Some Updates

Guys, I bought a ticket. After what seems like forever I am returning to my favourite place on earth this December. I am so excited for a NZ summer! Road-trips, Kapiti ice-cream, hikes, waterfalls, P.Y.O berries… ah, the list is endless. I also can’t wait to simply kiss my family to death. I told my mom, I said, I’m just gonna take the first three months to sit next to you in some beautiful park on some probably-graffitied bench and just breathe and enjoy the moments.

So, I’ll be home in December. And that’s all I know of my future at this stage. And I don’t mind it. I don’t mind it one bit because I like the possibilities such openness of plans brings. I’m grateful and I’m excited. If travelling has taught me anything, it’s that the world has SO much to offer and that I am by far in the top top top wealthy and fortunate. So, not only is it my dire obligation to really live but my calling to make the most of it.

Some updates: 
These cuties recently arrived back from their epic holiday in Israel to their mountain-side home in Japan, but here are some of the pics Lifa sent me last. Sabich is an Iraqi and Israeli sandwich, consisting of a pita bread stuffed with deep-fried eggplant, hard boiled eggs, salad, tahini, amba (mango pickle) and spice. Lifa says this is healthy street food at its best. Oh man. What a tease. Me want now.
Pics from Jose (father of the munchkins I looked after in Spain) of the kids and their mother making brownies and biscuits. I miss Spain and I miss Jose’s delicious and healthy dishes. Of course I miss you too, Bea! Are you still eating my homemade muesli for breakfast?
Yasu, my unexpected friend is still making healthy smoothies like I taught her and spending me pictures of them. I can’t wait to see her again. Also, her middle sister recently got married and oh my, the pics are gorgeous!
As for me, I was recently taken to a really fun and delicious Mexican restaurant, one like I’ve never experienced and I LOVED it. I can’t say enough. I wish NZ had something like this. First off, everyone is given complimentary chips and dip. Then throughout the night, if you wish, your chips are topped up again and again by the wait-staff walking around with literal shovelfuls of chips – in the same manner coffee cups are refilled here. Anyways these chips, they’re not like your regular over-salted thick Dorito crips. Instead, they’re really thin and light and crispy and unsalted. So good. Okay and the food, cheap as chips (as Kiwi’s say and of course, suitable in this context) fresh, and flavoursome. I had vegetarian enchiladas and he had something called a Chicka Chicka Bang Bang. Or was it Boom Boom (hehe)? I can’t remember.

Last but not least, don’t forget to check out my latest Savvy Article featuring baby potatoes and I use “baby” in the strongest sense of the word here, by clicking THIS.

Independently Perfection Cannot Be Achieved

Friends, Nashville is so nice. Apparently it’s Autumn but it has been (and still is) hotter than a NZ summer! The people are so nice as well. And there’s diversity and of course, music! I am one very lucky girl. Every new day is beautiful and I am constantly showered by much love and affection. Maybe I won’t leave? Though I’m not sure how much luck an Iranian-born has in the whole green card business! Anyways, I love you all so much, and I miss you all so much and I think of you all, all of the time.

When I take my neighbourhood walks, both alone and with Soroosh’s mom, and I see the bright and colourful maple leaves I’m transported back to Japan. Back to my dear friends and to my sweet students. The mornings I have muesli for breakfast, I call to mind Jose, Bea, Hector and Sara, remembering the very sweet yet very frustrating (because Sara so keenly insisted on helping) times I made their family stove-top granola. Also of you Maria! (I wonder if you’re reading.) When I take photographs of nature, I think of Lavanya and I think of Laura and my mother and my auntie Pouneh and my heart expands. Coffee takes me back to sunny Antibes with Patricia (Anita’s mom). Cute babies to “my boyfriend” and his sweet mother in Osaka. And laughter, kindness and compassion to Akiko, Oz and Lifa. Also hummus. Of course hummus reminds me of them. Minako, I think of you as well. Your love for cheese and your dislike of chocolate (which I will never understand). I think of these people and I feel so deeply grateful to them. For it is these very connections that have made me into the woman I am today.

In her incredible book, Perscription For Living (which I totes recommend), Ruhiyyih Rabbani adequately describes this concept. She says:

“We as individuals are not isolated phenomena. All our lives are based on relationships with other individuals; independently perfection cannot be achieved. As we are a gregarious species by nature – like bees and ants and animals that run in herds – it is not possible for each one of us to develop his own character as an isolated unit…

…the progress of the individuals comprised in any gregarious species is derived by interaction, co-operation, competition, stimulation and the benefit of example. Consequently a large part of our road to personal perfection lies through the lives of those with whom we come in contact. The way we treat them, the way we react to them, affects our own character and helps to shape it for better or worse.”

Why Is Patience So Important?

Because it makes us pay attention.― Paulo Coelho

I have always struggled with patience. I blame my mother (hehe) because she is very similar. Turns out all I had to do for my toilet-water-wet phone to recover was to wait. I am sorry for the melodramatics. Here are the last photos from Santiago, Spain:
Bucket feng shui. image3image4
(See last post and imagine)
Ecological milk. image5image1
Poor Xoel (Maria and Danny’s son). This man invited me to join him and I passed on the burden to Xoel (hehe).image
Pilgrim’s shoe.
The infamous sandals are back!
R O M A N C Eimage4
What an absolutely stunning little city. I can’t wait to return. Santiago <3
Not exactly sure what is happening here…but Santiago sure does inspire.
Man and friend.

So What Was Galicia Really Like?

During my short time In Galicia, I posted a lot of photos and vague descriptions but I didn’t really give you the low down. So. Here’s a list:

Galician people speak very loudly. Or maybe, they are just loud in comparison to the Japanese. More often, I’d mistake a casual conversation for heated arguing. Actually, during my first three days, I developed a horrible migraine. At first, I put it down to jet lag or a change in environment but then I realised the real culprit. My ears were buzzing. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that the Galician are hooligans. Rather, that they speak with much heart and emotion and sometimes our hearts are yellers.
Of course due to their location, the Galician people consume a lot of seafood. But they also consume A LOT of meat. Chorizo, cured ham, steak, you name it. Luckily for me, the exception were Jose’s family. Everyday we ate fresh and organic fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts and seeds.
Tortilla and empanada mad
I guess these are the two most popular dishes here. A Spanish tortilla (not to be confused with the Mexican wrap) is like a potato omelette. It’s oily, carby and delicious. Empanadas are a pie pastry like dish usually filled with tuna, red pepper and onion but there are many variations. Anyways, these dishes are honestly everywhere. And people are always eating them.
Tomato overload
There’s a lot of tomatoes here. That’s basically it. And apparently, a lot gets wasted every year because if it was all put out into the market, the prices would drop to mere cents and the government wouldn’t be making any money off of them. So sad. What is this world we live in? (I know this is not confined to Spain and that food is a business everywhere).
Long days
I think I already mentioned this. Apparently this is very Spanish. Breakfast around 9. Lunch around 3/4 and dinner around 10. Can you believe it? No wonder I’ve been having migraines. One day, Jose called to book a table at a local restaurant for 9pm and was warned to leave by 11pm as that’s when another couple had booked it! Is that insane or insane?
Food rules all
Obvious by now. Before coming here, Jose had warned me that the Galicians live and breathe food. I hadn’t really understood this until now. You know the old adage; you eat to live not live to eat? Well here it’s the other way around. Perhaps the previous point on long days has something to do with this but also because the Spanish are such fantastic cooks! And, they have great produce: olive oil, seafood, tomatoes, legumes, to name a few. So food rules all.
Mainly in two ways. One, with weather. Much like NZ, weather here is always changing. Four seasons in one day type of thing. Two, with plans. Again, at the opposite end of the spectrum to the Japanese, the Galician people hardly ever plan anything. This is because plans are always changing. You may aim to do one thing and end up doing the complete opposite. For instance, one day we planned to sightsee a historical town nearby but ended up going to a friends’ place after lunch and spending the entire evening swimming in her pool, listening to Galician bagpipes and eating peaches.
1 2 3 ziiiiip.
I played this “game” with the children. Unfortunately it didn’t work. Anyways, following up from the previous point, Galicians never give a direct answer.

How long does it take from here to…? Not far. 
Where does she live? Near.
Are we going to …. today? If you want?
Shall we go for a short walk while the empanada cooks? Shall we? 

These answers are often accompanied with a shrug. You don’t believe how much this annoyed me. In Japan, there is a direct answer for everything. When I mentioned my frustration to Jose, he burst out laughing. You know Anisa, he said: “in Galicia we have a saying that if you meet a Galician in the middle of a staircase and ask them if they’re going up or down they’ll say: do you want me to come up with you?”
image2Sugar overload
I don’t like writing this. I don’t want to be too judgemental. And maybe this is a problem everywhere but kids here consume A LOT of sugar and other junk foods. Actually, there are entire stores dedicated to Junk food. Seriously, all they sell are ice-cream, chocolate, candy, cookies and Cheetos. I am surprised the kids don’t have black teeth like my Japanese pre-school students. One day we went out for tapas and a huge bowl of candy was placed in the middle of the children’s table. Some of them ate more than 10! I couldn’t believe it. I hope I will be better able to control my future children’s sugar intake. Also Cheetos. Cheetos are everywhere! Even inside 1 year olds! :O
image[1]The good life.
Last but not least, Galician really know how to live. Everyone seems to be on holiday here. They are always eating tapas, relaxing on their boats, drinking at local cafes and talking with their family, neighbours, friends.
Goodbye rivers, goodbye springs
Goodbye, rivers, goodbye, springs,
Goodbye, trickling streams;
Goodbye, all I see before me:
Who knows when we’ll meet again?

Oh my home, my homeland,
Soil where I was raised,
Little garden that I cherish,
Fig trees I grew from seed.

Meadows, rivers, woodlands,
Pine groves bent by wind,
All the chirping little songbirds,
Home I cherish without end.

Mill nestled between the chestnuts,
Nights lit brightly by the moon,
Tremor of the little bells,
My parish chapel’s tune.

Blackberries from the wild vines
I picked to give my love,
Narrow trails between the corn-rows,
Goodbye, forever goodbye!
Goodbye, glory! Goodbye, gladness!

I leave the house where I was born,
Leave my village so familiar
For a world I’ve never seen.
I’m leaving friends for strangers,
Leaving prairies for the sea,
Leaving all that I love dearly…

Oh, if I didn’t have to leave!…
(part of a poem by Rosalia de Castero)

Surprise Cake

The highlight of my Spain experience was meeting Maria. She is one of those people that you instantly fall in love with. The ones you know nothing about but want to spend all day walking with. For the last two days, I have been staying in her home with her, her husband, two children and second cousin. Having recently started following my blog and reading that it was my birthday of late, but I did not have a cake for it because I was up high in the air somewhere, she and her lovely cousin organised this. A surprise cake – which happened to be the most delicious cake I have ever tasted. In the words of Linda Grayson, “there is nothing better than a friend, unless it is a friend with chocolate.” Thank you Maria for showing such selfless love to a complete stranger and for sweetening my year.

The Wheels Of The Bus Go Round And Round

The time has come to move on. I will miss Galicia a whole lot. Jose, Bea, Hector and Sara have been a joy to be around. They have treated me “like a daughter” (as 4 year old Sara once said) and have given me all the love and more. I will never forget this experience. Don’t forget me and a thousand times thank you.

My First Paella

Danny and Maria’s holiday home is straight out of a Richard Linklater film. It is so unbelievably idyllic. So damn romantic. I just can’t believe I was there.
Meat prep: rabbit, chicken and fish. Or was it squid, Jose?
My photos don’t do this place justice. It was truly gorgeous.
Muscles and shrimp.
The head chef himself! Danny was so funny, when his wife Maria went to check the paella he quickly rushed over. “No, no, no,” he said. It was his project.
Truly delicious! So flavourful. The white meat, the seafood, the rice, all cooked in saffron and natural juices. Oh mama, how I wish you could have tasted it.
Sara being sara.image4
A short walk after dessert (Maria’s amazing chocolate cake – not pictured).
And last but not least, watermelon – myyyyyy favourite.

Do It. Throw Yourselves.

Dear ones,
I am experiencing a transition. My life is changing. So. I am excited and of course, scared. As some of you may know, I had planned to go to India but after being unable to get the correct visa, I’ve had to amend my plans. There’s also something else – something which I can’t tell you about (just yet). It’s overwhelming but good (I think). For the time being, please bear with me. Or is it bare? I don’t know.

So. As always, I have taken solace in literature. C. JoyBell C comforts me with this:

“The only way that we can live, is if we grow. The only way that we can grow is if we change. The only way that we can change is if we learn. The only way we can learn is if we are exposed. And the only way that we can become exposed is if we throw ourselves out into the open. Do it. Throw yourself.”

I am throwing myself. I am taking a leap of faith and letting life happen.

Travelling is amazing but it is getting harder. I have a few plans. Next, I will visit my auntie (whom I have never met but talked to several times over the internet and who seems like the most incredible woman) and her family in Geneva (Switzerland). From there, I might visit my friend Anita(a beautiful Italian girl who I worked in NZ at Cafe Valentino with)’s mother at their holiday home in Antibes (France), and hopefully, Laura (my WordPress friend who visited me in Mimasaka) in Brussels (Belgium).

I am struggling to live in the moment. I must practice mindfulness. I keep thinking of the future. What will I be doing after my travels are over? Will I settle down in NZ or some other place? What will I do for work? Can I make it as a real writer? So many unanswered questions. Sarah Dessen comes to help: “It was amazing how you could get so far from where you’d planned, and yet find it was exactly were you needed to be.”

I will be patient. I will be positive. I will be joyous. I will expect good and I will throw myself.

Lastly, my blog has turned two. So I want to say thank you. From the bottom of my heart, from the mountains of rural Japan and the rivers in Galicia. Merci (farsi not french), gracias, thank you and arigato for flying with me. For being a listening ear, an understanding heart and the best travel companion a solo girl could wish for.

At each step I have longed to share my life with you. This I hope I have achieved and will continue to achieve, in the truest way possible. And, I hope that at the same time, I have given and will continue to give, some sunshine too.
Screen Shot 2016-09-13 at 11.45.03 am.png

Santiago (part two)

I may or may not have sneaked into the world’s oldest (and one of the most luxurious) hotels in the world to take these pictures for you. And, look! The third picture. It’s a bride having her wedding photos! How wonderful!
And, they put on a full-blown traditional Galician parade just for me!
image1image2image5image7image4image8image9image7In my friend Soroosh’s words, that went from idyllic to creepy real quickly.