The last few months of 2018 can only be described as a tumult. I lost my grandmother this past December. She was a feisty, strong-willed woman, with a quick laugh, and was actively present in my everyday life. When I first came back to Taiwan, before college, and afterwards to work, I would stay at her house, and we would spend hours together cooking, watching TV and chatting. I think the reason why my conversational Chinese improved so rapidly over the years was because I always had an enthusiastic grandmother to chat with. (My parents always found it a little amusing that she also picked up my speech patterns in her everyday speech, such as “uh-huh” and “ok,” “yeah” and “天啊” tian-ah~ a Mandarin version of, “oh my!”)
Until a year ago or so, she always used to say to me “I feel like a young person in an old person’s body.” She loved doing what she referred to as “young people’s activities,” such as going to Starbucks and playing Angry Birds and Fruit Slice on her iPad. As her only granddaughter, I was indulged and protected by her love, and this is something I will remember and carry with me for the rest of my life. I’m not sure how I will get used to not having her around, but I am trying my best.
I had originally planned a trip to Melbourne for this winter, and I almost didn’t go. But my mom and dear friend Peter convinced me that a change of scene would do me good. Aside from a few wobbly moments during the trip~ one was while shopping and realizing I didn’t have to bring back a present back for my grandmother, and one was after arriving back in Taipei, when I absentmindedly dialed her number while waiting for my luggage at baggage claim, for the most part, I really enjoyed the trip; it really helped to be in a completely different environment, frame of mind and pace of life.
The last time I was in Melbourne was 10 years ago, and the city has changed so much since then. This post will highlight 10 of my favorite moments from the trip, in no particular order, just as they pop into my head. In addition, I will write a “Hello Melbourne!” series, which will be more organized, and similar to my other travel posts (Hello Tokyo! , Hello Seoul! and Hello Hong Kong!)
The top 10 moments of this trip were:
1. Visiting my old uni. I went to graduate school here ~ but I was so busy at the time, I never really appreciated how beautiful (some parts) of the campus is.
2. I also remembered how much I like Australian grocery stores. I grocery shopped every afternoon, whether I needed to or not. Summer stone fruit season was in full swing, and all of it was delicious. I also picked up some new ingredients for baking projects.
3. Baking projects included blueberry friands. (Note, this is Peter’s brand-new, sparkling oven that has been used maybe twice before my arrival… I quickly made up for this travesty by using it at least once a day for the two weeks I was staying there).
4. During the second night I was here, I heard this scampering on the roof while we were sitting in the living room watching TV and talking… and it turns out it was a *possum.* Both my friends thought it was cute, but honestly, I got the shivers. I kept imagining those nimble little fingers reaching into my bedroom window at night. (Needless to say, I kept my bedroom window firmly shut for the entire two weeks.)
5. Fear of possums aside, I slept really, really well during the trip. I think it was because it was so quiet (in Taiwan, I fall asleep and wake up the the sounds of traffic. In Melbourne, I wake up to birds chirping and horses clip-clopping down the street). I woke up early every morning after a sound night’s sleep to a quiet house, and read and ate breakfast before starting my day.
6. I always made it my mission to get at least one coffee out while I was here, because Melbourne is the coffee capital of the world. Outstanding coffee can be found in almost every corner of the city. One of the best flat whites I had was from Brother Baba Budan.
7. A few days before my arrival, I got a message:
Peter: Have you been to the 1000 steps?
Peter: I’m starting to suspect you never really lived in Melbourne.
Me: I don’t really do nature (feeling slightly indignant and stalling for time)
Peter: Bring your running shoes. (not having it)
One Sunday, we went hiking. Which I haven’t done in about 10-15 years? See this sign? A group of girls were really clever. They put on their best athleisure wear and shiniest running shoes, and took a photo in front of it. Then, they Instagrammed, and then pranced merrily back over to the parking lot and drove back to the city. I looked after them longingly as I was led up the mountain (with some effective reverse psychology tactics). I’m happy to report that I lived through the hike, and that I actually enjoyed it. So much that I might look into hiking as a regular weekend activity. Wait for me, Elephant Mountain!
8. The best part about being on holiday, aside from everything, is that I don’t have to carry around a huge tote filled to the brim with work papers. For most of the trip, I carried this small bag… and this is basically all that fits in it, and it was enough.
9. I also got to see an actual Rothko, at the National Gallery of Victoria. I had one of these posters hanging up in basically every dorm room throughout my school career, so it was thrilling to see it up and close in real life.
10. Lastly, this sign flashed in front of me during the last day of my visit…and I think it just sums up my entire trip. Melbourne has changed so much in the last 10 years. And so have I.
Today is my first official day back at work, after the Chinese New Year’s holidays. Good luck to everyone who is going back to work this week too! Wishing you all good fortune, health and prosperity for the Year of the Dog. Please check back in the next few weeks for more posts about my trip. Enjoy!