Tag Archives: travel

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

Shéhérazade, Fès, Morocco

I went travelling from 18 Nov – 18 Dec. I’m now blogging about some of the places I went to… posts are not written in chronological order.

To be honest, I didn’t immediately like Morocco. When we got off the ferry, I missed Spain immediately, and a public toilet we used made my heart beat so fast I thought it might fall out. So it is that by nightfall on 23 November, I had started to prepare myself for a less than splendid dinner. I know this is totally rude and unfair, but it’s the truth. This was especially the case because the tour bus let us off a short distance away from the restaurant, and the alleyways we walked past were deserted and appetite-killing (to a pessimistic me, anyway)…

So it is that I was completely shocked and delighted by the dinner we did have at the end of our little walk. Actually, I felt a little teary-eyed.

It was, in short, magical.

This place was beautiful. I remember standing in one spot and rotating, slowly, drinking in the details – willowy trees, soft music, dim lights, pretty tables and chairs. The owner of the place and the waiters stood attentively, smilingly, ready to offer us either the room upstairs or the patio… of course we chose the patio. The weather and sky were perfect. All of us were gasping and exclaiming. I think they must get this a lot, for they just beamed patiently.

We started with some herb-infused bread and a spiced, flavourful harira (squeezed tomato soup). Few of us could resist a double helping of this… it tasted of herbs, spices and something less tangible – something I could only describe as carefully crafted to coat the tongue with pleasure.

For the main – a tagine of saffron chicken with tangy lemon and olives. The chicken was gently tender, nicely complemented by the olives and lemon – at once sweet and sour, but in subtle amounts. Again, my tongue could only smile without knowing how to describe what it was tasting. The whole time, we enjoyed glasses of good red wine.

Finally, we had something akin to crispy thin pancakes with milk, nutmeg, honey and cinnamon, topped with what I have just realised was pomegranate. Really, really nice. Freshly made, with a great texture and combination of sweetness and spice.

At the end of our meal, we were offered mint tea avec ou sans sucre… I love this refreshing minty drink without sugar. It slips down your throat like a warm sherbet of ice!

It hardly needs to be said, but this was what I needed to change my mind about Morocco – and glad I am that we had this dinner, for I was in superb spirits the next day – enough to really enjoy the Medina in Fes. :-)

Shéhérazade – 23, Arsat Bennis Douh Fès Médina, Maroc – Phone: +212 535 74 16 42

Bom dia!

This post comes to you from Lisboa (Lisbon) in Portugal. With limited internet access and no chance to upload photos, I have now written so many blog posts in my head and don’t know where to begin! Also, I’m typing on the blasted itouch thing again (free wi-fi today). I’m such a fan of real computers.

Anyway! Since my last post, I’ve also visited Casablanca and Tanger in Morocco and Sevilla (Seville) in Spain. Casablanca and Tanger left much to be desired… it was a real relief to arrive back on Spanish soil and tuck into some tender venison stew and artichoke with jamon for lunch… Sevilla also wrapped its sweet orangey arms around my heart and continues to sing to me from afar.

But more about all of that later. I am in Portugal. Lisboa is beautiful. I am in love with the graffiti art, romantic monuments, swirly pavements, dreamy skies. Fantastic. We also had some very tasty seafood for dinner last night… crabs, prawns, clams, fish galore! It amused me greatly that we were offered beer at the door before we could even sit down too. Everyone was also watching soccer on the gigantic screen while peeling prawns and licking crab juices off their fingers.

Of course we ate more seafood today. Grilled fish, sardines, octopus rice, squid. Ohhh so good. It’s so fresh and they are cooked and dressed well and simply so the flavours just burst through like rays of sunshine topped with tiny sprays of ocean saltiness. And the cheese here is something different too. It looks like a pudding and goes so nicely on top of toasted bread with a quick shake of salt and pepper.

There is simply too much to write about in one go. I’m also looking forward to sharing some pictures soon…

Meanwhile, the tour is coming to an end and sad as it is I shall be celebrating one important thing: NO MORE mass emptying of bladders with everyone from our tour group. It’s torturous dehydrating oneself to avoid using the tour bus loo and running out with everyone to pee every time the tour guide lets us out of the bus. I’m pretty sure that is very unhealthy.

Hola…

Today, I stood in Mediterranean waters in Costa del Sol, sat on the beach with new acquaintances and my brother, walked through the endlessly beautiful Alhambra, smiled back at Spanish boys and sipped espresso in Mijas with a cool girl from Los Angeles. You know, it doesn’t get much better than this.

Food. You get a mix of heaven and hell when you are on tour. My favourites so far are Spanish olives, squid in ink, fresh melon… Oh and needless to say, I ADORE the tapas. Fabulous!!!

Ok, I’m terrrible at typing on this borrowed itouch thing… So I’ll end here for now. Hasta luego!