I hadn’t spent much time exploring Ballarat because I was resting and catching up on my blog. I was starting to get restless and wanted to get out of the house. I took an Uber to Sovereign Hill, which is a replica of the old gold-rush town that started in Ballarat.
I had no idea that Australia had a gold rush. We only hear about the convict history. However, they discovered gold in Ballarat in 1851. The state of Victoria experienced extreme prosperity from 1851 to the late 1860s, which led to Melbourne becoming a huge port-support city for the nearby towns. The gold-mining started a massive commercial expansion in Victoria, similar to the gold rush in California.
Sovereign Hill is a vast settlement of old huts, camps, gold-melting, and gold-panning. Kids panned for gold, and it was a great family-friendly attraction. I browsed through the cabins that were set up that had voiceovers describing what life was like for people during that time. It mentioned the rough conditions for the Chinese that were flooding to Victoria in hopes of striking it rich. There were a lot of racial tensions, and the Chinese weren’t treated very well, according to the voiceover.
There was a mine with a small train that took passengers down into the tunnel for a tour. I signed up, and on the way down, it was pitch black. There were lights once we arrived at the bottom. A tour guide walked us through the mine so we could see what it’s like down there. He also told us some of the stories from the past.
Next, I saw a large barn where a guy was making a wheel from wood. They seemed to have everything there! I also had the opportunity to watch a man pour gold. I browsed the old-timey shops and then checked out the museum. It was a beautiful day, perfect for walking around.
I walked over two kilometers towards downtown and checked out the outdoor shopping plaza. Unfortunately, it was 5:30 pm, and all the shops were closed again. I was so confused. When the shops all closed at 5:00 pm the other day, I figured it was because it was a Saturday. It was a weekday, and everything was still closed.
I found a tapas restaurant and ate some dinner. Then I continued walking around until I came across a tiny casino. I couldn’t resist, and I gambled $20. After winning and then losing, I walked out after 30 minutes with my $20. Before heading back, I stopped at a bar that had some live music. I enjoyed an Australian beer, but it was lonely. Ballarat is mostly suburban, making it difficult to talk to strangers. People tend to go out in groups or as a couple.
Carolyn told me about the church that she attends and recommended that I check it out one Sunday. I decided to walk there and attend an evening service. It turned out to be a long walk, going past farms and industrial areas. I was pretty exhausted by the time I arrived. The church was in a building similar to evangelical churches in the U.S., in that it wasn’t in a traditional church with stained-glass windows. It was just a regular building and a regular room with a small stage.
I was ten minutes early and sat a few rows back from the stage. The medium-sized room started to fill up, and I was afraid people were staring at me. It’s always hard being in the church alone. People don’t know my story; they don’t know that I have attended church my whole life. I know they’re always well-intentioned, but I get afraid that they’ll try and talk to me, wondering if this is my first time in church.
The band started playing music, and it was a song that I had never heard before. It reminded me of churches in the U.S. in the 90s. The pastor was very young and said he’d been living in Brisbane for the last two years. His sermon was perfect. He talked about the Red Sea parting in the bible, and people feeling stuck in life. The Israelites couldn’t leave the desert, and they were mad at God. They yelled at Him, “Why did you lead us out here only for us to die?!” Then God parted the Red Sea for them to walk through and escape the troops trying to kill them. However, they still had to trust God by walking at least five hours through a seabed.
The pastor pointed out that often we feel stuck in our life, and God is showing us a crazy path forward. There is something fantastic in store, but you have to be willing to move into the vast parted sea. The message was just what I needed to hear. It reminded me of how I felt when I decided to quit my job and travel full-time. It hasn’t always been easy, that’s for sure, and I needed the reminder of how I felt leading up to my departure. I felt a calling – there was a different path ahead of me.
When the service ended, I quickly left before anybody had the chance to talk to me. I started walking towards the town in hopes of finding some dinner. It was dark outside, and there wasn’t anything around. A small ditch separated the sidewalk from the road. All of a sudden, a car pulled over on the side of the street. A middle-aged woman opened her window and shouted across the ditch, “Did you just come from the church? Do you need a ride?” I explained that I was just trying to get to a restaurant nearby that I found online.
I got into the back of the car. An older man, I believe her father, was in the front seat. As the woman drove down the road, she explained that she didn’t want me walking in the dark all alone. I told her that I was house-sitting and that the homeowner attends that church. The woman was intrigued and wanted to know how we connected. I explained how TrustedHousesitters works.
We drove just under a mile, and the woman pulled into the parking lot of an old, crappy hotel that had the restaurant I had seen online. She turned around and asked if I wanted to house-sit for her in a month. She followed it up with, “I don’t know you at all, but you seem trustworthy.” I laughed, “I am!” I explained that once I completed my current house-sit, I was heading to Melbourne. I took her information and let her know I’d contact her if things changed. It was so sweet. Christians are a family, even in different countries.
It turned out that the restaurant had just closed. After wandering around in an industrial area, I ordered an Uber and then had pizza delivered to the house. The next morning, I watched Game of Thrones with my sister. Australia doesn’t have permission to show HBO, and I desperately wanted to watch the last few episodes of the series. To view it, my sister face-timed me and put her phone facing her TV. It was hard to see and hear, but it worked! With the time change, I had to watch it in the morning.
It was a beautiful day, so I rode the bicycle to the lake in town again. It was warm and sunny with a cool breeze. I enjoyed some ice cream at the same hut before riding back. It was starting to feel like my home.
My mom mailed some of my medications and supplements to me because I planned to be in Australia for six months. It cost $150 to mail and took two weeks to arrive. Unfortunately, customs took two of the medications because they’re regulated in Australia. I didn’t realize that the U.S. has a relatively open policy with supplements and medicines compared to other countries. I needed to request an import license in advance, and I could have shipped a three-month supply.
Carolyn gave me the name of her doctor, and I made an appointment. My insurance is from the U.S., so I had to pay the cash price. It cost $75 for an office visit, which I thought was reasonable. The doctor gave me a prescription for one of the medications but said he didn’t know what the other one was. I figured that I would just have to go without that medication for the next several months because I didn’t want to go through getting an import license, pay lots of money to have it shipped, and try to find an address that I could send it.
When I went to the chemist to fill the order, the woman seemed concerned. She called me over, “Since you don’t have insurance here, you’ll have to pay the cash price. It’s going to cost $65. Before we fill it, I wanted to make sure that it’s ok?” I told her that it was fine. Little did she know, that’s the price of many medications in the U.S., with insurance.
I paid $200 for my epi-pen in the U.S., and that was with insurance. Once I was back in the U.S., my doctor gave me a prescription that consisted of six pills. It cost $550 without insurance and $435 with my insurance. Thankfully, I found a coupon on Goodrx for $177. I could get used to lower prescription prices in Australia. Now they just need to know more about medications and loosen some rules on getting them.
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