friends until midnight. Spring had come and the night was warm.

Now, it’s pouring with rain. I’m bundled up in my goosedown puffer jacket (sometimes called a ‘duvet jacket‘ or ‘fashion travesty’).

The good thing about the rain is that it helps me stay inside to read dozens of journal articles (oh my god, there are so many).

Damjan came to Cambridge this weekend and we happily did not much. A friend came over to cook Turkish lamb pilau with us, with strawberries for dessert. We also watched Iron Chef, Giant Lobster Battle. Iron Chef is the best.

Turkish Lamb Pilau

  • 500 g lamb, chopped to mouthful size
  • Small handful of pine nuts
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 2-3 cups rice (the recipe book says 250 g rice but I just added enough until it looked all right)
  • 500 mL stock (I used chicken but lamb or vegetable is better, apparently)
  • Handful of minut, chopped
  • Some cinnamon (I shook the bottle three times. The recipe suggests two cinnamon sticks).
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Lightly fry pine nuts without oil. Remove from pan.
  2. Fry onion and cinnamon in oil until transparent.
  3. Add lamb. Fry until browned.
  4. Add rice. Fry for a minute. Add stock.
  5. Simmer with lid on for 15 minutes or until rice is soft. You might need to add more water.
  6. Mix in pine nuts and mint.

We served it with cherry tomatoes, grated cucumber in yogurt (‘tzatziki’), grated carrot in yogurt (‘carrot tzatziki’), and cloudy apple juice. We had stuffed olives too but I forgot to take them out of the fridge. More for me, then.

Social butterfly

I arrived back from Cornwall at 8 PM. Gina offered me a lift home and as soon as I got there, I changed into some nicer clothes and biked to the University Centre to go social dancing. It was my last chance for about three weeks. Never mind that I was exhausted!

The next day, I met up with Damjan in London. We saw the afternoon matinée of We Will Rock You. It was really good. I had no expectations going in and enjoyed it hugely. The female lead character (‘Scaramouche’) did the sarcastic funny thing really well. The male lead character (‘Galileo Figaro’) was suitably clueless.

You know, I didn’t realise how many Queen songs I knew.

I was riding home from the Cambridge train station, looking forward to finally getting a proper night’s sleep after a week of frantic socialising. As I was biking north, at the corner of my eye, I spotted Yap riding south along the footpath.

‘Hi Yap!’ I called

‘Joan! Do you know…’ Yap’s voice faded out as he zoomed by.

I squeezed the brake and stopped, pulling my bike onto the footpath. Yap and I met each other a few metres later.

‘Are you going to Arun’s thing?’ Yap asked.

‘What thing? I’ve just come back from London.’

‘Oh! It’s Arun’s birthday. I bought a cake,’ Yap said, gesturing to the bag in his bike basket. ‘They’ve been at a pub near here since about nine. Do you want to come?’

I didn’t think too long about it. ‘Okay.’

In my opinion, cake is a good enough reason for delaying sleep for a bit longer.

World’s biggest slide

A few weekends ago, I went with a group of friends to the Tate Modern in London. This is what I wrote in my organising email.

On Saturday, I am taking the train to London to see the Carsten Höller exhibition at the Tate Modern. It features the world’s biggest slide
— it’s six storeys tall, and you can slide down it to reach 30 mph.

It’s free, too.

Where does the ‘art’ come into it? The description asks, “How might a daily dose of sliding affect the way we perceive the world? Can slides become part of our experiential and architectural life?”

I’m really only going for the thrill factor, though. Thought I might like to leave Cambridge a bit past 9 AM.

We arrived at 11 AM and got tickets. We were scheduled to slide at 2:30 PM.

In the mean time, we saw some really interesting exhibitions on the top floor of the museum and grazed around Borough Market. Borough Market was good but I wouldn’t recommend anyone go at lunch time on a sunny Saturday, which also happened to be the 150th anniversary day of the market. We could barely move.

When we got to the slide, a couple people in our group said they were feeling sick in the stomach. I was unfazed. “You can’t fall out of it. What’s there to be scared of?”

So I put on my safety cap and kneepads, and climbed into the potato sack.

The first bend was much scarier than I expected. My heart jumped. I giggled madly all the way down. It wasn’t exactly comfortable; the slide was assembled in segments so it was bumpy. My head hurt afterward.

In the evening, we went to see the Blue Man Group at London’s West End. Being students, we paid £15 for the best seats in the house. That’s a 75% discount.

If only I didn’t have to study, I could have fun all the time instead of just most of the time.

My friends made me prove that I was tall enough to ride the big slide.

There were three slides, I think. Kids could only go on the slides that began on the second or third floors. The six of us asked for tickets to the tallest slide on the fifth floor.

People kept falling off the sides of the slide when they came down. I think they fell because they try to halt their sliding. I was too busy giggling to think about stopping so consequently, I flew in gracefully and was poured onto the landing mat.

The faces of Intel, The Blue Man Group. It was very, very random. It was funny and clever, too. Worth seeing, especially if you have a student card.

A Saturday morning

I woke up before my radio did. I must have an internal clock; it was exactly eight hours after I went to bed.

The morning was for loose ends: spoonfuls of muesli, unpacking luggage, laundry, a bit of karaoke, then organising to meet Kate for brunch tomorrow morning.

I changed out of my sleep clothes into public clothes. I finally have a pair of jeans I like. I matched it with a red and white stripy polo top with three-quarter length sleeves. To combat the grey outside, I pulled on a black polar fleece.

It was bright enough outside to justify sunglasses — they’re prescription lenses, hanging off mauve frames. The lenses are grey because I don’t like the colour bias from looking through brown or green lenses.

Briskly down the hill I went. I haven’t walked for a long time, at least a week. I used to walk to and from the train station. Walking suddenly felt too slow. I remembered jogging around the lake at Shepparton last week. So I jogged, despite not wearing running shoes and my carry bag bouncing against my side. It did feel faster.

I saw the fluffy whiteness about ten metres ahead and slowed down as I approached. There was a cat lying on the grass under a tree. It was lying on its side; I’ve never seen a cat do that without rolling over within a few seconds. Perhaps…it was dead.

I stepped off the footpath onto the greeness. The cat had long white hair with grey patches. It didn’t move as a I hovered over it. Around its neck was a pink collar. I imagined the cat owner searching our neighbourhood and finally coming across the body. Perhaps someone had run into it early in the morning and felt enough regret to get out of the car, pick the cat up and lay it under this tree. I’m sorry, there was nothing I could do.

I wished I had brought my camera. I would have used a shallow depth of field and maybe underexposed it by a stop or two.