Like Melbourne, Sydney Is Just Not for Me

I was so crazy stupid happy. I met a boy. A great, sweet, gorgeous, cool-ass guy.

I’ve spent three weekends together with him; this Saturday will be the fourth. But we’re not gonna make it to the fifth as I’m leaving Sydney for good.

You didn’t just misread that. Yes, I decided to move elsewhere after being here only for 6 weeks, way sooner than I planned. Why? Because things don’t go as expected. Just like Melbourne, living in Sydney doesn’t really work out for me.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s still pretty as fuck. From my traveling perspective, Sydney is still my most favorite city in the world. And Melbourne is still a very chic city I’ll always want to go back. But it’s different when you have to make a life and a living there.

Last year in Melbourne I was lonely. And underpaid. Both my social & working life didn’t go well, plus all adaptation shit & cultural shock I had to deal with. I met countless new people on my first month in Australia. However, all of them had no intention to make new friends, especially because I’d gonna be in Australia for one year only. They preferred to stick with their old friends and ignore my existence. And my shitty Indian boss, he paid me below the minimum wage. It was also impossible to find a better job, hence I had no more reason to stay there although at the moment I was seeing a real good man.

Now in Sydney the same loneliness strikes again, even worse than in Melbourne. In Melbourne at least I could have some good conversations with the people, but not here in Sydney. Because the people don’t really speak English. I’m not shitting you, it’s serious.

I used to work at a café in the city for a week. Beside the small pay, I left that job also because it’s fucking hard to speak with my fellow waiters (they’re from Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan), both professionally and personally. Even the girl from South Korea has been in Sydney for half a decade, she’s an Australian citizen now. When we gave instruction to each other, I had to struggle. And I work not only to earn cash, but also to make friends. But it’s impossible to make friends with people who don’t even know what you’re talking about.

I got hired by a hotel’s housekeeping team. At first I thought, “Hey they have 20+ room attendants, I bet at least half of them can speak English.” But no, I was wrong. They’re even worse than my coworkers at the café. They’re mostly from Thailand, China, France, Spain, and Chile. I actually don’t want to judge people by their English ability, but frankly it kills me. On our break or after work, I had zero conversation with them. Chance to make friends = zero.

I live with five other people in my flat. They’re very nice, but it’s also difficult to get myself close to them as three of them start working at 5 am in the morning (hence they must go to bed verryyy early), and the other two work night shift. So basically when I get home around 7 pm, I can only say “hi” to my friends who are going to bed soon, and “see you” to those who are off to work. They stay at home on Sundays, but I don’t.

So yeah, it gets lonely. The fascinating city turns to be boring as I can’t speak to anyone. I only have one friend, a high school mate, who’s been living in Sydney for 11 years. She works at a takeaway coffee shop in the University of Sydney. Sometimes I visit her if I have my afternoon off, but of course I can’t do it everyday. I can’t hangout with only one person until the next five months.

And speaking about the boy I mentioned in the beginning of this article, he’s not a Sydneysider. He lives in a small town two hours from Sydney, therefore I can only see him once a week when he’s not busy. That’s also not enough for me. But I had to think twice before hunting for another job in other cities, because a part of me doesn’t want to leave him.

Based on my experience, small towns are friendlier than big cities. It was so easy to make friends with people in small towns because: 1) they’re all Australians who speak English (although the accent is weird), and 2) they’re more open to new people coming to the town. I made good friends in Cowes (Phillip Island), Launceston (Tasmania), and even when I lived in a rural farming town in Queensland. Aannndddd… small towns pay better too. When I was in Queensland I earned twice than what I earn in Sydney right now, with less working hours!

Last weekend, the God of Luck played his magic wand on me. After sending my resume & alcohol serving certification and doing a phone interview, I got a new job! It’s a very well-paid job (in fact, the highest-paid job in my life!) as a kitchen hand & bar staff at a roadhouse*) in a small mining town in the north of Perth. Yup, I’m moving to Western Australia next week! The better news: they provide cheap accommodation & meals for the staffs. That means my chance to make friends with fellow staffs is higher (I have made sure, they speak English), and I can save up more money for my big plan after leaving Australia at the end of this year!

So now I reallyyy hope this new place will work just fine for me. I’m excited to embark on a new journey. Adiós, Sydney!

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Til I see you again, beautiful!

*) in case you’re not familiar with roadhouse, it’s like a rest area by the highway. Truck drivers and road travelers go there to refuel their car at the gas station, eat/drink at the restaurant/bar, or take a rest at the motel room.

Some Joys I Found on the Island

In 2014, I had the most beautiful December in my life. It was snowing in Warsaw when I headed to a small town in East Poland named Lublin. A beautiful family hosted me in their snow-covered house, gave me some warmth I needed in the -7 degree weather. Snow was also falling from Berlin’s sky when my friend and I went downtown at night, and it was all white when her lovely family took me on a city tour in the morning after.

One year later (read: last month), I was “trapped” in a hot December in Australia. Without the snow and real Christmas ambiance, I was afraid I’d have a dull holiday season. So I decided to quit my job in Melbourne and travel somewhere else where I could have a “home” and “family” to celebrate Christmas with. And I have to admit, I missed having a home. So I browsed HelpX, a website that enables people to exchange helps, to find what I wanted. I sent a request to Serena Cabello, a taco shop owner in Phillip Island, only 2.5 hours from Melbourne. Just a few hours after the message was sent, she replied and said yes. So we made the deal: she’d host me for two weeks and I’d work for her at the shop. I was so happy.

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So this is Phillip Island

On December 21 I took a bus to Cowes, a beach town on the island where Serena lives with her husband Alex and their kids Chili (8) & Marley (5). I love this family at the first sight. Serena is really friendly. Chili and Marley are really sweet and not annoying at all (that’s very important). And Alex is a kind of guy you want to hangout with. And oh, did I mention that they hosted me in their glamping tent? Glamping stands for glamorous camping, and they set the tent up in their backyard for me. When I arrived Serena brought me to my tent, and it was awesome. They provided me with a comfortable bed, table lamp & electricity power, heater & fan, cutlery, towel & beach towel, and ice box. It was just like a hotel inside the tent, and it’s also part of their businesses. Last year they started Phillip Island Glamping where people can hire that kind of luxurious tent for their holiday on the island.

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My tent featuring the sound of native birds and waves from the beach

I love my tent. I also love their warm home. They didn’t treat me like a stranger at all. They shared every food they had. They brought me to see some awesome spots at the island and meet their lovely friends. I couldn’t ask for a better homestay family. On December 25, Serena and Alex invited me to their table to have a Christmas feast together. We had leg ham, prawns, crabs, oysters, salmon, and some other delicacies. Not only foods, we also shared stories and laughter. Even though there was no snow outside the house, that was a perfect Christmas celebration.

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Christmas feast with the Cabellos

The day after Christmas I started working effectively at Gidget’s Beach Cantina, their lovely taco shop. It’s a do-it-yourself Mexican food shop where they customer can take any toppings they want from the salad bar for their taco/nachos/burger. My duty was to take order from customers, handle the payment, make margarita, grill the quesadilla, serve nachos with a beautiful melted cheese sauce, warm up the tortillas and serves them. It was the most fun job I’ve ever had in my life! It was stress-free, because most people who came there were on holiday vibe: casual, laid-back, and friendly. Alex & Serena are the best working partners ever. They’re not bossy, and didn’t get mad when I forgot to charge $2 extra for a guacamole order or burned the quesadilla

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The taco shop and its interior

And I was so in love with the shop’s design. The color is blue, very me. They put some cool Mexican details in the shop, such as Mexican spices in big jars, Mexican cooking book, sombrero, and of course the happy Latin music. It didn’t feel like working at all. Everytime I had to go to the shop I was always happy because it felt like another kind of holiday.

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And the taco is beautiful!

Phillip Island itself is a really beautiful place. Surrounded by spectacular coastal lines, the view is just awesome. I love the beaches, especially Flynns Beach because it’s clean and quiet. The town center is also charming although it’s really small (I didn’t get tired by walking all around the town). More photos of the island: THE PHOTOGENIC PHILLIP.

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The Nobbies, a must-visit place on the island

My most favorite place on the island is absolutely The Nobbies, one of coastal lines that has hills, walking trail with beautiful views, and some stunning rocks. The water color was ridiculously blue, breathtaking! I went there not with Cabello family, but Philipp Kautner, a new German friend of mine that I met during my travel in Australia. He drove me all around the island, and we were fascinated by most views we saw. I think the Nobbies was his favorite too. We also went to an island called Churchill, and it was also pretty awesome. Unfortunately the flies were really annoying, we just couldn’t stand it when they flew on our face, earlobe, and lips. Ew.

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Heritage farm at Churchill Island

I was also glad that I spent time with Philipp on the island. I’ve been wanting to visit conflict area Pakistan, Afghanistan, or tak a road trip across African countries, but none of people I know wants to be my travel partner. I’m not confident to go by myself. Luckily when Philipp and I drove somewhere that afternoon, we talked about it and it turned out that he also has the same interest! And I can see someday we’ll travel there together.

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Fun under the sun

Basically, everything that I experienced on the island was amazing. Every food was perfect, and every person I met was beautiful. That’s why it was so sad for me when bidding farewell to the Cabellos. Serena even wept. I didn’t wanna look at Chili & Marley’s eyes because I was afraid I’d cry. But happiness was way greater than my sadness. Now I feel I have a family in Australia that opens their door for me anytime I want to come. I didn’t know how to thank them for this. I promise one day I’ll be back to Phillip Island to collect every piece of memory I left there.

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My new best friends on the island: Chili (left) and Marley (middle).

 

The Majestic Ocean Road

Because “great” isn’t enough to describe these places…

I took a three-day trip to visit five most beautiful spots across The Great Ocean Road and see countless (literally) breathtaking views along the way. I captured hundred photos, but these are the top 21.

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The Twelve Apostles, the most famous attraction (but not my most favorite)

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Selfie with one of the apostles

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Actually, there are only 7 apostles. Not 12. But who cares?

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“Two Survivors” at Loch Ard Gorge, only five minutes from The Twelve Apostles

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An awesome secluded beach at Loch Ard Gorge

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I stayed two nights in Port Campbell, a charming small town near all the attractions.

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Lovely park by the beach in Port Campbell.

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From Port Campbell Discovery Walk, you can see the town from above

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Port Campbell Beach

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The edge of Port Campbell.

I mostly walk from one place from another, to admire the beauty...

I mostly walk from one place from another, to admire the beauty…

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It took me 90 minutes to walk from one place to another…

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…but I hitchhike when I had my feet sore.

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London Bridge, but not in London. It used to be a long rock bridge there, but it collapsed in 2011.

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But it still looks pretty, right?

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Everything looks pretty here.

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I followed an undesignated walking trail between bushes…

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…then I arrived at this hidden paradise where no one was there!

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Another fantastic spot, at The Grotto.

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Stairway to heaven at The Grotto.

PS: None of these pics was photoshopped/filtered/edited. Scary!

My Life as a Frankie

Last week when I had my job trial at a BBQ joint (and got rejected), the manager named me Frankie because “Fikar” was too hard to say for most people here. I kinda agreed with her, because everytime I said my name people were like, “Pardon?”

I’m tired of that, so I think Frankie would be a perfect name. Now many people don’t know my real name, including my new bosses. Uh ya, I (finally) got a job! It’s at a Mediterranean restaurant & bar in Northcote, 25 minutes from the city by tram. The menu’s dominated by Spanish & Italian foods, alongside some cuisines from Greece, Cyprus, and Morocco. Owned by an Indian guy & a Vietnamese lady. My other fellow waiters are pretty cool, so I think I’ll love working there.

First Day at Work

My first day at work was last Friday, and to be really honest… I wanted to quit at the fourth hour. Not that I don’t like the place, the job, or the bosses, but I was asked to do something I had never done in my life:

  • change light bulbs on a high ceiling;
  • lift some motherfucking-heavy gas tubes;
  • clean up a super messy warehouse room;
  • vacuum a very dusty sofa; and
  • mop the whole floor & backyard.

I was shocked at the beginning, but thankfully everything went well even though the situation was kind of hectic. I just tried to remember why I was there in the first place. I craved for this job; so now I have to do it to feed my mouth and pay the bills. Things got better after everything was all set. I helped Tobi, a German guy who works as a bartender, at the bar to serve the drinks, clean the table, and wash the glasses. He taught me some stuffs about making simple drinks. I also helped to take orders, serve the foods, and handle the payment. I enjoyed that kind of job more, and to be really honest… I was happy doing that! I liked talking to people, pouring the water while introducing myself, and taking their dirty dishes after knowing that they loved the foods.

Second Day at Work

Last Saturday I finished working at 00.30. It was a 8.5-hours of washing & polishing hundred of glasses, aaannd… hosting a very lovely birthday function!

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Table decoration for the birthday function

Two Sri Lankan (I think) ladies conducted a birthday party for their 80-years-old father. I was responsible for two long tables, including the birthday guy’s one. I welcomed them, took the order, served the foods, cleaned up the tables, and being nice and smiley all the time. I also managed to memorize 17 different beer & cider brands, plus some wines and their taste characteristic to prepare myself if they ask me something about the drinks. Everything went perfect (I didn’t break or drop anything, just in case you’re wondering), except one of the guest’s medium-rare steak that turned to be a well-done. I don’t know whose fault was that, could be me or the cook.

They were happy with the foods & service! After everybody went home, the ladies and their gentlemen stayed for more drinks and dances. They grabbed me from my dish washing machine and asked me dance together, from Destiny’s Child’s “Bootylicious”, Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive”, until David Guetta & Sia’s “Titanium”. Together with them, I also had a drink with my bosses and some fellow waiters. That made my second day way better than the first one, even though my bones still felt like falling apart. But thank God I got a box of pepperoni pizza (staffs get free meal after work), so I had a reason not to whine.

Third Day at Work

It was today. Actually the restaurant is closed until this Thursday for a renovation and management change. I was asked to come to help them with the preparation (read: cleaning up everything and moving things from front to back, and from upstairs to downstairs).

My masterpiece

My masterpiece

Surprisingly, I liked what I did. That involved plates wrapping & unwrapping, cleaning up the super huge garbage, “taking care” of the rotten foods, arranging the storage room, and brushing a giant ice box. It felt so productive, and I hope what I did helped them. I really can’t wait to “reopen” the restaurant this Friday with the new concept and menu (that means I have to memorize them, haha). My boss said this Thursday there will a party for the employees, so I’m excited about that!


Beside working my ass off at the restaurant, I also still manage my “old hobby” to hangout from one restaurant to another. I have visited some of them in Melbourne, and already decided my favorites. I really love Le Bon Ton, a BBQ joint in Collingwood area. Correct, this is where I had my job trial and was called Frankie for the first time. Yesterday I went there with my friend, and it was (literally) a happy meal. Nicole, the manager, welcomed me back to the restaurant, but this time as a real customer. We had Texas chili fries with a really sharp cheddar sauce, buttermilk fried chicken (crispy outside, moist inside), and its famous tender angus beef. It was my best dining experience in Melbourne, I think.

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Damn, I’m hungry again! Damn, Le Bon Ton!

I also love Green Refectory, a café in Brunswick East. It sells cheap pies and desserts, all around $3-4. Crazy, right? And they’re all delicious. I’ve been there three times, and my favorite is its steak and cheese pie. Next time I go there, I have to try the dessert, from muffins to huge slices of tart.

Pretty spot at Green Refectory

Pretty spot at Green Refectory

Speaking about desserts, Pidapipo Gelateria is the answer of everything. It was only $4 (single scoop, same price as regular ice creams at 7-Eleven) or $6 (double scoop). It has both dairy and non-dairy gelato. A must-visit place if you’re here!

Sweet!

Sweet!

Why the Fuck Did I Take This Trip?

I asked that question to myself when I arrived in Melbourne, earlier this morning. I felt strange. This is my first time being away from Indonesia without knowing when to return. So that was how it felt to fly with a one-way ticket. Exciting and scary at the same time. Scary? Yes, scary. “Leaving everything behind” sounded easy at the beginning; but no, now it feels so hard. I just realized, I gave up my job, family, and friends for nothing here.

How if I don’t get any job? Should I return to my mom’s house? My friends will hang out with their other friends; how if they forget me? How if no one wants to be friends with me here? How if… how if?

My world turns upside down after that six-hour flight. It felt so silent. No one speaks my language. No one speaks to me. I have to do everything on my own now. The streets are full of strangers. I know it’s going to be difficult. Why did I take this trip? Why am I being such an ass by challenging myself with this kind of shit? After I stopped calling Indonesia as my home, I’m technically homeless now. So this is the feeling of not having a place called home. And I can’t afford any studio apartment in this city.

My first random shot in Melbourne

My first random shot in Melbourne

I decided to stay at a backpacker hostel, way cheaper than apartment. I didn’t really read the accommodation description when I booked it. I just picked the cheapest I could get: St. Kilda Beach House for AU$24/night. So when Kim, the friendly receptionist, told me what I’d get in this hostel, I was kinda shocked.

I have a huge kitchen where I can storage my foods and cook there, free breakfast, free pancakes on Wednesdays, free luggage storage, WiFi (of course), and discount at its public bar. The bar is awesome! I can get $5 pizza every Monday-Wednesday, trivia games on Mondays, free comedy night on Tuesdays, poker night on Wednesdays, aannndddd… party on Fridays with $5 wine, $15 jug, and free BBQ!

The bartender, Emily, is such a cool girl. She’s Canadian. Bubbly and friendly; and she holds the same work visa like mine. I had a brief chat with her while enjoying my lasagna and beer this afternoon; about how she found the job and some employment advises for me. How this hostel treated me made me feel way better. There’s a hope I can call this place my home, be friends with people like Kim, Emily, and fellow backpackers.

Emily and the awesome bar!

Emily and the awesome bar!

Anyway I share my room with three girls: one from England, two from Germany. The English one, Charlotte, also holds the same visa like mine and Emily’s. We haven’t talked much, but maybe tomorrow I’ll ask her about how she got the job, the salary, and everything I need to know. She looks nice, but very tired. That’s why I didn’t want to bother her with my questions.

And oh, tomorrow I’m gonna have my very first job interview! A Sri Lankan F&B business needs a waiter, and I applied. The owner contacted me via WhatsApp and asked if I could come to her office. If I get the job, maybe I will feel less insecure, more confident. Yeah, I know it’s just a matter of time. I have to adjust so many things, and that takes time.

One of the adjustments I have to make is the weather. Today I learned a very important lesson, that I can experience FOUR different seasons in ONE same day! This morning when waiting for my airport shuttle, I definitely could feel the summer heat. I was a lil bit sweaty. After having a chat with Emily, I walked down to the beach in my thin T-shirt and shorts, confidently. But oh, it was a bit windy and cold.

After spending 10 minutes at the beach, my hands froze! It got colder and colder, I finally gave up and walked back to my hostel… while hugging myself. I’ve been spending the last 4 hours under my thick blanket, writing this blog post. I even cancelled my laser tag appointment with some people from Melbourne’s CouchSurfing Community, because the forecast said tonight’s gonna be showery and the temperature may even drop to 11 degrees. Crazy!

This is how my neighborhood looks like

This is how my neighborhood looks like

Thank God I bring my autumn jacket and winter coat, so tomorrow I’ll be ready to face its bitchy weather. Wish me luck!