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Monday, August 31, 2009

Living it rough

Arriving in Melbourne, last week Sunday morning, after the longest day of my trip so far. I was exhausted. Hadn't hardly slept in 48 hours, and still had a whole day to fill, as I waited for the train that would take me to Shepparton, in the evening, where Jason was going to be waiting for me.

We flew into the airport at 11.30 in the morning. My train was at 06.00 in the evening. So I had the whole day to fill. What was I going to do..? Walk around the city, like a zombie, waiting for the hours to pass? Yes, that's exactly what I ended up doing. The city wasn't as I remembered it. I always loved it, but now it was dark, gloomy, full of people, sky scrapers and just so much hustle and bustle, even on a Sunday morning. I had gone from a familiar place, which was Cairns, where I was becoming a familiar face, where the atmosphere was friendly, where the climate was warm and that had the feel of being a small town, to this big city, where I was just a soul, wandering around. I felt lost, I felt alone. I was not a happy chappy at all. I sat and had lunch in this small cafe, looking at the world passing me by, and the feeling I had owned for the past 3 months, which was being a free and unique individual, had suddenly gone. I didn't want to be in this city, no matter how cool and trendy Melbourne is supposed to be. I thought back over the month I had spent in Cairns, and it suddenly felt like on a distant memory.

All these feelings were probably made a little bit worse, by my exhaustion, by the weather and by the fact that I had just said goodbye to Janice and Cora. I hung out in the city for rest of the day, and it made me realize so much.. I suddenly knew how country people feel, when they go to cities. A concrete maze. That's all it is. I had never felt like that before, not when it came to being in cities. But suddenly I knew that I'd rather be away from a fast pace of life that the city represents. I knew that I wanted to be seen as a person, and just another soul that's roaming the streets, trying to keep up the pace and trying to fit in to the life that that particular city can offer. What an eyeopener. All this made me so excited to be on the farm again, and I couldn't wait to get on that train..

It left Melbourne at around 06.00pm and 3 hours later I was in Shepparton, where Jason was waiting for me. It was as if I hadn't left at all. There he was, in the carpark, Jason fooling around with the devil sticks.. Myvan was there too.. It was great to be reunited. Back in the van again.. back to basics, away from the tourists, away from the city.. This was what I wanted again..

We started work on Tuesday morning, after having a day of rest, to get over the flight. The farm is around 20 minutes outside of Shepparton, real isolated. But it's great. I was kind of nervous about starting work again. I had some doubts if I would be able to do the job, without running myself down. And also stepping back into the workforce felt so odd. But after the first few days, I realized that this is "too easy" (as the aussies would say). What exactly is it we're doing? Me and Jason are in the field, he grafts wood into an already existing tree, I come along and tie up the graft with some tape, and seal the "wound" with some paint. That's it. It's so much fun, even though it sounds pretty monotonous. It's anything but that.. We try to do around 500trees a day. The first week is just over and done with. It took us a few days to get into the swing of it. But now we're flying.

At the moment, we're living a very rough and primitive lifestyle. Myvan is parked just beside the field where we're working. Finding a shower each day, can be tricky, but we do have some luxury: We're allowed to use the canteen to cook our dinner every night.. Which we're delighted with! (we're both very easily pleased..). We jump out of the van each morning, in the "freezing" cold, hop into the field and away we go.. until around 5. We hang out in the canteen for a few hours (no tv or radio).. and then try to keep warm in the van each night, get some sleep and do it all over again the following day.. What a life! So basic, yet so great.

For now, this is where we'll be working. I'm not too sure how long this job will last. It could be a month, it could be two. It's always hard to know just how reliable these aussies are, when it comes to work. We'll see how it goes. It doesn't really matter. Because I'm enjoying being apart of the workforce, after 14 months, and I'm living for the moment, right now. Each and every tree I tie, I do it with so much pleasure! That's all there is.. the trees and Jason of course...

Saturday, August 22, 2009

My Cairns experience

This update will be a little fuzzy and might not make much sense. But my writing always represents how my head is feeling, which can also be described as "fuzzy" at the moment.

Leaving Cairns. My last day in this city..and so far it's been crazy and long. I reckon it's about to get even longer. This morning, Saturday the 22nd of August, we were due to leave our little "ashram" in this tropical paradise. The contract was up in our share house and by 10am we were on the street.. Temporarily homeless..

With a little hangover, me and Janice parted this morning. She managed to get herself sorted out, when it came to finding a job too. On Thursday she finally decided that she'd be going to Ayr (which is a 7 hour drive from here), to work on a farm. There wouldn't be work straight away. But within a couple of weeks she should find herself picking fruit. We knew we'd be parting, once I had decided to go and work for Jason. And we knew it was time. I could feel that being in each others company for much longer, wouldn't have been good for either of us. We are too alike, when it comes to alot of things, which can be amazing but also hard work at the same time.

The first week after we met, we couldn't imagine not being in each others company, as we had gotten so close, so quickly. Back then, just the thought of us having to leave each other at some stage made me feel sick to my stomach. But that eased off, once we settled. So I knew that it would be best for us to part. At the time we met, it was for a purpose. We have helped each other so much over the past weeks, and have learned so many things that we wouldn't have learned if we had never met. Knowing this, we were excited to both move on and continue with our own individual journey. So it felt great when after 4 weeks of living together, we realized that our paths were only going to be passing for a certain amount of time. We were destined to meet, the way we did at the airport. And we're now moving on, in different directions, carrying each other in our hearts. With all this in mind, when it came to saying goodbye this morning, I wasn't too sad. I knew I'd feel that feeling again once she left: the glorious one of being totally independent again and on my own..even if it only is for a day, until I get back to Jason again.

Last night, before we went out for some drinks, I sat on the bed, in a clean room, with space and with my own thoughts as I contemplated the past 4 weeks. It was like I was seeing a summary of this whole experience, different clips from a movie, set in Cairns.. So hectic, but yet so peaceful: the talks and the parties, the tears and the laughter, the exploring and the learning, the sun and the lagoon, the music and the job search, the backpackers and the familiar faces. So much great memories..

So I was sitting on the bed and thought of how crazy it can be, the way circumstances lead towards certain situations and how we really never know how things will plan out. I don't regret that I didn't find work here and that my stay in Cairns is far shorter than I expected it to be. It's time to move on now, and the thoughts of working again, excites me. It's time for a different environment and different people. The partying is done now, for the next while. It will be strange not being in the sun anymore, not being able to go for a drink whenever I like, and not being a part of the busy world for the next while. It will take me a few days or a week even to come down off this high that I'm on and that I can easily get from meeting so many new and great people and from being apart of this busy and familiar environment.

Some of the people I'm talking about, are Irish Cora, Russian Micheal, French Alex, Australian Tristan.. They're all part of my Cairns experience. And by the familiar environment I mean the community that has become so so small: I'm suddenly starting to be recognized when I'm walking down the street on my own, by a passing stranger that asks me how my head is feeling after the big night I had last night as he supposedly spotted me on the dance floor somewhere.. Humm..

So at the moment, I'm waiting to leave Cairns. The past 3 nights have been random, unexpectedly long and so much fun. I've gotten the partying out of my system, but the effects I'm still feeling.. There hasn't been alot of sleeping unfortunately, and there won't be until tomorrow night. My flight is at 5.30am tomorrow morning and I'm bedless until I get to Shepparton tomorrow evening. Tonight I'll be sleeping at the airport. Until it's time to get the bus, I'll be filling this day with catching up with some guys we were hanging out with. I'm not feeling lost, but am eager to get going. The taxi to the airport will be at around midnight, and I'll be waiting patiently for quite a while for take-off. It's a whole day of traveling tomorrow, so I'll be pretty knackered by the time I get to where I'm going. Thankfully we're starting work on Tuesday, so that gives me Monday to rest. Can't wait.

So for now, I'm so grateful for what this beautiful city has given me.. And as one chapter is closing, another is opening.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The low-down on work

After many days of job searching and walking the streets of Cairns, which have suddenly become so small, predictable and familiar as the same faces, the same workers and the same travellers are sighted, an opportunity finally came along which I seriously had to consider. But it was an offer slightly different than I expected.

It's Thursday morning, the 20th of August. Last week Monday I got a phone call from Jason, as I was distributing my resume, yet again. He said that he had been offered a job in Shepperton, Victoria. He needed a worker from the 24th of August. He instantly thought of me, as I was still jobless. The thought excited me initially, of working for him again. As well as being fun, it would also be familiar as I had done the same job nearly 3 years ago, which was tree-tieing. Back then I claimed that it was one of the hardest jobs I had done in my life, in the physical sense. So this put me off. But Jason reassured me that it wouldn't be half as hard going as it was "all those years ago". I didn't say yes or no. I let the idea sit with me and still carried on jobhunting here in Cairns. So on I went for a few more days, not wanting to "fail".

Everyone knows how disheartening it can be, when you distribute 50 or more cv's and you don't receive 1 phonecall.. Well, that's how my status was starting to look, at one stage. I was also starting to panic, after hearing stories about how people are deciding to go back home because of being out of work and money. I was doing my own head in. I was just so determined to get a job here and it was what I had been focusing on. As I was weighing up the odds, I started to see myself as very lucky because of the job opportunity I had, which a lot travellers would give anything for.

Last week I wasn't really trying as hard as I had been trying anymore. I felt that it just wasn't going to happen, as my heart wasn't in it anymore. I knew that it was pointless in putting all this effort into looking for a job here, which could possibly turn out to be not at all what I had expected or hoped for it to be. I started to realize that by working with Jason, I'd at least know what I'm getting myself into. I'd be earning relatively good money, I'd be doing something I'd done before, it wouldn't be too hardgoing, I get along with my boss - which is Jason ;) - and he knows how much physical work I'm able for.

This is me being the indecisive person I've always been. Especially when it comes to such a decision. But finally, after a lot of humming and hahing I was able to make a decision. I decided to go for it. I booked a flight to Melbourne and there was no turning back.

Since booking the flight, I've been feeling so much more settled again. I don't have to worry anymore. I know where I'm going and I know what I want. And I can see that it's time to move on. I don't feel bad for not finding a job here, but as I said, I feel lucky that I have this chance. Cairns was starting to become a place I was dreading to step foot into each morning, because of the hunt. I didn't it to become that kind of a place in my head. So this week has been one where I've started to look at the city as a holiday place, a place of "transition", a place I had to come to in order to try my hand at living in the tropics. It was something I needed and I'm glad of this experience. So up until I leave, I'll been hanging out and trying to spend as much time with Janice and Cora as possible.. We've been having bbq's, watching dvds, sunbathing, meeting lots of different people and we still have a few more nights of partying to do, before we go our separate ways.

So for now, I'm a tourist, until the work starts..

Thursday, August 13, 2009

A snorkel experience

Wednesday morning.. Janice, Cora and me boarded a boat to finally sail out to the Great Barrier Reef, with around 50 other passengers. The Reef is the most famous in Australia, and is one of the top diving locations in the world.. apparently. It starts off the North East Coast of Queensland and runs along the coast, down towards Brisbane. When I was here in Cairns first, with Jason, I wanted to go out on a boat to see what all the fuss was about. But we never got around to it. So when the girls said they wanted to do a daytrip, to both snorkel and dive the reef, I jumped at the chance.

Now, this trip was going to be a big one for me. Because me and the water, aren't the best of friends. I can swim perfectly okay, I love to look at the ocean and being on boats gives me such a thrill. But I still don't feel too safe, when I'm out in the ocean, surrounded by nothing but water. No matter how calm the sea is, it's still a powerful and unpredictable thing. Especially taking into consideration that being in Australia, could mean the possibility that absolutely anything could be swimming beneath, is always there. But I was going to be okay. I was with friends, and this was the Great Barrier Reef! What could go wrong..? I've snorkeled before, (even though it's been nearly 3 years) and the diving should be pretty straight forward. I was so determined to give it all a go.

First of all, we sailed for around 2 hours, out to sea, to a particular part of the reef, where there would be unspoilt coral to see, and fish admire (not to eat unfortunately..) - even fish that look like "Finding Nemo".. How cute!! Anyhow, after sailing, we got an introduction lesson for diving. I was excited, and it all seemed too easy. I never thought in my life that I'd be getting the chance to dive. I never really wanted to, because of my "fear" of the vast ocean. But this was going to be my day to give it a shot. It was only going to be a short dive, of around 20 minutes. The instructor was real nice and the group we were going to be diving with was pretty small. I was ready to go!!

First we got the chance to snorkel, before the diving. The ocean was so beautiful, so blue. I couldn't believe that I was gonna be swimming in this water!! This was amazing. The weather was gorgeous, but we were told that the water could be cold. So a wetsuit would help, if you were someone who considers a water temperature of 24degrees to be cold.. That was me!! I got into a wetsuit, and was off..

It was so much to take in though, as I entered the water off the end of the boat. So many people around me, the sea was so choppy because of the wind, the water was freezing because I'm very coldblooded, the wetsuit made me feel so heavy even though it was keeping me a float at the same time. I had to do this though. When I was out in the sea, it took me ages to calm my breathing down, to relax, and to feel secure with the snorkel, the goggles and the ocean. I kept my distance from everybody and was talking to myself like a mad one.. convincing myself that nothing was going to happen. I didn't care though. I was temporarily like a child in that water, so I didn't give a damn what others were thinking.

Once I had finally calmed down and got the knack of the snorkel, I remembered why I was actually in the water..: Niamh, you're snorkeling to see the life underneath this beautiful deep blue ocean so open your eyes and look around underwater, that's what the goggles are for too!! I had totally forgotten the reason for my being there, so I was so caught up with my panic inside. But then I opened my eyes and suddenly seen so many beautiful things.. The fish, the coral, the life.. I don't know the official terms for what I saw, but it was amazing. I'd never seen anything like it. Now and then the panic set in again, but I was able to control it.

After a while, I started to get so so cold. It suddenly hit me. I just didn't want to move at one stage, but I was so far away from the boat, that I needed to swim. The waves suddenly seemed to be getting bigger and rougher and suddenly I seemed so alone in the ocean, even though people were around me. It was so scary.. But I stayed out there, and was so eager to see as much as possible that I just let the feeling go of being icy cold in this relatively warm ocean water. I would be fine.

I don't know how long I was out there.. half an hour, or maybe a whole hour. I can't say. But when I finally made it back to the boat, I stepped out the water, and felt suddenly so awful. I could hardly walk and felt 10 times colder than I did before I got out. I took off my wetsuit and Cora was there to help. I started to feel sick, I was shivering like someone with hypothermia and couldn't speak. The thoughts of having to get back in the water, for the dive, within the next half hour, scared the life out of me.. I panicked, I was in tears, and I didn't know why. I was a mess and didn't care about anything that was going on around. I was put in the sun up on the deck to get the heat back into me (it was around 28 degrees..to look at me, you would have sworn it was the icy Irish sea or something, in the middle of winter!!).

I wanted to dive though, but I could hardly walk and felt so ill in my chest.. I was going to give it a shot; I was on the Reef, and this was my chance to dive. Just a little bit of coldness wasn't going to get the better of me. But as soon as I went up to do it, I looked at the water and I wanted to cry again. DRAMAQUEEN!! It was the strangest thing I've ever had. I couldn't speak again and didn't give 2 sh*ts that this was my chance to dive. If the water was making me feel that way, then there was no way I was getting back in. At first I was kicking myself.. But then once I was feeling better I was so glad I didn't put myself through it. It wouldn't have been worth the panic and anxiety that being under water so far, would have given me. Cora and Janice gave it a shot, but weren't too impressed. Apparently they saw the same as they saw when snorkeling. So I didn't miss too much.

Instead I sat on the deck for the rest of the afternoon, soaking up the rays and drinking some wine.. In the evening I still couldn't say what happened to me when I got out that water after snorkeling, but it doesn't matter now. Yesterday wasn't my day to try diving.. Maybe I'll give it a shot some other time. But until then looking at the ocean is a far more rewarding experience.. No matter how beautiful and magical that ocean life can be..

Monday, August 10, 2009

Job Wanted!!

CAIRNS 10-08 It's been 2 weeks since I moved into the "sharehouse".. The apartment which we're sharing with other travelers and students. The apartment where we have so much luxury, so much peace (too much at times..) and so much cleanliness. Can't believe how quick it's going. So, me and Janice are sharing a room, and the apartment is "girls only". It's fine for now. I can't know what's going to happen over the next few weeks, but we don't think we'll be extending our stay in this set-up. We sometimes laugh that we've landed ourselves in a monastry: Men are a no-no. Noise is a no-no, after 10.30pm. Parties are a no-no. Which is all good I suppose, or else I'd be sitting here complaining that all the students are too loud, boozing all night and keeping me from my beauty sleep ;)
So I'm not going to complain. Either way, it's all good.

Here in Cairns, the "plan" (I hate having too many plans, because things don't always work out the way you would want them to..and then the "plan" goes out the window and all can seem lost, so I'm using this word and being very reluctant at the same time) that I had in my mind, was to look for work here and settle for a while. I'm currently working on that plan. I'm doing my best to make it all come together. That way I can start working on my next "plan". But for one thing to take off, other things also need to happen and fall into place. So the "plan" is still in the making. By that I mean, that I haven't found work as of yet. I've put out my cv's to so many places and have applied online to so many vacancies. But most of the available jobs are being taken Australian residents or by those who can commit to staying in Cairns for at least 6 months: Oh no..too much commitment for me, Sorry!! But then sometimes it's hard to know if it wouldn't be better for me to just commit long term, in order to stay here and work, rather than only wanting to commit myself to 3 months, and hoping for that job to fall out of the sky. I can hope for it to fall out of the sky, and sometimes I do. But sometimes I don't. Hummm.. all this to-ing and fro-ing.. I'm confused. If I remember correctly from when I've been looking for work in the past, it's always the way it goes: It's the uncertainty I'm guessing.

Looking for work, can be a full-time job at the best of times. I've been looking for 2 weeks now. And sometimes all my effort could so easily be in vain. A waste of time and energy. But I can't think like that, because then all the positive thoughts as I walk the streets of Cairns yet one more time, searching for somewhere I haven't yet given my cv to, will be gone and the job will never fall in to my lap. So if I don't find work here, at least I can rest assured that I gave my all and that I tried to make a go of settling here in this tropical paradise. As well, finding that job, is all about timing. Being in the right place, at the right time, is when those plans that were meant to plan out, start to take shape. So staying possitive is what I'm doing.

Janice, my roommate, is also looking for work at the moment. So we're in the same boat. I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing. If she's up, she's pulling my up with her high spirits. If I'm up, I'm pulling her up here with me. So that's a great balance, but at one stage, we will both probably say.. "I cannot pull you up here with me anymore", or "I cannot reach your high spirits right now". For now though, we're both going with the flow. Enjoying the days, when the search for work is done. Going to the beaches, having picnics, hanging by the pool, going for the odd drink (nothing excessive though, not unless we're drinking our own bought wine..saving the pennies..haha). If I was meant to stay in Cairns to work, the job will come. If it wasn't meant to be, then time will soon tell. I'm going to give myself 2 more weeks, and see what happens, see how I feel and then decide what to do..

For now though, I'm enjoying being in the monastry, I'm enjoying the sun as well as the clouds that fill the sky everyday like clockwork, at 4pm (the wetseason will soon be with us: rain, humidity, heat, sun.. all in one, but still being able to wear the flip-flops.). That's the beauty of life in this climate!
Time will tell whether I'm meant to be here in Cairns or not.. How exciting it is to not know what going to happen next xxx