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The Nomad in Brisbane

life in brisbane

“You should stay in the city. You will love it!” I had been told by every person that I met when I first arrived in Australia.

I had heard all kind of fancy stories and glamorous lifestyles. As someone who has been staying in the city for the past 25 years, I wasn’t persuaded at first. But after being told multiple stories by multiple people, I was slowly swayed. I left my farm life dream behind and followed a group of friends to Brisbane eventually.

Yes, staying in the city was really awesome. However, it could get quite depressing at times. Living in the city, I was spending much quicker than ever. I had been moving around like a nomad, just to get a cheaper place to stay, until I finally get a free corner in my sister’s room. Just like when I was in Melbourne, it was really difficult for me to get a job, especially during the winter, which made my life unsustainable.

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Welcome immigrants movement

“You should go and try asking around the shops in Chinatown, it’s pretty easy to get a job there.” People from the backpacker hostel would suggest.

However, they would add on, “don’t ask for a legal wage. Try to negotiate the wage around 10 to 12-ish AUD..”

I knew about the situation in Chinatown, that’s why I hadn’t ventured into that territory still. Yet, I was on the edge of being broke. I knew that it was my best choice, so I took a gamble and went for it.

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Asian street food festival

I tried my first luck in a restaurant that sells Malaysian delicacies. Standing outside the window, I could see the staffs tidying up the shop and ready to end their morning business. Having no experience working in a restaurant, I hesitated. After taking some time to convince myself that I needed the cash, I stepped into the restaurant and approached a middle-aged man who seemed to be the boss. I asked him, “Hi, are you guys hiring?”

The man looked at me, without answering to my question, he asked, “How much do you want for an hour?”

“11”, I said indecisively. “11?!”

“11?!!!”, he repeated.

“We are not going to pay you for 11 AUD per hour. This place is not for you. Go somewhere else!” Turned out, the restaurant only paid their staffs for 8 AUD per hour.

After my unsuccessful attempt, I went to the next shop and the next shop and the next. And, my life in Brisbane began officially.

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The restaurant kitchen
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The hostel owner introduced me a part time job as a labour worker in a recycling factory

Two weeks after my arrival in Brisbane, I finally secured a job as a waiter in a Chinese restaurant. The restaurant manager is a horrible person. He likes to cuss at us like a real life Gordon Ramsey, but only million times worse. Everyone was as if muted when he got mad. We would blindly follow his commands as he pleased. I didn’t like that place and wanted to leave.

Then, I found a job as a kitchen hand in the suburb area. Although the wage was only 15AUD/hour, I assured myself that it was almost legal and totally worth a try. So, I quit the waiter job and became a kitchen hand. It was a very busy cafe restaurant, which made sense to me that all the chefs were never in a good mood. As I was the newest and the slowest in the kitchen, I always became the first casualty.

In between my work shifts, I would always try out for new jobs and work as a part timer. Sometimes, I would meet employers that didn’t want to pay me and said that I was on a job trial. There is NO WAY that a job trial lasted 8 freaking hours, so I always asked for my money back.

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The morning – I went to work by taking ferry
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The evening – While I was jobless
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The dusk – I always saw this view on my way back from work

In July, my mom and sister came to Brisbane. When they asked if I wanted to travel with them to Sydney, I replied “YES!” in a heartbeat. I wanted to escape the my work life so badly.

I thought I was heaven until I received a message from the cafe restaurant. They informed me that they no longer needed me in their kitchen.

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The night – When I went shopping at Woolies

I was pretty upset honestly, but I also felt sort of relief. Deep down in my heart, I knew that I was not suitable to work in a restaurant.

I was back to the jobless state.

My mom had gone back to Malaysia in the middle of July. On the day she took the flight, my sister was crying quietly but miserably. It was the first time she left home. I was just sitting by her side, laughing at her, pretending that I was fine and trying to hold back my tears at the same time.

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Sunny at Roma station

One evening, I got a call from a friend that I met in Bundaberg, Sandy. She told me that there were job vacancies in Southern Australia. I rejected her initially. My brain kept telling me that I could make a living in Brisbane, but my gut told me that I should accept her invitation. I was caught in this dilemma for days.

In the end, I went with my gut and bought the flight ticket to Adelaide.

Few days before I left for Adelaide, I had a fight with my sister over something insignificant. We just couldn’t be in each other’s presence for more than a day, let alone three weeks. We finally made up and talked right before the day I left. We were lying on the grass in a park, talking about ourselves and our parents back home. We were predicting our future path, our future career and future self.

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Cloudy – In the park

It was pitch-black outside when the alarm clock woke me up at 4 am in the morning. I gathered all my belongings, waved goodbye to my sister and ended my life chapter in Brisbane.

Hello, Adelaide!

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Whales watching us in the Pacific Ocean

Pacific Ocean

“Do you want to take the seasickness pills?”, my mom asked.
“Um.. No, thanks. I think I am fine.” That’s what I thought.

We were on our way to the Marina Mirage, the place where we were going to take a cruise to the open water to see whales. Yes, WHALES! Finally, we have decided to do what could be a once-in-a-lifetime-experienced activity. It was such a guilty pleasure to see our money got dumped into the deep ocean, literally and figuratively. That day, we ended up eating only breads for brekkie and lunch to pretend as if it could make up for what we had spent. – continue reading

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Unfinished business with Mount Kinabalu #throwback

Mount Kinabalu

It was the early October of 2013. I remember the sky was raining cats and dogs when I was hiking Mount Kinabalu. The monsoon season had just started in Borneo not long ago. Strong wind had been blowing at me constantly and brutally from every direction. Everywhere I looked was blurry, I could’ve slipped off of the mountain at any point. My jacket was useless, my body was soaking wet. I was shivering non-stop fighting the cold while my legs were cramped from the start. “God, I don’t want to die here..”, never in a million years had I thought that these words would come out of my mouth. I waited patiently for the nature to show me any mercy, but this is not how it works apparently. – continue reading

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Gold Coast: Us v.s. The Seagulls

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Few days after coming back from Sydney, my family and I made an impromptu decision to visit the Gold Coast for a night. We had not really thought of going there at the beginning because I was scheduled to work. We had decided to spend time together in Brisbane. Also, it was winter.. So, a big no? But, plans didn’t go as expected. I lost my part time job in Brisbane. Since we were all free then, we were like, “Why not?”

We gathered some information online, booked our hotel, packed our luggage and, of course, had a good night sleep and looked forward to the next day. Early in the morning, we took a train straight from Brisbane city to Nerang station. – continue reading

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The many visits in Kota Kinabalu

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Mount Kinabalu

Two years ago, I was sitting in a campervan with three friends, crossing the Autralian outback to witness the grand epic Uluru. Fast forward to today, I am just passing my ordinary day waiting for my next adventure to come.

I have been back home for more than a year, having an 8-to-5 job and working in the office mostly. Two weeks ago, my boss asked me to go to Kota Kinabalu, where his office is located at, to present the work that I have been developing for weeks. Finally, I get to catch some fresh air in Borneo! – continue reading

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Four days in Sydney

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Day -∞ to 0
When my sister came to Brisbane in July to complete her final year of undergraduate study in QUT, my mom came along for two weeks to make sure that my sister could handle everything by herself. Prior to arriving the city, my mom had contacted a close friend of hers who had been living in Sydney for years. They planned to meet up with each other and asked if I would like to join them. As much as I would like to experience this backpacking journey by myself, it was always tempting to have someone I know by my side once in a while. So, I decided to tag along.

My mom and her friend, Aunt Lan, used to be neighbours back in Malaysia. She is married to a Cambodian husband way before I was born. Her husband, Uncle Kam, was a refugee at the time. He was staying in Malaysia while waiting for the UN to assign him to a new home. In the 80s, they finally moved to Australia. It has been their home since then till now. – continue reading

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The Koalas in Brisbane!

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Koalas in the sanctuary

I visited the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary in the winter of 2015 twice. The first time I was there, I was with my friends that I met in Bundaberg and Brisbane. Then, I visited the place again in July with my sister, who was studying in Brisbane at the time.

The entrance ticket was not cheap, it was $36 for an adult. I managed to get into the sanctuary twice by paying student price, which was $24. Actually I shouldn’t have done that because I wasn’t a student anymore. Anyway, just like the time when I was visiting the casino in Brisbane, people automatically thought that I was underage. It was a bit annoying at time, but it was great in this situation. Though I felt kind of sorry that I cheated. – continue reading

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The end of autumn in Queensland

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Back in the early April, when I was still in Melbourne, the weather was already quite cold even in daylight. Oftentimes, autumn wind would give my skinny bones chill. It was quite the opposite in Bundaberg, the land that belongs to the sunshine coast, Queensland. Bundaberg was always warm and sunny. I was getting quite tanned due to my job working as a cherry tomato picker. Everyday, my skin would be kissed by the sun mercilessly for at least 7 hours. It was painful at first, just like the pain on my legs, my backs, my shoulder and my neck, but they were all gone eventually. I wonder if my muscles were too numb to feel.

There were a lot of backpackers in Bundaberg. I guess the sunny weather was quite a good sell here. When I first arrived the hostel, I met quite a few French, Italians and Germans. The Europeans that I met in Bundaberg like to sing, dance, cook, bake and smoke joints. Everyday, I would hear them singing and smoking in the tomato field. Every night, they would cook something for us to try. It was fun, but it didn’t last. Most of them left the farm after two weeks of work due to the unfair pay wages. – continue reading

Enjoying the quiet Brisbane

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People having sunbath in South Bank

It seemed that it was always quiet in Brisbane. I wouldn’t have guess that. Maybe winter had taken a toll on everyone’s emotion. Still, the sun was shining brightly everyday.

I visited the man-made beach at South Bank almost everyday on my first week of arrival. I had been here with friends, by myself, during the daytime and at night. It was a good place to hangout, chill and have lunch. Sometimes, I would just sit there for hours to use the free wifi. Even though it was winter, I could still see people having sunbath on the sand or taking a dip in the water. It was amazing. – continue reading

Becoming a fruit picker in Bundaberg

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Every year, while Australia warmly welcome youngsters from all over the world to witness its beauty, only 100 Malaysians get selected to live and work in Australia with a working holiday visa. Basically, if Australia represents the world, the Malaysian with working holiday visa will be the endangered species. Out of the city, its nearly impossible to trace us in Australia, let alone knowing about our existence.

I have only met four Malaysians with working holiday visa throughout the whole year and that was considered as winning the top prize in lottery. A lot of people wonder why that I felt so grateful when I met someone that comes from the country I grew up in. Why? Having a connection in Australia is actually quite important in order to make a living here. To many, the easiest way to get a job in the country is to know somebody who knows somebody that could provide a job. Without knowing anyone except my friend, Arnold, who was still studying at that time, I was having a hard time looking for a job. The job advertisements were quite limited, the legal ones, of course.

It had already been a month since I first set foot in Australia. I had spent quite a lot of money on travelling and daily expenses. I needed a job. – continue reading