On Australian Values And Working On The Mine

My series ‘Mine Camp Diaries‘ is over, but there’s still a lot to be said. (Very confused? Read the first Mine Camp Diary entry!) Here’s a non-academic, amateur assessment of Australian values. 

I was on a plane from Las Vegas to Houston when I first read about the quintessential Australian values. I flipped through the pages a book my mom picked up at Half Price Books. I can’t remember the exact title or author, but it was an informational and practical guide targeted at American audiences considering relocating to Australia. It covered the logistics and basics about health care and work culture. Reading briefly about the colonial history and favorite Aussie past times (drinking and footy, to name a few), I was especially interested in the section describing some of Australia’s core values.

In my experience, a nation’s core values often seem like gross exaggerations or stereotypes. At first they appear impossible, but with a closer look are unmistakably present in life in the country. It’s not always as in your face as a Wikipedia description might seem, but it’s there.

What I first dismissed as stereotypical characteristics that probably wouldn’t show up in daily life, I began to see demonstrated. It could very well have been a self-fulfilling prophecy. Or, it could be that analyses of Australian mainstream culture are accurate.

Disclaimer: This is a non-academic approach to describe a very complex topic. I oversimplify and perhaps am too dismissive of subtle yet important distinctions in the following national values. I aimed to provide a first-person experience as a foreigner interacting with these values.                                                                           

Fair Go

Fair go is a term that used as is in vernacular is still hard for me to understand. But the ideas behind it aren’t, and rather evident in the everyday. It means giving everyone an equal chance, no matter where they came from or who they are. Many immigrants to Australia were either convicts or destitute, crossing great distances to make a living. It’s of upmost importance to give everyone a shot to prove themselves.

On my first day on the job, I walked into the rec room at 7:28am. I was supposed to start at 7:30. Thinking that 7:28 was an appropriate time to arrive at work, I was surprised when everyone was already sitting in a circle, silent, waiting for the morning meeting to start. They had already signed in, signed the pre-start meeting form and done their breath-os.

“Ah, the Yank, coming in a bit late but it’s her first day,” my boss announced as I walked in. “But it’s 7:28!” I said, wondering what all the fuss was about. I was not late. I looked around and everyone was silent. My boss didn’t respond. She stared at me. “Oh, shit, I’m sorry I didn’t realize how sassy that sounded,” I said, embarrassed.

Everyone laughed at me and I sat down. I was wondering when I was going to learn to think before I speak. I made a fool out of myself on the first day, but no one held it against me. They gave me a “fair go,” an opportunity to redeem myself despite my wrongdoings. Even so, that didn’t mean that it wasn’t a favorite way for them to take the piss out of me for the next three months. I heard that story repeated many times to all the new people who came in. If someone was late, someone in the audience would shout “Don’t worry, the yank’s always late, too!”

Mateship

Usually describing the strong bonds between males and said to describe loyalty, equality and friendship, mateship has been criticized by some for helping to create the strong homophobic culture in Australia. Having roots in the early colonial period, newcomers were forced to give each other a hand to survive. This tradition has carried on, and you can see strangers helping each other out in every sense.

A very obvious example of mateship is the way Australians refer to each other as “mate” no matter how close or far their social distance. Putting everyone on the same level socially, the convicts are said to have referred to their jailers as “mate.”  There are also more subtle ways of showing equality and solidarity. I witnessed several acts of kindness in Australia that created a sense of togetherness. On one occasion, I was especially touched (figuratively, of course) by a man on a Melbourne tram who helped a drugged-up man come to when he was being kicked off.

On the mine, when people sensed my confusion or inability to do something, they would immediately jump in explain or show me how it should be done. They did, of course, make fun of me for it relentlessly, but nevertheless they wanted me to know that I wasn’t going at it alone.

Love of the underdog

Love of the underdog is something that I relate to wholeheartedly. I find myself naturally supporting the odd one out.

Coincidentally, this is one of the fundamental values Australians hold is to cheer on the underdog. Be it a sports team, the last runner in the race or the one who failed the test, someone always wants to root for the least likely to succeed. Related to the previous point about mateship, Australians at the mine enjoyed that I was clueless at my job. While, as I’ve already emphasized, they loved to point out my flaws, they also expressed their desire for me to succeed. They didn’t want to see me fail. They did what they could to root me on, to watch me improve and to show their support, verbally and with actions.

Tall poppy syndrome

My first day cleaning the mine site, it was just Martha and I, figuring things out on our own. Even though the mine site and its employees are considered this company’s “client,” the people there didn’t shy away from helping us out. In a subtle informality, one of the superintendents of a department caught us and said, “Look, if you’re not doing what you’re supposed to I won’t tell on you. But just watch out for some of these other blokes.” By these “other blokes” he referred to people who were tattle-tales. Narcs. The ones who defied mateship and sought approval from authority. In other words, people to be shamed.

A few weeks later, I was back at the mine, this time just Rebecca and I. Martha is a very good worker. Yeah, she might get her panties all bunched up sometimes, but she works hard and does things with integrity which was something I really respected about her. On the other hand, Rebecca, although well meaning, lets her personal life interfere with her performance on the job. I would much rather work with Martha than Rebecca. During one of Rebecca’s sessions where she complained about the day shift workers – i.e., Martha, not doing their job right, I corrected her. “No, Rebecca, I worked with Martha and I promise, she always does an excellent job and it’s really important for her to take pride in her work,” I said. “Yes, I know,” she said, distrustful, “Sometimes too much…”

Too much, so that she stood out as a good worker. Too much that she cozied up to management and became their friends. Just too much.

Throughout my weeks at the mine, I got the overwhelming sense that the real enemy is out there, and its authority. Anyone who sticks their head over the masses and cozies up to authority is not to be trusted. In doing too good of a job, Martha stuck out amongst the rest and threatened their equality and loyalty.


Featured photo: Lipton tea, taken at the jumping crocodile cruise at Adelaide River

What You Need To Know About Claiming Back Taxes And Super After An Australian Working Holiday Visa

I normally don’t write how-to posts like this, but since struggled in this process I believed it was important for someone on the internet to search for and find.

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You’ll need that money if you get your car stuck in the sand like this.

Foreigners working in Australia on a Working Holiday Maker Visa (subclass 417 and 462) are ‘residents for tax purposes’ and eligible to claim back superannuation and taxes (note that as of 1 January 2017, the first $37,000 earned will be taxed at 15%).

When I filed for my tax return in Australia in June, I got money back within a week. Now, after leaving Australia and filing for my tax return, it’s a completely different story. It’s not the quick turnaround I banked on. If you’re leaving Australia before the end of the fiscal year and you want to claim back taxes, don’t plan on getting it back quickly. Claiming superannuation was another obstacle. Make sure that even though you’ve left you haven’t lost track of any crucial information, such as your tax file number (TFN), Australian bank details, all previous Australian residential addresses and login details for online super and banking.

Below are some tips to making your process less stressful. But first: Here’s the key to getting back a ton of money after your working holiday visa:

DO NOT WORK CASH-IN-HAND.

It might seem tempting and it might seem like the best option at the time, but working cash in hand means that more likely than not your employers are cheating you while cheating the system. They’re not paying taxes which does nothing to help you, because  you don’t have to pay taxes! (at least not prior to 2017) This also means they are not paying into your superannuation, which you are also eligible to claim back.

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This describes the process to getting all that $$$$.

LODGING YOUR TAX RETURN

The most important thing to note here is that this process takes time if you do it before the end of the fiscal year, so don’t expect to get your money back quickly.

Here’s what you need to do:

1. Collect payment summaries from all of your employers. Sometimes they will resist (most frustratingly, Hays Recruitment), so if they do print out every pay slip you received.

2. Read this from the Australian Taxation Office (ATO). Make sure you fulfill the requirements to lodge your tax return early, which for those on WHM visas means you’ve left the country, your visa has been cancelled or is expired, and you will no longer receive income from Australia. Note that you have to mail in your paperwork if you lodge it early. It cannot be done electronically.

3.Download and print the tax return for individuals form for the appropriate year. To lodge mine this year, I downloaded the most recent, which was from 2016, and crossed out 2016 and wrote 2017 on every page. Nailed it!

FINALLY: Collect all your payment information paperwork and with your tax return form (#3), mail it to Australia. If you are mailing it from abroad (which you probably will be), address it to:

Australian Taxation Office
GPO Box 9845
Sydney NSW 2001, Australia 

Now,  all you have to do is wait. The ATO says it will take up to five weeks.

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Maybe you worked in a cafe like this one in Alice Springs. 

CLAIMING SUPERANNUATION

Also known as ‘departing Australia superannuation payment’ (DASP). Claiming DASP seems simple, until you realized that the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) is giving you a headache. That’s right, they’re a pain in the ass. Even though you may have left Australia four months ago and your visa has expired, you still have to cancel your visa before you’ll get your DASP. In fact, they won’t even let you submit your application for DASP before the DIBP clears you a runaway. (I only found this out after a week of confusion and finally messaging the ATO on Twitter.) So here’s how to do it:

1. Email Super Hobart (super.hobart@border.gov.au) with the following information:

  1. a clear statement that you wish to have your temporary visa cancelled,
  2. your full name and date of birth (and those of all people who hold a visa because they are a member of your family unit, or hold a visa only because you hold your visa.),
  3. passport number when you visited Australia,
  4. subclass of the temporary visa you wish to have cancelled,
  5. current residential address,
  6. the date that you departed Australia.

Note that this process can take up to five weeks. Once this process has been cleared, you can complete your DASP application, or if you’ve already completed it, finally submit it.

2. Read the DASP application instructions on the ATO website.

3. Complete the online DASP application.

Now,all you have to do is….

WAIT.

Have you claimed your taxes and DASP after a Working Holiday Visa? How did it go?


Featured photo: Degraves Espresso, on Degraves Street in Melbourne’s CBD.

 

 

Read These Books & Watch These Movies Before You Travel To Australia

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AUSTRALIA


The country-continent Australia may only have a population of 23 million (compared to the U.S.’s 318 million), but it is one of the most multicultural countries in the world. Films and books are an ideal way to begin to understand the history and society of this grog guzzling, coffee-obsessed, friendly country, even before you embark on your trip. This is absolutely not an exhaustive list, but I chose some of the most informative and entertaining for me. I’ve put an * on my favorites.

Film/TV

*Tracks A 2013 film starring Mia Wasikowska and Adam Driver based on Robyn Davidson’s memoir Tracks. The film follows the story of a young woman who treks solo through the Australian outback in 1977, where she confronts physical as well as emotional challenges. This film is not only one of the  most aesthetically beautiful works of art, but gives the viewer an understanding of the dangers, distance and isolation of the outback. Robyn has to handle sexism, a changing tourism industry and the wisdom of local indigenous people she comes across.

Red Dog A friend at the mine told me, “Everything you need to know about the Pilbara, you can learn by watching Red Dog.” While I do think this may be somewhat of an exaggeration, this 2011 film will inform you about the 20th century European immigration,  the mining industry and the inhospitable region of Western Australia, all while making you laugh and cry.

Russell Coight’s All Aussie Adventures This 2001-2 mockumentary series starring Glenn Robbins was also recommended to me while working at the mine. The hilarious take on the travel genre gives viewers insight into the outback and Australian slang and humor.

The Castle This 1997 comedy focuses on one family who is faced with the threat of being kicked off their property. Viewers get an understanding of some of the most quintessential Australian values, including supporting the underdog. In 2010, 37% of Aussies chose this movie as representative of them.

Muriel’s Wedding Toni Collette’s first major role is of Muriel, an underappreciated girl in society and in her family. Muriel takes a journey from her home in Queensland to Sydney where she starts a new life and seeks to find the love her life. This movies gives a fictitious look at Queensland in the 90s.

*Prison Songs One of the best documentaries I’ve ever seen (no expert here, but it’s amazing), it’s not just a documentary but a musical documentary. The filmmakers capture the lives of the prisoners of Berrimah Prison in Northern Territory, mixing sad histories with comedic interpretations of their present circumstances. It takes viewers into the complications of being indigenous, highlighting domestic violence, identity, alcoholism and tradition.

*Stingray Sisters Stingray Sisters is a (very) recently released documentary series that follows three half-indigenous, half-white Australian sisters in the indigenous community of Maningrida, Arnhem Land, Northern Territory. The sisters showcase the confusions of having multiple identities and the grassroots struggle of modern day aboriginal land rights. Buy the series on their website. Trailer below.

Chasing Asylum Is a startling 2016 documentary that examines the Australian government’s treatment of asylum seekers trying to reach Australia. They are detained indefinitely on Australia’s offshore detention centers on Christmas, Nauru and Manus Islands. This is a film that anyone with interest in current migration issues needs to see.

Books

In A Sunburned Country, by Bill Bryson Bill Bryson shares his tales of traveling through Australia, giving insight into social issues, history and travel. This book is a great way to get overview of the Australian character

*Foreign Correspondence: A Pen Pal’s Journey From Down Under to All Over, by Geraldine Brooks A lovely memoir of Brooks’s journey from being a child in a working class neighborhood in Sydney and dreaming of exotic locations, to her adulthood as a foreign correspondent and reconnecting with her childhood pen pals. Brooks teaches her readers about working class Australian life and gives a first-person look at Australia’s changing cultural scene with the influx of European immigrants in the last half of the 20th century.

*Different White People: Radical Activism for Aboriginal Rights 1946-1972, by Deborah Wilson An adaptation of Wilson’s doctoral thesis, this dense (yet fascinatingly informative) recount of the aboriginal rights movement and its relationship to the communist party of Australia. This book teaches about Australian history, politics and aboriginal land rights through a rarely examined lens.

*Cloudstreet, by Tim Winton One of Winton’s most famous novels, Cloudstreet tells the story of two families during the span of 2o years, 1943-1963. These families, coming from rural and working class backgrounds, live through the end of the war and the transformation of post-war society in Perth. This novel teaches readers of fundamental Australian themes and Australian vernacular English while Winton writes in profoundly lyrical language. (Note from a non-literary critic: I love this book in part because it reminds of Latin American magical realism.)

*The Crocodile Hotel, by Julie Janson Anyone traveling or living in the Northern Territory or other primarily indigenous populated areas would be interested to understand the identity, marginalization and history of indigenous communities in colonized Australia discussed in this novel. The main character, a half-indigenous single mother, who by her appearance passes as a white Australian, leaves Sydney in the 1970s and accepts a teaching position in a remote aboriginal community hours from Katherine. There, she encounters disgusting racism and sexism, becomes involved in the land rights movement and faces intense personal struggles. This beautifully written novel gives so much inspiration to work to combat the issues we still encounter today.

Praise, by Andrew McGahan Reading Praise feels a bit like reading The Catcher in the Rye or even On the Road. Not much happens. There’s a lot of doing nothing. Of contemplating. Of taking drugs and feeling worthless. But that’s just the point. The book explains that the 1990s in Australia was “A time when the dole was easier to get than a job, when heroin was better known than ecstasy, and when ambition was the dirtiest of words. A time when, for two hopeless souls, sex and dependence were the only lifelines.” What I liked about reading this book was that even though it was written in the 1990s, I saw so many parallels between the attitude of the characters and some millennial Australians I met. It was like they were a misinterpreted version of relaxed Australian attitudes, that instead of being ‘chill’ formed into utterly lazy people.

Great Australian Ghost Stories, by Richard Davis This suggestion is coming from the unabashed ghost tour participant. These short stories are sometimes scary, sometimes boring but most of all historically interesting, giving readers a glimpse into Australian culture and colonial rhetoric. Especially interesting for those residing in Victoria and New South Wales, as many of the scary stories come from those states.

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As seen on my road trip from Brisbane to Cairns.

Are you Australian or lived in Australia? What books and films would you recommend to visitors? 


Featured photo: a tree with fabric hanging out of it, taken along the Red Center Way near King’s Canyon.

Want to learn more about Australia? Check out these resources for visiting or living in Melbourne:
where to learn something new,
websites to keep you up-to-date on what’s happening around the city, and
how to find feminist events.

Character Tuesday: The Happiest Yoga Instructor

I took my camera to Abbotsford Convent on afternoon last fall in Melbourne. Practicing photography with my friends, we sat down to eat at Lentils As Anything, a vegan, pay-what-you-can buffet restaurant. The staff, who are all volunteers, are all ages and backgrounds, but often backpackers dressed in colorful, vintage clothes.

One waiter (pictured above) saw me taking photos and, despite his busy shift, posed for several shots. He was from Japan, but I can’t remember his name. After he posed, he invited us to his weekly pay-what-you-can yoga class on the lawn in the same convent. He smiled calmly as he walked with a lightness in his step and made each person feel welcome in his space.

The next week, I went back for his yoga class. When I looked around for me, the other volunteers told me he was at an immigration appointment. The next week, I left Melbourne, so I never got to his class.

This post is part of weekly series titled Character Tuesday, where every Tuesday I bring you a story about (a) unique individual(s) I’ve encountered. Like I always say, life can be good or bad, but as long as it’s entertaining, that’s all you need. This series is meant to celebrate our quirks and idiosyncrasies.

 

Photo Friday: Toilet Signs Of The Outback: Stuart Highway

Toilets in the outback were few and far between. After all, often buildings and people were few and far between. When they did come along, though, the toilets signs we saw had personality. With the exception of bathrooms around Uluru, the figures on the toilet signs were of white Australians, playing off of the ‘sheilas’ and ‘blokes’ theme. Maybe it was the image of the rough and tough outback explorer that sold well to the tourists, or maybe it was a deliberate political decision to ignore the original residents of those areas.

In northern Queensland, the toilet signs were typical.

Heading towards Alice Springs and Uluru, they began to gain more character.

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Going north towards Darwin, the toilet signs were more tourist-oriented.

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Interesting in other toilet signs? Check out toilet signs of Southeast Asia and the Camino de Santiago

Interested in other stories of the outback? Read about the best roadside pub barman, naughty signs in the outback, and how Erin escaped from the job from hell


Featured photo: toilet sign at Uluru, otherwise known as Ayers Rock.

Character Tuesday: A Phone Repair Man, A 1975 Date Stamp and A Lot Of Flirtation

Yasmine’s note: It’s been a long time since I’ve written my weekly post “Character Tuesday.” My three months at the mine filled me with so many personalities it was hard to keep track of, and even harder to imagine writing about them (but you can read overviews of them on the series Mine Camp Diaries). There was still one, a Filipino phone repairman, who stands out among the rest. Maybe it’s because I recently traveled to the Philippines, or maybe it’s because when I tried to escape the characters at the mine, I only found more back in Darwin. Against my will, Edward ended up being a fixture during those three months.

The first day I met him

People who live in Darwin say it has two seasons: hot and hotter. The first day I met Edward, it was still the hot season, but because I was so unused to being under the climatic fryer it felt much more intense than just ‘hot.’

I was temporarily living at Chili’s Backpackers, a hostel on Darwin’s main pub street, Mitchell Street. It was full of screaming, drunk British people and 18-year-old German girls who weren’t really sure what to do next in life. I was sitting in the open-air common room on the second floor when suddenly my phone went black. Nothing. Wouldn’t even turn on. I walked outside and a few feet away from Chili’s I saw a phone repair store.

I walked in and saw a short, scrawny Filipino man sitting at the desk. I explained to him my problem. He told me that my phone was still working, but the screen was broken. I noticed he was wearing camouflage army pants and a polo shirt as he spoke to me in perfect English, with only a hint of a Filipino accent.

He told me to sit down and started to test a few things to confirm that it was a broken screen. Other customers came in and out, and in between answering their questions he asked me some. When I told him I came from the U.S., he began to call me “Miss America,” a name that would carry through the remainder of our short working relationship. He stared at me while he looked at my phone, he was intrigued and very obviously enamored and didn’t stop at the small talk. He wanted to get straight to the core of who I was.

He started by asking me if I liked to go out, and motioned towards Monsoon’s, one of the most popular backpacker and military bars in town. Darwin has military bases for several countries, making it one of the most unbearable places to get drunk. You’re just trying to dance when an 18-year-old, 5’2” bald American tries to flirt with you by screaming into your eardrum over the pounding music. “Why don’t you find a German girl your own age,” I’m tempted to say.

Edward was still examining my phone when asked me if I liked movies. Asking someone if they like movies is a like asking if someone likes music, or if they like to eat. Of course. Even if someone isn’t a movie buff, they at least have a movie from their childhood that brings them good memories, or if they’re from the U.S. have probably watched movies socially.

“I like superman,” he said, “I can be your superman.” I laughed, unsure of what other kind of reaction a statement like that warrants. I could have said “thank you,” but that’s a bit too acknowledging of what he had to say.

“Give me a half hour and I’ll fix it, Miss America,” he said. “It’ll be $130 but if you decide now I’ll give you a discount.”

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“Everything is very expensive.” That’s how I feel about Edward’s phone repair prices. Photo taken in Spain in April 2015. 

“Okay, thanks,” I said, “I’ll be back in a bit.”

In his closing line before I walked out, he referred to himself again as “superman” and made some sort of comment that communicated he was my superman and could do anything for me. Thank you, because I needed one.

When I came back a half hour later, I was halfway nervous he had looked through all my photos. There wasn’t anything to be ashamed of, but it’s just weird. It’s like knowing someone robbed your house when you were asleep. I would know how creepy that is, because it’s happened to me.

If when I dropped off my phone Edward was hinting at romantic interest, when I picked it up, he was showing complete honesty.

“Let’s go see a movie together,” he said, “We both love movies.” Even though it still pains me to turn people down (I don’t like to hurt people’s feelings), I’ve had enough feminist education to know that dancing around the subject and saying “maybe” isn’t benefitting anyone.

“No, I don’t think I’m interested in that, but thank you,” I replied. That’s about as honest as I could muster.

He didn’t stop there, though, he tried a few different times and in a few different ways; Asking for my phone number, asking if I wanted to get drunk. As I was walking out, I said,“You know, Edward, I think I’d like to keep this a professional relationship.” And I politely smiled, waved, and left, noting to never return to that phone store again.

Round two

After the first time I met Edward, I didn’t think I’d ever see him again. Nor did I care to. I don’t like people that put you in positions where you are on edge but feel like you have to be nice.

But two weeks after, right after I came back from the mine, I was at Chili’s when my screen wasn’t working well. I can’t remember exactly what it was doing, but the color was off, it was blurry and I was mad I paid $120 (with the discount) for a broken screen.

I didn’t want to go back to Edward, but I had a warranty there. After all, he had told me he was my superman and anything I needed he would do. So I rolled my eyes and walked across the street to the phone repair store.

When I walked in, his face lit up. He was helping two European backpackers with a new phone case, and suddenly very aware of my presence. He suddenly looked frazzled. His movements became more jerky and his eyes were spinning every which way.

Maybe he thought I was finally interested. Maybe he thought I missed him. I could see his wonder growing by the minute as I stood near him, waiting for him to finish explaining the phone cases to them. The feeling of having people be affected by your presence is both an uncomfortable and ego-boosting feeling. Even though I only wanted to get my phone fixed and spend the rest of my day doing other things, like writing or researching, I couldn’t help but enjoy the sense of power his nervousness gave me.

He looked up at me: “Miss America,” he said. He looked back at the two girls he was helping. One of the girls said in a thick German accent,“But this is $40 and there’s no screen protector.”

He looked at her, and he looked at me, and he hesitated. Suddenly he barked, “Fine! I’ll give it to you for $30!” And he threw it down and grabbed the credit card machine.

Turning his attention to me, we began to go through same conversation as we always had. He asked me hopeful questions, wondering what I was up to and why had it been so long since I’d seen him. Changing the subject, I told him the problem and he told me to again come back in a half hour.

After I came back, he asked me out again, an invitation which I rejected, this time a bit more forceful than the previous. I walked out, but only a few feet out of the door I realized my phone said “August 27, 1975.” I grunted out loud and cursed Edward. He must have done this on purpose to lure me into his closet-sized, dodgy phone repair shop!

“Edward, what IS this!” I screamed as I walked through the door, “Why does it say it’s 1975!” He suggested I update my phone, log onto the WiFi, or change it myself manually. I challenged him, wondering why suddenly, after I visited him, that it just now changed. He tried to work on it. A few minutes later, he said he fixed it.

I walked out and read the time stamp “September 2025.” “UGH!” I screamed again, this time too frustrated to even try. I let it be, and now I  still have photos that say they were taken in 2025.

The Last and Final Time

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“The end has arrived.” Graffiti in Leon, Spain. Taken while walking the Camino de Santiago, June 2015. 

Three weeks after my phone decided it was 2025, it went black again. I was thoroughly dreading seeing him again. I surely could have gone to another phone repair shop, but I didn’t want to spend more money than necessary. I had already spent so much with Edward, and besides, I was trying to save  for my upcoming travels to the U.S. and Argentina.

When I walked towards Edward’s shop, I had a growing frustration radiating through my body. I was angry; angry that I felt like I had to be nice to this man who continually asked me out despite my rejections. I was angry that men are taught they have to be the saviors; that based on Hollywood movies, women really don’t know what they want – it just takes a bit of convincing and they’ll be yours. I was angry that Edward was nerdy and clueless, because he probably hadn’t had much luck with ladies before. The fact that he was so hopeful after  my standard politeness show his inexperience. I felt sorry for him. And worse that I was annoyed at him. Is it his fault that’s he’s a product of society?

I wasn’t just angry, but I was also dehydrated. I was tired. I had just gotten off of night shift and I was not in the mood. I didn’t have the physical or mental strength to handle the demands he required.

I walked in without a smile. I sat down and waited my turn.

“My phone’s broken again, Edward,” I said, quiet and direct.

“What’s wrong with you?” he said, “You look sad.”

I should have told him the truth right then. I should have told him that I wasn’t sad, I was just angry I had to be at his shop again and wondered why he persisted so much despite my best attempts to reject him.

I pride myself on being patient, but I had no patience for this man. Finally, after a few minutes, he sensed it. He didn’t smile. He didn’t call himself superman and he didn’t call me Miss America. I took my fixed phone and I walked out.

The next day, I left Darwin forever.


Featured photo: A graffiti seen near Burgos, Spain, on the Camino de Santiago. Seen in June 2016.

This post is part of weekly series titled Character Tuesday, where every Tuesday I bring you a story about (a) unique individual(s) I’ve encountered. Like I always say, life can be good or bad, but as long as it’s entertaining, that’s all you need. This series is meant to celebrate our quirks and idiosyncrasies.

Where To Continue Your Learning In Melbourne

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Sign originally featured in this post.

Long- term traveling makes me loose intellectual capacity and critical thinking skills. That’s a big issue if you consider the fact that I’ve been traveling for more than two years. Going from the demanding readings and essays of university to a different type of learning, I yearn for the “ah-ha” moments of critical analysis and experience of group learning.

I learned a lot at the mine, but it wasn’t the same sort of education I’m referring to. Sadly there was little opportunity in the middle of nowhere in Northern Territory, unlike in Melbourne.

If you’re on a working holiday in Melbourne, just visiting or living, may be looking for some intellectual stimulation. During my four months there on a working holiday visa, it was hard to motivate myself to expand my horizons only by reading and watching documentaries.

Luckily, Melbourne is a city full of innovation and ideas. Anything from art to music to film can be easily accessed throughout the city. I was grateful to find places that hosted the type of learning I missed. Whether you’re like me and love the classroom or are just looking for some extra inspiration, these centers or organizations offer workshops, lectures or weekly classes on a variety of subjects.

Some of the organizations and centers on this list overlap with those mentioned in my post about how get your feminist on in Melbourne

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Electrical box in Melbourne.

The Wheeler Center 

Born out of Melbourne’s declaration as a UNESCO City of Literature in 2008, The Wheeler Center is a center focused on writing and ideas. Aside from publishing videos and original writing they host hundreds of talks a year on subjects ranging from human rights to technology at location in the Melbourne CBD. Their free events fill up fast, so make sure to follow their calendar of events and reserve your spot quickly.

Can’t make it to a talk? Find them on social media, subscribe to their newsletter and subcribe to their podcasts for learning on the go.

Center for Adult Education (CAE)

Melbourne’s CAE offers accredited courses for adults to finish secondary education and certificates and diplomas. It also offers short courses on a number of subjects from the humanities to practical life skills. You can learn anything from Swedish, sewing or floristry for a relatively low cost. Courses can last anywhere from one day to a few months. 

Photoh 

If you’re interested in learning photography in a non-competitive, relaxed setting, Photoh offers individual or group classes and weekly photography workshops in Melbourne from seasoned photographers. I took May’s Photo Challenge of the Month photo on their workshop on storytelling.

Melbourne Free University

Started in 2010, Melbourne Free University provides a space and opportunity for anyone, no matter their income or education level, to learn and discuss from experts and researchers. Topics include anything from social issues around the globe to the international politics of weapons. The free uni offers some six week courses as well as one-off seminars. The best part about it? Unlike most university experiences, participants get to enjoy learning the information without stressing about their grades.

Libraries in the City of Melbourne

The City of Melbourne’s libraries aren’t just beautiful (see the branch in the Docklands) buildings with good coffee nearby and free Wi-Fi. The library also hosts mostly free events, including history outings, recurring book clubs, lectures and art exhibitions. Check out their “What’s On” section for the latest events and don’t forget to reserve your spot online.

The School of Life Melbourne 

The School of Life was first founded in London in 2008 and opened its Melbourne branch in 2014. A bookshop cafe and learning space, it scatters provocative question ideas around for the purpose of facilitating meaningful interactions, The School of Life writes. The space also hosts various lectures on “how-to’s,” such as their upcoming January 2017 lectures “How to Find A Job You Love” and “How to Have Better Conversations.” It’s academically minded, critical and unique approach to various life skills will inspire you to think differently about your life. The only downside to this center is its hefty attendance fees. Ouch, that hurts the budget traveler’s wallet.

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You first met this koala triste in this post.  Now she’s sad because she wants to learn so much!

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Do you live in Melbourne? What other places do you go to learn? Let me know and I’ll add it to the list.

Want to simply learn more about what there is to do in Melbourne? Check out these websites you should be reading.


Featured photo of my friend Erin (author of this post on escaping from the outback) and I in front of a mural on Hosier Lane, one of the most famous graffiti spots in the city. Don’t forget that, of course, the city itself is a great place to learn.