Personally, I tend to be a huge fan of near-constant routine. That is, I mostly enjoy being able to wake up and know exactly what I have to do that day, mostly because I’ve done it a million times before. At the same time though, I also seem to keep engaging in activities that do not let me have a constant, reliable routine, aka study abroad.
Let me explain. It was my first weekend in Brisbane, and after several housing issues and a lot of stress, I was determined to cheer up. I mean, I was halfway across the world from all my friends and family, and I had finally made it to the place I had been waiting to be in for almost a year. So, I set out for an extended walk, hoping to come across the sights I had been googling for months. Usually, this would mean me strolling along, taking in sights by my lonesome and snapping some pics for posterity.
Anyways, I had been walking for about ten minutes, peacefully minding my own business, before being stopped by a random dude, who decided that it was time to strike up a conversation with me. I was so shocked that I struggled to get words out, but figured, hey this guy is just trying to be nice, and maybe he can point me towards some of the best sights in the city. About two minutes into the conversation, however, I realized that was not where this conversation was headed. Within the third minute, he started asking for my number and to grab coffee together. That was the moment I realized my routine outing had been totally shattered. Since when was it part of my day to day life to interact with strangers (New Yorkers don’t tend to do that) or be asked on a date (uhm, is dating even a thing anymore?).
Let me hit you with another weird interruption of my day. In my mind, I should be able to wake up every day, go to class while listening to a conspiracy podcast, and be left to my own devices. However, people here love going out of their way to befriend you, and end the conversation with the offer of adding you on Facebook. So, when I’m on the bus and peacefully looking out at the passing scenery, I sometimes have some stranger tap my arm and ask about my day. Or maybe ask where I’m going (it’s always a different question). But how am I supposed to go on with my day and set up a routine if these people interrupt my podcast and time to be alone? So, suddenly, I either miss my stop because the stranger won’t stop talking, or I get off and find myself still stuck in conversation and have to worm my way out in hopes of making it to class. It’s a small thing, mind you. But when you wind up at the wrong station, 20 minutes away from campus and with only 30 minutes to go until your next class, it can be very frustrating (and when you love routine as much as me, ending up in random bus stations in sketchy areas is not exactly ideal).
I also have this thing where I really enjoy drinking crappy American coffee during the school year, and always putting enough sugar in it to induce a sugar rush. Yet, I have constantly been finding myself asking, “Where are the coffee bars?” (as in, how am I supposed to stick to my coffee routine if there are no Sci Coffee Bars here???)
Sure, there’s the staple Merlo Coffee Bars littered around campus, which essentially charge you for breathing in their store, but where are the coffee bars that make cheap American coffee and bitter espressos? Unfortunately, I have not found any – as with most of the world, American-style long, black coffees are frowned upon here. To be fair, their cappuccinos make up for it, even if I have to save up all week to have just one.
Instead, I had to figure out something else. I miss my points on my OneCard. So I have begun using freeze-dried coffee, which is the strangest version of coffee I’ve yet seen (being Italian, I have sampled many, many coffees and this definitely takes the title.) Maybe I’ve been super sheltered, or not willing to experiment with this coffee style, but Brisbane is the first time I’ve ever come across it. It’s hard to explain what it is, but the best I can do is say that it looks like crushed up coffee beans, and they’re then mixed with boiling water (I suppose this is actually almost exactly like American coffee – a great reminder of home).
Anyways, this sounds reliable, right? But it’s not. It either is tepid, which is the absolute worst, or boiling hot for like three hours, and then tastes like coffee flavoured water. It’s gross. And the worst thing is that every morning, I have to guess what it’s going to be like. Will I be able to drink it during my first class? Will I literally have to wait all day to have it? Who knows? Not me, that’s for sure. Where is my trusty, reliable coffee from Sci, I ask. Nowhere, that’s where.
Before leaving for abroad, I admit, I was a lover of routine – knowing exactly what was going to happen every day and when, with very little room for surprises. But as my time here has reached halfway, I’ve been forced to become comfortable with surprises. Whether that’s winding up at new bus stations or learning small talk with strangers. I don’t like it, by any means. I want the routine life I had back at Swat. But still, there’s something charming about waking up and not having any idea what random thing might happen to you that day.