Underthecurrent


Life at the beach
October 31, 2011, 11:28 am
Filed under: nomadisms, runaway

One week down, fourteen to go. 

Last night, staff took the leftover jelly shots from the bar halloween party and  headed to the chef’s house for a halloween party of our own. Everyone from management to kitchen hands shows up for the sunday night session after a long week. Sausages are grilled, guitars come out, bottles drain. Girls dance in the living room, the chain smokers cluster on milk crates in the back yard.

Time off here is beaches, booze and afternoons in coffee shops. There are worse ways to refill a bank account.

The regulars are a shipping port mix; fishermen, sailors, offshore riggers. Little old men who drink small glasses of beer all afternoon and tell big fish stories. It’s a mellower crew than the last job.

For those of us on the three to six month tour, it’s not a real grown up life.  We live in freshly painted motel rooms on the beach where everything from sheets to dishes was already waiting.  Groceries are optional because meals are a docket away in the dining room and included in the package. The biggest question is when the washing machine will be free. There is a lot to be said for never having to pay utility bills.



One thousand kilometers and a week later
October 26, 2011, 5:04 am
Filed under: nomadisms

(Here begins a series called short entries from my phone, perversely the cheapest internet available)

New town, new job.

This town, in its bones, is almost exactly the kind of place I imagine settling down.  Seaside, beautiful, no traffic but more than one bakery and a decent movie theatre. I have  yet to make the twenty minute trek to the breaks but everything I hear is good. 

Meanwhile, LG has taken a temporary gig in another  country.  Depending how things go,  I could find myself landing there in three months or so instead of back in our little surf shack.  The adventure continues.

A weekend in the city was  fun but expensive, I checked out the backpacker ghetto and found cheap thai food, drinking games, crowded Ikea clad dorms, and sweaty clubs. Sweaty in a room-temperature sandwich meat sort of way.

I went to a friends of friends of friends party, drank a bottle of wine and caught the last train home. When I drink here I wake up with no phone credit from calling LG. 

I went shopping for work clothes and christmas gifts and experienced the retail disorientation that comes after seven weeks in a small town.  I blew cash on all manner of yuppie groceries and wandered department store cosmetics aisles like I had never seen eye liner before.

Now I’m back at work, banking cash and making more plans.



Missing Home
October 21, 2011, 3:21 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

I miss Africa like you wouldn’t believe. Until I signed on for more work, I was ready to head home at the end of November. I miss my friends, my family, the food, the culture. I went there for three months and I think it wound up being home.



Moving On
October 20, 2011, 2:30 am
Filed under: nomadisms | Tags: ,

My boss, who is sort of a dragon lady, was on holidays for a few blissful weeks. Then she came back, I got sick, and she screamed at me. For half an hour, while I was still fairly ill. She really is the only blight on an otherwise fun and easy job. My coworkers are awesome, the customers are really lovely and the pay is super decent. Even the small town that I live in is remarkably well outfitted and charming.

(Because I live where I work, I pretended to be a lot dumber than I am and apologetic for things I should not apologize for. I’m neither of these things and she’s going to have a government complaint to deal with on Friday along with some well drafted records of everything she is doing wrong. xoxo)

Anyways, during her tantrum, she threatened to fire me among a variety of other bizarre threats and accusations. I walked across the street, applied for two jobs and was offered both within two days.

The new job is (a) on the beach (b) near some breaks (c) for pretty much the same income. The town is significantly bigger and it is surrounded by national parks. The bus fare to get there is minimal and I get to spend this weekend in Perth because a guy from town is driving through anyways and offered me a lift. Blessing in disguise? Hoping so.

One of the nice things about the Aussie system is that although backpackers generally get some pretty bad deals, as many of the people I have met along the way can confirm, it is actually pretty easy to apply and move on. References aren’t really a thing and once you have some experience (and as long as you speak passable English), it’s game on. In WA, the Transwa bus system is ridiculously inexpensive compared to Greyhound fares internationally, and pretty convenient considering the size of the towns being serviced.



Sick Days
October 19, 2011, 2:27 am
Filed under: overtly political | Tags: , ,

“I was worried.”
“I thought you were not worried at all. You kept telling me I was going to be fine.”
“What was I supposed to say? Hey, I think you’re going to die?”

I felt a little unwell. Mildly sort of unwell. My friends were leaving town, farmwork suddenly finished, and I went to their house for some quiet farewell celebrations. Then, suddenly, I went uncontrollably exorcist on their floor. I threw up so hard there was backsplash and I had to get in the shower to try and get it off me as they threw my clothes in the laundry and cobbled together a new outfit.

Within an hour my urine was full of blood. Pouring bright red. By 1 a.m. I was walking twenty minutes to the ER, hoping it was open, searching on my phone for signs it was open, because no one has cars and no one is from here.

In the emergency room, the apparent lack of pain made things seem routine to the attending. Vomit and a little blood are standard, I’m sure. Then I gave him the sample, which was actually a cup full of blood, and he suddenly asked me about next of kin and repeatedly if it was at all possible I had been hit really hard in the kidneys and failed to notice. Then I heard him on the phone – too much blood in the sample to even read it, he didn’t know what to do.

They gave me a pill and the most hi tech barf bag I’ve ever seen. Then more pills, telling me to come back in seven hours. One of my friends slept on my floor in case something went really wrong, to fully appreciate this you should know that my floor has some of the most suspect carpet I have ever seen.

The pills worked, the blood stopped, I did not experience organ failure down under.

The other part of this story is that I called my insurer only to find out there was a mistake I didn’t notice when the policy issued and I had just found myself uninsured in a first class medical system. With lab tests pending and a lack of clarity about whether what was being used to treat me was even, in fact, going to work long term. I laid in bed, passing in and out of sleep, wondering how close to a thousand this little adventure would run.

Yesterday I paid the bill at the hospital (and hopefully fixed my insurance). $177. For two visits, lab tests and an arsenal of strong antibiotics. Given how much everything else costs in this country, I practically hugged the woman at accounts.

I’m sure there are a lot of morals to this story but the main one for me is that living in a country with public health care is amazing. There is nothing like having to ask yourself, on a twenty minute walk to an emergency room as your bladder pumps full of blood and your mouth tastes like vomit, whether your insurer will Cover This and how quickly you should call them. There is nothing like dealing with caustic claims people whose job it is to exclude you from coverage however possible. The Canadian healthcare system has a lot of things that could and should be changed but the cost to access it is not negotiable.



Everything, Everywhere
October 12, 2011, 8:00 am
Filed under: voyageur | Tags: ,

Today, struck by the desire over coffee and a leftover weekend travel section, to move more.

I go back and forth on what to do before leaving this country. So far, although the experience has been good, the tourist attractions have been, well, underwhelming. I find myself wondering if $600 in transit costs to get across this landmass would not be better spent getting to an entirely different country at the end of this.

The thing is, Australia is expensive. And big.

Although the uniqueness of the Aussie culture is, so far, inarguable, I’m not sure that twenty hours away things will be dramatically different from my life here, now. And the difference is that my life here, now, is netting me about $500 per week in savings versus the opposite. It is one of the few places in the world where flipping through guidebooks and maps doesn’t send me into a frenetic list-making researching cost-calculating zone.

Maybe I just need a little inspiration.



Long Distance Sucks
October 11, 2011, 7:44 am
Filed under: insight

“What is your name?” he said, standing up to leave, so I told him. “I’m Will. William… I’ll… probably never see you again.”

The most disconcerting half hour with a stranger. I’m unavailable. He is not from here. I felt myself blush and all the blood vessels in my body trill, ending our conversation to serve someone else, feeling a bit naked at the thought of resuming it. In the corner of my eye, his body language confirms the same sudden distracted alertness. For twenty minutes after he leaves, the physical reaction continues. I eat a sandwich, wonder when it will stop, struck by the simultaneous desires for him to walk back in the door immediately and to never see him again.