For The Incredible City That Blessed And Bruised Me
09.08.2011 - 27.06.2012
When you arrive in Melbourne, the first thing you realise is how untrue the stereotype regarding Australian weather is; or rather how little it applies to the state of Victoria. Instead of sun-soaked, clear blue skies, it’s cloudy, grey and, at times, as cold and wet as England (sorry Australia, but it’s true). The second thing you realise is how extremely expensive everything is; and I mean everything! I remember strolling down to the nearest convenience store to get some budget ingredients for a rather tasteless, but nonetheless welcoming, pasta dinner. After inquiring to the Chinese till-lady (that’s the third thing… everyone is Asian or European - there are zero Australians in Melbourne) she tells me that my pack of spaghetti and small jar of dolmio sauce will amount to almost 8 dollars! My heart sinks as my mind plays out the probable next 10 months of my life… eating bread and butter off of the kitchen side board; using the Hostel’s free dishwashing liquid to soak my hair; grazing my uneven stubble with one of the kitchen knives; and sneaking under other people’s beds to sidestep the cost of rent.
This didn’t happen; or at least not very often. But a week later and things are, indeed, quite bad. We had fortunately found an apartment that was cheap enough to just about afford, but also large enough to just about breathe in. The real bonus was the 4 beds (2 in each bedroom), which meant that me and my brother could indulge in some much-needed family bonding, due to the beds being no more than a few inches apart (while the other side of the bed collided heavily with the wall). Matt would share the other room with whatever backpacker we could persuade to live with him. Strangely, in time there happened to be many. Perhaps dirty clothing, pre-bed time episodes of Some Mothers Do Ave ‘Em and nightly naked parades are more popular than I thought. After the payment of the bond and 3 months of rent upfront (required if you have no rental history and want a place in the city centre), I was broke. My already-modest bank account had been wiped clean in just 7 days and it was time to get serious.
As I lied on my small bed, surrounded by dirty plastic cups and the sound of my brother’s painfully persistent snoring, I contemplate my circumstances. My 9 dollar duvet had no sheet and was spreading bundles of white fluff across my equally bare mattress beneath me. It would be perhaps 2 weeks or more before I could justify spending my limited funds on such relative luxuries as bed sheets. My agreement with Victoria University meant I must work from 9 until 4, Monday to Thursday, without any form of payment. My sponsorship visa also meant that I was not legally allowed to work anywhere except at the University (inevitably an issue that would have to be accidently/quietly ignored). Student loans would help at times but they were just a distant dream at the moment, with my next payment not being until January the following year (5 months away). I guess I could steal food from McDonalds, or Subway, I thought; it’s no doubt equalling the stupendous gap between the world’s rich and poor, even if it is by just the tiniest margin. So it’s essentially a good thing. Mr Mcdonald wouldn’t even know, or care even if he did. He’d be too busy eating his gold-plated big macs inside his chicken nugget -shaped mansion.
I’m a chronic over-thinker, and am therefore easily preoccupied and stressed. But it also means I have a constant need to be active and achieving something every day. So stealing fast food – and therefore ever so slightly rescuing the world from poverty – becomes just one of a million ideas, opportunities and shortcuts that my mind creates. I almost have fire in my eyes and a tingle in my veins at the thought of what lies ahead. ‘The bigger the battle, the sweeter the victory’… these types of sayings are clique and inevitably become misconstrued and abused, but there is still so much worth in their simple message. Man does like a challenge. He likes to be pulled apart in order to salvage himself twice as strong as before. I picture Rocky Balboa, Tony Montana, Frank Lucas; fictional characters who symbolise what every man has burning inside of him. Perhaps this is why these films are so adored and remembered; because everyone can relate to their struggles, appreciate their pain, and revel in their ruthless acts of bravery and resilience; despite the immoral acts that sometimes result. I would not be fighting Russians, dealing drugs or killing innocent people – nor are they acts that I am condoning – but my situation was one that millions of men and women have long endured, and who continue to find joy in their endless battles, numerous successes and inevitable failures. The stage was set and I was fuelled with optimism and energy for a battle of my own.
I realise that there are many travellers working abroad, and some of which are even from places outside of Germany! So I do not wish for sympathy, and I certainly do not wish for donations, because this story has a great ending… I leave Melbourne 10 months later, rich, victorious and unhappy. Unfortunately, the money is necessary for 3 months of further travel, and the sadness is due to many goodbyes to many people, and a huge farewell to what is, in my biased and largely inexperienced opinion, the greatest city in the world to live in. It’s a bit like Only Fools And Horses I think to myself, where Del-boy and Rodney Trotter slave away for almost their entire lives to put food on the table, pay their bills and perhaps get away on a cheap tacky holiday once in a while. But once they get a quick lucky break, they have all the money they could ever want. They have the house, the cars, the jewellery; everything except the buzz and excitement that their old life used to bring them. They miss the modest but truly appreciated day-to-day victories that come with difficult working life in big cities. I am more than happy to confess that I too was very much like a Trotter; and I loved every minute of it. Hopefully my future will bless me with even greater battles; and maybe I’ll be lucky enough to fail next time.
So there are many incredible stories in between my stressed, wet, financially-barren, happy arrival and my wealthy, victorious and, therefore, sad goodbye to the country where I had gloriously suffered and survived. I will be sharing these adventures with you in the near future, so look out for more Melbourne Monologues…
Chapter 2 coming soon...