Friday, December 15, 2006

A really bad PNG update

I really want to talk about my trip to PNG, but the problem is, I don't really know where to start. It was a two month trip, and I feel weird blogging about things that happened two months ago... Well, here's what an average day was like:

5:30 or 6:00 am--Awake to the sound of a neighbour's rooster crowing. Lay in bed, dozing until the generator kicked on. Put in contacts, make coffee for Andy, have toast or oats for breakfast (with lots of bananas).

7:30 am--Walk to the dive shed, load up the boat with our gear, grab air tanks from the end of the jetty, and ride off to the reef, Matane Walindi (sometimes it was Hanging Gardens or Luba Luba, but most days were on MW). The boat ride to the reef took about 5 minutes. Then our boat driver would put our gear together while we got into wetsuits, masks, fins, etc. In the water by 8 am, for two dives. We saw all kinds of cool things underwater, especially early in the morning because they hadn't been scared off yet.

9:00 am--Batty Coda shows up. He was a pinnate spadefish or batfish, who came around every single day that we were diving at MW. At the start, he hung around in the distance, but as he got more used to us he would get closer and closer. At the end of the trip, he was close enough that I could touch him without really stretching my arms much.

11:30 am--Out of the water, back to land for lunch. At the house, we would smash two or three sandwiches, inhale a few bananas, and re-apply suncream.

1:00 pm--Back on the boat at MW for two more dives.

3:00 pm--Fish start to spawn at the reef top. All the fish were out trying to impress each other, then partaking in some afternoon delight.

4:30 pm--Done for the day. Rinse gear, pack it back into the shed, then go home and fight over the first shower. Eat some crackers with peanut butter and jam. Enter the day's data into the computer.

6:00 pm--Make some dinner. We ate a lot of rice, greens, and kau kau (sweet potato). Every night we had to take our doxycyclene, to prevent malaria. Sometimes other people who lived at the conservation centre would come visit, sometimes we'd be alone. After dinner, we washed up, read a bit or did some crossword puzzles, and lazed around.

8:30 pm--Bed. It seems ridiculously early, but 6 hours underwater tires you out like you wouldn't believe. Sometimes before bed we made oatmeal for breakfast the next morning, so we just had to heat it up and eat. Every night we fell asleep to the sounds of geckos, bugs, and flying foxes.

This was our life 6 days a week. On Fridays we went to town to go shopping for food. First the markets to buy all kinds of crazy leaves (pumpkin, mustard, pepper, celery leaves, and god knows what else), kau kau, bananas, coconuts, eggplants, pumpkins, pawpaws, and whatever else struck our fancy. Then we went to Papindo and K-Mart, the grocery shops, to buy things like bread, pasta, vegemite, and soy sauce.

I'm boring, but I can't think still. I've put my photos up online; they are far more interesting than my stories anyways. Be warned: I haven't really sorted through the photos yet, so there are probably some really, really bad ones up there. They are organized by reef name.

Tomorrow I'll try to write more about our adventures--the mumu, the hot river, the sharks, and whatever else I can think of.

Monday, December 11, 2006


I'm back from PNG, tired but tan and happy. I miss it already, even though we've been back for maybe 15 hours. I'll post pictures and stories over the next few days, because I am knackered right now, and trying to unpack and get things settled.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006


That's winnie the pooh for "ta-ta for now".

Catch ya'll on the flip-side (ie. December) with heaps of piccies and stories.

Friday, October 06, 2006


My sister just had a baby. By just, I mean at 3:40 am on the 5th of October. It's a little weird, being halway around the world and trying to figure out the time difference and that. They named him Paxton. I'm not sure if there is a middle name, I only talked to my slightly-clueless brother for a few minutes.

Unfortunately, I really don't like the idea of babies. Which has made it hard to feign enthusiasm ever since I found out she was preggers. She doesn't like my jokes about post-natal abortion, I don't like hearing about how the kid kept moving on her bladder and making her have to pee. That stuff grosses me out. I'm glad that she and her hubby are happy and all, but I keep finding myself referring to the baby as "it" rather than "him", so I am glad that I heard from my brother and not my sister. I would have tried not to laugh when I heard the name Paxton, but I don't know if I could squeal and say "that is so adorable" the way she would want.

On the bright side, now that my parents have a grandchild they have nothing to expect from me :-D

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Rant: my poorly equipped kitchen!

Until you leave home and start fending for yourself--not in dorms, but really go off on your own--you don't realize how many little things you take for granted. I don't mean little things like having mom do your laundry or make you dinner. I've been washing my own clothes since grade 7 and cooking for myself since I went vego in 2003. The little things I mean are peelers, graters, juicers, potato mashers... kitchen stuff! Our kitchen at home was by no means well-equipped, but we had enough stuff that you could improvise for whatever you needed. I never really had to think too critically about how to do something in the kitchen, or analyze a recipe for it's doable-ness with my supplies.

When I moved to Oz, however, I realized quickly how many things you miss. Andy and I realized ahead of time that we would need to buy plates, cups, cutlery, and pots and pans. But we didn't anticipate veggie peelers, can openers, rolling pins, baking dishes, etc. When we moved into our house (we had it to ourselves for the first two weeks), we bought a few of those supplies, enough to get by. And the owner of the house had put a few things in, like pots, a chopping board, plastic spoons and spatulas, and a microwave. Then other housemates moved in and brought a few things of their own, like wooden spoons, a blender (and about 12 bajillion other gadgets that never get used, like veggie steamers, 3 rice cookers--3!--sandwich grillers.....), and a mixing bowl.

We were still lacking a few things, so although we're broke (I can't work and Andy is a full-time student) we've been slowly stocking up. We saw a sale on Pyrex baking dishes, so we have two rectangle pans and a pie plate. We have plans to buy other things, but since we're leaving so soon it doesn't make much sense to buy them and promptly pack them up. So a good wok, a food processor... they'll all have to wait. We still improvise quite a bit, for example I use a tea cup as my measuring cup, and dinner spoons for tablespoons. Measurements are never exactly precise; luckily this hasn't been a problem so far.

Unfortunately, the best stocked housemates started hating everyone else, and no longer want to share. They get the shits anytime we use their good non-stick frying pan, or their mortar and pestle, and they've hidden their wooden spoons and a few other things. I can still get by quite well, but I noticed it yesterday when I was making pierogies. They took away the rolling pin. How do you roll out dough to 1/8" without a rolling pin??! I had to use my measuring cup/tea cup, which was annoying because you can only roll halfway before the stupid handle gets in the way. I ended up rolling it, cutting it, and then rolling each little piece again. What a freaking hassle. Then I had to boil them in a pot that doesn't heat evenly, and fry them in a pan that sticks like you wouldn't believe.

The pierogies ended up tasting delicious (some were filled with sweet potato, and the rest had hokkaido pumpkin with curry powder), but I really, really wish I had excessive amounts of money for good cooking supplies. Anyone want to start a fund??

Monday, October 02, 2006

On the road again...

Well, in the air again, really. In less than two weeks I'll be leaving tropical Australia for tropical Papua New Guinea. I've made mention of it a few times, but I don't think I've given any details.

Andy's honours project is on "The feeding behaviour of tubelip wrasse in Kimbe Bay, Papua New Guinea". Therefore, he gets to go to Kimbe Bay, Papua New Guinea. His supervisor is paying for it with some grant money, and part of the funding is for a research assistant. So, despite the fact that I barely know how to dive, and I know even less about marine biology, he's taking me. I will just be recording the number of bites taken by different fish on corals, and following them around to determine their territory size. More often, I think I'll be inputting data into the computer, and doing things like cooking nummy food when Andy is out diving (he reckons I'll get bored, so I don't have to go out every day if I don't want to). The trip goes from October 11 to December 10. Two months of hiding out in the jungle isn't everyone's cup of tea, but I think I'm going to love it.

Kimbe is located on the north side of West New Britain Island, which is just off the main island of Papua. This map is from this website, which also has a lot to say about West New Britain in general, and Kimbe if you follow some links. This site is good, too. According to the websites and Andy, who spent two months there earlier this year, it is an amazing little town. Palm oil is the biggest industry, as well as dive tourism. About 40 minutes drive from the airport, we'll be staying at the Walindi Plantation Resort. Walindi is a dive resort, and the owner has set up a bit of a conservation centre/research station. James Cook University has its own accommodation within that research station, so we'll be staying there. The accommodation is a 3 bedroom house, and I think we have to share with another researcher for the first month, but after that we're on our own. It's pretty remote; phone calls are expensive and the very slow internet (at the resort, 1 km from the house) only works when it's sunny out.

We'll be diving about 6 days a week over there. (Andy will be. We'll see how often I go out.) We get our own banana boat, with a local boat driver who knows where all the reefs are. When we're not watching fish eat coral, we can go to the markets (there will be so much fresh produce!), get a guide to take us to the top of a volcano, visit some hotsprings, or just lounge on the beach. We won't have much free time, because the days go from about 7 am to 5 pm, but hopefully we'll get to see a few of the local sights. It seems silly to go all the way there and not do anything besides dive.

Although, apparently the diving is some of the best in the world. Part of what makes it so good is its proximity to the shore. Rather than spending 4 hours on a boat, the way you do to get to the Great Barrier Reef, you're at amazing reefs in a short little 20 minute boat trip. There are volcanic caves, a steep drop-off, wrecks from WWII, and every other kind of diving possible on a reef, I think. We should be over there during the coral spawning, so we're hoping to get out for a night dive to see that. Andy says it's really cool, and it only happens once a year, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

So, even thought tubelip wrasse aren't the most colorful fish, it should be a good trip. I'm pretty sure I won't be blogging at all while I'm gone, but don't forget about me! I'll be sure to post a good update when I get back, with cool underwater photos and stuff. Plus, I'll be around for the next week.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

I'm "kitted out"!

Yesterday was a tiring day. Andy and I woke up at the ass-crack of dawn (really 8 am) to go shopping all over town. We went to 5 or 6 different electronics stores, and nearly as many sports stores. Andy is looking into getting a laptop to take to PNG with us, so he can enter data. Also so we can watch movies. The sports stores were for me. I got my own scuba gear! Luckily, I didn't have to search to find vegan schwag, because everything is all rubber/latex/whatever. The rest of the stuff in the sports/outdoors shops had leather and wool and down all in them, but not the scuba stuff!

I got a wetsuit, booties, and open-heeled fins. My mum and dad said to put them on my credit card, and they'll pay them off for my birthday and gift-mas presents. I didn't buy the top-of-the-line gear, but got some mid-range stuff. Since I'll be diving about 6 days a week in PNG, I figured it wouldn't be a good idea to get cheap shit that will fall apart. (To make things more appropriate, these photos were taken with Andy's underwater camera.)
Cool, huh?

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Food Round-Up

I’m stealing this idea from Bazu, who recently posted a Friday Food Round-Up. Unlike Bazu, however, I don’t take as many pictures of my food (I totally would, but Andy makes fun of me for being such a vegan nerd), so it won’t be as good. Also, I’m not committing to any specific day of the week because, well, I don’t like rules. Actually, I’m too inconsistent to try and stick with a plan, at least when it comes to blogging. But anyways, I’ll be doing periodical re-caps of the food I’ve been eating lately.

Last Friday I had an urge to bake, so I decided to fiddle around with a recipe for orange-cranberry bread. We had half a pineapple that needed to be used (it was a bit too tart to eat plain), and two mandarins (tangerines) that were also not that nice to eat. So I thought about making pineapple-mandarin bread, but we don’t have a loaf pan. So I made pineapple-mandarin tea cake. It was gooey and delicious, and a good way to use up fruit that wasn’t good on its own. And it’s my first attempt at radically altering a recipe for anything baked, so I was impressed with myself.

Pineapple-Mandarin Tea Cake
2 c. flour (add a few extra tablespoons if you don’t like your cake very gooey)
1 ¼ c. raw sugar (or less if the pineapple is sweet)
½ t. salt
1 ½ t. baking powder
½ t. baking soda
2 T. vegetable oil
Zest and juice of two mandarins (or one orange)
~1 c. minced fresh pineapple (try to catch as much of the juice as possible, too)
egg replacer for 1 egg (I used flax, but if bananas weren’t $15 a kilo I think they would be ideal)

Preheat the oven to 160 (about 350 F). Grease and flour a 9 inch pie plate, or any small-ish baking dish. In a large bowl, mix dry ingredients. In a smaller bowl, combine oil, mandarin juice and zest, pineapple, and egg replacer. Fold wet ingredients into dry ingredients, combining until uniform, but be careful not to over-mix. Pour the batter into prepared baking dish and bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until it’s golden-brown on top. Cool a bit and loosen the edges before removing from baking dish (or just serve it like that). Next time I think I’ll try adding either poppy seeds or some combination of cashews-macadamia nuts to the batter before I bake it.

Saturday we had two bottles of wine—it took forever to find one that wasn’t processed with milk, eggs, and fish, but we finally found a few and settled on two different kinds. We had a Frontignac and a Riesling, so we decided to have a nice dinner to go along with the wine. Friday I volunteered at the Women’s Centre, sorting bread donations that women can take whenever they need, so I grabbed a loaf of wholemeal bakery bread. First we toasted that up, and then spread the slices with some black olive tapenade from Vegan Planet. The tapenade was just olives, capers, garlic, and parsley, but Andy thought it was too salty so we topped the tapenade with some tomatoes and basil. We ate those with the Frontignac, and although I know fuck-all about wine, I thought they went pretty well together. After a little break to let the food settle, it was back into the kitchen, where we made some Pad Thai (a really, really bastardized version). We used these fresh noodles (not rice but wheat), some browned up tofu, broccoli, a small Lebanese eggplant, red capsicum, and a tomato from the garden. First I sautéed up the veggies, then added a sauce made from soy sauce, brown sugar, and lime juice. Then I mixed in the noodles and the tofu, and it was ready to go. We dished it out and topped it off with a bunch of bean sprouts, a big handful of chopped peanuts, and wedge of lime, and a few orange cherry tomatoes. The Riesling said it accompanied asian dishes well, so we opened up that bottle for dinner. I had never made Pad Thai, and Andy had never eaten it, but it’s definitely something we’ll be making more often. Maybe it was just an effect of the wine, but he loved it.

We woke up Sunday (no hangover, woohoo!) and went to the market. markets that we know of, and each has stalls selling produce, crafts, and random shit. Since I got here in May we’ve been visiting the city market, but for the past two weeks we’ve gone to a different one. The new market has sweet potatoes for $2 a kilo, so we’ve had a very sweet Townsville has at least 3 potatoey couple of days. We also got heaps of apples, capsicums, avocadoes, a honeydew melon, tomatoes, and carrots. Add this to our weekly visit to the Tight-Ass Saturday Sale (when the supermarket marks down produce on Saturday afternoons) and our fridge was chockablock. We tried chicory for the first time, in a pasta bake with eggplant and oregano, and we bought some baby wombok so we can make spring rolls sometime this week. And we’ve still got one black sapote left from a few weeks ago, just on the verge of ripeness now, in front of the honeydew melon.

Last night we had some left over pasta bake with a salad. Here's Andy chopping up veggies for the salad. It had orange capsicum, bean sprouts, tomato, carrot, and basil leaves from the garden.

Here's a close-up of the salad.

And the chicory-eggplant pasta bake, super-yummy even two days in a row!

Friday, September 22, 2006


I've joined the crowd and gone beta. I don't really know what it means, but I've been fiddling around with layouts and stuff, so hopefully I don't accidentally delete the internet for everyone, or something catastrophic like that.

tomayto, tomahto

When we moved in to our new house, Andy and I set up a bit of a garden. Even though we are renting for only 7 months, we wanted to grow some things, for a few reasons. One, to give capitalism the middle finger. We don’t like buying things that we can make ourselves (especially buying them from the gigantor supermarket corporations… the farmer’s market is a different story), and in the tropics, you can grow almost anything. Sure, we’re not exactly revolutionaries, but these are the things we can accomplish right here and now. And we’re tight-asses. The other reason was to make this place more like home. When we lived here alone for two weeks (those were the days!) we got seeds and seedlings, tried to grow pineapple tops, dried out the seeds from our chillies and planted them, planted an onion that was starting to grow leaves when we bought it for half price…. Neither of us is very experienced in gardening. We know the basics, but that’s about it. But we gave it a shot, and it’s come out quite well. Here are our tomatoes, who started out so tiny, and ended up becoming massive, tipping over the stakes, and sitting green on the vine for 4 weeks. We ate our first red tomato last night, and I can see little patches of pinkish-orange that mean we won’t be buying tomatoes this weekend.

And the little herb garden off the patio. We started with two Thai basil plants given to us by our old housemate and a bunch of seeds. Now it’s a bushy little semi-circle filled with basil, Thai basil, parsley, and coriander (cilantro). We also have heaps of herbs planted between the tomatoes (supposedly they keep bugs away), and we’ve got baby chilli plants scattered everywhere as well.

And here’s our Vietnamese mint, mild at first bite but with a tongue-numbing spiciness when you eat it straight off the plant.

We bought it at the market for AU$2, and a month later we’ve already had to move it into a flashy new home (ie a bigger pot).

Despite the negative atmosphere of the house (I know I sound like a hippy, but seriously, this house is miserable), life seems to be thriving. Aside from all of the plants taking over our mini-garden, I opened the window a week or so ago to find these gecko eggs. The picture is really blurry because they were so small; that’s a 2 cm long picture hook next to them! Aside from the two in the picture, there were broken shells all around, which leads me to believe that others had recently hatched. The morning after I found them, one shell was hatched open on the floor beneath the window sill. We went away for the weekend, and when we got back the final egg still hadn’t hatched. I don’t know gecko gestation periods, or even when that thing was laid, but we had a feeling it was a dud. We didn’t get to find out though, because that evening Andy watched as a big gecko came and ate it. I know, circle of life and all that crap, but the idea of tiny baby geckos is so freaking adorable…

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

it's not my fault!

Blogger is being all kinds of wonky, so I apologize if my posts look a little weird. I'm trying to fix them... bear with me :-)

the media sucks; and I turned in my PhD proposal!

Because I post so infrequently, when I do get enough time to sit down at the computer and blog, I have so many different things I want to talk about. Then my posts are very long, very scattered, and probably relatively incoherent. But anyways...

This morning there was a memorial service for Steve Irwin, who died about two weeks ago. It was televised live on 4 out of the 5 channels we get. I think it went from 9 until 10. At 10:30 I turned on the tv to catch the news headlines. For 10 minutes they did nothing but talk about the Steve Irwin thing, recapping everything that had happened just a half hour before. I realise that his death is tragic and upsetting to a lot of people, and I understand the desire to hear about his memorial. But while all of this 'news' was being told, the ticker at the bottom of the screen was focused on an attempted military coup in Thailand. I had to try and decipher the news from a few improper sentences, like "Thai general thwarted in coup in Bangkok. [Channel 7 logo] Tanks surround Thai PM residence. [Channel 7 logo] State of emergency declared--Banks and schools to be closed and Bangkok under Martial Law. [Channel 7 logo] Elections declared unconstitutional. [Channel 7 logo] Bindi Irwin describes Steve as 'Best Dad' at memorial." (First of all, of course she thinks her dad was the best. She's like 10 or something, they all think their dad is the best.) As big as Steve Irwin was, I don't think his memorial should supercede an attempted coup in Thailand. That seems like major news to me. I hate the priorities of the media.

And anyways, as good as Steve Irwin was for education and conservation, I have to imagine that some of those animals he was grabbing and catching weren't exactly happy with him. There are exceptions--when he was catching crocodiles to move them so they wouldn't be shot by farmers, I can see the importance. When he was being cuddled by a Momma orangutan, it looked like she didn't hate having him around. But when he tried to catch all sorts of things just to show them on camera.... I guess it was in the name of education, but it just didn't seem cool, that's all. I would have bit the fucker, if I were a lizard or a snake or something.

The other topic for the day: I turned in my PhD application. There is a very slim chance that I will get a scholarship, since they give out 4 to all the international students that apply. But I'm keeping my fingers crossed, knocking on wood, and anything else that may bring me good luck. The selection criteria is based on a 15 point scale. 5 points are for your academic record, specifically during your last 2 semesters of uni (I had a 3.8something out of 4 during my last 2 semesters). 5 points are for your previous research, ie what you were rated on for your honours/masters research (I got honours, but it was not rated on the same scale as here, so I don't know where I stand with that). 5 points are for your 'research potential', basically your proposal, as decided by the head of the department. One of my potential advisors is the head of the department, so hopefully I do well with that. She said my proposal is good, and she would be 'very pleased to supervise me'. Here's my proposal:
Transforming the system through autonomous social movements:
Potential modes of self-determination by Indigenous Australians

Social movements exist on a continuum from reformative to transformative, from the broad to the issue-specific, and they occupy many levels in between. The Rastafarian movement is one example of a broad based movement against oppression from ‘Babylon’. It is also a transformative movement, seeking to collapse the tyrannical system that exists rather than reforming it—although it intends to do this in small steps. In undertaking previous research, I spent 3 weeks in Ethiopia, including ten days in a Rastafarian community. This research adopted a grounded theoretical approach with a focus on praxis. The findings of this study included the presence of a strong anti-systemic movement that reflects other, more widely known, movements such as that of the Zapatista uprising in Chiapas, Mexico. My research focused on the complexities of the Rastafarian movement as a religion and a lifestyle, and how these intricacies impacted the standing of Rastafari as an anti-systemic movement. The unpublished thesis, the culmination of this research project, was completed at St. Lawrence University (New York State) leading to the award of a Bachelor of Arts with Honours in Sociology. I have enclosed copies of reference letters from my two advisors. To indicate in more detail the scope and findings of my research project I have also attached a copy of the abstract to the thesis.

I propose to utilise and expand on the findings of my previous research at James Cook University. Rather than focusing on the Rastafarian movement, I intend to explore the phenomenon of autonomous social movements in detail, through comparative analysis. Autonomous social movements appear to be a potential epicentre of long-lasting challenge to the global capitalist system. This type of movement, although not new, has only recently received any noteworthy and critical attention. From the Maroon communities of escaped slaves in the Caribbean to the worldwide Rastafarian movement, autonomous social movements work within the system whilst simultaneously challenging it. Other examples include the recovered factory movement in Argentina, the aforementioned indigenous land movement in Chiapas, Mexico, and simple cooperative living arrangements (on a micro scale). These autonomous social movements, while working within the confines of global capitalism, try to limit the effects of the system on the internal workings of their groups. As such, these movements may appear to be capitalist in nature, but internally they can operate unbound by the confines of this socio-economic system.

As integral to this research I propose to look at historical movements to ascertain their strengths and weaknesses as a basis for comparative analysis with contemporary anti-systemic movements. More specifically, I hope to apply these theories to the concept of self-determination being put forth by Aboriginal Australians since the walk-off at Wave Hill in August 1966 (Attwood 2000, Hardy 1968). I hope to ascertain whether the broad self-determination movement shares characteristics with anti-systemic movements such as Rastafari. Limited scholarly engagement exists that examines the social movement aspects of Indigenous movements (see for example Merlan 2005; Maynard 2003; Gibson and Dunbar-Hill 2000). Published works are effectively limited to widely publicized events, as those are the most accessible. The problem with this is that it ignores the many grass-roots actions that characterize autonomous social movements. If my research finds no sound links between autonomous social movements and Indigenous Australians, I will investigate whether Indigenous Australians could benefit from being more like an autonomous social movement in their organising. As a result, it will be imperative to question the implications for both Indigenous Australians and the non-Indigenous government and population.

This research would be multi-faceted with a qualitative nature. The substantial qualitative data already gathered from one of the Rastafarian settlements in Shashamene, Ethiopia will be used as a basis for comparative analysis. Interviews and participant observation within local Aboriginal communities will provide further empirical material. I intend to record both informal conversations and formal interviews, drawing on individuals from a variety of circumstances to gather the widest possible data. This qualitative data would be compared with available published materials, both sociological and anthropological. For comparisons to other autonomous social movements, the abundant existing research will aid investigation. Current social movement theories put forth by Graeber (2005), Wallerstein (2004), and McAdam and Snow (1997) provide a sound basis for theoretical analysis.

This research is a timely topic: with the Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander and South Sea Islander push for self-determination in the recent decades, a study of this nature would be beneficial for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. Additionally, the findings may be useful in determining future government policies. One potential difficulty will be gaining acceptance into communities as a white female researcher, which is an issue and challenge to most ethnographic study. My personal motivations to undertake this research include working with Indigenous Australians to improve their standing within the system, as well as to gain an increased understanding of autonomous and anti-systemic movements in general.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

5 Foods Meme and... I can breathe underwater!!

Last week I was tagged by Bazu over at Where's the Revolution? to list 5 foods I think everyone should eat before they die. I had a think about it, and meant to post over the weekend, but something came up. (More about that in a minute.) So, without further ado, my list (in random order):

Shiro with fresh injera. I ate this a lot when I was in Ethiopia. Since there are translation problems, I'm not really sure what it was, but I'll try my best to describe it. You take yellow split peas and dry them in the sun, then grind them into a really fine flour. Then, in a pan saute some onions, add water and shiro flour, and spices. Simmer for a long, long time. Serve on injera (a yummy, spongy Ethiopian flatbread). The best shiro I had was on the road to Shashamene, when we stopped in Lake Ziway at a homebrew liquor store/bar/thingie. The old man's wife made us shiro from scratch, and the injera had been made that day, and it was some of the best food I've ever had.

Sticky Rice with Mango. Preferably from a street vendor in Thailand. Fresh mango, peeled and sliced while you wait, served on the side of sticky rice topped with coconut cream. So rich, it melts in your mouth. Khaw cow-neow mamuang kha was the first phrase I learned in Thai: "I would like sticky rice with mango, please".

Vegan Mac and "Cheese" casserole. I use this recipe, with a few alterations. Vanilla soymilk instead of plain, a bit less salt and soy sauce, a few cloves of fresh garlic instead of garlic powder, and bread crumbs for the top. And, while the mac and cheese is good on its own, it becomes amazing when you mix in fresh veggies, tofu, and/or fake meat before baking. During the spring semester of 2005 I made this at least once a week with my friend Nicole. It probably wasn't the healthiest decision we've ever made, but it was a yummy one.

Ripe, squishy, black sapote. It was hard for me to narrow down my favorite tropical fruits, but I think sapote takes the cake. It is also known as chocolate pudding fruit. Big and green, and hard when you buy it; set it on the counter for a few days, and when it gets dark and really squishy it's ready to eat. Cut it open, squeeze some orange juice over the top, and scoop out the dark brown flesh with a spoon. So yummy, and really quite good for you (heaps more vitamin C than an orange!).

Hot homemade bread with soya margarine and vegemite. Jam for people who can't handle the mite. Hot, steamy bread, no matter what type it is, is one of my favorite foods in the world. And vegemite, with its salty goodness, is a bit of a shocker at first, but after a few tries it's really grown on me. Now it's my main source of B12. It's the kind of food that you can't try once... give it 2 or 3 goes before you rule it out (and use a teeeeeny tiny bit).

Okay, I know I'm supposed to tag five more people for this, but I think that every blog that I read regularly and occasionally has done this already. So, mine is an open tag... if there's anyone reading this that hasn't done it, consider yourself tagged. Just let me know in the comments that you're doing it, so I can have a little read.

Now, the reason I didn't get around to posting this weekend: I learned how to scuba dive! On Wednesday, Andy was offered a job teaching an advanced scuba course with the JCU dive club because some chick cancelled. On Thursday he found out she un-cancelled, and they were going to split the 6 students. Well, rather than splitting the students, they decided to split the 5-dive course. Clair would lead the first 2 dives, they would share the middle, and Andy would lead the last 2. That way, the first day of the trip he could do my open water course. So on Friday afternoon I found out that I needed to get gear, pack, and plan meals for 48 hours. And we had to be there at 8 that night. So we ran around to Remote Area Dive and borrowed some gear. We came home and quickly did the knowledge reviews. We packed up some clothes, and I made 5 peanut butter and jam sandwiches. I figured there would be fruit and veggies around that I could eat for most of the meals, and since it was so last minute I wasn't expecting vegan food to be provided, but there was vegan margarine and toast for brekky, salad sammies for lunch, and then I ate my PB & J for dinner.

Aside from the last-minute notice, the diving was nothing short of amazing. We were out on the SS Kalinda, which was a nice enough boat for our purposes. The first dive, on Saturday morning, started off a little chaotic. We were at Wheeler Reef, and the weather pattern was a little weird. The current was running differently than normal, the wind was coming from the opposite direction, and there was a bit of chop. Nothing too bad, though. Then we had trouble finding an air tank that was full and working. We finally found one, but it was the smallest on the boat. I set up my gear, Andy strapped some weights around me, and we jumped into the water. The current was stronger than I thought, so we descended down the anchor line. I got tangled up in the rope before we even got under the water, and Andy had to come get me out. Then when it came time to descend, I couldn't sink. I let all the air out of my BCD (the little vest that keeps all your gear on your body), and I stayed at the top of the water. Andy had to take some of his weights and put them in my pocket, so I finally sank, but I was a little unbalanced. We had a swim around... the colors were gorgeous. Hard corals, soft corals that looked like bright purple cauliflower, green algae, deep purple sea stars, fish that were every color of the rainbow.... there was so much to see, and I was so worried about checking my air and equalizing my ears and not dying that I missed most of it. I followed Andy around, and then we kneeled down on some sand and did the skills. I flooded my mask with water and cleared it, and then took it off (something that I couldn't do the first time we were in the pool... I completely freaked out). I got my buoyancy as good as it can be when one side of you is 3 pounds heavier than the other. I borrowed his air for a bit. We swam around some more, over a bit of coral that was about 2 meters high, and I whacked my knee on the top of it. Ow.

The second dive went a lot more smoothly. We got my weights figured out, and we went a bit deeper--18 meters instead of just 14. We did the rest of the skills, and this time I was able to see a lot more. There was an anemone with a little clown fish poking around in it. There were sea cucumbers all over the sandy bottom. It's a surreal experience, breathing underwater. The sound of your own breathing is so loud in your ears, and you have no way of communicating verbally. You rely on hand signals and hope for the best, really. At lunch we moved to the other side of the reef, which is barely dived because of the currents and wind. We got lucky... it was beautiful. I went in the late afternoon, so the sun was starting to get a bit weaker and the lighting was more surreal than normal. Huge fish were swimming around, and turtles, and rays, and more colors than I thought possible. At some point in between the dives a big pod of dwarf minke whales started surfacing about 200 meters from the boat. Turtles were coming up for air really close by, and fish were jumping all over.

The next morning we were on the Yongala, a 100 meter long ship wreck between 15 and 30 meters under the water. It's been there since 1911, but no one knew where it was until the 1960s. Because of the conditions (it's in the middle of a sandy patch, with land 12 miles away and reefs 20 miles away) it teems with giant fish that live in the sea weed and algea growing on the hull. I didn't go on the first dive of the morning, because Andy was leading a deep dive and I didn't feel up to it. The second dive, though, was wonderful. I buddied up with a divemaster friend of Andy's, and we tacked along with his advanced course. There are a few points where you can see into the hull, and we saw a sea snake, toilets all crusted over with algae, and a turtle that was the size of a dinner table. It had a barnacle on it's shoulder that was probably 3 inches in diameter, and it was just taking a bit of a snooze in the hull. The fish were massive, some people saw a manta ray and a bull shark (not me... I probably would have freaked!). The only thing I didn't like about that dive was coming back up. We had to ascend along a line, and there were so many people around that kept bumping into me and blowing bubbles in my face. I found out I'm an anti-social diver, but I like being under water a lot. My descriptions aren't very good, because I was overwhelmed with everything that I can't really put it into words. The night we got back I couldn't sleep, because I could feel the boat rocking, and the trip was playing back in my head like a movie. So even though I don't sound that impressed, I thought it was great, and I can't wait to do it again.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Paluma and pie

So, uh, I'm a sucky blogger. My excuse is that I don't have the internet at home. We just barely got a phone line, two months after we moved in. There is broadband in the house, but Andy and I are major tight-asses, and with the uni just a 15 minute walk away, we don't really see the point of paying for it. But anyways....

A little over a week ago, we got out of the house and went up to Paluma, a world heritage rainforest /mountain range. There's a teeny little village at 1000 m above sea level, and heaps of walking tracks, and creeks and waterfalls and gorgeous views all the way to the coast. It's about 45 minutes drive from the house, so it was a nice day trip. Of course, my camera batteries died after about 4 pictures, so most of the views will live on in my mind. We played around in Little Crystal Creek, although the water was positively frigid, so although I was prepared with a bathing suit, it was unnecessary. Then we drove up a bit further and hiked a little. The air was so much cleaner and cooler than it is in Townsville. It was refreshing. We went to a few different overlooks, where you could see out to the coast. It was a hazy day, because Brisbane keeps catching on fire and the smoke is finding its way up here. But it was really nice to do something different.

On the way back we stopped at Frosty Mango, this little roadside cafe that has all sorts of tropical fruit dishes. We got a 5 scoop boat of vegan ice cream in exotic flavors--mango, jackfruit, cashew apple (the fruit of the cashew nut), tree grape, and black sapote (aka choc. pudding fruit). Then we went to a really nice beach in a little town and had a picnic near the water, just hummus and eggplant dip with nice bread and veggie sticks. We saw heaps of rays, and I think stepped on a few--luckily they didn't sting me. They did, however, scare the crap out of me. There were a ton of hermit crabs and sand dollars and star fish, too. The water wasn't very nice for swimming in, because it was so murky, but it was a good day overall.

Other than that mini-adventure, I've been hanging around Townsville, mostly. We got a library card (yay for public libraries!), so I've read a lot in the past two weeks. Margaret Atwood, Kurt Vonnegut, Virginia Woolf, George Elliot, and Philip Roth have all had a home in my room for the past fortnight. I've basically come to the end of the perpetual revision process for my PhD application, and I'm planning on turning it in this week. Then I wait--they notify scholarship applicants of the decision by January. I'm still not scuba certified (goddamn Andy's dive gear was broken forever), but that should be happening soon. The Papua New Guinea trip, where I will be a 'research assistant' for Andy's honours research, has been pushed back until October. We are drinking our second batch of homebrew, which tastes good, but neither batch has been very fizzy lately. I cook a lot, especially lately because Andy has been busy with work or his honours. Plus, cooking helps me relieve stress (which I've had a lot of, since I sort of hate living in our house).

Basically, my life is boring, so what would I blog about anyways?? I'll make it a springtime resolution--I will post more often. Spring started 3 days ago here, but who's keeping track, really?

Friday, June 23, 2006

Pictures, food, and a few more stories

Well, as you can clearly see, I've decided to go with "the tropical vegan". Not very interesting, I know, but it's hard to be creative sometimes. The url won't be changing, however, so it might get a little confusing, but whatev.

The news of the week: Andy and I moved into a house! It's a big 5-bedroom house that was completely empty when we looked at it. Massive common area (although the kitchen is a little snug), huge patio, nice yard. It's in a good location, a 15 minute walk to the Uni computer lab, 20 minute drive to the beach and the city. We moved in on Monday; the next person won't be moving in for more than a week (so we get it to ourselves for 2 weeks). The owner has all of the rooms promised to people, so there will be six of us living there, which could be verrrry interesting. Dealing with Andy's reaction to my veganism was harder than I thought it would be, and he's known about it for over a year. Putting up with 4 strangers who will very likely not be vegan is going to suck ass. I'm not looking forward to it. I know I shouldn't get defensive about it before they move in; they might be completely cool about it. But I don't feel like dealing with drama right now, and I'm worried that is what it will become.

But then again, the food that Andy and I cook is pretty amazing, if I do say so myself. I took thisastroporn shot a week or so ago, when we made stuffed red capsicum (bell pepper) at the old house. Inside is couscous with mushrooms, baby bok choy, tomatoes, and cilantro. Then we topped the whole thing with sweet chili sauce, which caramelized when we baked it. SO GOOD!

It's not just this, though. We've been trying heaps of new things. Last night we made pasta sauce with egg plant and zucchini, and had that over some fettucini. The night before we made a really yummy stir-fry type dish. It was supposed to be Caribbean Chicken, but obviously we did it without the chicken--just pineapple, capsicum, carrot, and sugar snap peas. And we improvised. He loves using those seasoning packets, but I think they're boring, so we added some fresh ginger and fresh lime juice, and a bit of veggie stock. Then we mixed in fresh cilantro, which was delish. I took a picture, because it was really pretty and colorful and yummy, but then I accidentally deleted it. Woops. But anyways, our food is amazing, so hopefully people don't give me crap about being vegan. If they do, I'll have to break some skulls.

But anyways, the new house is amazing, at least until people move in. I took heaps of pictures, partially to show my parents and friends, and partially to document everything in case the real estate agent tries to fuck us when we move out. The pictures are online here. There are also some pictures of Andy, and of a little baby avo we got for free from the farmer's market, and of this little green tree frog.

When we lived in Hermit Park for a few weeks before this new house, there was a frog that lived in the mailbox. I accidentally brought him in to the house when I was taking the mail in. I didn't realize it until I picked up one of the flyers and he hopped off onto my leg. After my initial freak-out from not knowing what it was, I tried to catch him so I could put him back outside. Well, frogs hop. And they hop far. So it was this ridiculous little drama where I was chasing him all around the house and he just kept hopping away. I was worried I would scare him to death, so I stopped and let him chill in the bathroom for a little while, then I got him under a cup and put him back outside. I was really worried, but then a few days later he was back in the letterbox, so it all worked out.

So yeah, that's my life right now. I'm in a good place, but we'll see if that changes when other people start moving into our palace.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Updates and changes... a very long post

Um, woops. I've been in Australia for more than three weeks now, and I haven't posted shit. I do have a bit of an excuse--I have no internet in the house I'm currently living in, so I have to catch a bus to the Uni library (30 minutes and $2 each way) to take advantage of free internet when I can. So needless to say, it's a hassle that I try to avoid whenever possible. Which means coming to use the internet when Andy has a day off and can drive, which also means not dilly-dallying on blogger when he's waiting for me. But anyways...

Let's see, updates. Senior week was a huge amount of fun, even though my body hated me. The vegan options at the scheduled events were usually raw veggie sticks and pretzels. There were a few days when I got veggie wraps and fruit, but I was mostly eating raw carrots and zucchini. And beer, lots and lots of beer. It was a total shit show, but fun, and ended with a 2 hour long graduation featuring Viggo Mortenson and a few other boring speakers. It was nice to say good bye to all my friends and profs though, so I'm really glad I went.

The day after graduation I hopped on a plane (well, 5 planes) and came to Australia. It was long and miserable, but it could have been much worse. I didn't get to eat for the first 8 hours, because the meal they served on the way to LAX was some cheese and spinach thing. Luckily I packed some soy jerky, and that tided me over. From LAX to Auckland, a 14-hour flight, I was the only person sitting in my row of 4 seats. I could lay flat and nap, so I ended up getting about 4 hours of very interrupted sleep. And I watched a heap of movies, and read, and did some crossword puzzles, and sat and stared at the flight path... I had ordered a raw meal on that flight, and got a bunch of fresh veggies, so I didn't really go hungry. It could have been better, but I guess I can't complain. Actually, the 4 hour flight from Cleveland to LA seemed longer than the 14 hour flight to Auckland. After a few more layovers and a trip through customs, I hopped on the final 90 minute plane ride up to Townsville. I flew with Virgin Blue, and I gotta say--I don't recommend it. The tickets were so much cheaper than QANTAS, but for good reason. They charge for everything. Headsets, food, drinks, even water. And, the seats were leather (ack!). I was wearing a skirt, so my legs kept sticking, and it was totally gross. But, I eventually made it to the Townsville Airport, and saw Andy for the first time in a year and a half, and was happy happy happy.

Since then, I haven't been doing a whole lot. I had a meeting with the head of the Anthro/Soc department about doing a PhD. She wanted me to start in August, but the way scholarships and things work, I won't be starting till February at the earliest. But, the point is, she likes my ideas and wants me to research them at JCU, so I have high hopes. I'm going to try for a few other schools too, just to keep my options open in case I don't get a scholarship here, but north Queensland has my heart right now. Andy and I have been doing all that Townsville has to offer--a few beaches, a few mountains (hills, really), a few museums... Sunday mornings we go down to the market, which offers heaps of fresh, local produce, as well as cutesy arts and crafts for sale by old ladies. Between that and "tight-ass Saturday sales" we are pretty well stocked in fruit and vege. (On Saturday afternoons the supermarkets mark down the prices of all the fresh food, so we go on a rampage and clear out everything that is about to go off. Strawberries, herbs, beets, tomatoes... Andy gave it that name because it's all a bunch of tight-asses looking to save a few bucks, and I like the name, so I'm adopting it.) I have eaten so many delicious avocados since I've been here, and I've tried heaps of new fruits and things.

Even though Andy isn't vegan, we cook together every night. He claims I've opened his mind to different kinds of food that he never would have considered--bean dishes, stuffed capsicums (red bell peppers), sweet potato bakes... We flip through my Vegan Planet every few days and see what looks good, and then we try a few new things out. He's slowly seeing the virtues of the vegan diet, and although he hasn't given anything up officially, he's getting close, I think. I don't want to push him into veganism, because it wouldn't last and he'd hate me for making him give up meat and dairy, but I really, really want him to get there on his own. We shall see, I suppose.

Aside from that, we do a lot of nothing. We were consumed with finding a new place to live for a while, but that has pretty much died down. For the past few months, Andy has been living with a friend/acquaintance of his, a PhD student who owns a house. The rent isn't great, but it was convenient, and Piers said we could stay there as long as we needed while we were looking for something more permanent. Then he announced that a plumber was coming to install an outdoor shower, since the inside one will soon be ripped apart to fix a leak. Welp, that definitely sped up the search for a new place. We found an absolute gem--a 5 bedroom house, about 5 minutes (walking, not driving) from the Uni. Right now no one is living in it, although the landlord is hoping to rent out all the rooms (I'm excited that we're moving in first though, because it gives us the air of seniority, and our pick of the bedrooms). It has a HUGE common space, all the rooms are air-conditioned and have ceiling fans, and there is a massive patio and lawn. It's in a nice neighborhood, and there are security screens and a lock-up garage, and it's set back from the road a bit. The landlord is putting in a refrigerator, a washing machine, a couch and tv, a kitchen/dining room table, and he's thinking about giving us broadband internet. He wants to pay Andy to mow the lawn, and he's getting someone to clean the common areas once a week. And this is all for $100 a week. It's amazing. Right now we're just waiting on the real estate agency that he's going through to finish the paperwork so we can sign our lease. I'm so excited, I just want to move in right away. We've been looking at things like pots and pans, cutlery, and all that stuff, since Andy doesn't have much. We got 4 sweet-ass plates and 2 coffee mugs from Salvo's for $5, and we've been keeping our eyes peeled for sales and things like that. I'm basically super-pumped.

So, now that I'm up to date, changes. I've realized that if my plans go off as they are intended (grad school and all that), I'll only be traveling sporadically. I really want to do a lot of that, but I'm not backpacking across Asia anytime soon. So I'm thinking about changing from the traveling vegan to... something else. Less advice-y travel log, and more day-to-day chronicles of my vegan life. If it gets too boring I'll just throw the whole thing out, but for now, my life is a bit boring :) So what to call the thing? I'll mull it over and try to come up with a few ideas, but if any readers (do I have any?) have suggestions, leave a comment!

So there you go, a very long post. Cheers!

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Excitement, anxiety, and everything in between

I haven't posted in a few days for two reasons. 1) I don't have much to say. I'm not traveling yet, so I'm boring. 2) I'm getting ready to go. I have less than 3 days before I go up to school for Senior Week and graduation, and the day after graduation I leave for Oz, so I don't have a whole lot of time left.

I've started to have some more concrete anxieties, mostly about packing. I will be fine, size-wise; the luggage my parents bought me is well under the size limits by all the airlines, yet big enough for everything I want to bring. Weight shouldn't be much of a problem, either. I'm allowed 50 pounds each, in two bags (this is the standard for American-based flights, but check with each airline to be sure). I have one bag basically packed, and it is something like 45 pounds or so. The other is currently at 20-ish, and all I have left to put in it is a week's worth of clothes, so I will be golden. The problem comes in on the last leg of my flight. I'm flying Virgin Blue, which is Australia's "budget" air option (at least, one of them). As far as I can tell, I'm only allowed one checked bag, weighing no more than 50 pounds total. Eek. I'm hoping I can pull a fast one on them by checking my bag from Albany straight through to Townsville. Even though I have to get it to go through customs in Brisbane, maybe it will work? At this point, there isn't much I can do about it. I'll hope for leniency since I'll be coming off an international flight, and pay if need be. Blah.

My other main anxiety is financial, and I've had it for a while. Paying back student loans while trying to start living on my own won't exactly be fun. My mom is implying that she will periodically visit my bank account, which is very cool, but at the same time.... I kind of want to be able to make it on my own. But usually the realistic (and selfish) part of me takes over and says "There is no way you will last!!", so I just won't argue. Maybe I won't need her money, but I guess we'll cross that bridge when we get to it.

Other than that, I've been trying to basically move myself out of my house. Although I've been at school for the past 4 years, I've always had a room here and this is my home base. But, for the next few years, I won't be anywhere near here. My room is becoming the guest room, and I'm 100% okay with that, but it's a little weird to be moving out of it. I've already freecycled a bunch of my stuff, and thrown out/recycled the junk, but there are some things that I can't bring myself to part with, at least not yet. So I'm claiming the closet, and one of the dresser drawers, and filling them up with those things. It won't inconvenience my parents any, it's essentially the same as putting my stuff in the basement, minus the dampness and the spiders. And, that way if I need anything, I know where it is and can have my parents ship it over to me.

Well, I probably won't be posting a lot for the next few weeks, although I might get a few in during Senior Week. I don't even know if I'll have the internet at the house in Townsville, but I'll certainly keep everyone updated on my whereabouts and such.

Getting antsy....

Thursday, May 04, 2006

packing, round 1

I started packing today. Just the preliminaries; I obviously can't pack anything that I'll be using in the next 2 and a half weeks. So it's clothes I don't plan on wearing (don't ask me why I'm even bringing them), new shampoo and crap like that, books... you get the idea. And, being a total nerd, I took pictures. So, enjoy.

This one is my carry-on. The smaller blue pouch has face soap, makeup, and that stuff. The four little white boxes are my contacts... I don't want to risk losing them in my luggage, because they are expensive! That shirt is Andy's birthday present :), there are some snacks, and some contact solution. The front pouches have my jewelry, and I'm going to pack a change of clothes, my camera, more food(!) and my CDs (if they fit). Electronics and valuables should always go in your carry-on!

My big, main suitcase currently has a few books (I wish I could fit more!), underneath most of that stuff. Shampoo, soap, sun block, etc. are in giant freezer bags, and I stuffed the extra space with bathing suits and socks, just to take up less room. If anything explodes or breaks open, I can just throw the socks and bathing suits in the wash, rather than every single thing in the suitcase. Alse here is my snorkel and mask, my photo album, and a few miscellaneous things, like the hat and belt. I don't know what else will go in here, more clothes, I guess.

Here's the duffel bag. Right now I have my flippers and a few skirts and pants, rolled up to take up minimal space. This bag will probably fill up with clothes, since I don't have to worry about them breaking or exploding like some other stuff.

And here they all are, stacked up ever so nicely. The duffel still fits into the big structured suitcase, and my comfy travel pillow is sitting on top :)

So, um.... there's 20 minutes of your life that you'll never get back!

A few travel recipes

Here's a recipe for some energy bars that seem like they'd be good for travel, since they've got some good nutrition and stuff. Plus, you can freeze them after you make them, and before you head out (whether in a car, on a plane, or on foot) you can throw it in your cooler or bag, and it will be ready for you when you get hungry.

Flaxen Cereal Bars
4 c. rice crispies (or whatever cereal, granola would work well too)
1 c. corn or rice syrup
1 c. brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 c. ground flax seed
1 c. nut butter (try combining more than one type to get 1 cup)
1 c. dried fruit and/or nuts (chop it up if it's in big chunks)

In a small sauce pan, heat nut butter, syrup, and brown sugar. Don't let it boil, but warm it up so it's fairly runny. Stir in flax seed and vanilla. In a large bowl, combine cereal with fruit/nuts. Pour the nut butter mixture over the cereal and stir well, until it's all combined. Press the mixture into a well-oiled 9x13 inch pan. Refrigerate for a few hours, then cut into 24 squares or 12 rectangles. Wrap them in saran wrap or waxed paper, and keep in fridge or freezer.

These are the same idea as the other ones, but bite sized, with more ingredients. The original recipe called for apricots, which I absolutely hate, so I subbed them with more dried berries. It also called for honey, which is, like, so totally not vegan.

Granola Bites
2 Tbsp. sliced almonds, toasted
1 3/4 c. quick cooking rolled oats
1/3 c. unsweetened dried apples, finely chopped
2/3 c. unsweetened dried blueberries, cherries, and/or cranberries
2 Tbsp. raw sunflower seeds (hulled, obvi)
2 Tbsp. unsweetened coconut flakes
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 c. nut butter
1/4 c. sticky sweetener, like maple syrup or corn syrup
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Place almonds and 1/4 c. of the rolled oats in a food processor, and process until they become fine crumbs, about 15 seconds. Set aside. In a large bowl, combine remaining oats, dried fruit, sunflower seets, coconut, and cinnamon. Add nut butter, sweetener, and vanilla. Sumbine well, until mixture begins to stick together. Form mix into 1 inch balls (heh heh, I said balls), coat lightly with the almond/oat crumb mixture from before, and place in an airtight container. Separate layers with plastic wrap or waxed paper. Refrigerate for 4 hours, or overnight. Makes 36.


This isn't explicitly about travel, but whatever.

In, like, a week and a half, I'm going up to my uni for Senior Week. It's the week immediately following finals, culminating in the graduation ceremony on Sunday. It's a week of parties planned by some senior class committee, where you buy a $35 wrist band and you get free drinks (and snacks like crackers and stuff) at all of the events. And, since everyone is finally done with all of their work (or, they should be), there are a lot of non-organized parties as well. Food-wise, I'm not too worried. If I eat in the dining halls, they always have some vegan options (some times, lots of vegan options). More likely, I'll be cooking meals with people and living off the leftovers. It probably won't be my healthiest week, as most of my calories will be consumed in the liquid form, but I will be fine.

My family is coming up on the final Friday, 2 days before I graduate. My mum wants to have a graduation party for me on campus, since I'm leaving for Australia the day after I graduate. Okay, that's nice of her, and the party is more for my family than me, so I am not going to argue. A few weeks ago she asked me what kind of food I wanted. We tossed around a few ideas. There was the obvious--veggies, bread, a few types of salad. And I was trying to think of something vegan that would be easy to make in large quantities, and would please a lot of people. I suggested having a bunch of pasta with different kinds of sauces on the side, like pesto, marinara, puttanesca, and whatever else we could think of. My mom put hot dogs and hamburgers on the list, and I didn't say anything, wanting to keep the peace.

A few days later I realized that chili would be an easy crowd-pleaser. We settled on the Black Bean Chili with Cilantro Pesto from Vegan Planet, which I've made before for some school event, and everyone loved it. And, we could make it ahead of time and throw it in the freezer. Then, when Mum and Dad make the three-hour drive up to school, they can bring it up frozen. By the time they get to school, it might be starting to melt a little, but it will still be very cold, at the least. More likely, it will still be mostly frozen, and we can stick in a fridge on campus. (There we go, that's how it ties in to travel. Freeze things before car trips and they stay cold for a long time, especially if you pack them into a cooler.)

Well. Mum mentioned that she was planning on making a "meat sauce" so people can murder-ize the vegan chili if they want, "or they can put it on their hotdogs or whatever if they want." Aside from the disgusting hot dog thing, I think having an optional meaty add-in is insulting. The chili is good! It doesn't need meat! It's perfectly healthy, and filling, and tasty. The night she mentioned that, I guess I was feeling a bit more fiesty, because I said "I don't understand why people can't go one meal without meat." Because hey, it's my graduation. And it's just one meal. My mum didn't say anything, and I don't really know what the plan is now. I just feel like a total shit the more I think about it. I should have said something the first time it came up, instead of waiting. Now, I'm tempted to concede on the hotdogs and hamburgers (ew, but the smell of them cooking is going to be so gross), but not the meat sauce. It completely undermines the vegan-ness (veganity?) of the chili, and I don't want it there. But, another part of me just wants to say no meat whatsoever. Because I'm the star of the show, at least for that one night.

This is a really weird situation, because I never, ever argue with my parents. I don't want to start something big, and the fact that my mum didn't even say anything in response to my little challenge makes me feel really bad. Bah! This is the first semi-negative experience I've had with my parents regarding my veganism, and I don't know what to do!

Friday, April 28, 2006

Veganism and traveling

I know, that's the point of the whole blog. But bear with me.

I do not claim to be an expert on veganism (or on travel, for that matter). I decided to go vegan last January, so, what, 15-ish months ago? I don't know the exact date of my decision, since it was a non-committal, "I'll try it out and see how it goes" sort of thing. But even in that short amount of time, it seems like a lot of people wonder/ask/tell me that veganism is too hard for them, especially with regards to traveling. Hell, I fell into that trap when I went to Ethiopia... everyone told me "veganism will be too hard, it's such a meat-loving country". That couldn't be farther from the truth! Veganism is so easy, especially when you've got that pesky little conscience ruining your animal-derived meals. Okay, sure, there are some things that get a little frustrating -- Why must they put casein in every goddamn thing, for example. But, with a little bit of forethought (not even planning, just consciousness), flexibility, and some self-confidence, every vegan can be perfectly happy, no matter where in the world they happen to be.

As Bob and Jenna say in their book, Vegan Freak, over and over again, "Meek vegans suffer" (I'm not even going to look for a page reference, because I remember seeing it so many times!). You just need to speak up and let the appropriate people know that you are vegan and what that means. Case in point: tomorrow I am getting inducted into this honorary that has a chapter at my school. The induction includes a dinner. Immediately after I rsvp-ed, I emailed the contact person to make sure they were planning on having a vegan option at dinner. After a few emails back and forth, where I offered suggestions and they gave me a tentative menu, I think I'm all set. Dining services is veganizing all of the side dishes, as well as adding a sauteed veggie dish for me, and making sure to have fresh fruit available for dessert (veganizing baked goods is a different battle for a different day). I wrote two emails, and I'm being accommodated. In the event that the food sucks, or there isn't much, I'm going to have some food in the car, or make my parents buy me some Rice Dream from the little shop on campus. And if it sucks, I'm not going to get all pissy and uptight about it. It is what it is, and sulking won't change it. Flexibility, see? And whether the food is good or not, I'm going to get drunk afterwards, but that is completely irrelevant.

It's the same idea for events that aren't planned like this one. Let's say you're going on a trip, but you're worried that there won't be much vegan food where you're going. Plan ahead a little. If you're flying, book a vegan meal with your ticket, and call to confirm the day before you fly. Bring snacks! Airplane food usually sucks, and you don't want to starve, so bring a few things. If it's a road trip, bring a cooler full of yummy sammiches and fruits and veggies and stuff. If you're going to a country where the language isn't your own, bring along the Vegan Passport, or at least learn a few key phrases in the local language--"I am vegan", "I do not eat meat, fish, eggs, dairy, honey, etc". Check out the restaurant guides at Happy Cow and VegDining. Google "vegetarian restaurant [place name] and see if there is a local guide. If you're a stickler about vegan alcohol (I am, but not everyone is), look around to see if you can get a list of local vegan wines and beers. Colin pointed me to this list of mostly Australian alcohol.

In short, there are tons of online resources about traveling as a vegan. Google it. I dare you. I don't know everything there is to know, and I never will. But even with my little teeny slice of the knowledge pie (mmm, pie), I don't think being vegan is hard at all. Basically, if you aren't vegan because you think it will be too hard, well, suck it up and go for it. There are plenty of other reasons people have, but I don't want to talk about them right now. And, it's my damn blog, so I do what I want.

Cheers :-D

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Prep... not the "style" kind, the getting ready kind

Although my trip is coming up really soon, it's been a long time coming. Being a bit uptight, I have over-planned this, to a certain extent. I already talked a bit about my grad school planning and stuff here.

Aside from being good for my ego, getting accepted into a program would take care of all my visa woes. For a country that really wants to increase its population size, Australia wants to keep out the riff-raff. I looked into nearly every type of visa you can get. Working Holiday visas allow you to stay for up to a year, and work for up to 3 months at any one place. Perfect! But wait.... US citizens aren't eligible. Skilled Worker visas let you into the country if you have certain qualifications, and then you find a job. But wait.... a sociology major doesn't have many of the qualifications they are looking for. There were a bunch more let-downs. So I finally decided to apply for a 6 month tourist visa. The way this one works, I'm allowed multiple entries for a period up to 6 months after each entry, until March 2007. So, hypothetically, I could stay for 6 months, go to New Zealand for a week, come back and stay another 6 months. This is all worst-case scenario, though, assuming I don't get into any sort of uni program.

Next, of course, there was the flight to think about. I should say flights... I'm flying on three different airlines, 5 separate flights, for a total time of 38-ish hours. Since I knew what I wanted to do, I booked my flight way in advance. Like, last September or October. Flights to Oz are normally ridiculously expensive. Over $1000 expensive. But since I booked so early, I got mine for less than $900. Sounds brutal, but I think I got a good deal. With so much flight time, of course there will be meals served. I think I have to fend for myself on the US leg of the trip, but the rest have something. When I was requesting special meals on the website, I saw "vegetarian", "dairy-free vegetarian", and a few other options. But I didn't see "vegan". I didn't want to get the dairy-free meal if it was just going to be full of eggs. So I ordered the raw food meal. I figured that's the safest bet, anyways, since airplane food can be a little bit sketchy. And the meals are usually so full of calories that one fills your entire daily needs. Raw food was definitely the way to go, in my opinion.

Other than that, it's just little things to get ready to go. Printing out lists of veg restaurants from Happy Cow and VegDining, ordering my Vegan Passport and travel guide book, and buying a few good snacks to sustain me if the airplane food sucks. And a birthday present for Andy, since he turns 23 on the day that I get there.

After a year and a half of getting ready, I think I'm all set to go soon!

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

New look

After a morning full of messing around and being unhappy with the colors, layout, etc, I have come to a realization. Originality is too much work, and it's overrated. I'm going with the stock layouts, and I'm perfectly happy with that. They're proven to work well, and someone else has done all the work. Sounds like a good deal to me! (Thanks anyways, Jessi, for your help and opinions!)

Tuesday, April 25, 2006


I started thinking about packing last night. I didn't actually start packing; it's way too early for that. But I'm considering it, trying to figure out what I'm going to bring and where everything is going to go. I've gotten rid of so much stuff (mostly clothes) lately that I don't think I'm going to have a huge problem with space. The one thing that I wish I could bring more of is books. I have a ton, I love them all so much, but they are so heavy and take up too much of my luggage allowance. So most of them will sit here, on my bookshelves in my empty room. They will be lonely, but hopefully my family will visit them every now and then.

The thing that I am wondering about, though, is whether or not I should bring stuff like shampoo and all that. Obviously they have it in Australia, but I'm not sure about the availability of cruelty-free products in North Queensland. (Northern Australians are stereotypically rednecks, close-minded, and all that. Of course it's not true of everyone, but I did see a lot of racism and xenophobia when I was there before, from otherwise wonderful people. Who knows what they think of vegans?!) I just don't want to get stuck over there with nothing good to use. I'm definitely bringing stuff for my face, if for no other reason than I'll be needing it during the 38 hours I'll be in airplanes and airports. And I just bought some Clear Conscience contact solution to last me for a little while. But regular ol' body soap and shampoo? They are another item that is heavy and bulky, and sometimes they explode in suitcases.... But on the other hand, I don't want to be stuck in Townsville with no (or only super expensive) cruelty-free options on hand, and exorbitant shipping rates to order stuff to Oz.

What a dilemma........

Saturday, April 22, 2006

I'm freakin' out, man!

um, Holy Shit. I'm leaving for Australia in 31 days. The final week of that time, I will be up at school for Senior Week/Graduation. So I have just over 3 weeks to get everything done, pack up my life, and peace out. I didn't really work this out so well... I have less than a day between graduation and leaving. Of course, I planned it like that on purpose, since I'll be getting to Australia on Andy's birthday, and it just seemed too perfect when I booked the tickets. But now I'm getting a little anxious. I will probably start packing a lot of stuff before I go, but I'll still need some of my junk to sustain me through senior week. So, a lot of my packing will have to wait until the night I get back from graduation. I don't think I'll be getting much sleep that night, but whatev. I can hypothetically sleep on the plane (even though I won't, I never do, despite how tired I am...).

Bah, this was babble-y and pointless, but I'm starting to freak out, just a little....

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Lonely Planet!

Excitement of the day: I got my Lonely Planet guide to Australia and New Zealand on a Shoestring in the mail today (I got a discount for filling out some silly survey). The only complaint I have so far is that there are no color pictures. I guess it doesn't matter too much, as I will be there in about 5 weeks to see the color reality with my own eyes, but I still like to look at pretty things. But, I've been looking through it a little, and the one great thing I've noticed is that it points out which restaurants have veg-friendly options! :-D The very first restaurant listed for Sydney says "Vegans need to look no further" which made my day! I know that this guidebook is geared at backpackers, who are younger and hipper, and there may be more veg*ns in their midst, but it's still cool. And, my parents got the Oahu guidebook (they're going in January) and there is a whole section on vegetarian dining. We're making such an impact in the world that even travel guides are mentioning us! Wee hooo!!

Of course, I'm not going to rely solely on Lonely Planet to lead me to some deelish vegan eats. Veg restaurant guides like and others will be key in my traveling, fo' sho'. Alternatively, I can throw a message up on the Vegan Freak message boards, and the awesome, global vegans there will respond with TONS of suggestions (I've seen it happen! They're cool!).

The other thing that I reckon I'll be doing a lot (for dietary and budgetary reasons) is buying groceries and cooking for myself. Andy and I (me?) have a plan to drive around Australia, stopping at cool sights along the way, working here and there, and just seeing as much as we can. Most days we'll probably sleep in the car (he currently has this Outback/station wagon type thing... I'm not really sure what it is exactly), or camp somewhere, but I can see us breaking into hostel kitchens to cook up feasts. Or, just living off the abundant fresh produce in most of Australia seems like a good option to me. Much better than the death burgers and pus-cheese that most backpackers eat for cheap food...

I'ma get back to perusing that guidebook.... 5 weeks until I leave! eeee!

Sunday, April 16, 2006

I <3 Food Fight!

I recently discovered something amazing. It's called the Vegan Passport, and it has a description of what is and isn't vegan... in a bunch of different languages. So, when you're looking for food and you don't speak the language, you hand your waiter/cook/helper/whatever the book and let them read for themselves. It solves the problem of trying to describe what you want when you can't communicate very well. It's really cheap, and small, so I think it's a must-have for every vegan, whether they plan on traversing the globe or just going to a Vietnamese restaurant (or any other cuisine, but you get the picture). Plus, it's really fun to look through and see what "I am Vegan" looks like in other languages.

I ordered mine from Food Fight, and I am newly in love. I'd heard rumors of their coolness before, but had never experienced it for myself. Well, let me tell you, the rumors are true. Since shipping was like $4, and was the same for a certain amount of stuff, I decided to go ahead and order me some Soyatoo Soy Whip with the Vegan Passport. Wow. Yum. Totally not something you can travel with, but delicious no-less. And, in the box that I got, there were stickers and flyers and little notes written from the Food Fight people about how yummy the Soy Whip is.

Food Fight + me = BFF, like, totally.