Back “Home”

May 23rd, 2015

Over a year ago, I was on a plane to Australia. I took my luggage that contained my whole life and I had one and only one goal: succeed in order to never go back to my country. Well… I’m back. Back to France. Back to this country I felt I didn’t belong to, and now that feeling has got worse since my return a month ago. I feel like I’m dying here. Especially in a big city like Paris.

I didn’t want to go back to my hometown because I thought it would be easier and faster to get a job in a big city rather than in a small one. And I wanted to get a job (any job) quickly to be able to save money and to organize a plan to escape from this kind of life. There is no way I am staying in my country. I’ve never wanted to settle here before and, after a year spent in Australia discovering how nice, amazing and open-minded people can be outside that “French bubble of negativity”, my mind is set, I am definitely not staying here!

So where will I go then? Which country? My second choice was Canada but it’s not as easy as it was to get the Working Holiday Visa for Australia. Besides, I have to wait an entire year before the Canadian government opens the applications for the new visas for French people (you can apply only once a year for that kind of visa for Canada and I missed this year’s round). The last country I thought about was Ireland. Why Ireland? Because I come from a Celtic part of France and the only thing I missed while I was away was the Celtic culture.

So here I am, back to France and the first week was tough. Sometimes I was talking to people in English, I was going to sleep at 7pm to wake up at 5am and I found myself surrounded by the negative French mentality and narrow-minded French people… the only good thing (besides my friends and family) was the French food! Fortunately, I was staying at my cousin’s and my mum came for a week to visit (no one in my family, except my cousin, lives in Paris). It felt really good to be with them!

The week after, my cousin and I went to another part of the country where most of my relatives live. Again, it was great to see everybody and to talk about my journey in Australia. Then, I tried to get all my paperwork done (medical insurance etc.). I knew it would be hard. It was like: “No, you came to the wrong place, you have to go to another place”. At the other place: “No, we don’t do that anymore, you have to call and get an appointment with someone else”. To get an appointment: “Not before next month and your case will be processed within 2 or 3 months”. Well… don’t ask me why I have run out of money… I spent all of it to get to those places by bus or the subway and you cannot have any discount on the price because, to do so, you have to get your paperwork done!

Do you understand now how unbelievable the French system is?… And, of course, I had to buy food. Now I have nothing left and no sign of medical insurance or money from the government. Fortunately, one night, my luck changed. My cousin invited two of her friends for dinner. One of them worked in a call centre for a medical assistance. She told me they were looking for several people to work for the summer. I applied for the job and, after 2 interviews, I was hired.

First part of my plan to go to Ireland: done! I’ve got the job! I will start on the 1st of June to early October and then I will fly to Dublin. I don’t know how it’s going to be over there but I’m sure it’s going to feel like home. And if not, I can still try to apply for a visa to go to Canada next year… But for now, let’s work until October and then go to Ireland.

New plan, new adventure. Let’s hope this time it works!

What’s Next?

In six weeks, everything will be over. In six weeks, I will prepare myself to leave Australia and my “better” life. I have tried everything to get another visa in order to extend this better life but it’s hopeless.

People ask me what my plans are once I’m back “home”, but my mind refuses to imagine leaving the town of Portland, my job at the hospital and the people I have seen every day for the last seven months in this city. My return to France? My plans? To spend the first week oscillating between deep depression and the great joy of seeing the people I love. Then? Register at job centers and try to survive until I find a job and quickly planning to leave to another country. But for now, I’m not ready to think about that. My mind still refuses to realize that my life as I know it, my better life, will end in six weeks. A part of me can’t help thinking that in six weeks a miracle could happen which will ensure that I can stay in Australia, but for now, my mind is thinking over this year …

“You?! In hostels?!”. This sentence came out of the mouth of everyone who knows me best! They were not totally wrong but I had the chance to meet great people from all over the world who had managed to turn this experience into great moments. Then, there was my road trip. The highlight of my Australian adventure where I felt the most free. I would never before have dared to eat alone in a restaurant or visit a place and do activities by myself. Yet I was never alone. I always met people on my way to share these moments with. Then, there was Portland. The city in which I have been living for almost seven months. I can’t help thinking about how this journey has been made. When we say that life is made of small details …

I arrive at Perth airport on April 23, 2014. While I’m looking at the bus schedule that will take me downtown, I meet a French guy who says that one of his friends in Perth is looking for a roommate. After two weeks of hostelling, I contact her and I become her roommate. We go out one night for a drink and I meet an Australian guy who turns out to be leaving the country in a few weeks for a year. We become friends. Meanwhile, I begin to choke in the city. I need to recharge my batteries away from all the noise and to be closer to the sea. My Belgian friend, whom I met on my first day in the hostel and with whom I have always remained in touch, lives now in a small village a few hours away from here and invites me to stay with him for as long as I want. There, I find a job in the only bar/restaurant of the village and, after saving money, I’m on my way on a road trip on the east coast of Australia. Arriving in Sydney, I feel depressed to find myself in another big city but I find a job on the internet in Mildura (a small rural town in the state of Victoria) at an orange farm. Once there, it turns out that there is no work and I begin to run out of money. Not knowing what to do, I contact the Australian friend I met in Perth who tells me to go to his best friend’s place a few hours away from here in the city of Portland. Having arrived in Portland, I find a job at the hospital and a balance that I had never had since the beginning of my adventure. I have built myself a “home”, a new life, new community and new habits. I have become more patient, more serene, and more attentive to others. I have learned to be stronger and – so importantly – I have learned to have more respect for myself. To do so, I had to repeat the same mistakes of the past but the difference this time is that I have changed how to solve these mistakes so they won’t be repeated again. I have closed several important chapters of my life and I am now ready to begin to write a new one with the new “me” I have become.

Bravery

I often hear people saying about other people that they are courageous. Most of the time they are right, but in some cases they are wrong. They confuse true courage with what they think to be courage.

Indeed, there are actions that we consider as evidence of courage but the truth is that sometimes it’s not. Courage, in my opinion, is to face our deepest fears and fight them, to open up our eyes to them and not to be afraid, to be free from all suffering that we inflict on ourselves. Here lies the courage: in our deepest self when facing our greatest fears. This is why an act considered brave in the eyes of one person may not be seen as such by the person who performed the action because, for them, the act itself may not be frightening but simply an action that seems natural to them.

Before considering someone as brave, ask yourself if they are facing one of their greatest fears or acting free of it. 

Portland

November 2014

Portland is all about feeling like home. Not only because I’m not in hostels anymore and I live in a house, but also because it looks like my hometown – the coast, the ocean, the harbour – and I have met people I can trust. It’s like jumping into the void but this time I have a safety net. I feel secure.

Even though I can breathe again and feel relaxed, I have to be careful and not get attached to these people because I don’t belong to them and they don’t belong to me. However, being with them has made me realize that I know now what I want and what I need to feel really happy: a family. I was raised being very close to my family and it was the happiest time of my life but, at the age of 11, my mum took me away from them.  She decided to move to another city for a better quality of life, and rightly so, but for that we had a price to pay: leave the ones we loved. Since that time, I’ve always felt lost and lonely. That’s why I want so much to have a family, to love and be loved, to share moments with people. I think love is the key of happiness and fulfilment. Unfortunately, the more I move on with my life, the more I think that I am one of those people who are made to live their life alone. I’ve been trying to find a place in the hearts and lives of every person I have met since I was 11 but I know that is not the solution. So how can I build a family? I really have this feeling that I can’t and I don’t have the right to get attached to people. Maybe I’m not ready because getting attached to people also means facing the risk of losing them some day and I’m not strong enough for that. My heart is tired and broken and I can’t fix it anymore; I’m exhausted. Sometimes I think life is too long, hard and painful to be lived. I just wait hour after hour, day after day, for death to come for me. But, on the other hand, I just hope deep inside of my heart and soul that I can someday find people who will be able to accept me and love me just the way I am, and that I will be able to give them and share with them all the love I keep inside.

I’m just going to try to find a job and enjoy this city and the company of the wonderful people I have met here and, at some point, say goodbye and go on my trip and my quest for love. Finding love within myself is not enough; it is way better when shared and that’s how love should always be: shared.

Mildura

October 12, 2014

My experience in Mildura didn’t go as planned. A friend warned me that it was a scam and that there was no work there but, after being assured by a work agency that I will have work on my arrival, I decided to ignore the advice of my friend.

When I was in Sydney, several people told me to go on a website called “2nd Year Visa Jobs”. This is a website where you can find adverts for work on farms that allow you to accumulate your 88 days required to get a second Working Holiday Visa for a year. I visited this website and for $19 you have access to jobs that you can apply to and will be put in touch with a member of the team that will place you in the job you have selected. I paid the $19 and was contacted by a young woman named Rachel. The advert I was interested in was for Orange picking. She put me in touch with the owner of a hostel, “Oasis Backpacker”, which was linked to the farm I was supposed to work at. After talking to the owner, Eva, on the phone, I left Sydney to go to Mildura (the city where the job was located) a few days later.

Once in Mildura, this is where things started to go wrong … The first backpackers I met told me that there had been no work for two weeks, yet in the ad, it was said they were looking for two people as soon as possible. After asking the owner of the hostel, I was told that it’s quiet at the moment but in two weeks’ time “the work should come.”

It’s at this moment that I was being informed about the “Business” – that is, the work on the farms for backpackers in Mildura. Farmers have a kind of contract with hostels. If you want to be assured of a position at a farm that guarantees you a second year Working Holiday Visa, you must stay in these hostels and whenever there is work, they give it to you. You get up in the morning like you are going to a job centre, but it’s a first come, first served basis and there isn’t work for everyone. I was paying $160 rent for a week at the hostel and if I found work on a farm, I had to pay between $7 and $10 a day for transportation because they pick you up or let you borrow a van so you can get the farm. It works for most of the backpackers but not for all of them. I am one of those for whom it had become a nightmare.

I had had no money since I was in Sydney and I put my last savings into the trip to Mildura. Finding no work on farms, I had been told that there was a restaurant called “Rendez-Vous Restaurant” which often hires backpackers. I decided to go and meet the boss, Simon. We are the same age and he seemed friendly and willing to hire me as a waitress. I had a trial for the following Friday. A little problem: I had to buy black clothes because that’s the colour that waitresses wear. I have an authorized bank overdraft so I used it for this purpose. The trial went well, so I expected to have my Sunday schedule for the coming week. On Monday morning, I hadn’t received my schedule so I decided to go to the restaurant and see my boss. He told me that it was quiet at the moment and they do not need me right now. I burst into tears in front of him because I no longer had money and it was impossible for me to pay another week at the hostel. He told me that one of his best friends owns a hostel and the rent is $90 a week, and he told me that he was ready to pay the first week for me if I really wasn’t able to do it and that he would give me hours of work this week at his restaurant.

Two days later, I moved into my new hostel and I was working at the restaurant but fate continued to take it out on me. The boss’s wife said that my accent and my understanding of English was not good enough to be a waitress and rightly so. She proposed me to work from time to time to polish the cutlery and do some cleaning. This was unfortunately not enough for me to pay the rent and buy food. She then gave me the contact of a friend of hers who is a farmer and may have some work for me. I contacted him straight away and I got an appointment with him at his farm to show me the work to begin the following day. The next day he told me that the ground was too wet to work (it had rained for two days) and he preferred that I start on Monday. Sunday night, I sent him a message to check if it was still on for the next morning but no response from him … Monday morning I sent another message but still no response from him … to date, I still do not know what happened … Everything looked normal and he seemed serious and honest. Then I was taught how things work here in Mildura. If you have your own home, your own car and you are independent, farmers are not interested in you. They do not need you. You must pay the full price by staying in hostels that have a contract with them. You can be the best worker, but if you do not play the game, the farmers will not consider you. I have seen several people around me who have experienced the same kind of misfortune.

The result is, I had no money left and I was about to become homeless; I actually looked for a “safe” street I could sleep in for the next week. Fortunately for me, I met an Australian boy during my first weeks in Perth. He became my friend despite the fact that he went to live in Texas (USA) a few days after I met him. I’ve always kept in touch with him. Upon learning my situation, he offered to help me. He contacted one of his best friends in Portland (his hometown) and asked him if he could accommodate me. He also warned his family who also lives in this city and, in a few days, I found myself on a coach to Portland (a small town on the coast of the state of Victoria and a few hours from Melbourne). I could never thank him enough. He saved my life in many ways and he’s probably not aware of it!

Mildura is a business that exploits backpackers because even if you have the chance to work, you are poorly paid, and if you do not play the game, it’s over for you. I hope those who read this and who will live or are living the same adventure as me here in Australia will not ignore this warning like I did. Avoid Mildura if you can!

Road Trip

September 6, 2014

I didn’t know where to go after Bremer Bay. I had no plan. I knew, through an acquaintance in my hometown, an Australian woman who lived in Cairns that I wanted to meet. I took a plane from Perth.

Once in Cairns, I realized immediately that I didn’t like the city. I didn’t like my hostel either. I spent a week being sad and talking to no one.  I took the time to go and see the Australian woman and her husband; they lived 30 minutes from Cairns in a small town called Palm Cove. What a lovely place and what wonderful people they both are! It was the first time I had felt good since leaving my Belgian friend. Palm Cove is situated on the coast, where there are restaurants, shops and hotels, and everything is facing the sea. You can find signs on the beach that warn you about the crocodiles you can find in the sea if you dare go for a swim.

In Cairns, I took the decision to drive the East coast to Sydney to discover the country. However, I was told it would cost me a lot of money and I realized that I couldn’t afford the trip. Two girls in my room at the hostel told me that it would be cheaper to do it by coach so I went to the office of Greyhound Australia Coaches but couldn’t find it. I entered a store to ask my way. I didn’t know it was a travel agency for students. The girl at the desk, Carolina, told me that they sold trips with Greyhound and packages with a lot of activities along the way to Sydney. The price was not that expensive so I thought “why not?”.

I wasn’t so excited; I just wanted to reach Sydney as soon as possible and especially leave Cairns! I bought the cheapest package and 2 days after I was on my way to Sydney. But first, my tour started with two activities in Cairns which were a tour in Atherton Tablelands and a day on Green Island. I really began to feel better on Green Island, it was so peaceful and quiet! You can do the tour of the island by foot in a couple of hours. There is a park with crocodiles and also big green trees. It looked like paradise.

Then, I took the coach to my first stop: Townsville. From there, I took a boat to Magnetic Island. Magnetic Island: best hostel ever! It is situated on the beach, with bedrooms made of wood and directly on the sand and under the trees with a view of the ocean. The only sounds you can hear are the birds and the waves. The negative point is that you need a car to visit the island; it’s not like on Green Island where you can do the entire tour on foot. But that’s where I finally saw my favourite animal: a koala with its baby! What a magic moment I lived! Best sunset ever as well as I was on the top of a hill.

Then it was time for me to leave, next stop: Airlie Beach to see the Whitsunday. Most beautiful place ever! I had never seen a beach so beautiful! You don’t realize it at first when you arrive by boat, but then the guide takes you to the top of a hill and this is where you can see all the beauty of it. The colour of the water, the islands. Back on the beach, the multiple colours of the fish in the sea, the softness of the sand… I even saw dolphins. Another magical moment on the East coast.

After Airlie Beach, it was time for me to go to Noosa (my last stop before Sydney) to visit the national park. Noosa is one of those places where you don’t do and see a lot but you meet very good people. Actually, I was never alone during my trip. I met people all the way (from France, England, Finland, Belgium and Malaysia). I really enjoyed my freedom and the possibility to do what I wanted when I wanted and to leave these places when I wanted. On the other hand, I often felt lonely. This sentence from the film “Into the wild” is so true: “Happiness is only real when shared.” And I had no one to share these magical moments with… My eternal lack of affection didn’t help me to feel better; I have to learn how to accept this situation, manage it and live with it.

I finally reached Sydney. What a deception. It confirmed that I really don’t like big cities. All I wanted was to leave as soon as possible. It was like my first week in Cairns: feeling lonely and sad. That’s also where I discovered that I had just 700 dollars left in my bank account. I decided to find a job as soon as possible and leave Sydney. I have found a farm job online situated in Mildura (state of Victoria). Actually, while I’m writing to you, I’m still in Sydney. My coach to Mildura is tonight at 8.00. Tomorrow I have a one day stop in Melbourne (how lucky! It’s the only city left on my bucket list) and then I have a coach at night that will bring me to Mildura.

Bremer Bay

September 1st, 2014

I spent a month and 3 weeks in Bremer Bay, a small village of 200 people. I came here because I wanted to be in a quiet place, having had enough of the city. I caught up with my Belgian friend I had met at the hostel my first week in Perth, and lived with him and his roommate in a little house where I learnt how to make a fire! Bremer Bay is a place where you don’t need to lock your door or your car. There is a general store, a pub/restaurant, a library, a school and that’s all. I saw a lot of beautiful things there like parrots, kangaroos (right in front of me on the sidewalk, that was impressive!), a fox, all sorts of birds… At night, the sky shone with a million stars and there was no sound except the waves from the sea.

My friend and his roommate, who was also his manager, worked in a sea farm and I found a job as kitchen-hand in the restaurant of the village. People were really nice but, as I hate cooking, I really hated my job. I learnt a lot of kitchen words though and tried to understand the rural Australian accent which was and still is very difficult for me to get. There was worse, my boss was Scottish and I couldn’t understand a word he said.

I learnt a lot about myself because of my Belgian friend. Thanks to him, now I know why I always choose the wrong guys to be with, why I always act like a victim and why I am always stressed and, for the first time of my life, I took the right decision despite the fact that it would hurt me. I needed to take that decision because I needed to move forward and not repeat the same mistake again. Sometimes, even if it’s hard, you have to leave some people behind and keep going on your path. People make you stronger, even those who don’t at first seem to.

I really wanted to stay with my Belgian friend but we arrived to a point where I needed to go on alone and he needed to have his freedom back. It’s really a tough decision to leave the people you care about. I am very grateful for everything he taught me and I’m going to miss him a lot. I really needed someone like him to move forward. One thing he told me while I was crying and which I will always remember is, “when it’s twisting inside and painful that means that you are moving forward, you heal from your wounds”.

After realising that I needed to leave Bremer Bay, I decided to take a flight to the north-east of Australia, to Cairns. In order to get my plane, I had to go back to Perth and it was the opportunity to see my German friend again (I met him at the hostel in Perth and later on he was my neighbour when I was living in town with Julie). What a pleasure it was to spend time with him. I felt very sad after Bremer Bay and he told me something that illuminated my soul, he told me to ‘be happiness’, that happiness is a feeling you choose to feel.  You can be happy, and spreading your happiness to everyone will make you feel happier. That’s what I’m going to do: stop acting like a victim, be a warrior, be happy and spread this happiness to everyone I meet on my road. As of now, I’m going to live for me, follow my path and not follow others.

Friendship And Unexpected Decision

August 2014

I think that you can learn from everyone you meet in your life. Every person who crosses your path has something to teach you. I don’t underestimate the relationships I have created with the other foreign people in Australia. I have learnt a lot from them through their culture and also through their lives, their pasts, their plans for the future, their mistakes, their joys and their fears. I really would like to keep some of them with me forever but I can’t because they are not here to stay.

I’m in Australia not only because I want to move forward with my life but also because I would like to build a kind of family. A family I would have chosen made of friends I can see in my everyday life but I have realized that, with the people I have met here, it’s not possible because they are going to leave one day. I know that anyone can leave some day, even those you expect to stay in your life.  What I mean is, besides having my friends here who I really do love, I need to meet other people who I will be able to see regularly and who are not going to break my heart by going back to their country soon.

That’s why I would like to meet Australian people.  That said, for nothing in this world I would change my journey thus far because I’m more than happy to have had the opportunity to meet wonderful people from all around the world and to have learnt from them. I would change that for nothing! And I’m going to miss them enormously! I know that it is selfish to avoid friendship just because people are going to leave and that is not what I’m doing here.  It’s just that I came to Australia to build a new life and I didn’t expect that I would become friends with people (so quickly and so deeply) who are going to leave me so soon. But like I said, but like I said, I have no regrets because I have met wonderful people who are going to stay in my memories forever.

Actually, I feel really sad because I have made a decision: I’m leaving Perth. Just the idea of leaving my friends makes me cry, but I really have to do it because I have to think about me and I don’t feel good here anymore. I’m used to living surrounded by the sea and the countryside and it’s been two months since I’m in Perth and I’ve begun to feel like I can’t breathe anymore. I miss the calm and the quiet of the countryside, I miss the ocean. I have always wondered which life I would prefer: being in the city or being in the country. Something I have always known is that I am made to live near the sea. Now, after two months in Perth, I feel like I need to breathe and, especially, that I have to see how it is to live in the countryside in Australia.

The reason for this decision is deeper than that.  When I look for a job in the city, I feel like I don’t want to do the kind of job I’ve always done anymore. The biggest part of my professional life has been in social welfare. I deeply need to seek elsewhere; I need to find out what I really want and where I am really going to thrive. I have the feeling that I can keep searching everywhere but the day I will really thrive will be the day I have found a ‘family’.

Wherever you go, you will feel good only when your heart does. It can only feel that way when you share your life with others, when you open up to people and let them in. So that is what I’m going to do: join one of my friends (who I met in Perth) who lives outside the city and see if I can feel like home. So now I’m giving up all my plans (I wanted to move to a city in Australia in order to settle and work as a social worker) because nothing ever happens the way we would like it to and that is life: unexpected and full of surprises. Now I’m actually ready to live my journey as it should have been since the beginning. I just have to breathe and let myself go despite the fear.

2 Months Later…

August 2014

I don’t know where to start. I feel like I have already lived a whole year in two months because things are changing fast here and emotions are increased tenfold. Everything is more intense.

Let’s start with the shared house. The house Julie and I moved in to was very big but felt very cold, empty. The owner and his parents were very nice and we shared the first floor with a third roommate from Hong Kong. The owner and his family were Chinese and we discovered their culture and their food as they invited us to join them for dinner. Everything was going pretty well, but the major drawback was that we were isolated from the city centre and, to get there, bus schedules were not very practical. As a result, we decided, Julie and I, to move in closer to the city. After a few days of research, we found our happiness on the internet. An apartment located 13 minutes’ walk from downtown and the (free) bus passes just outside the residence. We also have a pool and gym and all of this for only $10 more than we paid at our former house. It’s been a week since we moved in and we are already feeling an improvement on our well-being. We share the apartment with an English couple and a man from Dubai. We can go out without worrying about the time because we can walk back and all bus and train stations are nearby. Living close to the city centre, when you don’t have a car, is vital, not only for shopping but also to reduce the journey between home and work thanks to the proximity of the bus and train stations.

Work-wise, I’ve had better luck here than in France so far. I had the opportunity to get two jobs. One in a restaurant as a dishwasher and another one in a coffee shop as a waitress. Unfortunately, it didn’t last long and I think the fact of not speaking fluent English didn’t help me. So, I decided to take English lessons. I met a teacher to assess my English level and see what she could do to improve this level as soon as possible. After 30 minutes of conversation with her in English, she said she had nothing to teach me because my level was already very good but I just need to practise more regularly in order to become more fluent and spontaneous. She also told me that I can now try to find a job in my field and stop wasting my time doing odd jobs because my English is good enough to apply for jobs that really fit me. I decided to look for a job in the social field. The problem is that jobs that are attached to social depend on the government and to work for the government you must be either an Australian citizen or a permanent resident. So, I went to the Red Cross, but at this moment, no job or voluntary offer fitted my skills.

Tomorrow, I will apply to the hospital as a volunteer and also as a cleaner because I have to start with something anyway and my savings will not hold much longer. Actually, I still have enough to live for a month and then I will have no more money. It is therefore urgent for me to find a job. If I can get a job at the hospital, I will continue at the same time to search in my field, but in local associations.

What is more important than human relationships?… This is the part that’s the most enriching of my Australian adventure. Life has made me strong and combative but, as everyone, I have weaknesses. Life in Australia, for 2 months, has made me face these weaknesses and hasn’t spared me. I am happy to have met a multitude of people from all over the world. Here I live an international adventure, I have met people from Germany, China, Sweden, Italy, Belgium, United States, England, Dubai … It was a great pleasure to meet them and talk about their lives, why they are here, their projects, their fears, their joys, their sorrows. I befriended three of them, and for a moment (which lasted two months), I thought I had found what I was looking for: a new circle of friends, a new family.

I just forgot that I’m the only one here who has plans to settle down and not return to my country. I have been extremely sad and disappointed for a week because I have realized that I am alone. Having found friends is an illusion because none of them are invested as much as I am. They are not in the same mindset as me. They have families and friends to get back to in their respective countries. They are not trying to build a new life here. They just want to enjoy, discover and learn about another culture before returning to their families and beginning to find a balance by starting a family or through a professional career. They do not need to create a new life here; they already have what they need at home.

I don’t know why, for a moment, I thought I had finally found stability. As my best friend in France told me the other day on the phone, I have been attached to the wrong people. Not that they are bad people but just that they don’t fit me in the sense that they will leave one day and they know that this friendship will just be ephemeral. I have to, as my best friend said, meet Australian people who are going to stay long enough by my side to be able to develop real relationships and move forward together for as long as it takes.

The more I analyse my first two months, the more I realize that I have encountered none Australian people. I have been attached to truly exceptional and fantastic people but they can’t be a part of my new life. This won’t prevent me from continuing to see them while they are here but it’s time for me to start to build a real circle of friends, who will remain in my life and with whom I could build real links over time. I have just completed a step in my process and it’s time for me to meet the Australian people.

As one of my friends noticed here, I still have to be careful because I have a tendency to get attached to people too quickly. Actually though, one of my greatest weaknesses is my lack of affection. I am proud to say that, for the first time in my life, here in Australia, I managed to work on this weakness and win some small victories, but the road to recovery is still long. As my best friend told me the other day, I could never get rid of this weakness, it is embedded in me and it will be forever, I just have to learn to accept it and live with it. Also accept that I am not perfect and I still will have moments of weakness. I will have to avoid them as much as possible and if I make mistakes anyway, I will have to accept them, learn from them, forgive myself and don’t denigrate myself for it.

As I said at the beginning, here everything is more intense and emotions are increased tenfold. I think it is because we all (people I meet on the way) have left our country and our native language, and we meet each other in this part of the world completely lost without any guiding points. So, we connect with each other quickly because it is reassuring to be surrounded by people who feel the same way we do. We share the same fears, the same questions and the same joys. We can try to tell our story to our relatives at home but they couldn’t understand. It is an experience that has to be lived in order to be understood. Relating it won’t make you feel a microscopic fragment of what this experience really is. And I would like everyone to live it because it is a truly amazing thing! Whether in good times or in bad times. All of us will emerge stronger and richer, in terms of being human.

First week, First Impressions

June 10th, 2014

Paris-Dubaï/Dubaï-Perth in 17 hours covering a distance of 14,277 kilometres and with only a 45 minutes’ break between flights. The panic of these last few days has disappeared and given way to emptiness. After saying goodbye to my family, who accompanied me to the airport, my mind has begun to leave behind all the fear and all the anxiety and is focusing on every step and every stage that has brought me closer to Australia.

On the first flight, I watch some films. On the second flight, I sit next to a man who starts to talk to me in English and asks me where I come from. I tell him that I come from France and he starts talking to me in French. He explains that he comes from Scotland (that was a sign I had no clue about at that time) and we begin to start a conversation in which he asks me why I travel. He then suggests that I take his contact details so I can send him my CV. He works for the Danish Refugee Council and tells me that his wife is a doctor and knows a lot of people. Maybe the beginning of something, who knows?

Once I land at the airport, I’m completely lost, looking for the only bus that will drive me to my hostel. After several requests for assistance, I finally find my stop. I don’t really understand the system of the timetables here so I come closer to the only person who is sitting on the bench in front of me and ask him the time of the bus arrival (in English). He answers me with a smile and… in French. I breathe and tell myself that everything is going to be fine. In fact, he is also here with a Working Holiday Visa and he is just leaving Perth to reach Northern Australia because he has found a job over there. He tells me that one of his friends is alone in Australia and she does not speak a word of English. She is looking for a roommate. She knows a French family living in Perth who hosts her for sometimes and helped her to find a job. He offers to give me her phone number so we can get in touch and help each other. I accept.

It’s a Thursday afternoon.  The sky is cloudy and it is not more than 23°c, but the heat is stifling. I hand my passport to the receptionist with a trembling hand (obviously I am stressed or frightened, or both) to confirm the booking I made a week ago in this hostel. He shows me the map of the site, gives me my bed linen and lets me explore the place by myself. At first, the hostel seems huge to me. There are dormitories with eighteen beds, other small dormitories with six beds and some double or single rooms, as well as communal showers and toilets. Outside, there’s a large covered area with tables and chairs and another building housing the kitchen/dining room, which is also a games room and TV lounge. The first contact I have is with a British girl who arrived a few hours before me and shares my dormitory of eighteen beds. These are all bunk beds and the fact of finding myself on the top bed reminds me of my childhood. The second contact is made with French people. I learn quickly, thanks to them, the habits of the hostel including the fact that each nationality remains in its place: English people with English people, German people with German people etc… I feel disappointed because I wanted to spend my time speaking in English but fortunately, the British girl I just met offers to go for a walk in the city the next day. There is no better way to be forced to speak in English and test my level.

The next day, I am with my new British friend and the first 15 minutes in English seems difficult to me and I wonder how we are going to work this out all afternoon if my level remains so bad. Then, over time, I am speaking more easily and feeling more confident. This is good, I am reassured and I ‘m starting to feel a little more comfortable in this new country. In the evening I discover the joys but also the inconvenience of living in a hostel. Against all odds, English, German and French discuss together over some drinks. I join them and spend a great evening until I decide to go to bed. It is at this very moment that we can talk about inconvenience. Of course, in a dormitory with eighteen beds you can expect to be slightly disturbed. Here the word “slightly” is too soft. Some examples: the light being turned on at two in the morning, the door slamming at 3.00 am, shouting at 4.00 am… Despite this and the fact that I thought I’d never survive my first day at the hostel, there is something like magic that is created because you find here a new family, a new cocoon that you create, and I can understand why some of these people have been here for seven months. You arrive in a foreign country where you are a stranger to others and the others are strangers to you. The only rescue that you can see offshore is this tide of international, friendly human beings. We all meet in the same boat and we have more or less the same projects, and we are full of stories to tell that only we can relate to. So, when one or more of them leave, tears flow inexorably and I have experienced it myself after only three days here. Emotions are heightened!

Sunday, I was told by my friends that all the stores in Perth were open (in France, everything is closed on Sundays) so I could go and buy my SIM card to get an Australian phone number. Once that was done, I called my mum and I called Julie, the friend of the young French guy I met at the airport. On the phone she seemed very nice, she told me that she had found a shared house and that she would talk about me to the landlord because there is one bedroom left. I decided to meet with her the next morning.

The appointment is made for 10.30am. At the agreed time, I decide to walk from the hostel to the city centre to meet with her. As I walk, I realize that there are many homeless people who, I would say, are 90% Aboriginals. I found it sadly ironic as these people were the first inhabitants of this country before it was colonized by the English at the end of the 18th century. Julie finally arrives and she appears to me friendlier than on the phone. We talk about the family in which she is hosted, but also about her project. She is a 26-year-old nurse and in Australia only to learn English because it is the last challenge she has to undertake in order to realize her dream: be part of Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders). She has found a job, three hours per day, three times a week, with an old lady whom she keeps company. The shared house she has found on the internet is very interesting. It is a Chinese man who bought a house and rents three rooms. The landlord’s parents also live in the house in a space specially designed for them. Bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, the internet and a garage are included in the rent. What reassures me is that we have a room key; I like to know that my stuff is safe. The hostel costs 220 dollars per week and the shared house is 160 dollars per week. It is 20 kilometres from the centre of Perth and there are buses and trains nearby. I contact the owner and I have to pay 50 dollars to book the bedroom. I move in next Monday after signing the rent contract and paying the 480 dollars deposit. Luckily, today is also the day I opened a bank account. People from my hostel are surprised that I have found such a good opportunity so quickly (within 5 days). I hope this beautiful dream will not turn into a nightmare.

Regarding Perth, it’s a classic city. There are fast food places, shops, buildings, a river called “Swan River” with palm trees alongside and an ocean which is 30 minutes from downtown that I had the joy of seeing today. There is also Kings Park that I haven’t had the time to visit yet and which, I have been told, is worth seeing, especially in the sunset. And what about cars that drive on the left side of the road? I think it could become the main cause of death of any French people who would attempt to cross the street looking the wrong way. I think I escaped death at least a dozen times in five days! There is also the Australian accent that is more understandable than expected. It’s almost the end of my first week and the assessment is quite positive. I have met a lot of new people from different nationalities, each person with their own life experience, their own project and their own reason to be in Australia. The sad part is that I’ll never know the outcome of their adventure because, at some point, everyone moves forward on their own path, with their successes and disappointments, but I will not be at their side anymore to witness their evolution. I walk only a few meters with them on this path of life, just like they do with me. I have felt welcomed both by the Australian people as well as the others from the hostel who are always in a good mood and full of dreams and energy. Today, I allowed myself to think about France and the life I had there and I have realized that I miss nothing and that I don’t want to go back to France. I do not know what to expect from Australia but for now I feel a sensation of freedom that I did not have in France.