I’d decided that since I was still paying the loan on my car I might as well bring it up to Sydney to use. I had my friend and trainer from the bridge Dan fly to Melbourne with me to drive it back up. It was a rushed trip, and the first time I’d driven from Melb to Syd, but we had fun, and it was convenient to have it up here with me. It was around this time that Dan decided to resign from the bridge, and I was devastated. He was one of my closest friends up here, and work wasn’t going to be the same without him. Half our training group hadn’t continued on after our initial three months were up, and now Dan was going too. I was at a loss as all that was familiar to me was disappearing before my eyes. It was around the same time that I had to move out of Dale’s place, and all things combined made me a little depressed. I was fumbling around trying to find somewhere that I fit in and not being all that successful.
I was struggling to find affordable accommodation in Sydney (that included a car space, as many places don’t even have street parking available!) and so decided that for a few weeks I’d sleep in my car. Now it wasn’t as bad as I’m sure you’re imagining. My car is quite roomy, and I’m quite small, so sleeping on the back seat worked rather well (ok, so I did put the passenger seat forward and slept with my legs on a little bit of a forward angle, but it wasn’t the worst place I’ve slept, that’s for sure!) I was actually quite proud of myself, in selecting the location of where I ‘stayed’ and in the method and manner of those few weeks of survival.
Remember Clovelly where I’d been snorkeling with Dan? Well I stayed there. I chose that car park because it was free during the day (a rare occurrence in Sydney, free car parking), and there were often other campervans there during the night, so I felt quite safe and comfortable. Plus, the bus I caught went from the car park right to the bridge (first and last stops) so I made friends with the various bus drivers – in fact, on weekends when the bus has to divert for the markets in the Rocks, they would drop me off right at the staff entrance to BridgeClimb – I literally walked off the bus and into work, it was brilliantly convenient! There was a toilet block at the beach, so I had somewhere I could use as a bathroom (it did get locked at about 11pm, and re-opened at about 5am, so I only had to hold on for six hours!) and I showered at work where I had a locker full of toiletries and food. I had a workable system in the car where I got my clothes out of the boot and onto the front seat the night before, I had sun shades up on the back and side windows to block out the lamp light in the car park, and my towel hung between the seats so I had some privacy. I was working so much I didn’t really have time to contemplate a social life, and couldn’t afford to do much anyway, so didn’t think about it. It was all good, though once I got talking to a nice older couple on the bus and they asked where I lived (it was late at night and we were near the end of the bus line) so I said – “Oh, down near the beach”, and when they asked what street I lived in I was vague and said I’d just moved to the area and didn’t really know all the streets yet… I diverted the subject by offering them a discount to climb the bridge, which they took up a few weeks later!
One of the girls at work later found out I’d been staying in my mobile home and was so worried she offered me to stay at her place for a week or so, and I accepted on the grounds that it was nice to have a bed for a few nights. However, getting from her place to work was much more of an effort via public transport (and no option of driving as parking fees would have negated working), however she was adamant that I not stay in the car anymore. I was grateful to her, but a little resentful at the same time. Funny how these things work. The more people who found out the more they seemed to worry themselves about it, however I didn’t, and still don’t, know what the big deal was. It wasn’t as if I had to live there – I chose to. And it was only for a short while until I found somewhere else. I was looking at places on my rare days off, but everything I saw that was within my price range was a dump.
So I reluctantly upped the limit of what I was willing to pay in rent and found a place in North Bondi. Funnily it was the old Bondi Police Station. And I moved in exactly four years to the day that I took the police entrance exam. Talk about coincidence! Other than being a large place (eight rooms) it didn’t resemble a police station anymore – except for the ‘Decommissioned Cell’ that was in the open air ‘court yard’ in the middle of the structure. That had me laughing! We lived in the offices (so we were told), and most of the rooms were shared rooms. I began sharing with a Polish girl, then she moved out and I had the room to myself for two months, then a Thai girl moved in. I didn’t mind sharing with someone else, but some people find the idea really weird. Again, I don’t understand why. There were a total of 13 people in the house when it was full, and I loved it. When I moved in there were four Irish, two Germans, two Chileans, one Columbian, one Polish, one Peruvian, and two Aussies. It was like a mini sample of the world all under the one roof, with the beach at the end of our street. To be honest, it was a nice feeling to have my own space in the form of a bed, desk and cupboard again. Even if I did share the room, the space I now owned was larger than the back seat of my mobile home, and it was a specific address that I could tell people. And I loved the craziness of it.
Now it was still busy on the bridge, and I was working as many hours as I could. The longest stint I did was 18 days straight, which nearly sent me crazy! A minimum of two climbs a day, for 18 days = 36 climbs, with 14 people on a climb = 504 people I met and interacted with and entertained during that period. I started to hate the place. I was looking for a different job as this one had run its course with me. I applied for the following range of jobs: A Segway tour guide, a nanny, a barmaid, jobs at the snow, at a resort in Broome, tour guiding in NZ, doing traffic control (stop/slow lollypop work), as a baggage handler, as a street cleaner for the City of Sydney (come on, driving one of those little one person cars around could be fun..), and as a mobile ‘I’ll come visit your office and water your plants for you’ chick. The most frustrating part of all these applications was that you rarely heard back after you applied. I mean, not even a generic “Sorry you’re unsuccessful” email. How rude is that? Is society really turning so lazy and bad-mannered that you can’t even expect a courtesy cut and paste apology email? Geez. I did get a few interviews for the various jobs, but for one reason or another they wouldn’t eventuate into work. Those I could contact afterwards I did, just as a follow up and or confirmation I didn’t get the job, but others I couldn’t even get a hold of. I was disgusted with the lack of service and respect. The least people could do was follow up or return a call, I don’t think there’s anything too hard about that.
In April I went back to Melbourne again for my brother’s 21st. I stayed a few nights at my good friend Rodger’s place, and when I arrived there was a huge basket of Easter eggs on my bed, which I thought was really nice and made me feel very much at home. Thank you Rodger! After the 21st I had my appointment at the American Consulate, to get my visa to go visit Hannah in the USA. I figured it would all go along nicely and I’d soon be on my way to the States. I was wrong. In short, my visa was denied because “You haven’t been in your current job for at least 12 months”. Like that was meant to convey my intention to return to Australia or something?! I was devastated, and couldn’t believe the lady had so coldly stamped my application with a big fat ‘Denied’ stamp, and handed me a generic letter explaining that I now had to wait 12 months before applying again. Well I wanted to punch her, and it’s probably just as well there was a thick wall of glass separating us or I would have. Arrggghhhh! Then I turned childish and felt like telling her I didn’t even want to go to her stupid country anymore anyway, and by the time I got back to the car I was in tears. And had to call Hannah and tell her I wasn’t coming over because they wouldn’t let me in the country. Bloody red tape!
Now what was I going to do? Sydney was meant to only be temporary, and I’d already been there for five months already. I was headed back there the next day, and figured I may as well keep walking around the Bridge since it was paying the bills for now.
Back in Sydney I decided to start horse riding lessons. I was still looking for something to feel connected somewhere, and a community class seemed a good place to start. Why horse riding? I’d ridden a horse in a friends paddock about 20 years ago, and had a few friends who’d ridden over the years so thought I’d get some lessons. Plus it was different, and it’s always those activities that call out to me. So every Thursday morning I went horse riding. I learnt to brush and saddle the horse, and the basics of riding them. I fell off in week five. It happened so suddenly that one second I was on the horse, I heard a noise from the nearby car park and felt her shy away, then in the next second I was sitting on my bum on the sand wondering how I came off. The old adage about getting straight back on the horse was already running around in my head, so I did. Though I was still in a bit of shock I think. I didn’t think the fall had really worried me, until the following week when I went back and suddenly felt a little nervous. But I continued and wasn’t too bad of a rider if I do say so myself.
I was regularly given new horses to ride (new to me, not the stables), and I didn’t always enjoy it as it would take a lesson or two just to get used to the horse (like driving a new car each time you’re taking a lesson), but I coped and it was probably good for me in the long run. I consoled myself with the thought that I was the only one who could handle such constant change. I earned respect a few weeks later when my horse took off at the sound of a whip cracking nearby but I managed to stay on and eventually got him to stop. I recall thinking, “I’m not coming off again” and although I’m assured it was a sight to behold – me flying along, bouncing in the saddle, barely in control, hanging on for dear life – I didn’t fall off and was quite proud of my efforts.
The hours on the bridge dropped dramatically right after Easter, and stayed low throughout May and June. I was averaging approximately 40 – 50 hours a fortnight, and just staying afloat. I needed another source of income to keep me going. So I started looking for places to do some Life Modelling. I had the time to search for arty places, and I’m not averse to cold calling and self advertising, and I found the work started to come in fairly regularly. So much so that it pays for my rent. It was the perfect occupation for winter, where not only did I dictate the temperature of the room, but I also had to think quickly and come up with new poses depending on what each class wanted, and I had to be adaptable as each class was different from the next. And some more so than others. I’ll save those stories for the next email.
Take care, I’m off on a road trip for a week next week so will endeavour to write again soon (at least before another four months go by!)