My First Week In Australia

A week has flown by me already.  Unfortunately, all I have really seen has been the inside of trams/trains/buses, my hotel room, the 7 eleven on the corner, and a bit of the CBD.  I feel like I should be out sight-seeing but there is too much to do at the moment.  Trying to find an apartment that is half decent in my price range is like trying to run up an escalator the wrong way.  It is sweat inducing, time consuming, and STUPID.    I am sure I will secure good accommodation eventually, after I spend all of my money on hotel rooms. 

The stay in my beautiful clean hotel room was almost over and I needed to find somewhere to stay.  I asked the receptionist if there was an open room the following night so I didn’t have to move.  “Sure,” she said, “for $250.”  Hells NO!  I only paid $90 for the first night.  I obviously found a good deal.  So my dreams of lounging the clean glory that was my first hotel room were dashed.  So, I booked a new place, a serviced apartment.  That way I could cook meals and have a bit more room.  Both of these plans did not turn out quite right.  The next day I arrive at King’s Bridge, I mean, King’s Gate, I mean, Knight’s Gate, I mean….Knightsbridge Apartments (this string of nonsense is in honor of a really nice guy that I met at Vodafone who set up my account.  Although he will never read this message, I have decided to honor him for his patience when I tried to tell him the name of my apartment building.  After several made up names I offered, he is the one who googled all of my first three attempts at recalling the name and then discovered that it was in fact Knightsbridge.  Thank you Vodafone man!  Ps…he was cute and it took him over an hour to set up my account…coincidence…I think not.).  Now that I have typed an entire paragraph in parentheses I shall continue.  

I arrived at Knights castle…or whatever it is called, a bit early.  As luck would have it, there was a room ready for me at an early hour.  Only, it took me about an hour to check in. Let me preface this next comment by offering a disclaimer.  I in no way mean to offend anyone who is of Oriental descent, who speaks broken half-assed English, anyone with an Australian accent, or anyone who is of Oriental descent who speaks broken half assed English with a bit of an Australian accent.  I am in no way trying to discriminate, I am only pointing out a fact.  I actually quite like the persons I shall now describe.  I thought I was having a hard time understanding some of the Australian twangs but my God I had no idea.  Throughout the check-in process, I had to constantly say: “What? Pardon? Huh?”  Every time something came out of this sweet woman’s mouth, I had no idea what she said and made her repeat it several times.  She was a woman of some kind of Oriental persuasion.  I could deduce a few things about her.  First, she had to have been an immigrant herself.  She retained a bit of an Oriental accent.  I hate to generalize her into the broad category of Oriental but I have no idea where she is originally from and I would hate to offend her by assigning her an inaccurate home country.  Anyway, she must have lived in Australia long enough to have picked up a bit of the accent, as well as the lingo, but not so long that she still used broken English and still sounded like she was from the Orient.  So there we have it…the most difficult and confusing accent of them all, Broken-British English Oriental Australian accent.  Woah.  Again, super nice lady, I just preferred she didn’t talk too much because I felt rude constantly saying: “What the HELL are you talking about.”  Now that I have offended about half of the world or more I shall continue.

The nice lady shows me how to use this weird key to open my door.  Okay, as if a simple key was too freaking difficult to obtain.  It was this Oblong piece of metal with some foreign language written on it that you slid up into a slot that was carved on the bottom of a standard door nob.  What the heck is the point of this?  Anyway, I got into my room and immediately I got a whiff of a ninety year old woman’s attic.  Musty and gross.  Great.  This must be the room they reserve only for the assholes that make fun of the way people talk.  I do believe in Karma and this was Karma biting me in the ass for just thinking all of the things I have just said.  I carefully set down my things to examine my new abode.  The bed looked clean (thank God, I would have left then and there if it was not), the carpet was clean, the bathroom looked decent (although the shower looked a bit old and mildewy but the toilet was satisfactory enough to put my naked butt on), the TV was really nice, the view was great, but the kitchenette made me want to cry.  I opened the first drawer and the old lady smell hit me in the olfactory with a vengeance.  I almost tossed my biscuits(I can’t say cookies here…they are biscuits).  Not only did it smell but it looked a bit rough around the edges. There was no way I was using any of the shit in that drawer.  I prayed it was just the one bad drawer and the rest would be fine.  Nope.  The rest of the drawers were just as nasty.  My favorite part, was watching a few ants marching around on top of the pot in the bottom drawer.  Nice.  Then a camp song popped into my head. No cooking for me while I was here.  Okay, so maybe I am being a bit of a spoiled princess here, I am sure that a nice cleaning would do everything fine.  However, the sponge and cloths in the smelly drawers were not useable.  Firstly, they were housed in the smelly drawers, but secondly, they were stained and icky.  There were no paper towels either.  Well crap.  I considered using toilet paper to scrub my dishes with.  Luckily I realized how stupid that would be before I tried it. I guess I will just leave on my princess pants and wear them proudly.  There is no way to even properly clean anything to make it useable (according to my standards).  I vowed, right then and there, that I would never open those nasty drawers again.

I figured the worst of it was the drawers.  That was until I tried to take a shower.  First of all, I hate bath mats because all they do is collect hair and germs.  Of course, there was a bath mat in my shower.  So I decided to take it out, trying to pick it up in a way that the least amount of my skin would have to come in contact with it.  As I pulled the suction cups away from the base of the tub I saw why there was bath mat to begin with.  The tub looked like it had been painted at one point and the paint was peeling away.  I don’t exactly understand what could have happened to this tub to cause such a thing.  It seemed like it was rotting or something. I threw the bathmat back down in disgust. Frick.  Moving the bathmat had caused a few rouge hairs, which did not belong to me, to become dislodged.  Now that is just gross.  So I thought I would use the shower head to rinse the hairs down the drain so that I didn’t have to touch or look at them.  I turned the valves to start the water flowing.  It didn’t so much flow as it sprayed.  The image, I would assume, would be like watching someone stand in front of a fireman’s high pressure hose.  It knocked me back a bit.  Not really because of the pressure, more because the fact it got me right in the eyes.  Now, most showers have some kind of door or curtain to contain the water.  Because I was blown back by unexpected violence of the shower, I was no were near the valves to turn it off, so I grabbed for the shower door to try and contain the mess.  Only this shower had about half of a shower door.  It wasn’t very tall nor did it even close in half of the tub.  So there I was, with water spurting out of all of the joints of this shower head (while a little bit trickled out of the part it was supposed to come out of) with no barrier to keep the water anywhere near the tub, all while I was blinded.  I blindly swam through the water to find the valves to stop this watery mess.  Finally I was able to locate both valves.  I then surveyed the damage.  EVERYTHING was wet.  It reached all the way across the bathroom and even out the door onto the carpet of the main room.  I was soaked, the floor was sopping wet, and there were still gross hairs in the tub.  I attempted to fix the crap shower head.  After several minutes of trying to tighten joints and find the best position of the head to minimize water sprayage.  I finally accomplished something and was able to shower.  Spectacular.  I only used the shower as minimally as possible from the point on.  I immediately thought of my dad and how strict he was about keeping water from dripping all over the floor in order to avoid it “soaking in” and rotting the wood or something.  He would have LOVED this.  Every time I got into the shower I expected to fall right through the rotting floor boards.

The first things on my to-do list included a stop at the grocery store (to buy cleaning products and food) and open my bank account.  I did both of these successfully.  Trying to take the tram to town was not quite as successful.  Trying to get there was not too much of a drama, I got on a tram going to the wrong direction.  That was easy to remedy.  All I had to do was get off and get back on going to the opposite direction.  Oops.  I was just a little geographically disoriented.  With no further problems I got to the bank.  At my new Commonwealth branch (mind you their colors are black and yellow, how could I not choose this particular bank?) I had a nice chat with a nice gal as she opened my account.  I was relieved to finally hold a conversation with someone I could mostly understand.  Then it was off to the grocery store just around the corner.  As I rounded the corner I saw The Lord of the Fries.  YUM.  Then I knew where I was without a doubt.  I debated getting some fries …in the end I decided I was too tired to stand there eating fries, I should just get the groceries and go home.  I will revisit you, my delicious Lord of the Fries counter!  Grocery shopping went off without a hitch.  There was some interesting produce items to look at that we don’t have at home.  Other than that, there was nothing too interesting, just the same old food in a different container.  Although, there was only one brand of peanut butter… just one, and there was only two different kinds; Crunchy and Smooth.  At least it made for an easy choice, being there was only one brand.  I hoped for Jiffy Reduced Fat with the white label.  Sad. 

Now for the trip back home.   Very interesting.  To start off with, I did get on a tram heading the right direction.  It was oober crowed , gotta love public  transport during rush hour.  Luckily my grocery bag was fairly light.  As I rode around I tried to find familiar scenery to clue me when to get off the tram.  No such luck, nothing looked familiar at all.  So, after several minutes I decided just to get off and find a map.  The only map I had was void of details this far from the CBD.  That’s it, I am getting a phone with GPS.  I found a map on the bus stop sign and tried to figure out where the hell I was even at.  The next time I see a map at the mall with an arrow reading, “you are here,” I will no longer make fun of it.  I needed one of those arrows at the moment.  So after staring at the map for a few minutes I made a game plan.  Long story short I wondered around Bridge St. and the surrounding area for about an hour trying to find something familiar.  Now , I know I have a nack for exaggeration,  but I really was lost and wandering for over an hour.  It was about 90 degrees and my light bag of groceries seemed to suddenly weigh about 50 pounds.  I was one hot mess…literally.  Just as I was about the fall to my knees from exhaustion in tears praying to either die on the spot or find some kind of clue as to where I was, I stumbled across a train station.  There was a slightly more detailed map on the wall at the station.  Turns out I was only four blocks from my hotel.  I had probably been circling it for the past hour.  Finally, I made it to my street and I knew I was home free.  I am not getting on another tram again.

Saturday rolls around and I have to go check out a few apartments.  I looked up a detailed description on how to get from point A to point B.  Of course, it involves a tram, train, and a bus.  The odds were against me on this one.  Despite my lack of confidence in my navigational abilities, I put my big girl pants on and boarded the tram.  This time I got on the right one.  I left extra early as to create a buffer in case I got horribly lost again.  By some miracle I arrived at point B without any drama.  I actually even like riding the train.  It stops at all of the stops so I don’t have to guess when to push the stop button (which is half of the reason I kept getting so lost). 

I had three appointments, each lasting about 5 minutes that were an hour apart. All of the places I visited were in ½ mile radius from this really great park.  So I spent all of my time between appointments sitting at the park.  I read some Chelsea, did some word puzzles (thanks for the puzzle book Laura!), and filled out apartment applications.  I kind of enjoyed just sitting in the sunlight relaxing.  I love when life slows down just a little bit so you can enjoy it.  While sitting there enjoying life a little and I realized that I forgot my sunscreen.  Oops.  Surely I would be a red lobster before the day was over.  Stupid missing Ozone layer.  So I left my cozy perch for something a lot more shaded.  I am just going to gripe for a moment about how inconvenient it is to not have any pigment.  I get so tired of having to constantly worry about being in direct sunlight for more than 2 minutes.  I am going to get that melanin transplant as soon as it comes out! 

The first two places I saw were nice, I would be happy to live in either of them.  As I was walking back to the park to wait for my next showing I realized I really had to pee.  I could walk up a few blocks to a convenience store that may or may not have had a bathroom (if it did, it probably looked worse than when the boys bathroom at camp flooded with crap) or I could use the outhouse style park bathroom that sat right in front of me.  I stood there for a few minutes debating what to do.  I know this sounds like a stupid thing to contemplate for more than a few seconds but I have this thing with bathrooms.  I would rather risk peeing my pants than have to sit on a gross toilet.  I decided to poke my head in and just check out the facilities.  There were two stalls.  The first stall’s toilet seat was laying on the ground next to the stool but the second stall looked doable. It was probably better than what a convenience store would offer.  The only thing I had a problem with was all of the spiders and bugs who occupied the stall.  I have this big fear of sitting on a toilet and getting my ass bit by a huge spider, a large snake, or any other critter that does not belong near my ass.  How I survived working at a camp for 5 summers I will never know.  I actually started to whine out loud.  I walked out of the bathroom and stood there staring at the building still debating.  Okay, looking back I realize how ridiculous I was being.  It would have taken me less than a minute to have just gone in and take a squat.  But I decided to spend 15 minutes whining and debating if I really had to pee that bad.  Finally, I came to the conclusion that pissing my pants and having to go all the way home with smelly wet pants was way worse than having a spider bite my ass.

I marched back in and pulled my pants down, making sure they didn’t touch the ground.  I had no where to put my bag so I put it around my neck. There was no way I was going to actually sit on the seat so I squatted.  I am sure it was quite a site, me squatting over a toilet with a bag around my neck trying to keep my pants from getting contaminated by the ground. I kept falling over and having to use the wall to brace myself which grossed me out every time I had to touch it.  In my experience, when forced to do toilet aerobics, your bladder decides to take FOREVER to empty.  I swear it is some kind of conspiracy.  After I finished up I turned around to flush the toilet with my foot. Now, in America this is much easier.  In Australia it is hard to find a toilet handle.  Most of the ones that I have seen have a round button on the top of the tank to press down.  How, exactly, I was to do this with my toe was beyond me.  So I did it, I used my hands to flush the toilet.  I was pretty sure that I was covered in E.coli now.  I rushed over to the sink (with my bag around my neck) to find there was running water but no soap.  The only temperatures that the water in the sink had were cold and colder.  So I rinsed my hands in cold water for about five minutes just hoping the little critters would just catch jump off from the water flow.  I looked around for a way to dry my hands but there were no paper towels and no dryer.  So I rubbed my E.coli all over my pants.  I then remembered that I had some antibacterial spray in my bag so I pulled it out (getting E.coli all over my bag now) and used at least 50 sprays on each hand.   I can’t imagine that using the bathroom is as traumatic or eventful for NORMAL people as it is for me. 

I managed to make it back home without much drama.  I just had one encounter with a rude bus driver, who barely spoke English, who made it clear that he had not patience for people who weren’t born in Melbourne.  I wonder what his passport said, it probably didn’t list Australia on it anywhere thank you very much. Jerk.  On the plus side I made it home alive.  Just for the record, as soon as I got into my room I made a dash for the sink and scrubbed my hands with soap.   I still haven’t had any signs of E.coli poisoning but I am pretty sure that it can take as long as a week to infect the body before you have symptoms.  We will see where I am at come this Saturday. 

Sunday I stayed in bed pretty much all day.  It was great.  The only thing productive that I did was to plan my route for the next day.

My memories of Monday through Wednesday have kind of merged together in my mind.  Nothing too exciting occurred.  I visited a few different apartments, spent more time filling out applications, found myself a mall to shop in (although I did not buy anything exciting, more groceries and some cleaning supplies), walked around half of Melbourne, and rode more public transportation.  The highlights of the week would be finally getting a mobile (I was instructed by the salesman never to call it a cell phone here because people will look at me funny) and getting to finally visit my new hospital.  The Vodafone salesman and I exchanged witty banter for over an hour while setting up my account.  I am so glad to finally have my own phone again.  I am the one who is constantly forgetting my phone or losing it because I am just not that attached to it.  But for some reason,  I now feel naked without a phone in my pocket.  I feel a bit more complete now.  He also let me pick some of my own numbers…a set of 27’s! Oh, and it had a maps app and GPS.  No more aimless wandering in sweltering heat.

I also got to visit my new hospital…John Fawkner Private Hospital (too bad Fawkner makes me think of a bad word and I can’t help but giggle inside whenever I say it now).  I filled out some exciting paperwork and the like.  I also picked out my new uniform, no more scrubs for me.  I was given the option of picking out pants, a skirt, or a dress.  Hmmm, I am a nurse, I am not so sure wearing a skirt or dress is conducive to the kind of activity a nurse has to perform.  I am NOT wearing a skirt to empty bed pans thank you very much. I prefer to have some kind of barrier between bodily fluids and my flesh. 

For some reason I have always liked the idea of having a real uniform.   I always wished that we had one at school.  All of the kids here have to wear uniforms and I am jealous whenever I see them in their cute little outfits.  So my uniform consists of dark grey PANTS and a blue button-up top (one with blue stripes, the other with a blue circle design).  I am sure that the novelty of wearing a uniform will wear off soon, I will miss wearing “pajama bottoms” and t-shirts to work.  I found out where I would be working as well.  I will spend two days a week on the ONCOLOGY unit (I know, I am super excited about this) and three days on the surgical unit (not quite as exciting).  A majority of the patients will be adults but on occasion there will be child or two.  I met one of my managers and she asked if I minded terribly if I would have to cover a couple of holes on the night shift.  I replied with,”YES PLEASE.”  I miss my night shift crew.  I am going to have to get some pepper spray if I am going to be walking around the city alone at night. 

I will hopefully start my job the week of May 3rd.  I am still waiting for my Victoria nursing license to finalize, as I had to change cities at the last second.   I hope the stupid thing comes this week, I really need to work!  Not only am I getting bored but I am getting poor.  I have decided to eat nothing but cucumbers, spaghetti, and P B and J sandwiches in order to save money.  Okay, and chocolate.  And diet Coke.  Okay, things aren’t as bad as I make the sound…yet, at least.

Photos of Flinder's St. Station and of that EVIL tram.

My Hotel Location....Notice Bridge Rd (where I spent hours lost).

Penders Park, where I hung out for hours.  I looked at places on Dundas St., Collins St., and Pender St.