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Warm stones and the raging sea, Sydney, Australia

I'm sitting on the cliff, my head in the wind and once more I feel at peace. Unencumbered by the people surrounding me. I can finally look around in wonder.

Behind me, the bush rises. The plants are low. I've never seen any of them before, and the birds are as alien to me, as the plants. They have big heads on small bodies or are tiny, like red robins, only with emerald plumage. Their screams echo through the air, their voices more like those of men in distress than what we call twittering at home. Here they are yelling, croaking or screaming like babies.

Under me, the turquoise water breaks on the dark stones and runs out onto the yellow sand. The sound of land and water colliding is aggressive, almost angry and it releases something in me. My unfocused anger dissipates. The white spray dances on the surface and when the water recedes it leaves blue bubbles on the beach. A plant or maybe a jellyfish that bursts with a pop when I step on it. That diffuse feeling of frustration turns from the all-encompassing fog into tiny bubbles, lying on the sand. The only thing left for me to do is to attend to each and every one of them.

The first one leads me to reexamine the past. The last weeks of travel were exhausting. The new became my every day, and that means the inevitable death of pleasure. Although the environment changes constantly, the routines and processes remain the same. Boredom and the feeling of being steamrolled go hand in hand, an impossible dance to manoeuvre. I knew I only had to arrive somewhere, and everything would get better.


Until I did, which leads me to my second bubble: The first relief was like a stone falling off my shoulders. Waking up in the same bed, again and again, is something wonderful, especially if it happens in a room that is meant for you and you alone. I've been used to meeting only my basic needs on the road. Sleep. Hygiene. Food. As soon as these were covered, I had to direct my attention to my surroundings no matter what occupied my mind. Here in Sydney, my basic needs are covered without me doing anything. It gives me a lightness that I relish in for a few weeks.

Three days a week I spend with the children of the family where I live as a DemiPair. On these days I have a structure, duties and procedures. On the other days, I drift through the day without really being able to structure myself. The time with the boys is fabulous in many ways. It varies a bit, so I have no fear of getting bored, and the rigid structure does me good. I have to fulfil a clearly-defined role, and that is something simple and naturally gratifying.

The days I can shape on my own I spend exploring the area. I walk the section of the coastal walk that is on my doorstep every two days (the Manly to Spit trail). The first time I am amused that a perfectly maintained trail (literally, there are wooden planks) causes such euphoria. But soon, I leave the path, follow the smaller trails that were trampled into the ground and discover more and more pretty and seldom visited corners. I see my first wallaby (a small kangaroo), a whole bunch of turkeys and other birds. One afternoon, I even see a massive pot of dolphins (like eleven). Fascinated, I follow their movements, try to photograph them, but my equipment isn't right. The dorsal fins disappear in the curly water, only to reappear seconds later. On my phone pictures, they are indistinguishable from the sea.

I download the necessary job portals on my phone and try to apply for barista and reception jobs. Since I can only work half a week, it turns out to be a bit more complicated than I had imagined. The Australians want to have a certificate for everything. A certificate that you can use a coffee machine, another to prove that you can serve alcohol (because here the bar, not the individual who drinks too much, is held accountable should an accident occur) and a certificate that you can work near slot machines. Each certificate costs just under a hundred dollars, and none of them gives me an advantage on the job market, because, in reality, only experience counts. Everyone wants to have six months of work experience, no matter how simple the job is. Learning while doing exists only when you know someone who knows someone higher up.

A negative feeling accompanies my first weeks. I find it hard getting used to the Australians until a realisation hits me: I have a culture shock. It's maybe the strongest one yet. It's not just the differences that throw me, but the similarities. It's like when you're driving on the highway, and you change into the wrong gear. It rattles in my gearbox, but the tires keep on rolling. Without additional force, I still get surprisingly far.

I decide, as always, to be kind to myself. It's a huge change, and it won't happen overnight. I leave the many other bubbles lying on the sand unattended and try to understand better where my irritation comes from. After all, my one impression of Australians is so unfavourable, that it can only be false.


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