Cape Town: The Gateway to South Africa

Cape Town: The Gateway to South Africa

It’s usually about this time of year many of us here in Oz choose to ditch the snuggly socks and hoodies for some long overdue sub-continental rays. But since these overseas travel restrictions have flown in from the North and buckled down for the Winter (let’s face it, probably a lot longer), I thought it fitting to indulge in a little escapism and review a holiday destination you literally can’t spell E-S-C-A-P-E without.

Colourful beach huts of Muizenberg

Here are my 5 tips for conquering the Cape:

Hire a car

If you’re expecting to explore this sprawling, mountainous city on foot or via public transport, DON’T. Unless you’ve got mates or family living there to hitch rides off, the best investment you’ll make is one involving four wheels… or two if you like to live dangerously. Unlike many flat and well-connected European cities you may be familiar with, public transport will not even get you close to discovering the best spots this city has to offer. But trust me, with jaw-dropping scenery that’ll really get your motor running, (like Chapman’s Peak drive overlooking Hout Bay, or rolling up to the Silvermine Nature Reserve) it’s basically a no-brainer. Beware though, if you hear a “Hey, Boss! Over here!” from ‘friendly’ locals pointing to a parking space half the size of your ride, you’re gonna have to cough up a few rand when they help squeeze you in. Fortunately, reversing into or out of a sticky situation is aided by the fact they also drive on the left side of the road.

Chasing the sunset along Chapman’s Peak Drive

Book for Summer

Like most beach holidays, Cape Town, or, “The Mother City,” is best enjoyed in the warmer months due to its prominent sea breeze and winter rains (December to February will not disappoint). However, don’t even think of pigeonholing this place as purely a ‘beach town.’ With walking trails along the iconic Table Mountain, Lion’s Head circular route to enjoy at sunset or before work according to locals, and a myriad of other people-friendly routes, you truly can get lost here like no where else. Plus, if you’re keen for a dip, don’t forget the city is split between its Indian and Atlantic Ocean beaches – and if you truly want to enjoy the bone-numbing Atlantic ones, you better do it in Summer or risk your central appendages vanishing forever.

Bitterly cold Atlantic waves of Camps Bay

Don’t forget to tip

Some of you may be prone to thinking, No, I don’t tip for good service. It should always be good. Well, consider how much you’re paying for a meal and what the real cost is to you. Tip-ically (sorry), a gratuity of 10-15% is paid as a service fee, and may even be added to the bill automatically in some venues. But let’s be real here; the staff probably get paid peanuts, so the very least you could do is provide them with an adequate ‘thanks’ to show you enjoyed your experience. Tipping aside, the food and drink culture is as varied as it is delicious. If you enjoy a cocktail or two, doing so when you’re out for dinner is really not going to set you back that much. And don’t worry, even if one or two turns into three of four, the vibrant coffee scene’s enough to turn even the most bar-hopped cape-crusader into an early-riser.

Grand Africa Cafe & Beach in Granger Bay

4. Wildlife is… wild

If you’ve not booked a return trip home, perhaps consider taking a tour of “Shark Alley” in Gansbaii to save you the hassle. Great whites can be spotted on guided shark-cage diving trips, though some have been known to creep a little closer off the shores of popular city beaches. If you’re more of a hill-dweller, be prepared to come across wild baboons circling the peak of Cape Point. Ok, they may sit on your car and wait for you to return, but they’re mostly harmless, I think. For a more wholesome experience, a source of pride for locals and pleasure for tourists is the community of penguins nestled along the banks of Boulder’s Beach near Simon’s Town. Pay virtually nothing for access to an unguided walkway to see them slip and slide until your heart’s content. The glorious drive down the coast is reason enough to make the trip, with some beach ports even attracting seals who don’t mind being the centre of attention.

Next stop, culture?

If it’s your first trip to South Africa, even Africa, that alone will prove a culture shock. Freeways leaving Cape Town International Airport provide a poignant reminder of the glaring wealth gap dividing residents, as ghettos and makeshift houses are scattered throughout various neighbourhoods. Dubbed ‘The Rainbow Nation,’ South Africa’s rich and mixed cultural heritage is on full display, with every nook and cranny providing a glimpse into the history of past and present settlers. Dutch influences are evident in ports and fishing docks throughout the Cape, with the brightly-coloured streets of Bo Kaap a result of Dutch settlers shipping slaves and convicts from India, Sri Lanka and Malaysia back to the harbour city, a community now known as the Cape Malays.

Bo Kaap, home to the city’s Cape Malay community

If it’s a quirky souvenir you’re after, head into the city centre to peruse handcrafted nick nacks and art pieces from local market sellers only too happy to tell the story of their origins. You’ll also expect to pay a lot less than what’s charged in flashy tourist shops. But for some retail therapy minus the repetitive greetings from eager town merchants, the V&A Waterfront is a must-visit during your stay. Built into the harbour, restaurants, designer brand stores and outdoor entertainment are main attractions. For a more purposeful visit, book a ferry pass to Robben Island from the Waterfront’s Nelson Mandela Gateway, and discover how the political figure approached daily life during 18 of his 27 years behind bars oppressed by the Apartheid regime.

V&A Waterfront view of the iconic Table Mountain

Cape Town is one of those cities that’s impossible to ‘do’ in 3-4 days – which is why you shouldn’t dare try. From its historic wineries and cultural experiences, to panoramic ocean drives and picturesque beaches, you’ll really need to set aside at least a week or two to appreciate the Mother City in all her glory. Seriously, how many world-renowned destinations boast 11 spoken languages and two intersecting oceans?

We understand travel beyond our shores is near impossible for the foreseeable future. But with an affordability rare for such a global city, you’d be mad not to consider the gateway to South Africa as your next unforgettable overseas adventure.

When Donald Met Melania

Ever wondered how the world’s most famous first lady met the world’s most famous president impersonator?

Cast your mind back to the late 90’s… A time when chauvanism was cool, golf courses were the playground of the rich and famous, and the ink on Donald Trump’s second marriage divorce papers hadn’t even dried yet.

Anyway, I imagine it went a little something like this.
*Do the voices to play along at home*


She waited anxiously in the sky-high restaurant overlooking Manhattan’s mid-town. The chatter of businessmen and clinking silverware made her dizzy. An exotic young woman sitting unaccompanied was a welcome sight for some, as the provocatively-dressed beauty endured 20 mins dodging eyeballs awaiting the arrival of her blind date.

A tall man in a black suit approached her table. He too was the recipient of glances from adoring diners.

“Hi, you must be Melania,” he said, leaning over to her side of the table and kissing her on the cheek.
“Am I saying that right, Me-LAY-knee-uh?”
“Actually, it’s Me-LUH-knee-uh. You must be Donald, it’s a pleasure to meet you.”

The man gestured to an immaculately dressed waiter with a click and wave.
“We’ll have a bottle of our finest red wine, all the way from Italy. You can’t buy it in the States,” he said, turning to Melania. “I asked, it’s impossible. You’re gonna love it.”
She believed it polite to order salad when dining with men, so had devoured a cold meat sandwich earlier and was content sipping wine for a while.

Donald exuded an arrogance she’d never encountered before. He spoke authoritatively, waving his hands above the table while further introducing himself. She noticed they were disproportionately small in comparison to the rest of his imposing 6’3’’ frame. His flailing distracted her from his lumpy skin and Fanta-orange hue.
“You know I own this building?“ he said boastfully. “Actually, I own many buildings. And golf courses. I’m an entrepreneur. People know me, I’m quite famous. “

They conversed for 15 minutes, though Donald didn’t appear especially interested in listening to Melania talk. She felt it likely he dated younger women regularly. He was definitely older than she was.

“Do I detect an accent?“ he asked.
“Yes, I’m from Slovenia,” she grinned.
“Is that in Europe? Lovely place, Europe. I own a chalet in Cape Town. Gorgeous, just gorgeous. “
She laughed, assuming he was joking. Melania hadn’t yet grasped American sarcasm but knew she’d have to learn if she was to get what she wanted.
“How long do you plan on staying here?” he asked.
“I’d love to stay, but my visa is almost over. I would do anything to stay here,” she said, anticipating his reply.
“Listen, my friend Jeffrey can make that happen. He’s got connections to the White House. What do you say we get outta’ here and I call him tomorrow? I’d never lie about these things. My friend Jeffrey is a great guy, a true gentleman. Everyone says he’s a gentleman. Anyway, follow me. I’ve already booked us the penthouse suite.”


They hadn’t yet ordered entrees when Donald escorted her out of the restaurant. With his fingers twisted tightly around hers, a sly grin took over Melania’s face. She’d always dreamed of moving to America and marrying a rich man. ‘I think he’s the one,’ she thought. She’d hoped to never work another day in her life.

Short Story – Runaway

I don’t know why all of my recent stories have been loosely themed around jail and imprisonment, but here’s one more. (Inspired by a recent post)


January 12th, 2006. The date I was locked up and condemned to a life of deprivation. Not once had I left the house since they adopted me 14 years ago. Afraid and alone, I was a slave to their every command.

Dad scampered through the front door armed with grocery bags, kicking it closed behind him. He’d begun unpacking them in the kitchen when I spotted the door sitting an inch adrift from its frame. This had never happened before; they were always so careful. I could smell freedom through the crack; freshly cut grass and damp bitumen. This was it, or I’d miss the boat.

With Mum asleep on the recliner, I edged closer to the door. Her incessant snoring hadn’t yet woken her, so surely I wouldn’t either. I peered nose-first through the gap, nudging the door open gently. Wary of it shutting behind me, I tip-toed through and plucked a twig from the Money Tree nearby to rest between the door and frame.

I’d made it out, legs trembling, but I was free. It would take Dad a minute or two to notice I wasn’t by my bed in the living room. The park was down the street, a good 80 metres away. It seemed closer from behind the living room window, but I had to get there.

I was halfway down the street when a creature intersected my path. Piercing yellow eyes, and black as the night. I’d seen it a few times during my many hours gazing at the life I didn’t have from inside the curtains. An innate hatred for the creature burned inside me. A predisposition almost, I just knew we weren’t going to get along. I maintained a consistent pace but noticed it beginning to stare me down. Five metres now separated us, and I could sense its disdain for my presence through its bowed head. I veered to the right, it followed. A couple more steps, it mirrored mine. I was engaged in a game of chicken with a cat. A repulsive, feeble feline, I couldn’t let it beat me. I wouldn’t.

Something familiar was rapidly approaching, a blue Mitsubishi. My Dad’s blue Mitsubishi. It was over, surely he’d spotted me. But the cat hadn’t moved, its eyes fixated on my panicked face. The car was within 20 metres now, and it was apparent my fleeting attempt at escape was over.

Doof! I watched the cat disappear under the car’s front wheels as Dad swerved towards the curb. “There you are, Jackson!” he screamed. “Come here, mate!” He threw open the driver-side door and grabbed me with both hands.

“We can’t lose you too, buddy! These past two years have been the best since Daisy left us.“  Two years to him was my entire youth. I realised Daisy was the little girl in the photo frames.

But maybe he was right. The outside world was a dangerous place for a 9-inch-tall Dachshund.  Perhaps I was better off in jail.

Dog Eat Dog

It’s Friday night.

You’ve been waiting hours to settle back into Season 2 of Prison Break after a hard day of doing sweet F all, and you’re interrupted.

It’s not the microwave telling you the second helping of Pad Thai you’re heating up is ready. Actually, it’s not coming from inside the house at all.

You know exactly what it is, but you have no way of knowing when it’s going to stop.

Ruff! Ruff! Ruff! Ruff! Ruff! Ruff! Ruff! Ruff! Ruff! Ruff! Ruff! Ruff! Ruff!
Ruff! Ruff! Ruff! Ruff! Ruff! Ruff! Ruff! Ruff! Ruff! Ruff! Ruff! Ruff! Ruff!
Ruff! Ruff! Ruff! Ruff! Ruff! Ruff! Ruff! Ruff! Ruff! Ruff! Ruff! Ruff! Ruff!

It doesn’t stop.

Call off the dogs, Warden Pope. We’ve got another one to attend to, and it’s a real piece of shit.

I’m not a religious man, but if I were, I’d recognise Satan to be a 10-inch-tall Dachshund living next door.

To be honest, I don’t usually notice the little rat that much. Sure, it barks here and there, but wouldn’t you if you were the size of a football and confined to a 2m x 4m x 6m cage?

The issue we have as a household, however, is that when the sausage gets on a roll, it yaps long enough for you to watch Marley & Me twice, or until its owners, our neighbours pull into the driveway. Ok, you’re probably thinking… don’t they realise their dog is the devil? Well, maybe, but they’re sure as hell not gonna admit that to us.

A couple of months ago we knocked on their door to confront them about it.

“Oh, it barks when we’re not home? Ok, thanks.”

THANKS.

Well, we’ve added another possibility to our ‘Why did the previous tenants move out?’ list. Not typically a subject you’d give much thought to when moving into a new place, but we’ve received mail addressed to that many past tenants that we have to start asking why. And where? Why and where did they all go?

We’ve come the conclusion that our neighbours are very weird. Not hoarder weird or dirty weird, but quiet weird. Quiet, like they don’t verbally greet you when you greet them. Or quiet, like they live a secret life hidden to the outside world. Hidden to us. It makes you wonder about the little girl’s shoe I found buried in the garden last month whilst preparing for our rent inspection. What else would I find if I were to dig a little deeper?

We’d gone months without the barking being a real issue, as thankfully lockdown has meant there’s almost always someone home to keep it company. But with restrictions on meetups easing, weekends have proven to be an absolute nightmare. Fitting, considering most of the audio-terrorism happens at night.

With my housemate’s patience at zero, I was persuaded into writing a stern letter to drop into our neighbours’ mailbox. ‘Terse’ is the word he used. Actually it was him who wrote the letter (if anyone asks), but I did insist we soften the edges a little. For good measure, we even headed down to the elderly couple one house over to ask if they’d heard any barking. They weren’t home of course, so we proceeded to tiptoe into the devil’s lair and drop off the typed letter. Minus an envelope, we didn’t have any at the time.

Then… nothing.

Then, it rained. And rained. A lot.

Still, nothing.

We’re alive, which is good. But we haven’t seen or heard from our neighbours since. Literally, not laid eyes on them and have no way of knowing if they’ve received the letter. It’s possible it landed atop a couple of real estate appraisal pamphlets and escaped the rain. What’s probably more likely though, is that it’s melted into an oil painting now leaking ink into their mailbox. Granted it was only two or three days ago we dogged them with it, but we could just as easily have called the council instead. And unashamedly too, considering the local council receives close to 900 barking complaints a month. Or was it a year? That doesn’t matter. The point is, they dogged us first! Right?!

One thing we do know, is that the little chevap hasn’t taunted us in half a week. Well, not while we’re home at least, which is all the time. I’m not sure whether it means they’ve finally found a way to shut it up, OR, they’re planning their retaliation and the dog is in on it. Guess we’ll wait and see.

Just know that if you don’t hear from me in the next month,

It was 187a.

To Upskill Or Not to Upskill?

If you were like me a couple of months ago and deemed not “essential” enough to remain employed, you probably hit up every Facebook job ad and ‘no experience required’ post known to man in the weeks that followed. I reckon I swallowed my pride so many times applying for supermarket and delivery gigs that my tonsils were about ripe for extraction. Anyway, before being thrown a life-vest by Scomo’s swift ‘LeaderSHIP’ (Jobseeker and Jobkeeper schemes), I found myself desperate to reel in any paying job or prospect I could latch onto.

On one occasion, I was actually fortunate enough to get a call back from a large recruitment agency suggesting I upskill by attending a TAFE course to better my employment opportunities. Considering this was my first reply that wasn’t a hard NO, I clung to it like mouldy cheese on an old toastie machine. After realising I probably wasn’t going to have a better chance of finding a job any sooner than the average course length of 6-8 weeks, I registered to attend the TAFE’s free information session. Despite being a paper-pushing, swivel-chair enthusiast at heart, this was my IN.

 

the-throne-of-a-chief-the-throne-of-a-king-44435509 (2)

MEME

The session took place in a part town many wouldn’t venture to if not for very good reason. “Right next to Zambrero’s” were the directions given. And all in all, it was actually very insightful. As I sat there, 1.5 metres away from my nearest fellow job seeker, I realised I was much more entertained by the people in attendance than the courses being discussed. With my back against the wall and no government support forthcoming at the time, I listened to every word throughout the session.

I suppose what I’m saying is, if you’re looking to navigate a clear path ahead so you’re all set for when the Government turns the money tap off, consider attending a TAFE info session yourself. Here’s a list of memorable characters I encountered which should help you on your way.

PUDI,JEONG,BROWN,GLOVER,JACOBS,MCHALE,CHASE,BRIE, COMMUNITY, 2009

Over-enthusiastic, swoll AF hype man

Tasked with introducing the presenters, courses and escorting you to the presentation room, this guy’s got more confidence in his right bicep than most men have in their ability to pee straight at night with the lights off. It can be daunting stepping foot into a new environment, especially a new area of study or work, so it’s important to be surrounded by people like this guy that’ll confidently tell you what IS possible, as well as what’s NOT.

Jaded 40-something who’s done his research

When you’re too scared to ask the hard-hitting questions, like “how much does this course REALLY cost?” the guy in the back who’s not afraid to share what he knows is really going to help you out. Many TAFE courses offer concession rates that vary according to your situation, so you can be sure ol’ mate carrying the weight of 20 years industry experience and an entire family on his shoulders is going to ask what you may not be willing to. He may hog question time, but this guy’s your hero.

Trainwreck

Be prepared for this loose unit to stroll in 10 minutes late with bright green hair, or earlobes spaced so wide you could throw paper aeroplanes through them. Most of us think before we speak, but the sheer volume of unfiltered outbursts from this guy did in fact lead to some insightful discussions within the class. If you’re too afraid to ask the ‘dumb’ questions, hopefully he’s around to do it for you.

Mr. Industry Contacts

The first lecturer of the morning, this career-hardened journeyman pushed 65 and appeared ready to caravan around the country never to return. With an encyclopedia of industry contacts, he’s got the skills, know-how and connections to work almost every course offered, and probably has. It’s always helpful to hear from someone who has “been there, done that” and can directly help you achieve your goals. To be honest, it was a shame he only stuck around for 20 mins as he had a lot to say. Become a sponge when this guy is around. He’s the key into your preferred industry.

For those of you wondering about the lack of female representation in this short list, I can honestly say it’s due to the shockingly male-dominated attendance I experienced. While I have no clear reason why that would be, I can only hope the nation treats all workers according to their past experience, and not the gender they identify with, when the workforce gradually pieces itself back together.

I should probably also note that to this date I haven’t yet chosen to pursue a field of study at TAFE, or any other trade college to upskill for when all this is over. Call it pride, indecisiveness… even a false sense of security. But I’ll tell you what; being eligible to claim Jobkeeper, required to work occasionally and left with enough time to pursue your real passions is not the worst way to live.

 

 

Locked up in Lockdown

Housemates or cellmates? Let’s be honest, they’re a bit of a blur right now.

It’s been 21 long days since the Government’s self-isolation measures transformed my once amicable sharehouse into Cell Block D of Shawshank. And everyday is lockdown.

While I do feel for those sorry souls living alone right now, being cooped up with your girlfriend and friend for an indefinite period of time feels a lot like serving a jail sentence… If you were in a white-collar jail, in a nice neighbourhood… and all your neighbours were also in jail.

With myself and girlfriend relegated to ‘non-essential’ employment status and our housemate, Callum, one of those privileged work-from-home types, the subtle niceties that once kept our household civil have totally evaporated. I’d roll out of bed at 9:05am and hit Cal with a sarcastic “You’re late for work, bro!” as he whipped up eggs in the kitchen. “At least I’ve got a job, loser!” he’d fire back. That was Day 2! Now we just acknowledge eachother’s presence with a shrug or middle-finger salute.

 

andy dufresne prison

Pinterest

But spare a thought for those living with +5 roomies. Especially male ones. Because in every male sharehouse, while you’ve got at least one recluse who cleans up after himself, you’ll likely also find ‘The Farter,’ ‘The Dirty-dish Stacker, and ‘The Loud-Music-Until-1am-Or-I-Fall-Asleep Blaster’. Cal and I seem to do alright covering most of these off between us.

And now for my girlfriend, Claire; the resident prison guard. While there are benefits to her reorganising my clothing drawers without request, Claire’s OCD around cleanliness has driven Cal and I to the edge a number of times already. When she’s not glued to her virtual language classes, she’s scrubbing the kitchen within an inch of it’s life and cracking the whip at anyone seen misplacing a glass. You don’t wanna ask what happens to those leaving crumbs on the cooking area.

With yard time (walks around the ‘block’) and shopping trips the only way to escape the monotony of cell life, we find ourselves looking for any excuse to leave the house. “We’re out of Tzatziki… Looks like we’ll have to go shopping again this arvo.” Desperate times. There’s not much I wouldn’t do for some fresh air, especially since a potent concoction of methane bombs has taken up residence in every room of the house.

fart smell
Funnyism

But when you put all of our developed, western world struggles into perspective, we know we’ve got it pretty good. Before all of this Corona-based hysteria began, Claire committed to sponsoring a child for $60 a month. Little Justine from Uganda. And considering Justine doesn’t have the option of social-distancing from neighbours living metres away, or drinking water without fetching it herself, it makes you realise who’s really serving the sentence.

There’s no doubt this period of social solitude will change our behaviour in some way moving forward. For many, it’ll be practical changes, like avoiding that wet kiss on the cheek from Nanna, or washing hands with soap after using public toilets. Other’s might finally spend those designated drinking dollars that had gathered dust for months in their account, or find themselves swapping the home gym for local muscle house to build on those iso-gains. All those movies about guys being released from jail with new hobbies and zest for life must be relatable to us, right?

I know it might feel like we’re a prisoner to our surroundings now, but when it’s all said and done, I think we’ll subconsciously miss this time at home.

One thing’s for sure… I’ll be taking my scrawny ass back to Nando’s first thing.

Short, Back and Sides

A little story about an unfortunate trip to the hairdresser. Completely fictional but not all that unrelatable… 

 

Short, back and sides. Four words Lizzie would have heard most days for the last 40 years. I sit patiently along the soft, worn-out bench at my local hairdresser. Two older gentlemen sit either side of me.

It was 9:30am. Too early to be out of bed on a Saturday morning in my opinion. Today though, was no ordinary Saturday. Today, was to be my wedding day.

Of course, a haircut on your wedding day is not ideal. But procrastination can be debilitating for some, and let me tell you, it feeds off deadlines.

“Zach?” asks a woman, peering around the service desk. Her eyes land on me, obviously. You don’t meet too many men above 60, like the ones next to me, with a name beginning with “Z.”

I walk over to the only empty chair in the salon and notice the woman’s name badge sitting low on her faded shirt, probably symbolic of her dwindling passion for the craft. ‘Lizzie,’ it read. Forty years fighting follicles, I’d say. Tuck-shop lady arms, a subtle limp on one side. Yeah, it showed.

“And what are we doing today?” she asks, slipping what I would describe as a ‘hair-cape’ into the back of my shirt.

“Short, back and sides,” I reply. “And just a smidge off the top.” I lift one hand around the cape, leaving half a centimetre between my thumb and index finger as to provide a reference point. Today was not a day for ambiguity.

She grabs the closest clippers, no battery. She pulls out a second set, previously hidden under a stray hair towel. This one buzzes.

“Got much on today?” she asks. I feel the heavy vibrations of the clippers against my skull.

“I don’t think so, really.”

Not one for small talk, I wasn’t about to share today’s proceedings with a chin-wagging specialist. Lizzie pulls out the scissors, running her wrinkly hands through the top of my head. She grasps a handful of strands, leaving no hair between her hand and my skull. Surely she’s not going that short, is she?

I notice my palms becoming sweatier by the second as Lizzie tighten hers grip, lining up each strand as they curl around her fingers.

She extends her thumb through the scissors, about to hit the trigger on her hair rifle.

Taking aim at the roots, she leans closer to my head, clamps down on the scissors and…

CHOP.

There’s been a terrible mistake. That’s not a half a centimetre. That’s two months of growth, gone. Just like that.

I wait for a reaction.

Nothing.

For 10 long minutes, she continues to replicate the deforestation of the Amazon Rainforest on my scalp. I feel the Mercury rising. Surely it’s hotter in here now than when I arrived.

They say life flashes before your eyes in its final moments. The same could be said when your head looks like hurricane Katrina has just passed through it.

Absolutely devastating. And hours before my wedding, no less.

“All done! How’s that?” she asks proudly.

“Amazing!” I reply, eager to escape the atrocity in the mirror and be on my way.

But on my way to where? I can’t be seen in public like this… or at home, or anywhere.

I pay at the front desk and walk out.

“I’ll see you next time!” she shouts.

She smiles.

I smile.

Shattered.

Continental Drift: Part 1

Before any journey to a new place, I find myself anxiously pondering the possible view from the aeroplane window over what is to be the start of an exciting adventure. Will it be clear skies and piercing sun? Will the landscape present itself only at the final moments after the dark and turbulent clouds release it from their grasp? I recall one of the most stunning sunsets of my short life one year ago en route to Athens sometime around 20:30 local time. The fiery red sun appeared magnified and shimmery, an enticing introduction into what would be the start of my third consecutive European summer. This was most definitely one of the more favourable natural gifts a traveller could hope for.

Today’s forecast:
18 degrees
Mostly cloudy
80% Chance of rain
0% Chance of beach sighting

This was definitely not Greece in mid-July. Not even close.

Ahh, a sigh of relief washes over me as myself and a couple hundred other weary travelers pour out of the Airbus A319 arriving “on time” from Munich. I’m almost a seasoned traveler at the age of 24, and one thing I’d always wondered is why so many passengers feel hellbent on scurrying out of an aircraft like mice racing for a hole in the wall. At times it does feel like a menagerie in the confined yet structured interior of an aeroplane, though these mice share one goal: escape as quickly as possible and never look back. Today I wasn’t sure whether to mirror their haste, or simply sit back and embrace my final moments of familiarity. You see, today was no ordinary Tuesday. Today was the beginning of my one year abroad.

hobbit adventure
memecrunch 

Hanover, or Hannover in German, was to be my humble base for the next 12 months. “Oh, you’re moving to Germany for a year? Berlin, Munich? Oh you’ll love it!”
“Well close,” I would say, “About 2 hours west of Berlin, maybe a couple south of Hamburg.”
Not exactly the bustling tourist and cultural hubs of either of those respectable cities, but a city nonetheless. When German locals would proudly ask me why I’d chosen their neck of the woods, I would unwittingly most often reply with, “Well, uhh..my girlfriend is from here so it makes sense I guess.” Ok, yes I moved for love but that’s a different story altogether.

Since I was 17 years old, I’d often dreamed of separating my life into geographical chapters. In my head it would read: Finish high school and university in Perth, live abroad in France or Germany for a year, return to Perth to figure it all out, then perhaps look to Sydney or New York to kick-start my career.

The idea of spending an allocated amount of time in a foreign place had me excited, if not only the thought of learning a second language. For so long, attending language class by day and serving cocktails into the comfortable south coast French nights was my calling. If I’m really honest, just about any job would have been fine, all that mattered was being able to experience the world. And wasn’t the world something worth experiencing.

trump cocktails
Drink This Tonight

A boys trip through Europe’s hottest spots in 2015 with three of my closest mates convinced me that I had to return, and desperately sooner than later. Exactly one year on, I did return. The result of this trip was the exact reason I chose Hanover over a number of metropolises previously mentioned. This reason’s name was Claire.

Ironically, Claire was considered a French name in Europe, though I was most certainly not in France. I had always felt compelled to learn a second language, however lacked the inspirational or practical standpoint from which to pursue it. When Europeans ask us ashamed English natives why we only speak one language, many may not have the ammunition to respond in a manner that does NOT prompt a follow up question. I reckon I’ve got it figured out.

It’s no secret that many young central European youths and the educated middle-aged bracket can converse in, or at least understand a fair amount of English, but why can’t most of us reciprocate? Are we just lazy, arrogant, self-righteous white conqueror attitude holders that would rather the world bows to us than even learn one word of these other mother tongues? Settle down mate, I wouldn’t necessarily go that far… Uhh, let’s consider this practically first…

As Australians, citizens of an isolated island nation,  we are most closely surrounded by countries portraying Asian cultures, with languages and alphabets too specific to teach on a broad scale. Chinese Mandarin, too difficult. Japanese, again difficult and specific, Indonesian, not powerful enough trading partners and too tiny a nation…and so on. Had these nations held alphabets similar to that of English, we would be much more willing to push this in schools. Many European languages such as Italian, French, German and Spanish contain many similarities in alphabets and thus make English as a universal language justifiable. So why then don’t we as Australians or New Zealanders in particular invest in learning these? Simple. Those countries are too far away.

kid-language.jpg
Odyssey

If I was to study Italian for 3-4 years (which I tried) in the hope of one day backpacking through the west coast of Italy just to be able to order a cappuccino with an accent, why even bother? The only justifiable cases in my mind are for those looking to live abroad, work abroad, for family reasons, or trade/business opportunities. In the scheme of things, this is too difficult to apply to the majority. When you also consider that most of the world’s largest media industries already project English as the almighty medium for entertainment, what choice do we have? If you’ve noticed that a portion of this justification applies mostly to Australians, you’d be right. All other English native countries can form their own defense. Good luck!

I was only previously exposed to the German language through biased WWII movies and mocking pop-culture references. If one was to consider both French and German languages as rivals in the boxing ring, French was the romantic fighter whose charm oozed charisma and emotion. On the opposite corner waited the stern, strong enforcer who invariably knew how to win, and would take no prisoners doing so. Naturally, to many including myself, the German language would be considered harsh and slightly aggressive. But I had made a promise to Claire that if I was to live with her in Germany, I would give it a damn good shot.

german plane
Flickr

Upon leaving the airport and heading for her apartment, the ever present rain was on full display, however this was no deterrent. This, was the beginning of an adventure I’d waited so long to embark on. A cultural and linguistic maze that I had studied and prepared for. And I had my translator by my side. Boy did I need her!

 

Job Hunter: One Man’s Quest for A Purposeful Life

Do you have a passion for great customer service and a can-do attitude? We are seeking experienced personnel with excellent skills and flexibility to work in a fast-paced, rewarding role. Does this sound like you? Apply within!

 

Yes yes blah blah sure I think so.. do I? Uhh yeah that could be..is me. (If I say yes, can I start earning cash soon?)

Apply.

Anyone finding themselves applying for hospitality/casual employment opportunities has no doubt come across this absolute cliche of a job advertisement. Do they get this out of the “Recruiting Young Employees for Minimum Wage” handbook?

I guess I would instead use my own analogy I call, “The Fisherman” to describe the position of a young job seeker:

The optimistic fisherman awakens prior to the crack of dawn, gathers his equipment and humble fishing vessel before setting out on a quest to encounter his sought after catch. He prepares himself to the best of his ability, perhaps armed with an assortment of tackle, rods and hooks to suit his environment. Although he may possess the necessary skills, knowledge and experience to catch the fish he seeks, it really is up to chance as to whether or not he strikes gold. Is he in the right bay, at the right time, on the right day? Sometimes, he dangles his rod amidst the ripples of the ocean for 10 minutes and is fortunate enough not to require a minute more. Other days, he waits from 8am to 4pm and doesn’t get even a single bite. Such is the wrath of the ocean. Such is the wrath of the employment market. Bullish job seekers apply for job after job, often with an impressive array of previous roles and positions. The fisherman’s fight to reel in the fish once it bites and hooks is his interview for the job. Does the fish believe he has the ability to be caught by the man? Considering seasonality, number of fisherman in the bay, skill and experience, the fisherman will always require a degree of fortune when seeking his prized catch.

fish catch jobs
Memegenerator

Coming back from overseas with essentially no income and dwindling funds in my collection of modest bank accounts, I find myself on a pursuit with the only acceptable outcome being the acquisition of a job.

I’ve already done the equivalent to girl scouts knocking on doors to sell cookies, that is, wandering around restaurant and bar strips holding copies of my resume in a nice, shiny folder (pretending of course that each establishment I enter is the only one I will apply to work at). That is way too exhausting, repetitive, somewhat intimidating, as well as often a complete waste of time…until you get a call for an interview, but whatever. I suppose those kinds of businesses are typically smaller in staff and size, and are much more likely to hire a desperate job seeker when at least somebody that works there has actually seen their face.

duck jobs
Quickmeme

THIS TIME, I have been much less inclined to do that as I’ve been on the look out for less food and beverage related positions, and more ‘I’ll work any hour of the day for decent pay if you’ll hire me’ ones. Those being at airports, hotels, night-fill at supermarkets… I don’t mind being customer facing, just not for tedious roles with average hourly wages and unstable rostered shifts. I JUST NEED DAT MULLAH!

Another thing that really peeves me off is the ‘We’ll inform you of your application status as soon as possible’ statement. You know, they tell you that an email will be sent to you in 2-3 days regarding your success or failure in obtaining an interview. Do I want the email? Well I’d rather receive it in the promised 2-3 days if I don’t get a call back. However, not getting the email leaves me with the hope that my name is in contention for the job, in which case, I’m happy to wait in hope for another week with the odd chance that one of your recruitment members has actually viewed, maybe even recommended me! But that’s just wishful thinking of course. I’ll take the rejection email to go, thanks.

spongebob job reply
Quickmeme

So… I guess what I’m saying is: Anybody reading this in the Perth Metro Area, please give me a job!!

Oh but rather one that doesn’t involve wiping old people’s arses, cancelled shifts within an hour of work, being sent home because it’s raining, minimal parking or public transport options, unfriendly staff, an excessive amount of conscious thought…

Uhh yeah so really anything available I’ll take, k thanks.