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Saturday, 30 June 2007

Living and working in Oz - Page 4

Written by Megan Manni
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By most people’s standards, I had made it. I had a good job - glamorous even to some - great benefits and off-the-chart raises every year. By no means was I rich, but I paid all my bills and made it work. I had my own apartment in New York City, my life all planned out according to subway line, volunteer work, and a vibrant social life. I was living in the largest and arguably the most exciting city in the world, but something was still missing.

The next day I moved to Surfside Backpackers, the beachfront hostel in Coogee, and began looking for a job. I bought a pre-pay cell phone from Vodafone and got myself a local phone number. I pounded the pavement every day, popping in to every eatery in sight, and scoured the rental classified listings on at the local internet café. Two weeks later, I was working full-time waiting tables at two different restaurants, and had found a room in a gorgeous apartment in neighboring Clovelly with a view to die for at AU$175/week.

The apartment itself, as fortune would have it, was located on the Coastal Walk path, perched high on a cliff overlooking Gordon’s Bay and looking south down the coastline. My room was small, but my two female roommates were older than your average backpacker, more mature and delightful. The place was so dreamy and so perfectly located, that paying the equivalent of US$600 a month for it was nothing short of a pleasure. I could see the ocean from my bed, and hear it when I awoke. I was in heaven.australia

When I wasn’t working, I spent the summer days from January through March on the beach, swimming in turquoise ocean, sunbathing and snorkeling. Waiting tables is something I always thought everyone should do in one’s life, and I was enjoying almost every second. For me, interacting with the customers and mastering seeing a table through their meal from sit down to finish was the best part. My patrons at Fed Café on the first floor of the famed beachfront Palace Hotel were friendly, funny and outgoing, and upon saying “hello” I was almost always immediately asked where I was from and how I came to Australia.

What also made the job something to cherish is the people I worked with. All the servers and kitchen staff were travelers too, as were many of the young people in Coogee during the summer, so we all knew what it was like to be traveling and living on every dollar we made. We worked long hours, but all had the energy to make the most of our days and nights, either on the beach or out dancing and hanging out at the local bars. After our shifts, it was off with the aprons and on with our flip flops to go upstairs and dance the night away or down the block to the “beer garden” at the Coogee Bay Hotel to relax in the summer air.

australiaWhat I loved about Australian culture is that every activity is designed to celebrate the outdoors, the ocean, and the fresh air. Sydney’s climate is very much like that of Los Angeles – temperate all year round, with a low in the July winter of about 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Most restaurants and bars have retractable walls or outdoor seating. It seemed like every place had a way to enjoy the weather, and that life in Sydney was constructed around nature and sought to preserve its beauty, as opposed to using and abusing the land like so many other prosperous nations.

Australians are very environmentally conscious. For example they encourage grocery shoppers to buy a A$1 reusable canvas bag to shop with, and they were ubiquitous. Thankfully the concept has migrated, but I have only just started to see the bags be sold in New York this year. The small beach beneath my cliffside apartment, Gordon’s Bay, was declared a recovering ecological site and thus was a government-protected zone. People swam and snorkeled there, but the rule was simply not to remove anything found. Every bathroom I used in Australia, rural or cosmopolitan, had water conservation signs and buttons for half flush or full flush, and every hotel asked that you reuse your towels and leave a sign on an unused bed so as not to waste clean sheets. Every outlet has a shutoff switch to be turned off when the outlet is empty, and native Australians will reach over and shut off a running faucet in front of you if by chance you forget. It struck me especially because I am used to brushing my teeth or washing the dishes with the water continuously on, which is a major faux pas in Australia due to their perpetual drought.

(Page 4 of 6)
Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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