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 (because I overqualified myself a bit during the interview) 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 I had to do. 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.

 

Letters Home I. The Beginning.

The characters in this story aren’t fictitious. They are very real. So am I. I have tried to recreate events from my memories of them but in order to maintain the anonymity in some instances I have changed names and some identifying details to protect the privacy of individuals.

Also no animals were harmed in the writing of these memories – just in case you were wondering.

The Story is called “Letters Home” which is not very accurate. I haven’t had a home in a long time, or lots of different homes all the time (it depends how you want to look at things I suppose) and these letters (aka emails) were originally sent to my latest “home” where I created a stable little family of friends.

I hope you enjoy reading it.

 

After only two days after I landed in this place, still jetlagged and all, Bob arrived as well. You all know Bob, he’s A’s best friend. And a couple of days later Jack joined the crew. I didn’t know Jack but he turned out to be a super chill dude. Bob had the guest room and Jack slept on the couch. It was a full house, but to be honest, we all had a good time. Which probably is something I didn’t expect. I wanted A all to myself. Everything was new and I wanted the two of us in a little love nest. Now it was me and three dudes. Great.

The first weeks I would get up early and go around giving out resumés to all the cafés, bakeries, cupcakes shops in the CBD (so that’s A LOT) and would do some more job hunting online (either in the library or home again). Sometimes the boys would be home and awake and we would all geek behind our computers for some hours and after I would maybe join them for the beach or a stroll through the city. Often they would also just not be home by the time I would get back and I would enjoy the apartment to myself (yay!) or just go out again and enjoy the sunny city.

We would go out almost every night. Either I would meet up with A before and we would join the guys or we would all go out together. Drinks and food. Drinks and food. I’m surprised I didn’t gain like 15 kilos during those weeks! The weekends were also just one big feast of alcohol and food, sun and chill.

After a couple of weeks of handing out resumes I got some offers and trials here so my mornings were occupied with that. Or I was out buying plants (you know me) for the apartment or other nice decorating thingies or just stuff that guys-don’t-own-but-that-you-need. Fortunately A is just as a kitchen geek as I am, we love to look at kitchen stuff together!

About four weeks ago I started working in a café in the city centre about 5 mins by tram (or bike) from the apartment (as you can see I’m not calling it his or our apartment, it’s kind of a middle way situation for the moment). It’s a typical café in one of these food courts which Melbourne is full of. You need to imagine a huge building full of offices which on the ground floor has a kind of open air/half covered alley way full of cafés and food chains. The café is owned by wogs. To explain you this term, keep in mind it’s actually a bit offensive if not racist; according to the Urban Dictionary, in Australian English it means: “A non-Anglo-Celtic European, esp. from Southern or Eastern Europe (e.g. Greek, Italian, Balkan, Slavic, etc.)” Some of them are Italian and others I think Slavic (not even sure). The cafe is open from Monday to Friday from 6 or 7 until 4 and mainly serves all the regulars from the surrounding offices. Right now I’m working part time but soon I’ll start full time and I do a bit of everything: in the morning I either make sure all the tables inside and outside are cleaned up from the breakfast stuff, I bring out coffees, make some of the toppings we use for the sandwiches at lunch (smashed avocado, chicken mix, chicken tandoori, etc) or prepare cutlery (polish and roll them in those napkins baby!) and take care of the orders. There’s no table service, so people order inside and get a table number, so we bring out the stuff they order. Lunch is the busiest time but it’s really concentrated within one hour, max an hour and a half. The cafe has a fully operational kitchen (they even have their own baker that makes all the sweet stuff) so during lunch there are different sections of food: hot food, salads, sandwiches (MYO or premades) and the breakfast specials are also served until 2 pm.

The place has several owners, and they all work in the café as well although they manage, as far as I understood, several restaurants and cafés across town. My manager is called Bella, and she is my new Italian momma, a small round lady who is always loving and kind, even when she corrects you. She was born in Italy but has been living here since a little girl but she does speak good Italian still, so if she wants to tell me something that clients can’t understand she’ll do it in Italian, which is pretty funny. As there are so many people working, in the beginning I concentrated in just knowing the girls that worked directly with me (“Bella’s girls”), which are Elsa – a 20 year old Swedish girl (also on a working holiday visa), Ana – a Brazilian girl of 27 years old – and just one Aussie girl named Sasha that just finished Uni (she is 21). You can immagine how old I feel! I have to admit I had to swallow some pride and try not to get depressed being taught how to do things by a 20 year old schoolgirl. It felt like such a step back, I even had a couple of dreams about when I used to work in Italy in this café (and that was more than 10 years ago). But they are all very lovely. Slowly I got to know the names of all the other as well, the barista crew and the kitchen people. And in the third week they all started to know my name as well and accepting me as part of the ‘famiglia’, so that’s a nice feeling.

Last Sunday us girls were invited for a Sunday lunch at Bella’s place. We all took the train (she lives in a suburb about 30 min from the center) and were spoilt with a big fat Italian lunch that lasted from 13:30 until about 18:30 (at least, that’s when we left). It consisted of pizza (just as a starter, obviously), homemade ravioli, chicken in the oven, grilled veggies, salad, and even an apple crumble with cream for dessert. Mamma mia!

Bella has 2 kids: a son of 19 and a disabled girl of 15. When we came in her daughter was in a wheelchair in the kitchen and I realised how disabled she was. There was like nothing going on. After about 10 minutes when we arrived she put her to bed and she slept the whole time while we were there. Her other son joined us at the kitchen table at one point: a confident chatty guy with a million of stories. After he left, Bella kind of took us in confidence and told us her whole life story. How she and her husband just designed and built this 2 million dollar apartment and how she discovered just a couple of months later that he was having an affair with his secretary. He left and they sold the house. He soon got another kid with the secretary-now-wife and showed no interested in his previous kids. Finally also stopped supporting them financially so Bella had to start going on a sort of welfare as well as working full time (and bare in mind this kid need assistance for everything). It’s so sad, sometimes she needs to leave her alone in the apartment, she has a friend coming in every couple of hours for food and changing, etc. So yeah, we are now all a bit closer to Bella, after knowing all her misery. There’s much more to her funny personality but I’ll keep that for another time.

The day after I got the bad news that ‘Tell Your Friends’ was not going to hire me again. Bye bye sponsorship. Bye bye future. When it happened I felt like the whole world collapsed. I know I told you I wasn’t counting on it, but not long after I came here both Jenna and A made it clear they actually wanted me and it was just a matter of getting the ok from my (ex) manager. But obviously he didn’t give his ok. To be honest, after a moment in which all hope was gone, I felt a huge relief as well: the idea of having to work with A (on who I already feel too dependent on) wasn’t the best. Imagine being together 24/7, imagine your boyfriend being – sort of – your boss and having no space of your own. I’m sure it happened for all the good reasons. The problem now obviously is: how to still make sure I can stay here after my visa expires? We talked about it already before but at this point I needed to be sure that A was willing to make the necessary arrangements now in order to apply for the de facto visa in a year from now. I didn’t feel like I could go on having shitty jobs here and there if there was not even the prospect of being able to have normal rights so companies can hire me at least in a year from now. Fortunately he agreed and the next day we went to the bank together to open a joint account. Girls, I felt I was getting married (and that’s the closest I will ever get to it, as you all know how I feel about marriage, no offence to any of you who are happily married). All the questions and seriousness and both our signatures. For the bank, we are now a De Facto Couple (capitol letters). I think I was a bit emotional and A even said I was being all shy and red in the face!

That’s the most important step: when you apply for this visa you’ll need to prove you’ve been living together for at least a year, have a shared economy, prove you’re a couple (such as pictures, messages, emails) and statements from friends and family. It’s a whole big process, plus it cost like 6000 dollars! But once it gets approved I have the same rights as any Aussie and I can even get residency after some years (not sure if permanent). Anyways, I don’t even know what will happen, but it feels like a safety net in case I want to stay. Probably I’ll get a student visa during the gap of the end of this visa and the beginning of the partner, I’ll just try and choose a single easy University course (not too expensive). With that type of visa you’re allowed to work up till 20 hours a week, which is not a lot, but at least something.

So everything has it’s ups and downs. I’m happy to be here most of the time but I also often feel lonely and so dependent on A, which emotionally torments me more than it should. I know that “it will be all alright” but not having a strong support system around me makes me only seek his shoulder or approval and obviously he isn’t able to fulfill all those needs. He is very sweet though and I’m so in love I can’t even put it to words. But he’s also a bit of a puzzle sometimes, I guess it’s an Anglo-Saxon trait not expressing your feelings and thoughts all the time and it often drives me literally insane (as the half blooded Italian I am).

For now I have two friends (wohooo!): Marie, the French backpacker I met last time I was here and Felice, an Italian girl that A thought I might get along with (they know each other from London) so I contacted her and we clicked immediately. We’re going to the gym together and go out for drinks now and then. Hopefully my circle will expand soon!

That’s enough for this update. I all miss you terribly, can’t believe that this is real, sometimes I just think it is all just one big “break” and soon I’ll be back with you guys.

Kisses,

M.