16 December 2012

It's Not Beginning To Feel A Lot Like Christmas

I love Christmas season. The minute that turkey is in my belly and I wake up in a food coma the morning after Thanksgiving, I am officially ready for Christmas. From the Christmas music to the houses twinkling with lights each night to the chilly winter days, the month of preparation for Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year. This year though, I just can't seem to get into the Christmas spirit.

It's not that I don't want to get into the spirit of Christmas. It's not even that I'm feeling homesick not being home for the holidays. The problem is Australia is just plain backwards! I'm walking around in shorts and sandals, spending my days off at the pool and enjoying long summer nights, yet somehow it's Christmas season?! I see ads on the televsion for Christmas and I get that frustrated feeling I normally get when people try to put up Christmas decorations in October. But then I have to stop myself and it suddenly hits me that Christmas is a week away. How can it be? Christmas in the summer time? Am I really going to spend Christmas outside in the sun? Is that really in the Christmas spirit? It just doesn't make sense!

Christmas, for me, has always been associated with the winter. Snowflakes and hot apple cider, big wooly Christmas sweaters and furry slippers, sitting by the fire opening presents Christmas morning; now that's a real Christmas! Christmas in a bikini? Not so much.

I grew up with Christmas images of Santa Claus living in the snowy North Pole, everyone wishing for a white Christmas, and the beginning of winter signaling the Christmas season. It was always a sad day when it was time to store the summer clothes away for the winter, but it was also bittersweet because bringing out those winter clothes meant Christmas was coming! Snowballs and snowmen, skiing and sledding, and holidays in the snowy mountains were all part of celebrating the holidays. A vacation at the beach? Now that's not a Christmas activity!

But here I am, living in Australia and about to have the most backwards holiday season I can imagine. There will be no white Christmas for me this year. Maybe I can work on my tan, maybe I'll enjoy a day off from work lying on the beach. Surely not very Christmas-esque, but I'm trying very hard to embrace this backwards Christmas. It will defintely be one for the memories! And on the bright side of it all, at least I won't have to remember to turn off my fireplace so as not to light Santa Claus on fire!

07 December 2012

Essential Life Skills I'm Learning In Nebo

I initially thought I'd come to Nebo, do a little grunt work, earn a little money and be on my way to New Zealand & Fiji. And while all of that is all still true, I am actually gaining a plethora of life skills I never would have had if I hadn't come to Nebo. I'll list them here, as I think it's quite remarkable all the things I'm learning here!
Life Skills Learnt in Nebo
  • I can now sucesfully take a nap during the middle of the day. I don't mean "rest my eyes in front of the tv" kind of nap you have whilst waiting for dinner. I mean full-blown, I'm having dreams of epic proportions, I don't know when that time passed kind of sleep. Before coming to Nebo, no matter how tired I was, I just couldn't nap. I'd close my eyes and I'd try so hard to will myself to sleep, but it just never happened. So thank you Nebo for not only succesfully curing me of my inability to sleep during the day, but for also transforming me from a non-napper to an olympian napper!

  • I may not be able to drive a 4X4 car on Fraser Island, but I am a pro at driving a golf cart on narrow sidewalks, through rows of mobile home units, while maybe only hitting a stair railing or a trash can here and there. Seriously, this is like 4X4 road tripping golf cart style, and I can do it like a pro! Linen and cleaning supplies in tow, I drive these buggies with style and class. One day I'll be old and wrinkly and I will need to drive a golf cart to get to my neighbors house for our weekly 4pm early bird dinner; this is when this life skill will definitely come in handy.

  • It's hot in Nebo. Hot like you've probably never experienced before. I'm talking 100 degree days on top of unbearable humidity. It's not like I can wear baggy sweatpants and a hoodie every day. I have to bring out the shorts and the tank tops. I really have no choice. Otherwise I might melt like the Wicked Witch of the West. Unfortunately short shorts and creepy, female-deprived miners don't really mix. But, oh, how I have perfected the evil eye "don't you dare stare at me" face. These miners can't get more than a three second glance before I am scaring them away with my evil eye. This is obviously essential, because when I get back to San Francisco I am definitely going to have to fight off all those miners digging for gold!

  • After a long 15 hour day in the heat---ha! who am I kidding? I sit in an office all day. Excuse me. After a long 15 hour day doing horribly tiring administrative work in the air conditioned office, nothing is better then sitting outside on a cool summer night and having a beer with your friends slash coworkers. I'd like to say I've mastered the skill of acquiring the taste for beer. I'd really really like to. It's about as essential here in Nebo as it is waking up for work every morning. But I suppose I can't be succesful at everything, and this is just one life skill that's never going to happen for me. I guess I'll just stick to the cider for now!

  • And finally, the very last and probably least important life skill I've learnt here in Nebo. I can now beautifully and eloquently make a bed in record time. And I don't mean pull the duvet and sheets up and kind-of-sort-of make it look like it wasn't slept in. I mean hospital corners, smoothed and wrinkle free duvet, 5-star hotel made bed. My mom would be proud if she saw these beds. But let's be realistic. Once I leave Nebo, I'm never going to use this skill again! Sorry mom!

30 November 2012

Life in Nebo So Far

I'm exhausted, my bones ache and my new outback life consists of work, eat, sleep, repeat. But given all that, life here in Nebo isn't as bad as I prepared myself for.

My first working day started off with a definite bang. I woke up at 5:00 in the morning, started housekeeping work at 6:00 in the morning, and after 13 hours of making beds and cleaning bathrooms I finally finished my first day. Oh, and then I woke up at 5:00 am the next morning to do it all over again. This is probably the most grueling tough work I have ever done, but boy oh boy does the money make up for it. With hours like these, I will be working close to 60 hours a week, not spending a penny as all my food and accommodation is provided, and I will save up enough money for my upcoming trips to New Zealand AND Fiji with maybe even a little left over to bring home with me. Yes, the work is definitely worth it.

So where am I? What's it like? Well let me tell you! I am living in a camp of mobile homes set up like individual hotel rooms. Aside from the maybe 20 people on staff, the camp is home to Australian miners who live, what I think is, a strange life. They work a schedule where they are "on two weeks, off one week" or some other time frame involving being on and off. They all generally live in bigger cities, but when they are "on" they need a place to stay within close vicinity to the mine. So enter an accomodation camp like the one I'm working in; a home away from home for miners who are currently on shift. The miners are gross and sleezy and stare at me like they've never seen a female before in their life, but aside from the staring they leave me alone.

The work I have done so far is mainly housekeeping (you think miners are gross from afar , try cleaning up after them...ew!) and a little bit of work doing dishes in the kitchen. It's not TOO bad, but the heat and humidity definitely make it harder. So far it has been 80 - 90 degrees on average, and I'm told it going to get even hotter as summer rolls in! But on the very bright side, after only a few days here the manager informed me that their current receptionist is leaving and he's chosen me to take over that administrative position! This means more office work, less housekeeping and air conditioning! I wanted this admin position from the get go, so when I was offered the job without having to ask I was beyond excited. Once I get into doing primarily admin work these next eight weeks will fly by!

Surprisingly, the accommodation here is much nicer than I anticipated. I have my own room and bathroom, a wardrobe in which I can unpack out of my suitcase, a tv with cable, a mini fridge and a free gym that is a two second walk from my room, After living in hostels for the past few months this is definitely a nice change of scenery!All my meals are provided as well, which is a huge money saver. For breakfast and dinner I go to the mess hall which completely reminds me of the dining halls at university. Since all miners are gone during the day the mess hall is closed during lunch time, and so after breakfast each day there is a sandwich and salad bar in which I can pack a lunch to bring with me to work. With all these benefits, on top of what I'm being paid, it will be more than easy to spend next to nothing whilst I am here.

So while I may be living in the middle of nowhere, and the long hard hours turn me into an exhausted zombie at the end of the day, I am surprisingly not dreading the next eight weeks as much as I thought I would. Work keeps me busy enough to not realize how stranded from civilization I am, and the living situation is a very comfortable setting in which to retreat to at the end of the day. And when all is said and done, and I am lying on a beach in Fiji or swimming with dolphins in New Zealand, it will all be so so worth it!

21 November 2012

Abby Goes To The Outback

It's amazing how an impending deadline can just creep up on you. One moment you feel like you have all the time in the world, and the next it's basically crunch time. This is exactly what happened to me with the expiration date on my Australian Working Holiday visa. I knew I would need to find work in Oz after my east coast trip if I wanted to be able to afford a trip to New Zealand, but as I was traveling the east coast it felt like I had all the time in the world to find a job. Now here I am, with nine weeks left on my visa, and heading to the outback to make some fast money.

When I left Surfers Paradise I assumed I'd find a job in Brisbane, hopefully two,  fairly quickly and have more than enough time to save up some money for more traveling as well as enjoy some time living the city life. But once I got to Brisbane I realized it would  take a little longer to find work than I anticipated, that I actually had really limited time until I had to leave the country, and even if I did find a job I'd really only make enough to finance my living costs in the city with hardly anything to put away for savings. I was financially stressed out and  beginning to worry I'd have to come home without being able to go to New Zealand, an option I really wasn't happy with. I came home from Australia the first time without feeling like I finished my trip and I really didn't want to make that mistake again.

So to solve my financial predicament I began to look at what they call "regional work," which is really just hard work out in tiny little towns in the outback. I knew it wasn't the ideal job (come on, I'd much rather be a city girl!), but I knew it was my only option if I wanted to keep traveling. So I decided to suck it up, go to the outback for 8 weeks, make a lot of money really fast and know that it was all an ends to a mean which would fund even more traveling.

As I write this post I am on a plane, heading to a tiny little town about two hours west of the coast. The town has a population of approximately 284 people (or it did in 2006), it is full of miners and truckers and is about the size of a clementine orange on google maps. Not really my kind of place, but again it's all for an end goal! I will be working in an accommodation village, which can house up to 600 people, basically serving miners and truckers stopping through the tiny town. I'll be doing anything from housekeeping to kitchen work to bar work to possibly admin work. Basically I'll be an all-rounder at a junction cafe. But on the bright side I will be working 45-60 hours a week, so hopefully I will be to tired from all the hard work to actually care that I'm stuck in the middle of nowhere with nothing to do.

So here goes. Abby, a city girl who prefers hustle and bustle, getting dressed up and being surrounded by heaps of people at any given time, is taking on the outback. It will be dead quiet, full of redneck Australian miners and cowboys and definitely the complete opposite of a busy city. It might be ugly at times, and probably a little bit dirty, but it's short term and it will be worth it when it's all over.

Stay tuned! This blog has taken a definite turn of direction, and hopefully my struggles (or maybe surprising outcome which turns out to be better than I expect) will make a good laugh for all of you back home. I sure hope the outback is ready for someone like me! 

10 November 2012

Going Backwards and Moving Forward

Well I have yet again been slacking on the blogging. Partly because I was just having too much fun finishing my trip up the East Coast of Australia and partly because once said trip was finished I hit quite a wall. I've spent so much time collecting my thoughts, and figuring out my next plan of action, this blog has kind of gotten shoved aside. But I'm here, back now, and ready to report!

The last few bits of my East Coast trip were absolutely amazing. From taking a two day boat trip through the Whitsunday Islands and seeing the most amazing beach in the world, Whitehaven Beach, to finally getting to the top of the East Coast to Cairns, I had an absolute blast. I perfected my Australian tan, I found some amazing friends, and I made some memories that I will never forget.

But alas I am on a Working Holiday, and at some point the holiday part has to end and the working has to commence. For the entire duration of my East Coast trip, I always knew that when I was ready to leave a place, there was a pretty set path laid out for me and I always knew where to go next. But once I got to Cairns all of a sudden I had no idea what to do next. Should I work and finish out my visa in Australia? Should I go straight to New Zealand? I just didn't know! Unfortunately, and maybe fortunately since I am the most indecisive person in the world, my bank account decided for me that I had to find a job if I wanted to be able to fund my trip to New Zealand. But the next question was where in Australia should I go?!

Since I had such an amazing time in Surfers Paradise the first time around, and knew I could easily get my job at the hostel back, I decided the most sensible idea was to head back to Surfers. And so I did. I tried to prepare myself for a different experience than the first, but that was easier said than done. I arrived back to my old hostel to a not as friendly group of people, an overly controlling manager and way to much drama in just a weeks time than I really wanted to deal with. I am, after all, still on Holiday and even though I may need to work I still want to have a good time in the meantime! And on top of all that, there just weren't any jobs to be found in Surfers Paradise. Sometimes you can just tell that something isn't working out, and you just know it's not going to fall into place, and that's the exact feeling I got from Surfers Paradise this time around. So I decided to hell with it, I am going to go to Brisbane.

Brisbane is a big city so there will be a lot more job opportunities and it is a place which I spent very little time in during my travels so I can start somewhere fresh with no expectations. It was never a place that was on my radar, but it's only about two hours from Surfers and seems the most sensible place to go and try to sort work out. I have limited time left which I can work until my visa expires, and I need to make all the money I can before I head to New Zealand. So here you have it, a couple more days time and I will be on my way to Brissy!

This post is, in a nutshell, a very condensed version of what's been going on the past few weeks over here in the Land of Oz. It's been mostly good times, and some tough times, but I am getting through them and still so happy to be in Oz. Hopefully once I get to Brisbane, I can settle down with a job, and have even more exciting stories to tell! So until next time--which will hopefully be much sooner this time around!

09 October 2012

Driving On The Left Side Of The Road

For the rest of my time in Australia I'm going to avoid motorized vehicles. They're like the oil to my water, and it's just not working out. They say third times the charm, but in this case my charm might be deadly. So I'm just calling it quits.

The story starts with Fraser Island. The biggest sand island in the world, Fraser is just a 20 minute ferry ride from the tiny little town of Rainbow Beach. When I arrived in Rainbow Beach I was gearing myself up for a fun three days of four-wheel driving in the sand, amazing beaches and lakes, and some fun goon times on a campsite. And while I did get that, I also learned that driving on the left side of the car, whilst on a sandy track, is no piece of cake! I decided to have a go at driving the 4wd Toyota Land Cruiser, thinking that if I attempted to drive on the narrow inland track, where a track was basically already embedded into the sand, it would be much easier than driving on the beach. Boy was I wrong! About 20 minutes into my drive, while already struggling to stay on the track, I ran smack into a tree! Luckily, I was going very slowly and nobody was hurt, however I did manage to crack the radiator and put the car out of commission. While it was pretty embarrassing at first, afterwards I was the talk of the camp, and I still managed to have an amazing time. But the crash really should have been my first sign that I just shouldn't drive in Australia.

Fast-forward four days and I am in the teeny tiny town of 1770. Aside from the beach and a couple shops, this town has nothing to do aside from the famous Scooteroo tour on motorbikes. Forgetting my struggles in Fraser Island, I of course signed up for Scooteroo. At the start of the tour we were dressed up in leather jackets, tattoos (fake of course!) and given our own motorbikes to ride. I struggled a bit on the practice track, but figured I would get the hang of it once I got on the road. And again I was proved wrong. I kept hugging the left side of the road (which I blame on being used to driving on the right!), couldn't keep myself centered and thus was very wobbly, and was incapable of mastering the sharp turns. After about an hour in, the tour guides could easily see I was struggling and offered to let me ride on the back of one of their bikes. I was more than happy to jump on the bike as a "koala" and let someone else worry about the driving. And once I did I had so much more fun, and got to go even faster than one of those motorbikes would go!

So as an end result from both of these trips I have decided it's just not in the cards for me to operate motorized vehicles in Australia. I have struggled one time to many, which I am taking as a sign, and I am not doing Americans any favors as an ambassador for our impeccable driving skills! In reality, I think I am much better suited on the back of a bike and so I'm just going to stick with that from now on!

28 September 2012

My Kinda Paradise

I fell in love with Surfers Paradise. Madly, deeply, in love. I seriously think Surfers Paradise is the long lost love of my life. So much so, that I had to force a temporary separation between myself and Surfers. I didn't want to, and it broke my heart, but in the name of love sometimes you have to do things you just don't want to do. 

I really only ever planned to spend four nights in Surfers Paradise. I figured I would spend a few days at the beach perfecting my Australian tan, have a few crazy nights out in the iconic nightlife Surfers is known for and then be on my way, hungover and tan. Obviously I hadn't been struck by the love bug when I made this plan.

The first best thing I did in Surfers Paradise was check in to the hostel Surf n Sun. After two amazing days as a guest at Surf n Sun I literally stumbled upon a job opportunity at the hostel. Stumbled upon meaning one of the managers offered me the job around 1:00am whilst we were in a nightclub. The next morning I shrugged the conversation off, thinking there was no way it could be legit, until I was woken up by that very same manager coming into my room and telling me to get dressed for work. And so work began.

In exchange for free accommodation, I was vacuuming the guest rooms each morning, six days a week. Living for free, becoming a part of the staff, enjoying heaps of discounts at the hostel and being able to extend my stay in Surfers? Not a bad deal at all! I started work at 9:30 each morning and by 11:30 the day was all mine. I spent my days worshipping the sun (first by the hostel pool and then down to the beach once the sun was blocked by the tall buildings surrounding Surf n Sun), exploring the town, going out for girly cocktail dates, bonding with my new Surf n Sun family and of course having some amazing nights out with the hostel. Surf n Sun became my home away from home and the people I worked with became my temporary Australian family. To say it in as little words as possible, I was having the time of my life.

But, as the saying goes, all good things must come to an end. My biggest concern about staying in Surfers Paradise too long was, unfortunately, money. While I was saving money by not paying rent, I was still spending money that was not being replenished. Surfers Paradise was only my second stop along the East Coast and I feared I would spend all my money in Surfers before making it any further. On that same note, when I decided to come back to Australia my biggest priority (and regret for not doing so last time) was to travel. As I have said before, I left Australia feeling unsatisfied with my trip and once I was home I could not shake the feeling of how badly I wanted to see the East Coast of Australia. So when I came back, my first and main goal was to travel. And while I was loving every single minute in Surfers Paradise, I was also getting itchy feet to travel again. Staying in Surfers any longer would mean settling down, finding a job that paid actual money and taking on some responsibility. And I just wasn't quite ready to do that. I still wanted to be a carefree backpacker.

So, against my own will, I booked myself a bus out of Surfers to continue on with my journey. I didn't want to leave Surfers Paradise,  and I already miss it terribly, but it is just what I had to do. My job at Surf n Sun will be waiting for me when I finish my East Coast trip, and at that point in time I can move into the hostel, find a proper job and embrace everything there is to love about Surfers Paradise. But for now my love affair is on a temporary hold while I discover more hidden gems in Australia.

But, oh Surfers, how I can't wait to come back to you and fall in love all over again! <3