We managed to secure our first job as backpackers: counting the number of passengers on the city trams. Sounds simple enough and to the average person somewhat of a waste of time and resources but it’s a job for 10 days so that’s all that matters to me. Basically all I am expected to do is show up at my assigned tram stop and record the times the trams arrive and how many people are onboard (either at arrival or departure). Sounds quite simple but it actually proved to be a lot harder than expected. The first couple shifts were tricky as you develop your system for counting and recording while working independently or a team. The shifts were twice daily during peak travel periods from 7-10 am and 4-7 pm. This made for little sleep and back to working for the weekend! But it also meant we were able to spend an extra week exploring a city I love, Melbourne. Working for the department of transportation in a place to highly dependent on public transport really made me feel like I was part of the city and not just a bystander. And working with the city of transportation meant I was forced to go beyond the central business district and see parts of the city I probably would have never seen before. As well, standing in the open in my florescent yellow safety vest made me hard to miss so it also provided a means of meeting and interacting with the locals – even if it was only for them to scream their frustrations at me.
Update May 2, 2010
Just wanted to send out a quick email to you kiddies to let you know where I’m at in the world.
Maria (who now almost exclusively goes by the nickname “Mern” or “Merna” … so please understand that if I slip that in there, I am speaking about Maria and not some stranger) … and I flew from Phnom Penh (Cambodia) on the 15th of April to the island of Bali in Indonesia. We immediately flocked to the main tourism area, Kuta Beach, but were turned off of the sleezy European holiday feel the place had and decided to only spend 2 nights there. Despite our cold, water hose of a shower that smelled like rotten eggs, we were in heaven with the endless amount of street shops that littered the beach strips which became ground zero for one of my favorite hobbies – bartering! Aside from the amazing browsing, the endless amount of good looking surfers was enough to make us want to stay, but we decided to pick up our jaws from the sand and head north to Ubud. Anyone who has read Eat, Pray, Love will have a good understanding of what this town is about.
We decided that after our “rough” couple days of cold, stinky showers, that we’d pamper ourselves a bit and stay at a nicer hotel while in Ubud. This place was incredible. We received a smorgasbord of deliciousness for breakfast, rented bicycles by mid-day, and flew amongst the white herons and rice paddies by evening, back in time for a dip at dusk in our pool and perusing the art shops and cafes by night. This little town, although now becoming spoiled by the increase in tourism since the publishing of the book, Eat, Pray Love, and recent production of the movie (yes, Julia Roberts went to this place to film part of the movie) is wholesome and has a bit of a small European village feel to it. It rained for about an hour each day we were there, but man was it worth it. The greenery around this place was so lush, it was impeccable.
After two nights in Ubud, we caught a bus and a boat to Gili Trawangan off of Lombok. Here, arriving in paradise, we found ourselves hexed by mother nature and endured two full days of overcast and rain. Despite the rain, we made ourselves busy by registering for Open Water diver certification. Unsure of how I’d handle the whole swimming with fish thing (since my whole life I have had a severe phobia of fish), I did surprisingly well. It took some getting used to be able to actually breath underwater, but before I knew it, I was absolutely loving it and looking forward to the next dive. We did a total of 4 dives where we saw endless turtles, clown fish, “scar” fish (Scar from finding nemo), angel fish, and even a moray eel, a sting ray and a shark! It was awesome! On our last two dives, our instructor brought a camera down and took pictures of us and some of the surroundings, so I will get those posted once I get my computer.
While in Gili Trawangan we met two Australian brothers whom we ended up spending endless hours with, eating, swimming, watching sunsets and playing euchre. We all went our for Merna”s birthday and we had a hilarious time. They got me soooooooooo excited for Australia and even shared their Australian treats with us – including the Australian classic, Vegiemite! (ew!!)
From Gili T, we caught the boat and bus back to Kuta Beach in Bali and flew to Darwin in Northern Australia. We ended up arriving on a holiday so the city was pretty dead, but that didn’t prevent us from walking around and checking out the scene. With little to do, we decided rather than taking a week to drive down to Southern Australia, we’d fly from Darwin to Melbourne so that’s exactly what we did.
Another red-eye flight and sleepless night later and we were in Melbourne on my birthday. It was a very surreal experience. We were exhausted from numerous nights of no sleep, so we kept the birthday celebrations to a minimum and went grocery shopping – where we used the self check out (which I was beyond excited about) – and cooked our first home cooked meal in months. The next day we went downtown and lost ourselves in the hustle and bustle of Bourke St. We stumbled upon Lu Lu Lemon which blew our minds and before we knew it, we were signed up for the Mothers’ Day Marathon on the Lu Lu Lemon team that’s taking place a week today. Eager to get back into regular physical activity, we also stumbled upon a Bikram Hot Yoga studio that offered a 10 day pass for the price of one session. Naturally we enrolled and have so far done the 90 minute course 2 of the last 3 days, taking today off as a running day instead. I have never sweat so much in my life! It’s incredible! So now with 7 days of yoga left and the marathon in a week, we are well on our way to getting back into regular activities.
On top of keeping active, we have been actively looking for jobs since settling in Melbourne. We have managed to secure a 1 week job starting a week from now – counting the passengers on the trams – HAHAHAHAA – so we are still looking for potential work this week to help offset some of the costs. Coming from SE Asia to Australia we have really noticed the difference in cost of living, but we’ve also been more strict when it comes to spending. (Aside from a small shopping spree for much needed “winter” attire — Melbourne is about 20 degrees C which is quite the shock coming from plus 40!… and it’s only going to get cooler as winter progresses.)
One thing I will say, however, I believe I suffered from reverse culture shock on our second night in Melbourne. We went out with some of the people from our hostel and I was standing at a table full of people when I realized, “I’m not in Asia anymore.” and it honestly freaked me right out. I turned to Merna and said, “We have to go.” and we went directly to the Korean grocery store for some Korean treats, and then back to the guest house. It was just so strange being out with people who look like me and speak a version of English, but yet, I’m still in a foreign country and it’s unfamiliar. So after that brief period of, “where am I!?” I think I have recovered. I will also say that it is nice to be able to walk into a store and know for a fact that I can try on anything I want, and better yet, be told that I need a smaller size! That I have fully taken advantage of — trying on literally an entire store of clothing just for the comfort it makes me feel.
Our hostel is pretty incredible here as well. We get free coffee, tea and hot chocolate all day; free breakfast every morning; Monday night we get free soup; Thursday night is movie and popcorn night; Friday night is free wine and nibblies night; and Sunday morning is pancake breakfast! And there are so many people from all over the place, so it’s been fun getting to know every one. I really love this city.
Once we finish our week long job (around mid may), we have to decide which route we are going to take. I need to stop off in NSW to visit someone and pick up some things he’s bringing me from home and then we are excited to get back up North to the warmer weather. I am really excited to see a familiar face from home however, so that will be a nice reality check 🙂
Aside from that, we are continuing the job hunt each day and just exploring and falling in love with this city more and more. I wish we had more time to spend in Australia – we’ve been here barely 5 days and I already feel like we are running out of time and rushing things. But, if things continue to go well, who knows what the future may hold 🙂
Anyway, I’m sorry for this long update. It’s been so long since I’ve sent one, or had the time and patience to sit down and write.
I am going to post this to my blog as well for those of you who want to keep progress tabs that way (www.erinsacco.wordpress.com).
Please send me a reply and update me about things from home.
I heard Mel’s Diner and Fubar burnt down. As sad as it is that all the memories we had there burnt down with the place, maybe they’ll finally build a bar that they don’t just keep changing the name of every 3 years!! 🙂
Miss you all and love you to pieces.