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Is it Essential to…? by Justyna

21 Oct

Install a bidet in your bathroom?

We’ve lived in five different apartments since moving to Krakow, and two of them have had bidets installed. In fact, it appears, that once you are a happy tenant or owner of a spacious bathroom, more often than not it will come with a bidet. Why? Poles follow the general trend of other European countries by wiping their butts with toilet paper, so the immediate need to flush out your backside with a running stream of water whilst perched on a cold, low-mounted, ceramic sanitary fixture, seems unwarranted. Further, apartments and houses usually don’t have separate space allocated for laundries and washing machines (the latter are either installed in bathrooms or in kitchens), yet the bidet will somehow find its way to be part of your bathroom decor. It’s a fixture that continues to trouble me to this day, spurred recently into life since having moved yet again into an apartment that has this contraption. Why do you need it? When do you use it? At the end of the day, when, instead of having a shower you feel a need for clean genitalia only? No, I don’t need clean pits tonight thanks, just a clean bum. And if you’re the type, if there is such a type, who feels that paper wiping isn’t adequate and you prefer the bidet option, you end up half washing yourself anyway, since the contraption forces you to remove your pants and undies, leaving you dripping wet, resulting in a semi-shower state anyway (a towel in the nearby vicinity a must). What a bother.

There have been occasions I must admit, when I and Michal have used the bidet. Two occasions actually. Namely, for washing our feet in in the summer time since Krakow has fairly grimy streets and in sandal weather you return home with black toes. The bidet proved quite convenient as you didn’t have to bend too far down or sit on the slippery edge of a bathtub when scrubbing the grime away from in-between your toes. Secondly for washing off the top layer of infant poo from non-disposable nappies. Somehow the bidet, since it is after all designed for poo washing, seemed a more appropriate place for it than doing it in the bathroom sink. And that’s it. Essential? No.

Buy ‘veggie soup parcels’ wrapped in twine?

Every fruit and veg shop and supermarket in this country sells these veggie packs or veggie soup portions. It is a small collection of the essential vegetables needed when making a soup stock. So you get two carrots, a turnip, half a celeriac, a cabbage leaf and some parsley and maybe a bit of onion, all neatly wrapped in twine, ready to be popped into your pot. When I came here I thought it was an unnecessary extravagance. If you live in Europe’s soup capital and consider yourself a bit of a cook, you should have all the soup ingredients in your fridge anyway and in large quantities, I thought. How infantile and naive I was then. The veggie soup parcel is an essential element of every busy person’s fridge in Poland. It is the equivalent of the convenient ready-made, reheatable meal. It is the same thoughtless twin brother of microwave pizza. You buy, you chuck it in, hey presto, an hour and a half later you have a soup base you can do anything with! A pizza you remove from the box and then from its wrapping. A veggie soup parcel, you unravel the twine, you wash and peel the vegetables, and Bob’s your uncle. Easy and essential? Yes!

Have a really large dog in your very small apartment?

Krakow is the dog capital of Poland. The highest number of dogs per capita than any other city in the country, and from what I’ve read in the top five in all of Europe. That’s great for all the dog lovers out there. Great for Kazek who can walk about making woof woof sounds and exclaiming at the various sizes and hairiness of the four-legged creatures. Yay for dogs. My question is, is it really essential, when selecting the breed of the dog, to decide on something that weighs 80kg and is the size of a large professional athlete, whilst you, your family and the canine live on 40 meters squared?

My aunt and uncle and their 193cm son lived in a typical commie two bedroom apartment, which was the equivalent size of an Australian one bedder unit. Without laundry space. And no bidet. They were also the proud owners of a very large and very hairy collie. When it wasn’t walked three times a day it spent its hours either sprawled with its largeness and hairiness on the balcony (tiny) or in the hallway (tinier). When you wanted to leave the living room and enter either the bathroom or the kitchen, you had to traverse over the mammoth dog mound, carefully avoiding not to step on one of its limbs or its sensitive hairy bits. I was so mad at them for having this dog in this confined living space despite their utter and complete love for it, that I began to resent the dog for existing even though it was probably in constant, personal prison hell. Lucky they all moved to a massive house in the country with acres and acres of cherry orchards, otherwise I would have had to boycott all family visits.

Annoyingly my aunt and uncle were not the only ones with such a large hound indoors. You see them being walked in parks everywhere, leaving the narrow stairwells of their  doggy prisons. Golden retrievers, dalmatians, German shepherds, dobermans etc. Why? Isn’t it more convenient and economical to have a dachshund or a yapping terrier? What is it that makes a person decide to own a giant if they cannot provide the room for it? And I’m not even going to start on the poo factor. Essential? No. Annoying and borderline torturous? Yes.

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Essential by Leyla by Karen

19 Oct

I made myself a little bored contemplating what essential meant to my navel this week, so I decided to ask someone else.

This is my friend Leyla, the person I happened to meet up with on this fine Far Flung Four posting day.

The head growing out of her abdomen is called Sebastien. Ok, it’s not a growth, it’s an exceptionally beautiful child. But whatever. We are here to find out what is essential to Leyla.

The most delightful thing about interviewing for my entry this week, aside from not having to do any work, was watching the beautiful thoughtful softening that crosses someone’s face when you ask them a serious question.

Leyla was quite keen that I rewrite her words rather than uploading the recording, which I consider self-sabotage when your accent is as lovely as hers, but alright. Here are Leyla’s thoughts on essential.

I guess when I think of essential I think of the things I can’t live without, and that makes me think of  my outlook on life. So let me see. Respect for life I think is essential. Not just human beings but life around us. I’m trying to make a bigger effort to [interrupted by child, speaks in French]… to be more appreciative of how important life is – for example we were talking just now about cruelty in Halal practices. I used to just think, well that’s a cultural practice and all cultural practices are to be respected, but now I don’t think that way so much any more. I’m planning to make a bigger stand that yes, there are religious issues, but it’s more important that life is respected. And yes, we kill animals and you could say we shouldn’t do that, but if you are going to kill animals, you can at least do it humanely. 

Essential to me is also about relationships. Having balanced relationships, caring relationships. I’m a very social person, and I think as humans we all need to have people around us. But essential means making sure that that’s not harmful  – that there’s a good dynamic in the relationship and that it’s more mutually respectful. 

We’ve talked about religion before. One of the reasons that I want to be more verbal about evolution is that, when you realise how long it took for all these people to be here, that would be one way to know how precious, how unique the world is.

Without being harmful, while being respectful, there are some things that are essential that should be brought up. So I’m going to make an effort to stand up a bit more about what I believe in, rather than worrying about whether people like me. To put things that are essential in the forefront. 

Essential ingredients for an extremely satisfying day – by Tabitha

18 Oct

Today I finished an epic piece of English-editing work which had been paining me greatly. Not only because of its practically unintelligible English, but because it was crammed with an insane amount of Clip Art which would leap around the document whenever I tried to make changes. The document author had actually created entire little scenes out of individual pieces of Clip Art. Amazing!

Saying goodbye to all my little Clip Art friends would make today satisfying enough on its own, but here are Ten Other Things That Made Today A Satisfying Day For Me.

1. We received our wedding rings in the mail. This was particularly satisfying as we purchased the rings online from a discount retailer based in Orem, Utah, which is an anagram for “ear mouth” and also “ham outré”. And despite what everyone tried to convince us would happen, the rings did arrive, and they are exactly what we want, and they do fit perfectly. So suck on that, haters.

2. At circuit training this morning a new guy turned up who is 23-years old, Irish and of normal size and shape. I then proceeded to outdo him on all the exercises, including push-ups, which I do LIKE A MAN, and then he VOMITED IN THE TOILET from exhaustion. My god, was that satisfying! The trainer then said to him, “That 30-something housewife just kicked your butt” which was both satisfying (butt kicking) and a little alarming (30-something housewife).

3. A fruit vendor up-sold me on a second pomelo after assuring me it was “rất ngon” which means very delicious. I was sceptical, but she was telling the truth. That pomelo was freaking rất ngon. Win.

4. I scrubbed the label off a jar of Bonne Maman jam (which was being used to store icing sugar, or rather, as we recently discovered, a fully-functioning ant farm) so it could become the latest addition to my “deconstructed terrarium”. This is essentially a collection of jars, bottles and a teapot whose lid broke which I’m using as vessels to grow cuttings from our houseplant. I saw how to do this while visiting Karen Gould’s house, and to me it is the perfect way to have greenery in the home without having to invest in pot plants. While discussing this with Karen at the time, she mentioned that she doesn’t like variegated plants, which struck me as a very specific and unfair beef to have with nature.

5. Nathan called to ask if I wanted to go out to dinner to celebrate the completion of my English-editing work. Even though I had already shopped for dinner, this was an extremely satisfying reminder of what a thoughtful and wonderful fiancé I have.

6. I made a rất ngon dinner of green bananas with tofu and turmeric, and rice paper rolls with pineapple and egg. I look forward to wheeling out dishes like this for the rest of my dinner party-hosting life. However, if I were to buy the ingredients for this meal in Australia, it would probably cost a lot more than the $3.50 it cost here (satisfying). But maybe I can use that as fodder for dinner party conversation: “When we were living in Vietnam, a darling old lady with black teeth would have sold me this jicama for 20 cents”.
7. The title of this post reminded me of the shop The Essential Ingredient, and of their inexplicable – but awesome – logo of a goose, whose silhouette used to loom over Parramatta Road.

8. I fulfilled some key domestic duties including putting the washing up away, making the bed, doing the vacuuming and putting on two loads of laundry. The completion of household tasks is always extremely satisfying to me. I think one of my top ten most defining character traits would be “houseproud”.

9. Our upstairs neighbour, Maddy, come over after dinner to play Settlers of Catan. We have played that game so embarrassingly often over the past two years and yet every game holds new excitement for me. One of the most entertaining aspects of playing the game is how seriously Nathan takes it. He’s not so much competitive as serious. One time, after he won for the third time in a row, and Simon, Sarah and I were complaining about the boringness of his repeated victories, he had a full-blown tantrum about how we didn’t give him due praise for his game-playing skill and only bemoaned his success. And he was not joking. We all sat there in silent shock. He is also very serious about the condition of the Settlers of Catan game pieces and is always wiping up condensation from glasses which might dampen a game tile. And then one day he spilled an enormous cup of boiling hot lapsang souchong all over the entire game. That was a very satisfying day indeed. Maybe even more satisfying than today.

10. While walking to the market I thought I saw a horse coming down the street, but it was actually just two girls on a bicycle. And then, as I rounded the corner, I thought I saw a large teddy bear standing by the side of the road, but it was actually just the cardboard box for a child’s wading pool. I would have preferred a horse and a teddy bear, but just the thought of them was satisfying enough. Also, an indication that I’ve drunk too much tea today.

Essential….by Beth

17 Oct

Why is it that the topic I pick always ends up being the hardest to write? Topic is essential BTW.

I’m going to list it up as per usual. A list of my favourite stuff at the moment.

  • Essential reading: ‘Our Babies, Ourselves: How Culture Shapes the Way We Parent‘ (just wrote a lot about it on Tabs’ latest post). It fascinates the hell out of me.
  • Essential viewing: ‘Parks and Recreation’ (no spoilers!)
  • Essential eating: ABC butter (almonds, brazil nuts and cashews). Crunchy yet smooth. and old skool cheese toast under the griller.
  • Essential footware: Simple shoes (vegan elastic lace-up) and felted slippers with soles.
  • Essential listening: a compilation Jeff made me in an attempt to keep me up to date with new music. Don’t even know most of the bands’ names! Sigh of the times.