London Buses

20 Feb

My experience of finding a job in Australia has been like a London bus. Not only in the fact that it’s been stressful, cost a bomb (in cv printing), and has caused me to come across some fairly socially challenged people, but it’s that age old analogy – you get nothing and then three (actually only two, but still) come along at once.

I have walked several laps of Melbourne’s central business district on my hunt for a job; I’ve ventured into the arse end of the city, begged borrowed and stolen (not really), and i’ve completed a trial shift in the most disorganised Italian restaurant I’ve ever come across. Every last member of staff (except me, obviously) spoke Italian, and made a point of communicating with each other in that language and that language only for the entire shift. Plus it was Valentines day and I was just about ready to be sick at the stream of couples fornicating explicitly over ravioli and veal ragu (I might also have been mildly jealous that my own boyfriend was nowhere to be seen.)

I was beginning to get offended at how horribly unemployable i must be, but then my luck changed. I ventured down to the Southbank (oh yeah, literally everywhere in Melbourne has a British counterpart – Croydon, Richmond, there is very little originality in the world) and out of that little trip I got two trial shifts. One, I later found out, only called me because I happen to share a birthday with the manager (good a reason as any) and the other is managed by a European-looking man who has affectionately named me ‘my new girl’ (but can’t actually remember my name) and who makes it his business to wear baby blue linen blazers. But who am I to judge; this is Melbourne. At the moment I’m currently juggling having two potential jobs but at the same time not really having any. My life’s becoming a web of lies about how long I intend to stay in Melbourne for (I have a leaving date; it is the end of March in approximately five weeks, which makes me far from employable – but it’s every man for himself and all that). I can’t remember who I’ve told what lie to and when, so I’m hoping in the next day or two to pick between the posh wine bar where you’re not allowed to hold some bottles of vintage wine upright (because of the sediment, so I am told) or the significantly more laid-back restaurant/bar which doesn’t appear to get all that much custom.

My living arrangements are somewhat more stable, though. We are now settled in a hostel in the centre of Melbourne after we originally went to a hostel in the promised-land of St Kilda, an apparently relaxed, backpacker-friendly beach town about 15 minutes from the centre. But it was less beach town and more dual carriageway on our first impressions. We eventually discovered the beach, which was hosting a festival on our first day where we ate paella and drank sangria and felt generally content aside from the blustering wind that felt a little out of place.

After a few days we moved to the city centre, feeling that if we stayed in St Kilda we would probably miss out on a lot of what Melbourne had to offer, and now we share a small 4 person dorm with two Germans: Lucas and Shhhtefan (phonetically spelt for you).

I really like Melbourne, there is so much going on. Always a busker (admittedly some fairly shite ones) or an alleyway covered in art that you hadn’t discovered before, but my favourite place so far is Federation Square. We are a two minute walk from the square which provides free deck chairs and more importantly, free wifi. I’m sitting here now as I type, enjoying the sun after a disappointingly rainy day yesterday. I love the good weather and my tan is coming along nicely (but so are the freckles) although 2 weeks in New Zealand towards the end of our trip will probably make sure I come back exactly the same colour as I left in the bleak mid winter. I hope it doesn’t become permanently cold in Melbourne any time soon though, I spend so much time doing things outside that I’m not completely sure how I’d fill my days. I also have very few warm clothes, or not ones that you can actually make an outfit from, as I learnt yesterday.

For now though, I am just enjoying the heat, the one dollar frozen cokes from Hungry Jack’s that are becoming a regular part of my routine, and the fact that I don’t have to pack and unpack my monster rucksack every other day.

And it’s pretty good that Mel and Alex are moving into our hostel on Saturday! Tonight we are going to a concert by the Australian Philharmonic Orchestra in the royal botanic gardens in an attempt to tap into our cultural side. (It’s free.)

Hope all is good in our green and pleasant land,

Cat xxx

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An Overdue Update

7 Feb

I have left it quite a while since my last post; a combination of being really busy and not particularly enjoying the delights of my iPad’s ridiculous autocorrect function. We have done quite a lot in the last week, so here is a round up:

We went to a floating market, stroked a chained and probably sedated tiger at the anticlimactic Tiger Temple, offended a Japanese woman when Sana unexpectedly vomited all over her bare naked legs without warning, experienced the insanity of Thai drivers (I’m talking children driving mopeds, madmen minibus drivers driving in the wrong lane despite the correct lane being perfectly clear, being hissed ‘GO TO SLEEP’ at when i politely he requested he slow down, an abundance of undertaking and a massively over-used car horn), we nearly died again on the catamaran over to Koh Tao (cheers nobody for informing me of the vigorous waves which resulted in the entire population of the boat vomiting not-very-quietly around me while I sat bouncing and genuinely fearing for my life), I stubbed my toe on a rogue brick on the beach which is adamant it won’t heal (any advice? It’s been a week now and is still fairly gammy. I don’t want to come back with only 4 toes.) I burnt my face whilst wearing sunglasses so now look like I have participated in a ski season, I attempted to scuba dive at Nang Yuang island but concluded I am crap at life when I failed the skills test of clearing my mask of water and was not allowed to complete the dive, I snorkelled instead, we risked life and limb rock climbing at Shark Bay, we sang The Eagles and Van Morrison live on stage after a few too many gin buckets, I tried to find my inner zen by doing yoga in a hut on the beach (never found the zen), we watched the sun set on Chalok Ban Kao Bay, returned to Bangkok where we found ourselves in a room next to a Thai prostitute’s operational headquarters, and best of all I SURVIVED THE FLIGHT TO SYDNEY (with the aid of touch of Valium). And that brings me to the here and now, in a nice hostel in Kings Cross.

Oh, and Australia is really fucking expensive (nearly 3 dollars for a milky bar? Give me a break i’ll be home by next week at this rate.)

I think that roughly sums up our time so far. We head to Melbourne on Saturday, and when I finally find an Internet cafe I will put pictures on this so some of the adventures are evidenced. We are having the best time despite missing everyone at home. I hope all are well!

Cat xxx

Bangkok

30 Jan

So we made it. After two treacherous plane journeys (where not all the disasters I’d envisaged actually occurred) we’re here in Bangkok. After travelling through numerous different time zones and being confused as to whether we should be asleep or awake, we found ourselves in a taxi to the centre of Bangkok. Our plan of action was stealth, we attempted to make conversation with the taxi man so he wouldn’t have the heart to rip us off. Being British, our natural inclination was to talk about the weather but our driver wasn’t having any of it. It seemed he didn’t care to inform us of how much it tends to rain in Bangkok and instead pumped up the volume of the radio (I was not and have not yet become accustomed to Thai music – it’s shite).

We reached the centre and the driver callously threw us out before driving off without giving us our change (approximately £1 but it was the principal) and we found ourselves being immediately harassed by Thai men asking where we were staying. To begin with we couldn’t understand how they knew that we were new to Bangkok and very very lost, but soon realised the massive great backpacks and lily white skin were a mild giveaway.

We’re staying in a hotel just off the Khao San Road which is meant to be the most lively backpacker area of Bangkok, but I was still surprised about some aspects of the city. It’s a lot dirtier than I imagined (it doesn’t exactly instil confidence when the residents wander round with what can only be described as surgical masks on their faces as if they’re avoiding SARS or something) and i didn’t expect the women’s voices to be genuinely that high pitched. (Massaaaaage? You like an oil massaaaaage?) The people try and sell you the biggest load of tripe from bbq’d scorpions to stripey Klu Klux Klan-style hats, but it does make a good atmosphere.

I’ve found myself being increasingly suspicious of the food here, especially the street food stalls which have mountains of noodles and chicken out in the sun all day, but I’m trying my best to persevere because I’m not being the guy who eats Burger King in a foreign country.

After a pretty chilled first day of looking round the markets, yesterday we were much more cultured by going on our (free) Bangkok temple tour. We were shown around three of the most famous temples in the city, although they are everywhere because 95% of the country are Buddhists. It brought back some childhood memories for Lucia and I because our mums went through a phase of becoming Buddhists (don’t ask…I did say they did everything together). We used to get dragged along to the Buddhist conventions where they would meditate whilst our 9-year-old selves would play Betty Spaghetti outside, or on one occasion, with an aptly-named Bob the Buddhist Dog. The Buddhism phase didn’t last, but I can see why it appealed to them now because it was very calming inside the temples, especially compared to the 30+ degree heat outside (this is Thailand’s idea of Winter).

I am really enjoying it so far, it is amazing to see such a different culture to ours and it’s nice shrugging off the London etiquette that says you mustn’t speak to anybody you don’t know. We’ve met some funny people and last night appear to have integrated ourselves into a ‘wolfpack’ (we woke up this morning with bracelets to prove it) though it won’t last because we go to Koh Tao tomorrow.

We had an interesting day today which involved a combination of elephants, tigers, and Sana vomiting on a Japanese lady’s bare legs, but I’ll tell you more about that in another post because this one is getting quite long and I’m only just getting used to typing on the iPad.

Missing everyone in England,

Cat xxx

Reasons I’m Worried About Travelling

26 Jan

All who know me will recognise that one of my most irritating personality traits is to over-think things. I have been planning this trip for over 6 months, and that has given me quite a lot of thinking time which has allowed me to develop some fairly sizeable concerns.

  • I have a massive fear of flying

I’ve always been one for phobias – from Lil Wayne to pigeons i’ve conquered them all, but this one might be the biggest (and contain the most realistic threat). I wish I was joking when I say that I recite ‘sacred heart of Jesus I place my trust in thee’ on loop for the duration of any flights I have to endure, but unfortunately I’m not. My stomach drops when I think about the fact that over the next four months, on eight occasions, I will essentially be floating in a tin box in the sky for obscene amounts of time. It gets worse when I remember that the first of these flights is taking place tomorrow, in a double-decker plane. A DOUBLE-DECKER PLANE. Like an actual bus, in the sky. I don’t even know how that can happen. I don’t think I want to know.

Emirates provide unlimited free alcohol apparently, so I did consider getting absolutely shit-faced but then I realised that I would at some point be faced with a hangover and this, knowing my luck, would probably take place mid-flight. Well I can tell you now, I’ve flown hungover before and the spinning head mixed with the turbulent plane had a horrendous outcome. So I’ve ruled that one out. Instead I’ve gone for Valium. Let’s hope that works or Lucia will be in for an absolute treat.

  • My preparations were a little off the mark. Below are some examples:

Things I did do to prepare for my trip:

– Got an iPad mini for Christmas. I decided that what I needed most for my travelling experience (where I will be staying in shared hostels and will be extremely vulnerable to theft) was a gadget that is now one of the most valuable I own, second only to my laptop. I am taking bets on how far I get without losing it.

– Bought an inflatable pillow. For £17 (before I purchased my visa – priorities). Also I haven’t actually worked out how to blow it up.

– Did an internship which meant I could not earn any money for the month leading up to the trip.

Things I did not do to prepare for my trip:

-Apply for a working visa until 10 days ago.

-Work out how to access my money out there via a method that is not a complete con (STA card). This resulted in a minor break down and then a rushed application for a decent pre-paid cash card. (This story had a happy ending – the Caxton FX came through on Thursday, just so you’re not worrying etc)

(I did do other stuff like buy insect repellant and get two jobs before the internship to save up, just so you know I’m not totally stupid)

  • I am going to miss my boyfriend even more than usual

I think I took the long distance thing a bit too literally here. Surrey/Cheshire was bad enough without the extra few (thousand) miles and the small matter of being on different continents.

  • I really don’t want to get blackmailed into drug trafficking

Whilst commuting every day for the past month in and out of London, I have read newspapers and learnt that the world is a very bad place. And now I am about to go out and experience it. My first stop is Bangkok, and only this week has a British national been sentenced to death by firing squad (disgusting, look it up if you don’t know) in Indonesia because a gang in Bangkok said if she didn’t fill her suitcase with £1.6million worth of cocaine they’d kill her kids. I’m not quite sure of the logistics of that because I didn’t think her children were with her at the time, maybe she just had a penchant for cocaine smuggling. But still, what if Lucia and I get targeted? Stupidly unrealistic worry or actually quite feasible concern? I’m still not sure.

Aside from all these worries, I am also very excited. I want to see the Lady boys of Thailand in real life and not just in weird pictures, and I want to scuba dive at the Great Barrier Reef (even though I am scared of sharks after going through a phase of watching endless shark documentaries – should’ve added that to my list). I can’t wait to see for myself the ridiculous ratio of humans to sheep in New Zealand (worse than Wales!), and I am so excited to make some memories that I will never forget.

I’ll keep you posted,

Cat xxx

T-Minus Two Days

25 Jan

I’m going travelling on Sunday. So I thought I best hurry up and get going on that modern-day rite of passage that says we must blog about it for the sanity of our families and the curiosity of our friends. This will be my attempt.

I’m not really sure why I’m going travelling; I think it was something to do with having reached a bit of crisis in my life. I finished my education for good, got a law degree under my belt and suddenly found myself at this unadulterated, insufferable crossroads as pioneered by top trash early-noughties band Blazin’ Squad, who had the look of an ASBO and the sound of one too.

So I did what most sensible people do, and planned to run away.

I’m going with my friend Lucia. We went to school together from the age of four and have fairly entwined families, with our mothers sharing everything from gym memberships to an allotment, which possibly sees more care than ourselves during the spring and summer months.

Lucia and I

We’re pretty much going around the world (in only a little over 80 days – 103 to be precise). Our first stop is Thailand, then to Australia where we will work and travel up the east coast. Then we’re heading to New Zealand and have picked a campervan as our mode of transport. Potentially a little idealistic when you think that Lucia passed her test over three years ago and hadn’t set foot in a driver’s seat since then until two days ago when she had a refresher lesson. I’ll let you know how that one goes. We’ll be ending our trip in America, going to San Francisco and then LA.

So This Is My Blog. I will attempt to update it whenever I can and hope I can work out how to attach more pictures to illustrate my mind-blowing stories. I think I’m excited for the trip. It’s something new. As far as I’m aware I don’t think I need to find myself, but you never know what could be lurking on a beach somewhere in Brisbane.

Cat xxx