25 Dezember 2007

Christmas is for everyone!

We did it! We reached Cambodia!
After our trip back to Trang, we spent the day in a cafe next to the railway station and waited for our train to depart. One at a time had the opportunity to stroll around, shop some stuff and have a closer look at the market - the other one guarded our luggage.
That train was unexpectedly cheap (20$ for a 16h-ride) and comfy: We had booked a sleeperwagon, so at 7pm our seats were transferred into a bed, in which we slept brilliant until the next morning. I was the last one in the wagon to get up, and short time after we arrived in Bangkok.
A nice woman from the visitor information advised us, that there was a train leaving towards the boarder at lunchtime, so we stored our backpacks near a bench and played the same game as in Trang: One guards our stuff, the other one discovers the surrounding.

The train to the boarder was pretty crowded, 3rd class. No worries, we survived it, and found a nice guesthouse in Aranya Prathet, the boarder village. In fact, a tuk-tuk driver found it for us.
Tuk-Tuks are motorcycles towing some sort of wagon, in which the tourists are seated, and are called tuk-tuk because of the wicked sound of their two-stroke-engines. Tuk, tuk, tuk, tuk, tuk...
The drivers either take you to the guesthouse you tell them, or they drive you somewhere, where they get the highest commission for doing so. You always end up somewhere, and usually the place is clean and cheap.

The lady from that guesthouse arranged a bustrip for the next morning, to Phnom Penh, capital of Cambodia. So we stood on the street in time, but waited for the bus for maybe 20 minutes, until it pulled up. We went to the embassy, to arrange our visa, and then straight on through the boarder.
In Cambodia, our nice lady told us, that the bus was gone. She threw us into a tuk-tuk, with which we tried to catch the bus... but no chance. After 15 minutes, we pulled over, our driver gave up. Another travel agent arranged a taxi for us, more expensive, of course, but - did we have a choice?

Well, not too bad, the two of us and the driver in this taxi to Phnom Penh. But I thought wrong. After 2 minutes we parked near a cafe, and waited. Why? We didn't know, the driver didn't speak English, and it was a long struggle to tell some salesman to ask this driver what we were waiting for. He told s something with 6 people, and a painful light began to dawn...
Correct - we were waiting for 4 more passengers! 7 persons and their luggage squeezed into this little car, we had a pretty uncomfy ride to Phnom Penh and were glad to reach it safe, after our driver had shocked us with some damn dangerous overtaking maneouvres.

Another tuk-tuk brought us to another random guesthouse, which accommodated us for 2,5US$ each. The staff was friendly, we had satellite TV and the food was really yum - we decided to come back after Sihanoukville.
But first, we went down to the beach, the next day. This time we reached the bus in time, and had a carefree journey to the Sihanoukville bus terminal. This time it was a motorcycle, which found a guesthouse for us, and we knew: This would be the place where to spend christmas.

Next day, we explored the market, and afterwards, while I was reading DaVinci Code, Isabel prepared our room for the evening - with palm leaves! Oh, it looked so lovely, once she had finished, the presents wrapped up in the leaves as well. Terrific, for those limited possibilitys she had!

In the evening, we went out for some noble dining, and after our return we unpacked our gifts, were happy and tried to feel like on a christmas evening. Hard, when the fan is humming and the sweat running.

We decided to stay up a little longer, to call our familys at their christmas eve, which happened to be at 2am the next day here in Cambodia. Unfotunately, we had to experience, that a 24hr-internetcafe isn't open at 2am in the morning! Weird. But well, so we did it the next day. No worries.

Sitting out on the veranda, we mixed a beans-corn & tuna salad, and feed the rest of the fish to the guesthouse cats - christmas is for everyone. Merry Christmas!

19 Dezember 2007

One week in paradise

Search, and you will find. That is what we wanted to prove right. In some borrowed travel guide we read about Koh Mook - an island, which is hard to find on the internet, even if you look for it! There was one big reasort homepage popping up all the time, and two blogs which told us about the beautiful remote- and loneliness, which the bloggers had obviously experienced out there...

We booked a bus for the next morning and left Phuket. After 5 hours we found ourselves in Trang, some provincial town south of Phuket - just a necessary stopover on the way to the island.

We arranged our transport, did some shopping, slept a night and dreamed of this miracoulous island we were heading to..

Next noon, a minivan fetched us at the guesthouse and brought us to a pier, where a longtailboat awaited our arrival. We boarded and left the mainland.
After ca. 30 minutes out on the open water, we reached our destination: Koh Mook. Lonely Planet describes it as "Not really discovered by tourists", and a travel agent had told us about three accommodation facilities. What we found, was double of that...

Our first two nights were secured in a little, pretty bungalow, with an unpretty view onto some red roofs and brickwalls. The staff was weird, the food expensive and all in all it was not what we had dreamed about in Trang...

Two days later, we checked out and moved maybe 200m down the road. What we found was - paradise. A pretty bungalow nestled under shady (palm-)trees right at the beachfront. Unaffordable? No way! this peace of heaven was still cheaper than any Australian hostel I have ever slept in!!!

We booked in. For 5 days. and those 120 hours were full of lazyness, sunbaking, reading, talking, foto-sessions, chillin', refreshing in the ocean, going out for breakfast, lunch & dinner and do pretty much nothing. Awesome!

Our part of the beach was almost always empty, the crowds preferred the other end, where that big resort from the internet covered a lot of space.
We woke up with sunlight sneaking through some holes in the wall in the morning, enjoyed life a whole day long and went to bed with the sounds of a calm ocean. I don't think I have seldomly had a more relaxing time in my life!

One day, we ran out of money, and due to the lack of an ATM on the island (no surprise, the electricity was limited to a few hours a day), I had to go back to Trang. To save money, I decided to take the local ferry, which was really, really crowded, but well worth an experience - locals can't afford air-con or some one-person-per-seat sort of thing... I spent the bus trip to town on a box attached to the rear of the bus... :-)

Next day, after possessing enough cash, Isabel & I rented a kayak and went out to Emerald Cave, little beauty for itself. After 80m of swimming through a tunnel, some of it in black darkness, we reached some 15m of beach, surrounded by steep and high walls - unaccessable from the inland.
Lucky we went there in the morning, so we could still enjoy the cave for ourselves. After half an hour, there was one tour after another pouring in, loads of people, and as we swam out again, we wondered, how that little cave was supposed to handle all these people...

Days in paradise always pass by too quickly, and so we found ourselves dining in the most expensive restaurant on our final night. Next day, we'd take the longtailboat back to the mainland and try to get up to Bangkok and over to Cambodia - and next time you'll read if we were successful.

P.S.: Sorry for the lack of pictures, it is all so complicated without my own laptop in these loud, hectic and slow internetcafes...

11 Dezember 2007

Off the beaten track

So we heard about that pretty, little island we were looking for. Some really long established fishermen sometimes refer to it as “Ko Phi Phi”. We knew immediately, this must be the place to be, to relax, enjoy and sunbake, this heaven on earth which no one knows except for the real locals and those making friends with them.

Therefore we were a little astonished, as a small Minivan picked us up in the morning, together with 6 other tourists. Where did they know from?
But well, so we had to divide the island by eight, that's cool.

This Minivan brought us to the pier of Phuket town, where a yacht awaited our arrival. Unfortunately, it was not our personal yacht, we had to share it again. Not by eight, no. By, maybe, 150. No worries. We always knew that Ko Phi Phi must be huge, so it could provide each of us with his personal, private beach.

One thing made me worry a little: There were three of these yachts, and, as soon as the first two left, there were immediately another two. Hmmm...
They'd probably go somewhere else, to one of those tourist-crowded resort-things. Don't think that any of these guys entering the other yachts had ever even dreamed about an island like we were about to discover!

Off we took. The sky was some sort of greyish, but I was sure, this was either a problem of my new sunglasses or just temporary, to make all those unexperienced all-inclusive backpackers stay at home. That sky couldn't trick us, though.

After approximately 2,5 hours we found our awesome escape. We were amazed, by what we had discovered!

But ... ermm... to be quite honest with you... we weren't exactly the first ones...

Ko Phi Phi isn't just an island anymore. Loads of resorts, bungalows and holiday houses line the shores, thousands of tourists come out for a short visit every day (!!!) and there is a market which reminded us of Phuket's inner city. It was shocking. We were expecting a couple of others, definitely, but none of us would have expected this...

Our all-inclusive tour provided us with some lunch, before we went to spend those 500 Baht (12 Euros), which we had taken with us, in the shopping mall. It took us some 10 minutes...

So – now Isabel had a new pants and a necklace, I had a necklace and a wristband, we were ready to find our private part of the beach. And – you wouldn't believe it, but we found one!

Imagine this: On the one hand side there's loads of tourists, all sunbaking, chillin', shopping, paragliding, playing funny beachgames.

On the other side is where the locals live. It looks like the slums of a bigger city, rubbish is everywhere and hardly any tourist enters this area, even though it is calm and still provides you with the same wee-warm ocean and the same sandy beach. Weird.

Isabel and I recognized it immediately as the place where to take some christmas pictures, and were once again annoyed by that grey sky, which, at least, had been coloured very little with some blue patches.

After 1,5 hours we had to return to the yacht, join in with those hundreds of tourists which left the island and took off for good. We both agreed, that we'll have to find something off the beaten track!

10 Dezember 2007

Exploring South-East-Asia: Life at its best

Actually, I should start a new blog now, for the exploration of Australia seems to be over for the time being. But to make following my foot-steps more user-friendly, I won't – and I won't start writing in Thai, either. Nice, ey? ;-)

Singapore airport wasn't as spectacular as I expected it to be. Tim and Laura had told me about free foot-massage and free usage of the internet – but we arrived and left through the budget terminal, which only features 6 internet computers, which are usually occupied. So we caught some hours of sleep, instead.

We reached Phuket without any problems, Thailand, here we go! The airport is right next to the ocean, and a lot of palm trees welcome you as soon as you leave the plane. This might become a great holiday, I reckon.

The taxi driver pretended not to know our hostel, but Lonely Planet had already told us so – they only know the hotels which pay commisions. Therefore we had written down the exact address and some sort of route how to get there, and in the end, we really landed where we wanted to get. All good.

The rest of the day was pretty lazy, but full of new experiences: We went to some cornerstore, bought loads of water and I had never imagined how cheap this will be! 5L of water for 1 Au$, and a can of coke for 50 cents. Cheap enough to not take any water bottles with you, when you go to town...

Our lovely hostel lady advised us to visit the market, where we had a yummi dinner and bought some extraordinary delicious fruit, like guavas, mangos and bananas. I think, I could live on fruit here!

Next day began with a breakfast next door.

Everyone goes out for eating here, for food is so cheap – and well, our kitchen is not equipped that good... *g*

After visiting Chalong temple, we stopped a bus to bring us to Phuket town, wanted to do some shopping there.
As soon as we arrived, some thai guy talked us into a citytour – for free! The deal: We'd visit the places he drove us to, and in exchange we wouldn't pay a Baht. Why? Well – he brings tourists to diamond, food, suit and carpet outlets and collects stamps for that. Stamps are money. If we had bought something, he'd have got another stamp, but we didn't, so we had to visit a couple of more stores.

We got to see the places for rich tourists in Phuket, and, to our favour, also a huge shopping center and, later on, the weekend market.

We enjoyed the relaxed Thai culture, the good food and the bargaining on the market. Isabel bought nothing except for food and drinks, whilst I shopped a card reader, a new shirt and a desperately needed pair of sunnys. Isabel forbid me to buy this stylish Gangsta-Jamaica-Hat...

It was hot and humid most of the day, but the places, we were brought to, were all airconditioned, as was the taxi. I seriously thought about buying two sets of suits, shirts, ties and belts, for they were cheaper than I had ever thought a suit could be, but I resisted the temptation – would be too much weight, and, honestly, how often do I wear a suit?

It rained for maybe one hour, and it rained heavily. The massive drops would have soaked us to the skin within half a minute, no joking! We preferred to spend that time in a dry store...

Thailand is pretty different to other countries I have been to yet, since I can remember. All along the street are shops, food stalls, barbers... everything you need. As long as you walk, there will always be a motorcyclist sounding his horn to offer you a lift, for cash, of course. Street rules don't seem to be defined clearly, as everyone trys to fill every single gap. Red lights aren't there, as long as no one is crossing the road, and loads of motorcyclists circle the cars in pretty dangerous manoeuvres, the main reason why Isabel would never hop on one of these bikes.

Not everyone wants to sell you something, as I had expected it, not even on the market. Communication is sometimes pretty hard, the level of English is mostly basic, if spoken at all. Some dudes try to impress you with their German, and some are succesful with that – in my opinion, they know more about Germany than the Ozzies do, but unfortunately they only know it because of all the tourists.

Isabel and I are still looking for the perfect, little island to escape the crowds, to do at least one week of nothing and to enjoy life at its best.

08 Dezember 2007

Bye, bye, australia - I swear, I'll be back!

The last few hours were pretty hectic, after the internet I cancelled my temporary membership at the local library, we brought our bikes back, went for some short shopping, packed the rest of our staff, said farewell to our mates and hopped on the train.

We reached Sydney and our hostel withour any problems, found our room and went straight to bed.
Next day was beachday. We had seen an ad the day before, that the hostel would organize some fun day out at Palm Beach, with surfing, chillin' and beachvolleyball, 10 bucks per head. We were in.
A bus brought loads of British, Irish, one Italian, two Swedish and us to a long stretch of sand, and we got on the beachvolleyballcourt immediately. The sun burned down on us, so we decided to jump into some cooling waves. Intelligent Chris went for bodysurfing with his sunnys, which happened to disappear somewhere in the ocean. *sniff*
But well – in exchange for my sunnys I got some free surf lesson – and I managed to stand three waves within half an hour!!! Right, the waves weren't that big, and I'm honest enough to not call me a pro (yet), but I have to commit that I was very proud of myself. :-)

Back home we had a quick shower, I went down to the bar for a short game of poker, and finally it was time to say goodbye to Australia – with a luxurious meal. So we strolled along the harbour, studied some menues and met – Nikky, my volleyball partner from Perth!!! Could you believe that?

In the end, we found the italian village, a pretty, little restaurant next to the Harbour Bridge with a good view of the Opera House. What else could we wish for?

The meal was delicious, the bill frustrating and the evening a cracker! An awesome way to say bye-bye to this terrific country I fell in love with so long ago...

Our last day in Sydney was full of action: After we had checked-out of the hostel, we walked to aifs, I collected my mail (thanks for your postcard, Tim!) and sent my laptop home to Germany. Next stop was a bookshop, to buy a South-East-Asia guide, followed by a run to the Harbour for taking some last pics with the Bridge and the Opera.

Isi went back to the city, to meet a friend of hers, and I stood there, bearing in mind that I won't see all this beauty for a bloody long time.

I walked around the Opera, bought my last ozzie icecream and stumbled back to the hostel. All of a sudden, after I had grabbed some seat on the sofa there, someone approached from behind with the words: “Are you from Radolfzell?” I turned around and looked in some face I had never seen in real life before, and was therefore not sure who had just said that. The guy introduced himself as a Juergen from Markelfingen, who had read my newspaper-articles and lately chatted with me on the internet. Funny, how small the world can be.

Isabel and Sarah, her friend, joined in in our conversation, and we talked along until it was time for Isabel and me to move. Sarah accompanied us on the way to Grimes, a lovely family, who had hosted Isabel earlier on. They invited us for some delicous BBQ, treated me as if I had been a friend of them for years, and finally drove us to the airport. (Thank you very much, all of you Grimes!!!)

As Isabel and I had boarded the flight, I burst out in tears, knowing, that an unforgettable adventure had come to and end now – even though we'd still spend two days in Darwin, Australia was over... *sob*

We arrived in Darwin somewhen in the middle of the night, and to save some bucks on accomodation, we decided to spend the last few hours until sunrise at the airport.
Isabel fell asleep, and I stayed up, reading, and enjoying the calmness of an almost empty airport.
At approx. 5am, we swapped, and I dreamed happily until I was woken up with a double treat of chocolate... yumm, yumm, yumm.

The days in Darwin were easy, we chilled out, surfed the internet in the library, looking for a lonely island to stay and read a lot.

Friday evening came, and we went. Some Airbus with a tiger on it waited for us to board, and even though I felt like I had left Australia some weeks ago, it were in fact my last moments on a country, which definitely made me another man...
After almost 15 months, I have to leave you know behind, me beloved Australia – but I swear, I'll be back!

03 Dezember 2007

The best pictures from the whitest beaches

Today’s the day! Isabel and I start our (hopefully) terrific holiday!
Our bags are packed, we said bye-bye to Fletcher and our mates from the hostel. At 2pm, we’ll hop on the train to Sydney, stay there for two days and then take the plane up to Darwin. Just booked a hotel in Phuket, beautiful. Oh man, it’ll be awesome!

In Sydney, we’ll have to meet some mates, take some pictures and buy a guidebook for South-East Asia, before everything is done and we’re ready to relax.

Since the last post, there was quite some stuff happening here: Markus, our beloved chef, left for New Zealand. We figured out, that he was my longest travel mate here in Australia! Woohoo! Some more guys left, off to Sydney, probably the reason, why the hostel feels a little empty now. And, as if that was not enough, our free WLAN was cancelled! The owner found out, that we had hacked his computer, and stopped our surf-orgies. *sob*

Isabel and I enjoyed our last days at Fletcher’s, earned some more dollars and I was really touched by how many people wished us a great honeymoon-holiday. Awesome. If we would have stayed for a little longer, we could have found great mates in that abattoir, I reckon.

Well, even though we’re about to leave – we found them. Had some fun partys in the major night club, the “Commercial”. And it’s just amazing how everyone talks to you as if you had been best friends for ages... I love Australia!

So, today is our last day in Dubbo. We had some nice weeks out here, now sent two parcels back home, to save on weight, answered almost all our emails and blogged our latest news. Few days ago, we bought some santa-hats, so we’re ready to send the best pictures from the whitest beaches – soon. :-)

26 November 2007

First foot in Thailand

As you might have guessed after reading my last post, our job interview at Fletcher’s went all good. It wasn’t really an interview, we just had to see the doc, who checked, that we are drug-free, and met an other guy, who told us, how much we’re gonna earn. That was it.
The next day was induction day. Approx. 25 newbies, two supervisors and a lot of talking. A lot of bloody boring talking. I fell asleep twice, even though I only attended the meeting for 6 hours, before I pretended to have a doctors appointment. In fact, I really had one, but noone would have cared if I hadn’t.
The topic about all the talking was ... ermm ... I’m not quite sure, but I’d reckon ... Fletcher’s. Or sth. like that. Maybe I was a bit distracted by trying to catch some sleep...
Anyway – the others told me, there had been a test after I had left, and the supervisors hadn’t asked for the answers but told them to their listeners. Well... they seem to need us workers desperately. :-)
The good thing about that is – they also need us in the arvos! And as I said last time I blogged, there’s quite good money to be made. So we work like 50 or 60 hours a week, get enourmous sums of money and are some sort of happy with that. Happy enough to keep going. One week remaining. Thailand is waiting!

Two weeks ago, we got some qoutes from various travel agencies about flights from Sydney to Phuket. The cheapest price those professionals could find was about 1100Au$!!! Damn. How should we pay that? We earn some money, but we don’t want to throw it away for a flight!
Well, so I started my own research. The hostel provides us with Wireless Lan, so all is good. I really managed to build up a funny route, which is a little cheaper than the quoted fares were. From Sydney we’ll fly to Brisbane, from there straight on to Darwin and stay there for three days. Next stop is Bangkok, and then we’ll hop in the plane to Phuket. That’s four flights, instead of one, and they all add up to ... 550Au$!!! Oh man, I was so proud of myself, I would have loved to dismiss all these lovely smiling, but completely incompetent ladies who shocked us a whole afternoon long!
Yep – we hit the “book”-button immediately. So I’ll leave Australia after almost 15 months on December 3rd...

The work at Fletcher’s is not too exciting: I changed departments, so now I have to change the sheep from one chain to another, vacuum them and ram some plugs up their asses. Have never seen so many assholes in my life before – probably not even added up together!

So we have to do some fun-stuff in our few spare hours: We love to play soccer, basketball, watch movies, have a huge BBQ, some pool-party or go out with the hostel-crew, which sometimes comes up to 15 young fellas. Oh yeah!

Isabel and I celebrate our 2. month today. Woohoo. And we’re still getting along really, really well with each other, get up in the morning, have brekkie, bike to work, have our breaks together, drive home side by side and then do what we have to do – shopping, the laundry, chill out...
Weekends are always great, last week she woke me up with some hot chocolate and a beautiful prepared brekkie – ready to eat! What else could I wish for?

Well... maybe my 2nd visa. The government hasn’t mailed me anything yet, but that doesn’t matter – even if they decided to throw me out, two weeks time would be more than enough to leave the country.
Aifs has extended my mail storage, after I wrote them a really angry email... all good.
And – christmas is coming! We’Re trying to find some nice Santa-hats, to take the best pictures on the best beaches in Thailand. You might get a little jealous, if I tell you, that we’re sweating here with 35°C every day, but you will get even more jealous, if you’ll get to see those pictures... :-)

Anyway – tomorrow is another at Fletcher’s, eight hours only, overtime has been cancelled, after school has finished and heaps of schoolies are trying to earn some bucks for lollies and stuff. *Arrgh* Isabel and I answered by working on Saturday: You get paid double the normal wage – from the first minute on – and just do some cleaning, some standing around and take some pictures. Definitely worth it! *g*

All in all, it’s not too bad here in Dubbo. We keep our good spirit up by studying our payslips – over and over again. And then we realize – we’re already standing with our first foot in Thailand!

09 November 2007

Becoming Bill Gates by boxing brains?

Early start: The alarm clock rings at 5.04am, far before the sun rises. Isabel and I get up, more or less voluntarily, switch the light on and walk into the kitchen. Markus and Oli are already sitting on the table, having breakfast. We take our Muesli flakes, some milk and join in.
Isabel made some sandwiches for lunch yesterday, as well as some rice with corn & beans. All good. So it’s my job to wash the dishes and fill up our waterbottles. Everything goes into our backpacks, and off we take.
It’s not really dark as we ride along the highway, on our rented pushbikes. Approximately 5km until we reach Fletcher’s, our new employer. The sun is just about to rise as we arrive at this enourmous factory.

“Which number, boy?” The receptionist grins gently. “79. Thanks.” He hands me my clothes, a blue shirt and some blue trousers. I grab a pair of earplugs and a hairnet and walk towards the lockers, get changed there and look pretty similar to any of the other 900 workers, each of them earning good loads of money here.

After entering the slaughterfloor, we gotta wash our hands as well as those green gumboots, which were waiting in the locker for me. Here is where we get some gloves and a plastic apron, put the earplugs in and enter the abattoir.

Let’s get started. Three sorts of jobs are waiting for us: Remove the fat out of those sheep corpses, disjoint the bowels or cut off their heads. We do it in a rotating system, so everyone does every job for half an hour, to avoid getting too bored.

All right, so we switch our brains off and start working. Same motion, time after time, one sheep every five seconds, 4000 sheep per shift, 8000 sheep per day, 40000 per week. Incredible figures!

After 3,5 hours we have our first teabreak, get out of the abbatoir, sanitize all clothes, our boots and hands, open our lockers, grab some food, put the backpack back into the locker, have a quick wee and rush back to the slaughterfloor. All within 20 paid minutes. Same jobs again. Another two hours, until lunch. Half an hour break. Unpaid. Same procedure as earlier on, just 10 minutes more time for eating. Back to work.

By the time the machines stop going, it is ten to three. 8,5 hours have passed by, 8 hours are paid. 136$. Not too bad. But not enough.
Markus, Oli, Isabel and I sit outside on a bench, having a sandwich and a drink, enjoying the sunshine. It is Friday afternoon, most of the guys passing by are looking forward to their weekend. We’re looking forward to work some overtime.

10 minutes later, we’re back in the slaughterfloor, dressed up as we have to be. The afternoon shift has started, and we’re waiting for some supervisor to tell us what to do.
Finally, one of those guys with the blue helmets comes towards us and asks, if we have ever packed brains. No, I haven’t. Markus and Oli have spooned out some yesterday...
All right, so he’s gotta show me. The guy, who cuts off the heads now, puts them on a conveyor belt. They are taken straight into a machine, which is supposed to cut them right in the middle. Well, that’s the best case – otherwise Oli and Markus have to improvise, as they try to get as much brain out of those heads as possible. Some of these sheep must have been clinically dead, before they were killed, we’re wondering, as we discover some grubs moving through those heads. Weird.

Markus and Oli chuck the brains on a tray. As soon as there are approx. 20 of them, I replace the tray by an empty one, put the full one into a freezer and leave it in there for a minute or so. Now, that they’re a little bit colder, I pack the brains into plastic bags, one per bag, and those bags into small boxes, 6 bags per box. These little boxes are squeezed into a bigger carton, 40 at a time. That’s 240 brains per carton. And I believe, that there must be enough customers, to buy hundreds and thousands of these brains, even though they seem to be expensive.

Because the only reason, why we’re working overtime, is the money. After 8 hours, you get paid 1,5 times the money you usually earn, after 10 hours even double the amount of it! Incredible! So we’re standing in that little chamber, talking, having fun, working in a pretty relaxed way, and earn almost 35$ per hour!!! Can you believe that? And there must still be some sense for the company to pay us overtime!

It was dark, when Isabel and I finally left the premises. 14,5 hours of work were done, and we earned 320$ today. Markus and Oli decided to stay on for another 2,5 hours, they finished by 11.30.pm. And we all got more money than we had earned with picking oranges in a whole week! Fascinating.

Back home we just stripped off our clothes and went to bed straight away – tomorrow we will sleep in and have a wonderful Saturday off. Awesome!

05 November 2007

Die, scurvy, die

Happy Birthday, dear Mum! Hope you have a wonderful day, ey?

All right. So the next day we started to pick oranges. Pretty funny, in my opinion. Up the ladder, down the ladder, grab every orange you can reach and throw them into your bag. Empty the bag in the big bin and wait for it to fill up. Three bins per person per day is the general expectation. That’s approx. 1,2 tonnes of oranges we have to shift. Each. With bad trees. With the good ones, you can reach up to 8 bins each – set the case you’re a little more experienced than we are. ;-)

The money is not too bad, sometimes we reach an hourly rate of almost 25$, cause we finish our three bins within 5 hours and get paid 8. Great deal. *g* Furthermore, I became the driver of our little team, and we’re allowed to keep the car in the arvo and drive around town with it. Fuel is supplied. All good.

You’re wondering, how orange picking can be fun? I’ll tell you: We get up in the morning at 4.45, have some brekkie, brush our teeth and get going. Us, that is Markus, Isabel, Chris & Alex, two other Germans from this hostel, John, a Japanese guy, who joined the team yesterday, and I. We drive down to Dan’s place and pick him up. Dan’s our new supervisor, sort of. Relaxed Ozzie mate, doesn’t take himself too serious at all and is more shy than bossy. Awesome. Then we hit the highway, approx. 50kms out to the orange plantation. Long way, if you’re aware of that the sun isn’t even up. Why should we be?

6.30: We arrive at the orchard. Sometimes we get into picking immediately, otherwise we hang around for another half an hour, cause we’re not that motivated or maybe still tired. As soon as we get started, our brains go crazy, somehow. We philosophize about genesis, the roles of men & women as well as PCs and stuff. We found out, that there’s no computer game simulating the hard life of an orange picker, that men are the elite of the world and that Eva must have been Paris Hilton. Sounds weird? Well... maybe it is. But it also is good fun. And that’s the main thing, ey? ;-)

Backpackers are generally poor. Poor enough, to eat 2 oranges in a 10-minute-break, just because they’re for free. And poor enough to take loads of them home, even though they just store them in their room. Who cares?
Everytime you eat an orange or a grapefruit, which are grown on the orchard as well, you gotta say: “Die, scurvy, die.” Usually we say it in German, but that doesn’t change the fact, that we’re seriously fighting against this bad and painful diesease which once killed thousands of sympathetic sailors and seamen. Come and fight with us! Eat more oranges!

There’s another thing about backpackers: They never get enough. So – even though we’re earning over 100$ per day with picking oranges, we applied at Fletcher’s, a huge, local meat processing company. Just because they pay 17$ per hour.
The application was succesful. Might be, that today was our last day on the orchard. Tomorrow is some kind of job interview, but our hostel mates told us, that they’d take everyone. So we’re looking quite forward to that. No worries.

You’re wondering, why I’m talking about hostel mates? The answer is pretty simple: Markus had enough from being alone with a couple in a 3-bed-dorm. So we all moved out. Isabel and I booked into a double room, Markus has two mates staying in his chamber. And we’re all happy with this solution – even though I miss the space and the air-con. *sob*

The trouble with the undergroundmotel is almost over: Markus never got his last payment. Jenny’s explanatory statement: He was working on a contract, which bound him to a one-weeks-notice, in case he wants to leave. Markus had never read that contract, so he didn’t know anything about that. But he doesn’t worry.
We all seem to have received our final payslips, Jenny said she had sent them to our postal address. Letters of recommendation might follow. Only problem: My aifs-program has expired, and these guys sent all my mail back to the sender. Either to Germany, to the motel, to Jenny – wherever. They didn’t even tell me that there was any mail! Oh, I hate them. After having set my flight to the wrong date, they’re now sending all my mails back. I couldn’t believe it, as they told me so. What is that for an organisation? Why did I pay them any money? Must have been young and dumb...

South-East-Asia seems to be for sure now. Plans are changing all the time, so you can never take anything for sure, but I’ll tell you the latest: I decided to get my 2nd visa. All examinations are completed, I’m just waiting for an email from the government granting me another year in Australia. Why? Well – Isabel has some financial problems, and that’s not what you need when you wanna go on an unforgettable trip to Asia. So we thought about taking a plane by the beginning of December, work straight through until then, earn as much money as we can and relax afterwards. Without a visa, I would have had to leave at the latest by the 20th of November, so now we have 2 more weeks to work. At Fletcher’s – up to 2000$!

We’ll see, if they’ll take us. Shouldn’t be a problem.
I better switch off the computers now, sit down with Isabel and Markus and say: “Die, scurvy, die.” Maybe the last time as an orange picker...