My house/cat-sit was about to begin in Australia. The homeowner, Carolyn, showed me how to compost food scraps in her worm farm. It was a lot easier than I thought. She also showed me the clotheslines in her backyard. I was surprised to learn that many Australians don’t have a clothes dryer. I asked Carolyn why they don’t, and she said dryers could ruin your clothes. They get so much wind where they are, clothes dry very fast outside. Sure enough, I could see over her fence, and all of the neighbors had clotheslines.
Kieren, Caroyln’s roommate, came home after an event, packed, and left for spring break. I played with the cats and watched some Netflix. The cats were Burmese, which is a very cuddly breed. Herb and Alby were brothers who were two years old. They were fun, active, and loved to follow me around or sit on my lap. Snuff was 14 years old, and she took longer to warm up to me. I enjoyed having them around because it reminded me of being back home. There’s something about the love of a cat that warms my heart.
The house/cat-sit would last two weeks. I was in Ballarat, which is about an hour and a half from Melbourne. It has a population of 100,000 people and has a suburban feel to it. The house that I was watching was on the outskirts of the city in a newly developed neighborhood, and I didn’t have a car. Carolyn allowed me to use her bicycle, and I could walk to a grocery store in about 20 minutes. There was a bus stop about five minutes away, but I couldn’t figure out the timetable or how to pay. It seemed to arrive every hour and stopped at 5:00 pm.
I needed to get some supplies and saw Target was on the map. I took an Uber to get there, which cost $18 AUD. When I arrived, I was confused. The bullseye was the same as it is in the U.S., but the store wasn’t the same. They had clothes, sporting equipment, and shampoo, but they didn’t have much food, other than some snacks, and didn’t have any medicines. Later, I found out that the Target in the U.S. bought the logo and name from the Australian Target, but didn’t keep much else. I would go on to discover that the better place to shop was K-Mart (which has mostly closed in the U.S.) and The Big W (which was sort of like Walmart).
After buying a pair of sunglasses, I walked into the small mall because it was connected. It had just turned 5:00 pm, and all of the stores were closing. I thought that was strange because stores start getting busier around 5:00 pm in the U.S. I walked outside, and there was a cute, historic main street. Unfortunately, all of those shops were closed too. I found a place to eat dinner and then came across a movie theatre. I bought a ticket to see “Us”, which turned out to be super creepy. I went back to the house, alone, and made sure all of the doors were locked as I hid under the covers.
Over the next week, I spent time playing with the cats, feeding them, and taking care of the house. I brought the mail inside, emptied my food scraps into the worm garden, and watered some plants. I searched on TrustedHousesitters for more house-sits in Australia and sent some applications. I was pleased that my old boss, Christy, told me about the possibility of house-sitting.
I got things done, like my laundry. I used the clotheslines and pins outside, but discovered that drying large sheets is incredibly hard to hang – and I’m tall! One day it was sunny and extremely windy. All of a sudden, it started raining! I rushed outside and took my clothes down to hang in the hallway closet that had some drying bars.
A Bike Ride
One day, it was 70 °F (21 °C) and windy outside. I took Carolyn’s bike and rode it to a lake in the center of town. I was nervous because they drive on the left side of the road in Australia. Sometimes there was a bike lane, but other times it disappeared. And there were so many roundabouts! I wasn’t exactly sure how I was supposed to go through them on a bike, so I just pedaled as fast as I could to hurry and get through it. I made several wrong turns, which resulted in me riding 11 kilometers instead of nine to get to the lake.
The lake was beautiful! It had a great path around it for walkers and bike-riders. Some families were playing at the park, enjoying the day. The clouds started to block the sun as the wind increased, forcing me to put my jacket on. I saw an ice cream hut and stopped for a break. I enjoyed some ice cream and coffee while watching the families in the suburban neighborhood. After riding for five kilometers around the lake, I headed back to the house. The sun started to set before I made it back, which was stunning. It was April – fall in Australia. I was in the south, which gets colder than the north. I could tell the seasons were changing. Some days it was warm and others it felt like winter was coming and dropped to 38 °F (3 °C) at night.
Getting Used to Australia
I was surprised by how many differences there are in Australia compared to the U.S. When I walked to the grocery store one day, I had to pass through a hallway of other shops. They call pharmacies, “chemists”. I browsed one store that had greeting cards and noticed they call mom, “mum,” which just sounds adorable. One card was labeled “Kitchen Tea.” I had to Google that and found it is a bridal shower. When I browsed the grocery store, one of the signs above an aisle included a list of items located there. You know, like crackers and rice. But this said, “Manchester.” I still don’t know what that meant. I only know of Manchester, the city.
The slang in Australia was off the charts! I had no idea that Australia has its own language. When Carolyn, the homeowner, was still in town, I found myself continually asking, “What does that mean?” I could figure out most stuff based on the rest of the sentence, but some things I just didn’t know. For example, a “paddock” is a field, a “doona” is a comforter, and a “jumper” is a sweater.
I had a guy message me on Tinder, and this was one of his messages, “G’ day Miss!! Had 2 cracking gig’s over the weekend, bloody good fun….. then a night out camping with some mates last night, you bloody ripper!! How are you going?!” I had no idea what he was saying.
I also spent a lot of time watching Netflix and writing for my blog. I had the chance to Facetime family and friends, which made me feel like we were still connected. I didn’t get much of an opportunity to talk to people while I was in Southeast Asia because I was so busy exploring. Resting at the house was my chance to catch up.
When I first arrived in Australia from Vietnam, my stomach was not doing well. I took a lot of activated charcoal to help, but it still took a week for it to calm down a bit. My stomach did pretty well during most of my travels in Southeast Asia but didn’t make it at the end. At least I had some time to rest and heal.
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