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.
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!
Within the past two days, I have had two rather embarrassing and very typical ‘me’ moments.
The first, which happened on Wednesday, took place at my work. I work at a café and after I had just taken a customers order for coffees at the till, I was about to ask the usual ‘Do you need your receipt?’ Instead, what my ditzy self blurted out was ‘Do you need salt and pepper?’ “DO YOU NEED SALT AND PEPPER?” Are you kidding me…. Of all things… THAT rolled of my tongue.
Now, let me assure you that normally I am quite onto it while serving at the till (touch wood). I have no idea where my mind was prancing off at that moment, and thankfully rather than causing any awkward silence the customer and my boss who happened to be standing right by me laughed hysterically. Glad my nonsense can bring about a little laughter…
The second very embarrassing incident was my very rushed and awkward experience in the changing room today. I was at a clothing store called Kookai with my mum and we were rushed for time. Consequently, mum and I decided she would go do her errand while I tried on a few clothing pieces so we could leave in due time. When I was about to take off a top I had just tried, I realised I should probably never have put it on in the first place. It. Was. Too. Tight. At this point, I am totally aware of the bare time I have until we need to leave and the fact that I was alone in the store. It wasn’t like I could just ask the sales assistant ‘Excuse me but do you think you could help undress me?’ So there I was standing half naked in the dressing room sweaty and panicked. I even have a bruise near my armpit area as a battle scar of that unfortunate dressing room experience. Moral of the story: Do not be over confident in your dress size.
My recent trip to Guilin, Yangshuo was simply incredible. Unlike the rushed and tiring itinerary of our tour group holiday in Hainan, our time in Guilin was relaxing yet full of worthwhile activities thanks to my grandpa’s well thought out daily plans.
One of the highlights from this holiday was gliding along on the bamboo rafts on Yulong River, also known as the ‘little Li River’. Both sides of the water are surrounded by the signature hills of the area and bamboo forests with signs of the occasional primitive civilisation of a few locals. These signature mountain ranges are all uniquely and strangely shaped. On a misty day, the scene is stunning. It was like I had escaped society and into a picturesque book. It was not peak tourist season and apart from us on the bamboo rafts there were very few other tourists, making the experience all the more intimate. It was almost unreal. I wish I had a notebook with me at the time, capturing the essence of the moment and exactly how the scene made me feel rather than trying to recreate the experience by writing this a week later.
The famous tourist street ‘West Street’ or ‘Xi Jie’ was also full of gems. From Chinese cuisine restaurants to western cafes and bars to souvenir shops, West Street is as eclectic as it is cultural. The majority of visitors here are tourists from all over the world and throughout China. One can hear various languages spoken on this street. This street holds a fusion of west and east. The courtyard like setting with an old oriental style fused with the jazz and pop music played by the bars at night makes an ambience of both quietness and noise, and chaos and elegance. My favourite place on this street is a cosy and quirky place called Ryley’s Café. There is a bookshelf near the entrance overflowing with books both in Chinese and English. On the opposite wall there is a note board full of random messages left by strangers. There is a small stage for live performances at night. The walls are ornamented with vintage posters and records. The bar at the back is lit with LED lights. It is a place where one could spend hours reading, writing, talking or scrolling through the Internet.
My trip to Guilin, Yangshuo made me want to travel and explore more. It reminded me of when I backpacked in Vietnam and Cambodia on a world challenge expedition with school. There were many backpackers in Yangshuo. When we were driving back to Yangshuo on the bus from having seen the Silver Caves, we stopped by the road to pick up two western backpackers. It startled me a little when I heard them speak Chinese. I find it somewhat refreshing and amusing hearing foreigners speak the language. Yangshuo is a place definitely worth visiting if you ever travel to China!
Photos will be uploaded soon!