Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Good tidings, stranger!

Hey, you! Yeah, you over there! Yes, I am surely talking to you...can you hear me? Hello! Ok, now that I have your attention, long time no see. I must apologize for my insane lack of correspondence. I don't think we have last spoken since I was in the coal mining town of Collie and you all were just about to carve the turkey and celebrate T-giving day like you were real life pilgrims and indians. Oh, you've been racking your brain to know what I did for the special holiday? Well fret not, because I delighted and splurged on eating a microwave turkey roast television dinner complete with canned cranberry sauce, pre-made carrot cake and homemade iced tea whipped up in an old pickle jar I bought for $1.50 from an op-shop...pure bliss is what I am sure you're all imagining. So moving on from that festive picture...

Life in Oz (short for "Australia," sort of a local slang everyone uses here) has been eventful. Things with the ever exciting carnival have been trucking along and I am happy to announce that after my last post, I have finished with all that messy traveling work! Yes, I have done it...eight full weeks trekking from capital city Perth down to the seaside town of Albany (and in the process visiting all the nooks and crannies of Western Australia) and here I am again. Back, alive, much tanner and muscles bulging (well, not quite), but I am a better human because of the work I've done. Not much changed in the course of all that labour, besides the fact that I got the pleasure of working on several rides (including the much acclaimed Sizzler, which whips you around like a tea towel in the dryer, so much so you want to puke up anything clinging to the walls of your stomach and of course the sleepy bees, which raise up and down like the arms of a giant octopus). I also finished my run with the Big Balloon Bust (my go to game) and was moved around from the Shooting Gallery, to the Catch a Clown Fish game. All have the same relative recipe for disaster: child approaches, pays $6 and then attempts to either throw a dart, shoot an air gun or net a plastic fish (all of these aforementioned fish looked dead, however I usually recovered by saying the limp ones would be made into sushi later! This garnered few smiles and even more confused faces. We even had one adult male ask if the pump was a fish. The pump. I just looked at him and walked away). Getting back to business though, the outcome with these things is always the same, small prize! No, little boy/girl, you will never win that Smurfette or SpongeBob SquarePants you have been pining after since first setting eyes on it just 10-minutes earlier, you know when you first entered the overpriced fairgrounds and were bombarded with dagwood dogs (Oz's version of corn dogs) and warm cans of Coke. And no, mum/dad, you cannot have your $6 back just becaue your kid couldn't adequately pull the #9 fish (which there isn't one) or knock down an impossible 6 full stacks with the air gun (because you only have 8 corks to do it in). Yeah, if you want to whip out another $44 you can have that beady-eyed devil with the love heart attached to its chest for your Mrs. or I'll tell everyone that you actually won the oversized cow, but until you cough up the money or pull every last fish trying to find the are just going to remain forever and always shit out of luck. And no, I will not have you hold your sick child up to me and then lament the fact that little so-and-so just got out of the hospital and by having that massive Angry Bird, things will suddenly become all better and all of life's little conundrums will just disappear. You can't imagine the number of parents that tried to pawn their kids off like newborn dogs, just so they could get some stuffed teddy that cost, like, $2 to make in a remote village of China. Some nerve. So, after eight full weeks in all these small, pleasant towns, what did we really learn? I am the crusher of dreams. I destroy lives. I swoop down from the trees, take your money and then just as quickly as I set up this death trap, I run away with said money and go to wreak havoc on the innocent souls in another town. Needless to say, my job was pure bliss.

In all honesty though, my time spent with Sideshow Amusements was eye opening. I can now understand and speak the difficult language of tent building, know how to knock a peg out of the ground and not break my shin in the process and completely disassemble a ride that 1 hour earlier held the flailing limbs and screaming heads of those you hold most dearly. I am a carnie. I have been transformed into a full-fledged gypsy of sorts and yes, I can sneak into your caravan park to use your shower at 6 a.m., tip-toe through your backyard to make a shortcut from the main road and of course I will beg, borrow and steal my way to find a public bathroom that is more than just a metal commode sans the TP. I have gotten good at making $2 meals taste like they were $20, killing spiders bigger than my palm without so much as flinching and finding ways to amuse myself without such luxuries as a radio, TV, internet connection or any other form of human interaction. What this all means to you is nothing, but to me, every single day has been an invaluable experience that has added to this crazy thing we call life.
I count myself lucky to have been part of it all.

I befriended Asians, Estonians, Germans, Australians and the English, got a mohawk in the middle of the night with no lights to even see if the thing was straight and bought a $50 journal that I have yet to write in because I am so terrified to destroy the perfectly etched and gold-gilded pages. I can't get the dirt out of my work clothes, remain calm when a child cries from losing and must choose between either a wrestler wearing a singlet that says "Dude Love" or a small duck whose eyes have been glued on upside down and still yet, I remain even calmer when a parent gets in my face and calls me nothing more than just some "American cheater."

As I said before, I am a true carnie in every sense of the word. Watch out, because we will be coming to a town near you in 2012.
Enough of all that though. You want to know how I have been. What's the sticky? The dish? The heavy? Well, after finishing with my final gig, a Christmas pageant in Perth city where I chucked kids 8-years and under down a Giant Super Slide which was just a little too slippery and a bit, how shall I put this, dangerous (let's just say kids left pieces of skin behind) my English friends and I departed for Bali, Indonesia.
The trip, a huge culture shock, seeing as it was my first time in an Asian country, was amazing. I ate great food, saw temples, mingled with locals and made some really dear friends. I bartered for sarongs, drank $1 bottled beers and even took a cooking class in a village that I had to ride a bike to get to. I saw blessings of the sea, offerings to the Gods and a Barong and Kris dance that would have made any ancient devil blush. 12 days in paradise is what that was, but allow me not to wet your taste-buds, I will just show you some of the 1,000 photos I took once I return....until then.

So, we're caught up are we? It's now present day. Yes, I know I said the carnival work was all finished, but I have decided to stay on for a couple more runs. The next work, which begins December 28th, will have me stationed at Hillary's Boat Harbour in Perth. Set on the beach, I work from noon until about 10 p.m. four days a week. I look after rides and games and generally get paid to sunbathe. Not a bad deal, huh? Only downside is I am no longer living in the caravan and need to pay for accommodation. Booo! After this month of work, I will travel to Australia's East Coast and visit scenic Sydney and Melbourne for one month. After this time, I will return to Perth and again, live in the caravan for seven weeks and travel to different small towns in different parts of Western Australia. I know, I know. You're shaking your head and thinking "How can he sign on to do all of this again?" Well, I have thought long and hard and let's just say $600 a week and free accommodation in the caravan again is a fairly good deal. I need the money. They need a carnie. And after all this, we shall part ways.

Now,I had planned to save all that moeny and return to Europe for a brief stint, but after my taste of the Asian culture, I hope to take a month long trip in May to Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia and Fiji. Yes, I know again you must be thinking I am crazy. But what's life without a little adventure? As my famous aunt Christen would say, "Live life with gusto." And let's just say if I had any more gusto I could make a mean pasta dish and feed a small, third world country (Hey, maybe like Indonesia!).

So that's it. That's my story and now you know where I have been over the last month or so. Don't get sad or cry, because I will post again and hopefully it won't be such a long pause between this update and the next one (however, I find myself always promising this). Oh, and about Christmas! Fear not, I am celebrating with my two friends and their family, so I will not be alone. So just think, while you are shoveling snow and trying to find a winter coat that doesn't have dried snot on it, I will be wearing a santa hat on the beach.


Alright all, love and goodnight. Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and see you in wet and wonderful 2012! <3

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Collie is coal

And we find ourselves in a different city once again.

I am writing you this note from scenic Collie, where the coalmines are deep and the history runs rampant. We set up camp here early Sunday morning (again, in the middle of a deserted showgrounds where you must trek a 10-minute walk to bathrooms or even running water) and since then, things have been rather pleasant. The town is quaint, and we have had four full days to ourselves. What’s here? Lots of nature, trails and generally a lazy demeanor that is great for relaxing. And yes, once again I was able to butter up the seniors!! This time I managed to get a free tour around town with the president of the Collie Historical Society, Jeanette. We talked for nearly two hours on Sunday and she offered her services that Monday, seeing as how she had the day off. The drive, though rainy, was great because she took us to many places we would have otherwise never seen. Sights included the Harris Dam, a popular local swimming hole, Anglican Church (where she scheduled a private tour and we even got to climb the winding spiral staircase and ring the church bells!) and old coal refineries. Her breadth of knowledge and amazing commentary on just about everything made the whole experience that much better, because every sidewalk, house or business had a story attached. If you couldn’t guess, Jeanette was born and raised in Collie, has never lived anywhere else and was only in a plane for the first time this year, at the tender age of just 72-years. She was certainly a peach.

Now, other than this sporadic venture, I have found myself just meandering through the small streets, interacting with the many friendly locals I find everywhere. And this is what I’ve discovered: never before have so many people been fascinated by my American accent…it just seems everyone lights up when I talk and is so curious to know everything about everywhere I have been or am going. It is kind of nice because I often get things for free or a discounted price! For once, being American is paying off! What else? Oh! I went on a mining tour, since Collie is known for its mines stretching back to the 1850s. We descended into a replica structure that was very ‘coal’ (har har, pun intended!) and got to see first hand how people began this industry. As I have mentioned earlier, mining in Australia is HUGE and really a money making venture. I even met an American guy from Ohio in Collie who moved here for the mines. Crazy! So nice to hear him speak though, because I can safely say I am missing our lingo, mannerisms and unique way of expressing our crazy selves! Needless to say I have learned a ton from this visit and quite frankly it’s nice to have been a tourist for once in Australia, instead of just a bloody carnie.

Work on setting everything up starts tomorrow, which will be interesting because it’s so damn hot and yes, I am already sun burnt. Another fun thing, this city has a Target Country. Yes, a Target Country. I was so confused on what the ‘country’ part meant BUT I did find shorts for only $4.86! Yes, I know what you are all thinking…Nick wins!

Ok, so a brief explanation of the previous weeks should be in order too: since I last wrote (remember, from Brunswick, where I hitchhiked?), we were in Cannington, which is a posh little suburb of Perth. It was a great show and had the nicest bathrooms of any showgrounds yet. Yes, I have started judging my experiences in each new city based on the softness of the bathroom’s toilet paper. This place was a cool 10 out of 10 no doubt. They also had the biggest shopping mall in the whole state of Western Australia right next to where we stayed. I went in at 10 a.m. and didn’t emerge until around 6 p.m. with squinting eyes. I still don’t even know how I found my way out or what I even saw because there were so many people, shops and food stalls. Definitely an experience…and I spent a bit too much money, because the style here is crazy (I am referencing all the good stuff here, but there is definitely a lot of bad)! Please, allow me to try and paint picture: all men have mullets or some sort of curly rat-tail they are working with. To complete this look, they all wear board shorts, singlets (or tank tops) and a beat up pair of Vans. Every. Single. Male. Looks like this here. No joke. And the girls apparently are from the same family with high-waisted, cutoff shorts, silky tops that have odd cutouts in random spots (which make for some very interesting tan lines) and knockoff sunglasses and purses from Bali.
Oh, speaking of Bali (you know, the island in Indonesia, which is part of a massive chain of islands below Asia?), yeah well I booked a ticket there for December 5th! Yes, 10 full days riding perched atop the local elephants, sampling cooked insects and generally lingering with the Balinese, some of whom are professional Lady Boys (or Benchongs or Pooftas as they call them in Australia). Yes, apparently lots of Balinese men like dressing up like women, the likes of which then try to steal your money, hide drugs in your bags or kill you. I will ALWAYS watch my back here.

Back to the story though: following Canngington, we were off to Albany, the second largest city in Western Australia next to Perth. It took nearly six hours to drive there (and I saw FOUR dead kangaroos along the way) but at least this city had a serious lack of those pesky flies! But what they lacked in small buzzing creatures they made up for in low flying seagulls. Several of our workers even got pooped on during the course of the show! Albany, a great town with tons of charm, was made up of one steep street dropping off into the harbor. There were also loads of friendly people mingling about. The weather, though, was a different story. We were warned it was going to be cool and rainy the farther south we went, but Albany’s climate was literally insane. You had all four seasons in one day. When we arrived, it was a blustery 45 degrees maybe? Now, I brought no jumpers, coats or pants on this trip because I was TOLD Australia was going to be HOT. Wrong. Very, very wrong. That being said, I bought a sweater and a coat and stuck it all out. The week before we arrived, there had been a bad flood too; so many stores were closed for renovations. During our brief stint, I saw massive hail, torrential downpours, wind in excess of 60 mph and insanely black clouds. Thankfully, the show saw sunny days and mild temperatures, so no complaints here.

Albany is also home to the amazing Gap and Blowholes, which is a natural wonder where Antarctica and Australia were once connected some six billion of years ago. Today there exists steep cliffs, dramatic seascapes and crazy winds. My boss told me for that reason this spot remains a popular place to commit suicide for locals. Thanks for the tip, John. He was nice enough to drive us to the locations though, which were breathtaking. The only major sight I missed was the wind farm, but apparently they are everywhere in Australia, so another city and another time. I also finally opened an Australian bank account in Albany, so I am no longer carrying in excess of $2,000 in cash on my body. Yeah, that was getting old.

As for the Albany Show, it was the worst experience of my life. Up until that point, I had been working at the dart game in each show, but here I was moved to guns (the point being a person tries to use an air rifle that hurtles a cork towards nine tin cans, the objective obviously to knock the whole stack over). Simple right? No, because you have to knock the entire stack over for a single, small prize and the amount of kids who had one or two cans remaining after a valiant effort far outnumbered the winning ones. Their usual response? Shrugged shoulders and a downturned smile. Their parents’ response? A spiel about how horrible of a person I am. How could I not let little Jenny or Bobby get that stupid stuffed polar bear they so desperately wanted…some cheap piece of crap they would probably end up giving to the dog anyways? The words cheat, scam, rigged, asshole and rip off were thrown at me all day long, for two days straight. Sometimes I think these carnivals are more for the adults than the kids. I even had a grown father and 14-year-old son try to fight me because they said (and I quote) I was “a cheap-ass American carnie.” Seriously, they hated me because I was from America and wanted to fight me! Speaking of fights, I saw two massive ones right in front of my stall. The one was between six different aboriginal men and more kept getting involved. Of course, everyone rushed over and all these kids were getting trampled. I felt sick and started screaming at everyone to clear a path for the kids. I got so angry I even started pushing spectators away, because these Mums with strollers couldn’t get through and were being smashed into the walls. The other fight, just 20-minutes earlier, was massive and the men were arrested. Plus, everyone at the Albany show was either drunk or on drugs…It was so bad I was even harassed all day Saturday by a group of aboriginal children, who hurled F-bombs at me like it was their job. John said to just brush it off, as you are a true Australian if the aboriginals hate you. Let me tell you personally, they hated me. They even tried stealing spare corks that had ricocheted out of my game and then came to try and play. I got shot with paintballs too. I couldn’t control them and almost got security to remedy the situation. Needless to say, I hated the Albany Show.

Want to know how I knew it was going to be shitty? The toilet paper sucked.
Ok, so the aforementioned jumble of words should catch you all up a bit! Lots of stories and pictures to share for when I return, but for now, this little post should suffice. Again, sorry for my sporadic lapses in writing, but next week I can guarantee there will be a post, as we are heading back towards Perth (and civilization!). Only two more shows after this weekend’s and then, Bali! Keep me in your thoughts during these hot days as my skin fries up like a skillet full of greasy bacon.

Love to ya all!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

outback steakhouse

Friends, family and fellow bloggernauts, fear not because I am still alive. It has been an eventful two weeks since I have last checked in and boy do I have some stories to tell you. If you’ve been following along since the very beginning, then you know I have since joined the carnival for a seven-week stint with a company called Sideshow Amusements. I worked for a week with them at the Perth Royal Show and now have taken to living in a caravan for free and trekking through small town Western Australia to put on spectacular spectacles for eager young country bumpkins. Let me paint a quick picture of my first two weeks with this insane group of sideshow freaks.

Exactly 14 days ago today, I lugged all my baggage via train to the Claremont show grounds. I met with Bridie (an English girl who also agreed to this crazy adventure) and her best mate, Libby. Together, we all crammed into this 1970s era trailer with a peeling linoleum floor, four bunk beds and a defunct refrigerator. Thus began our journey into madness. First up was our show in Waroona, a very small town of one street about one hour away from Perth. We arrived there on Tuesday night and spent all day Wednesday setting up for the weekend festivities.
Now this includes building tents, stocking toys into the game stalls, decorating the area, washing the rides, washing our boss’ truck and generally carrying bags of stuffed teddies from one location to another only five feet away. Generally we work from around 8:30 a.m. until 4 p.m. on Wednesday and then repeat the whole process again on Thursday, until everything is up to John, our ringleader’s, standards. Oh, I forgot to mention John. He is our 40-something boss who inherited the carnie business from his father, Jack. He has been working in this line of
business since the tender age of 10 and runs the whole kitten-caboodle with his two brothers, Matthew and Darren. They are quite a rowdy bunch and exchange more cuss words than actual English with one another. Most of the time I am just referred to as muscles, brains or freckle, none of which I can contest. I seem to get along well with them and they seem to like me, but boy are they a handful at times and mighty sarcastic.John also has a young fiancĂ© from the Philippines who casually “helps out” with the work, but she is more there for the eye candy than anything else I am sure of it. Besides, her fingers look like crawling caterpillars when she lifts anything. So I am happy when she flutters away to idle her time elsewhereAnyways, back to the work: these country shows usually last Friday night and all day Saturday, with me standing in a stall shouting at kids to come waste their money. Yes I have been harassed and yes I have been flirted with all in the same night. I saw a little girl get hit in the head with a pointy dart that ricocheted off a balloon that should have popped, been threatened for not being honest with a child and even witnessed a girl fall out of a ride that flips you upside down. She was 12-years-old and screamed a lot. No one knew anything had happened until it was after the fact. I have also seen far too many livestock auctions to actually count, so many flies nesting on peoples’ backs it would make your head spin and been degraded by many a mum for “cheating” their precious babes out of hard earned money. Needless to say, the carnie life is quite an eventful one.

But through it all I have been having an absolute blast. Like in Waroona for example, after we were finished with our tasks, we have free time, meaning we can do whatever we want.So, in typical fashion, I find things to do in a town that lacks any notion of the word fun. Like when Bridie, Libby and I walked an hour to the Weir (giant lake in Waroona) and took to the beach and rolling hills.Or when we hitch hiked in the small town of Brunswick to the neighboring city of Bunbury with this nice lady named Amanda who owns a shop full of cow related merchandise. She picked us up in her Mercedes, showed us the town and then picked us up later in the day as well! Her husband, Mike, works in the mines and her three sons (David, Ben and Chris) fancy us so much, they plan to take us out this weekend. Amanda even took us to her house for dinner and we watched as her cousin hosted a Tupperware party. After that, we had morning tea with her 83-year-old mother, Faye at the store as she crocheted a scarf. Other antics include hopping to thrift and antique stores in every town we visit, decorating the caravan for Halloween, only cooking on a barbecue or in a microwave and generally finding ways to do laundry or shower since most places we seem to find ourselves in lack public bathrooms. So in an effort to keep clean, I actually snuck into a caravan park down the road and used their private showers today and yesterday, risking trespassing in the name of shampooed hair. It was truly an experience.

Other than all these little tidbits, not much else has transpired. I am enjoying the pay of $600 a week, which comes after we tear the whole carnival down on Saturday night (yes, we work 14 hours straight on a Saturday: in our games from around 8:30 a.m. until 9 p.m. and then ripping absolutely everything down for another four hours following). I have more bruises, blisters, scrapes and cuts than I ever thought I could get, but boy am I having a time here. I am seeing so many beautiful pieces of Australia I would have never seen otherwise, including these small cities with so much charm and so many nice people. I mean, come on, I am the only American I have met thus far while here (aside from a Cincinnati man who runs a store called Taffy in the city of Bunbury…but he doesn’t even count because he’s been here for nearly 30 years) so of course they love me. And don’t worry; I have not forgotten about any of you back home, it is just incredibly hard to find stable Internet anywhere in Australia, especially since they seem to be light-years behind us in how to properly govern a functioning town. But that’s beside the point.

Now I know you are all craving more, but I can only use the wireless in this community center for a brief hour, so must sign off for now. But keep checking back, as more things are to come in the near future.

And you can be sure I am taking loads of pictures for all of you to see, if I could now just find a damn kangaroo crossing sign! Ok, I must go and try to find a way to fix our leaking ceiling (it rained last night and yes, all the seams in that piece of shit we call a home began springing cracks at around 6 a.m. this morning after a torrential downpour) and play Frisbee with these three Estonians that also came along for this effed up ride. Sometimes I truly wonder what I have gotten myself into.

Oh, and on a random side note, Australia does NOT celebrate Halloween, which is mighty devastating to such a ghoulish connoisseur of my caliber. But I did manage to decorate our caravan with a skeleton aptly named Steve. And there have been numerous shark attacks here recently, one even at the beach I frequented quite often. But fret not, this American is still treading water....for now!


Alright, love to you from the down under! Stay in touch mates.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


Well now. It has been almost 10 days since you've last heard from me and boy do I have some stories for you. If you remember (and for your sake, I hope you do) my last escapades had me working as a diligent employee with the Perth Royal Show. That means since Oct. 1st. I have been enjoying all things carnie (or "showie" as they call the carnival workers here). Now what I thought would just be some fun circus work for a little added moolah to pad my pockets has actually turned out to shape my future plans while I'm here in Australia. Please, let me explain a bit:

I awoke at 7 a.m. on Saturday the 1st of October to ensure ample
time for my arrival at the showgrounds. I was instructed to come at exactly 8:45 a.m. and you can be sure I was not going to risk anything on my first day.The showgrounds, about a 8-minute train ride from our flat, are rather convenient, but cost $3.80 each way. So, in typical Nicholas-the-stingiest-person-alive fashion, I walked one train stop down from our apartment every day for 10 days (took about 20 minutes) and caught the train from a neighbouring station, costing me only $1.80 each way. Let's just say after working 13-hours days though, this habit became a little too taxing. So, I am at the carnival. A red collared shirt is thrown my way with the logo "Sideshow Amusements: No.1 in Fun" emblazoned across the front. A roller coaster and Ferris wheel provide the backdrop, which I thought funny especially since our company didn't have either of these rides. So, after changing and meeting many other young people assigned to work in different game booths (more Taiwanese people, those lovely Italians, two Germans, a handful of Brits and some true Aussies--yes, I was the lone American) I headed over to my game, Deal or Double Up, to get ready. But instead of thinking over a script of what to stay, I already had hoards of people, throwing $6 a game in my face to try and win themselves a teddy. I was utterly unprepared. So, I improvised. I pretended we were on a game-show, holding a fake microphone, pounding on the wood displays to simulate a drum roll and even dancing with older ladies to sway their grand kids to try their luck at my game of risk. I cajoled kids, parents, young and old to get their butts over and after a couple hours, definitely found my groove. I was yelling, pointing, staring and doing anything it took to be the best at this game. Alongside me was a girl from Estonia (Inga) and a guy from Hong Kong (David) who pretty much just watched on in amazement. Later in the week they were both moved to other games, I think because I was doing most of the work for them. Anyways, the first day went off without a hitch. We had a half hour for both lunch and dinner breaks and were able to meet people from other companies and generally make acquaintances with everyone we could see. After a week though, these people became like best friends, yelling for change, sharing food and asking if we needed the experience has left me with a positive outlook on the power of cross-continental friendships.
Back to the games though. The first day was about 14 hours. Yes, 14 straight hours, with only an hour break total: cue Sunday morning and the loss of my voice. The next day was way harder than the first. I spent more time at the showgrounds than I had in my own apartment and sleep was riddled with weird dreams. Needless to say, 7 a.m. creeped up fast and I was again summoned to my booth for more yelling and entertaining. Each day was a new crowd, full of new kids, so even though we were beat, they were all looking for the best we could give and that's what our bosses wanted.
So in true performing fashion, I sucked it up, drank a ton of water and got myself many a cough drop to prepare for another 12 hours of convincing people to waste their hard-earned cash on a game I later found out was just rigged (there were supposed to be cases with small, medium and large prizes inside. After playing the game for awhile though, I noticed not a single one had a large prize and only two contained mediums.
In this way, more people played more times to try and get big stuffed animals, with the average person spending somewhere in the neighbourhood of $18 to $36 each. Holy shit). To help ease the burden though, I got a new partner in crime, Steph, a girl from London. Together, we helped each other out and worked to gather even more people, sometimes blocking the thoroughfare with a crowd all assembled to see our antics. It was so much fun and after one day, she lost her voice too. Flash forward several days (and pretty much more of the same general thing) and we are at Friday, Oct. 7th. Not much had changed, people were even friendlier with one another and everyone was helping to make the experience worthwhile. Sleep was difficult, but I did get to come in at 11 a.m. two days and was even sent home early one day which helped. We also were permitted to put out several more mediums and one large prize, since so many people were playing our game, it was difficult to hide that we had NO large prizes (I can't tell you how many mums screamed at me for cheating their kids). Our bosses also granted Steph and I the use of a microphone to get even more spectators. He told us later in the week our booth was the single best moneymaker that year. Kudos to us I guess!

our last day of work, which was Saturday, things were rather bittersweet. everyone was ready to be done, but people had grown accustomed to seeing the rides everyday. Let me compare the size of this show to something akin to Waldameer, maybe even bigger. With animals, rides, games and anything else you can think of spread across at least a 4-mile radius. It was massive. I didn't even see the whole show. It even took me 15-minutes just to walk from one entrance to my booth, and there were more than 10 entrances!! That gives you a better idea, I hope.

So it's the last night now and I had yet to ride anything. We were surrounded
by all these amazing things and had no time to use and abuse any of them. So, Steph and I asked to be done early and what do you know our boss agreed.
We ran past all the things we wanted to ride (under fireworks no less) and most of the operators let us on for free, which was a treat. We saved around $80, especially since most rides were around $10-$15 bucks a pop. We definitely know how to charm people I'm sure. Goodbyes were hard after that, but I still had Sunday and Monday to help tear down the game booths, which I had agreed to earlier in the week.Those days were easier, with lots of unscrewing and collecting piles and piles and piles of materials to load on countless trucks. I crushed multiple fingers and bled on many a knuckle, but the $1,700 at the end of 10 days was oh-so worth it. I did so well, John, my Ed Hardy wearing boss even asked me to (get ready for it) join him for seven more weeks of travelling carnival work around the south of Western Australia. Pay is $600 a week (only three days of actual work a week, the rest is free time) and free accommodation in a caravan. So, I promptly decided (and unfortunately had to turn down my two other job offers) and packed up all my belongings. Bought a sleeping bag and some groceries and now, as of today at 2 p.m., I will depart for a 7-week tour. I have no idea what I'll be doing, but John said I will be moved around to different games and rides. I will also help set up and take down each time. About 7 other people from our troupe are also going, so I definitely won't be alone. Should be quite the adventure!! I am both nervous and excited, because living in a camper for two months could get quite uncomfortable, but the pay will certainly be worth it. Here's hoping!!
So, you've heard the story, but trust me there are many more, like the guy who said he would stab me in the neck if I didn't give him a big prize or the 14-year-olds that offered a hand-job to see what was in one of the cases they didn't pick. Yes, I knew signing on to work for the carnival would be interesting, but I definitely got more than I bargained for. These people are freaking crazy and John said the customers could only get even weirder in some of the country towns....Oh Jesus. But more stories will certainly follow, as well as pictures! As for now, I will try and update as regularly as possible, even though I will have a lack of Internet. Posts and pictures will certainly keep coming though whenever I get a chance. Just keep checking back and please, please, please wish me luck!

Love you all!

Friday, September 30, 2011

what's hot on the cooktop

So my kitchen here may be of no epic proportions (quite frankly, it's just big enough for one person to cook/stand/reach wall-to-wall comfortably) but some of the meals I have been whipping up recently are not skimping in the taste sensation department. Now, I told you earlier that I would be giving a detailed account of some of my more eloquent dishes, so if you have yet to eat today or hear that rumble from down under (not "Australia" down under, but "tummy" down under) then you may just want to wait and read/see this post until later!

You. Have. Been. Warned.

In the past two weeks, I have found much pleasure in perusing the many grocery stores which lie within walking distance from my flat. We have Coles, Woolworths (personal favourite!), Jack's, IGA and several other major chains that all carry different specialty foods and spices. As you can remember, most of the produce is quite frankly out of my reach (red peppers here are a whopping $10 a pound and a small bunch of basil is $3) so I have taken to more clever ways to satisfy my cravings. First, I have noticed what the main influence here is. Now Nicholas, what is that you may ask? Well, anything Asian is a big trend, so that means lots of different Asian-style vegetables, sauces, meats, etc (duh, we are right below Thailand, Vietnam, Japan and China). My friends will even take fresh/frozen seafood and for a light snack use a bit of swordfish, create a quick dim sum soup and top it all with broccoli and peppers...they even eat the stuff with proper utensils. Some even laughed when I said we snacked on the likes of Ramen and Triscuits back home...I suppose I would snickered have too if I had a hot cup of dim sum to warm the soul. Anyways, back to the main point: Asian-style ingredients are cheaper. Therefore, instead of buying bulk groceries like in America, I decided to buy what I need daily and save myself the cost of things going bad (and besides, our refrigerator couldn't even fit a whole turkey on one of its tiny shelves...oh, and remember it's shared between three people). That means everything is fresh and shopping is actually fun, because I can often just look around and make up recipes on the spot to satisfy that persnickety craving. But enough torment with talk of ingredients and the like.

Without further ado, Le Menu (a not-so-comprehensive list of some of the things I have made, thus far):
*Stuffed mushrooms with sausage
*Pasta with fresh pumpkin/zucchini/pepper/onion and cashews and cheese in a white sauce
*Pizza margherita with fresh tomatoes and feta with sausage
*Pork loin with tarragon butter and peas and rosemary potatoes

There are many other pairings, however I have decided to only include the ones I photographed, so you can get a better idea of what everything looks like. To put everyone at ease, I guess I could say yes, yes I am eating well. I have even decided to try my hand with some new Asian-themed ventures (since the likes of coconut milk and jasmine rice reign supreme here). I even recently went on a shopping trip (today actually) to try my luck at making these dishes with the likes of chicken/beef and lots and lots of curry/sesame seed/soy/and chilli sauce. Pictures of that to come soon!

Aside from the aforementioned cuisine, I also have indulged in some purely Australian delicacies. One, Vegemite, I was all too nervous to try, since many American had cautioned against the salty spread. But what I have discovered
is the creamy substance tastes a lot like worcestershire sauce with a heaping does of sodium and slight hint of veggies. Best used
on toast or crisps and with a first layer ofbutter/pepper, it is not for the faint of heart (and yes, I'll bring some home so you can try it!). Another fancy of the Aussies are lamington bars, which I love! Basically, the dessert-like food is a spongecake in the shape of a cuboid which is coated in a traditional layer of chocolate icing and then desiccated coconut. They really are fantastic and best eaten in multiples with a heaping glass of milk (no, I can't bring any of these home, they would spoil and crush!).

Aside from all these goodies, there has been no eating out (too expensive, unless you count the one Italian BMT sub I bought at Subway for $9....$9 Footlong? Try singing that in place of $5 doesn't even sound right!) I do hope to try some of the many Vietnamese restaurants placed conveniently near our house soon...but alas, money will need to start flowing in before such a venture.
Which leads me to my last and final point (the "icing on the lamington" if you will): I will be away for exactly one week starting tomorrow. If you are a savvy reader, then you already know my work with the circus starts bright and early tomorrow morning at 8:45 a.m. and goes until roughly 10 p.m. every night. That means I won't have time to use the Internet at all during the week. If I can steal a minute or two to post a picture or update, I will, but don't count on it. What you can count on is many, many pictures from this week that will either be hilarious or very embarrassing of myself. Regardless, you win!
Ok, I must go now, as the library is preparing to close!

In the words of a one Julia Child: "The best way to bone a duck is to just do it!"

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

singing (not) in the rain

Well, well, well,here we are again. I bet you're anxious to know whether or not I got the job at Madrid as per our conversation just two short days ago? This is going to be hard for you to understand....BUT I GOT IT. Impulsive capitalisation aside, I am quite excited. So, in order for me to coherently pen down these thoughts (and make an attempt to block out the two French ladies chatting at a computer across from me, despite the fact that I would love to ease drop on them for the rest
of my time in the library, especially since I just impulsively watched a 2-hour documentary on Marie Antoinette) let me break the interview down for you. I awoke early on Tuesday, afraid because I could not remember if Steph (the manager) and I were meeting at 11 a.m. or 2 p.m. I had originally written 2 p.m. down in my journal, but for some reason I was filled with self-doubt. I called Steph. She did not answer. Therefore, I unanimously decided we were meeting at 2 p.m. Hurdle number one was cleared and I sustained no face damage from the asphalt.
Now, after showering, bathing myself in exotic bath salts, lathering with expensive perfumes and dressing in the finest royal silks from Rome and India, I took to the train station to plot my next move. While waiting, I became nervous. Not a stomach-twisted type of nervousness, but a "am I doing the right thing by staying in Australia?" type of nervousness. Ok, ok, let me explain. I love Australia, it's great. The people are wonderful, scenery picturesque, blah, blah, blah. BUT (and this 'but' is big) I have had this bubbling fear inside that if I got a real job (aside from this circus work) I would be tied down somewhere and therefore be forced to remain in that location for at least a couple months. What If I did want to go home for Christmas? What if after two months Australia bores me and I want out? This was the type
of nervousness that was setting in. I know, you're thinking how silly to be worried about something like this after only two weeks. But (see, I told you there was a 'but'...try multiple ones) I just have to ask myself these questions or I will grow content and fall into routine. Routine, in my humble opinion, is bad. Didn't someone even once say "variety is the spice of life?" Yeah, well they were right. So, in an attempt to calm my quaking spirits, I began thinking about other things because I didn't want my armpits to sweat. That is the worst, when you shake a new friend's hand and they see that sliver of wet armpit beginning to bleed through your oxford. Needless to say, I stood arms akimbo until my train came.
Ok, moving on: I was about an hour early to my destination, so instead of walking by Madrid four or five times and trying to just hide my face, I ducked into some shops and pretended to browse the stock (and yes, I touched everything I saw in an attempt to look like a casual shopper...with money...bwuhaha). After nearly 45-minutes, I felt like I was ready to meet Steph and Alex for my interview. 15-minutes early, I walked through the door and sat down with the two (rather young I thought) individuals. In hindsight, I hope I didn't sound too blase with my interviewers, but for some reason I could not get excited. After covering the basics (they asked me FOUR times if I planned on staying in Perth for twelve months, which I had to answer as "yes" or I would not have gotten the job...this was maybe why I was somewhat freaking out) they decided I was perfect for what they wanted and decided to allow me a trial period of five hours the week after my circus endeavours ended. If all goes well (and here, Alex said he has no doubts that I will be hired, because I have a great personality) I will be taken on for regular weekly work and then be making $20.75 an hour plus tips.

See, I guess I was just overreacting. At this, my spirits brightened tremendously and I thought about buying bananas. Lots and lots of bananas. And, of course, going to Bali.
BUT, that does not mean my circus dreams are defunct, because if John asks me to be one of his lucky eight and travel along for a 10-week trip through The Outback, I have decided that this would indeed be a better option for me. However I welcome opinions, naysayers and all other forms of constructive criticism at this point. Ready....GO!
So, on a less exciting note and aside from all these harrowing adventures, today I decided to keep things simple by taking advantage of the wonderful weather and just walking: my favourite pastime when visiting a new country. I literally took the train to an unknown destination, got off and just walked. What I found once there was (of course) some antique and secondhand shops! I mean come on, you knew I was going to sniff them out eventually and find all the best bargain basements in a 25-mile radius. It's in my blood at this point. Perusing three or four, I then wondered into a neighbouring town and just ambled away my time by chatting with people on the street. Now, I am here. Writing to you. Watching the last little sliver of sunlight dip away. I hope, for your sake (since I am sitting in the library with you as an audience when the weather, for once, is NOT treacherous), that the weather is pleasing tomorrow as well (even though they are already calling for rain).

For now. Tis all I shall speak (err, write). I plan to make some rather nice pasta tonight with pumpkin and zucchini OR maybe a pizza with feta/sausage and pomodori (Italian for tomatoes!). Jealous?
Until the ladies in front of me would revoir!

(Oh! The above photos are either ones I caught from my jaunt earlier today, from some of the antique shops I visited or, quite simply, the stink face I made prior to the interview. Enjoy!)