Back to my “not doing anything” day, and feel somewhat refreshed, I am now ready to blabber some more.
I don’t have many friends in the UK. I’ve left the 25+ years of life in Indonesia when I moved here to Norwich. Now that I have built my social life back, I realised how I love being around my good buddies.
The arsehole me in the past kept saying that I was an introvert and I like my me time and that kind of bullshit. Maybe it’s true. Maybe I am an introvert. I am not as outgoing as many other people that I know, but it doesn’t mean I don’t want to have friends. I like friends. Friends are good.
Anyway. Most of my friends now are from work… current and previous work. I realised that being adults, you can only interact with people who are not your family, only when job keeps you together long enough in a contained space. Then you start to get to know them because people do talk.
You recognise this sense of familiarity especially in the kitchen. We are spending 12hours++ a day in that small confined area. Sometimes sharing a bench, sometimes sharing a machine. You rely on each other to make the service works. You work alongside the same bunch of people day in day out. Of course you will start spilling some of your family story out.
This one lunch service, one of our chefs’s family were having this celebration upstairs. His parents were there, aunties and uncles were there. Traditionally, teases and banters flew about. My boss, being very kind and sensible, asked him if he wanted to go and see his family and talk about the food — which the younger chef reluctantly accepted.
So I told him, and probably some other who listened too… that I was jealous.
I think I mentioned this to my parents too.
Not many people has this opportunity to show their parents what they’re doing. Not many people has this opportunity to be able to work in the industry they love, and the place they can be proud off, and at the same time show their parents their work. Where I work, we could do that…
There many times where my colleagues had their family came for special occasion, and they always had this VIP treatment as they’re seen as the extension of our restaurant family. It’s always exciting as we always waited for them to come down to the kitchen to report about their family’s reaction.
It’s wonderful, right?
I can’t have that moment.
Like I said, I have left my 25+ years of life in Indonesia. I left my friends and my family there too. My parents are 15 hours flight away from me, and there’s no way they can just casually pop in to the restaurant where I was working. I cannot show them the dish I made, or present them something I am proud of serving.
I am jealous.
Not in a bad way. Not in a hateful sense of jealousy. Just the fact that I wish that my parents, my sisters and brother, and their family would be able to sit down up there in the private dining room. I wish I could show them things that I love, and I am proud of. Yeah…
Anyway, talking about my family. I am going to see them soon (Yippee!!). Return tickets have been bought. Itinerary is now planned. The count down starts now…
One of so many things I miss when I was working a lot is my social life. Unlike the 9-5 office jobs, working in hospitality industry means sacrificing your social life so that other people can enjoy theirs. Not that I don’t have days off, don’t get me wrong… we do have our days off — but it’s hard to coincide these days off with my friends who are also working in the same industry.
Going out for a drink at the pub, for example, is a rare opportunity. Forget about the regular weekly — or even monthly catch up. Most of my friends are working on rota, we’re never sure when our days off are synced.
Anyway… those days are gone. Now they can just let me know when, and if I am not in the middle of something more awesome (like a trip to London, for example), I’d be there to have a pint or two with them.
Because I haven’t seen my friends for a while, that was actually the first time I told them that I am on Sabbatical. The usual questions were expected. The unusual ones were too. Only one that stuck and made me think a lot… how can I afford to do this?
“Yes, because you have a husband who pays for everything,” said one of them. I was mildly offended… very mildly, because I understand where that assumption came from.
“A husband who’s working full time is very handy, but to be fair I am still paying for my half on our joint account, thank you very much,” I said… probably a little bit smugly.
“How much money did you earn?” one of them got curious.
Now the usual immature, or nostalgic, or gossipy talk has steered into more mature subject. Family finance. I understand that my friends are much younger than I am, hence we were grown up in a very different situation. So before I continue, I apologise if I sound like an old person.
I asked how much they save from their monthly income. Couple of them admitted that they don’t have any left in the end of the month. Monthly spending includes: internet subscriptions ranging from spotify to amazon prime, credit card, holiday, insurances ranging from phone to car… Shockingly, it doesn’t include council tax, and rent is the obligatory rent to parents.
The other would spend any extra savings he thought he had for musical instruments, or going to see concerts. Basically, all the hard work to keep the monthly spending low are wasted on luxuries.
I don’t blame them. Everyone are free to pursue their own happiness. However, that also means that they are chained into their job. Once they’re unemployed there would be massive cuts everywhere.
So, I told them. I don’t have any subscription, I don’t mind waiting for my online order to arrive a little bit longer. My mobile is on pay as you go. £10 a month package with 100 mins talk, unlimited text, and 2GB with rollover of 6GB now on my account. I never used all 2GB anyway, I can’t see why I want to upgrade that to a more expensive package.
I don’t have time for social life, so eating out is limited to those couple of times with my husband. And that comes from our joint account too (already budgeted). When I go to work, I don’t stop on coffee shop to buy coffee or tea. My game on steam (yeah, you can be frugal and be able to play games too) are either bought when they are on sale, or they’re actually free to play like LOTRO. And no, I don’t buy a VIP subscription for my LOTRO either… it’s still fun, and you can still access a lot of the game without it.
So, what I am actually buying with my money is my freedom. My time. My social life. My mental well being.
However I know I am lucky and privileged that I can do this. But I can’t help thinking that a lot of younger people are not really thinking ahead with their financial planning. Too bad because they are actually earning good money, and they are not doing it alone — they have partners (dual income).
It’s not my place to judge. Maybe it’s just me with my old fashioned outlook about money and financial responsibility, that I don’t understand the point of being extravagantly frivolous with your salary. I grew up with people teaching me the importance of financial buffer, long term financial plan, etc.
Maybe they’re doing it better than I do, they have a lot of things that makes them happy. I only have a freedom… what do I know?
First of all, I am not writing this out of guilt. I was very clear from the very beginning that I am taking sabbatical from full time employment. That doesn’t mean I cannot take an occasional freelance job — covering someone else’s shifts, or being an extra hand on an extremely busy day. So… no I am not breaching my sabbatical rules.
Second of all, I love my job. And I do miss being in a busy kitchen.
And last… I don’t need to make excuses to go to work.
What am I talking about? Oh yeah… I took two days work at my previous kitchen. My boss asked me if I could cover one of his chefs this weekend. Of course, because of the nature of our contract now, I can say no. But why would I say no?
I had two weeks off already. I had a nice trip with my husband. I spent time for myself. I wrote a lot. I played games for hours. I’ve got my passport, I’ve passed my driving test. It was quite a productive two weeks already. Now… There’s a chance to keep myself sharp while earning a little extra at the same time. Why not?
The difference is now, there’s no pressure, and no stress.
Anyway. Tired now. LOL almost forgot how tiring it is to work 15hr+ shift.
After over a year doing my lesson, now I am allowed to drive in the UK legally. Yes, my lovely readers, I just passed my driving test now.
Driving in the UK is completely different from driving in Indonesia. And that’s what drives me bonkers when I started driving here. Even though we are driving on the same side of the road, there are so many different rules to follow. In the UK, obviously, the rule is much stricter, and you can easily banned from driving if you violate this.
In the UK you have to pass both the theory and the practical tests. The theory test consists of the multiple choice questionnaire and the hazard perception test. The questionnaire can be learned easily from The Highway Code book, which you can get from any bookstore, or amazon. If you are more into mobile apps, there are plenty of apps you can use to help you learn this too.
The hazard perception test is basically testing your understanding about road observation. You would be shown a simulation video with a driver point of view. What you need to do is to click whenever you see a potential hazard on your screen.
You need to pass both the questionnaire and hazard perception test to pass your theory test.
Practical test was the harder one for me. Once you are confident you can pass the test, you book a test date from any test centre near you. I think it is going to be easier if you have a driving instructor, because it means you will have an approved car, a legitimate insurance to do the test, and also your instructor ADI number.
The practical test consists of a lot of things. Manoeuvre — parallel parking, reverse parking, emergency stop, etc. Independent driving — either following the road sign, or following the satnav. Show me, tell me — how do you check your oil, how do you turn the lights on, etc. The examiner will score your based on your control, observation, speed, safety, etc.
I am not an instructor, so please don’t use this short article as a guidelines on how to pass a practical driving test. It might cost you a bit more to get yourselves a professional driving instructor, but I say it’s worth it. If you are in Norwich, I can even refer you to a good one — my instructor David has done this for 20 something years.
Anyway… Now that I am allowed to drive, there’s only one thing left to do.
Technically this is not the part of the anniversary trip. Our plan was to head to the Indonesian Embassy as early as we could, get my passport application done as smoothly as possible, and head home to give hubby most of the day to recover from travel fatigue, and a bit of cold he caught when we were in London.
Don’t freak out. It’s just a normal cold.
We checked out early, after breakfast. We realised that the Indonesian Embassy just moved address, and this is the one we hadn’t been to before. Considering how clumsy I am with maps and direction, we thought going there early just in case we got lost would be wise. After all, who wants to be in a rush all the time? Not I….
The weather was a bit gloomy, and the wind was pretty nasty. For some reasons, I don’t think people there cared about it. They were always seem to be rushing somewhere — maybe that’s just the different life pace here in Norwich and there in London.
St. James Park was, and is still a beautiful park in the middle of this hustling and bustling of the capital city. Unfortunately, nobody even bothered to slow down and enjoy that in that morning. Only me and hubby, who stopped and admire the greenery — which I think annoyed the pedestrian there as we were blocking their path.
We arrived at the Indonesian Embassy a bit too early, so we spent a good half an hour sitting in a little cafe just across the street for a cuppa. I think personally that there have been improvements in the Consular Service department. People seems to be more friendly, and the system is more organised. I would like them to have a more integrated online system but… this is good enough.
Biometrics and document only takes less than 15 mins in process. However because of the confusion, and miscommunication we had to spend more than one hour before we can leave with peace.
This is what I said about integrated online system. They have things for me to print and download from their website. I had no either checklist, or link to those documents on the e-mail confirming my booking. Good job there are printing service and post office nearby which has come in handy when things like this happened.
I cheekily asked the assistant at the printing shop if this had happened a lot. She laughed and say: “Yeah, actually…”
So, it’s my fault for not being thorough, but the information on the website can be made clearer.
In the end of the day, because of these confusion, I ended up spending an extra £15 to print my documents, make some copies, and also to buy a special delivery envelope for them to send my passport back to me.
We reached Liverpool Street Station just before noon, and realised that train to Norwich went every half hour. No changes either. So we thought we might as well have something to eat before taking the journey, go home, and rest.
In total I spent just under £500 for the total three days trip — taxi, train, tube, hotel, food, and miscellaneous. Not the most efficient trip I’ve done, and definitely could have spent much less… but in this circumstance, worth it.
Say… so what’s your favourite thing to do in London?
We wanted to go to Chinatown on the Chinese New Year a couple of weeks ago, but for some reasons *cough*excuses*cough* we did not go. I thought it would be nice to finally do it… you know… a lot of people talk about wanting and planning to do something, but not actually do it. I’d like this 2020 to be the year of actions — but not too much, I am too old for that.
Now… where were we?
Yes. We rested after an exhilarating trip to the majestic British Museum. So, we made our way to Chinatown early.
Now… we did have a perfect reason why we had to go to the British Museum early — so that we can see as much as we could. But why did we have to go to get our dinner early?
I think I mentioned how indecisive my husband could be. To be honest, I am not the most decisive person either. I KNEW exactly what was going to happen once we were in Chinatown, and presented with overwhelming amount of options of food there. We would just walk around without committing to any decision.
To be fair we started alright. We saw taiyaki — sort of Japanese fish-shaped waffle with sweet fillings, and had that as a teaser taster. But then we stuck on choosing what we were actually going to eat for supper.
We passed an Indonesian restaurant and drooled all over the menu on the window, but couldn’t be sure about going in. My argument was… we were going to go to Indonesia in a couple of months, and will be indulging ourselves with Indonesian food, so why spoil it now?
I was enticed by the Korean Barbecue restaurant but it was really crowded and put hubby off from coming in.
Both of us ended up comparing one roasted duck on one window to another roasted duck on another window, until this man came and ended our discussion.
“Excuse me,” he said as we were reading the menu in front of this Chinese Restaurant. “May I know what kind of food you are looking for?”
We were slightly confused and caught off guard, because we actually wasn’t sure what we wanted. Noticing our confusion, this man went on.
“You like roasted duck? Or pork? Or you can even have combination of three if you want to have all. With vegetables, or bean curd… you like tofu? (hubby doesn’t), ooor you can have…” he went on, we almost lost focus, and I believe he saw this. He cut his hard selling technique by saying…
“If you don’t like the food, I pay for it,” he said.
I look at hubby and said, “challenge accepted”.
He looked back at me and said, “doesn’t need much to convince you, does it?”
So we ordered this. No… I couldn’t read that either.
Fortunately, the correct order came.
Alright. I don’t want to reinforce stereotype, but I did find Chinatown-style customer service very interesting. About 6-7 years ago I went to Chinatown with my buddy, for a visit. I wanted to get myself some water so we went to a little Chinese supermarket to get a bottle of water.
At the till, after I paid, the lady just rolled my bottled water to the side as she moved on to the customer behind me. Not even saying good bye.
The year later, I went there again, this time taking my parents and my siblings for a visit in London. The FoH in this Chinese restaurant couldn’t be categorised as blatantly rude as the cashier I mentioned before, but I recognised that they seem to be somewhere between indifferent or annoyed when they were either taking orders, or bringing them to us.
Last year my husband and I went there for a quick visit on Chinese New Year. There were too many people, so we weren’t really want to go to any of the restaurants there. But, I wanted to get hubby something Asian, so I got him a bao — Chinese steamed bun with char siu filling. I went in a restaurant with bao displayed on the window.
A lady asked me if I wanted to be seated, I told her I just wanted to buy a bao. She told me to move, and not to block the way of people walking in and out the seating area. The guy who actually is selling the bun asked me abruptly about my intention, and I told him that I just wanted a bao. He picked one with his tongs, shoved it to a paper bag, and told me the amount of money I needed to pay him. I did, and we rushed out as we did not want to block the entrance to the seating area.
Now… the man who approached us were extremely polite and friendly and genuinely looked happy, so I thought. Maybe Chinatown has changed. Maybe now we were going to be welcomed and served with smile. Maybe this time people won’t get annoyed if I ask for something as we were eating,
I have to say there’s an improvement. This time they did not sound like they were telling me off whenever I am asking for something. Only one particular occasion that made me laugh my head off.
In the end of our meal, I was going to ask for a pot of chinese tea. So I tried to catch the eye of one lady who’s standing behind hubby. She looked at me, but did not move, so I moved my hand just in case she wasn’t sure if I wanted her assistance.
From two tables away she just asked, “What?” and repeated that again in Mandarin “shen me?”
Well… might as well.
“Can I have tea?” I said across the table.
Now she moved closer to our table. Looking annoyed as she had to leave he post.
“What tea? How many?”
“Chinese tea. Two,” as hubby signalling that he wanted some too.
Aaand a pot of tea with two cups arrived a couple minutes later.
Now… I don’t want to come across as ridiculing such behaviour. For me this is a part of going to Chinatown — receiving the unique style of customer service. I think this is just the cultural difference in understanding service.
For them, we are paying for food, and not for smile. They will not screw around with the food they’re serving you. They’re not going to cut corner with size, taste, or quality. They’re not going to spit on your food. They’re not going to use their underwear to wipe your plate. They just won’t smile for you.
Whenever I was in Chinatown, the food was always superb. Hubby’s sensitive tummy did not react to anything. So I don’t think the lack of smile should put anyone off from trying food here. Smile is not on the menu, so order it somewhere else.
As we were leaving the building, I saw the guy who took us in, and he asked us whether we liked the food. We said, it was perfect, and we loved it. He looked genuinely proud, and said,
“Told you our roast duck and pork are really good…” as he laughed.
I promised him I will tell you guys about their roast duck and pork, and I am keeping my promise. The Restaurant name is: London Chinatown Restaurant.
We were really full by this time so I think it would be wise to walk it out a bit before we were heading home. And I saw a food store selling Indonesian food. I did not have to ask hubby if he wanted to go in.
He looked like a child in a sweets shop. Literally. He wound one Indonesian sweets brand – Kopiko. It’s a coffee flavoured sweets, he tried the first time on our visit to Indonesia. Obviously overpriced — being an imported goods, but I did not mind because he looked so happy.
We woke up refreshed. Breakfast was superb. And after previous several weekends disrupted by storms, we were very happy that this particularly important Sunday, the weather was on our side.
London was sunny, and not as windy as the day before. The weather was getting warmer, you started to have this false hope that the spring was actually coming. In the morning we decided to make our way to The British Museum.
My husband and I love museums. We went to lots of museums of all types and sizes just to enjoy both exhibition, and being enriched both culturally and historically. It does not matter if it’s a small volunteer-run museum like City of Norwich Aviation Museum or a massive incredibly famous one like The British Museum. The archaeological ones like Jorvik. The cold war related like the Hospital in The Rock in Budapest (which was one of my husband’s favourites, actually).
So, I thought… why not celebrate our anniversary doing things that we love. Museums. And good food.
The British Museum opens at 10AM. By 10:03, the entrance queue has snake outside the security entrance. If you have never been to the British Museum before, you might ask why do we want to go so early.
Well… The museum is MASSIVE. For me, it is just impossible to be able to see everything just in one visit. This is our second visit, and we learned from our first visit that the earlier we come, the more we can see. Last time we were here, we barely covered the ground floor, so this time we started from the top.
Just in case you want to know… nope, we still haven’t seen everything. We couldn’t just walk pass the stuff, we needed to stop ever a couple of steps to look closely, read information, and just in general being in awe.
We had lunch in the museum’s restaurant upstairs. As expected it is quite pricey. If you don’t want to spend too much, just bring your own food. As long as you don’t litter, you are more than welcome to munch your own sandwiches. But for the price the food is actually alright,
I did expect some kind of shit overpriced food because the restaurant does have the monopoly of the museum’s refreshment as the pizzeria was closed. However, the food was just normally overpriced — which is the price of convenience. I had sourdough bread and salmon gravlax, while my husband went for something more substantial in the form of burger. And just because this is a special day, we had desserts too.
We decided to go back to hotel as the museum got really… really crowded, and we’re too old to have a full on day without a break. However, on our way back we made a little detour… well, to be honest we took the wrong turn and ended up in Trafalgar Square by accident.
We rested in the hotel. Had some coffee. Recharged our phones. Relaxed our toes. And at around 5PM we got ready again to get the next part of the action– Dinner at the Chinatown.
Oh Gosh… I am not really sure where to start. I genuinely think this mini trip to Chinatown deserves its own entry.
You know what? I’d do that. I’ll come back tomorrow with a whole entry for that.