Postcards from Abroad: Canberra

 
 

A couple of weeks ago we had Spring Break. The seasons are backwards down here so I’d had seven weeks of classes by the time we came to the mid semester break. Exchange students used this time to go travelling and to experience all that Australia had to offer.

Reports came back of friends sleeping beneath the stars in the Outback, swimming with crocodiles, going to a deckchair cinema in Darwin, walking under waterfalls, sunbathing at Surfer’s Paradise, feeding wallabies, touching koalas and travelling everywhere from the Gold Coast to Perth.

I was stuck in Canberra with only How I Met Your Mother to keep me company. I’d made big plans to study continuously for the two weeks as well as other ordinary stuff like doing a big load of laundry and cleaning my room thoroughly. Of course, without people around it was a lot harder to motivate myself. Who wants to spend their day doing boring stuff when there’s no-one around to bitch about it to later? It was clear I needed to get a job.

The reason I hadn’t gone travelling with everyone was because I simply didn’t have the money. I’d started looking for a job once I’d settled in but all the claims that it was so easy to find work here seemed to have been false. I’d dropped CVs in various shops and cafés and got one call back. I might have acquired a job then except that I didn’t think to lie when the interviewer asked me if I was going away at all and I admitted I was back in Ireland over Christmas.

I decided to take the next step. In Canberra, you’re required to have an RSA (Responsible Service of Alcohol) certificate in order to work anywhere that serves drinks which had stopped me from applying to bars and restaurants before. I’d put off getting one because it cost $100 and required you to spend four hours learning about liquor legislation and how to spot a drunk person, even though being Irish, I had a lot of experience in this area. Eventually I bit the bullet, signed up for the course and shelled out the cash.

Again, I dutifully updated my résumé, printed a bunch off and went into every open restaurant I saw and asked if they were hiring. From the beginning it seemed like I was going to have a lot more luck this time. The first place said that weren’t hiring for that branch but would pass my CV on to another one nearby. As I left a couple of the patrons yelled ‘If it were up to me you’d get the job!’ and one of them winked. I wasn’t sure whether or not to be charmed or perturbed.
I was out for an hour, 20 minutes of that walking into Civic and after maybe going into eight or so places, I’d ended up with three trials. I’d considered going home after getting the first one but my good sense, and the mammy-voice in my head, told me it’d be safer to keep going. It seemed that people weren’t lying about how easy it was to get a job, it just depended which job you were applying for.

The first trial was for a hipster bar that was very popular with students known mainly for its jugs of sangria. The walls are adorned with lovely art, it smells like incense and apparently it’s considered a slow night there even if all the tables inside and outside are full. The people were all very nice and I got free food at the end of the night. The only thing was that my job was as a glass collector, which meant that my hour trial felt a lot longer than that. All I had to do was walk around continuously and bring empty glasses back to the kitchen.

Of course, I would have been fine with that except that my other two trials were a lot more interesting. The second trial was at café-restaurant which has a little bit of everything, from delicious food and wine to coffee, cocktails and cakes. I was familiar with what to do from my experience back home so I was immediately taking orders, delivering food and being useful which I appreciated. I also got free dinner and a coffee and, again, everyone was lovely.

My last trial was in an upscale bar frequented by professionals and government workers. I was put behind the bar straight away and taught how to pull a pint and pour shots. It was a heady experience as I tried not to make a fool of myself and let my inexperience show while enjoying learning something new.

In the end I went with the second trial. It was the place I felt like I fit in the most. Everyone was very friendly and I didn’t feel like a clumsy idiot most of the time (just don’t ask me how many plates or glasses I’ve broken. I blame my cheap shoes with the crappy soles). So far it’s worked out really well and it’s definitely improved my Australian experience. The only thing to do now is to try and balance work, college, socialising and sleep.

Read: Elizabeth O’Malley’s first Postcard from Abroad

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