Arriving in Sydney this time was very different. The first time I was terrified. I had to find somewhere to live, make new friends, start studying in a new place with a new system. I was completely overwhelmed by it all. This time I was far more in control. I still had to find somewhere to live, still have to make new friends (most of mine were only studying abroad for a semester) and I’ll have new courses. But this time it’s exciting, not scary, because I know I can do it and I know I only have four months left and I’ll be damned if I waste them. Also, this time I was looking for somewhere to live with a friend and when you’re sharing the burden it’s somehow so much easier.
We arrived back at 9am on Saturday, 15th February. A friend of Jasmine’s kindly allowed us to spend the night on her couch so we had a place to go and dump our stuff and have a cup of tea and a shower. I’ve found that as long as there’s a kettle and a shower you’re laughing no matter where you are. As it turned out, one night was all we needed. After a cup of tea, Jasmine and I got onto Gumtree and scoured the website for any room that looked right. We knew we wanted a twin room. We knew that we wanted to live by the sea (either Bondi or Coogee) because, whilst Newtown was a great place to live, we wanted to experience somewhere different. We knew that we didn’t want to spend more than $200 a week on rent. Thus narrowing it down, we sent out loads of emails and we waited. I still haven’t heard back from some of these places and it’s been over a week. Gumtree is not great for reliable communication.
One guy, however, got back to us very quickly and asked if we wanted to come and view the room that very afternoon. Why not? So we agreed and spent the next hour trying to find our least smelly clothing, drag a brush through the birds nest that I was rocking for a hairstyle and try to make ourselves look like respectable young ladies that will be ever so responsible and will always pay the rent on time and who like nothing better than to clean and keep everything in tip-top condition. I’m exaggerating slightly, but it is really important to make a good first impression. Landlords are picky like that. Anyway, I threw an Edinburgh hoody over the top of my free Nevis bungee jump t-shirt (hiding the awesomeness beneath an academic persona) and we went along to see what was what.
Generally I don’t like to take the first room I view. Or I at least like to look at a few rooms before I make any decisions. That way you get an idea of whether you’re getting value for money, what you can expect for certain prices and so on. This room seemed really good though. There were two single beds, a huge chest of drawers and mirror, a wardrobe and a huge bookcase in the room and still enough space, if not to swing a cat, to sway it slightly. This was important because I needed to be able to feel that I at least have some personal space, something I was slightly worried about with sharing a room as I haven’t had to do that for at least a decade. Then I reminded myself that the last month and a half living in Newtown, Jasmine was sleeping on sofa cushions on my floor with absolutely no floor-space left. If we can survive that, this will be a doddle. The rest of the house seemed really nice too. It’s got a huge fully-equipped kitchen, a washing machine, a large bathroom (though only one between eight of us … could get interesting) and a big garden, complete with outdoor table, functioning barbeque and three chickens, who we have named K, F, and C. The landlord seemed really nice and it was going to be cheaper than a hostel (per night) so we said yes. We moved in on the Sunday. Less than 24 hours back in Sydney and accommodation was sorted. Hell yeah!
The thing that really swung it is that we can move out anytime we want with only a month’s notice. So even if we did find somewhere better we’re not tied down to this place. I don’t think we’re going to want to move though. The more we find out about living here, the more we like it. It’s in Bondi Junction, about a 30 minute walk to the beach, 10 minute walk to the train station that will take me straight into uni and the city centre, 5 minute walk to a huge Westfields complete with three different supermarkets, 30 minute walk to the biggest park in Sydney and a couple of other parks are close by too. Sure, we live quite close to a major junction, but it’s amazing how being even slightly off the main road (there is one house between us and the main road) makes everything so much quieter. Indeed, the only noise pollution is from the primary school over the road during playtime and you’d have to be a really miserable bugger to hate the sound of children playing. Our housemates are great too. Everyone’s in their twenties and we’re living with four Irish girls, a Spanish boy and an Italian boy (who I’m yet to meet – he moves in this afternoon). Everyone seems to be getting along together and we had a big barbeque on Friday night which was good fun. Also, two of the Irish girls are nurses, which is great for someone as accident prone as me.
The one downside of the house so far is the spiders. The older the house, the greater the risk and our house is pretty old. Within the first 24 hours I had my first encounter with a wolf spider. The scream from Sarah’s room (one of the Irish girls) alerted us to its presence, as did her fleeing from its vicinity. We were the only ones home and both of us HATE spiders. As she cautiously searched for it, I hovered in the doorway, Perspex bowl in hand, both wanting to catch it and desperately not wanting to see it. In the end we called the landlord – we were that wussy – and he tracked it down. Apparently the way to deal with them is to throw a towel over them. The spider will crawl up into one of the folds and then you gingerly collect the corners, carry it outside and give it a shake, thus removing the spider without having to make contact. I’m not sure I could get even that close. I REALLY hate spiders. Since then we’ve seen two others (suspected huntsmen … both of whom escaped) and my nerves are shot. I am constantly slightly on edge, aware of the possibility that there might be a huge eight-legged monster in our midst. I feel most sorry for David the Spanish boy who, despite hating spiders himself, is being forced to deal with all and every encounter on the basis that he’s a boy. Now we have another guy maybe they can fight it out amongst themselves while we accept the blow to feminism as preferable to dealing with arachnids.
Living close to Bondi Junction will also hopefully increase the likelihood of getting employed. It’s really difficult to find work over here on a student visa. One of the requirements of the visa is that you can only work 20 hours a week (though I don’t think I could handle more than that with uni work too) and many places want greater flexibility. They also don’t want to hire someone that they know is going to be leaving soon – another problem with the visa is that they know exactly how long you’ve got left. I’ve applied to loads of shop and café jobs to no avail – they both tend to want me to work all day on weekdays when I have uni – and so now I’m turning to Hospitality, in the hope that an industry with such a high staff turn-over will be willing to hire foreigners despite the short-term nature of their employment. Working in a restaurant in the evenings would actually suit me quite well. The only issue is that to work in any venue where alcohol is served or sold – even if it’s a liquor store and no drinking is occurring – Australia makes you pay to do a qualification called the RSA (Responsible Service of Alcohol). This is a six and a half hour course where you “learn” that it’s illegal to serve people under the age of 18, to sell alcohol to intoxicated people etc. I’m doing the course tomorrow and then I will hit the restaurant scene with CVs and a desperate look in my eye that says ‘I like food and shelter – please let me keep it!’
University starts properly next week so this week I’m going to make the most of the remainder of my holidays and of O-Week, Sydney’s version of Fresher’s Week (it’s tame in comparison but might give me the chance to meet new people and start on that friendship thing). Ugh why is meeting people so hard?! I’ll let you know how it gets on, provided I’m not eaten by a giant spider in the interim. Here’s hoping!