Letters Home XI. Winter, Avocados and Lattes.

Almost to good to be true, the de facto visa has finally been lodged. Now it’s only a matter of waiting (and waiting and waiting and a bit more of waiting) as the process can take up to 14 months. The good news is that my bridging visa has full working rights, what a relief! I’m almost a real Aussie, mate!

The autumn leaves are still giving a beautiful charming reddish color to the city, but winter is fully upon us. Seriously the idea or notion that people might have (yes, you included) that I’m living in a warm country is completely untrue. Australia yes, has many warm regions, but Victoria is not one of them. I can’t stress this one enough. And oh-how-I-miss-the-warm-insulated-Danish-houses-with-double-glazing-and-central-heating. But don’t get me started as I can talk for about this for hours. It’s not even funny. Or that interesting to most people really. I’m just obsessed. My only life goal seems to have a toastie home.

Since the first week of May I’m no longer working at The Usual. The goodbye was quick and swift – almost felt unreal it was my last day while I walked around with full coffee cups and took lunch orders. The irony is that I just started (finally) to know some of our regulars by name (I’m pretty bad at remembering names as it turns out). I’m not missing it yet. But the hospo scene in Melbourne does have it’s charm. And my colleagues were weird and lovely.

If you’ve never experienced the café culture in Melbourne, it’s hard to understand the sacredness behind it. From your cup of coffee and your Smashed Avo On Toast to your high ceilings and exposed brick walls, you don’t just go anywhere in Melbourne to consume your morning ritual. The recipe for success for a good brunch café in Melbourne, is first of all the location and space. Best would be to convert an old warehouse; have your own bakery and coffee roaster in it works well too. Use wood and steel. Hire baristas with skinny jeans and moustaches and dress your staff in leather aprons. Recipe for success is opening it up next to an overpriced flower store. Brunch is probably the most popular type of meal among Melburnians, nobody goes out as much for dinner or lunch as they do for a real good weekend brunch. Then there is the fashion statement that goes alongside it. If you’re in the South East suburbs, you’ve got the unmistakable yuppies in their activewear (not because they went to the gym or will go for a run after) with little lap dogs and leather clutch under each arm. Moustache wearing hipsters with round sunglasses, skinny jeans and even the occasional mullet, are populating the Northern cafés.
What’s on the menu? You might ask. The quality of the coffee goes above all. If the coffee is not up to standard, you will never survive the fierce competition of your neighbouring cafes. But Melbourne’s coffee ain’t that easy. People don’t just walk in wanting a Flat White or a Latte. It goes from 3/4 Extra Hot Decaf Soy Latte to Skinny Flat White with Cacao in a Glass. Being a barista in Melbourne is not an easy ride. Then you have the group of people that come in ‘for a coffee’ but order Chamomile Tea & Hot Almond Milk Chocolate. Although Melbourne brunches are the most elaborated, tasty and pretty plates I have ever had for breakfast, the menus tend to copy each other after the ‘perfect formula’ got invented somewhere. There is:

      A Granola, with fresh fruit and edible flowers. All the flowers;
      Some Chia Pudding – Coconut flakes – Goji Berry related healthy bowl;
      A Smashed Avo. Aussies love their Avos. Sometimes they are not smashed but crushed, or even shattered;
      One Sweet Dish for all the sweet-tooths out there (hey, don’t point fingers, that’s just rude!) which can be either a Ricotta Hotcake, a stack of Buttermilk Pancakes or French Toast obviously with all the syrups, creams, chocolate ganache and pink decoration you can immagine;
      Then there’s Eggs. All the Eggs. Runny, poached, fried, shakshuka, croque him and croque her.

Don’t get me wrong. I love it all: the caffeine, the flowers and all the clichés.

To sum up other things that happened, here are some highlights of the past months(in random order of importance and time):

      Completed my first 14.6 kilometre run (for a good cause)
      Officially a permanent and full time employee of One
      Regularly making my own kefir drink with grains (very good for the gut!)
      Proud owner of the pasta attachment for the KitchenAid, making homemade pasta like a true Italian
      Started coding & networking with the junior dev community in Melbourne
      A, currently not working, cooks a lot of great dinners
      Planning a trip to Japan

That’s all folks.

Miss you all,

M.

Advertisements

Letters Home X. Introvertism, Perspectivism and Ukulelism.

It’s Australia Day. It’s my first Australia Day. I should probably be having a barbie, slip-slop-slap in my thongs. But I’m not. Truth is, I’m not doing anything special. I’m home strumming on my uke, watching some tv and cleaning the house. A is in New York, has been for a couple of weeks now and will be gone for some more and I’m getting into my own little routines. I miss him a lot, especially on a day like this, but I finally have the idea that I have a life here for myself as well. I’m not drooling on the ‘past’ although now I’m probably looking too much into the ‘future’. I went to a yoga class this morning (just started hot yoga in a new studio) and the teacher was explaining the importance of being in the ‘now’. We really never truly are present to the immediate and it requires a lot of practice to be able to live in the moment, which is the only way to appreciate what is.

I always identified myself as a shy person until reading an article – can’t remember where – a few days back when I realized that maybe I’m not shy, maybe I’m just an introvert. Not like an extreme one, but I did recognize certain main trades like, for example, the exhaustion of being with strangers, the energy required of having small talk and being amongst people I’m not familiar or comfortable with. I do it, often forcing myself to it, but it’s never a pleasant or easy thing. Being aware of this, makes me sometimes just tell myself: cut the crap, it’s no big deal. And on the other hand, I’m also just trying to enjoy and be ok with being by myself, without the social pressure of always having to do, needing to be, all the fear of missing out. Spending time alone is great too! Writing or reading, having a run, a walk or playing the ukulele can often be immensely satisfying and they can be done on your own.

Yes, I started ukulele lessons. I got a beautiful new uke from A for my birthday and I’m trying to master this cute little instrument. The first lesson took me back to being a kid, so all those feelings of “I’m not good enough”, “I didn’t do my homework” came right back slapping me in the face. Turns out, I am good enough and that I actually enjoy ‘doing the homework’ aka playing the uke. I have spent already hours and hours until my fingers are too sore and I’m forced to stop. I’m far away from being good, but I’m excited and I enjoy it.

In a couple of days, you will not believe this, but it will be my one year anniversary in Straya. One year. Holy Guacamole! I can finally apply for the partner visa. The whole process of getting ready for this is a troubled journey and makes me anxious every day; they need so many documents from all the countries you’ve been living in for the past 10 years (and that’s quite a few!) and so much proof of your “genuine and continuing relationship” and other insane checks, it’s stressful and tiring! I’m learning – and hopefully will soon master – the technique of distancing myself from myself, looking at my life from outside, from a different view point. Getting perspective makes stressing about these things feel utterly ridiculous. As soon as I step out of my own little world my humane little troubles suddenly disappear within seconds. Then I start thinking wider and deeper until I’m overwhelmed. Maybe the only way is getting out in nature. Reconnecting. Breathing. Learning our instincts all over. We are only a teeny tiny drop, an invisible dot in a whole lot of nothingness. Everything is meaningless, so let’s not get troubled. Let’s love and love only.

Peace out.

M.

Letters Home IX. Merry Chrissy & Other Suburbian Tales.

A month or so ago on a sunny afternoon I was walking in the city center – which doesn’t happen often anymore (if not to come and go from The Usual) – wearing my Mom jeans and a green top.
A random stranger stops me in the middle of Flinders Lane.
Random person: “Hi, sorry, are you Spanish?”
Me: “No, I’m not.” I was surprised and puzzled. Was he Spanish? Did he need my help? Did he have a question? Did he need me to translate something?
Random person: “Ah, ok. No just ‘cause your style is very cool today so I thought… well… where are you from?”
Me: “I’m Dutch.”
Random person: “Oh, oh, ok. That has nothing to do with Spain.”
Me (feeling bad for him as I’m hiding the fact that I’m actually Italian as well so the ‘Mediterraneaniss’ is certainly present): “Well, I lived in Barcelona if that’s any consolation.”
Random person: “Yeah well, but that doesn’t give you Spanish features. Maybe after generations. You know.”
Me: “Hmmm, maybe.” Not sure what he was trying to say or where he was getting at. Was there a point to this weird conversation?
Random person: “So you know all about the cha cha cha? Or what is it that they dance in Spain? Cha cha cha? Or flamenco?”
Me: “It really depends where in Spain you are, each region has their own traditions. Spain is quite big and culturally diverse.”
Random person: “Aha. You’re a smart girl.”
What did he want?
Me: “Well, I gotta go. Was nice meeting you”.
Random person: “What, no, wait! Where did I go wrong?”
I laugh while walking away.

Life as a Suburbian is alright. It’s nice and quiet, we know our neighbors -saluting them with ‘G’day’- some of them even became our friends and we go camping with them, we can have parties in the backyard. Nothing to complain about. But still, when on a hot summer day I walk down a stinky lane in the city with a homeless guy on one corner and a crappy 7/11 on the other I think to myself: this is what I love about cities. I love the city, any city, because it’s smelly and dirty, it’s busy and anonymous, it has the right amount of scary and familiar at the same time.

Summer is here – finally! After a long and shitty spring, I’m sweating and cursing about the tropical heatwave that has taken over the city. But it’s good. It’s real summer. The one you hate and love. The one where your skin smells like salt and sunscreen, sticky days are followed by sticky nights. Life is good.

Since last time a couple of things happened: I turned 31 and am now officially old, Jesus’ Birthday got celebrated again and A and I had a long Christmas-Summer-Camping-Trip in Tasmania. Now let me tell you, I’m not a Christmas person. I like Christmas, don’t get me wrong, but I’m not attached to any traditions per se. I enjoyed Christmas Eve the most during my childhood years when it was spent in my grandma’s beautiful old house on the Oude Delft – tables were elegantly laid and a big Christmas tree towered at the end with real candles (and a bucket of water next to it, just in case) but even then there wasn’t really a ritual about what was going to be eaten. Christmas is just a cozy day with family on a cold winter night. Or how Schmidt from New Girl calls it, it’s a ‘White Anglo-Saxon Winter Privilege Night’. So when Christmas arrives in Australia, I just don’t care that much. I don’t feel it, it’s just not there if you just setup your tent on a beach in Coles bay and have a swim in the clear blue sea because you’re melting from the sun (the ozone layer hole in Tasmania is even bigger than in mainland Australia). Also, I realised a wonderful thing this year: having the months screwed up, living upside down, has an amazing perk: my birthday is not in the winter! I can have a BBQ in the sun while drinking margaritas. I forgive you Australia.

Letters Home VIII. Romance and Tech.

After a month or so of working a couple of days a week at The Usual and trying to find another hospitality job to fill in the other days (and the salary) I decided to change course and I came up with the romantic idea of wanting to work in a bookstore. An independent bookstore. Me, the smell of fresh books, maybe a flirt with the regular intellectual bookworm customer, the whole idea seemed just like the best idea ever. Turns out, to work in a bookstore they want people with experience. Experience within bookstores. Come on! Or they are so small and independent that it’s just the owner and their lifelong employee. I did my best to put a terrific resume together about my love for reading, my favorite authors, book passages, etc. Nothing, all the pretty little bookstores all over town completely ignored my cute face and persistence. The big chains would accept my interest but didn’t hear back from them either, which maybe is for the best as I would have betrayed my love for The Independent Bookstore. I’m such a hipster sometimes, but who isn’t.

After the second week the image of me with non prescriptive glasses and a french beret on my head reading some classic Jane Austen behind the counter slowly but surely faded and I decided to continue my job hunt back in the Tech World. The same day I started looking and applying for some temp roles here and there, I got a contacted by my ex manager of One. A few messages and a couple of calls later I was called in for an interview the next day. Another team, another temp role and oh so much more of what I’d like to do! I got the role and started the week after and I’m in heaven – it feels as if the stars finally aligned. Since day one I felt this was a role I could actually be good at and learn in and that feeling made me be a different person. I’m more outgoing and happy and I already feel part of my new team after only a couple of days with them. Also all the old faces in the company are so welcoming and all of the sudden it feels like home. Who knows that this might lead to a permanent position later on the road.

So three days a week at One, two days a week at The Usual. Weekends free. Sounds like a pretty good balance to me. A bit of brain work, a bit of foot & food work. And weekends free. Not sure how I’m going to fit in school yet but I talked with my teacher and he seems flexible so we’ll see how to fit it all in.

Back in tech. How good is that. I feel the geek in me growing and wanting to be fed with new information. New platforms, new stuff to learn. What a wonderful and intriguing world.

But it’s not for everyone. And although my grandma knows her way around her iPad mini, one of my closest friends from high school keeps surprising me in her lack of technological savviness. Last year, while our common friend Carlotta was visiting me here in Australia, we received a message on our Whatsapp chat from her asking how to work a scanner. I asked Carlotta if she borrowed a scanner to her before leaving to which she replied: “No, I think it’s just a general question.” So all the way from Italy, our friend Blue asked how to use a scanner. I thought it was a joke, but Carlotta started probing to get more information out of her in order to help her. Apparently this wasn’t the first time. Blue does nothing ever alone when it comes to technology, everything goes through Carlotta whom patiently answers or helps with whatever the case might be. Buying flights online, researching something, fixing hardware, downloading software. Recently, again on our common chat she asked: “Carlotta, is it safe to rent a car from the internet?” I was blown away, not even sure I remember times when you didn’t go online to rent a car. What did we use? The Yellow Pages? Just going down the street to your local car rental? Carlotta, the patient angel that she always is, tries to figure out which site she is using and gives in to this what in my eyes is not acceptable. Is it a phobia? Lack of self confidence? I wish I knew. I feel far away from Blue and from what is going on in her world. I miss her. Even her silliness.

Miss you all too.

M.

Letters Home VII. The Realm Of Possibilities.

Spring arrived in terms of the calendar date, not really in terms of good weather. It’s still pretty cold most of the days (with some exceptions) and it rains a lot. We’ve settled in a bit more in the new place, although we still don’t have a sofa or any dining chairs for that matter, but the place starts to have a more homey vibe! We also finally had a housewarming party with ribs, wood fired pizza (still working on nailing the dough to perfection) and lots of drinks – obviously.

As some of you know, I embarked on an unexpected journey last May when I accepted an invitation for attending an introductory session of the Landmark Forum. I would have never signed up for some self-development course in a moment where everything seemed more important than that (finding a job, settling in Australia) but I could see how this might be beneficial for me. I know I have lots of baggage from the past, especially regarding my relationship with my dad and my lack of confidence in certain areas of my life. So what is it? How does it work? It’s an intense immersive three day course (Friday till Sunday) where you sit in a room with 70 other people (more or less) and where a Leader has conversations with you. I know, it sounds creepy. It sounds like some American cult or silly course. Unfortunately the format is the same. But this IS truly amazing. During three days they shake you up until nothing remains. Your empty and it’s wonderful. You can build up the person you truly want to be. Basically, who we are and how we act in life, is all part of our past and our past experiences. We never react to actual situations. We never listen to what is really said. We filter and interpret and use our past experiences to relate to what is happening now. It’s really unbelievable once you discover the silliness. Anyways, after the first course I kind of got it but I couldn’t really apply it fully to my day to day life. I didn’t want to give up so I signed up for the Advanced Course as well – and during this course I had an amazing breakthrough. They shifted the attention from “me” to “everyone else” and this was the real eye opener for me. I think for the first time ever I actually saw the meaning of humanity, how we’re interconnected and as a consequence how nothing in our teeny tiny lives is actually meaningful – in a good way. It made me see that you can either worry and be preoccupied about your own little problems and live in your own little bubble or you can actually make your life mean something, think and see the bigger picture. The world just shifted around me, I am so much happier. Ok, not all the time. It’s easy to fall back into your everyday life and routine and putting your glasses on and create all the drama and sensation around yourself. After all, this is what I’ve been doing all my life, this is what everyone does all the time. And sometimes it’s just easier, and more comfortable to live an ordinary life. But I’m committed to not fall back into it. There’s possibilities all around and up for grabs. I’m loving it! Some of the possibilities I’ve taken on so far are: changing the food industry (especially I want to see farm factories disappear and organic produce being mainstream), running a half marathon early next year, full self expression in every area of my life and empower others to do so too.

I’m inspired people! And that just shines a whole new light on everything around me. I go to work (just started as a waitress in a cafe called The Usual) with a big smile on my face (up to the point where my manager asked me what happened to me). Who cares if I’m a waitress? Who cares if I have no money? There are so many good things in my life, there are so many more things for me to discover and do here, people to meet, dreams to follow. After this shift in my attitude I actually started to bond with all my new colleagues. It’s again a cafe similar to the previous one I worked in, only open from Monday to Friday and located in the city center but the food and coffee quality is of a slightly higher standard. My manager’s name is Suzy and she has the craziest hair you could ever imagine. I mean it. I’m still shocked sometimes. Have you ever seen a Tim Burton movie? If you have, you’re probably familiar with the characters that Helena Bonham Carter normally plays in his movies. Well take her as one of Tim’s characters and don’t change anything of her craziness. I would say the hair has the color of her being the Red Queen in Alice in Wonderland and the volume of her character in Sweeney Todd (and that is actually an understatement). It’s just so out of place and hilarious, it’s great.

There is so much more going on, I started my business course today (my student visa got approved so I can stay another 6 months!) which I’ll have to attend twice a week. Already met my teacher – David – and luckily he is a funny chatty middleaged guy and not too fussed. The material is very basic but I’m taking the opportunity to meet new people and today the class was very interactive and David is keen on spreading new ideas, getting people to talk and network, which makes it a bit more stimulating than answering questions like “Is it possible for an organization to provide excellent customer service without every employee having a job they feel makes a real contribution? Explain your answer.”

All in all what have I learned so far in this journey? I can be happy no matter where I am, what I do, who I’m with, what happens. We choose our lives and we are solely responsible for the outcome.

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.

Bilbo Baggins – The Lord of The Rings J.R.R Tolkien

Letters Home VI. Old & New Adventures.

I’ve never told you about a trial I had a long time ago in a bakery. This was just before I started working at the cafe I used to work for. The bakery is called Croissant by Thomas; it has various locations in the city and they market themselves as a French Patisserie with a Japanese twist (don’t ask me what the Japanese twist is). The actual bakery is located in Prahran, my old lovely hood – I can get nostalgic sometimes, even though I only lived there for about 2 and a half months – and this is the distribution point for the other locations in the cities. I left my CV in one of these cafe slash bakery points which all look quite modern and serve good coffee as well so nothing seemed out of place. Their headquarters in the other hand, are a different story.

After I received a call I headed out to Prahran on my bike (the weather was still lovely so I enjoyed the sun in my face while cruising through the city) and I arrived there for an interview. When entering the bakery itself, which already looked dusty and shabby, I didn’t want to jump to conclusions right away. Thomas came to the front to welcome me and led me through the actual kitchen to the back where his tiny office is located which was filled with paperwork everywhere and I mean everywhere: on the two big shelves towering on the left and right wall, on the table, on the floor. Even the walls were covered in discolored post-its. He had to remove several papers from one of the chairs to give me a seat and we were literally breathing in each others faces – that’s how tiny this office was. Also I had a brief glimpse of the kitchen while passing through: a similar condition to the front of the shop: it’s like entering a whole other universe. All of the sudden, I wasn’t in Melbourne but in a Delhi slum. A microcosmos with about 8 people working in a space that is not much bigger than your average kitchen. During the interview Thomas was very kind and explained the work shifts – only weekdays from 6 to 11 – and my main task – preparing sandwiches which would be distributed in their various locations. He invited me for a trial the week after. I decided not to judge anything by it’s cover and the next week I showed up at 6 am in the bakery. The only Asian girl that works there (all the other staff, almost 12 of them in this small space, is mainly Indian or Pakistani) gets assigned by Thomas to guide me through the first day. Basically I follow and watch her. She bakes chicken (in the bread oven), eggs, bacon. Then she cuts all the veggies, slices the meat. All this while balancing containers and trying to find available workspace. Obviously dust is normal in a bakery, but here things are just pretty gross in general, no hygienic norms seem to be in place. At one point the Asian girl speaks in Japanese (I suppose) to Thomas and he answers: “Please talk in English!” while in the meantime all the Indians talk happily Hindi to each other and the radio blasts out songs in Arabic (early morning prayers?). At one point the Japanese girl – let’s call her Yui – says to Thomas: “I have to go now Thomas, school starts soon.” Another girl also has to leave soon after because of school. I wonder at what time they got up to be there and work, I wonder how old they are and if by “school” they mean high school. I feel like I’m in some Iñarritu movie. What parallel universe in Melbourne is this where girls need to work before going to school? One of the Indian girls – let’s give her a name too, let’s call her Yasminda – takes over to show me the rest of the steps. Cut the chicken into slices, dose all the cut veggies and other elements, put this here, put that there, etc. I notice how Thomas is absolutely adored by his employees. Every time they come and go or have to ask him something you can here how much respect they have for him and his responses are also very kind and loving. “Thank you Thomas”, “What about this Thomas?”, “Should I start on that Thomas?”. Staff changes, the ones there in the early morning are slowly going and new people come in. I notice a tiny man with a sikh that’s enormously strong carrying big trays full of bread ready to be baked. After some hours Thomas says I can go, my trial is over. He calls me into his office and asks how everything was and if I’m interested in the position. Still in a state of shock I tell him I’ll come back to him in a couple of days. Before I leave he even packs a box of fresh pastries. This is the kindest man on the planet. How will I ever tell him I don’t want the job?

Third week as a part timer. It’s definitely not bad having so much time for myself. I’m reading and writing more which was exactly what I wanted. Also my mind is clearer which gives me time to think and plan. Obviously also busy with the moving and I try to stay focused on the job hunt as well, to which I try to dedicate at least 1-2 hours a day. That’s not a lot I know but the moving has (and still does) taken so much time and effort, I’ve been busy packing, cleaning and unpacking for more than a week now. The place starts to look better every day, can’t wait for the summer to enjoy the backyard!

As I told you in the last chapter, time seems to be flying. Luckily I’m prepared for when my visa will expire at the end of September: I’m in contact with Zack, a lovely guy, who is helping me fixing my paperwork for the student visa that I’ll be applying for. I’m going to get a Certificate in Business: the course lasts 26 weeks and it’s the cheapest option I have. It will more or less occupy 2 or 3 days a week (you can also choose to attend in the weekends). The course itself is pretty basic – and probably useless – but it’s the only easy and cheap way to stay for now.

I miss you all terribly and sometimes wonder if that ever will go over.

M.

 

Letters Home V. The Moneyz & The Meaning of Life.

Almost August, that means I’ve been here for 5 months already. That’s huge! Still feeling as if I haven’t settled properly, I think a lot has to do with the no-real-job situation, but I have told myself I need to stop seeing this as a constant problem and start living instead.

I’ve never really been good with money. Not sure when or how it started but saving for something was never my strongest suit, not even as a kid. I wanted things NOW, why wait? And that is still the same today. Even when I know I’m on a budget, when money isn’t coming in as before, I still manage to spend (well, obviously with a bit of more sense) as if money isn’t an issue. That’s because I’d like to think it isn’t one. I would never be able to live calculating every cent and depriving myself from a coffee outdoor because, let’s face it, you might as well make your coffee home and it can be just as good (well, maybe this isn’t true in Melbourne, World Capital of The Best Coffee). It isn’t a necessity, of course it isn’t! But what kind of life is that? A life where I can’t enjoy my $4 coffees is not a life I want to live.

Only thanks to my dear friend Louis I managed to be more diligent with my money and was actually able to open a savings account on which I actually accumulated savings (and still live my comfy lifestyle). I’ll be forever grateful for your valuable input Louis!

My latest fixation on which – according to A – I’m spending all my salary on, are jars. Yes, you heard it right, just some regular glass jars you use in the kitchen. Can you blame me? How nice are jars? I just love them! All the different shapes and sizes, filled up with all the colourful spices, different types of flours, pasta, rice. You can fit everything in a jar and it’s just beautiful. It’s like decorating your pantry, brightening your kitchen, giving flavor to your life (well well, going a bit too far now I guess). You can label them or not, pair them or just have them cris cross all over the place. Look, I’m sure I’m not the only one, I’ve seen tons of pictures of beautiful jar collections on Pinterest and Instagram, so I feel less of a weirdo. But then again, you can literally find anything on the interwebz, there’s place for everyone, people with kinky fantasies, awkward hoarders and unexplainable hobbyists.

Last Thursday we went for a long weekend to Omeo, we could camp on Jenna’s dad’s farmland – he owns this huge land (about 110 acres) just a few kilometers outside the town where he plans to build a house one day. For now the property is just land with paddocks, forest, and the most stunning view of the valley from the upper top where he has a little shed and a caravan, just beneath the forest. As it is about 5 hours away from Melbourne we left Thursday night to make a long weekend out of it. The weather was perfect, bright blue skies and full on sunshine. Us four slept in the little caravan and Jenna’s dad (who happened to be there as well that weekend) stayed in the shed. We didn’t even freeze our toes of as we expected! Probably a caravan is just a tiny bit better than a little tent directly on the freezing ground. The whole weekend was mostly about collecting wood, making fires, cooking, drinking by the fire on repeat. Sounds pretty good, right? Now that we’re all about the outdoor life (makes me feel even older than I already was feeling) I’ve decided to start an Instagram account with a “camping life” or “outdoor life” theme. Need to make sure to have a good amount of photo material before I start (as interrupting for long times is never good to create a consistent amount of fans & followers). The idea – and hope – is obviously to get some traction and to be able to do some product placement, maybe for outdoor clothing brands (like The North Face or Kathmandu) or outdoor equipment, vehicles, etc. It’s an ambitious plan as there is so much out there but if I put in the right effort and make sure the pics are great quality but also with a personal twist, I’m sure it could be a success.

The New Apartment. So yeah, this is happening. Moving to a real house. I’m picking up the keys today and next week we’ll be in it! To be honest, although I am super psyched about it, it doesn’t feel like mine any more than our last place, although it should, shouldn’t it? We chose it together. I think this has to do with the fact that my finances don’t allow me to contribute as much as A does which just makes me feel awful, which obviously is all a story in my head and I’m making a way bigger deal out of it than it is. I struggled for such a long time to not have to depend on my parents or other people anymore and this part of my life just feels like a set back. I often miss my own place in Copenhagen, my independent life, independent from anyone and anything. Not to say that it wasn’t lonely, I often had days (and you remember this Tom) where I questioned the whole meaning of life and what the whole purpose is. Why are we here? Why do we work and make money? To pay for our things and then what? Look, I very well know that most of the things we value, things that society has put on a high pedestal, are not the things that give us happiness. I had a long Skype call with my friend May (you all remember her right?) the other night and we talked about the fact that it’s so important to focus on those things we love without always being fixated on whether or not it will turn out to be our career or it will bring us money, fame, etc. Doing the things you love just because you love them is such an important part of our happiness. What I currently enjoy most is reading and writing so I’m determined to do this as much as I can. There’s a lot of other things that I’d love to cultivate and learn. It like to learn to play the ukulele (like in a proper manner) and I’d like to go back to acting (I actually am attending some Theater meetups at the moment) and also I would like to study literature again (this was my favorite subject in school, if only my memory wasn’t so bad). Especially Italian, English and French Literature. From the beginnings to modern times.

Still working at ‘One’, this week I started as a part timer and having so much time off is great (especially with the sunny days we had this week) but also puts me face to face with all the worries and big questions in my head (Oh-Will-I-Find-Another-Job, What-Do-I-Want-In-Life, Why-Am-I-Here-Again-Ah-Yeah-Look-Around-You, I’m-So-In-Love-But-Am-I-Losing-Focus, Start-Following-Your-Passions-Girl-Start-Baking-For-Real). You know the drill.

Have a wonderful and hopefully sunny weekend!

M.

 

Letters Home IV. New Apartment & Sexy Oneness.

What? Already a new chapter? Well, I obviously have too much time on my hands and too few friends.

Couldn’t wait to share the news: we got a new apartment! Finally (insert raise the roof emoji)!

Ho ho ho, it’s that time of the year. Ah no it isn’t, it’s winter in July. If I think of all the weird thing to get used to, this is one of those which will never feel right. You just can’t have the seasons messed up, it’s just not how it’s suppose to be! You know how you have a mental image of the year in your head? Like a calendar? I think everyone has a different visual image in their minds, and you probably always had it like that since you can remember. It probably develops around the time that we learn about days, weeks, months, season and the whole concept of time. Mine is a long old film roll (kind of the film rolls before we all switched to the digital world). It’s diagonally extended on a completely infinite white background. The very close end to my vision starts with January and the far end corner finishes with December. Depending on which part of the year we’re in it’s more or less zoomed into a particular season, month or week. I can also zoom in and out of the total picture. The peculiar thing is that the 3 months in the middle – June, July and August – are somewhat elevated and brighter from the rest. They represent the 3 months of summer. And now, this mental image is screwed up forever- The elevated brighter months are now part of the cold dark winter. Besides my imaginary calendar, I also struggle with understanding which vegetables are in season – which nowadays is difficult anyways because of the availability all year around. But as y’all know, I’m pretty keen on keeping things seasonal, local and organic. So certain fruit and greens which are assigned to a particular month (grapes in September, that’s when the vendemmia starts in Italy!) are just a mystery right now.

I shouldn’t complain, if in Denmark the year is made out of a long winter with a few weeks of sunny and warm weather, here it’s pretty much the opposite. It’s a long summer with a couple of weeks of crappy weather.

Let’s talk about my new job. ‘One’ is a super awesome company to work for. It’s very similar to ‘Tell Your Friends’ in the whole work/life balance aspect, people are really empowered and do what they have to do. It’s not a I-sit-in-my-chair-from-9-to-5 kind of job. Everyone is young and sexy too. It’s great. So what’s wrong? Well, a couple of things are. I was so concentrated and stressed on getting the job done in the beginning that I forgot to be social with people. I didn’t care. Besides obviously with my team (a bunch of guys) with whom I obviously chat, I became a bit of the awkward girl sitting in her corner being all serious. I finally decided to join a team event (like the whole sales department team event) a couple of weeks ago but then I was so sick that day that I barely was capable of working at all, let alone go out, do fun stuff, be social with total strangers. I felt I lost my only chance to finally break that awkward silence I have with most people sitting only a few inches from my desk. It’s only a “good morning” and some nods and smiles now and then.

The other problem is obviously that yes, it’s a startup, it’s a cloud solution, it’s a SaaS product that has all the same principles as all other products, it’s all these cool things that I’m already familiar with BUT it’s also an accounting product, which means, no matter in which department you are working, you need to have a basic understanding about accounting and/or bookkeeping (I don’t even know the difference). All the cool kids in my team are accountants. They studied finance, they know what they are talking about. And I just don’t, which sucks. I thought: once I’m in there, I’ll show them my skills, but I have a hard time following the basics, not the procedures, but the content! It’s like so far from my world that it’s not even intuitive for me (maybe some stuff would be for others). My manager adores me and is just too sweet trying to give me more work and work hours, trying to find new projects so I can stay on longer. From next week it’s going to be only 2 days, and although it’s better paid than the cafe job (obviously), with 2 days a week I can barely cover the rent.

And speaking of rent – we finally found a new apartment. Or a house (what an adult thing to say) actually! With a real front and back yard, wooden floors, parking place and in a great area too! Oh and wait, what? It has a pizza oven in the outside area (I know, I think this is what excites me most, must be my Italian blood bubbling).

This weekend we’re going to taste some outdoor life again. We’re going out camping with Jenna and Andy somewhere east of Melbourne, in Omeo to be precise. Hopefully we’re not going to freeze our feet off.

Miss you all.

Love,

M.

 

Letters Home III. Hope & The Outdoor Aussie Life.

Where did I left off last time?

Ah yes! Poor little me being unsatisfied with my waitress life. I had that interview at ‘One’ and they didn’t take me and everything seemed hopeless again. I decided to take action and work one day less in the cafe so I would have had time to dedicate an entire day to job hunting (as the weekends are for relaxing, everyone knows that). Just as I was about to get this day off, I got another call from One; the next day I go in for an interview and I immediately clicked with Rick, my new manager. The interview was on a Friday, then there was a long weekend (the Queen’s birthday) in which me and A went finally on a good camping adventure (Tasmania didn’t go through that weekend – all ferries were cancelled due to heavy rain that damaged most of the East coast). As we were already super organized for our camping adventure we decided to go somewhere closer by home and picked out the Grampians. I already visited parts of the park last year when I was here during a day trip with Carlotta so the beauty of the place wasn’t new to me although obviously there was much more to see. We had a great little camping spot in the middle of the park surrounded only by trees: no showers, just a basic toilet and a designated place were to light a fire. It was all about making fire, cooking, keeping warm during the night (it was so cold, the temperature during the night got to 0 ºC) and exploring the surrounding nature. We even did some 4 wheel driving with the Land Rover. Actually, that’s a funny story. We were heading back to camp after some groceries in the nearby village when a guy came up to us saying he got stuck with his 4WD. We tried to get him out of this deep mud pool he sunk into using a rope from his car to ours but we weren’t very successful. Luckily after about 10 minutes a whole group of big fat experienced 4WD came into the little road and made sure to get him out in a whip. They were all middle aged couples, part of some 4WD club, that were doing a trip in the park all together and they invited us to come along! It’s always smarter to do these thing in a group, especially if you have little experience, so if you get stuck they know what to do and can help you. Anyways, we loved it! The scenery was beautiful and our big little Oscar (that’s the name of the Land Rover) is a master of the road!

After our wonderful nature weekend I received a call from the company and got offered the temp job. I literally was jumping up and down! Less happy with having to bring the news to the cafe: I was only giving one day notice, which is obviously not really nice. Bella coached me on how to tackle the situation with Jasmine and she even gave me the advice of leaving the cafe in the middle of the shift if she would give me crap. As the irrational woman that she is, I have to say I feared the worse but she took it quite well to be honest and the day carried on without any major clashes. Everyone was sad I was leaving and I promised I would come and visit often but almost 4 weeks have gone by and I only went once.

First couple of days of the new job were a nightmare: there was so much Excel stuff I didn’t know and didn’t dare to ask that I was freaking out. Also, all the team members (not just the ones in the same office as me, but mostly the ones in other parts of Australia) just started sending me things to do from day 1 and I had no idea what the process was yet. Rick explained a bit and of course I had some documentation but he was quite busy and I got stuck every second. I went home crying the first day. Things got better in the second week (luckily!) and eventually it got so busy that I was just so focused the whole day on these spreadsheets that I forgot time and space concepts. As it’s an accounting software and the end of financial year in Australia is on the 30th of June (don’t ask me why!) these are like the busiest days in the company. But immediately after my workload got drastically smaller and from full on stress days of 8/9 hours I’m now struggling to find some stuff to fill in my days. Next week Rick still promised me a full time week but I feel so useless sitting there when there’s almost nothing to do (and not to forget, they pay me by the hour). After next week it will go down to 2 days a week. I received good feedback from Rick and the rest of the team but there is little to no possibility to get a fixed role. The fact is also that I have no accounting experience, and most of the sales or onboarding roles here require at least a basic knowledge of bookkeeping or accounting. And the fact that they need to sponsor me on top of that doesn’t help. But hey, I’m thrilled to have an Aussie experience I can put on my CV!

Next Thursday there is a networking event at the ‘Eas’ HQ of Melbourne so I’ll grab the chance to try and promote myself there! I’ve been applying several times there and trying to get in contact with some of their HR crew without any luck, they are impenetrable. So this is such a great opportunity! Unfortunately I am postponing a camping trip because of this event. We were supposed to leave Thursday after lunch to Omeo for the weekend but probably we’ll only leave Thursday night. Living the outdoor dream!

The week after next Pete will come to Melbourne for a visit. I probably only get to see him briefly because they are going to Sydney for an eCommerce event, but still nice to see a ‘Tell Your Friends’ face again.

Miss you all lots and lots and lots.

M.

 

Letters Home II. Waitress Life.

Hello lovely people! Are you ready for some more stories? Here we go.

Still working in the same café, now full time. The first week was very tough, I was physically exhausted at the end of the day but slowly got used to it. We have some new staff plus I got to know everyone else better now.

The main owner is Farid. He owns several restaurants and cafés in the city center and is a originally from Iran (even before it was Iran, so like not sure which generation we’re talking here). He is a hard working guy and he is in the café at dawn already and is often the one that stands behind the coffee machine in the morning. He’s the type of guy that has a nice and/or funny comment for all of his customers. I think he took a like in me and gave me the nickname “Foufoulou” after a couple of weeks  and he’ll make my morning coffee as soon as I start my shift and he sees my face (which is needed!). But he is in general not really approachable to have any real conversations with. Then we have Jasmine, his wife, who is also Persian and is just plain annoying. Not so much what she does, just her nervous presence is exhausting and she always wants to tell you what to do or what to clean if she sees you standing still for more than 5 seconds. Their 24 year old daughter, Eve, also works in the café. Although she is the owner’s daughter, she never uses this (I didn’t even know until I worked there for a month or so) and she works just as hard as the rest. We also have Nino, and I never met someone whose name fitted someone better. He’s around my age, speaks Italian but only with a pretty strong southern accent so most of the time I don’t understand him, and he is constantly unsatisfied with life and thinks the world is against him. He just discovered I’m not that angelic as I look (those were his words), just because I like to pick on his negativity. And he gets so easily offended that it’s a tough balance game. Ana left for a month to Brazil again but should be back soon. We have a new member to Bella’s crew which is Sam, a French girl originally from Algeria. She is a gorgeous tall girl with beautiful afro hair. She is really cool but not very liked in a “professional” way by the owners (although she is unaware of it) as they think she’s too opinionated (like what the actual fuck!) and works too slowly for their standards. Anyways, she is the first work friend I made(insert raise the roof emoji). Last Saturday she invited me to a Soul Dance Party (oh yeah) and I had a great time. A stayed home and literally said before I left: “Go and have fun with the kids”. Yes, he’s old. Yes, I’m old too. I was home by midnight Cinderella style.

We’re still looking for an apartment, actually saw one this weekend that we really loved and will hear this week if we get it or not. It has a backyard and a garage, reason why we want to change. Nothing wrong with our current place but the car is parked at the office and we can’t use the BBQ (the huge smoker) as we don’t have a garden. So we’ll probably will move more to the subs, but not too far from the CBD.

Next weekend is a long weekend and we’re off to Tasmania! Going there with the ferry so we can bring the car and our camping stuff, planning to cruise along the East coast from Devonport to Hobart and then back. Looking forward to some adventure, life can get quite monotonous in the winter here, also because I’m quite frustrated working in the cafe, every day it’s the same and I make zero money. I started the job hunting a bit more seriously again (after some weeks of laziness) and got in contact with an agency as well and they are helping me but still there are no results. I had an interview with ‘One’ last Monday (a New Zealand SaaS Software company, quite big here)  for a temp role – so there wasn’t even the issue of a sponsorship. Just really hoped to get a foot into the door but unfortunately they went with someone else although they said they’ll keep me in mind for future openings. The role required a lot of data analysis in which I don’t have much experience so I kind of get the decision. It was another low moment and it took me some days to see a bit of light at the end of the tunnel. I’ve decided to take further actions: I’ll start working one day less in the café so I have more time for job hunting, research, online courses, starting my own business (cakes? pies? a café?) or whatever makes me happy.

Besides the Tassie trip, I’m also going to New York in August! A has some business meetings and I’ve decided to tag along. The ticket was quite expensive but going to New York has been on my to do list for such a long time so I really thought it was time to do just take action and do it. Plus I’ll get some sun as the Melbourne winter is quite rainy and, although the temperatures are not that low, inside all buildings it’s always so cold, miss those Danish double glasses and central heating systems. Sigh.

There’s much more to tell but I’ll leave it for now, don’t want to overload you with information.

Kisses,

M.