New Zealand has the best coffee

Bear with me as I go on my coffee rant….

As mentioned before, I was working in a local cafe for several months before leaving Auckland for university (college as the Americans call it). It was a great work experience and my boss provided me with barista training. By the time I left my job, I could make a decent (ranging from averagely decent to good decent) cup of coffee from grinding the beans to extracting the espresso to steaming the milk to pouring the milk. You name it, a cappuchino, latte, flat white, long black, moccachino or hot chocolate. It took me a while to overcome the bitter espresso and the burnt milk but eventually I was happy to have picked up a new skill; although if you were to ask me to make one now, I wouldn’t have high expectations…

While I was overseas, I came to the realisation that coffee in New Zealand is truly of a gold standard. For example, I was shocked at the numerous times where I was served coffee with bubbly milk that was far from the velvety texture it should have been. There were also lattes filled with way too much foam. I would never have dared to serve customers some of the coffees that I was served. Keep in mind I am absolutely not, a coffee snob.  I don’t know a whole lot about the art of coffee making and coffee flavour. But at the risk of sounding like a pretentious customer whining about absurd experiences, I am disappointed by the overall standard of coffees overseas.

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Finding a good cup of coffee is a mission and the filter coffee served at my school cafeteria is very questionable. There are also several differences between coffee culture here and in the states. 90% of the time, cafés serve their coffees in takeout cups regardless of whether I was staying in or taking out. Also, I soon realised after my first few visits to the local coffee shops around my school that often just ‘coffee’ refers to filter coffee and self-serve milk over the counter as opposed to coffee made from the espresso machine with steamed milk. Another thing is that a flat white is almost an unheard of thing in the states. In February this year, I was in New York over the weekend and noticed signs with phrases along the lines of ‘try our new flat white!’ in several coffee shops. Given that flat whites have been around in New Zealand for many many years it was surprising to find that it is only being introduced in America recently.

Since coming back home for a month in my summer break, it sure is great finally drinking a tasty latte. My solitary café visits are reignited!

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Reflections on my first year of college

I am still in disbelief at just how crazy fast freshman yearwent by. I am back in Auckland now. I had my last final on Friday (May 15th), packed up my freshman dorm into storage boxes, zipped up my suitcase and was on my way to JFK on Saturday to fly back home.

Spring semester happened so quickly I really didn’t have time to process things before the year wrapped up. As people started leaving and goodbyes were exchanged, it hit me how much I’ll miss school. It seems like as I really began to settle down and make this place a home away from home, the school year was coming to an end. I distinctly remember not long after coming back after winter break, I was walking to class and saw several familiar faces, stopped to say hi and thought to myself, wow this place is becoming home. One, completely different from the home I have known for the majority of my life but a home nonetheless. Another time, I was sitting in the blue room (school café) with a friend and a pre-frosh comes up to us explaining that she will be attending next fall and wanted to ask current students a few questions. These experiences made me feel grateful for being on this campus and also a sense of belonging. Sure, college has come with its struggles but overall I feel very blessed to have had such an incredible experience. College was very much not what I expected in many ways and it came with its ups and downs that pushed me to go forward in this journey.newportsunset

Freshman year definitely went by way too fast and everyday seems like it was packed with classes, meetings, clubs, meeting with friends, food and studying. This whirlwind came and went and I know that the next 3 years will speed by even faster. There is no way for me to reduce the highs and lows of the past 8 months into a blogpost and even as I begin to dwell and reflect on this year, everything merges into wonderful blur. I have learned so much about myself and people but also at the same time, ironically, I am realising how little I know about myself and the world. The deeper I go into my education the more I realise how little I know. In every new problem or decision I have faced, I am forced to question myself and who I am becoming. At the end of the day, no one is going to check up on me or make me do anything. My actions are fuelled by my personal rationalising (or lack thereof). This is the time to be questioning things, to not just take things as they are, because for the first time in my life I am on my own.

Amongst all the new things that I have learned and grown in (more so outside of the class than inside), the most important are; my faith, how to care for myself, the fact that I know little about myself and what I want to do with my life and learning to be okay with this.

It feels amazing to be on summer break and back with my parents at home but there will be a few things I’m going to miss about college over the next 3.5 months. I will miss going downstairs to get Andrews pizza at midnight. I will miss my beautiful dorm with its beautiful sink (Andrews perk). I will miss being surrounded by lovely peers. I will miss the special and kind people that have come into my life. I will miss RUF on friday nights and worship at church. I will miss conversations that range from pointless and random to deeply philosophical. I will miss sharing meals with friends in dinning halls. I will miss the quaint and pretty campus. I will miss being a freshman.

Still learning,

Shirin

Freshman Fall

HELLLLOOO! If you saw my previous post ‘The Rhode to Brown Part 1’ and took note of the Part 1, you can see that I never followed up on the rest of the parts. Originally I intended on uploading each city I visited on my travel as its own part but then college got in the way and I never got around to it… Yes, I know that’s a poor excuse.

Although my first semester at college was initially overwhelming then became both exciting and hectic and finally progressed to stressful, I did manage to get out with my camera and take a few snaps. Nothing artsy here, but hopefully it gives you a feel of my beautiful campus and the quaint city.

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Funny, strange Americans…

I’ve often heard people say ‘Americans are pretty weird’. I can see why now.

This is my second time coming to the US but I can hardly remember my impression of America the first time (I was eight) so pretty much everything was new and fresh for me this time round. I’ve been here for just over a week and this week has been like an acclimatisation period.

The term ‘weird’ is relative so I guess different would be more acceptable. Things are done ‘differently’ in the US. Every country is in various aspects (some more than others) different and unique in it’s own way but America- America is very unique.

Here are a few reasons why:

1) America does not use the metric system. I arrived in LA on the 19th and as we left the airport en route to down town, the driver mentioned the distance we had to travel. I didn’t realise till after that he was using miles. I still have no idea how far a mile is. Feet, inch, yard and Fahrenheit are also completely useless units to me. Pretty much everywhere else uses the standard Celsius but here, most weather forecasts are given in Fahrenheit.

2) Price labels don’t have the tax included. How are you supposed to know exactly how much you have to pay? During the first few days I kept forgetting that tax is excluded in the price and thought people were overcharging us. I know that tax is different among the States, but would it really be such a pain to display prices as exactly what you would actually be paying??

3) Tipping. This took me ages to get accustomed to. How much to tip? Who to tip? Do you wait for the receipt at your table? Also, Americans have a very trusting and blasé attitude towards credit cards. You hardly need to use pins and only after they swipe your card do you put down how much you want to tip.

4) I don’t know if it’s just me but a lot of toilet seats are unusually low. There is also a lot of water in the bowl. The flush seems way more forceful. I don’t even know how to explain this without sounding bizarre but I swear the toilets are different here.

5) There are words that mean slightly different things over here (I guess this one applies to many English speaking countries). The number of people that don’t understand what a rubbish bin is, is just shocking. No one uses a bathroom cubicle, they use a stall. A girl thought I was referring to driving when I mentioned a ‘fullstop’. I also still refuse to replace my ‘s’ with a ‘z’.

So I’m feeling a bit like a FOB right now but hopefully I’ll get adjusted soon. There is so much to see and do and I can’t believe tomorrow is our last night in New York and also my last night of ‘vacation’ before I’m off to college. Being an international student will be an entirely new experience for me. I’m sure that as an international student I will come across many more unusual things that Americans do. 😛

The Rhode to Brown: Part One-Melbourne

The Rhode to Brown- get it? (I’m so punny… ) 

I am currently in LA and will fly to New York tomorrow morning. Even though I only left Auckland last saturday, it seems like that was such a long time ago. Much longer than just seven days. 

Travelling is exhausting. Ridiculously early wake up calls are not fun. Walking all day takes a lot out of you. Those are my petty excuses for not putting up a post this week. Regardless of the busy and tiring days I have been really enjoying every second. Well most seconds. 

I am too lazy and tired to write anymore, so here are a few photos from Melbourne. (All photos are raw) 

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These were taken at Hosier Lane. Famous for the myriad of street art in every corner of the lane. Seriously cool vibe if that kind of stuff is up your alley (no pun intended). 

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On our last night, we walked along the south Yarra bank back to our hotel. Such pretty sights with all the city lights!

Endings and beginnigs

I have left the land of the long white cloud. I have taken flight from my nest. I have ventured into the next great adventure. This is the cheesy, obligatory new beginnings/ current emotions/update post.

On Saturday I woke up at the very glamorous hour of 3am to head to the airport in order to catch a 6.30am flight to Melbourne. Going to Australia is like the warm up, the tepid transition. A physical and metaphorical transition. I always thought packing and leaving Auckland would cause a lot more jittery excitement for me but I have been oddly calm. I think I was so excited and anticipating this moment for the past eight months that now that it has come I am thinking about what this change really means. Without the utter excitement and happiness from getting accepted to my dream school I can rationally sit down and contemplate the full weight of what moving halfway across the world to attend college actually entails.

Eighteen years of my life have become the sum of right now. And right now, it’s more than just the fact that I’m going off to college. The transition of moving onto this next chapter has sparked many facets of new changes. I am moving away from home, I will be living independently; I am about to learn things and meet people that are all entirely new for my still callow self. It’s only natural to feel scared and a bit apprehensive right? What if I make no friends? What if I bit off more than I can chew? What if…

You spend so long imagining what you would see and touch and experience and when those moments are actually happening to you, it feels surreal. You struggle to find words to describe your overwhelming influx of emotions. It’s a bit of this and that. I am a boggling mess of emotions and uncertainty. This really is a teenage-girl-drama-queen moment at its finest. I will probably look back at my current state and laugh at myself.

After four hours of flying we arrived at Melbourne airport. I had a mini heart attack moment when we were collecting our luggage from the carousel. Two of our three checked in bags arrived promptly but after we waited for about 20 minutes there was still no sign of the third bag-which also happened to be one of mine. When we finally decided that perhaps the airline had lost my bag we went to find a staff. Coincidentally as we walked past a group of luggage my dad spotted one that was very similar to mine. Mind you, when you have a dark blue luggage that pretty much resembles any standard bag, every bag looks as if it could be yours. But thank goodness it was mine. Almost crisis averted!

This is our third and final night in Melbourne. I swear the past few days we have just walked and walked and walked. Don’t get me wrong, I have enjoyed our time in this rich multicultural hub with its eclectic arts scene but the walking across the city has been intense. The constant walking from morning to night each day is counteracting my consumption of yummy and possibly not healthy food- I hope. Melbourne has a plethora of Italian and Greek cuisine and the coffee/café culture is very popular. The quirky and intimate laneways throughout the city are also very prominent and worth checking out!

Tomorrow morning will be yet another early start but this time we are en route to LAX! It’s finally sinking in. I guess flying from Melbourne to LA has made me a lot more aware and excited than I was for flying from Auckland to Melbourne. I am tremendously excited and looking forward to my arrival at school but also sad at how quickly things are and will change. I can’t say that I am a different person now, but over the past year from college applications to this gap year, gradually I have changed. I hope to keep documenting my journey at college and one day I will look back and see how college has shaped me. I don’t know what to expect but I know it will be an adventure.

It’s been real; it’s been good but its time for college!

An incoming freshman, class of 2018,
Shirin

Almost goodbye New Zealand

Yes yes, I know. I haven’t posted on here in a month. I broke my goal I set for myself at the start of the year. In one of my earlier posts I said that after much contemplation over what I should be doing in my half gap year in 2014 I decided on two main things: 1) Get a job once I got back to New Zealand. 2) Write on my blog at least once a week. Looking back over 2014 so far, I have experienced and learned many new unexpectedly things.

My part time job at a café has been great a learning experience to say the least. In the almost five months I’ve worked there, I have learned the art of coffee making. It took a while for me to master the skill of milk texturing but I got there in the end. As I am nearing my last week at work I have finally become competent at being a barista. As my time is nearly over, I have memorised how each of the regular customers likes his or her coffee. Getting to make coffee is definitely one of my favourite parts about this job. I have also learned the art of sandwich and Panini making. This has been my first proper job and in so many ways it has been a rewarding process. It may not seem like much but through working at a café, it has equipped me with skills and common sense -that wasn’t so common…

I also became a resident writer at the Undergraduate times. This is an online news site founded, run and produced entirely by undergraduates. My commitment to this site is one of the predominant reasons for my absence on here. I have been trying to find topics to write about and then proceeding to write somewhat decent articles. There I say it- another valuable learning experience. Sometimes I think I have bit off more than I can chew by becoming a writer for The UG times but hey, what’s the harm in pushing myself outside my comfort zones right? (Excuse the cliché)

It is absolutely bewildering to think that a year ago I had started constructing my commonapp and delving into a pit of stress and worry for what would come of 2014. I had no idea where- which country- I would be attending university. I didn’t even really plan out what I wanted to be studying for the next four years. My looming future was one big fat question mark.

A year later, I am still not at university. Ah, the beauty of New Zealand running on a different academic year to the US. I never imagined that I would be attending the school of my dreams this time last year. It was a realm that I had not dared to dwell on.

Since December 2013, I have been extremely ecstatic and excited for august 2014 to arrive. Ironically, now that August is here and in less than 10 days I fly far away from this safe and warm nest, I am left uncertain and nervous. Don’t get me wrong, I am still very much anticipating this next great adventure but in some ways I feel that I have unfinished business in Auckland. All of a sudden there are too many things I want to do in Auckland.

For the past few years I have dreamed about leaving New Zealand to waltz with the big bad world. When you are growing up it seems like so much of your life is out of your own control and everything outside of your life is there simply to tease you. At least for me that’s how it was. Its always when you are about to leave someone that you realise how important they are to you isn’t it? It’s always when you can’t have something that you start you miss it. New Zealand is truly a piece of heaven on earth and I am grateful to have a blessed upbringing on this land. At the same time, I know there is so much out there in the world to experience and discover.

So as much as this next chapter may seem daunting, deep down I know that I should buckle down and get ready for the ride.