Tag Archives: thoughts

Thoughts while washing dishes (or why I cook)

There is a certain quiet in the kitchen when everyone has eaten and left.

Sleep starts to tease your eyelids as your hands work methodically to soap and rinse the sprawl of pots, plates, utensils … getting slower as you start yearning for bed, then quicker as you look at the time and remember that your alarm clock will ring in 6 hours.

It is work, you work harder than you have all day at your day job. You hop off the train, kiss your husband, run to the store, come home, march into the kitchen, don an apron, get moving. When guests expecting dinner are due in 45 minutes, there is no pointless dawdling or twiddling of thumbs, no pointless scrolling, no staring at the clock willing 5pm to come sooner. It’s work shift #2 after a full shift #1, but it’s rewarding work – chopping, measuring, sniffing, stirring … eating … talking … checking that guests’ glasses are full and bellies filling. You whip cream and make tea. You co-host. You listen, talk, laugh, catch up. And then, just as quickly as it began, it’s over. They go home. Time to wash up and then to go to bed.

But THIS moment, washing dishes, marvelling at how cooking smells and laughter give way to crumbs on the table and oil splashes on the stovetop. THIS silence is golden. You understand that time is your own to do what you want with it. You understand why people are the most important thing in the world. You understand that all the work that goes into cooking and feeding makes sense and is worthwhile, even though food takes effort to cook and less effort to eat and once done it is a cycle to be repeated in the days to come.

Finally – when people have left and the plates are clean again, you can feel the difference it has made. You have given, but received so much more in return. You are satisfied with food and the fullness that comes from eating together with others. And you are filled with gratitude.

That’s why I do it. To feel good, to have fun – but equally, to enjoy the satisfaction of working hard with my hands and feeling rested, well and grateful.

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One word

Saudade.

Read about saudade here and here.

Post Chinese class tonight, I became aware of a wave of something funny sweeping over me as I walked along the street. I was so deep in it that I hardly noticed the roads, or the wind, or anything around me. I just found myself outside a Thai restaurant, reading the takeaway menu plastered to the window. I got myself some takeaway pad thai and continued home…

I sat down with my Chinese notes, gazing at the pages – some words familiar, some foreign. I’m so smitten with languages – all languages. Like English and Chinese and French, as well as all the other languages people speak – you know, body language, and the languages of coffee and love and dance and geekology and music and legalese, etc…

My current main focus is Chinese, which is the other language I’ve known all my life, though I’m so out of practice. I’m trying to get better, so I’m studying with the aim to sit for an exam at the end of this year. It’s funny thinking about how much I loathed Chinese in high school, back when learning this was compulsory; now, I let my eyes glide slowly along the page, allowing myself to drink in the words, like wine. It’s amazing how each word has an ocean of meaning behind it; how those idioms are impossible to translate into English – I wonder what it would have been like to never know these? To not have these stories and thoughts coursing through my blood…

Oh, I can’t imagine.

I have realised that being in Auckland has triggered some weird feelings in me, and that I have been grappling with these for some time. Perhaps I’ve felt these feelings for more than a decade now, but Auckland, and travel, (and age?) have accentuated these.

I don’t think I’ve written it down here before, but I hated Auckland when we first moved to NZ a few years ago – so much so that I escaped to Dunedin the moment I could. I stayed away for seven good years before a series of events brought me back up here.

The Ugly Buildings that dot this city still make me cringe. But I know it is not just the superficial things that evoke crazy feelings, though those things play a role in one’s sentiments towards a place – I knew there was something else here that was bothering me.

And if I think about it more, I know it’s the fact that I LOVE and HATE the multi-culture-ness about this place, and the fact that it’s not cohesive – Auckland’s all over the place. It’s a mishmash of suburbs and cityscape and water and people from everywhere (who come and go all the time). It reminds me of something I am proud of and sad about at the same time – that, having grown up in more than two countries, nowhere really feels like home, and everywhere can be home. Wherever I go, I can feel a part of my heart connect with a piece of the land, with the people. Lovely, but dangerous, too.

And – the sheer number of Asian people and food places here bother me – because… I can see the things I love and detest so clearly; I can see myself trying to stay connected to my “roots”, and cut them off at the same time. I can feel the pain of love and learned detachment; I remember the boxes and moving – the excitement of new things and the bad feeling of leaving familiarity… growing pains. Pains of change.

I’ve been dimly aware of this strange state of being for a very long time; I’ve just never been able to say what it was. Struggling for words, I’d name it “homesickness”, or “heartbreak”, or “nostalgia” – now I am glad I have found a better word for it, better still that it’s in sexy Portuguese!

Life and all these things have led to a “monkeys’ wedding” state of being – rain and sunshine – saudades. Always missing something, but with hope, and a lot of laughter, and a lot of sadness, too. And not in a tragic way.

Does this post sound as silly to you as it does to me? Oh, I DO feel silly and soppy writing all of this…

But I wanted to share this word and state of being, saudade. In case you have felt it too, and, like me, not known what it is called.

And that’s all. The photos in this post were taken on my trip last December to Spain, Morocco, Portugal, London, Paris and Singapore.

If you read all the way to here, thanks for bearing with my late night jabberwocky. You deserve a slice of cake! If you have thoughts on saudade, or anything at all really – I would love to hear them. Boa noite! x