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 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 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.