Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Snippets of My Diary Part 1

My diary isn't an every day kind of diary. When I'm feeling extra philosophical or a little lost, I like to put thought to paper just to release the plug in my mind. I found myself reading through it today and wonder to myself 'did I write this?'. My own past thoughts inspire me in the present day and I'd like to share a few extracts here to again, remind myself in the future of certain things that shouldn't be forgotten.

Tired. Love does try at the patience. For it requires you to give so much. But would you expect any less from something that rewards you so richly? Like all energy in the universe, it can not be destroyed, just transformed. And if you want more love you have to feed it with your all.

I feel as if the love I give out comes back tenfold. You can never regret giving love. People are wonderful and deep down, we all just want to make a connection. To be accepted. 

Life is but a collection of memories. Beautiful moments. Sad moments. They stay with you the longest. They are the clearest.  Most things are fleeting. And memories, taken out of their original context, warp. They morph to give you different feelings. Often moments of extreme distress become comical later on. What was horribly disastrous at the time becomes insignificant. So rather than being swept away by that strong current, keep in mind the bigger picture.

'Keep calm and carry on'

This has become so popular because so many people need to be reminded. That life hurtles you forward regardless of what you want or don't want. Despite anything. 

I was asked at a young age by a close friend 'but don't you want to change the world? Do you just want to be one thing your whole life?'. I was too young to understand what he was asking me but 15 years later I find myself asking the same questions.

This is not a mid-life crisis. The name implies something is being destroyed. Yet it is the opposite. Something is being created. Your focus is changing. You awaken. You shed all the burdensome layers that you have worn and find that your true self is so much more  simple yet profound, aware. 

We always need to be evolving. There is nothing that is permanent in this universe. Perhaps it is easier to remain the same. Inertia. The resistance to change one's course. Yet why are people so resistant to change? Because they are afraid? Afraid of the unknown. When one can't predict the outcome. Yet who can lived a controlled life? And be truly happy from it.

For do we not live for the unexpected joys of life?

What will 2014 unfold? 2013 was all about transitions, the first brave leap. Sewing and terrariums, minimising and traveling. 2013 was a year of crazy activity. Now we are in a new year. maybe it should be a year of no expectations. There were just so many expectations in 2013.

Maybe it can just be what it needs to be without being all-consuming. Things I know about 2014. I will be living in London with Kevin. We will have housemates. I will be working on a casual basis. All these are guarantees and they are easy. Maybe this will be an easy year. 

Everyone has dreams. They're what moves you forward. You ache, you ponder, you grow upwards towards it like the branches of a tree. It nourishes you. My all consuming dream for the past 2 years was to be an explorer...one year into 'living the dream' I sit and ask myself, right, now are you happy?

I have very few possessions, I've traveled all over, And to be honest, I'm not. I'm still that branch, reaching upwards. But I'm at a point in this dream I can't get going, yet I can't turn back...I was hoping it would be more like my New York lifestyle, but with more tea. I've lost the thrill of the chase. 

Life in London is perplexing! I know I've move over here for a reason. But at this point I can't seem to recall it. Since landing 6 months ago, I've pined for the buzz of NYC, the ease of Rio de Janeiro and the love of Chile. I've often dreamed of the sandy beaches of Sydney and the taste of Cabramatta. Maybe it's because Winter has set in and the cold, windy weather has completely disabled any fun thoughts.

Six months and I still feel like a foreigner in London town. I can't seem to connect to this grey city. I'm managing, but I'm not thriving. 

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Best Food in Sydney

So not only has this interim trip to Sydney been about people and Visa's, but it has also allowed me to be reacquainted with all my old favourite food haunts. Yes, my taste buds have been dreaming of these moments for the past 18 months and I have relished every second of it. Not a meal has gone to waste. So here is a list of my favourite places to eat for all those who care to follow in my culinary footsteps (in order of cravibility).

1. Bau Truong 
Cuisine: Vietnamese
What I eat: Lemongrass pork chop with broken rice, hu Tieu noodle soup combination, pho Tai (rare beef), bun Dac Biet (Vermicelli special) with a custard apple shake or sam bo luong drink
Average cost/meal:$12
Location: 42 John Street, Cabramatta or 250 Canley Vale Rd, Canley Heights (DO NOT go to the Marrickville one)
When is best to go: Lunch or dinner


2. Pork Roll
Cuisine: Vietnamese
What I eat: Pork Roll or chicken roll with the lot, no chilli
Average cost/meal: $3.50-4.50
Location: You can get it all ov
er Cabramatta and everyone has their favourite
When is best go: Breakfast or lunch, there is a 24 hour place on John Street though 

3. Mamak
Cuisine: Malaysian
What I eat: Satay chicken, roti canai, nasi goreng, fried chicken and a teh tehrik (stretched tea)
Average cost/meal: $12
Location: 15 Goulburn St Sydney
When is best to go: After the dinner rush NOT on a Friday/Saturday, don't go too hungry, there is usually a line

4. Vinh Phat 
Cuisine: Yum Cha (Chinese)
What I eat: Chicken feet, honey seafood spring rolls, prawn rice rolls, prawn steamed dumplings, sweet tofu
Average cost/meal: $6
Location: Shop 8/7, 40 Park Road, Cabramatta
When is best to go: Brunch - lunch time
5. Khuone Kham (formerly Selina's) 
Cuisine: Laos
What I eat: Ox tongue, paw paw salad laos style, sticky rice, ocasional larb
Average cost/meal: $8
Location: 8 Dale St, Fairfield
When is best to go: Lunch or dinner

6. Bach Dang
Cuisine: Forrmal Vietnamese
What I eat: Crab or lobster if it's last then $120/kg salt and galic, Vietnamese style
Average cost/meal: $50
Location: 46 Canley Vale Rd, Canley Vale
When is best to go: Dinner only

7. Sugarcane drink

Cuisine: Asian

What I eat: Large sugarcane drink
Average cost/meal: $3
Location: There are two as you walk along park road, my preference is the one of the left if you are facing them directly
When is best to go: Lunch


8. Din Tai Fung

Cuisine: Chinese
What I eat: Spicy prawn dumplings with noodles
Average cost/meal: $16
Location:Shop 11.04,Level 1, World Square/644 George St, Sydney
When is best to go: Lunch or dinner


9. El Jannah

Cuisine: Lebanese
What I eat: 1/4 charcoal chicken with garlic sauce, tabouleh and chips
Average cost/meal: $10
Location: 4-6 South St, Granville
When is best to go: Dinner or late night snack

10. Doy Tao

Cuisine: Thai
What I eat: Pad thai chicken
Average cost/meal: $12
Location: There's a few of them but I went to 543/545 King St, Newtown
When is best to go: Lunch or dinner


11. Tan Viet

Cuisine: Vietnamese
What I eat: Crispy chicken with fat egg noodles, dry
Average cost/meal: $12
Location: 2/110 John St, Cabramatta
When is best to go: Lunch


12. 99 Butchery

Cuisine: Vietnamese butcher
What I eat: Spicy chicken spare ribs, nem nuong (pork mince kebabs), lemongrass and seasame beef. These are sold frozen in large takeaway containers to BBQ later on.
Average cost/meal: $9
Location: 99 Rawson St, Auburn
When is best to go: business hours


13. Gelato Messina

Cuisine: Gelato
What I eat: Salted caramel with white chocolate, blood orange, special flavours will rotate (live Anna pavlova)
Average cost/meal: $6 for two scoops
Location: A few locations now but I always prefer shop 1/241 Victoria St, Darlinghurst
When is best to go: Lunch time or post dinner treat

14. Ms G's

Cuisine: Fusion Asian
What I eat: Sweet and sour lamb ribs, yuzu slushy 
Average cost/meal: $20
Location: 155 Victoria St, Potts Point
When is best to go: dinner


15. Bourke Street Bakery
Cuisine: Australian bakery
What I eat: Pork and fennel sausage rolls, they no longer do lemon meringue tarts (devo'd)
Average cost/meal: $5
Location: A few locations but I always go to 633 Bourke St, Surry Hills
When is best to go: Breakfast or lunch

16. Roast duck 
Cuisine: Chinese Roast
What I eat: 1/2 roast duck and a bread roll from the hot bread bakery
Average cost/meal: $12
Location: Cabramatta, usually I like to go the one next to the large multi-storey parking on Park road but all of them are pretty good
When is best to go: Lunch

17. Fruit shake

Cuisine: Asian snack
What I eat: 5 fruit combo - jackfruit, watermelon, sapota, strawberry, pineapple
Average cost/meal: $4
Location: You can walk around Cabramatta and find these anywhere but I usually go to Kaysone sweets at 59 Park Rd Cabramatta

When is best to go: Lunch

18. Hurricane's

Cuisine: Steak and ribs
What I eat: 1/2 rack of pork ribs
Average cost/meal: $30
Location: There's a few locations - Bondi Beach, Darling Harbour or Top Ryde

When is best to go: Lunch or dinner

19. Pasticceria Papa
Cuisine: Italian pastries
What I eat: ricotta cheesecake 
Average cost/meal: $4/slice
Location: 145 Ramsay St, Haberfield
When is best to go: Brunch/lunch

20. Black Star Pastry

Cuisine: Cakes
What I eat: Strawberry/watermelon cake
Average cost/meal: $7.50/slice
Location: Two locations but I like 277 Australia St, Newtown
When is best to go: Brunch/lunch

21. Gelato Bar
Cuisine: Hungarian cakes
What I eat: Cherry and cheese strudel
Average cost/meal: $6
Location: Bondi Junction Westfield, Level 6, the Bondi Beach one got sold so not going there anymore
When is best go: Brunch/lunch

22. Pastizzi Cafe
Cuisine: Maltese pastizzi's and pasta
What I eat: Ricotta and spinach pastizzi
Average cost/meal: $2.50
Location: 1/523 King St, Newtown 
When is best: Breakfast/lunch or dinner

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

So Long, Farewell

For every warm welcome there is the eventual sad goodbyes. Yes, this trip has certainly ticked all the boxes and we are so grateful to everyone who made the effort to see us and catch up on everyone's lives.

A big, gigantic and overwhelming thanks to my amazing parents who fed, sheltered and even clothed us during our stay here. Not to mentioned provided a car. Who did all the prep and cooking at the BBQ. I love you and will miss you. And also to my sister who tried to pick me up from the airport even though I already was on a train. Who let us stay at her lovely new house in Leichardt. And who takes such good care of Daisy when I'm away. Big hugs to you.

And then there were all our lovely friends who showered us with love and attention. My dearest and oldest friend Connie. Who shares my love for some good old Laos ox tongue and El Jannah chicken. Who never fails to make me laugh and is one of the best Vets I know. I wish we could someone make this distance not feel like one. 

Epic meals with an epic friend.
A massive congratulations to our old friends Karen and Adam who's wedding was primary reason for us flying back. We wouldn't have missed your big day for the world and it warmed our hearts to see you so full of love and looking absolutely stunning in your wedding finery. We know you guys will truly be happy. Their wedding was also a great way to catch up with people we hadn't seen for what seems like a lifetime. It's amazing that we can reconnect and truly care about each other's lives despite the years.

Our BBQ which was blessed with a bit of that Sydney sunshine magic was even more blessed when Mr Sida rocked up with 3kg of that marinated ox tongue. And to make my Dad's day better he then brought his very awesome parrot Mali who was a charming addition (despite the warning of potential biting). What a champ. Fulfilled my craving for some Asian BBQ food and managed to catch up with old faces at the same time.

To top it off we had several 30 degree days that could only mean one thing for us. The beach.  Just the first sight of the clear, turquoise waters of Gordon's bay was a sight for sore eyes. Never had I truly appreciated this Australian wonder til now. Yes, it was like cleansing ourselves of that London soot.

The one hole that was glaringly obvious was the missing presence of our dear friend Phillip Saymontry who passed away in April this year. There are so many things I want to share with him and that I know he would love. I miss his compassion and enthusiasm. We visited his grave and was able to get a little bit of closure on his passing.

Apologies to those we couldn't see, these three and a half weeks absolutely flew by, what with the flurry of Visa and wedding activity to add to the mix. With Visa's in hand, I feel it indeed it has been a fruitful visit. And now we must say so long, farewell, adieu to you and you.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

How To Apply for Tier 2 (General) UK Visa + Partner (Dependent)

The UK Visa application process can be a bit of a minefield. Misinformation, lack of Visa office contacts, no real clear outline of necessary paperwork - especially for partners. It's all cause for stress. Though really, it needn't be.

Why Are We Applying for a New Visa?
We were both on the Tier 5 (Youth Mobility) Visa which was due to expire in a few months. There is no possibility to extend this and we were facing deportation (slight exaggeration). Since they had recently got rid of the Tier 1 (Skilled Migrants) Visa the only real option was that one of us had to be sponsored which would make us eligible for the Tier 2 (General) Visa which is for 3 years and entitles us to live and work in the UK.

Now, if I thought the Tier 5 application process was a bit stressful, then I was literally about to have a panic attack about putting through Tier 2 for both myself plus prove that my (non married) partner and I were in a legitimate relationship so he can piggy back off mine as a dependent. But in hindsight the whole process was very straightforward and relatively speedy. So despite all the scary stories of one inch thick application forms and separate trips back to Australia to have them done here's what we did and it worked!

What is a Tier 2 Visa?
This is a 3 year visa which allows you to live and work in the UK. You can also apply to bring your dependents over on it as well as long as you can prove that your relationship is legitimate. Contrary to popular belief you can apply for both yourself and your partner at the same time though no where on the website or policy guidance does it specifically mention this. Also, I heard that this is the only Tier 2 Visa that will 'count' towards dual citizenship. An interesting idea, so if we stay for the necessary 5-6 years then we can apply for a UK/EU passport which would means we can be rid of this Visa kafuffling. The catch, the primary person has to stay with them company or find a new company to sponsor them if they want to leave.

What Documents Do I Need?
1. Your company needs to provide you with a certificate of sponsorship which has your certificate number on it and outlines your role, pay and that they they have met the resident labour market test (ie cant find anyone locally to do the job) and they they will maintain you (ie they are an A rated sponsor) and if so you will NOT need to prove you have enough funds in your bank.
2. Submit an online application. through the Visa4UK website. This is just basic contact information, you will need all your old passports and the birth date and place of your parents. Most painstaking part was having to input all our travel history. Eventually I just filled out the whole section before I was even done.
Note: I couldn't apply for this whilst in the UK because one of the sections asks for when I departed the UK last so just wait til your back in Australia.
3. If you're in Australia, great! Just book in your biometrics appointment, pay the $977 fee and print out your application plus bring in your supporting documents. I however was already in the UK so flew back to Australia to sort it out.
4. At the appointment they will ask you for your:
- Passport (plus all previous passports)
- Printed and signed visa application form
- Payment of $190 in cash or card if you wanted priority service. This means a 5 business day process time versus 21 business days. As I had  return flight back to the UK to make, I went with priority.
- Freshly taken passport photo
- Certificate of sponsorship + Letter of maintenance from my employer
- I brought my appointment confirmation form too but no one asked for this and it's a bit defunct.
They also took my photo and scanned my fingerprints.

And true to their word that Friday (my appointment was on Monday) I got my passport with freshly printed Visa in the mail. 

How To Apply For Tier 2 General - Partner
This is the exact process with one tricky exception. We had to prove that we were in a legititae relationship which generally means you've been living together for 2 years. This is the policy guidance for what you need but it's really confusing. Contrary to popular belief you an apply for both Visa's at the same time and it's the exact same process but with slightly more documentation as we were trying to prove our de facto relationship. Here's a list of the documentation for 'proof of relationship'.
- Joint bank account statement (with bank stamp)
- Tenant ledgers from real estates
- Letter from bank confirming when the joint account was opened
- Bills with our name and address on it (not all were in both names but it proved we were at the same address)
- Photos printed on paper from previous holidays together
- Electoral registration forms to again, prove we lived at the same address
- Letter of maintenance for dependents as well as the primary person AND recent bank statment (we only need one or the other but it's good to be safe).

We looked into registering a civil relationship as we are just not the marrying type but this would have taken 5 weeks to come through and as it turns out, isn't really necessary.

This came back on the sixth business day. So now we're both ready to go back to the UK in full force. Though it's an expensive process and a little arduous, it's worth it at the end of the day and feel like we're taking a positive step in developing both our professional careers as well as living that somewhat carefree life balancing travel with London socialising. But until then I'm going to soak up all this glorious sunshine and head to the beach (this hot turn in the weather has been a lovely surprise considering it's still only Spring).