“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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.