My Friend Rasheed

I once had a friend. We were close without knowing anything about each other except for the other’s name and from where we had both come. Our bond, one that was strong and built on mutual respect, was all that we had. Our ability to communicate was minimal if it existed at all. My friend’s name was Rasheed.

Rasheed and I met on a street corner several years ago in the Basque town of Donostia. In the summer, this sleepy town erupts with life as foreign tourists flood to the beaches and pintxo bars, but here, on this corner in the middle of February, the sun is still a few hours from rising and the snow has been falling all night. For the whole long and seemingly endless night.

As I stood, gloved hands in pockets, waiting for no one in particular, I noticed a shadow of a man rummaging through the bins in the park across from the corner on which I stood. As I crossed the empty street, the man stopped what he was doing and retreated backwards to somewhere between the light and the dark. This, I later learnt, was where Rasheed was most comfortable.

Scrounging together a grammatically putrid introduction, I softly told the man hiding in the shadows my name and asked for his in return. Waiting in silence, I was disappointed with myself that my paltry efforts to learn the local language had, again, let me down. Half way through making my mental note to attend my scheduled conversation class for the next day, the man in the shadow replied in a raspy voice, one that sounded as if it was starved of every basic need that a human being deserves. “Mucho gusto, mi nombre es Rasheed”.

Gingerly, I hoaxed the man from his comfortable shadow and offered him a pack of biscuits that I had in the pocket of my winter jacket. Unsure of my sincerity, he initially refused, only to accept upon my insistence. From that night on, our relationship centred entirely around food. Not as you and I enjoy food with our families and friends, but as a point of survival.

My mind has made its own version of how Rasheed came to be in that snow-covered park on that cold night from his origins in Northern Africa. The reality is, I will never know Rasheed’s story as he will never know mine. At times, I sit at my desk thinking back to that night and wonder where Rasheed is now, or if in fact he still is. The weathered skin, the missing teeth, the torn clothing and the dirty fingernails were not an accurate representation of the man who I came to know. The man who I respected. My friend Rasheed.

 

Daring to Dream

title 2

Over the years, my bucket list has taken on different forms with the order changing and certain items dropping off, only to be replaced by something new to reflect my changing priorities and needs in life. While my bucket list has been somewhat fluid over the years, there are those certain ticket items that have not changed. For me, these items are located in the upper tier of the list and are those activities and goals that I have dreamt of since I was a boy.

My list is not entirely unique. It contains some items that are typically found in any given bucket list. I would love to one day jump out of a plane in a solo skydive. I want to actively monitor and take part in a sea turtle breeding program to increase the numbers of Loggerhead Turtles. I want to spend a week in the Rwandan rainforest tracking gorillas, just to lay there in silence for hours with nothing around to distract me from observing these majestic animals in their natural environment. While listing and describing my top 50 items may cause some of you to doze off or hurriedly click the close icon, I have decided to include only my top three items in this post. There is no timeframe on ticking these items off, except for that of my lifetime. I hope to one day, years from now, reflect on my life as I pass from this world to the next and smile as I remember all the adventures I had and the people I met and loved along the way.

Counting down from three to one, my bucket list looks a little something like this:

3. Free-dive with Tiger Sharks: Everything about this goes against everything you were ever told to do. The logical part of your brain raises a big stop sign and implores your rational self to say, “Come on now, let’s think about this before we do something stupid”, right? For those of you who have read my blog before, you will know that my life and world centres on the greatest life force on this earth: the ocean. We humans have been bred to fear the oceans greatest predators but I am very much of the opinion that these creatures are simply misunderstood. I am not saying that I won’t be laying on the bottom in complete fear when I get the chance to do this, but the thought of being accepted as a guest in the home of such a creature is something that excites me greatly.

juansharks

Photo Credit: @juansharks (Instagram).

2. Learn to speak Spanish fluently, quit my job and spend a year in the Basque Country writing: The very fact that I have even put this notion out into the public realm is a giant step for me. For you see, I was brought up in a world where a man was supposed to be a man. You didn’t have time to sit down and write out feelings and thoughts that you weren’t supposed to even have. You were supposed to build things, fix engines, drink beer and watch football. While I enjoy doing these things, I have learnt to balance them with my other passions: writing, photography and exploring other creative aspects of my life.

A few years ago, I spent six months living in San Sebastian (previous blog post found here), running a guest house and living what is commonly referred to as “The Dream”. I often find myself staring out the window dreaming of the day I return to this happy place. Before I get there though, I want to learn to speak Spanish fluently so I can chat with the locals instead of only throwing the odd broken phrase at them in between sips of wine and mouthfuls of Pinxos. I dream of renting a small apartment with a simple kitchen, a bed and a writing desk with nothing on it but a vintage typewriter and a stack of blank note pads waiting to be filled with my thoughts. This dream is not about making money or even publishing my writing. It is more concerned with the process of living the simple life.

P1070320

The simple life in the Basque Country.

1. Spend time cruising the islands of Indonesia with my father and my son surfing: OK, a little caveat here… I don’t actually have any children yet but I have always dreamt of the day when the three of us head off to Indo on a surf charter together. Three generations living simply, surfing perfect waves and exploring parts less-known. Obviously this list item is not anywhere near achievable at the moment since there is no immediate prospect of children on the horizon, but I am a patient person. In between now and then, I have a lot of other items to tick off my list.

The important thing to remember with any bucket list is to enjoy life in between ticking off your items. Sometimes we have to do things that aren’t all that exciting. It is nice to have dreams and goals to focus on to get you through these times.

clarkelittle1The grace and beauty of the Sea Turtle (Photo Credit: Clarke Little).

abcexploreMy Bucket List: Confronting my fears (Photo Credit: @abcexplore – Instagram).

Eveleigh Markets: An Organic Produce Mecca

6

For the last two Saturdays running (and many previous), I have woken with anticipation, quickly brushed my teeth and hopped into the car to drive to Eveleigh Markets in the inner-city suburb of Redfern in Sydney. While the thought of organic produce, fresh bread and hot coffee is my main reason for the early start, a close second is the nightmare that is trying to find a car park.

Once you have somehow managed to squeeze your car into an undersized spot without the use of a shoehorn, the morning takes on a more relaxed vibe as you follow your nose and head towards the smell of coffee at Eveleigh Markets / Carriageworks. My morning meander around the market usually takes on a similar pattern from week to week. First, I line up at one of the few coffee stands and order my first heart starter, a double-shot flat white. As I sip and wait for the caffeine to take hold, I slowly shuffle up one side of the market looking at the produce, allowing the creative juices to flow while I plan out a meal for that evening.

Once the caffeine kicks in, my mind is made up and I purchase some Dutch carrots here, some fresh Pappardelle pasta there and a sourdough baguette for good measure. With all the colours, smells and freshness assaulting my senses, I feel the need to warm the belly with my one true love: dumplings. (See my previous post on The Wonton Production Line)

The dumplings at Eveleigh Markets are not just any old dumplings… They are made and served fresh every single week by the one and only Kylie Kwong (of Billy Kwong and more recently, Masterchef fame). Upon ordering, the dumplings are pulled from what must be the world’s biggest steamer, added to a small cup and then doused in a concoction of soy, vinegar, ginger and fresh chilli – the perfect thing to warm you up on a winter morning. If you are feeling particularly hungry or have a friend to share with, I recommend the fresh pancake; a mountain of fresh herbs and pickled vegetables on a fresh pancake and fried egg, to accompany your order of dumplings.

7The best way to start your day at Eveleigh Markets.

By the time I have finished eating, the urge to indulge in another coffee consumes me. With flat white number two in hand, it is now time to explore the remaining stalls, try the multitude of free samples and buy those things that catch your eye. Whether it be the Alpaca Sausages, the stall dedicated to Gluten-Free baked goods, the small servings of Vietnamese Pho, bottled Truffle oil or the fresh organic Falafels, there is something for everyone at Eveleigh Markets. My only advice is to get there early to not only secure a park but also to beat the dumpling rush as they sell out every week.

1Welcome, one and all!

5A view of all that is right with the organic food world.

8The ultimate belly warmer.

4The old Carriageworks at Redfern.

Exploring Parts Lesser Known

30-07-2014 11-37-41 AM

I recently took a trip up the coast to my home away from home. For me, Crescent Head on the Mid-North Coast of New South Wales is a place where I can get away from the big smoke of Sydney and reset. This quiet little town offers everything I need to recharge the batteries and deal with the fast paced life of the big city. I have posted previously (Crescent Head: A Heaven on Earth) on my love of this little town.

I have visited Crescent Head more times than I can remember, however every trip brings out the explorer within and with that comes new discoveries. If you are ever fortunate enough to be in this area of the world, I recommend a visit. Enjoy the miles of unspoilt beaches, pick up a meat pie for lunch from the local bakery and join the locals for an afternoon beer at the pub.

You often hear people say that it is the simple things that make us the happiest. For me, life in this part of the world is simplicity in its purest form.

I have included some photos of my latest trip. Enjoy!

30-07-2014 11-38-20 AMEarly morning surf check.

30-07-2014 11-37-51 AMMiles of coastline and not a person in sight!

30-07-2014 11-38-04 AMThe boys: Dressed to impress and taking in the view.

30-07-2014 12-01-57 PMMe: A little self-indulgent I know, but it is rare to get uncrowded surf in Sydney so this is a worthy inclusion.

30-07-2014 11-14-41 AMRacecourse doing its best to break.

30-07-2014 11-14-56 AMLooking back across the crystal clear water to town from the headland.

30-07-2014 11-21-52 AMWe were lucky enough to take the 4WD on the beach (Again, not a soul in sight).

Sydney’s Light Show & The Modern Day Commuter

Did you see the sunset last night? It was hands down the best sunset I have ever seen in Sydney! Unfortunately for me I didn’t get any photos of my own as I was on the bus on my way home from work. Yep, there I was, stuck in peak hour traffic when the sky put on what I am calling the show of the year.

sunset Sunset over Shelley Beach, Sydney (Photo courtesy of http://daily.sproutdaily.com/)

In between city blocks, I was treated to glimpses of true beauty. As I looked around the bus, my fellow commuters did not seem to even notice the light show. “Were they all blind?” I wondered to myself.

As I continued to look around, I realised that 4 out of 5 people were totally engrossed in their mobile device. I chuckled to myself at the thought of these people “Liking” photos of the sunset on their Instagram or Facebook feeds.

Last night’s sunset provided me with one of those moments where you sit back and feel lucky just to be alive.

Just a note: These photos are not my own and while I do not usually post the work of other people on here, Murray’s photos are exceptional and worthy of the repost!!

sunset 1(Photo courtesy of http://daily.sproutdaily.com/)

sunset 2 (Photo courtesy of http://daily.sproutdaily.com/)

sunset 3 (Photo courtesy of http://daily.sproutdaily.com/)

The Wonton Production Line

20140712_150653

I have a confession. My name is Louie and I am a dim-sum/ dumpling-a-holic. This is nothing new. I have been addicted to these tiny parcels of steamed goodness for as long as I can remember. Even now, I sit at my desk, enthusiastically hammering away at my keyboard, thinking about how the sight of a plate of dumplings makes me feel. It is pure joy!

Up until recently, my dim sum experiences have been limited to the various dumpling and yum cha restaurants around Sydney and throughout Asia. I have visited some of the biggest and the best, but I recently decided that the time had come to give it a go myself. making wontons appealed to me the most as they seemed to have the least room for error.

While the thought of making my own wontons excited me greatly, I must admit that I was a little hesitant due to the fact that most of my cooking revolves around less-intricate and fiddly dishes. But how am I to grow without challenging myself, right?

In order to generate the recipe, I incorporated my extensive experience in the eating of dim sum and also took on board some tips from one of my favourite food bloggers NotQuiteNigella.

If you can restrain yourself from eating the lot as soon as they are cooked, the wontons are a nice addition to a clear noodle soup. You can also freeze them away for later, however I don’t recommend storing them in the refrigerator as the wrappers will stick together.

 

My Louie Wonton recipe is as follows:

Ingredients:

500g Pork mince

6 shiitake mushroom (finely chopped)

1/2 cup of finely sliced shallots

1/4 cup of finely chopped chives

1/2 tin of finely chopped water chestnuts

1 Tbs raw sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1 Tbs cornflour

1/2 tsp ground black pepper

1/2 cup of Oyster sauce

1 egg

2Tbs Sesame oil

Wonton wrappers

20140712_141811

Method: Add all ingredients to a large mixing bowl and thoroughly combine by hand (let’s face it, it is a lot more fun when you get your hands dirty!) Note: It is important to ensure that all of your ingredients are finely chopped so as to avoid sharp or pointy edges from tearing through the wonton wrappers.

Using a teaspoon, place one heaped spoon of wonton filling in the centre of a wonton wrapper and then wet the edges of the wrapper with water using your finger.

Fold the wrapper in half into a triangle and press the edges together firmly, ensuring that you remove as much air as possible from the parcel (this will prevent the wonton from blowing up like a balloon when cooking).

Fold the corners of the triangle into the centre to form a parcel shape, ensuring that the edges remain sealed.

Fill half a large saucepan with water and heat on medium to the point where it almost boiling and then turn to low (you do not want the water to boil rapidly as this can cause the wontons to fall apart while cooking)

Allow wontons to cook for approx 7-8 mins and remove once they have floated to the surface.

Serve with desired dipping sauce (I prefer soy and sriracha) and enjoy!!

 

20140712_143057

Roll up the sleeves and combine all ingredients.

wonton fold

It can get a little tedious, but there is great joy to be had in folding your own wontons.

20140712_175833

By this point, the reward is almost in reach…

20140712_181052

Dive in and enjoy the fruits of your labour!!

Feed Your Soul

aristotle

I just read a life changing article. The author spoke passionately of her deepest desire to live a life that above all her made her happy. A life that not only provided for her financially but gave her the greatest reward of all, a happy and content soul.

As my eyes made their way down the page, the words that appeared in front of me were as if they were being pulled from my own mind. She spoke of feeling trapped in a life that was slowly killing her soul. Playing corporate mind games, spending half my life sitting behind a desk and not contributing to the greater good of the world has always been difficult for me to accept. She recounted how she would numb the realisation of this with earphones and excessive amounts of coffee. This is me. My morning consists of exactly this, mixed with a regimental march to the beat of the corporate drum, racing the other rats to an end goal that only seems to get further away.

Like most people, I have made endless excuses as to why I have not pursued what makes me truly happy. Feeling an obligation to look after those around me, a mortgage and the expectations of my loved ones and society itself have always prevented me from taking that leap into the great unknown. As the product of working class parents, I was raised to play it safe. Go to university, get a well-paying job and raise a family of my own. A sense of accepting periods of unhappiness in order to eventually become happy is a mantra I have unfortunately accepted as my reality. I have been so focused on these things that I have ignored what truly matters to me: happiness in the here and now.

To spend my days doing something I am passionate about, something that encourages me to grow as a human being, is a notion I have only just managed to comprehend. I have accepted the fact that this may not be as financially rewarding as ignoring my desires, but what is the cost of happiness?

The process of change is a slow, and at times, painful one. The author of the article told of her life changing moment coming at the age of 30… again, this is me. She put it perfectly when she said “You can’t steer a ship in the wrong direction for 30 years and then expect it to turn on a dime”. Advice I will remind myself of every morning.

My true happiness is not going to arrive when I get that next pay rise or when my four weeks of annual leave arrive each year. Sure these things are nice to look forward to but for me, there has to be more to life than this. The time to start doing more for me, more of what truly nurtures my body and soul is now. Realising that this process is a slow one, involving one tiny step at a time, is a good starting point. While it may not reap financial rewards, investing in myself is the greatest investment I will ever make. As you get older, you realise that the age-old saying of “life passes you by in an instant” actually has some basis of truth. There is no guarantee that tomorrow will arrive. Everyday I ask myself if I would be happy if today was my last. Often the answer is no, but I am working on changing that.

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 385 other followers

%d bloggers like this: