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The shadow from the tree outside my window, Sydney, Australia

Life in Australia is hard and ruthless. No matter how rich people are, most live on the edge of their financial capabilities. Here, you always pay too much. Everything is too expensive. Everyone has to make maximum profits to survive. You never pay the actual price, and the profit margin is three to four times higher than in Europe. Even poor quality gets sold for horrendous amounts. In addition to products, every experience gets treated just the same. In the end, even with personal contacts, often only one thing counts the money. To get paid, it is morally justifiable to do anything you can. I'm thrown into situations that leave me speechless.

I move out with the family and back on the couch of my friend. She knows how it works, has lived in Britain, America and Australia and knows all the tricks. Without her, my time in Sydney would have been much harsher. I stay on her couch for a month and continuously apply for all sorts of jobs. I try to clear my head and deal with all the differing needs and desires flooding my brain. In the end, I get two interviews for photography positions. I go to both and get offered both. One meeting is for a job photographing Santa Claus in shopping malls, and the other is for a photographer/telesales marketing job in a leading family studio. I opt for the second. Soon the job turns out not to be split 50/50, but 90% telesales and 10% photography. However, as my colleagues are all Australian and exceedingly lovely, I decide to keep my head down and hope that it might get better with time.

With my paycheck, I get back a degree of self-determination. I can buy clothes and feed myself again. I needed that independence. By now, most of my clothes are two years old. For the interview, I borrowed some from Meg's closet. They didn't fit me all that well. My new wardrobe gives me the feeling of being myself and immediately reveals something about the people of this continent. They don't understand quality. No matter how much money someone has, most run around in clothes that would not be seen on the streets of the capitals of Europe, or just in certain places where tourists don't go. That may be due to the weather as the heat makes it seem insignificant. The difference is striking. I order my clothes in America and Japan and am ultimately happy and grateful for globalisation.

In the end, I decide to accept Meg's offer to stay in her guest room. She had offered it to me earlier, but then I thought it was one of those polite British offers, that are better left with a smiling thank you. I had wholly misjudged her Armenian roots and the sincere and steadfast help that people from that culture give without a second thought. I now earn a salary, which means I should be able to afford rent, but the truth is that most of my coworkers don't pay rent. Sydney is a different kind of expensive. What seemed to me to be a sufficient salary, soon turns out to be meagre income.

Slowly, I am learning to understand my new deck and to play my cards to the best of my advantage. Despite everything, I am lucky once more. And since everything sorts itself out in my day to day life, my head relaxes into the new reality. Every morning at 7.45am I get up, walk to the bus station and let the bus driver transport me the ten kilometres to the studio. Again, I get to dive into a new reality.


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