Friday, July 18, 2008

A Day Out With Hop Along

Banner in Kainan Cafe, Belfast City Centre

After a slight getting frustrated over waiting for Craig to freakin' wake up and to do something. And him getting frustrated over me expecting him to wake up because I wanted him to do something, we finally headed out the door and took the bus to the city center.

I think I am immune to the rain now or the fact that my blood was boiling thinking if I had to stay one more day in that house, I'm going to blow a gasket and will need tranquilizers, because rain or shine, I'm going OUT!!!! So in the midst of a tsunami, "Hop Along" and I, went to Marcus Music on Royal Avenue to buy my drum. But before we even reached the store, I noticed signs pointing to a place that said 'Kainan Cafe'. Kainan means eatery in Tagalog. Tagalog is national language of the Philippines. I was like, "No, this can't be!". So I shouted to Hop Along who was 20 feet in front of me to check out this place. It was a Filipino restaurant and grocery store! I can't believe it! I mean, what are the chances?!?! Apparently, there has been an influx of Filipinos who came to Belfast 5 to 7 years ago because of nurse shortages in hospitals in the UK. Due to lack of jobs and low pay in the Philippines, all health professionals had no choice but to work abroad in search for a better life, for higher wages, and more opportunity so they can send money and help family members back home. I told Craig we must eat here after I purchase my drum. It will also give him insight of what my peeps are like and I was curious what he thought.

We went to Marcus Music and he immediately reconnected with a friend of his who is an employee there. His friend is also an accomplished guitarist. After they talked shopped for awhile, because Craig also plays guitar, I finally got down to business and bought my first ever bodhran drum. The drum w/ tipper and case was around £135. It's about average for a semi-professional bodhran and it will do for practice and classes. If you're serious about learning a bodhran make sure you get the screws in the back. What you want is a tunable bodhran where you can tighten the skin by a turn key. The ones that don't have them are pure decoration and not suitable for playing. A bodhran 14-16" in diameter would suit you just fine. You don't want to go any bigger than that. The bodhrans they sell in Marcus are manufactured in Dublin. I still plan to buy a custom made bodhran here in Belfast. Eamon Maguire is supposedly a master bodhran maker in Ireland. I'll will definitely give him a shoutout before I leave. I hope he'll let me take pictures in his workshop. I'm really eager to see how the bodhran is made.

After Marcus music, it was off to Kainan Cafe. There were a group of Filipino men entering the cafe. They looked at us with curiosity. What is a Filipina doing with an Irishman? (Mailorder Bride?. HAHA!) And when they heard my American accent they were doubly intrigued. But they didn't make us feel like we were unwelcome. It was a relaxed atmosphere. We went in and behind the counter was a nice Filipino man who reminded me of my uncle. There were hotpots all lined up in a row. I asked him if there was a menu, he smiled and said to just look in the hotpots. He asked if I was Filipina, and I said yes but I was born in America so I don't really speak Tagalog all that well. I sheepishly said that I'm not sure what they were so he opened the lid and told me what they were:

Kare Kare - a peanut and oxtail dish which you eat with fermented shrimp paste. Sounds gross but it's oh so good!

Pork Adobo = Pork marinated and stewed in soy sauce, garlic, vinegar, and basil leaves. Hop Along said it tasted like really strong roast beef. He really liked it!

Mungo - Thick soup made with mung beans.

Diniguan - Spicy pork blood soup with tripe. Not my thing but it's good.

Sinigang - a tangy beef soup, another favorite of mine

I ordered the Kare Kare and Pork Adobo. A main dish plus generous helping of sticky rice is only £4.50 (which is average price for Chinese takeaway). It was ok in my opinion, nothing is as good as mom's cooking. But it was adequate. I was surprised Craig cleared his plate. He said he felt like Anthony Bourdain in No Reservations. LMAO!

I asked the nice cafe man how long he's been here. He said 5 years. I asked if he liked it here, he grimaced and was like, we're just here for the money. His wife is a nurse and once they have enough money they are going back home to the Philippines. I don't blame him. Coming from a tropical country, they must think Northern Ireland is the arctic circle. I browsed the shelves and saw the all too familiar ingredients that my mom uses in her kitchen and it made me long for home. :(

Filipino men were just chilling and chatting over the din of The Filipino Channel! LOL! I assumed they were waiting for their wives to get off their hospital shift. Man, it was so nice to be surrounded by the familiar. I loved listening to them speak in Tagalog. For once, I didn't feel like a stranger and I fit in, and Craig was the opposite.

Filipino Men hanging out at Kainan Cafe - We're taking over the world! *sinister laugh*

After we had our meal, we headed to roast for some coffee. I still have trouble with the currency here. LOL! The man asked for £6.50 and I gave him £5.50 how embarassing. As we sat there waiting for the rain to die down. HP was fiddling with my itouch to see if there was free wifi...which there was (all Roasts do). From the time we left the house, and all the while we were at the city centre, he was checking for wifi hotspots. The man was obssessed. Whatever gets his rocks off, I guess!

HP's barber was nearby so he walked in for a haircut. I have been here once before in January. And I found it kind of funny how barbers are no fuss no muss as opposed to hair salons where you're pampered. Men sit and wait until it is their turn. They sit in a chair. Tell the barber they want their hair short, and off goes the buzzer. They pay the barber £5 and that's it. 15 minutes tops. Straight and to the point.

We then took the bus to his mom's house in the Shankill. We played with LADY! Yipeee!

Lady always makes me happy!YAAAAAAY!!!

And you know what else today is? It's a milestone for Hop Along and I. It's the first anniversary where we met in person! Awwww! I remember it vividly. When I first saw him, I melted like butter and my heart went a pitter pat. It was his first time in San Franciso. Him tired from the long journey and me frantic running around the city getting ready for his arrival. It was clumsy and awkward at first but the strong feelings were there and we couldn't believe how we made it come to fruition.

Never would I have guessed that I would move to some foreign country to live with someone who has touched my heart and soul, and showed me a different side of life I would have never gotten to know. It's been a great adventure thus far, and I'm sure we'll have many more for years to come!

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