Picking Pears

Or: The Art of not falling off Ladders

 

 

On Monday morning 7 AM sharp I sit at Sydney Central Station sipping on my flat white (do we have these things in Germany? I may be addicted). I hate leaving this city. But one must do what one must do. There are more adventures to be had in Australia, and I don’t want to (well, that’s debatable) get hung up on one bloke once again. Either way, I have to go, for now.

 

Fruitpicking – a backpacker’s nightmare. Most of us go through it at one point or another: for money, to obtain the 2nd year visa extension, or simply for the experience as some claim (riiiight…).

Of course most farms shamelessly rip us off. You get shit accommodation, some of which they even demand rent for, the pay is shit, and the work conditions are shit as well. I suppose that’s how Romanian onion pickers feel in Germany (I salute you).

After an 8 hour train ride I finally get to Shepparton. It’s in Victoria, about 3 hours from Melbourne, and famous for nothing but farmwork.

 

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Absolutely nothing in Shepparton.

 

My first impression is “Duuuude… that’s less than desirable”. I was well aware that I shouldn’t expect much, but this place makes even the worst 16 bed dorm, bleach stinking bathrooms and tiny overcrowded kitchens seem like the Hilton Hotel. There are signs everywhere that demand cleanliness – otherwise no money on pay day – but their perception of a clean surrounding is a ton of spiders in the kitchen and toilets covered in spiderwebs and dust. The “common area” consists of two broken tables and a bunch of mismatched chairs, some of which have wooden boards as cushion.

That’s all fine and dandy, I am not a Princess Peach. But I was told there would be tents available. Turns out – there aren’t, and the next town is a good 10km away and no one willing to drive me there so I can buy my own accommodation.

 

One of the boys offers me to share his one man tent, just for the night. I think, well, I am short and tiny, I can fit into almost anything. Of course I hadn’t calculated that the guy would creep closer and closer in the middle of the night (is that a pear in your pocket that I am feeling on my arse or are you just happy to see me kind of style) and in the morning asks with a surprised face why I am lying all the way at the wall of the tent so that my head is sticking out funnily. I am not really one for cuddling, even less so with strangers, and the next day I am more than happy to set up my own private “room”.

 

Pears – a pain in the ass to pick. For someone, as I have mentioned, short as me. You get ladders to reach the tree tops, but they feel less than unsafe, and there are a few times where I am thinking, this is it. I am gonna drop to my death. Paranoid? You may laugh, but it’s not so unlikely. Just a few days before I arrived, one of the workers fell off the ladder and onto one of the huge bins, and apparently died. Another girl fell off and was hospitalized. Not so funny now, is it? Luckily, I am not hearing these stories until I am on my way to leave this place, or else I would have, well, left anyway.

 

On to the fun stuff: Your day as a stalwart fruitpicker starts at 5 in the morning, as the idea is that you want to use as much of the morning as possible. Around 11 or 12 it gets so hot that you can fry your lunch eggs on the hood of the tractor. If you don’t get up in time your team (usually consisting of 4) will leave you behind. Because no one really gives a fuck about you. In that case, you have to hang around the shed all day, with nothing to do but count the seconds as they pass by, which is much more of a punishment than to work all day in the hot sun.

 

If you do manage to get up – Congratulations! You’ll now come to enjoy watching the beautiful sunrise while sitting in a tree. It makes you feel really in touch with nature. Until your supervisor screams at you to work faster.

The pears you pick first go into a large bag that you are carrying around your shoulders like a big kangaroo pouch. They get quite heavy, and I can feel the glute gains going up and down the ladders with them. With those bags, you fill a huge bin. Bag after bag after bag… Don’t ask me how big, because I’m just a girl and we have no comprehension of size, but it takes me almost 3 hours to fill one bin. Some of the guys are quite fast and take only one hour. We’ll not speak about Asian machines who take about 30 minutes (they must have found some kind of cheat code). A bin pays $30, and I am happy if I make $90 a day. Most days (well, the three days that I actually picked) it’s only two, and on the day I leave, I have spent more money on train rides and camping stuff than I earned picking pears.

 

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Pick up a copy of the 2015 friendly farmgirls calendar in your nearest gas station.

 

Farmlife reminds me of the Jungle. Your only form of entertainment is to talk about each other’s lives, and waiting around for dinner time. The only difference is that we get to use modern technology, even though reception in the middle of nowhere is – you guessed it – not always quite there.

On my second day, the Turkish supervisor fires me. On the new trees, that me and my team are supposed to work on, grow three different kinds of pears. One is green, one is half green half red, and one is red. Without even having started, he is convinced that I will fuck up. Instead of telling me himself, he sends one of my teammates over to kindly send me home. For good. No, this is in no way a comment on the treatment of women in Muslim countries.

Turns out, my tentmate saves the day: as he tells the supervisor that I have picked three bins on my own the day before, I can stay. All that counts is productivity.

 

My plan was to stay on the farm at least two weeks and make some good money. But when on the third day the weather forecast indicates rain, I pack up my single-skin tent and head for the nearest trainstation.

 

 

 

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The Hunt

Or: “Hahaha life is pretty annoying sometime.”

Everything was planned out: Upon my arrival in Sydney by Greyhound bus on Monday, 27th January (yes, I spent infamous Australia Day on a bus), I would move into an apartment in Sydney straight away (no more hostel!!), replacing a girl that told me over facebook that she wants to leave the city. What an idiot.

But by now, I’ve learned that my plans don’t tend to come into fruition, so naturally she texts me at 5AM saying „Sorry, me stay, you loser!“ (this is the exact message as far as I can remember) She doesn’t care about my pleas that she actually made me promise several times to show up (we get laughed at a lot for our bureaucracy, but this is why in Germany nothing happens without a contract) and I am looking forward to carrying my 25kg bags down George Street in hopes of finding a hostel quick.

And for once, I’m in luck: The 2nd hostel that I ask has a spare bed, and on top of that free breakfast and wifi.

After a quick shower I can finally go outside and enjoy – there are actual people on the streets!! Cars!! NOISE!! It’s as if I just came out from 25 years behind bars; like coming home. I’m a city girl. Maybe because I look only half as good in a bikini as I do with a cup of cheap coffee in my hand (I just find it makes me look sophisticated).

I am about to initiate the final and most important step of my “grand scheme”: Go to Hyde Park and “coincidentally” run into someone, a someone, the someone I could never forget about ever since I left for the first time and who is 95% the reason why I decided to come back to Sydney (5% is cheap Sushi).

It would be like a movie, I’m most certain: I would show up out of nowhere, he would look over – feeling my presence, not trusting his eyes, then realizing it is really me, breath heavy and as in a trance, walk towards me, passionately kiss me (or alternatively just hug me tightly), but in any case proclaim his love for me and how he almost died every day since I left. He may even shed a tear, but only a tiny one (I am not of the sentimental sort) and we would live happily ever after.

-The End-

I get to Hyde Park. My heart is beating as if I’ve been running a marathon. This is it. The moment I’ve been waiting for. He should be right over there, by the Pool of Reflection. But… I can’t see him. Dammit, I should have worn my glasses. I am short-sighted, and I don’t have the balls to walk up close to the skaters.

Is that him? No, don’t think so. There is someone with long hair.. but he doesn’t wear his so gaily (I mean that in the Tolkien-sense). This one? No, no, NO! This isn’t what I imagined. I am lurking on a bench nearby, with my kindle as alibi. He must show up. I am in such a hopeful mood, for the first time I do my good deed by donating $5 to one of those fund-raising fellow backpackers. “I just earned loads doing a reality TV show” I generously – and not conceited at all – explain.

An hour later – still no someone. I decide to give up for today and instead catch up with some of the people that don’t deserve to call themselves backpackers because these slackers are STILL here! Never even left! Shame on you, you know who you are!

Dan, the Englishman has since decided to live as cheaply as possible by bargain hunting. This includes a free cheeseburger voucher at Maccas at Coogee, which is why we spend every day at the beach. Sometimes, if they fail to redeem your voucher, you can use it even twice a day if you let your hair down. By friday though, I am pretty sure the know exactly who those Cheeseburger scamming ass-clowns are and decide that we’ve had enough Cheeseburgers anyway (for this week, at least).

Every day we are looking for half-price or free deals.

I am proudly teaching Frenchy how to play the intro of Smoke on the Water by referring to the different cords by numbers (I don’t know any better myself, to be honest. But this tactic works to even teach myself Sur le pont D’Avignon, which makes Frenchy very happy).

I am trying to take in as much of the city as I possibly can. I truly fell for it. It makes me feel like a star, I am thinking, as I am taking a stroll through Hyde Park. “Hey, Congratulations!” A voice wakes me out of my daydreams. “Congratulations!” A guy stops me, and I look at him confused. “I just wanted to congratulate you on your great Tennis match! Aren’t you the tennis player?” To this day I am still kicking myself that I didn’t say yes and let him take a picture of me.

Every day I am checking Hyde Park for my someone. Without success.

Other than my apartment hunt – I have found a place in Ultimo that I am sharing with about 7 or 8 others. That’s just a guess, I am not actually sure. I don’t go upstairs to say hello. The first couple of days I am too busy, and then it’s just weird.

On Saturday, after being back in my lovely home away from home for almost a week, I am hanging with Dan again. He agreed to sit in Hyde Park, eventhough my constant obsessing about someone (for easier understanding, let’s call him Gustav for the remainder of this story) makes him want to kill me, and so, her soon finds an excuse to leave me. After 15 more minutes, I am also highly demotivated. It’s no use. Gustav’s moved away, he’s gotten married and moved away, he died and his body was moved away. Something like that happened.

Before I met Gustav I came to Hyde Park almost every day just to hang out and read. It was my thing, and I loved it. And since I don’t want to go back to my weird apartment, I decide to do just that – enjoy the part in the late afternoon sun and finish The Hobbit.

After getting a $1 cup of coffee at 7/11 (Thomas would hate me) I am walking through the park to find a nice spot to sit. But, what’s that..?

Turns out – I didn’t need glasses after all. I can spot Gustav from a mile away. His hair, his posture, his style, too unique to miss. When I had just given up.

But now that he’s here, I am petrified. My vision? A lot simpler in theory. I slowly walk forward, hoping that he’ll turn around and do the work for me. He’s right there. But he doesn’t turn. Not until I am so close that it is inevitable for all his entourage to notice me.

And then he does. He looks up. At me. Waves. I smile (I think. I might have been too nervous to look anything but constipated). He waves again. And a third time. More like shooing away a fly. Then he goes back about his business.

Did it just start to rain or is that just me feeling like a wet poodle?

Like an idiot I keep staring at him, them. Clueless about how to handle the situation. The declarations of love should come any minute now…? Then all of his buddies are staring at me, just standing there watching. Great. I text him to come over to end this misery but he doesn’t. So I sit down on the nearest bench and pretend to wait for a friend. How does one do that, you ask? Well, you sit on a bench, tap your foot and keep impatiently staring into the same direction. I am sure he got it.

After another 10 minutes (yes, I’ve been doing this for almost half an hour now), I hear a skateboard to my left. But I don’t look up until Gustav speaks to me.

“I didn’t know it was you, I thought some crazy lady is stalking me. I have so many stalkers.” Hm! “So you’re back, huh? Where is it that you were again? Melbourne?” Playing utterly uninterested.

“Gold Coast”, I say. “Came back on Monday, when I texted you.” – “And woke me up.” Uh, ok. “So, what are you doing tonight, getting drunk?”, says he while sipping on his beer wrapped in a brown paper bag. “Why did you delete me from facebook?”, I wanna know. – “Because I don’t want people to be intrusive of my life”, he says. Where is all this hostility coming from?!

He asks me what I am doing tonight. I take that as a sign, and say we could hang out together. He starts to laugh. “Well, maybe I’ll call you later.”

For now, he’s going back to skate, as that’s ‘what he does’, and I get up to pick up my friend (who surprisingly still hasn’t shown up).

That night, I wait for his call. And wait, and wait, and wait. It’s coming…. is it? I got to bed not knowing what to think. The call didn’t come. Not the next day, either. To my texts, I get no reply. I play back in my mind every single word that has been spoken between us to figure out why.

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Your body is strong, but your mind is weak (old Japanese proverb)

On Thursday, I am standing at the side of the road to give out free gym passes. It pays 30 bucks and I figure, that’s good enough. As I stand so being constantly rejected by people (what’s the deal, I am giving something away!), I imagine what it would be like if he were to walk past. I would ask him if he wants a free gym pass. He’d think I am soo funny that there is no other way but to hug and kiss me.

As the two hours are almost up, I look up. Crossing the road right in front of me is Gustav. It takes me a minute to figure out that this is actually happening. This time, he doesn’t pretend not to recognize me. Instead, he looks and walks straight at me. I straighten my back, completely taken once again. He’s mocking me for standing on the street in a gym T-shirt. “Doing something you love, eh?” I should have asked why he constantly ignores my texts and calls. But my blank mind just asks where he’s going. Busy, busy, busy, trying to get away from me as fast as possible again. He keeps walking, and I breath out for a second, looking back over just in time to catch him looking back at me. Gone he is once again. I am not any smarter for it. No idea what happened. Last time I was in Sydney, we were sooo good. That’s what I thought. The guy actually went looking for me in the city – in the rain – until he found me.

I just stand there. I want him so bad, it’s driving me crazy. Why doesn’t he want to talk to me? If I just knew THAT… Longingly, I look up the way he left, just to see him walk back down again. As he draws near, he grins at me, and flexes his biceps mockingly. “I am done in a few minutes”, I explain desperately, hoping he’ll take the hint. But he says he’s going home. And walks. Without looking back. I am still staring in his direction when he is long gone.

That night, my flatmates drag me to Ivy, and at the moment thinking it’s probably a good idea to distract myself and have a few drinks (when is it ever?), I agree to goon-pong.

At the club, I am hating it. The shoes are pinching my feet, the music is too loud and I am super annoyed with the lines at the bathrooms. In that state, I somehow think it’s a terrific idea to text Gustav and ask if he wants to eat Cheeseburgers with me. Like the good ol’ days, ya know? I say goodbye to my flatmates and start walking in good spirit. There’s no way he won’t reply after running into me again today, and even crossing the street to talk to me. I am convinced by the time I reach Maccas, he will have agreed to meet me there…

When I get there, I am buying a large Cheeseburger meal by myself. I walk home alone and eat my meal on the balcony. I smoke three cigarettes, wash off the make-up, put on my pajamas. As I lie there staring at the ceiling, I feel I have nothing left to lose. I put all my thoughts and feelings into one last heartfelt message, that turns out to be so long that my phone turns it into an MMS. It’s about how I feel like a crazy person for liking someone so much that I have met so briefly. But about how special he made me feel during that short period of time. How someone for the first time entirely understood me. How I don’t know how to fix what I did wrong, because I don’t really understand what I did wrong, and how I wish we could just spend time and feed his dog Carlos (name changed) with fries and lettuce again. It turns out so emotional, that to this day I am too embarrassed to read it again (there are a lot of things I can’t say out loud, but give me pen and paper and I will turn it into a Danielle Steel novelle).

The next day, I decide to leave Sydney for a second time.

In the jungle

Or: I am actually not supposed to talk about this, but..

The Gold Coast tires me. Sue me! I can’t stand beaches! I find them extremely tiresome. And all the hippies that they attract. Seriously, I don’t know why anyone would want to come to Southport especially (sorry Southport-ians), and Surfers Paradise might as well be called STDs Paradise. It’s all about nakedness, it feels dodgy and lacks sophistication. The shops open late and close early so everyone can bust a surf out, because that’s the only thing to do here. Everyone wears flip flops and bikinis all day, and the heat makes me too lethargic to do anything. Yes, I hate the Gold Coast!! – there, that’s my rant for today.

By now, I am also extremely annoyed by my flatmates, who don’t seem to understand that my “room” doesn’t have a door and it might bother me when someone puts their music on blast in the middle of the night. I am weird like that. Sleeping at night and being awake during the day and all.

The once smokin Brazilian is now just annoying me with his hippy-ness (no, I don’t really think your plastic Buddha candleholder makes for an ace decoration) and his weird “morning sickness” – he wakes up with a cold every day smelling like a dying dog – is making me sick to my stomach.

I have started to hide my toilet paper from my roomate, who I am sharing a bathroom with, because he never buys any himself. Also, because every damn night he wakes me up with his snoring and abnormally loud farting. And I’m pretty sure he’s been using my butter, too. I have never used it to butter bread, so where the hell are all the bread crumbs in there come from, huh? HUH??

But I keep all this to myself and silently plan their murders.. uh, I mean, silently count the days until I can leave this hellhole.

The only reason why I am still here at this point is because I am waiting to hear back from a German reality TV show that I have auditioned for and that is being filmed close to Southport. Now don’t get too excited, I won’t be on TV – I and 10 other lucky bastards would just be stand-ins mainly to test camera angles right before the actual show starts.

What made them choose me, I will never know, because as a person I am pretty boring, but on New Year’s Eve I get the call that I made it. I am gonna be part of a once on a lifetime experience.

The show is called “Ich bin ein Star, holt mich hier raus!” (I’m a celebrity, get me out of here) and is pretty popular in Germany and England, especially. If you know it, well then you know what’s about to come. If not, this is the show: 11 more or less “celebrities” move into the jungle not far from the Gold Coast (I signed a contract that I am not to reveal the exact location). There, they have to live for two weeks (three in England) and do all kind of disgusting trials (we’re talking cockroaches, spiders and snakes here. Some of which you have to eat – alive) to earn their food. Daily provided is only a small portion of rice and soy beans (70g each per person). Other activities are treasure hunts to earn extra goodies and lots of fireside talks about their lives and problems. You’re in the middle of the jungle, there really isn’t much to do. Technology isn’t allowed, besides the cameras that film you 24 hours a day.

On our first day, we have a wardrobe fitting. Everyone gets their own set of jungle clothing, complete with your own name on everything, which I thoroughly enjoy (I love my name. Good job, mother). We have several briefings with the producers and the infamous Dr. Bob before the TV people pay for our dinner. Everyone gets their own hotel room before we’re going to the jungle early the next morning. I finally for the first time in a long time I don’t have to smell any farts but my own. TV life is good.

I get up at quarter to 5 the next morning and enjoy the last shower I am gonna have in the next three days. All clad in our jungle outfits, we’re being driven as close to the location as possible, in a completely shaded van, to keep the appearance up that all of this is somehow top secret. We have to hike through the jungle to find our campsite (as it will turn out three days later, the TV people are punking us and making us walk in a circle around the camp to make it seem further in the jungle than it actually is). A 10 minute walk turns into 45 minutes because we stop every few meters to give interviews. The producers are highly interested in the sweat that is running down the middle of our boobs.

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I am definitely no egomaniac.

Finally reaching the camp, we start exploring. We’re not allowed to leave the campsite at all for the production of our little pre-show (which we never got to see), but they have set up a pool (a tiny lake), a shower (a waterfall) and a toilet (an outhouse), which is protected by potato sacks.

Just when I am crouching down to check out the first aid kid, not suspecting any evil, “God’s” voice sounds for the first time. “Silvana!” it says. I start. “Please come to the Junglephone.” Great. I have to do a trial. I know it. My campmates look at me with pitty in their eyes as I walk towards my fate. Turns out, they just call me in for an interview, to ask all kinds of weird questions about the smell of the jungle and stuff. Phew. Dodged a bullet there.

Not half an hour later, as I am feeling save again, I get called in a second time. I rejoiced too soon. Of course my gut feeling was right and I am the first person to go to a trial.

What it is? I may get in trouble if I talk too much, but let’s just say it wasn’t pretty. It was smelly, and wet, and involved loads of creepy crawlies (if you have watched the German show, it was the very first trial the celebs had to take). But I mastered it as well as I could, and not even refused to eat a fermented egg – protein, bitches. I got my team 8 out of 11 stars that day. Which meant crocodile feet for dinner. And even though people think I am disgusting, I am proud of my accomplishment.

If you aren’t doing a trial, or a treasure hunt, the jungle is almost as boring as Southport. It’s a lot of hanging around in terrible humidity, and you would never believe how adamant 11 people can argue about the preparation of rice and beans. Sometimes, if you’re really quiet (quite a lot), you can hear the cameramen in the artificial rocks around us talking, sneezing, and even listening to music.

Our past time activities include coal face-painting and twister made out of differently colored leaves. Because life in the jungle is so boring, the TV people try to stir up trouble. I become the pubes-bitch. I made the mistake of shaving off some hairs on my legs pretty close to my crotch (I was definitely not spreading my legs in front of a camera and shaving my 5cm long pubes, mind you, as the made it sound like). But the damage is done, and from now on people keep complaining about having to swim in the pubic hair pool.

Then, one night, we face the dangers of the jungle. Many people believe it’s just a TV set – which it is, but a TV set in the freaking jungle. Funnel-web spiders! If you don’t know, they are so venomous that they can actually kill you. But according to Dr. Bob, they can’t climb (what kind of spider are you..) so I am feeling save in my hammock and let the security guys take care of them. But, when they don’t find one of the two, they just shrug and go to bed. Well, we’re nobodies, after all. No one is gonna miss us.

On the morning of the fourth day, “God” wakes us up to let us know we’re to leave the camp soon. I feel relieved. As much as I wanted to come here, as much I am now happy that the experience is over. It was good, I met a lot of great people, I got to take a look behind the scenes (and in the future will watch the show with completely different eyes) and did things I never thought I’d do. But enough is enough. I am craving a real shower, and most of all sugar. I have a new-found respect for the people who manage to live here for two weeks. Where I used to laugh at their foolishness, I now admire their strength. The jungle can and will drive you insane. So, have a heart for the poor souls just trying to make a quick buck.

The upside is, we get to have breakfast from a huge buffet with the crew and the actual show hosts. Once again people compliment me on my eating skills (I knew I had some kind of talent as well).

The jungle has brought many new opportunities. Everything is planned out: I and one of the girls I befriended there would go on a short road trip, followed by a cheap trip to Fraser Island, organized by another dude that was in the jungle with us, before I would finally get back on a bus and do what I’ve been looking forward to for 2 months: Go back to Sydney! On top of that, I have already secured an apartment in Sydney, because this time I am planning to stay. I intend to keep my promise I have made to someone.. but more on that next time, kids.

It would be perfect. Or so I thought. But if everything sounds too good to be true, it probably is. It most likely is. It definitely is.

After pretty much telling my flatmates to go fuck themselves, I’m out biatches!, the girl leaves me hanging for a couple guys. The dude explains that he has to work and Fraser is falling through as well. I am left stranded.

But for every fucktard I know, I have a person in my life that I can truly and genuinely call a friend. So David, who I’ve known over the internet for quite a while (Tomb Raider can bring people together) and who happens to live only a stone-throw away, offers me the luxury of staying at his air-conditioned house playing video games until my bus leaves 5 days later (thanks for everything, mate).

And so endeth the lesson: Never trust so-called backpackers, and never come to the Gold Coast again!

One night in Brisbane

Or: Party all day (fuck all night)

 

 

It started as a very regular and boring friday. Southport is very slow. Laid-back. There really isn’t much to do but hang out in the sun by the pool – yes, all buildings come with a pool, and it isn’t any sort of luxury here. It’s pretty essential for survival. The sun comes up so early in the mornings, that at 7 AM it already feels like midday.

I was hanging out at the library to get some free wifi, when I decided, I should go for a run later and get rid of some of this burger grease that has planted itself on my hips (I have never in my whole life eaten as much junk food as during my 5 weeks in Sydney).

But in Australia, it’s pretty pointless to plan anything. You never know where you’ll be in a month, a week, or even an hour from now. As I go to the hostel to pick up my running buddy, I run into Leigh instead – that’s that guy who remembers people by the kind of drugs he did with them. Like, the kid from Terminator 2 is the guy he did coke with. He’s covered in tattoos, and the first guy to at least intended to get my initials on his body, in theory. In practice, when he had his tattoo done, that was supposed to show all the cool people he had met at the hostel we both were staying at, mine was the only one he forgot (and people call me paranoid).

He tells me about his plans of going to Brisbane that night, to see some rock’n’roll bands, and if I’m down. How much it would cost, I wanna know. „Nothing“, he says and grins.

Well, I’m down for a very inappropriate adventure, as it’s surely gonna be with Leigh. Shit, I’m in Australia, I wanna have some crazy stories to tell as well when I get home! So here it goes.

 

While Leigh distracts the bus driver, I just get on without paying. Check one. At the trainstation in Helensvale, we don’t buy tickets. We are meeting two guys, Skip and Shawn, that he had met the night before and were totally down for seeing a free concert as well.

Because I am a bringer of bad luck, there is security on the train. Before they get to ask us to present our tickets, Leigh urges me to get up and walks me to the bathroom in the back of the train. „Act as if you’re sick“, he whispers. I lock myself in the bathroom, sweating. Oh god, I am too innocent for this! Maybe I can flush myself down the drain… A short while after, he knocks on the door and tells me to come out, the coast is clear. When I get out, he explains to me that I am his pregnant wife and have a terrible case of morning sickness. Instead of giving us a fine, the security lady offers me a breath mint, which I gladly take. The rest of the train ride they keep eyeing us and I have to pretend to be sick to my stomach (which I did very well, according to various sources). Right before we get off at our stop in Brisbane, the lady kindly yells at Leigh that I am gonna die tonight if he makes me do drugs. Check two. Gotta love Australian hospitality. Or should I feel offended that she actually believed that I was pregnant..?

 

Brisbane feels extremely nice. Of course it’s dark, and I can’t see much, but it feels good. Warm. Exotic. There is excitement in the air. We walk to the location of the concert and try to find the weak spot in the fence. And it doesn’t take us long to find it. „I’m going first“, I say, feeling confident, and ripping my shirt in the process – which isn’t nearly as sexy as it sounds. Leigh follows me. As we get to the other side, we are trying to help Skip and Shawn to climb the fence next. And then it happens. A flashlight, a yell. „What are you doing?!“ Caught by security. Shawn and Skip have bolted, and me and Leigh are trying to make a run for it inside. But I don’t react fast enough, and she gets a hold of my arm. The security lady vigorously pulls on my left arm, while Leigh is pulling my right arm, and I don’t know whether to cry because we apparently got busted, or to laugh because the situation is totally absurd. „Let go of her!“ Leigh screams, „she’s pregnant!!“ (at this point, I don’t even know anymore how many women in Brisbane now think that my rockstar husband feeds his pregnant wife drugs). The security lady lets go, and flashes her flashlight in some kind of morse code to get back-up. Leigh and I stand still as to not make the situation any worse. A guy in uniform shows up, and asks the business. „Sorry man, we just tried to let our friends in, they don’t have tickets, really sorry, won’t happen again!“ If it’s because he’s Australian, or just doesn’t want any trouble, he nods and says „just keep walking“. How he ever believed that story without asking to see our tickets or failing to notice that neither I nor Leigh are wearing one of the bri ghtyellow wristbands that you got at the entrance, I will never know. Maybe he simply thought „These guys look too poor, they deserve to listen to some good heavy metal music.“ Either way, we’re in. Check three.

 

It’s like an open air festival. People are smoking, drinking and making out. We missed the first two bands, but made it just in time to see the main act: Steel Panther. Don’t worry if you’ve never heard of them. The best thing about them are their funny costumes. But I am acting as if a life dream of mine came true, just to fit in.

„You wanna see the stage?“ Leigh yells at me over the music. „Sure!“ I nod, not thinking ahead. Without warning, he bends down to pick me up, and literally throws me onto the crowd.

I am fucking crowd-surfing. At this moment I am completely psyched. I can’t even recall anymore if anyone did or at least tried to grab my shit. If they did, I was too high on life to notice.

 

 Image

A happy peeface.

 

After the concert, Leigh suggests we find the after party. „I know a dude who knows the band, we’ll get to party with the band!“ Sounds legit.

Seems like everyone who was just at the concert is now on the way to the after party, and we don’t stay alone for long. A guy is sharing his Rum and Coke (mixed in a Coke bottle) with us, and just when I hand it over to Leigh, we have apparently arrived at the location. „You’re not getting in“, says the bald bouncer, pointing at the bottle in Leigh’s hand. „What? That’s just Coke! I was thirsty!“ explains Leigh, but Baldy takes the bottle out of his hand and smells it. „Nice try. Now get lost.“

Leigh is pissed. I somehow feel that it is my fault for naively handing him the bottle and not thinking. This isn’t Germany where we even have a word for drinking alcohol in the morning (Frühschoppe). This is Australia, where alcohol laws are only rivaled by the United States of America. „It’s fine“, he says, albeit very annoyed. „We’ll find the back entrance.“

And walking around the block proves once again that you don’t need a plan to get by in Australia. There isn’t a single security at the back entrance. We simply walk in. Happily that we outwitted security once again, we buy drinks. And as Leigh turns around, Baldy is standing right in front of him. „Didn’t I tell you to get lost?!“ He escorts him out, and I try to hide in a dark corner.

„Come on Silvana, think on your feet, you can do this, you can do this!!“, I am cheering myself on. But I really don’t know what it is that I can or should do, and so I just keep standing in my dark corner waiting for a sign from Leigh. Baldy comes back up the stairs and walks straight towards me. I turn around, thinking there is no way he recognizes me. But I underestimated him, and when he taps me on the shoulder I just throw up my arms and shout „All right, all right!“ and walk outside, where Leigh is already waiting for me. „Let’s find another pub and figure out what to do“, he says. So that’s what we do.

 

„Let’s get some free drinks“, is his suggestion at the next bar. I don’t understand how, though, the drinks are free for me, when he tells me to buy the first round. „It’s simple“, he says as we carry our red wines to an empty table that has some half full glasses standing on it. „Put your glass right next to the one that was already standing there.. and then down them both.“ Disgusting? Well, I like to think of it as „rock’n’roll“. Soon some guys are starting a conversation with us, and Leigh has a blast pretending to be a guitarist from Hollywood and mispronouncing Melbourne (‘Mel-born’), even though that’s where he’s originally from. The guys think he’s such a hot-shot, they keep buying us authentic Australian drinks thinking they are introducing to us a whole new culture.

By the time we go outside for a smoke, I am already pretty tipsy. Don’t know how it works, but Leigh has already started talking to another guy who is offering free cigarettes. Together, we crawl to the next pub down the street for even more drinks.

 

And that’s where it happens. Leigh is just gone. He’s left me. I am all alone in Brisbane with no cell phone battery or rationality left. I walk through the pub about 5 times, but there is no sign of him. The last dude offers me his couch, but I don’t feel comfortable going home with someone I just met. So I just walk off. When in distress, I’ve learned your best bet is to make for the trainstation.

I have actually no idea where I am walking, but something tells me which direction to walk in (possibly I saw a sign in my drunken blur).

Man, I am completely out of it. I have no idea if I make myself be that way, or if someone has spiked one of my drinks, or what the hell is going on. I feel like Alice in Wonderland.

As I am wandering around Brisbane and thinking, I actually like this city!, I come to stop at a traffic light. As I have lost all sense of direction (I am now just following the greasy smell of McDonald’s) the impossible happens – there come walking Skip and Shawn. They are on their way to the trainstation as well, assuring me that I am not completely useless after all.

„You up for Maccas?“ they wanna know. I just nod. Skip’s got it, they say. I am not arguing. But instead of ordering my one Chicken Burger Meal, Skip orders three. And three Cheeseburger Meals, three Big Mac Meals, and two servings of Chicken Nuggets. I mean, a huge plate of food makes me happy, but hadn’t I just decided on losing some weight? Well, don’t do today what you can put off until tomorrow, as the English say. They are pretty impressed with my eating skills, which took years of practice. I do finish my three meals, and some chicken nuggets, and before I can eat even more, they give the rest to some homeless guy roaming the trainstation.

 

Skip and Shawn give me a ride home to Southport not so early in the morning, where I fall into bed without noticing the questions in the eyes of my flatmates. I don’t hear from Leigh until two days later, when he texts me and asks if I am ok.