Saturday, 20 November 2010

Sunshine Coast, Gold Coast and Koala Cuddling!

G'day from sunny Brisbane one and all!

As most of you will be aware I am currently residing in sunny Queensland on a temporary basis until I have enough moolah to move on. If you read the last blog you will know I accepted a job in a call centre at the start of November, and it may amaze you to discover I am in fact still working there (as I have neither lost the will to live, nor been sacked). Far from the cruel hours of fundraising and well away from the frightening prospect of door to door, I sit at a desk for a mere six hours a day and chat tax talk for money. It is pretty peachy considering telemarketing is fairly soulless, and since we get free pizza and beer every Friday, I am a happy bunny. Besides no other job offers me the delights and disasters that ringing Aussies for a living entails. When I am not being hung up on or sworn at, I have been enchanted and amused by random people all over the country who have taken the time to actually talk to me. And lets not forget the very solemn conversation I had about Doomsday in 2012 with an old Italian gentleman this morning. Who would have thought telemarketing could lead to such an interesting observation of the human condition.

But I digress. I have not come to chat away about the frolicks and frivolities of call centre life. I have come to talk about Australia and all its coasts and creatures. I have been lucky enough to spend my weekends exploring more of Queensland, and I managed to get back up to the Sunshine Coast a couple of weeks ago to visit some family friends. A little further south than Noosa lies Mooloolaba (best name in the world?) and Maroochydore, and a little inland is the town of Buderim (pronounced 'bud-rim' as opposed to bewwwderrrim - apparently this pronounciation makes you look like an arse). I spent a lovely couple of days eating gelato on the beach, being shown around the area and gorging on my first home cooked roast dinner since August with my delightful hosts, Sandy and Greg. And like all good Australians, Sandy and Greg have a well stocked wine rack, a beautiful house and a gorgeous dog to call their own. It was like a home from home, which is the cure to any jaded traveller's call centre blues. I was treated like a Queen and have been invited to return to sample the famous Eumundi Markets, which I will head up to in December. The Sunshine Coast really is one of the most beautiful areas I have seen here in Oz, with blue skies, perfect beaches and even the odd Starbucks. It was definitely the break from Brissie that I needed.

The following weekend I hit the Gold Coast with Louise (my roomie) and Chloe, a friend of hers. We drove down in the morning and were at Surfers Paradise by noon. Surfers is a funny little place in the heart of the Gold Coast - which is far removed from the quiet wealth of the Sunshine Coast. With its sky scrapers that run all the way up to the beach, the Gold Coast wears its bright and tacky heart on its Prada sleeve, and is the home to bad nightclubs, huge strip clubs and the Surfers Meter Maids. From what I understand, the meter maids were originally employed to top up parking meters in the city, though their job now involves standing on the street in teeny weeny gold hotpants and having their photographs taken with tourists. I gather they used to be paid, but now all their money is made from tourists paying to take said photos. Either way, they are a staple of Surfers and an unmistakable emblem for the lifestyle of the place - tacky, shiny and probably 99% fake. Surfers is populated largely by women who could hide behind a lampost and the men who buy them breasts. The town is over populated by men at all times - not just the swarms on stag nights, but the draw of Surfers as a business hub means the women have the pick of about 5 men each at all times. We had a great day. :) (photo below not by me unsurprisingly!)

After arriving at midday and paying an extortionate $16 to park for a few hours, we headed to the famously long beach straight away for some vital sun exposure (turns out working all afternoon in an office starts to drain the tan pretty severely). As Chloe and Lou went off to play in the sea, I guarded our stuff and sunbathed, ensuring to cover myself liberally in suncream every hour. When they got bored of the sea, the girls went to buy a ball and promised to return with a surprise (which was unfortunately not Hugh Jackman covered in whipped cream as I had hoped). Instead they returned with an ice cream (don't you just love them!) and a giant, bright yellow inflatable kangaroo, who was promptly plonked beside me and named Sheila. After taking approximately five millions pictures of ourselves with Sheila (it had to be done!) we headed off to play beach rugby by the water and had a merry old time of it having ye olde style fun. By the time Lou and I went off to explore the town, I had noticed my chest was a little pink, but thought nothing of it and went off to see the sights of Surfers. By the time 4pm rolled around I was keenly aware that I had 'slightly caught the sun' as the pink tinge of my chest started radiating enough heat to rival the sun. As I lay on my bed that night covered in cocoa butter and aloe vera, it was quite clear that I had apparently missed out spots just above and just below my bikini, which left me with an angry red burn all around some particularly white areas. And as all good burns do, they blistered beautifully and I have learned a harsh lesson about the Queensland sunshine. No wonder 75% of Queenslanders eventually get skin cancer.

As the burns subsided over the week, Lou and I ummed and ahhed about our next adventure to be had, and I suggested a visit to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, which is located in the darling suburb of Fig Tree Pocket just 12km from Brissie. Lone Pine is world famous and is regularly voted one of the top zoos in the world. If you head to their website you can view the whole host of famous faces that have cuddled koalas there, including Carey Mulligan, Taylor Swift, The Queen Mother, Mariah Carey etc etc. I had wanted to go there ever since I received a postcard with a photo of my sister cuddling a koala there when she was in Oz six years ago, and was very excited at the prospect of having a cuddle with one of Australia's most iconic residents (alas, still not Hugh Jackman).

To cut a long story short, Lou and I had an amazing day at Lone Pine. We fed and stroked kangaroos and wallabies, saw dingo puppies, fed lorikeets (very bright parrot things), were chased by an emu and of course I finally managed to cuddle a koala. Lou went for the baby crocodile cuddle (you couldn't even pay me to do that!) and also, randomly, sheared a sheep! I was given a little girl koala called Shassi, who was very sweet. Koalas are lucky enough to spend 20 hours a day sleeping, and the rest of the time getting stoned on eucalpytus, so Shassi was excellently mellow and chilled (which is a great comfort when they have one clawed hand resting on your right breast). It was a really wonderful day.

I had a bittersweet weekend last week as I said goodbye to my dear friend Dominique, who I had been with nearly two months now! She has gone to NZ now for a while and returns to Brisbane over New Years but it is unlikely I will still be here. I did get the chance to see a friend of mine from the UK though on the following day, which was really wonderful. I had a lovely time catching up with my friend Sophie, who left for Oz just a week before I did. It is amazingly comforting to have someone from home in the same country and we had a lovely day together!

Right, there is not much else to report just now (until you want further mundane anecdotes about the call centre) so I will love you and leave you until next time! Not sure what the plans are for the next few weekends, but I will no doubt update you the moment anything remotely exciting happens. :) Love you all oodles. xxxx

PS - all photos by me except the Meter Maids!

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Brisbane II - finally living above the poverty line!

Aloha one and all,

Sorry it has taken me ages to get time to sit down and tell you all about my most recent trials and tribulations - it has been a crazy couple of weeks indeed. I will start where I left off, which I believe was a couple of weeks ago. After I left the internet cafe that has become my second home, I skipped off into town and was promptly offered a job interview by a very enthusiastic British girl in a Red Cross tshirt. I was a little surprised she knew I was job hunting (especially as I had left my 'hungry and helpless' sign at home) but I decided it was a sign of divine providence and I arranged to go for an interview on Monday morning. When Monday morning materialised, I whizzed off to Toowong (a suburb) on the train and swished into my interview wearing my snazzy new pencil skirt (thank god for Target - we need to get this shop in the UK! it's like Primark but nicer!). But I digress. After meeting a few people I was sent off for an observation to make sure I could do the job - the job being signing people up for monthly donations to the Red Cross. Yes, you know those people that stand on the street and try desperately to make you talk to them? - well that was me. Having passed the interview with flying colours I was rostered on the start the next morning at 8am sharp (!) and I was away laughing.

Nothing could have prepared me for the following day. I rocked up at 8am as promised, and sat down for half an hour of training (or brain washing, as I like to call it) and watched as everyone stood in a circle and cheered for each other. Yes, it is one of these places. Never accept a job which involves standing in a circle at 8am. It can never be a good sign. Me and my teacher were sent off to our spot for the day - a totally random corner of Brisbane with little foot traffic and a very high population of people who do not speak very good English. It was hardly the ideal spot for me to start pitching about Telecross and the Good Start Breakfast Club. By 10am I was being accused of 'negging out' - and was referred the the 'downward spiral' diagram on the training manual. By the fourth time Rich accused me of 'negging out' I snapped back that the diagram was a circle, not a spiral. It did not improve much from this point.

Despite my keen and friendly approach, and the fact that I made 34 full pitches, I didn't make a single sale. And my mentor, who has 16 weeks experience, made ONE. ONE in NINE hours. My brave face was wearing awfully thin and I was accused over and over of being too hard on myself - a fault which was hardly going to be corrected by some douchy Brit pointing it out repeatedly. I was subjected to speech after speech of inspiring bullshit and by the end of the day I was ready to go home and drown my sorrows in whatever I had at home (a daring choice between milk or squash). I should mention at this point the very worst part of all - the job is 100% commission. ONE HUNDRED PERCENT. So if you don't make a sale, you literally go home with squat. And since our delightful leader sent us to the seventh circle of fundraising hell, I didn't stand a chance. So 9 hours of being a prat and I went home with nothing.

At the end of the day as Rich excitedly asked me how I felt about the day, I told him in no uncertain terms that I thought my soul was dying. He looked at me slightly uncertainly and asked if I was being sarcastic, to which I replied I was in fact not being sarcastic, and that I was going to go home immediately to cry myself to sleep. Amazingly enough I told him I would stick it out for the following day and I trudged off home. By the time 7am rolled around I had made a decision. But as I am a woman of integrity, I got up and headed back to Toowong for the morning meeting. To cut a long story short, I finally achieved a life long dream of mine - I quit a job dramatically and in front of a room full of people. Having strolled in and politely listened to the next lesson (he'd already written it all on the white board bless him), I finally told him I had made a decision. As my voice grew louder I told him I couldn't work for a company that only paid commission as I felt it to be unethical and uncaring - I couldn't work for a company that cared so little for the welfare of its employees and I wouldn't be used or exploited for profit. By the time I said "I care about myself too much to let myself be used in this manner", half the room was staring at me open mouthed and without further ado, I handed Rich my tshirt and swanned out of the room. It was amazing. :)

Thankfully my period of peasanthood was due to be brief and I have since secured not one but two jobs that don't make lose the will to live. I am now working a call centre during the day, which is not nearly as bad as I thought it would be. I am not selling things which is nice, but booking people in for free appointments to do with getting tax entitlements. I still get hung up on a lot and shouted at down the phone, but as the job isn't actually morally bankrupt, I don't mind much. I get a nice base rate as well as a commission for all the bookings I secure so I am finally able to stop worrying about making rent and having enough $ for food. It was Melbourne Cup day on Tues too so we stopped work an hour early and watched the races with free champagne! So much better than any other job I have had yet! I also work in a bar on Friday nights and the odd shift during the week too. The jobs are hardly the stuff of dreams but I have become so much less snobby since getting here, and they are paying for me to continue living my life so I am a happy bunny again. :)

In other less job related news, I have been filling my weekends with as many budget days out as possible. A couple of weeks ago for instance I went out to North Stradbroke Island which is just off the coast of Brisbane. I didn't know much about the island but Shirby and Carolien were keen to go and promised it would be pretty cheap so off I went. It was quite simply one of the most beautiful spots I have ever been to. Blue skies, turquoise ocean, dolphins, turtles, giant sting rays, wallabies and roos - it was everything Australia is meant to be and more. We went for a hike along the North Gorge walk and then off to Frenchman's beach for some sunbathing and beach time. I think the photos speak for themselves really. It was awe inspiring.

Dominique and I spent last weekend doing the Botanical Gardens which were amazing. There are two sets of gardens here - one in the city and one up at Mount Coot-ha about 20 mins from the city. We booked ourselves in for the free tour of the city gardens on Sat and were surprised that it was just us - so we had a personalised tour of the city by a little old lady who knew everything there is to know about trees, shrubs and flowers. It was really interesting! The Mount Coot-ha gardens are three times the size of the city gardens and they were amazing. There is a gorgeous lake, a bonsai house, a Japanese garden, a fern house, a tropical dome, a rainforest area... you name it. It was a lovely day out (though I am a bit gardened out now!) and we had nice warm weather for it which was lovely.

I am off to Buderim in the Sunshine Coast this weekend to stay with some family friends which should be lovely. Praying for some sunshine since the weather in Brisbane has turned to monsoon style rain in the last day or two, and the forecast says it is here to stay... :( But still, we should be in line for a very sunny and warm Christmas indeed. Louise (my flat mate) and I are planning a lovely Christmas for the two of us and whoever else is around (though perhaps not our downstairs roommate/landlord who is a bit of a douchebag).

Anyway that's all for now! Sorry the blog has been a bit job-centric! Now that I have settled into work I should hopefully just have nice updates about my weekend escapades from now on! :) Lots of love, xxx