Sunday, 9 June 2013

Handling the Truth with Wine

Let me dispel several misconceptions about the big move to See The Wizard. Ireland is currently a land with a young and educated  albeit jobless populace. This is due to the infamous Recession. The Recession is not merely a period of economic decline in Ireland - it is an all-consuming, depressive cloud of misery that has infected the inhabitants of my beloved emerald isle, rendering most of them penniless and lacking in alternative conversation topics. To me, it was the perfect excuse to explain my lack of job. It's not that I didn't apply for jobs - I did. I just failed to apply for the jobs that pertained to my recently acquired degree, or jobs that were considered remotely reputable.
In short, I did nothing note-worthy after college and had to bail because bumping into the people who thought I'd be a success and repeatedly explaining that I couldn't be arsed becoming a success was getting increasingly tedious. Well, that and the fact that I wanted to see more of the world, or whatever nonsense us twenty-somethings spout these days.
Australia was the new land of opportunity. Everyone knew someone from down the road who'd hopped on a plane and become a millionaire overnight; someone who's homecoming was a spectacle of prosperity and triumph; someone with disposable income and a glorious tan. Naturally, I assumed I would return like all these other friends-of-a-friend - a fanfare announcing my arrival, my person newly bronzed and beautiful, astride a gleaming white unicorn, leaden down with chests of gold coins, backside visibly shrunken. Just the usual emigration-related dreams, I guess.
How life actually unfolded down under was rather different. I mentioned my pathetic phone interview in the cubicle at the Aquarium? Well, it seems this "consultation" was quiet the appropriate prerequisite to my career at Urban Deli. My boss was a bald Rastafarian wannabe, with a penchant for squeezing his female employees in inappropriate places and an unhealthy obsession with Bob Marley. He was running the cafe with his friend/manager/mistress Sappy, whose frequent emotional breakdowns were apparently par for the course according to the other workers. Boss and Sappy had a very peculiar relationship - though Boss had a long-term partner and two children, Sappy evidently had something else he needed and their habitual retreats to the coat room during the work day were long and strictly uninterrupted. One minute they were pawing at each other like hormonal teenagers, the next Sappy was screaming and sobbing, and Boss was turning up the volume on "No Woman, No Cry".
Every day, I waited tables and avoided Boss and Sappy's rip roaring rows. I tried my best to be the best waitress ever but I was incredibly bad at it, what with my natural clumsiness and utter hatred for the job. There one year in total, I witnessed an entire staff turnover before I left. Though the money was amazing by Irish standards, the Australian cost of living was exorbitant and I saved exactly nothing in all my full time employment there.
I applied for better jobs, but was rejected on the grounds of my visa. My non-residency seriously depleted my options - it was either cafe work or nothing. It seemed to me that the only people who could make a real killing were the tradesmen. Unfortunately, my laughable degree in English and philosophy didn't exactly qualify me in that category. And so hospitality it was, and still remains.
Though we wanted to travel, we also wanted to save some money. The Boyfriend was particularly intent on avoiding a return to Ireland in rags, and so we worked constantly and took no time off. As a working holiday visa holder, I was unable to work for more than six months in one job. To avoid this, one must go off the books and consequently lose all ones rights.
To get another years visa to stay in Australia we were required to complete 88 days of regional work. I tried to put a brave face on it, declaring the thoughts of picking fruits among snakes a delightful new experience, but inside I was dreading it.We spent our weekends and our money in pubs with Cali Gurrrl and Beanie Face. We lived in a mediocre house for extortionate rent and the dream that was supposedly Australia was growing more nightmarish by the day.
Oh, and I forgot to mention the constant rain. Melbourne is pretty beautiful and interesting and all that, but we arrived to eight months of constant and heavy rain, coming straight from an Irish winter into an annoyingly similar winter here.
The mythic splendour of life down under is just that - a myth. To make it here, you have to be willing to work hard and to do pretty much anything to get there. It's cut-throat for those who don't have a specific profession. And even at that, a lot of people have to go through refresher courses because their qualification is not recognised in that particular Australian state. Of course, these courses come attached to thousands of dollars worth of fees to us non-nationals. It's an arduous journey, and our venture to See The Wizard was slowly disillusioning our young minds. Thankfully, I've always been cynical and horrible, but The Boyfriend deserved more.
Then, The Boyfriend's company then gave us some unexpected good news. They were so impressed with his prowess and work ethic that they were willing to look into sponsoring him, thereby allowing us to stay in the country for a further four years, with potential for permanent residency if we got lucky. It meant we could avoid the regional work, and get a nice house by the beach some day just for the both of us. We agreed and the process began.
It was probably the hardest thing we ever had to do, and it only got worse.
But never fear - this all happened after the $2 bottles of wine discovery. So we don't even remember how bad it really was.

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