Sunday, February 14, 2010

Australia Day and Increasing Encounters of the Insect Kind

So I'm sitting here munching on some celery, basking in the 35 degree heat*, which is a nice and healthy 95 to those of you in Farenheit land, reminiscing about Australia Day: a day that all Australians look forward to as a day to drink many beers, grill many snags (sausages, of course), get very sunburnt and run around with Australian flags tied around their necks like superheroes.

This delightful day falls annually on the 26th of January. Wikipedia dutifully reminds us that Australia Day commemorates the first landing in Sydney Cover in 1788, which is about as accurate of a "discovery" as Columbus Day in the USA. But they LOVE it, and I love it too.

For my first Australia, I was lucky enough to start the day with a nice big helping of housekeeping (back up in Kippa Ring.) I cleaned like lightning, took a very quick shower, and then embarked on a nice long bus/train ride, about two hours in total. (Considering my past history with trains, this is fairly simple and time is easily passed.) Riding the train from Kippa Ring to Bundamba is practically the entire train line. I watched beer drinker after beer drinker board and disembark, until finally, I came HOME!

Of course by 12:30, the party was in full swing. Wading pool, cricket, sausages and lamb and white bread (because the Australian way to eat a sausage is to wrap it in a slice of white bread...), and the radio is playing because they do a Top 100 countdown, and everyone sings and plays cricket (they even let me take a couple swings, even though I still don't get the point), and makes merry. So all in all, such a successful holiday.

But the big shock came at 3:00 AM, when I woke up wrapped in a bathtowel on the couch and a giant red splotch on my arm. The splotch was itchy and the circumference of a baseball. Upon further inspection, it was revealed that this was no mosquito bite, but a juicy spider bite gone wrong.

I have no problem with insect bites. At the moment I have about a dozen itchy mosquito bites, mostly on my feet, hands and arms, and I hardly feel them anymore. But a spider bite? A spider bite? That requires a spider crawling onto me, without permission, and sinking its disgusting venomous teeth into my skin, without having been provoked. I fretted over it for a while. What if it were a redback spider bite, which could have latent effects that would put me into a hospital? What if I lost my limb? I circled the bite and watched it increase outside of my lines.

Well, after many hours of scaring myself into thinking I had met my journey's end, the bite began to regress (not after itching so bad I could have chewed my arm off.) And all was well, and I continued to make beds and scrub toilets.

That is, until I came back to Bundamba last week and awoke to yet another spider bite (this time smaller). Then, I start seeing baby spiders around every corner, and somehow, the bigger cockroaches start perching on the walls - have you ever had a cockroach waggle its 2 inch antennae at you? Gross! - and ants suction onto my feet, and heck, I feel like a regular Bear Gryllis except I'm not willing to eat them, embrace them, or promote them...or kill them. I just tend to run away or shake hard to get them off. I was weeding yesterday and had no less than three multicolored arachnids on my arms, which provoked a dance of award-winning performance to shake them off.

Tomorrow, the bug spray men are stopping by.

* 35 degrees and humid is pretty much enough to make me want to throw everything I own, including all the dried food goods, my clothes, and myself, into the standard size freezer.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Our First Date (Belated)

To begin this story, let's just say that I will not be employed at Cocoawoo in Downtown Brisbane. But that is an insignificant part of this tale.

Last Friday, I had a job interview in Brisbane CBD. Have I explained the significance of “CBD?” (pronounced Say-Bay-Day, of course). It's Central Business District. In urban Australia, you are either in the CBD or in the suburbs, but it is still technically Brisbane. So at home, it would be like saying that I am from Alameda, San Francisco. And when I take BART to Market Street, I'm going to the CBD. Makes sense, I think.

But anyway, because I have no car, and because I'm in yet ANOTHER armpit of nowhere (North Brisbane), I am resigned to the bus/train regime of transportation. I looked up an itinerary online and wrote down th best option. Now, i had two options. I could take one bus and one train, and arrive at 6:10, leaving me 20 minutes to walk to my interview, or I could take TWO buses and one train and arrive at 5:46, leaving me a more comfortable fluff time.

I obviously opted for the more complicated schedule with better timing, because I like to be on time to things. There was a period in my life where I was over-borderline obsessed with timing. This is one this that travel has generally aleviated. But anyway, my second plan of the evening was to meet James on the same street as my interview at 7:00, upon which we would go to dinner, on our very first “date.”

Of course, this wasn't the first time we've had dinner together, the first time we've met, etc., etc. I mean, I live with the guy (when I'm not sniffing comforter covers in Kippa Ring.) But we've never had the opportunity to do it the old fashioned way, getting dropped off at separate locations at the end of the night, rather than our adapted routine of eating dinner, going to Bognuda Street, opening up a bottle of Viognier and watching Planet Earth. This was much more special.

I needed shoes for my interview. It simply isn't suitable to turn up in my beat down Rainbow sandels, especially since I haven't removed/fixed my toenail polish in two months. There is a shopping mall across the street from where I work, so I thought, I'll pop over and find some before I go. Push came to shove and I was running late. My bus was at 4:15 and I left the motel at 3:45. Somehow I managed to run through the mall, find a pair of delightful Kmart shoes and even a new dress(my first piece of Australian style clothing!) and still get on my bus.

I climbed aboard and asked “Does this bus connect to the 690 to Sandgate Station?” and the bus driver stares at him with a “GUH?” look on his face. So I ask again, and he says, “Where are you going?” and I say, “The CBD, Central Station.” The guy sells me a ticket and I go sit down. I tell him which stop I need to get off at and ask him to please tell me when we've arrived.

About 10 minutes later, the bus driver gets on his walkie talkie and says “Hey 690, are you at _______stop? What's your ETA?” and the bus driver mumbled something back, and he says to me “We should make it!” He lets me off and tells me to cross to the other side. I look around and see that he has dropped me at Pelican Beach, or something like that. The sun is going down and the bus should be arriving. Except that it doesn't. And I wait, and wait, and wait, and the bus never comes. I start to get a bit anxious. There are no payphones around and I have no idea where I am. (Coastal, yes, but besides that, no idea.) There are no other 690 buses for an hour at least. I see a 693 bus, the same one I came in on, and I wave it down, hoping to ask the bus driver where MY bus is, but he keeps driving! And what do you know, it was the same driver who kicked me off in the first place...

I start to plot. Maybe I can hitchhike to the station, it can't be too far. I find a pen in my bag and write “SANDGATE STATION” in attemptedly dark letters on the back of my resume. I figure, what good is the resume if I can't even get into the city. Then, a fire ant crawls inside my shoe and starts biting my toes. So I'm kicking and screaming obscenities and the ant flies out, leaving residual pain behind. I watch cars drive by and see that most of the drivers are teenaged boys, and I think, there is no way I am hitchhiking with these kids.

I plot again. I need a phone, to call James. At the very least to tell him I will be late to get to him in the CBD, and at the most, he can look up different bus routes or something. I see a barefoot middle-aged couple walking a dog and decide to prey on them. I ask politely if one of them has a phone I can use to make a local call. They ask what's going on, and this leads to that, they offer to take me to the station themselves. My heroes! So they took me to Sandgate, told me some stories, were altogether so pleasant, and restored my faith in humanity.

Whoever you were, nice people, thank you.

I get out of the car and walk into the station. My God, the train is there! I run furiously over the tracks (up stairs and over) and make it just in time. I'm going to make it! I'm going to make my interview! I do some ipod listening and finally relax a bit.

We arrive in Central Station and I look for my cross streets. Albert? Charlotte? Anyone? No one seemed to know where I needed to be going. So I walk six blocks in the wrong direction. Now I've missed my interview. I ask a man selling magazines(I knew he was crazy, but he looked local), where Albert St. was and he proceeds to pull out an envelope and ask me to write my email on it, so he can have an American penpal. I quickly made one up and got away. I found the street. It was a street James and I had been on only a week ago when I took him to an eye exam. I couldn't believe I didn't remember. I walk to Cocoawoo, disheveled, my bobby pins lost in a crosswalk somewhere, sweaty, etc., only to apologize to the woman I had “stood up.” The woman was very nice and interviewed me anyway, though I'm sure she was just filling time. I didn't care. It simply wasn't meant to be. Besides, the place didn't have that nice coffee smell that I like so much about cafes. Again, wasn't meant to be.

But it's not over yet. Have I rambled too much? TOO BAD! Remember that dress I bought in the mall back in Kippa Ring? I still needed to put it on for my date, and apparently Cocoawoo had no public toilet. I'm walking down the street, its 6:58, and I see an antique bookstore to my right. I walk in. The store is enormous and smells terrific (booky.) So I smile at the owner, walk straight to the back of the store, pick a stack (plays and scripts, I found myself in) and put my dress on in what must have been 30 seconds flat. I gave another smile on the way out. Oh yeah. I just changed outfits in your bookstore and you didn't even notice.

And at 7:00 on the button, I found James parked in a loading zone. We had Tibetan food, we had drinks, we had walks, and it was simply magic. If this had been the first time we met, I would have flown to Australia just to see him again. Oh wait, check.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

The Motel Buisness, Week 1 (Belated)

Everything was going fine until Graham decided to show me the rotten tooth that had broken out of his mouth.

Imagine that. How many times in your life have you been minding your own business when someone mentions, Hey, my tooth just broke off. A broken tooth is disgusting. It makes you feel like spiders are crawling up your calves. And just like that, this whole hotel job temporary appeal was lost.

Not that I haven't already crossed “Hotel Housekeeping” and even “Hotel Owner/Manager” off my lifelong dream list. Let me tell you: you go batty. I have never had so much appreciation for the people who have to pick my hair out of the shower – something I still haven't mastered. The hair just sticks to the floor and you keep wiping it around in circles, hoping it will grab onto your cloth. I certainly never suspected that queen sheets were so heavy, or that people will let their children wet the bed and then just...leave it.

Promise me something: if you are in a motel, hotel, inn, friend's house, and your child wets the bed, or even if you wet the bed, strip the sheets off yourself. Say something to housekeeping. Because (and this is gross, I rate this experience PG-13 for horror) seeing a spot on the bed, wondering if its water, coffee, etc., and then having to SNIFF it to figure out what it is happens to be one of my least favorite experiences. Because sometimes it is pee.

Where I'm working, we get a lot of “tradies.” These are people who travel for work, most often in trade professions like construction, and are away from home for weeks at a time. Its mostly very tanned men who like their XXXX Gold beer and to say “G'Day”. I swear, I get “G'Day”ed at least three times daily. Pretty darn cool.

We also get a lot of old people who lock themselves out of their rooms, and families with young kids who apparently like to throw cereal around their bedroom.

Hotel work makes me temporarily lose faith in people, sometimes.

But the good news? I'm writing again. I'm writing, reading, knitting, reflecting on the future (even though it hasn't happened yet) and consequently growing more fond of my situation in the armpit of the world, Bundamba, Queensland.

Do you remember when I was in Ireland and I could hardly sleep at night because I was so excited to fly to Australia? I sure as heck do. And today, two months later, I feel the same. Especially because at the end of these 2.5 weeks, I feel better (can you believe it?), better and more excited than I was dreaming in Dublin, beside myself in Belfast, even spinning with excitement in Spain.

This is beside the point of the travel blog, but I am enamored.