Sunday, February 28, 2010

Welcome to the Metropolitan, my name is Hannah...

After 80 resumes, weeks of searching, interviews and trials, I have a found a job as a waitress at the Metropolitan Hotel. It’s not a real hotel, that's just the name of it. There is the bar side and the dining side, which is where I primarily work. They are trying to make it a high class dining area with an Ala Carte menu and top service so I really have to pay a lot of attention to detail. Some of the things I have to do are so ridiculous that it makes you really think if the customers would even know the difference. I really have to bite my tongue sometimes with the things they ask me do so sometimes it’s not really that enjoyable. And their service style is different than in the states, which I guess is something you would expect. Instead of everyone having their own section of tables, we all share the tables and potentially serve each table in one way or another whether its taking orders, serving food and drinks or clearing off the plates. To me, even after 2 weeks of working there, it seems disorganized and frustrating. It’s definitely an adjustment that I'm slowly making and something I need to work a little harder at. One thing I do like though is that here, you don’t need to rely on tips for your income. Some people will tip here so its not totally unheard of but not everyone does it. And because we all share tables, we divide the tips evenly between the people that worked that particular shift. Hospitality gets paid minimum wage here and I believe that is around $17.55 AUD an hour. Not bad eh? And because hospitality gets paid minimum wage and doesn’t have to rely on tips, we don’t rely on a high turnover of customers. There have been tables that come in and stay for 3 hours and it won’t matter, as long as they are satisfied and granted they usually go through a multiple course dinner so you kind of need that long to eat everything. We have recently changed our menu and I was lucky enough to attend the tasting of the new entrees and mains. They are absolutely delicious (and pricy might I ad) and I myself would love to sit there for a few hours and get the full Ala Carte experience that these customers receive. Oh, and the dessert looks amazing!!! Unfortunately I did not get a tasting of that. I will have to try at least one of the dessert plates before I go home though.

I did apply and interview at a realty agency and it actually went really well and they said they would hire me if I was going to be in Australia longer (they were looking for at least 2 years) and didn't have a working visa that limited my ability to work somewhere longer than 6 months. So I gave up on receptionist jobs and looked primarily at service and retail jobs.

I'm only working at the restaurant about 15-20 hours a week at the moment, hopefully more soon. So I have a lot of free time and I honestly don't know how I spend it some days. I've gone to the beach a couple times, walked around the city hundreds of times and tried new cafes that pore out of lane ways. They have tons of free music and art festivals located about the city that are always fun to explore. Hannah and I have been lost countless times and have sometimes ended up in cute suburbs and in other times ended up in bad suburbs, with misleading names such as sunshine, where we have to take a taxi to get home. The past couple of days I have spent exploring Flemington and seeing what’s available. Hannah and I have stumbled upon many Thai restaurants, a couple bars, a gym that I have now joined and a discounted food warehouse. As we were piling up on all of these different food items and just amazed on how cheap they are, we started reading the labels. Hannah starts laughing and tells me that the corn nuts she had just purchased were expired in Jan ’10. Aha….that’s why they are cheap. So then I start looking at my items and discovered that this curry ramen thing that I wanted to try (it was only $.40) had an expiration date of August….August of 2009. Haha…oh good. After that interesting experience we made our way to McDonalds to enjoy free wifi because the internet in our place will not work for whatever reason. I cannot believe that I go to McDonalds for free wifi. It makes me feel like a stereotypical American, even if I don’t get anything to eat. This internet problem better be solved sooner than later. They employees might start recognizing me, which something I do not want at all.

Needless to say, there is never a boring day. Hannah and I seem to always make everything interesting and exciting, even if we don't mean to. Some days are really hard and I get a little homesick and just get this feeling of being lost and confused about what I'm doing here but most of the time I enjoy every second of it. I love learning about new things in the city, new quirks about the australian culture and new things about myself that I don't think I would discover if I didn't embark on this journey.

White House on Mt. Alexander Rd.

After staying with the newlyweds Chris and Sophie and cramping their style for 3 weeks, Hannah and I have finally found an affordable place to live that's near the city. After looking at trashy places in sketchy neighborhoods, getting lost trying to find places and being rejected, we have finally found our humble abode. You are now looking at one of the new residents of 150 Mt. Alexander Rd, Flemington VIC 3031. We have been in this house for about a week now and learning many new things about the place daily. We don't live with any Australians unfortunately but we do live with a Dutch girl named Malu, a Mauritius guy named Vivian, German girl named Yvonne and 3 Italians named Fabio, Maurizio and Frederico. Kind of sounds like the beginning of a joke, right? The house is a 6 bedroom place so it’s a decent size. There is one shower and 2 toilets so sometimes it’s a little crowded but for the price it’s worth it. In Australia they advertise prices weekly and I am paying $90 a week, which is one of the cheapest places I have been able to find. And what makes it cheaper is that Hannah and I share the room. It is right on a main street where conveniently a tram stop is located that can take me straight to work, the amazing Queen Victoria Market and to the heart of downtown. The house is pretty old, so old that the house is on stilts and there are holes in our floor where you can see the ground so there is quite a draft sometimes. I have to keep reminding myself that it’s affordable and a good location.

Now to say a little about my roommates. Malu lives across the way from Hannah and I and she is here working at a research center at one of the hospitals. She is really nice and usually out of the house during the days saving people’s lives through her research. Vivian is the sous chef at the restaurant I work at. He is the one that told me about the available room. He is trying to get his permanent residency here and is a really nice guy. Yvonne is traveling a bit I believe and is currently taking English classes while trying to find a job. She has only been here for a couple of months and also just finally settling down. The Italians are an interesting group of guys. 2 of them share a room while the 3rd one has his own. They like to smoke inside the kitchen, which is always pleasant when you are trying to cook or eat your food. There is nothing like biting into your meal with smoke blowing into your face at the same time. We've asked them kindly to smoke outside but they bluntly refuse. Luckily, they are moving out in a week. At first I didn’t really care for them because of the smoking issue, but I tried to keep an open mind and have carried on some conversations with them. They are good-humored guys and nice but I’m still looking forward to when the smoke smell disappears.

The house is pretty old, so old that the house is on stilts and there are holes in our floor where you can see the ground so there is quite a draft sometimes. I have to keep reminding myself that it’s affordable and a good location and it’s not for the rest of my life. If I had money that I could just spend without a care, I would love to take a trip to IKEA and completely decorate this house so it looks like someone lives there and completely get this place organized and clean. But I don’t, so I have to make do with what is available. One thing I’ve also noticed and only in this house so far is that the cold water knob is on the left and the hot water knob is on the right but only in the bathroom. I had a few cold showers before realizing this. The knobs in the kitchen are normal, at least by our standards. In the backyard we have around 6-7 shopping carts just hanging out there. The nearest grocery store is about a 15 minutes walk and by the looks of our fridge and cabinet, no one buys that many groceries to where they need to bring a cart home with them. I’m thinking they got there by some drunken escapade. Needless to say the character of the house and the things I find here definitely makes life interesting.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Reality in Australia

So I have been back from traveling for almost 2 weeks now, and you might wonder what I've been up to. Well to be honest, nothing exciting like the road trips, but still managing to squeeze fun into job searching and house hunting. So far, it has been waaaay harder than everyone here said it would be. We were supposed to be these novelties that any place would love to have. That is what some Australians told us when we began our journey. Well any feeling of "novelty" has definitely worn off. After handing out and applying for over 70 jobs and not a single confirmed job yet, is a little worrisome. I have had some leads, and still do. But I feel like I can't count them until I'm told that I'm hired or I see my name on the schedule.

My mom knew someone who knew someone who manages a restaurant in Melbourne called the Spaghetti Tree. Naturally, that was the first place I stepped in hoping that my connection follows through. Unfortunately, David (one of the managers) said that business is very slow at the moment because everyone is on holiday and down by the beach but he would keep my resume if something comes up. After dragging myself out there and forcing the positive thoughts to come back, I have been walking up and down streets looking for help wanted signs on windows. They are out there, but my visa has limited me and have not been qualified for some jobs because of it. After a few discouraging days, I randomly walked in a restaurant called The Trust and they said to come back in a few days for a trial. A trial? What's a trial? I guess they test you out before they officially hire you or tell you any pertinent information you might want to know such as wage, hours, perks etc. After a few days of trialing with the restaurant I find out on my own that they are also really slow and yes my name is on the schedule now, but more as a sub or when there is an event at the restaurant that they need extra staff for. I found out through a dutch guy who was bartending there that he gets paid under the table and roughly every week. He doesn't get much hours either. Fortunately, I had a trial last night at another restaurant called the Metropolitan that I had a connection with through the Spaghetti Tree. The trial went well I thought and Chase, the manager, said he would call me. But is this the "I'll call you" as in no I won't at all and you did terrible or is it really I will actually call you. I hope its the later option. He said they were looking to fill a 25-30 hours a week position which would be PERFECT! The guy who was training me had only worked there for 7 days and it seemed like he was there for longer. This restaurant seems very detail oriented which is good but its to the point where its obsessive. Everything is PERFECTLY in line and there are so many stupid and silly time-consuming things that it makes you wonder if customers will actually notice. Its not like its a 5 star restaurant, more like a wannabe but with average customers. Weird. But beggars can't be choosers and I hope I get the call from Chase. I also had an interview this week for a reception position at Morley's Real Estate. It went really well but their only concern was me only being here for a year and they are looking for someone even more long term. I made up some crap about 2 year visas but I'm not sure if he bought it. Considering its been over 48 hours and that's when he said he would call, I reckon I didn't get the job. Shucks! I'm trying to keep my spirits up and keep applying in hopes something for sure will come up.

The renting market is really competitive here. In the beginning the 5 of us, Hannah, Brennan, Rich, Simon and I were going to share a place. After about 5 minutes looking, we realized that was near to impossible so then we split up and Brennan, Hannah and I are going to try to find a place. After looking and viewing some places, we realized this is also very difficult. So no Brennan is on his own and its down to Hannah and I looking for a place, which today was the first day looking. We called and e-mailed about 10 places in hopes that one of these will work. Rentals here go really quickly and some people pay 3 months rent up front to secure the rental. Unfortunately we don't have that kind of money. Hopefully one of these house share places will take us in. It has come to the point where Hannah and I don't mind if we have to share a room, we've done it for 1.5 months now, what a few months more? And it might save us on rent by quite a bit.

Now after reading that, it sounds like Australia sucks. It doesn't! Melbourne is such a fun city with so many festivals, squares and places to check out. We have gone to this one bar a couple times called Nu Guernica which is this old cabin kind of feel. Pretty funky and awesome specials. We have also gone to few BYO (bring your own alcohol) restaurants in china town and tried out some small cafes that can be found in small lane ways. The city is always moving and people are always hustling. Its so different and so much fun to be a part of. I could sit down on a bench all day and just people watch for hours, that is if I had time or when I have a job. I have all of these chocolate places I want to try out and other small cafes and restaurants to experience....of course when I have a job and a somewhat of a steady income, if there is such a thing here. The international festival is going on and showing some free movies so I plan to see some. They also have rooftop cinemas and moonlight cinemas in the botanical gardens that I would like to venture out to. So many things to do here, so little time and money.


Monday, February 1, 2010

Adventures in New Zealand

Day 16 - January 20
Last night we arrived in Wellington, which is in the north island, pretty late so we slept in this morning. Andy showed us a lot of the city in between his job and an interview he had. He also told us that quite a bit of the city is built on sand to expand the size, and that they lie on a major fault line so if there was an earthquake, they would be screwed. We walked along the coast before Hannah, Brennan and I headed to Te Papa, the New Zealand Museum. This was our first museum of the trip which is weird considering thats what we went a lot to in Europe. This museum was so big and so amazing with everything that was filled in it. We saw the world's largest squid on display (dead of course) and learned about the Maoris, the equivalent to indians in New Zealand. The Maori culture and language is still very visible in New Zealand which I thought was really cool. After the museum we picked up some lamb that we were going to BBQ at Andy's and that is when we got to see our friend Ellie as well! They were explaining to us that the population of sheep in New Zealand is higher than the population of people. Interesting to think about.

Day 17 - January 21
Today we had to get up super early in the morning to catch a taxi to the ferry to take us to the south island. I was pretty tired so I slept most of the ferry ride but woke up right on time to see the amazing views of the south island coming in. It was full of green hills/mountains with patches of really low clouds surrounding them. It was just absolutely beautiful. After the ferry ride we had an hour to kill before the 6 hour bus ride to Christchurch where we were meeting Ellie, our next tour guide. When we were all together, her family kindly let us borrow there car and we drove up to their batch (vacation house) along Arthurs Pass. It was a cute little cottage in the mountains and made me think of Colorado a bit.

Day 18 - January 22
In the morning we woke up to Ellie blasting Sound of Music, quite entertaining. We took a short hike/bush walk/shrub walk along Arthur's Pass and saw the point between east side and west side. The mountains are quite different here than they are in Colorado. They are definitely taller and covered in various types of green trees and shrubbery, but still made me think of home. Then we drove to Fox Glacier where I got to see snow...and a glacier. The Glacier was amazing to see. Unfortunately we couldn't touch or walk on the glacier without a guide but we still got pretty close. You could actually smell the ice, which made us all think of the Titanic. There was a creek running off from the glacier with as you can imagine, extremely cold water, but it was so clear and pretty cool thing to see.

Day 19 - January 23
Today we drove to Queenstown, the well known backpackers town. On the way we stopped at this big open meadow with mountains in the background because it literally looked like it was from Sound of Music. So we all got out and ran out into the meadow while spinning around and singing, a little show for the cars driving by. For dinner we had a picnic by Wakatipu lake while listening to some techno from a nearby boat. Interesting setting for sure. We also learned about FaFa which is this mythical Maori creature that lives in the water and he creates the waves in the water when he is upset. I can't remember what it is actually called but we did the honors and called him FaFa. We thought it suited him. After dinner, we joined all the other backpackers and checked out the night scene. We went to the World Bar where we had there famous tea pot drinks which are basically a mixture of different spirits and juices. They come in actually tea pots and you pour them into these little shot glasses. Brennan and I played it safe and shared a Long Island Iced Tea, something we were familiar with. The backpackers vibe was definitely present in the town and there were people from all over the world.

Day 20 - January 24
Today was another long drive to Milford Sounds. We had a quick lunch stop in Te Anau before making our way to our hostel. The drive there was soooooo beautiful. We were driving in between up and down mountains that had tons of small waterfalls just streaming through them. So gorgeous. After getting to our hostel, we braved the cold and went swimming in the Claddao river, which was incredibly cold. I've never been in cold water like this. We warmed up a bit and walked to Milford Sounds, which we saw at dusk. It was so cool how you could see the different layers of mountains almost with the water in the middle. Pictures could not even capture how amazing of a sight this was. On our walk home we stopped on a little trail and saw glow worms, a first for me. That was pretty cool and surreal to see hundreds of these small glowing things spread out in the bushes. This place is full of wonderful things.

Day 21 - January 25
After our short stop in Milford Sounds we headed back to Queenstown for another night. On our way back, we stopped for a several hour hike and stretched our legs. We did the beginnings of Routeburn track and continued onto the summit hike where at the top you could see everything around you. At the top we were at 920 meters or 3,018 feet. So still not quite a mile high. After a pizza dinner in town we went on a blind fold pub crawl with our hostel. That was so much fun and interesting. We each had to get in pairs and take turns being blind folded while the other person would guide you to the next pub. I was paired with Ellie and Hannah and Brennan were paired. We went to 6 different places where at the entrance you received a different shot. Our roommates (we were in a room of 6 for the night) were from Holland and such fun and happy girls. They also went on the pub crawl and made the evening very fun. It was great to talk to them and hear about their experiences as well. Made me miss my dutch friends. There was also a dance contest, which Ellie won. Her prize was a free bungee jump!!! Amazing. Unfortunately she didn't want it and we were leaving somewhat early the next day so we couldn't use her prize at all. Oh well, at least we all know that she won.

Day 22 - January 26
Today was our 7-8 hour drive back to Christchurch where we stayed at Ellie's parents place. They had such a cool house, away from the city, where they had a pool (not heated but still fun to swim in), a tennis court made of grass and a croquet field. It was so cool. They also have a lot of land and cows. After a delicious dinner that her parents kindly made us, we played some croquet, I was behind for most of it but got 2nd in the end. I guess I did get dad's croquet skills after all.

Day 23 - January 27
Another really early morning to catch a flight back to Melbourne. Our vacation is over, and reality begins, well what reality would be in Australia anyways. It's great to be back but now we need to find a place to live and jobs. Oh boy. Wish us luck!

The Big City

Day 12 - January 16
Once again another run on the beach before a swim. Byron Bay definitely is one of my favorite beaches so far. We hung out on the beach a bit before grabbing a kebab and heading back to the packed down van for another drive. Today we are heading towards Koffs Harbour just for the night. Its a small town so there was not much to do. It was more of a stop for the night so that the drive to Sydney would not be as long. It was nice though just to hang out in our motel room and make dinner, instead of eating out. Once again, Brennan made another delicious meal that makes up for all of the small fish & chip and kebab places we've been stopping at. We also had a tv in our room, which was a first, so we watched Black Hawk Down which was on tv. Nothing too exciting, but sometimes you need a break from the super exciting life.

Day 13 - January 17
Today we drove to Sydney where we dropped off our van, that looks like a cat by the way, and enjoyed our luxurious 3 bedroom, 2 bath suite on the 75th floor of the Meriton World Tower. As Chris would sexy time. We had a view of Sydney Harbour that was just absolutely breathtaking. Hannah and I got our own room with a king sized bed and our own bath with a jacuzzi. The boys shared two rooms and 1 bath. It payed off to be the only 2 girls. The kitchen was fully equipped and so nice. The living room was open with nice, comfy coaches and a tv. And how could we afford this you might ask...because Chris is amazing and booked this place 3 months in advance which meant we got a screamin' deal on it. Only $5 more than a hostel. Fantastic! Inside the building, we could use the gym, swimming pool, hot tub, sauna (sadly out of order when we were there) and free laundry, which we all took advantage of. Because of such a wonderful place, Brennan made us a delicious curry dinner before we walked around Sydney Harbour at night. Sydney Harbour is where the Sydney Opera House is. That was amazing to see at night because all of the lights were on so it was just glowing in the distance. A very good time!

Day 14 - January 18
Today I took advantage of the free gym before some french toast for breakfast. We took the ferry out to Manly Beach, very manly indeed. :) It was such a cute little place to walk around, go to the beach and enjoy an ice cream. On the ferry, we had amazing views of the opera house and the Sydney Harbour Bridge where you could actually see people climbing the bridge. After our little trip to Manly Beach, we walked into the opera house to take a look. The architecture of the opera house is amazing in itself, but its even more amazing to see all of the little tiles that make it up, so elaborate. I really wish to see a show in there someday. For dinner, Brennan made a fabulous 3 course dinner for us, complete with champagne and wine. After stuffing our faces, Hannah, Brennan, Chris and I went for a walk by one of the nearby parks to walk off all of the food and enjoy the perfect temperatures outside. We sat at a park bench talking and we saw some bats and big rats, which of course I freaked out about. I did not need to see that rat, but nonetheless, another wonderful day.

Day 15 - January 19
Today we went to the fish market, something I have never seen before. It was kind of cool to see all the variety of fishes they had so neatly laid out. It was a little creepy seeing the eyes, we felt like they were following us. Hannah and I decided to be adventurous and we tried a fried soft shell crab...whole. It was ok at first until you got the middle where there were lots of different body parts that I just did not need to see. We couldn't finish it because we started thinking about what we were eating to much...but at least we tried, and liked it at first. I also got some fresh salmon sashimi, which was absolutely amazing. After getting our fill of fresh fish, we got on a sketch bus to the world known Bondi Beach. It was pretty and cool to see but really crowded, kind of like Surfers Paradise. After Hannah, Brennan, Chris, Andy and I had a short walk along the beach, we left Rich and Simon who were going to try to surf for the city again. For lunch we had malaysian food, which was the first for all of us and so delicious. Laksa is one of my favorite dishes now. We then caught a taxi to the airport, where we were heading to Wellington, New Zealand, the start of another adventure.