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.
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!
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.
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