January 9, 2016

Day 813: First week back

With the holidays and festivities over it was time to go back to work. Given that here, December and January are the hottest months, temperatures reach plus 35 degrees. It’s rare to walk anywhere, most people in Townsville drive and most places have air conditioning, including buses, shopping malls and cafes. My work place also thankfully has air conditioning. The heat is dry and the humidity is high. The mosquitos join the heat and rain is scarce.   Townsville is known for getting cyclones but thankfully it’s been a while since one hit. It’s hard for locals, for most people to grin and bear the heat. Whilst there is a beach it’s not possible to swim in the ocean because it’s stinker season.

Like many hot climate countries locals cool down with beer. Its beer o’clock any time of the day. It’s the same in Brazil and Paraguay, not much more can be down in the heat but drink. Here there is a strong alcohol culture, there’s drinking socially and then there’s drinking in Australia. The level of drinking has some detrimental effects of course, one of which is the increase in violent behaviour. There is an increasing number of disputes which turn violent and end terribly as a result of too much alcohol having been consumed. Yes, like any other city, there are social drinkers who don’t become violent when their drunk.

What amazes me here is they have no siesta despite the heat. Whilst in other countries schools start soon after sun rise and break for lunch before midday, here schools start same time as back home. It makes no sense because given the heat it is next to impossible to function. A few hours for a siesta would make the world of difference. I miss my afternoon naps I took in Vietnam and Brazil. I appreciate Australia is a western country but it is just as hot if not hotter than some of its neighbouring countries. There is also no terere to cool down.  Whilst other countries have embraced the heat and done everything to try and cool down, I feel Australia struggles. They haven’t adapted the working day to accommodate the heat rather they wish to continue as normal with the air conditioning.

For me the heat and no siestas is no major issue. Perhaps, because I’ve travelled, volunteered and lived in hot climates that I simply accept it and adapt best I can. Moreover, the weather or the location wasn’t the key point, my focus was my job, at the heart of everything was the fact that I was now employed as a women’s health counsellor. This was thanks to my background in social work and my experience as a front line domestic violence advocate. During my interview, thankfully the women, who interviewed me, saw something in me to offer this position and I knew accepting this job would be one of the best decisions I made. I was given the opportunity to branch out into a field I wanted for some time and I would be mentored and trained by some very experienced and knowledgeable counsellor’s so I would be an idiot to turn it down.

With this job under my belt, I needed to find a place to live, I wanted to find a good room and more importantly a good flatmate. I was living in a hostel and while that was fine, I really wanted my own space. In my opinion, whilst working in this kind of field, having the space and time to unwind is key to self-care outside of work. So I started the hunt of a room, initially I looked at various different suburbs not really knowing which was a good area to live in.  Some of my work colleagues gave me some advice so I was able to narrow down the search thankfully. The next issue was price, some included electricity, others not and Jesus it was proving to be rather difficult. For me, while the room itself was important and sure I wanted to have air conditioning, what was more important and the determining factor about whether or not I would even consider moving in with someone, was them. What were they like? What were my first impressions? Could we hold a conversation? Would we live like friends or were they simply after rent money? It was the individual that made the most difference.

I did really struggle, I went after work and most weekends on the bus viewing various rooms but nothing really fitted. Some of the rooms were beautiful, really amazing but I wasn’t feeling the energy or the housemate. I met a few single parents, I met some with pets and some even had a pool in their place.  I managed to find one that I really liked and it wasn’t too far from work but she was after a long term tenant and given that I can only work at my current job for six months it didn’t work out. There was another room I liked but the price was a little too high and outside of my budget so I gave it a miss. It’s not easy hunting around for a roommate despite all the websites like gumtree and flatmates. All I really wanted was to live with someone or people my age, working or studying, wanting to hang out occasionally and share some good moments. I mean really, am I just asking for too much?

One of my colleagues, Chantelle, has been a gem, so helpful throughout this process. She has given me lifts to and from work and even taken me to view rooms.  We both started at the same time and whilst she was due to leave, she manages to secure her final year social work placement at the centre so she will be here for the next couple of months. She is superwoman in my eyes; a full time mum, a student, a worker, a wife, a daughter and a friend. She has many commitments and relationships but she managed to juggle the lot. I worked full time and studied part time back home but I wasn’t a mum and didn’t have partner to worry about.  She was the one that also took me Castle Hill, it is quite the hike but great free exercise and down the road from the hostel so it’s perfect really. I’m not a morning person so whilst I tried to go early in the morning it never happened but I will certainly go up after work. Chantelle is one of the great work colleagues and friend I have whilst living here.

I also have Rose, she is like my Australian mum, from England but lived here for 28 years. She too gave me lifts to and from work when I first started. She is amazing, she works at the centre during the week and then has her own art store – the Annie Sloan store – pretty amazing. She is very creative and has some truly beautiful interior design pieces. Both Rose and Chantelle were amongst the first in the team to make me feel welcome and like I belong here in this new town, new role. Of course I don’t know their story and this will take time but from what I know, it is great, I get this warm feeling inside and I know to follow that. They are both so kind and funny and supportive. Sometimes people’s kindness towards me is too much, it is rather overwhelming because I feel that it is too much. And then again I have to try and calm down and accept it.  I can sense a good heart and when surrounded by this energy of kindness and warmth it continues to grow. I give back and I share my energy so perhaps it is a fair exchange? All I know that these two amazing women continue to share their amazing for which I’m grateful.

I don’t have a room yet so have been camping out in the hostel. The hostel is good, loads of backpackers and some others who also work here, in Townsville but overall it is thankfully not a party hostel. I tried to ensure I won’t be at a crazy, loud, party hostel because that’s the last thing I want after work. I like meeting other backpackers in the hostel and listening to their travel stories but the good ones or the ones I connect with always move on. I try not to get too attached but it’s hard. Living in a hostel is good fun but hard when there are twenty of you wanting to share the kitchen at the same time. It wasn’t long before I was asked if I wanted to help housekeeping so during the week I work at the centre and then during the morning, over the weekend, I help the house keeping team. Pretty cool and get two nights free accommodation so it’s a fair exchange. It’s another experience and different to my day job.

Living and working here, well one never knows what to expect. I don’t know what to expect as a counsellor either, I have some idea of the clients that I will have but every woman is different and every relationship precious. So I look forward to it and I know there will be challenges but I feel I will be able to overcome them as and when they arise. For now, I’m living here and doing everything I can to e quip myself to be a great women’s health counsellor.  I already have some of the skills and knowledge and the rest will come with time. I’m living the dream, again, doing what I’m passionate about, what I love the most, helping and supporting others.