Monthly Archives: November 2011
When I first arrived here I stocked up on maps, leaflets, free guides and anything I could get my hands on to fill myself with inspiration and new ideas of where to go, what to do, who to meet and bla bla bla. Little did I know it would take me soooooooo long to find the funds to be able to actually DO all those things!
The thing that struck me the most was the reference to “Marvelous Melbourne”, as described in many of my guides. It seems this is a city that is very proud of itself and isn’t afraid to let people know. The Melbournites pride themselves on style and culture, claiming to be the cultural capital of Australia. Many of them have no qualms about telling you this is undoubtedly the best city in Australia, the rest are just for visiting. The problem is that when you are looking for a job, you simply can’t appreciate this. You actually grow to dislike living in a place that is apparently too wonderful to give you a job and you fail to notice just what is surrounding you.
That old phrase “you can’t see the wood for the trees” rings so true to me now, because I realised that I hadn’t seen any of Marvelous Melbourne since arriving. I had been rushing up and down streets looking in every window for a “Staff wanted” sign and not taken any notice of the cool shops, cafes and bars those signs were in. I had spent every tram journey craning my neck looking out for the correct tram stop and watching out for ticket inspectors as I couldn’t, of course, afford to pay for my journey and I had speed walked through every district in Melbourne heading to interviews, desperately trying to spot numbers above doors or names of places I hoped I had written down correctly over the phone. In truth, I had probably visited more of the city than your average tourist, but not actually seen any of it.
I was walking to the tram one evening after enjoying a meal at my friend’s house, going round the outside of Flagstaff gardens when I had the distinct feeling I wasn’t alone. I knew there were no humans around, but the rustling noises to my left had me curious, so I stopped, for the first time since I had arrived to look around. Then I saw a possum at the foot of a tree enjoying the crust of someone’s leftover sandwich. We looked at each other for a second before he scampered off up the tree with his sandwich. On closer inspection I saw that he wasn’t alone. There were about 8 of them up and down the trees going about their business and not to bothered when I whipped out my camera.
To any Australian, this won’t be an unusual scene, nor a significant moment at all, but to me it was the real start of my time here, when I started to see the wood and the trees.
How to NOT get a job in Melbourne!
First of all you rely on a job offer from a school, move into a new apartment and get excited about your new well paid teaching job. When that unexpectedly falls through, you mail your cv to all the schools you can google, then visit them personally wearing your most convincing smile and ask to speak to the director. When the receptionist promises to pass on your cv you thank her profusely and exit smiling. Leave it a few days and visit the schools to enquire as to whether the director has seen your resume. When snotty receptionist asks if you have heard from the director, you excitedly say you didn’t and before asking when they might have contacted you, you try not to punch her in the face as she tells you “well then, there are no teaching posts”. Thanks. When you actually get to speak to a director they are charming and warm and praise your valued experience, go through to motions of asking you “what would you do if…..?”scenarios and “how would you teach….?” Scenarios before telling you politely that if you want a career in teaching you should really think about improving your “quals” ( I HATE that word) You mean spend 3 years at university to get a degree just so I can do the job I am already very good at in another country? Yes. The alternative? A $3000 teaching course that would take me four months which of course my visa would allow me to do, so it is “feasible, if teaching is what you really want to do.” Sorry, but get stuffed.
What you then do is waste your time applying to jobs using your cv in its wonderful British format that’s worked for you for years, or better still whop out your teaching cv that has a photo on it and lists your useless teaching experience. When you have learned the hard way that the darn things have to be written in a certain way, you spend hours tweaking and rewriting them, tailoring them to specific job markets and try and churn them out again. After realising also that honesty is not the best policy and the reason why you didn’t get the job in the shop with the pretty clothes is because you stupidly told them you had no retail experience but had plenty of customer service experience and were a fast learner, you rewrite your cv again. This time adding that all important “forgotten” job you had when you worked in that clothing boutique for like ever as a Saturday girl and then of course you went full time in the holidays and whenever you were available because you were so dedicated and of course you have a referee, your sister-in-law, who was conveniently a convincing shop manageress, how could you have possibly forgotten to put that on your cv….?
What you then need to do is hit the streets with a smile plastered on your face with all four of your cvs, separated of course, you don’t want to give your teaching one to a bar do you? You say, “ no, I haven’t got my RSA yet ( Responsible Service of Alcohol, needed to work in a bar) but I will have by the time you call me. FOOL – LIE! You ALREADY have it, they don’t need to know you’ll attend the course the morning you start working for them… You enquire politely if they are still looking for the position advertised in the window, or if they aren’t advertising you hope to god they want someone. What hours do you want? Well, what are you offering? Can you work weekends? Hell no, I want to SEE Australia, not from behind a pub door! But Yes! You say, I can work nights/Sundays/seven days a week/ as many hours as you can give me so I can pay my rent on time… You cannot relax, even when the interviews start coming in.
You get excited about promises of earning LOADS of TAX FREE cash, AS MUCH AS YOU WANT TO EARN. No experience necessary! Wowzer, too good to be true? Absolutely! You need to waste plenty of time going to interviews that you are invited to via generic email, or better still TEXT MESSAGE, how personal! You trot along to Information Sessions, Meet and Greet Sessions, Let’s See How Much We Can Suck You In Sessions, which are all unpaid, but you go along because of those great big dollar sign promises. You meet POSITIVE people that tell you they arrived in Melbourne with no money but their bus fare and one clean pair of pants and now they are “living the dream”, earning more money than they ever imagined and never want to go home. You get offers of Sponsorship thrown at you before you have even started working for these “wonder” companies and you get excited as you start to calculate how much you’ll make in “just a week!” You also start to become very jaded and can’t even be arsed to go to some call back interviews, refusing to waste your time going to a second interview to find out stuff they couldn’t be bothered to tell you first time round. When you ask your Team Leader how much you can expect to make in your first week and she answers “As much as you want to make, you make your own goals, you’ll earn as much as you are willing to work for” well that’s a good calculable sum, thank you. You shake fake hands that tell you how “well” you did in a f**king information session!! Who DOESN’T do well in those, unless they fall asleep??!
You may get offered a waitressing job. Something you can do with your eyes closed. You play dumb, so the manager can teach you his way of doing things and show you things slowly so you don’t get information overload, because GOODNESS, remembering table numbers and where cutlery goes can be a lot to take on board! When the only job you have doesn’t give you the hours they promised you go off in search of more only to find that you “cannot be rostered” this week because of those 3 lunches you couldn’t work. Marvellous.
Then you get to a really great time in your life when you start desperately searching the net for those awful telesales jobs that you wouldn’t have second glanced four weeks ago because now you realise that that is the best you are gonna get.
2 weeks in Melbourne
When you make a point of not having a plan, you don’t really have grounds to complain when things don’t go to plan do you?
It’s a cold, rainy Melbourne evening and I am sitting in the dining room of my new flat. This time last week, things were much sunnier, not only in terms of the weather…
I allowed myself a couple of days to acclimatise and get over my travel haze before hitting Melbourne hard on my first Monday morning. By lunch time, I had opened my bank account, applied for my tax file number and medical card, been to the Vodafone shop 3 times eventually replacing the phone I had bought the previous day, joined the library and even applied for a few jobs.
The itchy ear I had got off the plane with had raged itself into an ear infection by Tuesday leaving me $100 dollars poorer on Wednesday just in time for a very informal “job interview” offering a teaching job with wages I could only have dreamed of earning in Europe.
The throbbing, energy sapping earache I was carrying round required an immense amount of effort to traverse the city in search of a room with a bed (surprisingly hard to find, since they are mostly all unfurnished here) so by Friday, having only visited four, desperate to unpack my suitcase and not sleep on the living room floor anymore I settled for the first place I had seen.
So here I was, last Sunday, in my bare room, unpacking my suitcase into the built in wardrobe. The only piece of furniture was a borrowed futon mattress and an upturned laundry basket as a resting place for my laptop.
The following Monday I trammed it into the centre, heading for the State library, knowing I had about an hour or so to use the internet before heading into the school to sign paper work and start lesson planning. The first email I read erased all the good work and happy feelings I had until then. My offer of employment had been withdrawn, by email, with less than 24 hours’ notice. Not what I was expecting. Not what I wanted. Ok, Australia, you don’t want to give it to me that easy do you?
The rest of my week was spent rewriting my cv at least 5 times, hitting the streets and handing it in with an exhausted to smile to any shop, bar or school I could find, hours clicking “apply” to any job that I could find, wasting time going to information sessions, unpaid observations and trials to eventually pick up a job on Friday afternoon, to start the following Monday…. As a waitress! Exactly where I started 10 years ago!
I had hoped this would be a year of new experiences, and indeed I am sure there will be, but perhaps not in the work place…
Until next time
13th October 2011
Melaka is a historical port city, 2 hours South-East of Kuala Lumpur and situated on the Strait of Melaka, could be described as the soul of Malaysia. To me, being totally new and open-mouthed at everything I saw, it provided the perfect contrast to the hustle and bustle of the capital and just oozed character, heritage, tradition and the odd rat…
I didn’t waste too much time settling in to my hotel, heading almost immediately out desperate to absorb as much as I could of what the LP claims to be a tourist attraction par excellence!
I set off on a walking tour guided by my LP around the town, taking in enormous cultural variety that had me astounded. There is Portugues, Bristish and Dutch heritage here. There is a Christian church, Chinese temples, mosques and palaces and a Portuguese fortress. There’s a china town, little India and a Portuguese square which is a lot to squeeze into quite a small town.
My walk led me through most of these areas. I stop to marvel the temples, photograph a Monitor lizard, enjoy a spicy Laksa for lunch, buy fruit from street stands, weave through some tourist shops, have a hour of reflexology and when my feet couldn’t handle another step, I jumped on a boat for a river cruise where we were joined by a Monitor Lizard who swam alongside us for some of the journey.
I tried to eat, drink and photograph as much as I could and feel disappointed that it has taken me almost 3 weeks to post this, but I hope you enjoy my images of this beautiful, humble little town. It’s far prettier than it’s bigger sister KL, but stands back and doesn’t say a word…
Wed 12th October, 2011
A little side step away from the fumes and speed of KL, I took a 2 hour bus ride down to Melaka, a traditional port town oozing with character and culture and going at a slightly more relaxing pace that the capital.
I set off in the direction of the bus station, having checked and double checked with Louis from the hostel that that was the right one. I had conflicting info from the internet, but decided to trust the local. (Regular readers might recall I should have learned this isn’t the most reliable source, after a difficult commute to Bratislava from Banska Stiavnica…) So off I sweated with my backpack and a long dress and arrived drenched at the bus station, gulping in the delightful temperature of the air-conditioned waiting room as I tried to figure out where I should go. If you have been to KL you’ll know that so many things about that city are impressive, but not logical. This bus station was that exactly. When I found the ticket area, I began to study the departure board as a uniformed man approached me “where you going?”. “Erm, Melaka?” “No, no Melaka here….***some words I couldn’t understand***….. ***something or other*** station”. “Not from here?” “***More words I couldn’t understand something about a*** station”. I figured I was obviously in the wrong one, but had no idea where the right one was. “Show me please” I said pulling out my map. After our quite stressful interaction I left the ticket area somewhat confused, knowing at least that I was not going to get to Melaka from here and needed to go elsewhere. I double checked with a sweet looking girl, younger than me, in a jet blue hijab at the information desk. She told me I could reach the metro line by heading out of the station and turning left. Out of the station I went, the heat hitting me like a hand to my throat. I of course took the longest most illogical route (as directed) to the “adjacent” metro line. Again anyone who has been here will fondly remember that changing transport in KL is rather a painful process, as each of the metro and train lines are owned by different companies, so the interchange stations are actually not linked. You often have to walk some distance along temporary footpaths, cross busy roads or find an un-signposted bridge somewhere. I made it to the metro, got to the other bus station and had the same fun trying to figure how I was supposed to cross two railway lines and a motorway to get there. Managed eventually, helped by a sweet little Indian lady in a beautiful sari who was equally as confused about the transit as I was. I got there by a very convenient, but not well signposted (can’t have it all) bridge. I also learnt the hard was that people don’t queue in bus stations, or at least in KL they don’t. As I waited patiently in line at the ticket counter three groups of people pushed past me to the counter. I stood aghast, watching a bus pull away, when I was called over by a sympathetic ticket clerk who must’ve taken pity on my pathetic white face. I was then ushered onto a ridiculously cheap luxury bus that had footrests, fully reclining seats and thank heavens air-con!
On arrival, to my horror, I noticed an ENORMOUS Tesco supermarket right opposite the bus station, they do get around don’t they! This bus station/shopping mall/market place/food court was just as confusing and it doesn’t helped when you are accosted as soon as you step out of the air-con and into the sauna of Malaysia “where you go?” “Taxi lady?” “take you to hotel”
I found the legit taxi booth, which, looks as illegitimate as It does legitimate, but knowing Malaysia for two days at that point, I knew that was the “real” taxi place. They all hang out there, a little man asks where you are going, writes you a ticket with an agreed price. According to the Lonely planet you should haggle this down, but that quite frankly is MEAN to me and in this heat, I am only capable of nodding and thrusting the address of my hostel to the driver…