And I Can Cook, Too

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

March 1, 2007

I have a pain in my oviaries...

I was on my second Australian bike ride down the beach path when suddenly I rode through a flock of …

Pigeons? No! A flock of…

Seagulls? No! A flock of…

Parrots? Yes! I looked them up online, and it turns out there was a Australian Cockatoo down there!

(I honor Kim’s only joke)
Adephargus = Great Eater
Agrimony = Precepts for Field Culture
Archmagrist = Chief Cook
Buphagus = Beef Eater
Gastronomy = Precepts for Eating
Gastrophilism = The Love of Eating
Gastrophilist = One Who Loves Eating
Gastrology = Science of Eating
Gastropolitechnical = Various Arts for Gratification of the Belly

Pick one, come up with a better definition, and win a nifty prize.
Wednesday, February 28, 2007

I’m Just Walking My Dog…

After spending most of the day once again dealing with that tiny little issue of my student visa, I came home to take care of my house and pets. I watered the yard and the houseplants, and it was time to deal with the dogs. Buster and Patsy are two old Kelpies, and Patsy’s arthritis means that they sometimes appreciate separate walks. Pasty and I had a lovely journey to a nearby park, and by the time we got back, Buster was ready to go. I leashed him up, opened the gate, and we RAN to the beach as fast as my little legs could go! Upon our arrival at the beach, Buster waited patiently while I took off my shoes, sat so I could take off his leash, then bounded across the sand toward the water. Suddenly, he remembered something, and the next thing I knew there was a dog nose in my pocket. There was also a ball in my pocket. Buster and I spent the better part of an hour playing catch (Buster refused to live up to his end of the deal a couple of times which resulted in me having to wade into the crystal clear warm blue water to retrieve the ball but we talked about it and he won’t do it again), rolling in the sand, and chasing seagulls.

I could get used to that.
Tuesday, February 27, 2007

You Learn Something New Every Day

Today was the first day of lecture, and the official start of my Le Cordon Bleu Master’s of Gastronomy.

Brillat-Savarin said “Animals feed; man eats; only the intelligent man knows how to eat.”
Auguste Escoffier said “I have ‘sown’ two thousand chefs all around the world…Think of them as so many seeds planted in virgin soil. France is today reaping the fruits.”
Gault and Millau said “Gastronomy was invented by pedants who dreamed of being taken seriously.”

Discuss amongst yourselves.

I did something today that I have not done in over 25 years. I rode a bicycle. Carol offered me the use of her bike to take on the exercise path on the beach, and although I stopped riding bikes back when I had such terrible growing pains some days it was hard to walk, I decided that Australia Kristin might just enjoy a ride. I loved it! I biked all the way down to the million dollar houses and back again – I rode for over an hour, and had the time of my life! Who knew? I was so proud of me that I celebrated by rubbing Australian blue pumpkin with olive oil, sage, thyme, salt and pepper, sprinkling it with a little brown sugar, baking it till golden, stuffing it with blue cheese, havarti, and homemade bread crumbs, plopping it back in the oven until the cheese was melted and bubbly, and eating it for dinner. It was a gastronomic delight, and I am totally serious when I say that.
Monday, February 26, 2007

I’d Like To Thank the Academy

Carol and Louise left around noon, and that left me with the rest of the day to putter around the house, get to know the dogs, continue to focus on that little issue of needing a student visa, and zip over to campus and back before the start of the Academy Awards. The Oscars are like my church, something to be greatly celebrated, and I’d deliberately avoided all news sources all day, determined that the winners would surprise me. Except for Helen Mirren, Forest Whitaker, Jennifer Hudson, Eddie Murphy, Martin Scorsese, and An Inconvenient Truth. But everything else was going to surprise me.

The house to myself, I made a dish of chicken tikka masala, poured a glass of wine, and sat down to watch the ceremony. Now, I’ve experienced a lot of different emotions watching the Oscars. I’ve been nervous, I’ve been excited, I’ve been thrilled, and I’ve been angry. But never, ever before have I spent the entire Oscar ceremony crying. That surprised me.

Oh, and Alan Arkin. That surprised me too.
Sunday, February 25, 2007

Movin’ Out

My bags were packed by 8am. Unfortunately Carol wasn’t due to pick me up until two. I wasted some time by wandering down to the cities Festival Center, which today was featuring a small art show. I hesitated over two paintings of coffee pots that would have looked phenomenal in my kitchen, then quickly decided that the best way to save water was to amuse myself with the purchase of an “all day breckie roll.” I’d never had an all day breckie roll before, and was understandably curious. Turns out, an all day breckie roll is a sub roll loaded with an entire rasher of back bacon, a sprinkling of cheese, and topped with one fried egg. Available to top my all day breckie roll was an assortment of sauces ranging from American mustard to Thai chili sauce. I opted to take it straight. By the time I finished my all day breckie roll (I didn’t really finish my all day breckie roll, I don’t think anyone can eat that much back bacon), it was close to one o’clock and time to return to the horrible hostel to meet Carol. I said goodbye to the girls behind the bar, assured them that I’d stop in some time for a drink (I lied), and with the most sincere smile I’d managed all week hoped into Carols car for home. We were going to spend the afternoon doing some last minute errands (for them), going over directions to the train station, beach, and nearest town (for me), walk the dogs (for the dogs), and enjoy a meal (for everyone). After I unloaded my bags into the wonderful breezy back bedroom, the door of which opens directly onto the lanai, Carol, Louise, and I hopped back into the car for a quick trip to the nearest grocery store. Carol encouraged me to stock up on heavy items while I had a car to get them home. Once inside, we split up to do our shopping, and a few moments later a finished Carol and Louise were curiously eyeballing my cart of four cans of tuna, an Australian blue pumpkin, and eight liters of diet tonic water. After I assured them that from the experienced chef’s eye there really was a through line, they decided that it made perfect sense to soak your pumpkin water in diet tonic water for three days before cooking, and announced that they would wait for me at the coffee shop next door. We took the scenic view home, and ended up driving along miles of the pristine coastline that is the Gulf of Adelaide. Not just good for soaking up the sun, the beach was dotted with snack shops and featured an exercise path. We drove to the end of the path and cased the million dollar homes clustered around a small shopping area. We determined that we could get one of these homes if 10 or 12 of us went into it together. I commented on what a great idea it was to go into real estate with someone you’d met just a few days earlier, and someone, either Carol or Louise but not me, commented that it felt like we’d known each other forever. I felt the same way.

That night, we went out to dinner at an ocean front restaurant just a few miles down the road. Louise ordered a bottle of S.A. Chardonnay, and it was delicious – absolutely nothing like those awful oaky American Chardonnays that I would not touch with a ten-foot pole! This was light, crisp, clean on the tongue, and contained absolutely no fake oak flavoring. I ordered the regional delicacy, King George Whiting. The fish was wonderful, delicate but firm, with a distinct yet subtle flavor. Yummy. Repeating our first night together, Carol, Louise, and I did not shut up the entire evening. We gabbed about different places we’d traveled and lived, finding fun and joy in your work, and the miracle of meeting people who are ready to be in the same place in life as you are. As we drove back to their house, it occurred to me that I didn’t really want them to leave. When we started making plans to get together upon their return, I comforted myself with the knowledge that I’d made friends.

That night, as I fell asleep in the beautiful crisp air of the back bedroom, I thought about how lucky I was. And I kept it dry.
Friday, February 23, 2007

Turn the Radio On

I spent most of my day on campus trying to resolve little issues like student loan documentation, which I had not yet received and without which I would not be issued my student insurance card, and the even little-er issue of my student visa, which I was still without. We’d been told in a post-graduate information session that as fabulous Le Cordon Bleu students we were allowed to join the faculty/staff Adelaide Club, which featured hot meals, a full bar, a wine shop, a lounging room, and most importantly, a complete lack of 18-22 year olds. As usual, I misunderstood the instructions, and mistakenly called the president of the post-grad student union, thinking she had the forms to sign up. A brief conversation cleared up my mistake, and soon I was standing in the Adelaide Club, filling out my application. While I was there, my phone rang. It was the president of the PGSU, asking if I’d actually told her that I was studying gastronomy. I confirmed, and she informed me that she had a show on the University’s radio station, and would I like to come on over and test to do 6 10-minute blurbs about my opinion on all things culinary? Of course I would! I went, we chatted, we recorded for five minutes, and my first two blurbs are due Friday. Let’ s see…newspaper, radio…that just leaves television, right?

Only two more days in the horrible hostel.
Thursday, February 22, 2007

Marketing is Everything

I met my class met at the Central Market for an official market tour led my Mark Gleeson, owner of Providore Sweet Shop, cheese and olive oil connoisseur, and overall cool food dude. Curiously enough, he started the tour by having us take a seat. We were going to taste olive oil. He talked about the Australian olive oil industry, which dates back to the 1800’s and is now in danger of collapse if Australians don’t start buying local oil. He explained that although olives used to go through a series of presses, starting with cold, pure fruit (EVOO), and ending with a chemical bath (SWILL), top quality Australian olives now only go through one pressing, and the oil is measured for free fatty acid content. Only the oil that has less than 1% qualifies as EVOO. The amount of free fatty acids explains the clean taste of the oil, and the superb mouthfeel. Mark then passed around little plastic cups and a bottle of Magpie Gully Olive Oil. We each poured a teaspoon into our cups and waited for tasting instructions. They were, not unsurprisingly, quite similar to those for a wine tasting. Palming our hands over the tops of our cups, we swirled the oil around, both to aerate it and to warm it up, which brings opens it’s nose. We then took a small sip, swirled the oil around in our mouths. From there we departed from wine tasting. Rather than spit the oil out, we sucked it through our teeth to the back of our throats, making an extraordinary “schschschschshsch” sound as we did so. As the oil drained to our stomachs Mark asked us to identify what we were tasting. The oil had overall flavors of grass, citrus, and apple, and as I “schschsch’d”, I experienced the predictable sweetness under the tongue, bitterness on the sides of my mouth, and a strong pepper down the back of my throat. These three sensations were distinct and unmistakable. Next, Mark passed around a bottle of Waterloo Corner SA EVOO. We repeated the tasting steps. This oil also tasting like grass, but this grass was freshly mowed. Rather than a lemon citrus, I got scents of tangerine and grapes. As we “schschsch’d”, I realized that this oil did not have three distinct tastes going down. Instead, there was a smooth, almost undetectable progression of the tastes from the tip of my tongue to the back of my throat. We’d tasted perfection, and it was green and oily. To prepare us for the tour part of our tour, Mark presented us the sliced baguette and tomatoes, which he topped with the Waterloo Corner and a sprinkling of Australian Pink Sea Salt. He passed the plate around and we each took a bite. I am proud of myself for not falling off my chair.

The tour continued to The Water Shop, O’Connell’s Butcher where they only serve happy meat (and some of my classmates were mortified by the sight of pig’s faces but I digress), Café Zedz, the fabulously named Smelly Cheese Shop, and Wilson’s Organics, where a newspaper reporter and a cameraman suddenly joined us. They wanted to photograph some of the new Le Cordon Bleu students enjoying their tour. Who would the school like them to use? Soon Bonnie and I were pretending to pretend to eat baby yellow plums so sweet and succulent that neither of us could only pretend to eat them. A few moments later, I was on my own, beaming at plates of yellow and red plums while the camera snapped away. My career as a superstar has officially begun.

That night, a group of us got together to socialize for the first time all week. Over pizza margarita, parmesan crusted shiitake mushrooms, and several bottles of wine, we finally to know a little bit about each other. Some of are already food historians, some of us have been chefs, and some of us have no culinary experience at all. We’re all worried about the workload and not sure what we’re going to do when we graduate.

The restaurant was two blocks from the horrible hostel, and as we left I announced my intention to walk myself home. Two classmates immediately tried to convince me to walk the half-mile back to campus first, insisting that was the most direct route. While we argued geography, two others wandered off in the exact opposite direction of their lodging, giggling away about food, men, and how the hell were they going to drive home. Suddenly, this felt a lot like home.

Lying in bed in the horrible hostel thinking about home, I kept the taps tightly shut.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Two Fat Ladies Step Aside

I’d arranged for a house-sitting job to begin the week after my arrival in Adelaide. Although we’d exchanged numerous emails, I’d not yet met the homeowners. At 4:30, Carol picked me up from the horrible hostel and I was off to see my home for the coming 11 weeks. Along the way Carol informed me that she was a journalist, and prone to asking the serious questions. She also told me she’d read my blog, and I had to concede the point that serious questions were probably warranted. By the time we arrived at the house, she knew about my marriage, my childhood, my adolescence, why I hadn’t finished college the first time around, how moving to Australia, not to mention the house-sit, felt like fate, my lofty dreams for the future, and that I was secretly afraid of dying in the gutter. Good thing her partner, Louise, is a wine buff.

After informing me that she and Carol wanted to start a cooking show called “The Two Thin Lesbians” Louise poured me a glass of Adelaide Hills Sauvignon Blanc, and we toured the house, went over the list of instructions and all the technicalities of house-sitting, and signed documents on the dotted line. It was time for dinner. Louise had made chicken curry over pasta, Carol threw together a green salad, Louise opened a bottle of a South Australian red, and I sat down for my first dinner as someone other than Mrs. Walter, Walters wife, Walter and Kristin, or Kristin-getting-a-divorce.

I had an incredible time. We chatted about everything from relationships to moving to careers opportunities to slowing down and letting go, and engaged in a wonderful debate about the phrase “authentic hospitality” and whether or not such a thing really exists. I could have stayed forever.

My housesit, however, did not start till Sunday. As Louise drove me back to the horrible hostel, we made plans for her to pick me up again, spend part of the afternoon on the beach, have dinner, and transition their house from theirs to “mine”.

As I fell asleep at the hostel, the drought was the furthest thing from my mind.
Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Oh Thank God (as you may or may not believe him or her to exist)

I arrived in room 141 of the Napier building and not only was it not deserted, it held Barbara, that guy from his office, other students, and people wearing bleu jackets with patches! We were welcomed, we were introduced. We were told how elite we are. We were handed a 1000 page study guide for the first six-week course. We were asked if we’d purchased the three required texts for the course and strongly encourage to do the additional recommended reading. We were regaled with the merits of the program and informed of the emotional journey we were about to take. “This will be the time of your life!” the Le Cordon Bleu rep informed us, “You will learn, you will laugh, you will cry.” (“Ha.” I thought. “That’s what you think. I’m conserving water.”)

After the welcome meeting we proceeded through registration, got our I.D.’s, took a campus and library tour, met our research librarian (Margaret who I already love by the way) and were treated to a fabulous buffet lunch prepared by last years incoming students, complete with wonderful South Australian pink wine. Watching my wine intake carefully (Barbara was there and I didn’t want her to get the right idea on the very first day) I milked that buffet until the bitter end, staying late to help with clean up and chat with all the other students about their dissertation topics. By the time all was said and done, it was 4pm, and I only had six hours to kill until bedtime. I went to the bookstore and bought the obvious, then went off to the library where I could read and check my email until 6pm closing. Four hours to go.

I’d previously avoided the horrible hostel’s kitchen because every time I went in there it was full of 18 year olds, but tonight I picked up some food to reheat and eat on the upstairs lanai, where there might just be a breeze. The lanai had a couple of tables and chairs and two large sofas. I sat at an empty table and proceeded to eat my dinner and read one of my texts when I noticed the person on one of the sofas. The person, and it’s hard to say which flavor, was at least 15 years older than me, which put him/her and at least 35 years older than the rest of the people in the horrible hostel. S/he was chain-smoking, and drinking hot pink what I can only guess was cool aid from a plastic gallon jug. Every time the jug ran out, the person went and got more. There were at least three gallons of hot pink cool aid consumed during my sitting. Then the person decided to lie down, and in so doing rested their feet on the armrest of the sofa. The person had the most horrific toenails I had seen in my entire life. Long, curling, yellow, and coated with dirt. I have a fairly hearty stomach. And a reasonably open mind. What I do not have is a tolerance for that kind of toe hygiene. I retreated to my room.

Adelaide is a desert. Do not waste a drop.
February 19, 2007


After two days simply trying to escape the heat, I was thrilled to finally have my first day of orientation. First of all, I was ecstatic to be getting started with my program. In second place by only a hair, I could not wait to spend a day in air conditioning. It was to be the third day in a row of temperatures above 105, and I’m fairly sure I’d lost at least ten pounds of water weight since my arrival.
Certain that orientation would not start before 8am, I decided to arrive on campus at quarter till, allowing me plenty of time to get to where I needed to go. I proceeded to the third floor of the Napier building, and it was still deserted. Not only that, but for reasons unknown the university had seen fit to remove all name placards and room numbers from the doors of the entire third floor. No problem, I came early on purpose, I’ll just sit on this chair here and read my book! And read and read and read. And read. At nine o’clock I sighed. Maybe I am in the wrong place. I resignedly decided to give it until 9:30 before giving up hope.

At 9:20 a man walked down the hall and into an office. Success! I knocked on his door and asked if he knew where I could find Barbara. He informed me that she probably wasn’t coming in today. I explained that I was starting the program this week, and couldn’t find any information about orientation. He explained that orientation started tomorrow. I explained that according to the website orientation started today. He explained that online student orientation started today, and on campus orientation started tomorrow. I explained that according to the website on campus orientation started today. He explained that everyone had been mailed a detailed orientation schedule and that I should read it to that I would know what was happening this week. I explained that I had not received said schedule and did he please have a copy of it that I could look at. He explained that he hadn’t actually seen the schedule because only Barbara has them.

We were at a crossroads. I was loathe to leave the building with at least a hint of where and when I was to report. He really just didn’t want me in his office anymore.

Just then, an older, gray-haired woman walked down the hall. He was saved! The woman was Barbara, and I was now officially her problem. A few moments later I left campus with the orientation schedule in my hand. It was 9:45 am, and 103 degrees. The library was closed, the museums were closed, the market was closed, and I’d already wasted $20 at the Adelaide Central Rail Station (and Casino). Then I had an idea – I raced back to the horrible hostel and looked up the nearest movie theatre. There it was right on Rundle Mall, with movies started at 11 am! Back to Rundle Mall I ran, straight to the address listed in the paper… and it wasn’t there. There wasn’t a movie theatre in sight. I asked around, and the general consensus was that there wasn’t a movie theatre around for miles. Dejected, I prepared myself for another round of Rundle Mall window-shopping. In and out of shops I went, until thoughts like “I’d love to take that with me when I go ho…” and “When Walter comes to vi” were screaming so loudly in my head I was fairly certain everyone could here them. I made a beeline for the horrible hostel and was almost there when I noticed an “open” sign where a “closed” one had been the previous two days.

It was the Bull and Elephant pub, and they had Pirates of the Caribbean pinball machine! I played pinball for hours, much to the amusement of the bartender, who assured me that I could stay as long as I wanted. I stayed until dinnertime, when I finally abandoned my game (I made it to the top three high score but I didn’t leave my initials because I don’t want to brag), and ordered a cheeseburger. A cheeseburger without the fried egg and beetroot that was advertised on the menu. Over my dinner, the bartender informed me that no-once could find that movie theatre. For one thing, it’s not really on Rundle Mall. For another, it’s cleverly disguised as a Hungry Jack. He continued to chat with me about living in Adelaide while I stretched my burger and cider until it was a reasonable bedtime. It might have been the best cheeseburger I’ve had in my entire life.

Covservation is key.
Sunday, Feb. 18, 2007


I awoke to another day that promised to be in the low 40’s. In Hawaii, that’s 110 in the shade. Not quite eager to spend another afternoon marching through Rundle Mall, I decided to visit Adelaide’s world famous farmers market, the Central Market. I carefully consulted the map, and promptly marched off without it. And found the market with no trouble what so ever. Haha Kim! And found that the market is closed on Sundays. Where the hell did I put my Lonely Planet? It was back to the hostel to put another dollar into their network and devise another plan. A few moments later I was ready to go. A quick search of the University’s website proved that the orientation schedule was nowhere to be found. No problem! I would walk to the Adelaide University Campus, locate the building for Monday’s orientation, and spend the rest of the afternoon in one of the several museums that border the campus. I quickly consulted my map, and once again strode off without it. Haha again, Kim!

This time not even the Lonely Planet could help me.

I found the university all right, and even found the blown-up plexiglassed map detailing the campus. What I did not find was anything that said Gastronomy. Or Le Cordon Bleu. Or culinary or food or nutrition or hospitality or Kristin, the building is here! Hmm, I wondered. I wonder if it’s in the Humanities building…that would make some sense…I found the Humanities building unlocked and inspected the directory. Humanities…ecomonics...linquistics…No gastronomy or le cordon bleu or culinary and let’s just skip to kristinthebuildingishere.

Hmm, I wondered. Maybe if I just wander around the campus, I’ll find someone who looks like they know something about this program…someone in a toque or a bleu blazer with a nice patch or something…

I found the security office and although the woman inside was, in fact, wearing blue, it was the blue of the rent-a-cop, not the bleu of Le Cordon. Fortunately for me, she was the friendliest rent-a-cop in town. “Excuse me,” I said, “Do you know which building the Le Cordon Bleu Gastronomy Department is in?” “Well, isn’t it in the medical building” she replied, fortunately not looking at me like I was an idiot. After explaining the nature of the degree, she looked confused. “Well” she said, rather sweetly I might add, “I’ve never heard of anything like that here, and I’ve been here a long time” Just then another security officer walked into the building. “Hey” she said, “Have you ever heard of – what is it”? “Le Cordon Bleu Master’s of Gastronomy program” I said, “Maybe it’s in the humanities building?” The second guard shook his head. “Never heard it,” he said. “I was just over in that building, they’re doing some repairs in there.” The first security guard thought for a moment. “I think you might be at the wrong university. This is Adelaide University, are you sure this is where you’re supposed to be?”

I pondered this concept for a moment. I just got divorced, packed up my life, left my house and all my friends, moved to Australia where I’ve never been before in my life and don’t know a single sole, am living in the most depressing lodging I’ve ever experienced in my entire life, and this woman is suggested that I’m in the wrong place? FUCK! I RESEARCHED this! KIM researched this! I’m even fairly certain that WALTER researched this! I have letters, and emails, and …more letters! I CAN’T be in the wrong place!

“I’m pretty sure it’s here,” I said calmly, thinking that dying in the gutter had actually been put back on my table of life options. “I could tell you where to look it up online, if that would help.”

The security guard broke the sacred oaths of guards across the globe and allowed me to go not just behind her desk but also on her computer. Moments later, there is was, the Le Cordon Bleu Master’s of Gastronomy Program at Adelaide University website.

“Well shit there it is” she proclaimed, “Never heard of it in my whole life.” She took a few moments to search the page, and at last agreed with me that there was no information about orientation or location to be found. She called the contact listed on the page, but it being Sunday only got a machine. “I have no idea where to tell you to go tomorrow.” She murmured, then suddenly perked up. “I know!” she said, “I’ll google the contact name and see if anything pops up!” A few more moments later and she had it – in 2003, the program head, Barbara, had attended the christening of the Le Cordon Bleu’s Master’s of Gastronomy Program’s new facilities on the third floor of the Napier Building, otherwise know as the Humanities Department.

With profuse thanks I left the security office. I’d already been to that building, and knew it was deserted, but I felt fairly certain that if I arrived bright and early in the morning I’d find someone to point me in the general direction of orientation.

The good news: I was in the right place. The bad news: it took so long to find that out that all the museums had already closed.

I ate a cheap dinner at Adelaide’s Central Rail Station (and Casino), and returned home to the horrible hostel to go to bed.

It was still 113 degrees, and I was still conserving.

Monday, February 26, 2007

February 17, 2007

Hostel, Sweet Hostel

I woke up not quite sure where I was or what I was doing there. Fortunately I was alone and fully dressed. I rolled over, opened my eyes, saw a cold, limp bowl of country fries with chili sauce and sour cream on the nightstand and it suddenly all came flowing back. I was at the airport hotel in Adelaide, Australia. Must have been one wild night. Then I remembered a bit more: I’d moved here of my own volition. Further, I had a hostel reservation with my name on it, and despite my initial misgivings about hostels in general, I figured anywhere had to be better than the airport hotel. I quickly showered, dressed, called the hostel, called a cab, and was out the door.

I arrived at Raglans Backpacker Hostel, walked into the smoke-filled pub/reception area, and was led to a room containing two bunk beds, a trash can, a small sink, and not very much remaining floor space. I asked the Carol Ann, the check in girl, about the air conditioning the hostel claimed to have. “Oh” she said, “It’s all downstairs. But I might be able to find you a fan or something for out here.” I certainly hoped so; my cab driver had told me that it was over 43 degrees. I’d done the math (ok I’d asked the cabdriver if he knew what that meant in Fahrenheit and he’d told me about 113), and that room was a room you couldn’t breathe in. It was also a room you couldn’t sit in. I tried to sit on the bottom bunk, only to find that the top bunk was so low that I had to hunch to my shoulders to fit. I would have sat on the floor, but once I put my luggage down, there was no more room. Sighing, I went down to the air-conditioned pub, where it was a breezy 90 degrees. But hey, there was internet service available at $1 for 20-minutes, so who was I to complain? I checked my email (I had none), and then wondered what to do. I consulted Carol Ann, and she suggested that I find someplace truly air-conditioned. She recommended the Rundle Mall, just blocks away, and filled with air-conditioned shops. Out the door I marched. I marched for hours and hours and hours. In and out of over-priced, frou-frou shops from which I would buy nothing. On and on I marched and marched. My thoughts of stopping in a pub to milk a nice cool drink were squashed when I discovered 1) there are no pubs in Rundle Mall and, 2) beverages in Adelaide are somewhat costly. Unwilling to pay $3.75 for a bottle of water that could keep me cool while I continued my window shopping march, I finally relented to the only restaurant I could find. I ate a rather forgettable meal. So forgettable, in fact, that I’ve forgotten it. I paid far too much for a bottle of cider and even more for a bottle of water. The restaurant was air conditioned, however, so I ate and drank veeery slowly. Finally it was close to a reasonable time for me to go to bed so I went back to the hostel. I spent another dollar surfing the web in the now downright arctic 85 degrees of the air-conditioned pub, then finally gave up and went to my room. I turned the trash can upside and propped the fan on top. At least that way the air was blowing at head level. I lay down, and tried to sleep. I didn’t cry. It was 113 degrees and I was trying to conserve water.
February 15, 16, what I thought was the 17th, 2007

I Come To The Land Down Under

I spent my last night in Hawaii mostly intoxicated yet with my eyes wide open, so as you can no doubt imagine I was the vision of loveliness when Kim arrived at my front door at 5am. To my credit, I was also awake, dressed, packed, and ready to go. Walter, who had come over the night before to say goodbye, loaded my bags, gave me a hug, and whispered a final “I love you” before I climbed into the jeep and sped off for the airport. I fought off the tears as we drove over the Koolau Mountain Range that had been the view from my living room window for the past six years. We arrived at the airport, and Kim, good friend that she is, recognized that simply dropping me off was out of the question. I just might not get on the plane. Or I might just get on the wrong plane and go home to my mother after all. Hell, leave me alone in that airport and anything could happen. Kim thought it best to at least be sure that I was in the right terminal. At the ticket counter we asked about the possibility of an upgrade, and with what would have been delight had I been able to muster any, found that I could fly first class for a mere additional $150. Needless to say, I took the offer. We proceeded to security, where we made the unfortunate discovery that I am not, in fact, a minor child in need of an escort, and Kim would not be allowed to walk me to the gate. Hey, it didn’t hurt to try. Another hug and another final “I love you”, and for the first time in over nine years I was on my own.

About ½ hour prior to boarding, I decided it was time to take Sarah’s parting gift: an anti-anxiety drug designed to take the edge off of everything from getting a divorce to selling your house to last minute and somewhat inappropriate declarations of love to moving to a country you’ve never been to before. Without the right visa. I boarded the plane and immediately asked for a mimosa. With my drink I was handed a little flight bag with a blanket, sleep mask, socks, and of course the requisite headset. I arranged my travel pillow and blanket, sipped my cocktail, and prepared for take off. As we climbed to 30,000 feet, I sipped a second cocktail and thought about all that my ex-husband and I had said the night before. I wasn’t having a change of heart, exactly, but I couldn’t help but wonder if things would have turned out differently if we’d had that talk years ago. Why, for example, had I never known that he thought I was good in “The Weir”? And when was the last time I’d heard “you’re beautiful”? Why hadn’t I known all along that he’d always believed I would amount to something? Most importantly, where the hell had Sarah gotten these amazing anti-anx

I woke up in Sidney.

My first thought upon disembarking at the Sydney airport was that it looks absolutely nothing like the Hawaii State Convention Center. My second thought was that I had to collect my luggage and change airlines. I paused briefly, and remembered that the last time I’d changed airlines mid-travel my luggage had been lost for almost a week. I was determined not to let that happen again. I proceeded to baggage claim and along with the rest of the crowd waited the arrival of my bags. First came the bright red Nike duffle, no mistaking that one. Shortly thereafter I spied my tremendously large Ross Dress for Less green jumbo suitcase with the sticker across the front that read “Heavy! Use Your Knees!” that the ticket agent had slapped on in Honolulu. I collected the monster bag and checked in for my next flight, which was blessedly uneventful, and two hours later I arrived in Adelaide. I picked up my bag and turned for the door. It was at this time I discovered my first blunder: My cleverly identified overly heavy Ross Dress for Less had a lock on it. A lock that wasn’t mine. Hmmm, I wondered. What were the odds that some nice baggage handler had developed concern for my clothings welfare and attached a lock to my bag that I would magically know the combination to? I thought it over and decided that the odds were not very good. Just to be sure, however, I opened the bag’s outside pocket and removed the contents: a honu coloring book. Hmm, I wondered. What were the odds that Kim had snuck a honu coloring book into my bag as a little way of reminding me of home? I thought it over and decided that the odds were not very good. Sadly, I made my way to lost luggage, handed over the bag I had stolen, and gave contact information for my now lost luggage.

I located the nearest payphone to call the hostel that I’d reserved to confirm their address. It was at this time I discovered my second blunder. Adelaide is one day ahead of Hawaii, and so although I’d left Hawaii on Feb. 15th, in Adelaide I’d left Hawaii on Feb. 16th. Because it was a 12-hour flight that landed the next day, I’d wrongly assumed that I would arrive in Adelaide on the 17th. Whoops, that timing goes the other way! I’d arrived on the 16th, and the hostel was full. “No problem!” I thought, spying the customer service desk, “There’s got to be a hotel around here somewhere.” I approached the girl behind the desk and explained my dilemma. “I’m so sorry” she said, grimacing, “we’re quite full this week. The only place we’ve got a room is at the Airport Hotel.” After being assured that the Airport Hotel had a restaurant, which at that moment was my only concern, she made the booking and within minutes the shuttled had delivered me to the hotel door. And what a hotel it was. My feet stuck to the spongy floor, the lobby was dark with cigarette smoke, and the other guests looked like they were paying by the hour. But hey, what did I care about any of that when there was in fact a restaurant right across from reception. “What time does the restaurant close” I inquired, thinking a quick shower might be nice. “Oh, you can’t get anything now” the woman behind the desk replied. “Not anything at all?” I said, in my most pitiful “please feed me or I am going to die” voice. “Well, maybe just some wedges” she said, “but you’ll have to have room delivery, and that’s three dollars more.” “What are wedges?” I asked, not really caring but just wanting to know what I was in for. “Well they’re $6.50, but you’ll have to have them to the room for $3 more, so that’ll be $9.50 plus tax.” “No, what ARE wedges?” I asked again, wishing to death I’d called the Hilton. “Well” she said, clearly perplexed and not too far from irritated, “they’re WEDGES. You know, thick chips!”

Meekly I signed my registration form, ordered and paid for my wedges, and made the way to my rent by the hour room. Moments later my wedges arrived. I managed to stay awake long enough to shove $3.75 worth down before I was once again fast asleep.