December in Warragul (Dec 1-29): Legally Blonde, Cape Woolamai, and Christmas Festivities

The last time I wrote, I had gotten my first write-up at work and I was expecting to have my second meeting for not being fast enough. However, I’ll save that update for the end of my post. December was full of trying to make it feel like Christmas here! During the first weekend in December, I went to Melbourne. On Saturday afternoon, my landlord (Lily) was having a birthday party at the house so I spent the morning making cupcakes. Once the group left to go to a vineyard, I packed up my stuff and headed into the city. I met up with Brooke and Sylvia to go to the grand opening of Taco Bell. The food was really good, and we got some free taco socks to wear! After dinner, we met up with Vic and Natalie to go to the Legally Blonde musical. It was actually way better than what we expected (although we weren’t really sure what to expect), and we all really enjoyed it! Since it was likely the only time I’d be in the city that month, I really wanted to check out some of the Christmas lights. Once the musical finished, we had about a half hour to check out the Flinders Street lights, and an hour and a half to check out the lights at the casino. No joke, we spent about an hour of that time looking for parking (for two cars). By that time, Sylvia left so it was just me and Brooke. We FINALLY found parking at ten minutes to midnight, but saw that the spot was a no-parking zone between midnight and 5am. We decided to risk it and ran through the casino to make it JUST in time to see the last Christmas show of the night (however I spent the entire ten minutes freaking out that my car would be gone by the time we got back to it). Thankfully, my car was still there so we drove to Brooke’s house.

The next day, Brooke and I drove into the city to meet up with Kitty for brunch. Luckily, she has a parking spot downtown in her parkade, so we didn’t have to spend ages looking for parking again. We had an amazing brunch and then walked around the CBD to check out some of the shops and Christmas festivities. It was such a nice day, so we decided to sit by the river for some (nonalcoholic) drinks and appetizers before I had to head back to Warragul. Kitty and I walked back to her place so I could get my car and upon backing out of her parking spot, I ended up backing into a guardrail and completely shattering my rear light, as well as part of my bumper. I was so upset, cause nothing like that has ever happened before and I vowed never to drive to the city again (a little overdramatic on my part, but I still haven’t went back to the city yet). Anyway, aside from the car damage, the weekend was really great!

The following weekend, Sylvia and Brooke decided to come to Warragul! Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t the greatest so we didn’t get to do any day hikes or excursions, but we still made the most of them being here. After having dinner at my house, we drove to Yarragon to catch the last half hour of their twilight market, and then we drove to Moe to go to their Carols in the Park event. It was so cute seeing the small group of people sitting on the grass, singing Christmas carols! We walked around the area and ran into Santa, who actually ended up sitting and talking to us for 10-15 minutes. He was waiting for his grand entrance and had no one else to talk to, so he seemed excited that we walked by. When the show finished, we headed back to Warragul to check out some of the Christmas lights and wow, some of the houses went above and beyond! We headed back to the house to watch a very weird Christmas movie and then all slept in my room – it was the first proper slumber party I’ve had in a long time! The next day, we drove to Rokeby to go to their Christmas market, which was huge! We ended up staying until it closed, and then drove back to Warragul to have brunch at Main Street Cafe. We only had a couple of hours left until the girls had to head back to the city, so we went back to my house to watch Elf while making a Christmas gummy house (the alternative to a gingerbread house). The next day, Losa moved out because she wanted to be a bit closer to Melbourne for work. It was weird not having her there, even though we hardly ever saw each other during the week anyway!

The next weekend was my first weekend that I’d have to work Saturday (which will probably continue for the next month or so), but I still managed to spend the entire week baking. On Wednesday, I made cookie dough and then on Thursday, I cooked the cookies, and on Friday I made two sets of cupcakes (gingerbread and Oreo-candy cane). This was because on Saturday after work, we were having a get-together for Christmas (and to thank our boss for his hard work!). Also that week (on Friday), Yang moved out of the house because he was done with his six-month placement. That only left me, Lily, and Jesse. However, we had a couple of people come look at the house after work on Saturday and that evening, one of them moved in temporarily (for one week) because the house that she wanted to move into wouldn’t be available until after Christmas. On Sunday, I ended up making a pound cake so that on Monday, I could make a raspberry trifle (literally baked 5 of 7 days that week).

We worked at the farm on Christmas Eve but later that evening, one of my coworkers was doing a barbecue at his house (which is what I made the trifle for). His house was absolutely gorgeous, and it was nice being able to spend some more time with coworkers outside of work. I also got to try pavlova for the first time, which is an Aussie dessert made of meringue – so good! The next day was Christmas, which I got to have off. I spent the morning Facetiming my family (during their Christmas Eve) and then I decided to drive out to Phillip Island to do a 3-hour hike around Cape Woolamai, which was absolutely gorgeous! I only saw one other person on the trail, and I saw at least ten wallabies! During the few days before Christmas, I really started to feel upset about being alone (since most of my Melbourne friends were travelling, and my flatmates would be spending it with family) but once the day came, it really wasn’t so bad after all. Plus going for a hike in hot weather made me forget that it was even Christmas! I also ended up getting Boxing Day off, so I used that day to relax and finish my painting. We had to work Friday and Saturday, and now I just have today off until I go back to work for two more days and then it’s New Year’s Eve! Needless to say, this week has completely messed up my sleep schedule, so I’m kind of looking forward to getting back into a regular routine again (although the extra days off don’t hurt!).

So now, what happened at work? Well, I was assuming that I’d have a second meeting when I went back to work the Monday after my last blog post. However, that meeting didn’t happen. So then, I waited for Tuesday (and it was driving me nuts!). My supervisor said that he was going to give me a second chance for my second chance, so I’d have another week to redeem myself. However, I noticed that things still weren’t getting any better that week. Some rows that I got were horrible, and they’d take 1.5 to 2 hours to finish. Since we were supposed to finish a row in an hour or less, if I got ONE bad row, I knew that my daily average would be completely screwed. I decided that I’d have to gather evidence to prove that it wasn’t my fault. I was able to do SOME rows in less than an hour, and some took me way longer, so for my next meeting, I was planning to get a detailed daily report of all of my rows in order to show the difference in time (since the average is the only number that’s shown everyday, which doesn’t give much information). I also noticed that my supervisor had done a couple of random quality checks during the week, so I was hoping that he was seeing what I was seeing. That Wednesday, I was doing a horrible row – there were laterals all the way down the plant. Another coworker (Kim) was in the row next to me and she started complaining about the row that she was in. You see, when we finish a row, we HAVE to do the row across from it (so we’re doing two rows by the same person). Then when we finish those two rows, we have to go to the next available row. Occasionally, there will be a picker or another worker in the row, so then we have to write TW next to the row so that someone else can do that row when it becomes available. Kim had said that the row she was doing had TW written on it, but she was confused because pickers are never in on Wednesdays (so no one should have been in that row, and therefore it shouldn’t have been skipped). She thought that maybe the row had been her row the previous week, and someone was setting her up to show that her quality was bad. I had noticed things being fishy that week, and said that I was going to keep my eye out during the next week. At lunch, one of the guys admitted to skipping the row on purpose. When I finished the row that I was doing, my pile of laterals was EXTREMELY high, so I called my supervisor over and made him take a picture of my trolley. When he asked why, I said I was collecting evidence for our next meeting (and since we’re not allowed phones in the shed, he’d have to take the picture for me). As a scientist, you always have to be able to prove your hypothesis! Anyway, Thursday was the day that I cracked (the case, as well as my emotions). I had to finish a couple of bad rows and then when I finally finished, I went to find the next available rows. There was a row with TW written on it so I went into it and immediately noticed that it was another bad row. Lo and behold, the guy who skipped the row the previous day was in the row next to this one. I jokingly started accusing him of skipping the row, asking why he skipped it and what was wrong with it (to be fair, there WAS a picking trolley in the row when I got there, so a picker COULD have been in the row when he skipped it). He said he didn’t know what I was talking about, and I continued working on the row. However, the row was taking FOREVER to get through and by the time break rolled around, I STILL hadn’t finished it. So after three hours of work, I had only scanned one row. I FINALLY finished the row after break and exclaimed loudly, “Yay, I finished my second row!” The guy came over and pointed to two rows and said that after I finish my next row, I could do those two. I was skeptical and asked why, and he said that they were two good-quality rows that would compensate for the two horrible rows I had to do. “Why would I need compensation…?” I asked, confused as to why he’d be helping me for no reason. “Cause they weren’t meant for you.” “So you DID skip the rows on purpose…” I started the next (horrible) row, and as I was doing it, I got more and more upset. They announced for us to start pollination, so I went back to the middle of the shed and the Leading Hand was there. I asked if our supervisor was around and said I had to talk to him. When I got to my supervisor, I said I needed to talk to him and as soon as he asked what’s wrong, I started bawling my eyes out. And it wasn’t just watery eyes – it was full-on crying to the point I was gasping for air and couldn’t even talk cause I was ugly-crying so hard. I said what had happened between sobbing, and my supervisor took me outside to get some air. So I had to walk through the shed (past all of my coworkers) in tears. Once I finally calmed down, he asked me to repeat the story (likely cause he couldn’t understand me the first time). However, he seemed skeptical that it would have happened. “Well, was there a picking trolley in the row?” “Yes.” “And was there fruit in it?” “Yes.” “Well then, there was probably a picker in the row.” “Then, why would he have said the row wasn’t meant for me….?” Anyway, he asked if I wanted to file a complaint and I said no, I just didn’t want it to keep happening. So then he asked what we could do to resolve the issue and I said we’d need to have a meeting and explain that if this happens again, there’ll be consequences. So he said he might have the meeting after lunch, or at the end of the day, or the next day. I knew it would be later than sooner, but I just wanted to make sure it would happen. I went back to work and at the end of the day, I still wanted to prove myself. So I looked up the row and saw that the picker had scanned the row two hours AFTER I had scanned the row. I went straight to my supervisor and said, “There wasn’t a picker in the row.” “How do you know?” “Look up the row and you’ll see that the picker picked AFTER I twisted.” “Okay, we’ll have a meeting first thing tomorrow morning.” Again, a scientist always finds proof! Anyway, on Friday morning, we had a 45-minute meeting and it went exactly the way I wanted it to. Not only were skipped rows talked about, but my supervisor brought up the quality checks and said that the following week, we’d be focusing ONLY on quality (and not speed) so that we could clean everything up. So the following week, everyone slowed down by a lot (I stayed the same speed, which is slow anyway), which showed me how much quality everyone was skipping before. Everything was going fine that week – my supervisor was doing regular quality checks and I didn’t have to stress about my speed for once. Then on Thursday, I was working on a row beside that guy again, and he was complaining about his row. I asked, “Did we both manage to get the worst rows today?” “I think so!” Anyway, he finished his row about 15 minutes before me and then when I finished, I went to go to the row across from me and I saw that he had written TW on the row across from him! No way was this week going to be a repeat of last week… So I wrote his name under TW, and started my next row. My supervisor came and helped me with some of my row, so he for sure saw the guy’s name written down. However, when I finally finished my row, I saw that his name was erased! Fuming, I wrote it again, just as my supervisor was going by. “Why is his name erased?! He is DOING this row!” I said. And my supervisor said that he’d make sure the row gets done. Anyway, the guy ended up being upset at me for writing down his name, but I just wanted things to be fair. I also explained to him that I have teacher senses and I have an eye for bullshit, so I WILL notice if it happens again. And since then, things have been great with everyone! We’re all friends, so no one needs to start badmouthing any of my coworkers – it was just one of those crappy situations where everyone was fighting for their jobs and no one ended up winning in the end. But if all of this didn’t happen and if I didn’t have a huge emotional breakdown, we’d probably still be working with bad quality rows and I likely would have been sacked by now. So in hindsight, all of this turned out for the best. Plus, the week after (when all of the quality was great), I actually picked up my speed without even trying! I got 600 plants per hour on Monday, and 626 plants per hour on Wednesday (and we need to get 560)! Not only that, my supervisor did a surprise quality check on Monday and he said there were absolutely no issues with my row (yay!). However, Thursday and Friday went downhill again so I didn’t actually meet my weekly average (I was short by 12 plants!). Now with all of the days off that we’ve had, we’re behind on twisting again so my time has completely decreased (as in I only completed three rows yesterday). Even still, yesterday my supervisor asked if I was SURE I wanted to leave in April, to which I replied yes, unless I get a promotion (haha). As much as I love my coworkers and the joking around and the (mostly) carefree work environment (especially compared to teaching), it’s definitely been a lot more difficult to sustain myself financially compared to teaching. So I guess I’ll have some big decisions to make come April – with my work history, I tend to choose better work environments over better money situations. As of December 23rd, I reached my halfway point at the farm (meaning I’ve technically done the 88 days of farmwork twice, which also means if anyone wants to complain about doing 88 days of farmwork to me, don’t), so I have less than three months left to complete my six months! Although I might stay for a bit longer if they let me. Anyway, life has been great in Warragul – I’m seriously preferring it to Melbourne more and more! I hope everyone had a great Christmas and is enjoying their holiday wherever they are in the world. Love always

Warragul 2.0 (Sept 21-Dec 1): New Hobbies, New Friends, and More Tomatoes

I’ve already been in Warragul (and at my tomato farm job) for over two months now! It’s weird because I came to do my farmwork in order to stay another year in Melbourne, but within a couple weeks of being here, I fell away from the city life and into the country life so easily, and now I’ve seriously been contemplating spending my third year in Warragul to teach. I’ve really enjoyed my alone time here, and I’ve found things to do to keep myself occupied, whether it’s going to fitness classes at the gym, working on my paint-by-number, or exploring the area (as there’s SO much to see here, especially now that I have a car this time!). On my first weekend here, I checked out one of the nearby town’s markets (Yarragon), and then I went to Mount Worth Park to go for a quick hike and a drive around the area. The hills in the countryside are incredible, and the views are breathtaking!

The next weekend, I drove into Melbourne to go to the travel expo with Sylvia. Unfortunately, most tour companies don’t offer anything for the Silk Road (I think we only found one tour), so I wasn’t able to take advantage of any deals. Sylvia and I went to Costco afterwards, and I was pleased to find out that it looked exactly like Canadian Costcos. And it also had all of its Christmas decorations up at the beginning of October! I did a bit of shopping that evening and then headed back to Warragul. The next day, one of my flatmates (Nina) from my very first house in Australia was moving back to Taiwan. I was sad cause I had only been back for a couple of weeks, and it was nice to see a familiar face every once in awhile.

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The next week was Thanksgiving weekend. I made myself a Thanksgiving dinner, and also made two pumpkin pies! On the Sunday, I drove out to Silvan to have brunch with Kitty, Sylvia, Liah, and Sarah at the Barn Owl Cafe. After brunch, we went to the Tesselaar Tulip Festival. It was a really cute Dutch-themed festival with tons of pretty tulips. However, it probably wasn’t worth $29… After roaming around the festival, we drove into town to get some snacks and then found a park with a picnic table to have a final chat before they headed back to Melbourne and I headed back to Warragul. It was nice to see everyone again, especially since I wouldn’t be back to Melbourne for another few weeks!

The next weekend was the Warragul Farmer’s Market, which they only have once every month. I was shocked when I saw how big it was, as it had expanded since the last time I had been to one the year before. They even had a small petting zoo! However, it started raining after about a half hour (and has rained pretty much every weekend since then) so I was forced to head home.

On the last weekend of October, we took in Lily’s parent’s dogs, Sammy and Tinkerbell. They’re both 15 years old, but still have a lot of energy in them! We’d be looking after them for the next month, so it was nice to have some animals in the house. That weekend, Vic’s boyfriend had to work in the area, so I met up with Vic for coffee. It was nice to see a Melbourne friend in Warragul!

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A couple of weekends later, I drove to Melbourne for the RNB Friday Live concert. The lineup was absolutely amazing, and as soon as I saw that Black Eyed Peas would be there, I knew I had to get tickets. Kitty, Sylvia, and I got tickets that were upwards of 200 dollars, but when you think of it as being seven mini-concerts, it was definitely worth the money! I went to Sylvia’s for a bit and then we met Kitty at the concert. It started with J-Kwon, then Keri Hilson, Sisqo, and Brandi. Then they brought out Jason Derulo, 50 Cent, and Black Eyed Peas, all of whom did an amazing job! The last act was Janet Jackson, which was the only one that we weren’t completely impressed by. However, it’s probably the closest I’ll get to being able to see Michael Jackson, and it’s also the second Jackson that I’ve seen live (cause I also saw Jermaine on New Year’s Eve in Berlin)! Overall, the concert was amazing, and I had such a good time! Sylvia, Kitty and I went to Hungry Jacks (the Aussie version of Burger King) afterwards, and then Sylvia and I walked back to her place. The next day, we met up with Kitty and Brooke for brunch at Krimper Cafe, which is where Christian and Marcus work. It was so awesome to catch up with Brooke, since it had nearly been two months since I had last seen her (she was also doing her farmwork, but on the other side of Melbourne). Marcus surprisingly comped the entire meal for us, which we were extremely grateful for! Brooke had to leave, so Kitty, Sylvia, and I went shopping for a bit and then went to Kitty’s to hangout before meeting up with Marcus and Christian for dinner. We went out for dumplings, and then headed back to Sylvia’s house so that I could get my stuff and drive back home.

The next week was my work’s Christmas party! It was at Gumbuya World (a waterpark), which also has a few amusement park rides, and tons of animals. I got there just before 11 and looked at all of the animals with some of my coworkers. We then went to a show before going to the staff barbecue. After eating, they did a quick awards ceremony, and then we had the rest of the day to explore the park! We went on all three amusement park rides (the last one we went on made everyone feel sick), and then a few of us brave ones decided to go enjoy the waterpark in the cold 17-degree weather. The water was actually really warm, but when we had to get out of the water to get to the waterslides, it was absolutely freezing! However, the water park was tons of fun, even though we thought we were going to die on one of the waterslides. It was a great day!

The following weekend (last weekend), I went to a couple of markets. The first one was in Morwell and was an Etsy market, so I thought it would be good, but it wasn’t that great. After the market, I drove up to Walhalla, which is a gold mine town. I’ve been told multiple times to check out the town, and it was really nice! However, I got there around 4pm and the last tour was at 3pm, so I’ll definitely have to go another time. I headed back to the Twilight Market, which was a lot bigger, so there was lots to see! On Sunday, my flatmate (Losa) and I drove to Phillip Island. It was such a nice day, so we figured we should take advantage of it. We went for a walk along the beach and shared our life problems with each other, which I think was needed for the both of us. Mine mostly had to do with my job, which I’ll explain soon.

That week, my flatmates and I planned a Christmas dinner, since we hadn’t all been in the same room since the first week that I moved in. Everyone is on such different schedules, and many people leave on the weekends, so it’s hard to catch up with everyone. However, we found a day that worked for everyone, and it was great! Jesse, Yang, and Lily made dumplings while I made cupcakes during the afternoon. Losa also came a bit later, and then we all enjoyed an awesome dinner together, starting the meal by popping crackers in order to wear our paper crowns throughout the meal. After we finished dinner, we all watched Love Actually, which is very much necessary when celebrating Christmas!

And now back to my job… I started my job on Monday, September 23, and I had to arrive for an induction at 8:20am. The induction consisted of filling out a bunch of paperwork, meeting my supervisor, and then learning how to do my new job. I had a different supervisor, which I was sad about at first, but now I’m really glad that I was moved to a different shed. The day that I started, there were three other women who joined my shed – Punika (from Thailand, whose mom also worked there), Jen (from Australia), and Kim (also from Australia). I also got a new job, which I was sad about (and kind of still am!). Last year’s job (arch support) is only a seasonal requirement, and since this time I’d be working in the summer, arch support is no longer necessary. Therefore, I was moved to the twisting team (along with Punika and Kim). No, this was not a dance group. I was in charge of twisting the plant around the string. Our group is very multicultural – we have two people from Thailand, one from Ukraine, one from India, one from Indonesia, two from Japan, one Australian, and me, which is really cool! Basically, every week the plant will grow about 20-30cm (although lately, it’s gotten worse because it’s been sunny), so every week, we have to twist the plants up the string or else they’ll start drooping down and won’t get enough sunlight. We also have to rip off all of the laterals (I’ve attached a handy picture), and sometimes have to rip off certain leaves. So basically the string has to wrap around each section in that plant.

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My start time is at 6am. So my morning routine is waking up at 4:45am, washing my face and brushing my teeth, putting in my contacts, changing and tying up my hair, making coffee and having a quick bowl of cereal, leaving the house at 5:30, and then it takes nearly ten minutes to walk from the parking lot to my shed. And those early mornings also mean that I usually go to bed before 9pm. When I first started, I wasn’t sure if I was ever going to understand how to do the twisting. It required an 8-week training period, and I would have to reach a certain speed each week. The first week, I had to reach a speed of 100 plants per hour, and I easily doubled that number. I basically tried to stay a week ahead of my quota, but I eventually plateaued and couldn’t increase my speed anymore. When I first started, it took me about 5-6 hours to do one row and my supervisor said eventually, I’d have to do it in one hour (and since there are 560 plants in one row, it meant I’d have to reach a speed of 560 plants per hour). On the second week of training, I was already moved out of the training bay (along with one other guy who had been there for 5 weeks) because my supervisor said that my twisting quality was good. I therefore started feeling very confident about my work. However, after about a month, that confidence melted away, when both Kim and I had to have a meeting because we didn’t meet our weekly target. My supervisor said that I was too much of a perfectionist (which I guess isn’t the worst thing you can hear from your boss), that my quality was great, but I had to focus more on my speed. Surprisingly, the next day, my supervisor said to disregard the meeting and the report that I got, because I guess the computers hadn’t been working and it thought we were a week ahead. That week, one of the leading hands had come in to do a surprise inspection on each of our rows. She counted all of the laterals that were left behind, and looked at the overall quality of our twisting. I had 9 laterals in my row, so I felt pretty good about that, considering some people had over 50 in theirs. However, as the weeks went on, I soon started getting very frustrated, because many plants hadn’t been twisted or pruned properly the week before, which created more work for me to do the following week. Not only that, but some weeks would be better than others, depending on how much sunlight the plants got during the previous week (less sun was better for us, because the plant would have less growth and would therefore be easier and faster to twist). Therefore, my speed numbers kept wavering each week- going high and then going low. The week before last, the leading hand came in to do another surprise inspection on Monday morning, and later her and my supervisor came up to me asking why my row had been so bad. My supervisor said that my previous row and my current row looked like they had been done by two different people. I knew that the last row wasn’t my best row, but I didn’t think it was THAT bad. My supervisor said that it was really out of character for me, and basically didn’t believe that it was my row. However, after they left, I really started beating myself up about it, and I really slowed down my speed because I didn’t want to get anymore negative feedback. I realized that I don’t take criticism very well, and I always do the best that I can in order to avoid getting criticism in the first place. I’ve worked tons of jobs before, from waitressing to public relations to customer service to teaching, and I’ve never been the type to half-ass anything. I’ve always taken pride in the way that I do any job I have, and so if I hear anything negative, it really takes a toll on me. Anyway, at the end of the day, I told my supervisor that my speed would be really slow because I’d rather have good quality than a good speed. He then said that the person who ACTUALLY did the row in the morning had forgotten to put in the row number, so when my supervisor had looked up the row, my name had come up cause I had done the row the week before. I was planning for the next day to be better, but it wasn’t. Our shed is the experimentation shed, so certain rows are trial rows, and are grown differently. Most of these rows are a lot more fragile, so the plants break easily when twisting them. If we break a plant, we have to tie a pink string connecting that plant to the plant beside it, so that we can grow a new plant off of its neighbour. However, even though I only broke 5 plants in that row, I still ended up tying 29 pink strings, and therefore the row took me almost double the amount of time that it should have. Whenever we do one row, we have to do the row across from it, and that row needed 23 strings. The next day, my supervisor came and helped me with three rows, which increased my daily speed by a lot, but wasn’t enough to increase my weekly average. So last Monday, I found myself back in the conference room for my “first” meeting. At that time, my weekly speed should have been 520 plants per hour, and my average was only 465. Therefore, I had one week (until December 2nd, tomorrow) to get my speed to 520 plants per hour. This past week was brutal! We had worked too fast the week before and because of that, we were basically a day behind every day of the week, meaning there was so much growth in the plants. By Tuesday, I already knew that I wasn’t going to make the weekly speed. Monday, my speed was 519, Tuesday was through the experimental rows so my speed was 366, Wednesday my supervisor helped me so it was 553, and Thursday was another bad day because I had to rip off about 5 or 6 laterals for each plant (usually it should only be two) as well as twist over a foot of each plant so my speed was 467. I still haven’t gotten Friday’s score but I can guarantee it won’t be high enough to get my average to 520. By the end of the day on Thursday, I was so frustrated because I felt like I was being punished for doing the right thing. I felt like I was picking up other people’s slack so that they could make their time, but by doing so, I wasn’t getting my time right. When I was talking to one of my coworkers at the end of the day (who has been there for four years), she said that the rows that day had been horrible, but she had done one of my rows (that I had done the previous week), and it only took her 35 minutes while everyone else’s rows took her a lot longer. I was seriously fighting back tears because I was feeling so upset that there was proof that I was doing my rows properly, but I was only going to find myself in another meeting the following week. I talked to one of the guys and asked how many chances I get, and he said usually three and then they do a performance report or something. Needless to say, I was extremely emotional Thursday up until the end of this weekend. For the first time since moving to Warragul, I kind of shut myself out to avoid human contact, even when Losa asked to hang out. I was feeling extremely defeated and just needed some time to myself, which I’m not sure was the best thing to do. I’m going to work tomorrow assuming that I’ll have to attend my second meeting, and I’m not sure how things will play out in the coming weeks. I remember feeling this way at the two-month point last year when I was doing arch support, but it ended up getting better. However, I think that was because it went into winter and production slowed down. This time, we’re going into summer, so I’m not sure things will get better, but I can only hope. Anyway, I’ll keep you all updated when I can. Love always

Back in Melbourne (July 12-Sept 21): Hellos, Goodbyes, and Some Tough Decisions

I got back to Melbourne at 7:30am on Friday, July 12th and I was absolutely exhausted. I took the bus back to St. Kilda and then grabbed an Uber home. It was nice to be able to go somewhere familiar to relax. That week was the first week of the school term, and I was luckily able to get work for four days… as an Italian teacher. Even though I couldn’t really help with teaching Italian, I was thankful that I at least got work. That week, I met up with Jess and Sabriena a couple of times, and one was to go to Queen Vic Market for Christmas in July. I was so happy to see some Christmas trees and hear Christmas carols, as it truly felt more like Christmas during the cold month of July than it would during the hot month of December.

I had told everyone that I wanted to celebrate Christmas in July, and make gingerbread cookies, have a potluck, do a gift exchange, and watch Christmas movies. However, those plans ended up falling through, and the three of us were extremely disappointed about it. That weekend, I had dinner with Kitty and a couple of her friends. Both of them are accountants from Canada who had moved to Melbourne, and one of them (Sylvia) was on the same flight as me from Vancouver to Melbourne! We all went to an Italian restaurant, and Kevin’s work ended up paying for the entire dinner! The next day, Jess and I had our own Christmas in July party, where we made (and decorated) Christmas cookies, made our own ice cream, and watched the Bachelor.

The next day (Sunday), I went for a brunch with Jess and a bunch of Canadians who we had met that day since it was an event planned on the Facebook group. Then that evening, Kevin had Kitty, Sylvia and I over for hot pot at his house, which was delicious!

Meanwhile, my flat was driving me insane. I really wasn’t happy at home or at work, and something needed to change. The first week that I moved in, the plumber had to come fix the tap of the sink because it kept dripping. Then just over a week later, the toilet detached from the wall, so the plumber had to come back to reattach it. The next week, the handle for the cold water came off in the shower, so we could only use the hot water. Unfortunately for me, this meant I had to have a scalding shower, jumping in and out as fast as I could in order to wash my hair. That week, the landlords also had a routine inspection, which they warned us about the night before, when it was too late to get any cleaning done. The following week, the plumber came in to fix the shower. Therefore, he set up a temporary shower and shower curtain in the bathtub for us to use, which lasted for 2-3 weeks (until after I went back to Canada). A couple weeks after I came back from Canada, our washing machine started stopping halfway through the cycle, which I told our landlord about but she didn’t do anything. Then a couple weeks later, one of the breakers blew in the house, so that night, we didn’t have any heating, and couldn’t use the microwave or the kettle. And no internet! Plus most of the food in the freezer ended up thawing. Someone had to come in to replace the breaker the next day. I was so finished with the apartment, and gave my month’s notice to move out, since something seemed to break down almost once a week. The next week, the landlord warned us of ANOTHER inspection (which legally they’re only allowed to do once every six months). A couple weeks later, the washing machine completely broke down. It was no longer draining properly, so the clothes were getting locked inside the machine. The landlord came to check it out and said she’d have to buy a new one, which wouldn’t arrive for at least a week (after I moved out). Literally an hour after she left, the light in the bathroom went out, so I had to bring my nightlight into the bathroom so that we could have a dim light to shower with at nighttime. This also stayed that way until I moved out. Not only that, but my flatmates were definitely in Australia moreso to party, so every weekend, I was woken up at some point between 2 and 4am by one of them loudly coming into the flat. And then I’d be woken up AGAIN because one of them would order UberEats, so the doorbell would ring at 4 in the morning. It didn’t feel like a home at all, so it was difficult to even want to keep the place clean. I knew that I would be moving out in October, whether I found farmwork or not.

The last week of July, I got work everyday (although one day was just a half day), and only one day was in primary school! Our weekly bachelorette nights started dying off with the big group, so Jess and I just continued doing them ourselves. I also had a dinner that following weekend with some more random Canadians that we met through the Facebook group, as well as with Jess, Kitty, and Sylvia. I ended up going to monthly wing nights, doing an axe throwing event, going out for sushi, and doing a Canadian Trivia event (where our team got second place and won a $100 bar tab!).

The following week, my friends went to a taco night, Jess and I had our last bachelorette night, and then that weekend, we all used the bar tab for Jess’ going away party. Jess would be moving back to Canada to do her Masters, so she would be gone for the next two years.

The next day, I met up with Sylvia to go to a tiny Glow Festival, which was a small festival of light displays. Then the next day, Sabriena had a birthday boozy brunch. This is where we get unlimited drinks for three hours, so it was a good way to spend a birthday.

This was also the last time that I’d be seeing Jess, and I took it really hard. I HATE crying in front of people, and I couldn’t stop crying when saying goodbye to her. We became so close, having our weekly bachelorette nights and seeing each other at least three times each week. It’s now over two months later, and we still regularly write each other long messages, but it’s hard not having her around anymore!

Our group kind of shifted, and we had a bunch of new additions, which was great! I became really close with Brooke, who I had met at one of the primary schools I worked at and invited to wing night. Joshua was one of the bartenders at wing night, and he started coming to events as well. And then Christian and Marcus are roommates, and Christian was one of Sabriena and Nathan’s first friends in Australia. Corinne and Daniel also hung out with us a lot more, and Corinne met Jess through the au pairing facebook group. Many of us went to events such as White Night, dim sum, more wing nights, and bottomless cocktails.

That September wing night was the biggest one we had ever had, and about 40 people showed up! It was amazing to see, because it was the 10th one that I had planned, and I had started planning them exactly a year earlier.

The first few wing nights were usually just my friends showing up again and again, but eventually new people started showing up and it caught on. It was so bittersweet, knowing that it would be my last wing night that I’d be able to attend for awhile.

During the weeks, I started getting more and more work in primary schools, which meant I started getting sick more and more often. I was really losing enjoyment in teaching, and it was getting more and more difficult for me to get up in the mornings since I didn’t know if I’d be working in a secondary school or a primary school. One day, I was even sent to a German-immersion school! I was once asked to “teach” chemistry in a really nice school, and it actually reminded me of how much I actually enjoyed teaching. After four years of doing substitute work, which really just felt like a glorified babysitting job, I didn’t feel any satisfaction being in the classroom anymore. In London, I had been asked to teach most classes, whereas in Melbourne, the only classes I would teach were primary classes. It made me start wondering what I wanted to do, because I felt like I needed a break. Before I went back to Canada, I had wanted to stay in Australia for as long as possible but when I got back to Melbourne, I wasn’t so sure if I wanted to anymore. I had enjoyed my time at home, and I was starting to feel more and more guilty about being away from home. I had this discussion multiple times with friends here, and with people I met on my Southeast Asia trip. Since both of my parents were retired, I felt like I should be enjoying the time I have with them, especially hearing about more and more friends and family members who had permanently lost that time with their parents. However, I also realized that I had no physical home to go back to in Canada, that my parents would be in Arizona for half the year anyway, that finding work would be a lot more difficult compared to other places in the world, that my salary would be a lot less, and that it wouldn’t be as easy to have a group of friends that were willing to meet up multiple times each week. Logically, it made more sense for me to stay in Australia for another year. The government introduced a third year visa in July, so in order to stay for a third year, I’d have to work on a farm for six months (compared to the three months required for the second year). If I hadn’t went to southeast Asia, I likely wouldn’t have had the chance to complete the farmwork for the third year (since you weren’t allowed to start the farmwork until after July 1st), so I kind of felt like this third-year visa was MADE for me. I loved my life in Melbourne, and I was really enjoying myself. The only thing that would be annoying is that I’d have to find a car. One night after watching the Bachelor with Jess, I took an Uber home and told the driver my conundrum. He listened to everything I had to say and then replied, “Well, to me it sounds like you’ve already made up your mind about what you want to do. But for some reason, you’re holding back.” I realized that he was completely right. Along with all of the people who gave me advice during my southeast asia trip, who always said, “You can’t keep living your life in fear – you have to do what makes you happy.” When people asked if I’d be happy moving back to Saskatoon right now, I realized that I likely wouldn’t be. Which is a difficult realization to come to, but I still feel like I’m at a different stage of my life compared to many of the people back at home. So I decided I’d do the six months of farmwork, and stay another year. Plus it was the perfect time to do farmwork – Alexa was still back in Canada, Jess had left, Sabriena and Nathan would be leaving at the end of September, Liah was still doing her farmwork, and Brooke was also looking for farmwork to get her second year. However, getting my job back at the tomato farm wasn’t as easy as I had thought. In the middle of August, I sent in an application and wrote the company. I knew that it would be a slow part of the season since it was still winter, but I was hoping that the HR manager would find a job for me. To my dismay, the HR manager had changed and she said that there weren’t any jobs available, and that she would add me to the waitlist. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to try to apply to other jobs – one, because it was still winter and most places wouldn’t start hiring until at least December, and two, because if I had to work for six months, I’d rather do it somewhere that I liked. I also wouldn’t be able to afford missing multiple days because of bad weather, so since the tomato farm was in a greenhouse, I wouldn’t be affected by the weather. Because I wouldn’t be able to start working until the beginning of October, and my second year visa expired April 23rd, I’d really be cutting it close in order to finish my six months of farmwork. I wrote my supervisor and asked him if he thought he’d be able to talk to the HR manager, and he said he would get back to me. At the beginning of September, he told me to email the HR manager again, so I did but she just had the same answer. I wrote my supervisor and said it sounded like there was nothing available, but then he said that she would be in touch with me soon. He had went to talk to her about it, so that Friday, I got a phonecall while I was at school. I called back right after school but the HR manager had left for the weekend, so they said she’d call me back on Monday. I called again after school on Monday, but the HR manager was gone again. Luckily, I finally got a call from her on Tuesday and she said she might have a position available. That evening, I got an email with a job offer, which I obviously accepted. I would be starting in 13 days, which meant I had to find a place to live and a car before that. Luckily, I had already given my month’s notice to move out of my flat since I was planning to move out regardless of whether I found farmwork or not.

The next two weeks were my last two weeks in Melbourne. On Tuesday, I went mini golfing with Sabriena, and then went for dumplings with the crew.

On Thursday, I went to a comedy show with Sylvia, Corinne, and Daniel. Daniel also helped me search for cars online that evening, so I took the next day off and went to check out the car. It was a 2000 Honda CR-V, and the dealer who I got it from just seemed so genuine and nice. He even said that he had a couple of daughters that were my age, and he hopes that if they ever live abroad, someone would take care of them in that kind of situation (considering I know nothing about cars, and would normally have my dad to help me). I ended up purchasing the car that day but left it there so that it could get an oil change and inspection the next morning.

That night, Corinne and Daniel had a Friday the 13th party at their house, which was great! They even set up a Photo Booth in their living room, which we definitely took advantage of. Somehow, I was the last person there but luckily, I was only a 15-minute walk away from home. The next day, I went to pick up my car. On Sunday, I drove out to Warragul to look at a couple of houses. I really liked the first house, which would be with three flatmates (as well as the landlord’s boyfriend). The landlord (Lily) is a secondary school teacher, while her boyfriend (Jesse) is working on his Doctorate so he’s usually at home writing. Then Yang is here for a 6-month placement, and he’s working in one of the hospitals here. And Losa is going to school in Melbourne for law, so she commutes back and forth everyday. Later that evening, I was offered the room and I happily accepted! I got back to Melbourne, met up with Sylvia to check out the last half hour of the Ukrainian festival, and then we met up with the rest of the group for Christian’s birthday. We all went bowling and then went out for dumplings. That was the last time I saw Sabriena and Nathan, because they would be moving to the UK until their visa went through. I knew I’d see them again in less than a year, but we weren’t sure how long they’d be gone for. The next week was the last week before school holidays, and luckily I got four days of work that week. I ended up packing most of the week, and then on Saturday, September 21st, I met up with some of the group for a good-bye brunch, and then drove to Warragul to move into my new place! Love always

A Visit to Canada (June 7-July 10): Saskatoon, La Ronge, and My Sister’s Wedding

It’s almost embarrassing that it’s taken me over three months to write a blog post about my time in Canada. It wasn’t because it was boring or horrible – there’s just been a lot going on since I got back to Australia! I flew out to Vancouver on June 7th and brought two suitcases with me. My plan was to leave the contents of one suitcase in Canada, and come back to Australia with an empty suitcase (this, of course, didn’t end up happening). I got up nice and early, grabbed an Uber at 6:00am to take me to the bus stop, and caught the bus at 6:30am. The bus took about an hour, so I checked in my bags and waited to catch my 9:20am flight. Lucky for me, the seat between me and the other lady in my row was empty, so I didn’t have to feel squished for the 15-hour flight. Unsurprisingly, I couldn’t sleep during the flight, so I ended up watching about 3 or 4 movies. I arrived in Vancouver at 7:15am (gaining two extra hours that day, despite having been on a plane for 15 hours). Once I got through customs and got transferred to the domestic terminal, I was ready to meet up with my friend Kim, who is from Saskatoon and had lived in London at the same time as me. We hadn’t seen each other since we were both in London, so it was great to catch up!

She had to leave about an hour later because she had to go to work, which was fine because at that point, it was about 3am Australia time and I was definitely getting the shakes. I hung out in the food court for a few hours (I had a 6.5-hour layover in Vancouver) and at about noon, Ron (my brother-in-law) came for a quick visit! It was also nice seeing him since the last time I saw him was in Shanghai!

Unfortunately we couldn’t talk long since I had to go back through security and find my gate. Somehow, I was able to spend the majority of the next flight talking to the man next to me, who had just come back from Bangkok to visit his son. I arrived in Saskatoon at about 5pm, where my parents were waiting to pick me up. We drove to my sister’s house (which I got to see for the first time, as well as meet her kitties!) and had dinner. I was extremely exhausted so luckily, Lauren put me straight to work and got me working on the favours for her wedding. I probably wouldn’t have been able to stay awake until 10pm that night if I didn’t have something to keep me occupied!

The next morning was Lauren’s bachelorette party. I got up early to go pick up the canoe rentals with my dad, but on the way there, his truck had a problem (of course). The bridesmaids were all meeting us at Lauren’s house so that we could go early to unload the canoes before meeting everyone else for brunch. Unfortunately, because my dad could no longer use his truck, the morning started out quite hectic, since we had to switch vehicles and reload all of the canoe stuff. However, we finally got on the road, unloaded all of the canoes, and still had a bit of time to spare before Lauren and all of the rest of the guests arrived at the Berry Barn. The lunch was nice, and I was glad to finally have some perogies again!

After filling up on food, we were all ready to canoe back to the city. While the weather was nice (in terms of no rain), it was extremely windy and even though we were going WITH the current, we actually found ourselves paddling quite hard in order to go AGAINST the wind.

After a few hours, everyone was feeling pretty worn out, and we were only halfway there. We made a last-minute decision to stop where we were (actually having to turn back and go AGAINST the current, which is when the wind inconveniently decided to die down and not work in our favour), and get picked up there. We had to wait a bit for one of the bridemaid’s moms to come with the canoe trailer, so we made use of our time by taking pictures and playing games. We went back to Lauren’s to have a campfire, eat hotdogs, and visit with each other.

And I didn’t end up going to bed until 2am – I was the last bridesmaid standing, despite still being so jetlagged!

On Sunday, I spent some time with Lauren and Tor, and then that evening, my mom and I drove up to the cabin. We had five full days to get everything prepared for the wedding the following weekend! The next few days were spent doing whatever I could help with for the wedding – continuing wedding favours, working on the playlist, getting the seating chart typed out, etc. Then, three straight days in the kitchen started. I was set up in the neighbour’s cabin because I’d have more space and I’d be away from all of the stuff happening in our own cabin. I spent the first day making all of the parts of the wedding cake, so that I could put it all together in the upcoming days. During the second day, I made the cupcakes.

Lauren decided on two types of cupcakes (coconut-lime cupcakes with Malibu frosting, and Nanaimo cupcakes), so I quadrupled each recipe and ended up with 100 Nanaimo cupcakes and 85 coconut-lime ones. I was up until about midnight and it got to the point where we didn’t even know where to put all of the cupcakes! The next day was the day before the wedding and the day that I had to ice all of the cupcakes. I had been by myself in the neighbour’s cabin up until that point, but my mom said she had to come in to steam all of the dresses. I continued doing my thing, and started making the icing. I started piping the icing on the cupcakes but then when I looked over, all of the icing was literally melting off of the cupcakes – I had never seen anything like it before! I thought that maybe my icing was too liquidy so I added more icing sugar, but it still didn’t help. The butter was separating from the rest of the icing and dripping everywhere! Lauren walked into the cabin to tell me that the dress rehearsal would be in a half hour, and I started freaking out when she left. I still had 185 cupcakes to ice – I didn’t have time to sit through a dress rehearsal and dinner! I broke down and started bawling my eyes out, while scraping all of the icing off of the cupcakes so that I could put the icing in the fridge. The kitchen was a complete mess and was covered with  icing sugar, and I felt so defeated. I figured that everyone would just have to eat cupcakes without icing, I was ready to give up. Luckily, right when the dress rehearsal was about to begin, my mom’s best friend, Karen arrived and did as much as she could to keep both me and my mom at ease.

I was shocked (and so grateful!) when I got back to the kitchen later that evening and everything was completely clean – she really WAS a lifesaver (along with my Godmother, Marlene and one of the bridemaids, Sarah who both came in at different times, saw how stressed I was, and asked what they could do to help). They all made my anxiety levels go much lower! We went through the rehearsal a couple of times, and then went to the cabin where Tor’s parents were staying so that we could have a rehearsal dinner.

I didn’t get to stay very long because I was so stressed about finishing the cupcakes, so I ate and ran back to the “Cupcake Cabin.” I spent the rest of the evening making icing to pipe onto the cupcakes and because the mixing bowl could only fit a double recipe, I basically had to make four batches (of double recipes, so eight batches) of icing.

The piping was going great, and I even had some company from the bridesmaid’s mom, who came to steam the wedding dress that she had made for Lauren. After awhile, all of a sudden, the cupcakes started leaking again! And it was then that I put two and two together, and realized that the steamer was causing the cabin to act as a sauna, which was making the icing melt! Luckily, the photographer was there and before I had a chance to start freaking out, he started taking all of the cupcakes outside. So there I was, icing all of the cupcakes outside in the dark. It was another late night, but I eventually got it all finished, along with the wedding cake!

Saturday was the wedding day! I had to get up early to help with the sound check for the ceremony, and then get some last-minute preparations ready. I ran over to the reception area to see it for the first time (since I had been locked up in the Cupcake Cabin for days), and to sort out table numbers and seating charts. Lauren and a couple of the bridesmaids headed into La Ronge to get their hair done, so Lindsay and I headed back to the cabin to do our own hair and makeup. However, the weather wasn’t on our side because it started to pour. Not only that, but the girls were about an hour late from getting their hair done. We decided to push the ceremony back an hour in hopes that the rain would stop. It didn’t. However, the ceremony was still so beautiful! Lauren looked absolutely gorgeous in her dress, and it was a proud big sister moment for me (as well as an extremely emotional time). We all made the decision to walk down the aisle without umbrellas or jackets, and I was so thankful to see that there was a tent set up for the bridal party to stand under during the ceremony. As we all stood there shivering throughout the program, unable to feel our fingers and toes, it was still such a touching moment and the love that Lauren and Tor showed for each other was so genuine.

After the ceremony was over, we took pictures in the forest (and in the rain). Also, shout-out to Aaron Closs, who took some amazing photos! Then, the bridesmaids escaped so that Lauren and Tor could take pictures together, and I had about a  half hour to finish writing my speech (obviously we know that I’m a writing-procrastinator).

I finished right when Lauren and Tor got back, so we all walked to the reception area to start the dinner. Luckily, the rain had stopped by this point, but we were all still covered in jackets and blankets in order to stay warm. The dinner was absolutely amazing – shout-out to Cravings, who made a delicious meal! Then came the speeches… I have to say that I was extremely humbled and grateful that my sister asked me to be the maid of honour, and it meant so much to me. I couldn’t hold myself together while saying my speech and I definitely ended up crying (and was told that I made quite a few other people cry as well).

After all of the speeches were finished, the dance started! My playlist kept people on the dancefloor the entire night, and there was only a handful of us remaining at 1am, when my mom shut the party down (boooooo). I’ll be the first to admit that it was probably for the best, since I ended up taking the role of “stereotypical drunk bridesmaid.” Let’s just say I didn’t end the night gracefully…

The next morning was a struggle for me because I had to show up to the wedding brunch, and I’m pretty sure I was still drunk. Walking down the road with dark sunglasses on, I got a few laughs. However, I was determined to visit with as much of the family as I could, since it had been nearly a year and half since I had seen everyone, and the day before had been so hectic so I hardly got to talk to anyone. After the brunch, I helped out as much as I could with cleaning but when I started to get light-headed, I decided to go back to the cabin and rest since we’d be having some more family coming to visit later that day. The next few days were spent cleaning up, and then finally relaxing – the first week in Canada had been such a whirlwind, I didn’t even have time to be jetlagged! I went into town a couple of times to visit my friends and their kids, and it was really nice to catch up.

The next Saturday, I planned to drive down to Saskatoon and stay there for a week. I stopped in La Ronge to make a couple of visits, and then I made the 4-hour drive to Saskatoon. As soon as I got to the city, I went to my friend Steph’s house because she was having her annual barbecue (which she has done ever since we were in high school). This is something I’ve had difficulty coming to terms with, but during my time there with the people I’ve known for 10+ years, I felt really uncomfortable and awkward. The first thing I noticed when I arrived is that no one got up to give me a hug, which was really weird for me considering all of my friends in Melbourne and I hug every time we see each other, even if it’s two different times in the same day. The second thing I noticed was that most of the conversations consisted of topics that I couldn’t really contribute to. I quieted down quite a bit, and wasn’t sure what to do next. Honestly, the last time I felt like that was when I was travelling and would meet a group of people that I didn’t really vibe with. But in that moment, I could just say, “Oh, I’m just going to do my own thing.” But what should I do when I’m with a group of friends who I haven’t seen in a year and a half? I really just felt like an outsider observing a group of close friends. I don’t blame them for moving on with their lives, since during the past four years, I’ve only been home three times. But it was just one of those epiphanies where I realized that things definitely weren’t going to be the same. I ended up leaving after a couple of hours, and visited with one of my sister’s bridesmaids until 2am that night.

During the next week, I had two meals booked each day with different people (so it was an extremely busy week!). All of those separate meals were a lot more fulfilling, since I definitely prefer doing one-on-one conversations when catching up with people. I met up with a few high school friends (Cameron, Alyssa, Crystal, and Steph), made a day out to Kindersley and Rosetown to have lunch and dinner with cousins, and also met up with Breann (my cousin who I met in Melbourne), my Hudsons co-worker GJ, my long-time friends Stephanie and Mikela, and had a dinner with Lauren and one of the bridesmaids, Sarah. And between all of those lunches and dinners, my parents and I had to drive back and forth 45 minutes to Delisle, where my storage unit was. We went through everything in that storage unit (which I haven’t seen in two years), and sorted everything into ‘keep’ and ‘donate’ piles. Then we had to load all of my stuff into my dad’s trailer so that it could be stored elsewhere. It was definitely a lot of work!

That weekend, I went back up to the cabin, where I did some more relaxing and visited some more friends. Then I went back to Saskatoon for my last weekend in Canada. On Saturday morning, Lauren, Tor, and I drove down to Regina for the Roughrider game. They went to visit Tor’s grandpa, while I went to visit some of our cousins since I didn’t have much time to catch up with them during the wedding. Then, I picked up Lauren and Tor, and we drove to Cathedral Social Hall, which is where my friend Ryan works (who I met in Melbourne). The four of us had dinner, and then we walked to the Roughrider game, which didn’t start until 8pm.

We ended up losing, but it was still nice to go to a game while being back, as well as have time to catch up with Ryan since I hadn’t seen him since leaving for Asia in December. Tor drove home, and we didn’t get back to Saskatoon until about 2am.

My last three days were spent with my family, and I really enjoyed being able to hang out with my parents, or my sister and new brother-in-law.

It was also bittersweet having to leave because I had really enjoyed my time back in Saskatoon, but was also looking forward to getting back to Melbourne. I left Saskatoon on July 10th at 4:30pm, had a 2-hour layover in Calgary (and actually had a quick catch-up with my friends’ mom, who was travelling to Victoria), then flew to Vancouver and had another 2-hour layover. My flight to Melbourne left at 10:30pm and I arrived in Melbourne the morning of July 12th (and skipped over July 11th). My trip back home was great, and it really made me start questioning whether I should stay in Australia for longer, but I’ll save all of that for another post. Love always

Back to Australia (Apr 23-June 7): Melbourne and Sydney

My time back in Melbourne went extremely fast, and the first part of it was the most stress that I had felt in a long time. I was hoping to get back into the swing of things as fast as I possibly could, so I wanted to move into a new flat so that I could get back to work (since I ended up overspending during my time in Asia). In order for me to get a new flat, I needed to have enough money for a damage deposit, as well as my first month’s rent. I had enough in my bank account for one, but not the other. Originally, I was offered my room in my old place (which I was extremely excited about), but then my flatmate/landlord said that I’d only be able to stay until mid-June because she was planning to move to Europe. Therefore, I didn’t see the point in moving for a month and a half, since I’d end up being in the exact same situation when I came back to Australia from my Canada visit. While I was in Asia (a couple weeks before getting back to Australia), I asked my parents if they’d be able to transfer money to Australia so that I’d be able to afford a new place, but when I landed in Melbourne, I received a message from my mom asking for my bank details… meaning the money wouldn’t arrive in my bank account for at least another three days. I had four house viewing appointments set up for the following day, so I instantly began to panic (I tend to over-react when things don’t go as planned). Jess graciously allowed me to stay at her and Vic’s place for a few days (they were planning on getting a new tenant the following weekend, which gave me 4 days). Jess and Vic were both at work when I got there, so I let myself in, showered, and relaxed until Jess got back from the farm. Liah was with her, so Liah and I ordered some dinner and we all chatted until I couldn’t stay up any longer.

The next day, I started my apartment viewings. The first place was in Balaclava (the neighbourhood next to my old neighbourhood) and would be with two girls (one from the UK and one from NZ). I had a big gap until my next viewing, so I first went to the library to FaceTime my mom. I started having somewhat of a panic attack because all I could think about was that if I liked one of the houses, I wouldn’t even be able to pay for it. My mom email-transferred me some money to my Canadian account (which would still take awhile to receive) and then I used Transferwise to transfer $1000 that I already had in my Canadian account. Afterwards, I decided to walk to the Medicare Centre to reapply for my Medicare. I ended up being there for an hour and a half (and therefore had to show up to my next viewing late), but after waiting for 50 minutes, sitting with a lady for 40 minutes, and being on the phone (and on hold) with the headquarters because the lady wasn’t sure if she could give me Medicare for another year, I finally ended up getting it! She said that because I left the country, she wasn’t sure if I could have it again. However, the headquarters said that since I wasn’t gone for longer than six months, I could keep my Medicare (thank goodness!). I went to the next viewing, which was another 3-bedroom and needed all new tenants. It wasn’t very homey and was far away from all public transportation, so I crossed that one off the list pretty quickly. The next one was by far the nicest and was in my favourite area. I’d only have one roommate, and he didn’t seem to be home very much. However, he still had a lot more viewings and said he wouldn’t make a decision until the weekend (which is when I’d want to move in). The last place I looked at was a lot more run-down, and I’d have two roommates who were both British. I didn’t love any of the places, but I was also desperate to get into a new place. I headed back to Jess and Vic’s place to think about what I wanted to do. I had also gotten an email that I had received the money from my Mom in my Canadian account. I decided to transfer another $1000 over to my Australian account just in case. I knew that with Transferwise, I couldn’t do transfers larger than $1000 or they’d ask for a bunch of verification documents. However, I didn’t realise that this meant you couldn’t transfer more than $1000 within a 24-hour period. Once I tried to transfer that money, I was asked to provide a bunch of documents : a passport, a bank statement, and a proof of my Canadian address. The only document that I had with my Canadian address was my driver’s license, but they emailed me the next day and said that it wasn’t a valid document. That night, the girl from the first viewing wrote and asked if I would be interested in moving in because she was getting other messages, but wanted to ask me first. Even though it was further than my old house, it was the cheapest place, so I told her that I’d move in. The next day, I sent her the deposit (which was basically all of my money left in my bank account), and then I was hoping that the money for my first month’s rent would arrive the following day. As I said before, Transferwise declined my driver’s license as a proof of address – they needed a piece of mail that was sent by the government (a tax return, GST cheque, etc.). I wrote back and said that all of my mail had a PO Box, and they replied that they don’t accept PO Box addresses. I then asked if they could just cancel the second payment because I technically didn’t need it, but then they emailed again and said that because I’ve already been asked for verification, I’d need to provide it before any transfers could go through. I told them to cancel both of the payments, and said that I’d use a different company. They wrote back and said that both of my payments were cancelled, and I went downstairs to talk to my friends about other companies to use to transfer the money. I decided to go with OFX, but when I went to transfer the money, I saw that the $2000 was gone from my Canadian bank account! I wrote Transferwise and said that the transfers had been cancelled, but that the money was gone and they emailed back saying that they’d need a proof of purchase from my bank, with their bank information, my bank information, and the amount of the transfer. It was then that I got extremely upset. I wrote back and asked why they’d take the money in the first place, when they didn’t receive the correct documents. I FaceTimed my mom and was at a loss – I was ugly crying and I’m sure that my friends could hear me downstairs, but I didn’t know what to do. My mom decided to wire transfer some money. I knew it would take at least 3 more days for the money to arrive, and I didn’t have enough time for that. Vic was waiting downstairs for me to talk about it, and then I wrote some of my other friends about what had happened and how stressed I was. Thank goodness for Liah, because the next day, she offered to lend me $1000 to pay for my first month’s rent. Also, that day (Thursday), the $2000 had shown up in my Canadian account again and I received an email apologising, and saying that I could make a transfer if I provided proof of address for my Australian address (so I just used my old address). Finally, things were looking up! I had a flat (and could pay for it!) and the other money was on its way so that I could pay Liah back. I was offered to move into the flat on Saturday but since it was my birthday that day, I decided to move on Sunday instead.

On Friday, I made some birthday cupcakes img_5039-1and then Jess offered to drive me to Nathan and Sabriena’s house to pick up all of my stuff (which had been stored there for over four months). We drove to my old flat to pick up my laptop and bedsheets, and we kept everything in the back of Jess’ truck for the weekend (hoping no one would take it). On Saturday, Jess and I went to the South Melbourne market to buy some stuff for my party. Jess is so great at hosting, and made a huge snack platter to go with the cupcakes, and we made a huge pitcher of Caesar. It was so nice to see everyone again, since I hadn’t seen most of them in over four months!

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On Sunday, I packed up the last of my stuff and Jess drove me to my new flat. I spent the day moving everything in and then met up with Allen for dinner since he was moving back to Taiwan that week.

I was ready to start work on Monday and made my way to Flinders Street for 7:30am, as usual, but I didn’t receive a call. I was really upset about it because I felt like it was going to be a repeat of last year, when I didn’t receive a call for two weeks in December. I started researching other teaching agencies and even set up an interview with one of them. Later that evening, my agent called and apologized because she had just read my email (from Friday). I hadn’t signed the contract to guarantee me work because I wouldn’t be there for the entire term, so I wasn’t sure if I was allowed to sign it. However, Hannah said that I could and I’d be guaranteed 5 days per week until I left for Canada. With me signing the contract, it meant that I couldn’t work for any other agencies so I had to cancel my upcoming interview with the other agency. However, my agency lived up to their word, and I received work every single day until I left for Canada! I talked to a lot of my other friends from the agency, and most were only getting 3.5 or 4 days each week – some hadn’t gotten a five-day week during that entire period! However, at the end of last year, they had sent out a survey, and I answered it quite honestly, so I’m wondering if that’s why they gave me work everyday.

My time in Australia was filled with quite a few events, including two of my Canadian wing nights, and a new tradition of weekly Bachelorette viewings. I also got to go to the two-part Harry Potter play, which was really cool! It was like a play mixed wth a magic show – I was wondering how they got away with certain tricks! I also went to a couple events to meet some new people, and met up for a few lunches, dinners, and birthday parties.

My time in Melbourne seemed to go so fast, and I already had to leave before I knew it. And unfortunately during the end of it, I started getting sick and losing my voice completely. I decided to take a couple of days off during my last week because I didn’t want to spend a 24-hour trip being sick.

During my last weekend in Australia, I had booked a trip to Sydney to go to the Vivid Festival, which is a light show throughout the city. The day before I left, Jess also bought a ticket to join me, which was an awesome way to spend my time in Sydney. Even though we booked at completely different times, we ended up being seated next to each other for BOTH flights (with an aisle in between us), so that was a great coincidence! Lucky for me, Jess is also a planner (she took over planning the Canadian Wing Nights while I was gone) so for the first time, I let someone else plan a trip for me. We arrived in Sydney at about 2:30pm and then had to make our way into the city. It’s crazy cause my flight to Sydney was only $102, but my transportation to and from each airport was about 80 bucks! Jess and I checked into our hostel, which was called Asylum Backpackers and cost $72.90 for three nights (one of the cheapest we could find). Unfortunately, a common occurrence that happens in Australian hostels is that you’re put in a dorm with people who are living there long-term. So in our 6-bedroom dorm, four of the people were living there long-term. Therefore, laundry was strewn around the room, as well as baking supplies(?), hair products, etc. The people were definitely making themselves feel at home! That night, Jess and I went to Bar Luca for burgers, and then we found cheap tickets to a 90-minute 80s dinner cruise for $32 each. We got a free drink upon arrival, and had a huuuuuge buffet! If we had known there’d be so much food, we wouldn’t have went for burgers beforehand, so we were both stuffed by the end of it! It was nice listening to all of the 80s music and seeing all of the lights of the Vivid Festival from the river during the night – it was absolutely gorgeous! When we finished, we walked around the Vivid Festival until it closed at 10pm and then walked back to our hostel. It was absolutely freezing that night, so I’m glad that it warmed up for the rest of the weekend.

On Friday morning, we took a boat to Celsius Coffee, where we had an amazing breakfast.

Then we walked around the area for a bit, stopped at Wendy’s Secret Garden, walked through Luna Park, and walked across the bridge to the main part of Sydney.

We then walked along the boardwalk to the Opera House, and through the Botanical Gardens. We got to Frankie’s right before happy hour, so we were able to get some cheap pizza and drinks until their happy hour finished. We then walked to a Mexican bar to catch another happy hour, but it was so packed! We decided to explore another section of the Vivid Festival that night, and then finished our night having some cheap Mexican food at Guzman Y Gomez.

On Saturday morning, we took the bus to Bondi Beach. It was supposed to be an uglier day that day, but we were pretty lucky and didn’t have to worry too much about the rain. There was a Farmers Market in the area, so we got lunch and coffee, and then started the walk from Bondi to Coogee. We took our time and stopped many times along the way, so when we finally made it to Coogee, we were thirsty and hungry.

We stopped at a hostel bar for drinks and then decided what to do next. There was a cheap(er) theatre about a 30-minute walk away, so we decided to go for Vietnamese food at a restaurant nearby (where we got 25% off), and then go to Rocketman at the theatre, which was so good!

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Neither of us had realized that Elton John’s life was the way that the movie portrayed, and it was really well-done! We walked back to the hostel and went to bed earlier, since our flight would be at 8 the next morning.

I only had four days left in Melbourne when we got back, and I was busy every night until I left. This was the week that I had to take two days off because even while I was in Sydney, I wasn’t feeling too well. However, I felt fine once I headed back to Canada. But I’ll save that for another post! Love always

Bangkok (Apr 19-22): Chatuchak Market, Khao San Road, and a Long Wait through Customs

The trip to Bangkok was probably the longest leg of my entire trip, thanks to the longest wait at customs that I’ve ever had to endure. My bus left at 8:45am from Siem Reap, so I had to order a tuktuk to take me to the bus terminal. I booked my bus with Giant Ibis again (the only company that I trusted) for $32 USD/$46.33 AUD, and they supplied each of us with a coffee, water, and biscuit when we got on the bus. We arrived at the border just before noon, so they stopped at the casino for a bathroom break while they took our passports to the Cambodian border. By that point, I was getting hungry since it was lunchtime, and I assumed that we’d get some food soon. We had to walk about 10-15 minutes to the Thailand border, where it was absolute mayhem! After finally figuring out what line we had to stand in, we got arrival/departure forms to fill out, and we stood in the extremely long line.

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There wasn’t any air circulation, there were hundreds of people, and it was above 40 degrees with the humidity. There wasn’t a dry shirt in the room – everyone was drenched! After about 45 minutes, someone walked by selling bottles of water. He must have made a lot of money because we all jumped at the opportunity to buy some water (I had stupidly left my water bottle on the bus because I assumed that we’d just be in and out of customs). There were three separate lines, so every 20 minutes or so, we’d move up about 3 metres. Finally after an hour and a half downstairs, we were at the front of the line! However, this was only to move into the area upstairs. At this point, I was already deep in conversation with some of the people around me – two of which were a couple that I happened to meet over a month ago when we took the same boat tour from Cat Ba to Halong Bay – so crazy! We got to the top of the stairs, but there was a small door leading to the next room, so it was like a bottleneck effect, with everyone trying to push through the door. The closer you got to the door, the more you felt people push around you – it was the worst! I finally made it through the door after about 15-20 minutes but then, the couple that I was talking to was a few people ahead of me (and they were separated from each other as well). We could see the booths at the back of the room, but there was a line of hundreds of people zigzagging back and forth through the room. I didn’t really understand why there had been three separate lines downstairs (separating foreigners and locals) since we were all mixed together upstairs. We were stuck upstairs for about three hours, with no access to food, water, or toilets (unless someone in line saved your spot and allowed you to come back). People started getting really aggressive with other people trying to butt in line (including myself). I’d notice some people who JUST got into the room trying to sneak in line on one of the sides, and I’d just tell them that there was no way that they’d be getting into the line. So they gave up. During our time up there, two older men fell (one gashed his forehead on one of the posts), and I think everyone was dying of heat, hunger, and thirst. I didn’t understand how it could be legal to have so many people in a room with no access to anything. I was surrounded by a bunch of people from the Philippines, so we chatted quite a bit and they said that they were shocked how busy it was that day because normally it’s never that busy. I guess with the combination of it being the end of Songkran (Khmer New Year) AND Easter weekend on a Friday, I chose the worst possible day to cross the border. When we finally got to the front of the line (just before 5:30pm), we couldn’t contain our excitement – I couldn’t keep the smile off of my face! After I got through, my first task was to find a toilet, then water and food. Our tour guide was still in line so I knew I had some time. We found our bus and I was SO excited to see that they had “lunch” waiting for us (at nearly 6pm) – we were all starving! I grabbed some money so that I could use the toilet, and then came back to devour my meal. We finally got going again at about 6:30 and an hour later, we stopped at a gas station so we were all able to load up on more snacks (I don’t think the lunch was big enough after not eating for the entire day). We finally got to Bangkok at 10pm, so I walked to my hostel (which took about 15 minutes) and I checked in. This time, I was staying at Born Free Hostel for 200 baht per night ($9.27AUD) in a 12-bed dorm (I paid more to be in a room with air conditioning). It was one of the friendliest hostels that I’ve stayed in – I think because Bangkok is a starting point for so many people, so a lot of people were looking to make new friends at the beginning of their trips. I contemplated getting dinner but I was so exhausted, I decided to just get ready for bed. As I was getting my stuff ready to shower, the door of the room opened and in walked the British couple who I had been standing in line with before. We were shocked that once again, we were crossing paths! I had a shower and went to bed, and luckily many other people were already sleeping so I didn’t have to feel guilty about going to sleep earlier. However, I was woken up at about 1am because one girl decided to FACETIME HER BOYFRIEND (without headphones). As we all listened to their conversation, which escalated into a fight because the boyfriend was out with some girls, someone finally told her that we were all trying to sleep, so she said goodbye and hung up. However, after that, her friend came in and they proceeded to have a full conversation with someone else in the room. I couldn’t believe it! I hadn’t dealt with this very often on my trip, so I was pretty upset about it and wondered if I had chosen the wrong hostel. I finally got back to sleep at about 4am and slept for the rest of the night.

On Saturday morning, I was planning to go to Chatuchak Market to buy a bunch of stuff (and fill up a suitcase to bring home with me). When I finished changing, I bumped into a guy named Connor who had just arrived from the United States the day before, and who would become one of my best friends in Bangkok. He said that him and another guy (from Greece) would be going to the market soon and said that I could join them. I said that I’d get breakfast first and then meet up with them, so I walked to a nearby bakery and got a coffee and some pastries.

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When I got back to the hostel, we met another girl (from Melbourne) and the four of us decided to go to the market together. I have to say that I was excited to come back to Bangkok because the last time I was there, it was 33 degrees (which seemed deathly to me) but since I had been in 39-degree weather during the past couple of weeks, I would welcome it with open arms. However, I was in for a surprise when the humidex actually brought the temperature up to 49 degrees that weekend! I don’t even know how I ended up surviving… I had gotten used to catching Grab (Uber) everywhere, so I was set on getting a car for the four of us, but everyone else wanted to do it the cheap way and take the bus. We ended up waiting for what seemed like an eternity for the bus to come and then made our way to the market. The market was huge! I didn’t know how we’d be able to find the same stall more than once. However, it was also quite touristy and the prices were a lot higher than what I was used to seeing. Therefore, I ended up holding back quite a bit on the spending, and still didn’t get as much shopping done as I had wanted (but this was also probably because I wasn’t shopping alone). We had lunch at a quite expensive (for the amount of food) outdoor food stall, and then continued exploring the markets until we couldn’t stand the heat any longer. We got on the bus and headed back to the hostel, but on the way, we passed a Dairy Queen and from that moment onward, I had a one-track mind. I wouldn’t keep quiet about Dairy Queen until I finally got some! When we got back to the hostel, we all showered and decided to go out for dinner. I saw a guy sitting in the lobby and asked if he wanted to come join, and he introduced himself as Max (also from the United States), who would end up being my other best friend in Bangkok (he obviously didn’t introduce himself as that). We all went out in search of food, but spent more time walking than eating. We finally decided to get some street food on the street next to Khao San Road, and I got some pad thai. After dinner, we went to the 7-11, where we were able to get beer until midnight. Mike and Simonne had to leave early because they both had planes to catch late that night/early that morning, so that left me, Connor, and Max. We walked back and forth down Khao San Road, which was full of people dancing and having a great time, so it wasn’t hard for us to join in. We didn’t get back until after 2am, and had such a good night!

On Sunday, we decided to do the exact same thing again. I went to get breakfast (with an iced coffee AND a smoothie), and then went back to the hostel, where the boys were waiting for me.

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We took the bus to the market again, and spent some more time walking around. We also checked out some of the other sections of the market. We went to a (very welcomed) air-conditioned plaza, where we all had lunch, and then we continued to a flea market in a mall, where there was a DAIRY QUEEN! The boys treated me to an ice cream cake since it would be my birthday the next week, and I was so happy that I’d have an ice cream cake for my birthday. However, there was one problem… Because it was so hot outside, we had no choice but to eat as much of the cake as we could in the market. And since Dairy Queen isn’t AS popular in Thailand, they only had two 2-person tables, which we stole as soon as they became available. I think the workers were confused, intrigued, AND impressed when we started digging into the cake right then and there. We asked for a knife, a few cups (they gave us their smallest ones), and a few spoons, and we each ate a quarter of the cake.

We saw two guys standing in line so Connor ran over to offer them the rest of the cake, and they ended up being from Canada and were very excited to have some ice cream cake. The market was closing soon, so we made our way through the pet part of the market, which was quite sad since most of the animals looked dead because it was the only way they could cool off. I questioned if any of them were ACTUALLY dead multiple times, but Connor assured me that they were just sleeping.

I didn’t do as much shopping that day but instead helped the boys buy some clothes to go out in that night. We went back to the hostel to shower and then I still had to pick up my drumsticks, so we all took a Grab to Hard Rock Cafe, I bought my drumsticks, and then we walked around for quite awhile, searching for food. It was already past 10pm by that point, we were all starving, and everything seemed closed so we took another Grab back to Khao San Road, got some kebabs, and had another night walking the streets.

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We ended up sitting ourselves down, where we met up with some more people until the place closed down. We then got ourselves in a weird situation, where one of the spa owners came up to us with two Canadian passports, so we found them on Facebook and wrote them. However, some other Thai people got involved and said they’d take the passports back (including a random tuktuk driver on the street), which seemed really sketchy. We said it was okay, that we’d take the passports back to our hostel, and that we had already messaged them about it. But then everyone else got super aggressive and started yelling at us for the passports, taking pictures of us, and saying they’d call the police on us. The passports ended up going to the local police department on the corner, so we just wrote the people telling them that they would be there. We then made our way back to the hostel.

My flight was on Monday at 3:15pm so I slept in a bit, packed up my stuff (which got considerably heavier!), and Connor and Max walked me to the bus stop.

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I was so sad to say goodbye to these guys, as we had gotten so close during the past couple of days. Their trips were just beginning and mine was finished, but it was the perfect end to my trip. I was going to miss my wolfpack!

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I got to the airport at 1:15 to check-in, and I had finally paid to check in a bag (which cost me $80!). Once I got through security, I decided to get some food since I hadn’t eaten yet and as I sat down to eat, I got an email saying my flight had been rescheduled for 4:35pm. Then about 45 minutes later, I got another email saying it had been rescheduled to 5:30pm. Then, the departure screen said that it would be leaving at 6pm. I started feeling nervous because that meant I wouldn’t arrive in Kuala Lumpur until 9pm and I had another flight at 10:30pm. Any later and I definitely wouldn’t make it. While I was waiting for my flight, I was going through my Facebook and noticed that Rebekka (a Canadian girl living in Melbourne, who I met briefly in Ho Chi Minh) was IN Kuala Lumpur for the day and would be going to Melbourne that night. I wrote her and asked what flight she’d be on, and she said the same one as me! Life is full of coincidences… So I finally boarded my flight and when I landed in Kuala Lumpur, I had to speed walk for about 15-20 minutes through security and to the other side of the airport. By the time I arrived at my gate, they had already started boarding so I ran to go to the bathroom, get some water, and stand in line. The 8-hour flight was long and I don’t think I got any sleep.

We arrived in Melbourne at 8:20am the next morning in Avalon airport, where they had customs officials who actually grilled us hard (the first time I came to Australia, I didn’t talk to a single person). I got my bag, got a ticket for the Skybus, and waited for the bus to leave. Rebekka showed up and sat next to me so we chatted for the hour-long ride into the city and then went for breakfast at Southern Cross because we were both starving. She went back home, but I was so exhausted so I sat and relaxed for a bit and then made my way to Jess and Vic’s house, because they graciously allowed me to stay with them for a few days until I found a place of my own. However, I’ll save that story for another post. Love always

Siem Reap (Apr 17-19): Angkor Wat, Early Mornings, and the Constant Search for A/C

The trip to Siem Reap was quite long since it included an overnight bus. I had to catch the boat from Koh Rong Samloem to take me to Sihanoukville at 4pm. The boat was so crowded, but luckily I was able to find a seat. I got to Sihanoukville just after 5pm and decided to walk to the bus office with all of my luggage, which seemed like the longest 25-minute walk ever! I finally got to the bus office and they let me leave my bags with them. I asked where the nearest pharmacy was (as I STILL had to get some Bepanthen cream for my tattoo), and they directed me back the way I came. My bus didn’t leave until 8:30 so I had quite a bit of time to kill, so I decided to walk along the beach to get back to the main part of the city.

The beach was SO crowded and dirty – I couldn’t believe it! I now understood why so many people told me to avoid Sihanoukville. I found a pharmacy and FINALLY got my Bepanthen cream for $10USD/$13.69AUD. I then decided to walk back to the restaurant that I had eaten at the last time I was in Sihanoukville, Olive & Olive. I wasn’t too hungry since I had just eaten lunch at 4pm but since I’d be taking a 12-hour bus ride, I figured I should probably eat something. I decided to just order some hummus and snacked on that.

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I then had to figure out how I would wash my tattoo… I went to the restaurant bathroom, but the sinks were in full view of the restaurant. Well, this was my only option… I awkwardly had my shirt hunched up while I was using the sink to wash my tattoo (and had my towel wrapped around me, catching any of the water that dripped down) – it was quite a job! But eventually I did it, while the cleaner and other customers wandered around me. I didn’t have much time left to get to the bus office so I decided to get a tuktuk but for some reason, the app wouldn’t let me request anyone! A tuktuk driver pulled up next to me but was trying to overcharge me, and I said that the app would only cost me 1 dollar so I wasn’t interested. He kept haggling down and then finally, he agreed to take me for 2 dollars. I got to the bus office at the exact minute that I was supposed to! I grabbed my bags to load onto the bus and then I found my single bed, which I paid $26USD/$35.59AUD for with Giant Ibis. This was the first bed on a sleeping bus that was completely flat (all of the others were tilted at a 45-degree angle), but it was also the hardest bed out of all of them. I spent a couple of hours relaxing, and then decided to try to sleep. I woke up once at 1am and when I checked where we were, I saw that we were in Phnom Penh. I think I actually slept pretty well but then I started to hear noise again. I checked my watch and it was just before 6am, so I decided to see how much longer we had. We were already in Siem Reap! This was the first (and only!) time I was actually upset that we arrived two hours early – I could have had two more hours of sleep! I decided I’d just get my stuff together and wait to get off.

When I arrived in Siem Reap, I ordered a tuktuk to take me to my hostel. This time, I was staying at Siem Reap Pub Hostel, which I was nervous about because I thought it would be a party hostel. This was actually one of the nicest hostels I’d ever been in! It was almost like staying in a resort – the service was so professional and the area was immaculate! It also had a nice common area and a huge pool (which I wasn’t able to use, thanks to my tattoo). The best part was that it only cost me $3USD/$4.11AUD to stay in a 12-bed female dorm! They wouldn’t let me check in, but they allowed me to use the pool showers so that I didn’t need to have that “spent-10-hours-on-a-bus” feeling. After I freshened up and washed my tattoo (washing three times per day was the most difficult thing to do!), I took my laundry next door because I was out of clothes (and had been for awhile), and it cost me $1.85USD. They told me to come back that night at 8pm. I felt so accomplished and it wasn’t even 7:30am yet! I ordered some breakfast and FaceTimed my parents for quite awhile, and then decided to do some exploring. I didn’t make it very far before I had to go searching for air-conditioning cause I was soaking with sweat. This was definitely the hottest place that I had been to so far! I walked to Hard Rock Cafe, which was completely out of drumsticks (thank goodness I got them in Phnom Penh!) and then I stopped at a cute restaurant, ordered an Italian soda, and FaceTimed with my parents some more (it had been awhile since we were able to catch up like that!). At about 1pm, I decided to go for lunch and ordered a Khmer curry with a banana milkshake.

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I think the heat was taking away all of my energy because I didn’t have much of an appetite. I went back to the hostel to finally check in, and then I signed up for the Angkor Wat tour the following day, which left the hostel at 4:30am the next morning and cost $10USD. I’d definitely be having an early night that night, which wouldn’t be hard since I didn’t get enough sleep on the overnight bus. I spent the rest of the day walking around as much as I could, stopped at a Mexican restaurant for dinner, quickly checked out the night market, and then went to pick up my laundry.

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However, they pointed to a bag of laundry that wasn’t mine. They asked if I could come back in a half hour, so I went back to the hostel to hang out for another half hour. I was so tired, I just wanted to get ready for bed. I went back to pick up my laundry and they gave it to me, but when I took it back to the hostel, everything was still damp! I didn’t have time to deal with it so I got ready for bed and went to sleep.

I had to wake up at 4am so that I could get up and wash my tattoo before the tour so I did all of that, and headed downstairs. There was a huge group of people going from our hostel (probably at least 10 people) and then we joined a smaller group on the bus. The bus took us to the Angkor Wat office, where we each had to pay $37USD/$50.64 for a 1-day pass into the park (which was quite expensive!). They also offered 3-day passes, but I was good with just going for one day. They actually took a picture of us, so our face was printed on the ticket! I looked beyond tired in mine. We then got back on the bus and headed towards Angkor Wat. We had to do quite a bit of walking and then we finally got to Angkor Wat just before 5:30. Our guide said that we had until the sun rose, and told us all to be back by 6:30. The amount of tourists already there was insane! People were trying to get the perfect picture of the sunrise behind Angkor Wat, with the reflection of the temple in the pond that we were all standing in front of. I stood there with everyone for about ten minutes and then moved to the side, where there were less people. I sat there for about a half hour, and then decided I might as well go look at Angkor Wat up close. This was the best idea because except for about ten other people who had the same idea as me, I had the entire place to myself while everyone else was still standing in front of the pond.

I met up with the group at 6:30, which doubled in size – there were 25 of us! The tour guide started everyone off on a bad note, by saying some unnecessary comments which left a sour taste in everyone’s mouth, so he lost the respect of the majority of the group. We walked through Angkor Wat and then had to wait in line to climb the steepest staircase in order to go into the main part of the temple. It was actually scary going back down, so I tried to only focus on the step in front of me and I wouldn’t let myself look down.

After all of that, we were sat down for about a half hour and given a history lesson, which I’m almost sure no one was listening to. All I could concentrate on was how hungry and hot I was, and when he said that we still had more places to go until we’d get breakfast, my heart sank. We headed to our next destination, which was Ta Prohm Temple. This was definitely my favourite part of the day, and was also really one of the only things I enjoyed. Ta Promh is covered in trees that have taken over the area, and it’s extremely popular because it was used in the film Tomb Raider (which I haven’t seen, but people were getting angry with other people who took too long taking pictures in front of a certain tree – it was insane!). At this destination, the tour group was getting annoyed with the guide so when the guide said anyone who wants to go on their own can go on their own, there were only about six of us left behind. The guide showed us all of the nicest spots, and it was a really neat temple!

We stayed there for about an hour and then headed to our next destination. Luckily, the restaurant that we’d be having breakfast at was right across the street from the next temple, but that also meant that it was a lot more expensive compared to all of the other places in Siem Reap. I paid $7.50USD/10.27AUD for a Lok lak chicken and finally got a coffee. I literally hadn’t made an effort to talk to anyone on the tour until this point and once I finally got my first sip of coffee, I was able to have as many conversations as I wanted! It was about 10:30am and we were all absolutely starving since we had been up for over six hours. The restaurant was pretty slow (probably cause it got 25 orders at once!) so by the time we got our food, we had to eat it as fast as we could.

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The restaurant actually made us pay before we even finished because the tour guide wanted to get moving. The next temple we went to was Ta Keo temple. This was another temple with extremely steep steps, which I had no problem going up on, but I was very concerned with how I’d get back down!

Honestly, I wasn’t too interested in this kind of stuff. Maybe it was the heat, or the lack of sleep, or the bitterness that everyone felt towards the tour guide, but I was actually looking forward to when the tour would be over. I was so thankful that I decided to go for the half-day tour instead of the full-day tour! We went to our next destination, which was the Bayon Temple, and is full of stone faces (over 200 of them apparently!). We were given about a half hour to walk around, and then get back on the bus.

Our last stop was a quick 10-minute stop at a bridge, and then we headed back to the hostel after 1pm.

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When I got back to the hostel, I washed my tattoo (shocker!), and then tried to take my laundry back to the place next door. It was difficult trying to explain what I wanted because the lady didn’t speak a lot of English. She said that she washed the clothes the day before and asked if they were clean. I said yes, but they were still wet. Finally, she understood and told me to come back the next day but I said I couldn’t – I’d need them that day, so she told me to come back at 5pm. I went back to the hostel and decided to have a lazy afternoon. I ordered some French fries and a milkshake and looked into how I’d get to Bangkok the following day. I tried to order my bus ticket online but my credit card wouldn’t let me, so I went to order through the hostel. At the same time, another girl was trying to book an overnight bus to go to Koh Rong Samloem (where I had just come from), but it was all booked up. Lauren was from Australia (Gold Coast) on a two-week trip, so she didn’t have time to waste. I told her if she needed someone to vent to, she could come sit with me so about a half hour later, she came to my table and we spent the next couple of hours chatting. She wanted to check out the night market, so I said I’d join her. I went to get my laundry first and started freaking out when I saw that the shop had bars in front of it with a sign that said, “Open at 8.” Luckily, I could see the lady sitting there, so I asked if I could pick up my laundry and she said tomorrow. I replied that she had said 5pm, and she remembered. Luckily, I got my laundry back so I ran it to my room and then Lauren and I headed to the night market. She made a few purchases, and then we decided to walk into the main part of the city. We were walking down the street amongst a big group of people and I looked over, and who did I see? Abbey – the Aussie girl who took the night train with me from Ayutthaya to Chiang Mai in February, and then hung out with me in Chiang Mai, and ran into again in Pai, and then again in Luang Prubang. That was the last time I had seen her, and it was over a month ago! She joined Lauren and I, and we found a restaurant to have a small dinner at. It was so nice to chat with them both, and it felt like I was just having dinner with a couple of girlfriends. We all agreed to have an earlier night, said our goodbyes, and I packed up my stuff for my final destination. Love always

Koh Rong Samloem (Apr 11-16): Beaches, A Tattoo, and Khmer New Year

The trip to Koh Rong Samloem was so long, it was almost comical. I was told that it would take about 3-4 hours so I had mentally prepared myself for that, so when it took over double that time, I was not a happy camper. Cambodia has two main southern islands – Koh Rong and Koh Rong Samloem. Koh Rong is known as the supercrazy party island, and Koh Rong Samloem is known as the chill island. So it should come as no surprise that I decided to go to Koh Rong Samloem. I had the choice to leave at 7:30am, or wait until about 11, and I’m so glad that I decided to go with the earlier option. However, the transportation for this trip cost way more than almost any other leg of my trip, at $26USD/$35.39AUD! A van came to pick me up from my hostel in Kampot and took me into town, where we had to get off, grab our stuff, and put it onto a new van. By the time we had picked up everyone and left town, it was 8:30. The van ride to Sihanoukville took three hours, as promised, and we arrived right after 11:30am. There, they dropped us off and said we had to wait for ANOTHER van to take us to the ferry. There was a lady sitting at a desk and she asked where everyone was staying. I sat down first and found my hostel reservation, which was at a part of the island called M’Pai Bay. “This company doesn’t go there,” she said. “I’m sorry, what?” “Yes, we only go to Saracen Bay. You will need to pay $5 USD ($6.84AUD) to get a return ticket to M’Pai Bay from Sihanoukville.” I started getting upset because I had already spent way too much on my ticket, and I felt like I was being scammed. However, I didn’t really have any other option. I paid the five dollars and asked when the van would come, and she replied 1pm. “1pm?! That’s in an hour and a half!” I was really starting to lose my cool, and it might have been because I hadn’t eaten yet (or had my morning coffee!) and I was definitely getting hangry. I decided to walk to a restaurant called Olive & Olive because at this point, I just wanted some pizza. The prices were pretty expensive in Sihanoukville, but I settled on a margarita pizza, a coffee, and a coke for $8.50USD/$11.63AUD. The chef was right beside me, and I got to watch him roll out the dough and make the pizzas. After about five minutes, the server brought me a big piece of naan and an appetizer platter of olives and sauces. “Umm.. is this for me?” “It’s complimentary,” she replied. Wow! I didn’t remember the last time I got something for free, with no strings attached! And honestly, the olive that I tasted was like it was from heaven – it was one of the best olives I’ve had! It MIGHT have been because I hadn’t eaten an olive in four months, or it might have just been THAT good. When they brought out my pizza, I was shocked. It was massive!

There was no way that I’d be able to finish it, especially after already filling myself up on appetizers. I got through as much of the pizza as I could and took a tuktuk back to the bus office for 4000 riel ($1.42AUD) – Note: the tuktuks seem to be one of the only things in Cambodia that use local currency (riel), everything else is priced in American dollars. I got back to the office RIGHT before 1pm and waited with a French family. And we waited and waited and waited. “Doesn’t the ferry leave at 1pm?” “No, it’ll leave at 1:30pm. You have time.” But we started wondering if we WOULD have enough time. Finally a van pulled up at 1:22pm and told us to hurry because the ferry would be leaving soon (which I was kind of annoyed about, because why wouldn’t he come earlier?). He drove for less than five minutes, stopped at the top of a hill, and told us that we had to walk five minutes down to the pier (he wasn’t going to drive any further). We literally could have walked there from the office in less than 15 minutes… By that point, it was 1:28pm so we all walked as fast as we could down to the pier. I gave one of the people my ticket and they asked when my ferry was to leave, so I replied 1:30pm. She gave me a card that said “23” to put around my neck (which is the nickname for M’Pai Bay), and she said I’d have to take the 2pm – I was too late. I went to the dock and kept asking around, but no one gave me clear instructions as to what boat I had to take. Finally at about 2:15pm, they called everyone for M’Pai Bay and directed us towards a smaller boat. However, all of a sudden they said that we would join the big ferry to Koh Rong Island instead and THEN another boat would come pick us up to take us to Koh Rong Samloem. At this point, I almost laughed because it was so ridiculous that this trip had already taken 7 hours and would still require an hour JUST to get to Koh Rong Island. I went and found a seat on the ferry and opened a window. Immediately after I opened it, one of the workers came, closed it, and told me to follow him. He took me to the VIP part of the boat, which had couches, TVs, AND air-conditioning (Thank goodness, cause I was sweating in this 39-degree heat!). There were only about 9 other people in the room, so I don’t know why I was one of the lucky “chosen ones.” We finally got to Koh Rong at about 3:30pm and then all had to wait on the dock for about 5-10 minutes until another boat came to take us to Koh Rong Samloem. The boat was tiny and some people had to stand in the middle, but luckily it was less than 10 minutes away. I was staying in a hostel called Bonsai and it cost me $5.33USD/$7.31AUD per night to stay in an 8-bed mixed dorm. As soon as I got there, I met two French girls who were planning to get smoothies and then go to the beach, so I quickly changed and joined them. I immediately loved the feel of M’Pai Bay because it was more like a village and was very quaint, whereas the other part of the island (Saracen Bay) had a more resort-like feel to it, so it just seemed more touristy. We each got a smoothie for $1USD and enjoyed sitting on the beach. After hanging out by the restaurant for awhile, we decided to walk towards one of the main beaches, which was less than 10 minutes through a forest trail. We were all looking forward to having a refreshing swim in the water, after sweating all day, but were surprised when the water was actually warmer than the air! So much for refreshing…

However, once the sun started to go down, it cooled down quite a bit. We went back to the hostel to shower and change, and then we all went out for dinner to a place where I went at least once a day called M’Pay Bay Guest House. I decided to try one of the local dishes called lok lak, which was really good!

 

On Friday morning, I got up and joined the French girls for breakfast. We decided that we were going to walk to one of the further beaches (called Clearwater Bay), which would take about an hour. I read that we’d need hiking shoes, and I’m so glad that we brought them because we were climbing up and down to get there. However, the beach was absolutely gorgeous!

And there were only about six other people on the entire beach. Once again, we were looking forward to a refreshing dip and once again, we were disappointed by warm water. It actually made going OUT of the water refreshing! I get bored on beaches so I only stayed for a couple hours and then decided to head back at around 2pm to get some food. I had seen a sign with a Canada flag on it when I arrived on the island, and I was determined to get some poutine! Once I got back to M’Pai Bay (after another 45 minute walk), I walked down the street in search of the Canadian restaurant called YUL (the letters for the Montreal airport). On my way, I passed a tattoo parlour called “Sorry Mum,” which for some reason caught my eye. I had a tattoo idea in mind and I had already written a tattoo parlour in Siem Reap AND a tattoo parlour in Bangkok, but this parlour intrigued me. I continued on my walk, found the restaurant, and ordered a poutine with a coke for $4USD/$5.48AUD. While I was waiting, I searched up the tattoo parlour online and loved all of the tattoos that were posted. I decided that I’d stop by after eating. The poutine wasn’t the best I’ve ever had, but it was nice to have! I hung around for a bit, and then walked towards the tattoo parlour. I told the tattoo artist (Maria) my tattoo idea, showed her my (horrible) sketch of it, and she asked if I would come in the next day at 4pm to get it done. I had to pay a $10 deposit, and she quoted me between $180 and $220, and said it would take about 3 or 4 hours. My heart was beating and I was freaking out – I couldn’t believe how fast that happened! I went back to my hostel and decided to plan how I’d get to my next destination, which would be Siem Reap. I’ve heard horror stories about the night buses to Siem Reap because they don’t offer single beds (only doubles), so a lot of people will have strangers climb up right next to them. I did some research and found out that Giant Ibis offered some single beds, but the day that I was planning to leave (the 14th) was completely booked up. Then, there weren’t any buses running on the 15th because it was Khmer New Year. So my only option was the 16th. I was completely fine with this because I was loving Koh Rong Samloem, and staying two extra days definitely wouldn’t be the end of the world. However, if I was going to stay for longer, I realized that I should try to postpone my tattoo since I wouldn’t be able to go in the sun or the water. I messaged and asked if I could come in on the 15th or the 16th (the day I leave), and they wrote back and said that we could do a later day and they would let me know when works best. That night, I joined the girls again for dinner, which ended up being a burger (I was definitely enjoying my Western food at this point because my stomach still felt sensitive with eating Asian foods).

On Saturday, I decided to take a boat taxi to the other part of the island, Saracen Beach. It cost $5 each way, and I would have to leave at 10:30am. I decided to have a quick breakfast, and then walked back to the office to wait for my boat.

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It was only me and another couple, and we were led by a boy who seemed about 9 years old. He brought us to the dock, where there was a man and a younger boy (who I assume was his dad and brother). Then the boy hopped into another boat and tried to get the motor running. We had to wait for quite awhile for them to finally get the boat going, so by the time we left it was closer to 11am. Little did I know that it was this boy who would be taking us on the 30-minute journey to Saracen Beach. The boat had two motors, and the boy sat between them, and had ropes so he could pull on either rope to turn the boat.

We got to Saracen Bay at 11:30am and we were told to come back to the same pier at 4:30pm to go back. I walked down the beach for a bit and then decided to sit down at one of the restaurants to enjoy a smoothie. The beaches were nice with extremely white sand, but it still seemed more touristy compared to my area of the island.

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After my smoothie, I walked to another restaurant that was tucked away off the beach and was owned by a local family who spoke little to no English. I ordered a noodle dish, and then decided to walk to Lazy Beach, which was written in National Geographic’s Top 21 Beaches in the World. It was about a 30-minute walk through the forest and it was an extremely hot walk (the 39-degree weather is something I don’t think I’d ever get acclimatized to), so it was nice to finally get to the beach and go for a swim, where the water was a bit cooler.

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The beach was nice, but I honestly didn’t see why it would be one of the top 21 beaches in the world because I’ve definitely been to nicer ones. I stayed for about an hour and a half and then I had to head back to the pier in order to get there for 4:30pm. I got there right on time and walked out onto the dock when I saw a boat that looked similar, which showed up about 15 minutes later. I asked the man if he was going to M’Pai Bay and he said yes, so the couple and I got on his boat, along with three other people. The man made a phonecall and then all of a sudden said that the three of us had to get back off because another boat was on its way for us. We were confused because there was more than enough room for everyone, but we got off and decided to wait. He said that they were having boat issues, but the boat would be there soon. We went back to the beach and waited for about a half hour, and suddenly a man walked by yelling M’Pai Bay. We ran to the boat and tried to give him our tickets, but he said that he couldn’t take them. We’d have to pay $5 if we wanted to go with him. Luckily, the man was nice and called the phone number on our tickets, and said that the boat was on its way (which we had heard before). We waited another ten minutes and finally the boat arrived with our little driver! The nice thing about the boat being late was that we got to watch the colours of the sky change while the sun was setting behind the island. And it was absolutely beautiful!

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The tattoo studio had written back and asked if I could come in the following day at noon to get my tattoo done, because I think everyone would be going on holiday for Khmer New Year (which lasts for three days). I asked if it would be possible for me to see the design that evening, and they said I could come in. I ran to the studio and Maria showed me the design. It was exactly what I had imagined in my head, and I couldn’t have been more excited about it. I was stoked! I went out for a later dinner that night, and enjoyed my time on the beach.

On Sunday, I went to a restaurant that’s known for its toasties (grilled cheese sandwiches). They were SO busy because a lot of the restaurants had closed for Khmer New Year, so it took over an hour to get my meal, which was fine because I had a few hours to kill before my tattoo. I met another Canadian girl because we were sharing a table, so we talked for quite awhile until we had gotten our meals. I hung out for awhile longer to work on my blog, and then I headed for the tattoo parlour (gulp!). This was now my second tattoo, but it was bigger, and I made a last-minute decision to not get it done on my other shoulder, and instead get it done on my back/ribs, which would be quite a lot more painful. Maria double-checked that I was happy with the design, and then made the stencil. She put the stencil on and asked if I was happy with the placement (which in all honesty, I would have liked it lower and this is where I need to learn how to take the opportunity to speak up, and I didn’t, but it’s fine!). We then had to wait ten minutes for the stencil to dry on, so by the time we got started, it was about 12:30pm.

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The lead-up to it was hard, and I was trying to distract myself as much as possible – I was nervous and excited, but my heart was just racing! The tattoo took about three hours, and after about an hour and a half, we took a break. By that point, I was feeling great! Thanks to my high pain threshold, I wasn’t feeling too uncomfortable, and I actually just wanted to keep going. After that break though, it was the most pain that I had felt – I almost thought I wasn’t going to make it through. Luckily, it didn’t last for TOO long until I went back to just closing my eyes and thinking about life (and what my tattoo was going to look like!). We finished at about 3pm and then she said $250. I said that she had said between 180 and 220, so then she said 220 (although now that I think about it, maybe she said between 180 and 250 haha finally used some bartering skills). This is still pretty pricey for a tattoo in Asia, but I was really happy with the design so for me, it was worth it. The theme of the tattoo is “Travel is in my DNA,” and this idea came to me while I was lying in bed in Luang Prabang, Laos, so I’ve been obsessing about it ever since.

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So the most important things were to stay out of the sun and water for at least two weeks, and get some Bepanthen from the pharmacy, which would need to be applied three times per day (after washing). I honestly did NOT think this through, and I instantly had regrets about my stupid idea to get a tattoo on an island during a holiday within about two minutes, when I walked to the pharmacy and it was closed. I asked the hostel next door if it would be open the following day and they said that it was closed for Khmer New Year for the next three days! I instantly started to panic because I was stuck on an island without antiseptic, in an environment that wasn’t the cleanest. I walked to the beach area to find one of the minimarts, only to arrive just in time for the first part of the Songkran festivities, which consists of people throwing water and powder at each other. I tried to avoid the water guns and the people squirting baby powder out of the containers, and shield my tattoo away from it all. At that moment, I ran into a British couple that I had seen multiple times before (they were briefly written in a blog post when I had eaten dinner with them in Sapa). We had also run into each other on the bus from Sapa to Hanoi, and then saw each other again in Ninh Binh. They actually said that they were wondering why they hadn’t bumped into me again. These two had a great energy about them, and we instantly got on, but we hadn’t even introduced ourselves. I later found out that their names were Rob and Amy, and we made plans to meet up at 6:30 to go for cocktails, since there were 2-for-1 cocktails for New Year’s. This was my third New Year’s Eve for 2019 (one in Koh Lanta, Thailand for regular New Year’s Eve, one in Taipei, Taiwan for Chinese New Year, and now one here) so it was cool to be a part of so many different holidays! For the next few hours, I searched for Bepanthen. I walked into multiple minimarts, and none of them had any. I then went to the other tattoo parlour, and the guy said that he had some of his own and would give me some in a ziploc bag if I needed, but he told me to go back to my tattoo parlour to see if they had any extra. Meanwhile, it was also my checkout day from my hostel because it was full for the next two nights, so I had to move my stuff to my new hostel, called The Twisted Gecko. This one cost $5.50USD/$7.53AUD per night to stay in a 6-bed dorm. I asked people at my old hostel and at my new hostel for advice, but everyone gave such mixed reviews. Some people said to use coconut oil, while others said you needed more of a gel such as Vaseline, but then I’ve heard that Vaseline doesn’t let it breathe, and neither of these have antiseptic properties. I went back to my tattoo parlour and she said that she’d check in the back to see if they had any spares, but they didn’t. The thing that bothered me the most was that she said that the pharmacy often closes whenever it wants to, so I don’t understand why they wouldn’t have spare antiseptic for those cases. I then literally started walking into bars and walking up to people with tattoos to ask them for advice, but once again, I continued to get mixed reviews. I was starting to think that I would die of a tattoo infection on an island in Cambodia (I also tend to jump to conclusions when under stress…). I decided to head back to my hostel to wash my tattoo since it had been over two hours and I needed to take off the saran wrap. Just as I got to my hostel, there was a lady walking down the street COVERED in tattoos from her chin down, so I walked up to her and asked if I could get some advice. Turns out she owns the other tattoo studio, so she said that if I come by, she could give me enough gel to last me for the next two days. I think she could tell that I was freaking out, and I was so extremely grateful! Before that, I was even contemplating whether I should take a boat to the mainland the next day in order to get to a pharmacy (which might be closed anyway). I was told to wash my tattoo with bottled water (since the island tap water might be iffy – another confirmation that getting my tattoo on an island in Asia was a bad idea. The other confirmation was that you’re not supposed to bath or soak your tattoo in water, but I was basically soaking in my own sweat (literally) until I left Asia ten days later. I also realized that I should be putting on clean clothes with my tattoo, but there weren’t any laundry places open for the next three days). Anyway, I walked to the tattoo parlour and all of the people there weren’t surprised when they were told that I got a tattoo at Sorry Mum and they didn’t do anything for aftercare. They said that someone else had come to them that day as well. They gave me the gel and told me that since I had already washed my tattoo, I’d have to go back to the hostel, re-wash it, and put the gel on directly after. I was meant to meet Rob and Amy in less than 15 minutes, so I ran back and did what I was told. I met up with Rob and Amy just in time, and we headed to the bar to get 2-for-1 cocktails. We each got two drinks, but the bartenders were already drunk, and the alcohol-to-sprite ratio was very high! Therefore, we were already feeling it after one drink. It was funny because Rob and Amy said that they haven’t had a crazy night during their three months of travel, and I said the same. I knew that they were my kind of people, and I think that made us trust each other a lot more easily. So, it was all of our first crazy nights while travelling, and it was one of the best nights! We had a couple more cocktails and then decided to get some dinner because it was 9pm and the last time any of us had eaten was at 11am. However, all of the restaurants were closed for New Year’s (there were only two bars open without food) so we were stuck with going to the minimart and eating Pringles, which probably didn’t help with our night out. The bar on the beach had a huge dance party, and they were handing out free beer to everyone, which was 6% per can! We danced until midnight, and then decided to walk to the beach to check out the bioluminescence of the plankton. I had to be extremely careful with my tattoo and couldn’t actually go swimming, so I sat on the beach most of the time, and then sometimes waded through the water. The plankton was SO cool!! Any time you moved in the water, they would light up and glow all over – I’ve never seen anything like it! I looked at the time and it was 2:45 so I told the other two that we should head back. We had to walk back through the forest and then I walked back towards my hostel. I swear that I was the only person left awake, as everything was dead quiet.

On Monday, I got up and had plans to meet with Rob and Amy at 12pm for lunch. I started getting hungry at about 11:30 so I walked towards the beach and they were already there. We were all feeling pretty rough, and they assured me that they don’t normally do that, and I assured them that neither do I. But we all agreed that it was a great night! After having lunch, Rob and Amy went to the beach and I decided to sit down in a restaurant and work on my blog since I couldn’t really enjoy the beach anyway. I took it easy that day, and just enjoyed my last full day on the island.

On Tuesday, I had to leave the island. My boat wasn’t until 4pm so I was still able to enjoy a few more hours next to the beach. I worked on my blog again that day, and said goodbye to Rob and Amy, who left at noon. At about 2:30, I went to a restaurant on the pier which served Turkish food.

I ordered a kebab while a cat kept me company, and then I caught my boat to take me back to the mainland. Love always

Kampot (Apr 9-11): Kayaking, A Massive Durian, and A Green Cathedral

The trip from Kep to Kampot was so easy and quick, due to the fact that they’re only 30 minutes away from each other. Plus my bus ticket was only $3USD/$4.11AUD! My hostel got a phonecall saying that the bus would be there within five minutes, so I grabbed my stuff and walked to the highway. As soon as I got there, the bus was just pulling up so I got on. We arrived in Kampot at about 11am and once again, I was staying in a hostel that was outside of the city. Instead of Grab/Uber, Cambodia uses PassApp so I had to use that to order myself a tuktuk. Since it wasn’t even noon by the time I arrived at my hostel, I couldn’t check in but surprisingly, they let me put my bags in the room and they had my bed ready within a half hour. I was staying at Karma Traders for $5.25USD/$7.30AUD per night and one of the deciding factors of me choosing this place was that they’d be having taco night the night I arrived. Inconveniently, as soon as I arrived at the hostel, I felt a migraine coming on so I went and sat at the outdoor bar beside the pool and waited for it to go away, while planning what I would do that day. I decided to have an active day, but first needed food. Because it was taco night that evening, the kitchen wasn’t serving anything other than toasties so I decided to settle on that. Then, I got my laundry together (the hostel didn’t offer laundry services, which was a bummer) and walked towards the city in the 39-degree heat. After about 15 minutes, I got to a family-run business which charged $1USD/kg of clothing, so it only cost me $1.50USD/$2.10AUD. I continued walking another 15 minutes until I got into the city and stopped at the tourist information center to rent a bicycle. It was only $2USD/$2.74AUD for 24 hours, and I had to give a $20 deposit. I biked around for a bit, and was delighted to find a roundabout with a gigantic durian fruit in the middle.

I then biked back towards my hostel and continued to a place called Champa Lodge because they give kayak rentals. I wanted to kayak around an area called the “Green Cathedral,” which is covered with mangrove trees. It was so peaceful and beautiful!

Some parts of the stream even led to people’s backyards so if any kids were on the deck, they’d yell out, “Hello!”. I ended up getting lost halfway through because there were about four different directions to go. Eventually, a big motorboat of people drinking showed up and asked if I knew where to go, so we were all searching. Eventually I found the way to go, but I’m not sure they would have made it through because it was a lot more narrow. Once I finished the circle, I was back in the open waters and the wind had picked up, so I had to use all of the muscle strength I had (which isn’t much!) to get back to Champa Lodge. I almost thought I wasn’t going to make it! I felt like with every paddle, I’d be pushed back even more. I made it eventually, and the cost of the kayak, a coke, and a water was $7.75USD/$10.61AUD. I decided to continue biking further away from the hostel to see if I could get a good view of the sunset by the river. However, the road was still quite far from the river, so I didn’t get to see much of the water.

It was still nice going through some of the smaller villages though, and once again, all of the kids waved and yelled, “Hello!” I headed back to the hostel and that night was Taco Night, so I went and enjoyed some tacos with a Romanian guy from my room. I tried a pulled pork, a chicken, and a fish taco, and they were all so good! That evening, the hostel had live music so I stayed and watched two of the bands and then headed to bed, where I still got to listen to the rest of the show.

On Wednesday morning, I got up and decided to take advantage of the last few hours of my bike rental. First, I stopped by Lotus Pond, but it was too hot to stick around.

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I then went to Cafe Espresso for brunch, where I had an amazing brunch of poached eggs with potato and feta cakes.

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It was so good!! I sat for a couple hours and FaceTimed my mom, and then decided to continue biking to check out the salt fields. They were about a 30 minute bike ride away, but they weren’t much to see.

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Maybe it was the wrong season for it. I got my bike back to the tourist information centre by 2pm, but the workers weren’t actually there so someone told me to come back in an hour. I was so hot, so I found the nearest cafe and enjoyed a coke while trying to keep cool. I went back to the tourist centre, got my 20 dollars back, and walked 30 minutes back to the hostel. I was hoping that while I walked past the laundry place, my laundry would be ready, but they told me to come back in an hour. Therefore, I walked back to the hostel, hung around for a bit, walked BACK to the laundry place to get my stuff, and went back to the hostel again to shower. I decided to go upstairs and sit in the common area so that I could get some work done on my blog and have dinner. I shouldn’t have been surprised when someone came up and started talking to me. It literally happens every time I decide to get some blog-writing done! The girl who sat with me was from Spain but had been living in the Netherlands, and had hurt her back at the last hostel she was at so was trying to take it easy. That night, the hostel was having a movie night so we decided to join the other two people watching it (probably to their dismay). They were playing Fight Club and I was looking forward to watching a movie that I had heard so much about. However, I didn’t really enjoy it, and I didn’t understand it. I just sat at the end of the movie, realizing that I had just wasted over two hours, which gave myself confirmation as to why I don’t have Netflix. My time can easily be spent doing other things (like blog-writing!)! After the movie, I headed back downstairs to pack up my stuff so that I could catch the bus early the next morning, which I’ll save for the next post. Love always

Kep (Apr 7-9): Crab Market, National Park, and Some Darn Good Fish!

My next destination after Phnom Penh was Kep. I had the option of taking the early bus at 7am (and be ready by 6:30am) or wait until 12pm (and be ready by 11:30am). Since I had already done quite a few early mornings, I naturally opted for the later time for $8USD/$10.95AUD. I was told that it would only take about 3.5 hours, so I wasn’t too concerned. I actually ended up waking up quite early (thanks to a couple in my room, if you catch my drift.. cough cough) so I decided to get up and ready for the day, check out, and go to Decathlon so that I could get a bigger bag to put my backpack and painting in. It took about 45 minutes each way, so by the time I got back, I had about an hour and a half to eat something before I’d get picked up. However, it was the slowest service ever! I ordered a burger and it took over an hour – I thought I might just have to leave without eating. Luckily, I got my burger with about five minutes to spare, so I ate it as fast as I could but felt bad because there was a couple who had ordered before me and one of them was STILL waiting for their food. Right when I finished eating, my tuktuk came and picked me up to take me to the bus station. Then I had to take my ticket to the ticket booth and she gave me a different ticket with a bottle of water, and told me to board the bus cause it would be leaving in about 15 minutes. The bus ride took way longer than expected (at least an hour late) due to horrible traffic getting out of Phnom Penh, as well as horrible traffic along the main road. I think we arrived in Kep at about 5:30pm, and I was able to get the bus to stop at the end of my hostel’s road (because I was staying outside of the main city of Kep). I was staying in a place called Khmer House Hostel and I got my own bedroom and bathroom for $7USD/$9.58AUD per night.

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I had only booked one night but I loved the idea of having my own room, so I extended for another night. However, the room was SO hot – I only had a fan above me so it was starfish-sleeping-position the entire night. I had dinner at the hostel that night (apparently they have their own restaurant at the Crab Market as well) and I decided to order fish with peppercorn sauce.

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Kep is known for two things – the seafood, and the pepper (which actually comes from its neighbouring city, Kampot) so I decided to try both in one go for $7USD/$9.58AUD. It was absolutely amazing! The hostel owner definitely knows what she’s doing when it comes to cooking. I decided to call it an early night since I didn’t get much sleep the night before.

On Monday morning, I got up and decided to check out the famous Crab Market and then go for a hike in the National Park. Even though I was quite far from the city, I decided to walk because it was only about 20 minutes away. Again though, it was in 39-degree weather (with the humidex), so I started melting pretty fast. I went to the Crab Market first, which seemed to be mostly locals. It was cool watching some of the people swimming in the water, collecting the traps filled with crabs, and I even got to watch the ladies sorting through the crabs and saw some of the famous blue crabs.

Even though Kep’s symbol is a crab and it has the Crab Market, ordering crab is actually starting to be frowned upon because the crabs have been overtrapped, so many people don’t want to support the industry anymore. I therefore made sure that I stuck to ordering fish at the restaurants (which was still just as good!). After awhile at the Fish Market, I walked towards the entrance to the national park, which took another 15-20 minutes. I was already completely sweating and out of breath before even making it to the entrance. When I got to the entrance, there was a man sleeping in the stand, so I made sure to walk through the gravel extra loudly so that he knew I was coming. I had to pay $1USD/$1.37AUD and sign myself into the book. Then I was on my way! It was supposed to be an 8km round trip and take about 2 hours. However, I realised that the path going around the outside was really just an old road, so I got bored after about an hour. When I made it halfway, I noticed that there was a Transverse Path that basically cut straight towards the entrance that I came through, but went through the forest and straight up a hill. I figured I might as well try it because it seemed more like a hike than what I was doing, but after less than five minutes later, I started to regret my decision. It was hot, there were leaves all over the path (I’m not sure if anyone else really walked there), and there were a lot more mosquitoes.

After about an hour of walking through the forest, I just wanted to get out so I walked south until I found another exit and then walked along the coastline. One thing I noticed about Kep was that there were signs everywhere that said “Cleanest City,” but it was so dirty everywhere! Litter was all over the streets and the beaches, and it really took away from the whole thing (much of Cambodia was like this though, with the exception of Koh Rong Samloem). After walking along the coast for about a half hour, I decided to get some lunch since it was nearly 2pm.

I went to a taco place called Beachside Tacos, and I may have had the most amazing fish tacos I’ve had in my life! They were cooked perfectly, had so much flavour, and were so delicious.

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Plus three tacos, a Pepsi, and a milkshake only cost me $4.65USD/$6.36AUD! After eating, I was thinking about going to the beach but it was so busy and I didn’t know where I’d keep my stuff, so I just walked back to the hostel. I showered and then went to watch the sunset, but the sun got hidden behind the clouds on the way down.

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Therefore, I went back to the hostel and had dinner with a guy from Portugal. By the time we finished dinner, it was too late for me to book a bus for the following morning, so the hostel owner told me to come at 8 the next morning to book a bus.

On Tuesday morning, I got up and went straight to the counter to book a bus to Kampot for 10:30am. That way, I had a couple hours to pack up my stuff and have breakfast before leaving. Love always