Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Back in Brisbane

It was a bit sad to leave the outback when we finally did. I'd been there 6 weeks in total and John and I felt a little like members of the family. I know I have been missing mine lately. It was also tied for the 4th longest I've been anywhere and more than any of the others had the feel of a proper home as well. Bit strange to leave that and head off to the total unknown yet again. John, David, Alex and I all caught the bus back to Brisbane together and ended up in the same hostel in the city centre. The Base Embassy Hostel is part of a chain of monstrosities that normally would not appeal to me but I didn't have a lot of choice. The good thing is that it is undergoing renovations so the beds are the cheapest in the city at $20/night. That's still brutal to me and my money won't last all that long at those rates.
It seems to be quite common in Australia for hostels to just hire backpackers to do odd jobs for a while as they come up and pay them in free nights. John, David and I immediately scored work helping the carpenters in the hostel and got our first few nights for free. Basically for every 2 hours of work around the hostel they give you a free night. So we moved furniture around and did a little house keeping as well. How politically incorrect would it be to say I feel like a Filipino or some other 3rd worlder by showing up in Australia with no money, got a job as a farm labourer and then switched to housekeeping right after? Not that that is a permanent gig anyway. The hostel is big with over 100 beds and most of them full. The problem with that is that the kitchen is just too frustrating to cook in with so many people using it all at once. My eating habits have quickly deteriorated and no doubt my weight as well.
I know this blog is going to sound on the negative side but now comes the part where I suffer the culture shock and city shock as well. With all the partying going on and being in a 6 bed dorm for the first time in 2 years I have not had a good night's sleep in the week I've been back. I had all sorts of errands to run and what with all the government offices moving around recently and the rules to follow I feel like the 1st world isn't any less hassle than the 3rd. It just takes a different form. Seeing police on bicycles deflating other people's bike tires because they aren't wearing a helmet, $100 fines for jaywalking and not letting me in a bar for wearing steel-toed shoes (the only shoes I have to my name right now) make me shake my head and long for the chaos of other countries. The stupidity of the political campaigning (they've just recently called an election here) with all it's blatant lying and corruption, drunk people peeing on shop fronts in the city centre and the surprisingly ridiculously slow internet here make me think I still am in the 3rd world.
One thing I've heard quite a lot before I came down here was how racist Australians are. Many Asians have told me that and although i am not Asian I have been triggered to keep an eye out for it. I'd actually have to say that I think such statements are quite justified thus far. I think they are more racist than Canadians anyway. Maybe it's a little strange to say this but I don't really like being the majority race in a country not of my nationality. Maybe it's my form of patriotism but I actually don't like the thought of people seeing me walk down the street and thinking immediately that I'm Australian. At least before in other countries it was obvious that I was a foreigner but now I would have to talk and even then a Korean on the street would still just assume I'm a racist local.
When I first arrived I didn't even notice but now that I'm looking for it, it is true that there are a ton of Asians in Brisbane. It is very multicultural for sure. Of course I am partial to such things so I am quite happy with it. Our hostel has people from everywhere it seems and I am having fun trying to guess the nationality of everyone. I happen to be much better than the others at guessing the Asians :) It is probably not too surprising that the housekeeper is Filipino and I immediately made friends with her too. The sushi in Brisbane is of high quality and there are a million sushi shops everywhere. Well, you can find anything here I guess, but it was sushi that was haunting me the other day.
The real killer for me has been the fact that it's tax time and everyone has a different story about what it means but the general consensus is that I will not get my tax back. Apparently no matter how much I make I have to pay 29% income tax in Australia. That can't be right but if it is then that is just the worst anti-foreigner attitude I've seen in a government in ages and I've already gotten into 2 big arguments in the tax office about it.
It's not all bad though. Brisbane is a nice looking city. Most backpackers seem to think that it is boring as a tourist attraction but it is very livable so don't come on vacation but come to study or work. The weather is fantastic for winter, about the same as a good summer day in Vancouver (as in a bad summer day in Vancouver is worse than a typical winter day here). I also broke down and finally bought a small laptop. I have no idea how I'm going to fit it in my bag as well but it was on sale and internet is so expensive here that I need to take advantage of the wireless. The only problem is the wireless is approaching African speeds of connection so you still can't get much done. But it does mean I can prepare stuff a little better so hopefully my blogs can be more like the last one.
I have also met up with Ben a few times since I've been back. We've had a few lunches and I watched him finish the Brisbane marathon last weekend. He's looks great and everything is going so well for him still it is amazing. I still haven't committed to any plans just yet, I am just job hunting and trying to decide whether I should stay here or head elsewhere to look for work but I'm sure if I stick around we'll see much more of each other. Right now there doesn't seem to be much available in terms of work unless you are female. I'm trying to stay optimistic but you can obviously feel my current frustration. The next blog will be happier. I promise.
Ammon

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