Posts Tagged ‘Australia’

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The first low guttural murmurs send a peel of apprehension down the alarm bells of my mind.  Just seconds from now, my entire ear canal may very well have fallen prey to the by now well-known blustering of a grown man’s snore.  I must act quickly.

The sound appears to be manifesting from the top of the bunk next to me; the bed directly above the bed my friend is sleeping on.  For now.  I risk poking a foot out of the warmth and protection of the duvet to feel into the darkness and find the smooth wood of the adjoining bunk bed.  The murmurs have just begun their inevitable blossom into a more prolonged throaty grumble.  My friend sighs and turns over.  She’s awake.  My foot secures its position pressed against the bunk bed frame.  And I push.  Silence.  The snoring stops. 

And then resumes, almost immediately.  This offender won’t be easily quashed.

Two hours later and my friend has sighed and huffed her way into a dozen different position before hauling her duvet from the bed and loudly departing the room to sleep in the preferable (testament to the offense level of the snoring) circumstances of a cold dining room, with six unwelcoming dinner chairs positioned into some sort of bed formation.  I have occupied my mind deliberating each and every one of my current problems or worries, throwing them this way and that in an attempt to at least make use of this missed sleeping time and/or to bore myself to sleep.  I have practised deep breathing and a selection of relaxation techniques in an attempt to rise above the now overwhelming bubbling and chattering of this loathsome man’s oblivious throat.  I have kicked the bed for momentary peace more times that is technically sociable and now, dejected and sleep-deprived, I lie in wait of morning.

It’s only when what I believed to be his most offensive noise racketed up a notch to ensure the absolute awakening of all poor souls in the room accompanied by a scratching, quivering, gurgling offensive on the exhale as well as the inhale that my only remaining response is laughter.  How absurd.  How absurd that this man, clearly informed of this unfortunate tendency by every past (and swiftly departing) lover, thinks it is in anyway acceptable to book in to a six bed dormitory. 

Alas, if only this was the exception to rather than the bane of the backpacking experience.

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When greeted by a seemingly solitary airport worker with a limp, a lopsided grin and the answer ‘it arrives when it arrives’ in reference to the apparently sporadic airport shuttle bus, I knew Launceston would live up to all my high expectations of quirky little Tasmania. 

Entirely fed-up of Australia’s carbon cut-out cities and characterless dwellers of these urban duplicates, I’ve been relying on Tassie to give me something to smile about.  The very fact that it is littered with names from Devon and Cornwall is a pretty good start but the immediate encounter with so many eyebrow raising eccentrics made it quite impossible for me to keep a straight face for my first half an hour in this land.

Firstly, the aforementioned airport worker, his limp drawing particular attention due to his first words being ‘follow me’, an action difficult to execute due to his gammy leg having rendered him just a shuffle shy of immobile.  When ‘it arrives when it arrives’ materialised into an actual shuttle bus fifteen minutes later, the first chap to unload, seeing me looking at my phone (checking shuttle bus times, needless to say), before even stepping from the bus grins and says ‘You texting me?’ and scampers off chuckling to himself.  

 The drawled accent of the bus driver was enough to make me doubt the judgement of anyone who says Australia doesn’t have regional accents.  It took the best part of a minute for him to deliver the message that he wouldn’t take just one customer back as it wasn’t economic (much like his rambling choice of words to explain this matter).  Accompanying this remarkable Australian drawl was a tendency to repeat back entire sentences as way of confirmation, a tendency which is like to render the recipient somewhat speechless.  As way of example, when his question ‘How long are you in Launy (Launceston) for?’ met my reply ‘Until Sunday’, he thought it best to go the long way round: ‘Ahhh, so you’re here ‘til Sunday?’…”Um…yep.”  This was not an isolated case.

Despite his speech ‘characteristics’, the driver was another delightfully upbeat colourful Tasmanian, leading me quite successfully down the path of delusion that all Tasmanians would be the same.  Not for long.  The hostel manager, was there to check my rocketing optimism.  Upon entry to the perfectly tatty and characterful ‘Launceston backpackers’, I popped my head into the office and offered a cheery ‘hello’ to the bald head of said manager.  I mention the bald head as I feel that, to date, I’ve had greater conversation with it than the face immediately below it. Given that this gentleman failed to grace me with his name, he shall be called ‘Bald Headed One’ henceforth.  Bald Headed One is one of those overly officious little men who deliver clipped answers, often clad in pedantry and the type who like to conjure the impression that they perennially have something more important than talking to you to do.  Bald Headed One seemed at best ‘put out’ at my arrival and waited in silence until I delivered the seemingly obvious explanation of the situation ‘I’ve booked in for a couple of nights’.  “Are you here for a reason?” he answered, failing miserably to make eye contact. I laughed out loud.  With such exceptional contrast to the warmth and vitality of the people I had just minutes before been speaking with, Balded Headed On, in just a few short seconds, had me wondering whether my arrival in Tasmania was indeed all it was cracked up to be.  At least, that would have been my response should I not have been so amused by this peculiar little man. 

“Um…,” I began, beaming with what I can only imagine was an expression of amused disbelief.  He apparently may have retained just enough social grace to recognise the need for further explanation. “Are you here for the walk tomorrow?” 

“Yes, yes I am.  The cradle mountain walk.”  He still hadn’t looked up.  He turned to his notebook, a well-guarded companion in a much rehearsed double-act I can only imagine.  “Nope, I don’t think so!” he delivered triumphantly. 

“Oh, um…” I began peering over the notebook in an attempt to appear to be contributing to solving a problem that really I felt was entirely his given I’d spoken to another member of staff only yesterday to book the walk.

“Ah, yes, no, there you are,” he finally said, locating the pencilled in details towards the bottom of the page.  And as if to prove his own triumph in this discover, much like the one before, he efficiently summarised how all my contact details were in place, before asking me whether I had my key.

“Uh…” racking my brains to see if my travel-addled memory had somehow erased receipt of a key in the last three minutes, “no.”

“Well, you’ve just walked right past it!”

Of course.  Of course I had.  Silly me.  Two rucksacks still in hand, I backed out of the door and back through the main door.  “To your right!” he hollered from his throne behind the desk.  Sure enough, inside an envelope complete with my name, a key had been sticky-taped to the window beside the door.  By this point, I was actively working to contain a snigger at the absurdity of this individual.  It’s just as well he kept his head down as I’m not entirely sure what he would have made of my open amusement at his collection of anti-social idiosyncrasies. 

Just before pointing me in the general direction of my dorm room, Bald Headed One plonked three heavy blankets in my one free arm, seemingly oblivious to the luggage juggling act I had already been battling with for the best part of five minutes.  “Have a great stay,” were his parting words, words that uttered by almost anyone other human would indicate at least a partial desire for the other person to enjoy themselves but by this creature were administered with such a meaningless shade of monotone that again I laughed aloud before repaying him with an exaggerated ‘Thank you so much’ and opened the door to my dorm, keen for some privacy in which to freely air my amusement.

Trust me to find the negative as I embark on an eighteen month sabbatical adventure, beginning in Sydney, Australia.  But seriously…what in the world is this country thinking when it comes to price! I’m all too familiar with Australia’s reputation as being an expensive place to visit but somehow being faced with a $30 bag of muesli in the local corner shop really brings home how absurd things here are.

 I am particularly disgruntled with the price of two favourites of mine: a hearty pint of beer and a generous mug of steaming coffee.  With a miniature replica of a coffee costing around $4 (£3 ish) and a ‘schooner’ (somewhere between a half pint and a pint) of lager costing around $7 (£5 ish), I have resorted to staring glumly at other – evidently more wealthy – people merrily consuming these over-priced beverages.  Either that or, on the rare occasion I fork out for such luxury, sipping tentatively in a bid to make this rarest of treats last a sociable amount of time along with absent-mindedly sliding a hand up alongside these tiny drink containers and muttering under my breath something along the lines of ‘absurd country’ or ‘what were they thinking’…something I probably need to curb if I intend to make any friends at all.

I suppose I shouldn’t be remotely surprised when venues as world-renowned as Bondi make every attempt to flog a shoddy pairs of plastic flip flops for over twenty quid.  Or when a gaudy Australian-animal-print apron costs £40 at the famous Sunday market at The Rocks, central Sydney.  But it took every ounce of restraint not to execute a drama-queen flounce out of the local newsagents when I saw a Cadbury’s Dairy Milk bar (smallest size available) going for a princely £2! Come on. 

In Sydney’s defence, I have spent my first days here in Australia in Clovelly – renowned sought-after family-based suburb on the outskirts of Sydney costing a mere £1.5 – £2 million for three bedroom semi-detached akin to a pretty bog-standard affair in England costing no more than £300,000.  It is, of course, right next to the sea (though right next to still means a fifteen minute walk) and it appears safe and reasonably friendly.  But cheap it is not.  Tomorrow, I head to Brisbane.  Maybe the river city will offer a more appealing pricing situation.  In the meantime, far from grabbing a sumptuous mug of Costa’s best coffee-bean extravaganza… I’ll put the kettle on.

I have a tendency to enjoy (that’s a little strong but it’ll do) intense work for short periods of time.  So there is some perverse inner excitement when I get 200 essays to mark all in the same fortnight.  Perhaps it’s the anticipation of the feeling of satisfaction I get when it’s done.  But it’s still perverse.  And more than a little sad.  However, this approach has allowed me to get on fairly well in my job as a teacher.  I get things done.

But as of Christmas Eve, I’m off on a sabbatical that I’m desperately hoping will claw me from my current over-worked regime and allow me to see other ways of being.  So when I caught myself thinking ‘Oh, I’ll just work really hard through January (the CELTA – English Language Teaching – course) and then I’ll take a break and see some of Australia (I’m flying to Australia and taking the course in Brisbane),’ alarm bells started to ring.  When, three days ago, I found myself thinking ‘Well, I’ll just get through the six months in Australia and then I’ll relax and do something I want to do,’ I felt the brakes well and truly clamp on and I took one almighty step back.

I’d come to thinking this way after resigning myself to the fact I don’t have enough money to just ‘do what I want’ and I’d better make the most of my new (hopefully) CELTA qualification and get a job! But I’ve been assuming the contracts (if you’re lucky enough to secure one) are a substantial length and, given the complexity of the some of the grammar work I’ve started to dip into, the preparation for each class is going to be substantial too.  So I’m left back where I am: doing nothing but teaching, preparing, teaching, go to the gym, marking, teaching, preparing…work, work, work.  And I’m fairly keen to avoid this mere displacement of workload from the UK to Australia.

What I’d love to know is whether anyone has had any experience of CELTA teaching, especially in Australia and/or other ways people have found of making money in Australia.  At the moment, although I love teaching (for the long-term!), I’d rather work a city bar than just find myself doing a very similar job just in a slightly more tropical climate.  Suggestions well and truly welcome…