A Beauty and a Beast

Or: All good things come in Threes – The Lord of the Rings, Tequila Shots and Starter Pokemon

 

 

I usually like long journeys (except planes. I just don’t trust anything so heavy that high up in the air. Yes, it does interfere a bit with my plans to travel the world. I guess I’m just gonna have to buy really comfy hiking boots. And get a boat license. And a boat. And a few million bucks).

As I was saying; it gives me time to catch up on my reading and/or writing. I love looking out of the window, watch the landscape pass by and think, make up stories. I’m a straight-up mind person. Everything is happening up there for me. As opposed to, down there, I guess. That’s why my mind is so easily fucked. It’s also the reason why I don’t like to drink very often (which didn’t make me many backpacking friends. Seriously, sometimes I felt I was being 13 years old again having to prove something. The Oktoberfest being part of my culture also didn’t help much to change people’s perception of me).

Anyway (I’m a little distracted today, aren’t I) – This time, the 8 hour journey from Leeton to Sydney seems never-ending. Maybe that’s because it’s winter and even though I have left the Fruitshack early in the morning, it is as dark as a monkey’s butthole when I finally arrive. Or maybe, it’s just because I can’t wait to get there. You know why. I know why. Everyone knows why. Because Mindfuck. Still on the train, I already know what I’m gonna do. I am also pretty sure of the outcome. Why am I doing it anyway? Because, reasons. Shut up and go away.

 

In the city, I meet up with my old roommate who, despite me taking my time to actually talk to her for the first time, turns out to be pretty amazing. She sort of runs her own café. She knows everyone who is walking by, never shy to give out a scoop of ice cream or wise words over a cup of tea, and is always smiling and happy. It’s a modern take on Cheers, if you will.

So as we sit in her café basically all freakin day – even long after it’s closed – we have some of these life-changing, eye-opening conversations that I cherish so much. She makes me feel my age, for once, instead of an immature fantasy-loving basement troll who is never gonna be happy unless I gain the ability to shoot energy balls out of my bare hands and enslave the rest of humanity to do my bidding. In case you were wondering – that’s a good thing. The first thing, not the latter. I am definitely not crazy. Definitely. Trust me.

My dream was to one day be able to say “I’ve lived in Sydney for two years, and then I’ve lived in Tokyo for three years, and after that I went to New York for 7 months..” etc. and not to say “I rushed through Australia in a year”. I wanted to experience every little nook of a city, become a part of it, LIVE there. This is where I went wrong when I thought I had to travel up the East coast back in November just because I have a backpack, even though Sydney actually offered everything that I wanted (yes, for the rest of my life I’ll ask myself where the thing with Gustav could have went if I had stayed). I like being abroad, but I don’t enjoy traveling.

 

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Australian Gilmore Girls. Sorta.

 

And that’s when I decide to take a time-out. Take the little money I earned from farmwork and go to South East Asia as I’ve always wanted. As much as I like to occupy myself with the lovey-dovey stuff, I have to clear my head and think straight again. After, I can come back to Straya and do what I came to do – make money. Just not in Sydney anymore (seriously, I am not making this situation any better). In the words of Elrond: “Why do you linger here where there’s no hope?”

I send out a very last message (for real this time) to Gustav saying my goodbyes. I try to make it sound less sappy and more casual. Which I know won’t matter in the end, but whatever. Gustav reads my message but – Surprise! – doesn’t dignify it with an answer. That’s probably a good thing. Makes it more 500 Days of Summer-esque. Maybe that’s why I keep writing him, hanging on to something that isn’t real so I don’t have to face something real. I can just pretend this is was something special.

“You-hoo-hooo-hoo think we’re something that we’re not”, sings some starlet ironically on the radio in the mall, –

as I spend my last day in Sydney walking around my favorite places one last time. This includes Ultimo, where I lived for a couple weeks (really nothing to see here, I just like it), the CBD, because I am a big fan of rush hour and love complaining about people running into me, and, of course – Hyde Park, where I want to drink my last decent Flat White and have a slice of cheesecake. It has a nostalgic kind of value to me. Okay, I lied. It’s no slice of cheesecake. It’s actually a whole cheesecake.

 

Half a year in this country, I never even lost so much as a pair of knickers. But suddenly, my phone is gone. I am freaking out. No way I can enjoy my cheesecake now. Hectically I go through all my pockets. It happens to me a lot that I think I lost something valuable, but turns out I just forgot where I had put it. Not this time. My first idea is to backtrack – coffee shop. As I start walking still going through all my pockets and whispering “Fuck Fuck Fuck” to myself, a guy behind me stops me.

“Uhm, excuse me.. uh.”

I turn. “What?!”

“Uhm, I just, uhm, I saw you over there and uhm, I wanted to ask you for your phone number, maybe.. uh..”

I look at him with tears in my eyes.

“I just lost my phone!!” I cry out and walk away. I don’t realize what the guy had actually said until I see him a minute later on the other end of the park, where he instantly turns and walks back the way he just came when he sees me.

The café owner is nice enough to call my number, and, when no one picks up, to send a text saying to please return the phone to his place. He says I can check in again later or tomorrow.

 

I am pretty sure I lost my phone at the souvenir shop (I so badly wanted an I ♥ Sydney-mug). I knew it was a bad idea to put it in the not very deep pocket of my jeans when I did, so I don’t know why I did it in the first place (this seems to be my thought process for a lot of things). I ask the Chinese ladies at the counter if anyone returned a phone to them. “Yes, indeed”, they say. “Two girls and a boy brought one here saying they found it and left, but 5 minutes later they came back saying it was theirs after all, so we gave it to them. So sorry, we didn’t know!” I have to hold back not to scream at them. Because me killing three tiny Chinese ladies would be considered a hate crime, when it’s actually their idiocy and not their race that aggravates me. The irony in all this will be, that I have found two phones while staying in Sydney, and I returned them both to their respective owners. Spoiler Alert: I, on the other hand, won’t see my phone again.

 

In a last-ditch effort, I go back to the café the next day before my bus leaves to see if anyone replied to the café owner’s messages. To no luck.

“I don’t care about the phone, it was a piece of crap anyway. I’m just really sad for all the pictures and memories that are gone.”

He makes a sad face. “Here, let me make you some coffee, on the house.” There is nothing a free cup of coffee can’t fix in Sydney. When I turn around to leave, I stop. “You know,” I start, slightly turning my head, smiling. “I’m definitely gonna come back to Syndey. I love this city!” And I totally mean it.

“Yes”, he beams back at me, “it’s a great place, eh?”

 

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[picture missing]

 

When the night bus leaves the train station, I am having trouble holding some tears back. I wish I would have done things differently. I wasn’t supposed to feel that way. I was supposed to have the time of my life, like everyone said. And I feel like I could have, if I had not felt pressured into doing something that was never on my list in the first place.

In the morning, very close to Brisbane, where my plane to Singapore is leaving from in a week’s time, I see my own reflection in the bus window. With heavy bags and dark shadows underneath my eyes. I hate myself lately. I’m just a pile of whiny bullcrap because I’ve been feeling the weight of the world on my shoulders again. The blob is annoyingly active these days. Time to calm it down with cheap massages, soothing temples and of course, bugs out of a frying-pan.

 

ImageI took it as a sign. GET IT??

I’ll be back

Or: It’s not a tumor! GET TO DA CHOPPAAAA! You’re a funny guy Sully,  I like you, that’s why I’m going to kill you last.

 

I spent a total of 5 weeks exactly in Sydney. Two of those, I was miserable and constantly questioning my decision to become a world-traveled adventurer (the idea was that I’d find a fedora and/or dual pistols along the way and stumble upon hidden ancient treasure). But three of those, I met some great people, had way too much to drink and got sunburned one too many times (hello skin cancer). I did wanna leave Sydney, and I didn’t, but most of all I had to, for the simple reason that most backpackers AND non-backpackers venture out to Sydney for New Years for seeing the supposedly amazing fireworks from Harbour Bridge, celebrate in the „first major city to begin the new year“, and the hostels taking massive advantage of it. Raggedy rooms that used to cost 20 bucks a night are now up to 60. That’s IF you can still find a bed, anyway. So, if I have any advice for future working holiday makers, plan that time of the year well in advance. But don’t plan anything else. Things will always end up differently than what you thought.

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Sydney’s equivalent to pigeons.

 

In Germany, I used to sleep the days away. Nothing to do, no one to see. It feels like since coming to Australia, I have slept a total of 20 hours all together. You wake up early, do some crazy shit like hiking in the Blue Mountains all day – and the ‘all day’ part isn’t even done purposely because, well, you walk down some very steep 900 steps and at some point decide that there has to be another way back up so you’re wandering through the forest at the bottom of the mountains, hoping for an elevator to appear in the mists (in hindsight, one of the most awesome experiences ever) – just to get back to the hostel where someone is always waiting with a box of goon, ready to party like it’s ’99. And that’s on a tuesday. Backpackers have the amazing ability to drink all night and still be at work in suit and tie at 8 AM. Might have something to do with the whole ozon thing.

 

Yes, after those two first weeks that I felt horrible, it finally all began to make sense. The cheap wine. The massive bats and cockroaches. The weird jobs that you do. I thought people actually wearing signs was a myth invented by Hollywood movies, like 555 phone numbers. Not only did I get to wear a big sign, but also a glittery blue cowboy hat, which was very popular especially with little Asian girls and skaters.

 

This is Down Under! Even the locks on public restrooms turn the other way! Crazy Australia is all over the place! Like, when you’re sitting in Hyde Park and feel like you’re in an 80s movie because, apparently skateboarding is kool again. That’s kool with a k, yo. Gettin’ jiggy with it. He was a skaterboy….. hmm, song has been stuck in my head for days. Wait, no! I don’t want your Schnitzel! It’s not genuine!! .. Sorry about that, got a little carried away there. Phew.

 

ImageI bin a bayrisch Cowgirl.

 

 

In Sydney, I learned about coffee culture. All thanks to the Slovakian legend Thomas, who cringed when I told him about my daily $1 Latte at Hungry Jack’s. I reckoned it was good value. He took me to his café Coco Noir inside fancy Westfield Mall where he was assistant manager and introduced me to all his barista friends (which I first thought was just a sophisticated Australian word for bartender), who, in turn, gave me free coffee with funny milk animals in it after hearing the sad story I just told you, and I love free stuff anyway so who am I to pass that up?! I have to admit: I’m sorry, Hungry Jack, but your coffee tastes like baby dhiarrea in comparison.

Yes, Thomas was a bit rough, as you would expect someone from Eastern Europe to be, but he had a good heart. The free sandwich he got me to make up for, after telling him about my depression, calling me an ugly lesbian with small boobs, is prove of that. You have to understand that to Slovakians, that’s the only reason anyone would ever be sad.

 

I also wanna take a quick moment to talk about the Indian guy, one of the people with whom I shared a 16 bed dorm for 3 weeks. I still can’t remember his name, even though I have asked him so many times that by the time I moved out, he couldn’t be happier that annoying little forgetful drunk German was finally gone. No, it wasn’t Raj, racist motherfucker! I remember it started with a B.

I suppose this was the first time I encountered an „authentic“ Indian person, complete with Bindi and the shrine in his locker that he would pray to every night – one prayer for each God, and I don’t know how many he had up in there, but it always tooks him precisely 23 minutes.

I never found out why he ate curry without a fork at all, why in the middle of the night, and why it had to be so noisy during and after (nice picture there). It was interesting and gross at the same time. I try to keep an open mind, though.

 

Most backpackers that I encountered in Sydney were French or Korean, both of which are very hard to communicate with, as their English is usually below average (lo siento, mates. Yes, my French isn’t really any better). On top of that, Koreans also sleep a lot. They have to, as they secretly run the city.

 

Everything happens faster here. Maybe that’s the traveler’s lifestyle. It would have to, since you’re moving on so quickly. Back home, developing a friendship or any kind of relationship takes time. Get to know one another until you feel comfortable to be yourself (or is that just me), spend time, bond. It’s a process, for introverts like me usually slower, for some faster, but it always takes time. Over here, imagine that process being filmed with a really high speed camera. „G’day, nice to meet you, wanna go for a drink? A splendid, we’re best friends now, that was really fun you crazy son of a bitch, well ok gotta go, add me on facebook, see ya!“ And you probably never hear from them again.

 

I’d wish to be able to keep in touch with all the people I meet. But it just doesn’t always work out that way. Backpackers never get attached.. I am different in that aspect, but it isn’t always up to me. There are more adventures out there that want to be adventured, I guess. Gotta learn to stop looking back.

 

Well, what I wanna say is this: Sydney is amazing if you give it a chance (apparently, lots of people don’t like it when they first arrive, so I wasn’t at all alone in this). The people make the city. And there are some truly awesome and interesting people to be met.

 

Some last thoughts: You’re not a real backpacker in Sydney unless you’ve slept one night in Hyde Park. Only newbies don’t j-walk. Coles has $3 mince meat. You don’t have to buy anything at Hungry Jacks to use the free wifi. The road will tell you which way to look for cars if you wanna cross, for confused Europeans. Saturday nights in the city are crazy. Go and find out why (you might get a cookie. Hint: there is more than once correct answer). And finally, the tap water might taste funny but you will get used to it quickly when you see the prices for bottled water.

 

I’ve been told: Sydney is like the model girlfriend who treats you like shit but is so beautiful that you always keep coming back to her. I think that hits the nail on the head.

 

Coming to Australia

Or: The grass is always greener on the other side, but the sand is pretty friggin’ white over here

 

 

So this is it. After half a year of planning (it didn’t actually take that long) I set foot to the new world.. well, new to me. It took a whole day and some change to finally get to Sydney. So no, grandma, I won’t be able to drop by for Christmas dinner this year.

Actually, I’m pretty sure I’m gonna spend Christmas all alone on the streets somewhere because I won’t be able to find a room. Not even the homeless people will have me.. but that shall be a story for another time.

 

I suppose I came here with huge expectations. The stories I’ve heard about this place.. oh, the stories. Where are the $$ you said I’d make, the hundreds of friends and the buff surfer dude that would make me want to stay here forever? What? I’m not impatiently asking for too much..

 

Alright, let’s back up a little. The first time I consciously remember being away from home for a longer period of time was roughly 18 years ago, when I was 9. It was a summer camp that every kid in town age 9-16 went to. I wasn’t homesick. Matter fact, I probably cried when i realized I had to go back home after only one week! Ah yea, the great outdoors.. nature, exciting new things, interesting people, fucking adventure, yeah!! Right? The only thing I want right now is to lie in my bed playing World of Warcraft and be boring, knowing that all my loved ones are just a phone call away and not half-way around the world.

 

The big city is lonely. Friends – if you manage to make some – are temporary. Everybody is always on the move. What, you aren’t planning to go snorkeling at the Great Barrier Reef? Hug a koala at Alice Spring’s? Pick some onions in Darwin? Nah buddy.. I’m hanging out in Woolloomooloo. Where real jobs that make you some money are rare.

Loads of people travel in groups and tend to stay that way. Lone backpackers, such as me, are the exception. A great set of boobs aren’t enough to meet people around this neck of the woods. You actually have to make an effort. How does someone as anti-social as me (my whole life, people have told me I look like I want to be left alone) make friends? Lots of alcohol, of course. But then everybody is too embarrassed the next morning to speak to each other.

 

No, of course it’s not all bad. I have met some cool people. Some of who remember my name, and some of who simply call me ‘Germany’. Which gets kind of confusing sometimes, considering.

The weather is nice. It’s often a bit cloudy and windy, but dammit, it’s still warm enough that I am sitting in Hyde Park wearing shorts while writing this. That alone should totally count as a success. I’m spending my days getting beat up by the waves at Bondi Beach (wearing a bikini in November!) while Europe is already expecting snow. Ha. I think I am lacking the ability to be happy. Fortunately, sarcasm suits me very well.

 

Like pretty much all wildlife in Sydney, birds and bees have come to coexist with humanity. I am feeling like a horse trying to brush of flies, that actually follow you around, persistent little buggers. What I like about Sydney, is that even though it’s a pretty big city, it has managed to maintain a sense of nature. It’s very „green“. Smells of flowers everywhere.

 

Sydney is very active. When I go for a jog in the morning, I run into hundreds of like-minded people ( no pun intended). I only haven’t quite figured out why they all carry a backpack.

 

I do not like the inner city, what they call the CBD. It stands for Central Business District and the name is pretty much game. Streets crowded with busy business people getting to important lunch meetings, conferences and other busy business people stuff.

There are so many tall buildings, you feel like walking inside a maze with very high walls. You can’t see far, I feel trapped. It isn’t very horizon-widening.

 

I have found a job pretty much straight away, for the next couple of weeks. I wear a glittery-blue cowboyhat and a huge sign and hand out leaflets for a childcare center that is actually already full and has caused some angry mothers to stop and yell at me why I hand them brochures of a childcare place that is completely useless to them. The life of the cardboard-cowgirl. It’s gonna make for a funny anecdote one day, just.. not yet.

 

I’m not gonna go home before 6 months. That’s what I have promised myself. I’m gonna try to make it work at least that long. I haven’t even seen 3% of Australia yet. Come on, stop being a little bitch. Breath in, breath out, suck it up and get out there! (trying to pep-talk myself now) Yes, YES! I can conquer the world! (I think it’s working) … I don’t want to get left behind. I’m gonna leave my room and try to socialize … tomorrow. Tonight it’s a box of cookies and a movie. God, I’m pathetic.