2015 was another weird year of unfortunate happenings, inappropriate doings and amazing experiences. While some people collect post stamps or coins, I collect stories to tell the grandkids when they’re old enough to know what a strap-on is, but enough about The Pink Palace. Of course I am not talking about sexual stories, so get your mind out of the gutter.
Sydney, Australia: I turn 24 and take on the ultimate big girl challenge – cooking Christmas dinner
I have Sharon back with me now, and all is good. After two weeks of intense househunting, we move into an unfurnished apartment in Randwick with Bernie, whom we met on Gumtree. Yes, he could have been a total creep, and yes, he actually is. But in a good way. Our flat is a two bedroom apartment right by the junction, a 15 minute walk to Coogee beach and 20 minutes by bus to Bondi Junction and the CBD. We pick up a new hobby: finding free stuff on the streets and dragging it all the way home. From bar stools to heavy coffee tables, we always find ourselves hungover on a hot day, trying to carry heavy stuff home.
We do pay for some things, though. Like we buy our beds in IKEA, which turns out to be a traumatizing experience for me, as a staff member starts verbally abusing me for bringing a prepaid item through the store. We spend an entire afternoon in Maroubra, visiting people who’ve put up their TV for sale, only to have our phones die on us, no idea of how to get home, and no TV – but we find a free foosball table, so it’s all good.
Work is going well, although I will always have a love/hate for hospitality. One minute I am chatting to regular customers like they’re an old friend, another minute I’ll be insulted by someone because I don’t remember their name.
My 24th birthday is spent in the apartment with Bernie, who’s throwing things at me while I dodge them with a cricket bat we found outside – I wasn’t kidding about the finding free stuff hobby. We fill up water bottles with goon and mimosas and carry them to Coogee beach, along with some music and much needed sunscreen. A bit tipsy and way too hot, I go into the water, where a series of waves continuously knock me over and pull off my bikini until I finally am able to stand up and cover myself up and walk back to safety. We get back home and have a nap, and then a few Mildura people come over for drinks.
The last day at work before Christmas break, one of my regulars surprise me with a really thoughtful present – a note, a candy cane and my favorite chocolate (how does she know!?) and my life it pretty much made. Guess I’m not too bad at this job after all. Later that day, a couple of people from work meet up for few drinks that turn into way too many, and then I dominate at a game of Laser Tag at the Arcade. We go in the bumper cars and play a 3D zombie game and then head off to Scary Canary (yes, really) where I lose the crowd and is being chatted up by a very aggressive Aussie who thinks having a membership to the Randwick races is a proper pick up line. We move on to Star Bar (I think?) and then Macca’s for a late night snack. I’m home at like 3.30, so I would definitely call that progress, since I am usually dead at midnight.
I enjoy a couple of days of beachy weather, resulting in awkward tan lines, before the weather turns into proper Northern European Christmas weather. I go to see the Christmas light projections at St. Mary’s Cathedral with Craig, and we even go inside and light some candles and don’t even go up in flames. Guess I’m alright with God after all.
Now, I’ve taken on the ultimate big girl task: cooking traditional Christmas dinner for my room mates. Danish Christmas dinner, that is. If having me running around all the shops in Randwick looking for red cabbage and making cherry sauce from scratch THE DAY BEFORE Christmas isn’t grown-up enough for you, then get off my lawn. I am putting a lot of pressure on myself, pretty much having nightmares about not cooking the meat right.
I get up early on the 24th, MY actual Christmas, and FaceTime my mom’s side of the family. They’re all pretty drunk and cheery, and I have just woken up and put on a Santa hat. I watch some Christmas movies with Bernie throughout the day to get in the Christmas spirit, before I start cooking. Even though I face some challenges along the way, we have our Christmas dinner at around 8 o’clock (because Sharon had to work late), and it tastes pretty much exactly like it should. We have roast pork with crackling, caramelized potates, red cabbage, gravy made from scratch(!), rice pudding and cherry sauce. Well done, Christine.
I go to bed and pass out after eating a few Skittles, still wearing my clothes and make-up. I’m exhausted from cooking all day, and actually a bit grumpy. Christmas is stressful. I wake up early the next day to FaceTime my dad’s side of the family, still exhausted, but at least wearing make-up from yesterday. After a shower, a short nap and some getting ready, Sharon and I go down to Coogee beach with 7 ciders each, and no sunscreen.
We find a nice patch of grass among all the other backpackers wearing Santa hats. Note to self: not only remember sunscreen and possibly a tent for shade next time, get a Christmas tree and a BBQ as well. We are clearly not prepared for this. We just sit in the sun for hours, drinking ciders and talking crap, before we’re joined by Craig, Malin and her friend Hannah.
After 5 hours or so, we are sunburned and tired, so we go to Macca’s, which is the only place open for Christmas, and we eat our dinner on the way home. We bump into some guys that helped us carry our heavy coffee table home the other day, and wish we weren’t so sunburned that we could go back to the beach with them. Instead, we get home, where Bernie’s mom and little brother have arrived. We take cold showers, have a chat with them, and then go to bed around 10. We’ve survived our first Christmas away from home with just a minor heat stroke and an awful sunburn.
Sydney, Australia: I now live in Sydney. Holy shit.
I arrive with 40 kg of luggage weighing me down on a hot day. Despite a long day of flying and waiting in airports and fearing more cancelled flights because of a storm, I still manage to get a train to Central, find and check in to my hostel, Wake Up! once again, with minimal anxiety and loads of pride. After I arrive at the hostel, I throw my tired self on my bottom bunk bed and enjoy the Wi-Fi for the first time in months. I send off a few job applications, chat to my roommates for a while (how did I end up in an all-male dorm?) and then I go out to hang out with Sally. We met two years ago at The Pink Palace, and she’s made it all the way from Belgium to Sydney for the next few days. We walk down to Sydney Harbour and enjoy the view and a cheap dinner, which we reluctantly share with the seagulls flocking around us.
During the next couple of days, I go for a bit of shopping and meet up with Craig at my favorite George Street bar, Cheers, for a catch-up. At Paddy’s Market I buy a fascinator for the upcoming races and I finally buy a UNICORN ONESIE. Unicorns are kinda my thing by now.
Since Craig’s 25th birthday is approaching, everyone from Mildura who’s currently in Sydney get together at the Randwick Races on Saturday. It’s a beautiful, sunny day. Craig, wearing a suit, meets up with Sally and me at YHA Central (since Wake Up! is fully booked for the weekend). I’ve been up for hours, due to a new inability to sleep in, and because I’ve had to try to look decent for this day. At the races, everyone is dressed up, wearing suits or fancy dresses and fascinators and heels. Yep, I am actually wearing heels today.
We get the bus to Randwick and find a table for the group. The three of us get a bottle of champagne while we wait for John, Darren, Becky and her boyfriend Karl. Of course by the time they actually arrive, I am tipsy. I’ve spent 20 dollars betting on horses with funny names on the machines by the food court, and we realize that I’ve accidentally put my money on a race in New Zealand instead. I don’t win on any of the horses.
After several bottles and a few snacks in the scolding sun, I put my last bit of money on a horse at the last race named Danish Twist. It ends in the final three, so I win back my five dollars, and then we head back to John, Darren and Becky’s place in Bondi. We are joined by Becky’s brothers for a few drinks, and then I pass out, way before midnight.
From then on, the weather seems to get worse by the day. Except for a few cloudy days, it’s pretty much raining non-stop. John and I go check out Sculpture by the Sea at Bondi on a vaguely sunny afternoon, but most of the time we stay in the apartment, sheltered from the rain. Yeah, I’ve moved in temporarily while waiting for Sharon to get to Sydney.
I spend my Monday morning applying for around 16 jobs in hospitality and retail – by the end of the day I’ve heard back from three places. I find myself having two interviews on the same day, 30 minutes apart. I try to contact one place to reschedule, but don’t hear back from them.
After an interview and 2-hour trial at The Naked Duck café in Darling Quarter, I officially have a job. I have good hours and nice co-workers, and I feel so lucky to have gotten my life somewhat sorted in a short time. My days of sitting on a couch, playing South Park on Xbox, are over. I now have to get up at 5.30 AM, take a bus at 6.00 and start work at 6.45. By the end of the day I am tired and my white work T-shirt is covered in grease and food and my hair is wet and sticking to my forehead, but I’m happy. I have a sense of purpose again.
On a warm and cloudy Saturday, John takes me to Darling Harbour, which I haven’t been to before, despite working right next to it. We check out the Japanese festival that’s happening there, have lunch at the food court, and then we go to Museum of Sydney for the LEGO exhibition, that’s opened that very day. In a very small room, the Opera House, Sydney Harbour Bridge, a cruise ship and Luna Park have been made entirely out of LEGO, even with little LEGO people climbing the bridge or going for a show at the Opera House. In addition to looking at the impressive sculptures, we get to play with LEGO ourselves. Feeling very uninspired, I only make things like hearts, trees, houses and of course, a Danish flag. I’m feeling very patriotic these days. As we leave the museum, it starts to rain, and we find shelter at the Haymarket arcade. We spend $25 and over an hour on the machines, until I’m so tired, I can barely stand up. We have dinner at Grill’d and then I take the bus home while John meets up with a friend. Even though I am struggling to keep my eyes open, I still don’t fall asleep until well after midnight.
Those are just a few of the things I’m getting up to here in Sydney. There’s a lot more to come, though, and I just can’t wait. :-)
Mildura, Australia: a photo-heavy goodbye to my home of 4½ months.
Goodbyes are never easy
And this one’s especially hard
‘Cause after all, there is this saying
“Home is where you leave your heart”
Whether I was deep in melancholy
Or high up on the clouds
I could never rest my head
‘cause Mildura filled my head with doubts
Now it’s time to go find a home
And leave this personal Hell
No offense Mildura, but I need to find true happiness
And maybe I’ll even find myself
Here in Mildura, I’ve made friends and I’ve made enemies, and a lot of money. I’ve been constantly drunk on gin and some sort of feeling, restlessness maybe. I’ve felt overwhelming waves of melancholia, leaving behind seemingly bottomless puddles of boredom and doubts. Doesn’t help that someone stole my money and threatened to beat me with a chair.
So now, I’m on a plane alone with my whole life in a suitcase, a backpack and a carry-on, a total weight of almost 40 kg. I haven’t been good at limiting myself.
On the way to Sydney, its familiarity comforting, its opportunities frightening. It would be so easy if everything was planned, taken care of beforehand. But then life would be too easy, and that’s no fun either… right?
Goodbye to MFC
Goodbye to my roommates
And just goodbye, Mildura