After a hectic 6 weeks back in England, catching up with friends and family I was back at the airport and on my way to Australia. Luckily I love flying so I was ready for the 27 hour-long journey. We stopped at Shanghai for enough time to have a cuppa, a quick meal and even getting to know a really nice girl from Sheffield who was visiting family in Aus, plus it’s always nice to have someone else around to make sure you don’t miss the connecting flight!
I am so glad I got a window seat because as we came into land it looked as though the flight path went straight over Sydney and the harbour view from above was an awesome sight and got me super psyched to go and explore the city.
I arrived at the hostel and felt instantly at home in my 4 person dorm. As I arrived in the morning I attempted to cheat jet-lag by staying up as long as possible. For me this involved staying as far, far away from my bed as possible. I walked to the nearest shopping centre hoping the excitement of exploring Australian shops would be stimulating. Consuming lots of coffee and discovering totally delicious Australian chocolate biscuits, Tim Tams, I made it to the evening before crashing out.
The fact is I didn’t have time to be jet-lagged. I started a short course in hospitality basics along with gaining the qualification to serve alcohol in Australia. The course was over 2 weeks. In that time I refreshed my coffee-making, cocktail making and waiter skills. In between lessons there was plenty of time to check out the sights of Sydney. Of course the iconic Sydney Harbour is a must see that didn’t disappoint. The city tour I went on showed me what else Sydney had to offer. It’s a seriously cool, slick city with an interesting history and mash-up of cultures. I explored as much as I could along with my friend Jesse from the Hostel and quickly began to feel at home in city.
My goal however was to secure a job quickly. With the help of an agency I had an interview set up with a hotel as a food and beverage attendant. The next day I signed a contract and booked the one way flight to Alice Springs, a town right at the centre of Australia in the desert. My main reason for choosing the outback location is that figured it would be a good place to save money as there wouldn’t be a lot do except work!
During my first 10 days I had a room and meals at the Hotel whilst I settled into the job and found a place to live. It was a steep learning curve as I began very early morning breakfast shifts, late nights in the restaurant all whilst trying to find a flat. With the amount of hours I was doing at least I picked up everything quickly! Luckily with only a few days left at the Hotel and after seeing a few dodgy flats and tiny rooms I found the perfect place, only a short walk from work, in a gated block, a nice housemate, a big room with the huge plus of having my own bathroom. I set up my room giving it a few personal touches and my favourite thing, I got to buy kitchen ware! After living in hostels for nearly a year it was so nice to have things of my own and my personal space back!
I had good intentions when I first arrived in Alice to have a life outside work. I made a good effort during the first month finding out what volunteer groups I could join, getting my library card, going to the Sunday market and even joining the local roller derby team.
However as my training progressed at work and the busy season began I was doing more and more shifts, longer and longer days to the point where if I wasn’t working I was sleeping, food shopping, doing laundry or as a treat relaxing at the cinema!
I also was still not feeling 100% from my illness in Mexico a few months before, so I was having tests run with the local doctor. For a few months the work load and lack of energy with feeling ill was pretty tough to handle at times, but I eventually got my diagnosis of IBS (irritable bowl syndrome). Even though it may not be curable the medication and changes in diet, including no more dairy 😦 are helping for now. Fingers crossed I will be able to eat cheese again!
So with everything going on, 6 months went by scarily quick.
Working at the Hotel has certainly been an experience. I still find it strange to think of myself as a bartender, but really enjoy it, especially the cocktail making! Over the months I learnt so much, got some amazing opportunities to work at events, weddings and various functions both at the hotel and off-site. What made it though were the people I got to work with. I have made some great friends and they have given me awesome memories from my time in Alice.
One of the most surreal moments was on my very last shift. I was waitressing in the restaurant, had to help serving behind the bar when a large tour group arrived. I looked up to serve the next customer and had an instant flash of recognition. It really threw me. I managed to get their drinks whilst trying to verify with my own usually poor memory if this person was in fact my secondary school science teacher, or I was going mad! On handing over the drinks I decided just to ask him if he happened to teach at Steyning Grammar School. He looked pretty taken aback and said yes! It was such a lovely shock and on giving my name he remembered me and Nicola as his students. Now that is a small world scenario! We had a nice catch up and it was just really nice to see someone from home, especially on my final shift.
It is difficult to sum up what it is like living in Alice Springs. I’ve only been here 7 months and even though I didn’t get the opportunity to really get involved there is strong sense of community here, which you can sense just by walking around town and interacting with the locals. There is always something going on if you look for it.
“The town’s focal point, the Todd Mall, hosts a number of Aboriginal art galleries and community events. Alice Springs’ desert lifestyle has inspired several unique events, such as the Alice Desert Festival Camel Cup, the Henley-on-Todd Regatta, Beanie Festival and the Finke Desert Race. The Finke Desert Race is some 400 kilometres (250 mi) south of Alice Springs in the Simpson Desert.” (Wikipedia)
The other side of Alice is that of the Aboriginal community. I’m not going to pretend I understand the history and politics of the situation but just my experience of it is that on the whole, the Aboriginal people here don’t bother you if you don’t bother them. It is also a confrontational gesture to look them in the eye in their culture. This was a little difficult to get used to as I just felt rude not acknowledging them, but in the end you get used to it. The main problems arise due to alcohol. The Northern Territory has the largest alcohol consumption in Australia, by an enormous margin. For me this meant not walking around at night on your own and always get a taxi home on a night out and in general just be wary of attracting unwanted attention. As with every place there are safer and not so safe areas and just being aware of these meant I haven’t seen much of the negative side of the Aborigines here.
Finishing work at the beginning of November I had another month before Mum and Dad came to Alice. I decided to stay here for the month as the flights to and from Alice are expensive. During the month I thought I could get another job, however helping to organise the month-long trip around Australia with my parents along with trying to figure out my plan after the trip, took more time than I anticipated. I was worried the weeks would go slowly, on the contrary it is only 2 days until I leave Alice and I still haven’t got everything sorted! I have started to pack up everything and get ready to leave Alice.The month long trip begins with a road trip from Alice to see Uluru, down to Adelaide, along the Great Ocean Road to Melbourne. We then fly to Tasmania for Christmas, on to Brisbane and the Gold Coast for New Year, heading south along the east coast before finishing in Sydney in time for my Birthday!
After the holiday and I say goodbye to Mum and Dad I have 3 months left on my work visa, unless I decide to complete my 3 months rural work which is required to apply for a second year visa. I haven’t got a plan as yet but sure that by my next blog entry I will be able to update you all.
Wishing you all a very merry Christmas and happy New Year!