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