Sunday, 29 January 2012

First impressions of Kalgoorlie

As we approached the GPS told us we were 5km from Kalgoorlie town centre and after a 4 day -3000 kilometre drive we were really hanging out to see it. But even this close to town as far as the eye could see its completely deserted bush.
The desert in Australia is not as you might imagine – well in my mind I picture endless pristine white sand like they have in the Sahara. Australia is nothing like that the earth is a rich red literally baked and contrary to popular desert images it’s full of trees and shrubs and wildlife. Even in October the heat was hot and dry, the kind of heat that makes your skin prickle. Coming from Melbourne which is still very cold at that time of year, it instantly brightened our mood. It’s always exciting being in a warmer climate to your friends.
We hit the industrial end of town first which we couldn’t have been prepared for. We watched every single You Tube clip and anything we could get our hands on the net. Which is only a handful of dull clips that are all unfortunately really old. We had also watched every episode of Kalgoorlie cops a dozen times, but they only focus on the crime and nightlife not the day to day life style. My first thought were oH Nooooooo there are no shops what am I going to do? Have we made a HUGE mistake?

It was 9am with the time zone difference being 3 hours our bodies were screaming for lunch already. So we headed to a café called Dome which reminded me a bit of Starbucks. Apparently Dome is all over Western Australia but we had not heard of it. The food was fine nothing exciting but obviously trustworthy. 

 (Unmarked graves at Kalgoorlie cemetery)

The main part of town consists of a long large street Hannan Street which has all the shops and most famous bars along it. The street itself on first impression reminded me of Bridge Road in Melbourne old fashioned architecture and a bit cosmopolitan.  There are defiantly all walks of life living in this town.  This is a melting pot of people and there is a lot of both extreme poverty and ridiculous wealth all living close together in peace. 

It’s the 5 largest city in Western Australia with a population of around 30’000 people.  There are a lot of immigrants from all over the world that have come to make their fortunes mining in the goldfields.  The 3 main countries at the moment are South Africa, Ireland and New Zealand.  There is also a big Thai and Filipino community as well. It’s impossible to go a day without hearing one of these accents from the people you encounter.

 (On the road into Kalgoorlie a loan toilet sits on a hill of quartz rock)

Let me put the money side into perspective a little. Wages for miners with even the most menial of jobs would start at $100’000 and quickly rise based on skill, complexity of task, danger of task and length of time in the mining industry. Even maids and cooks start of $80’000 or $90’000. They struggle to find Australian workers that are willing to stick around or even do the work to begin with so most are from overseas. In my experience the overseas workers get paid less per hour. This is mostly because they are stuck on contracts (usually 3 years) that they cannot get out of. The companies will pay for them to re-locate from overseas and sponsor any Australian licenses they need (which take ages to arrange) in return they are stuck on a flat rate for years earning at least $10 ~$20 per hour less.

Miners work really long days and nights as mines never shut. So it’s a 12 hour day of hard labour in extreme conditions. They also usually work in very harsh remote locations either being flown in for their swing (shift usually 12 days in a row) or drive in. They stay in dongas (portable basic rooms). Some mine sites are much nicer than others as is life. There is a mess hall for meals and when you go in for breakfast you pack your own lunch to take down to site or underground with you. The miners all have their own esky’s and 5 litre water cooler bottles. There are ice machines down there, but if you miss breakfast then you won’t have a chance to make lunch.  Miners need to pass drug and alcohol test daily and there are always rumours about how to fake them or beat the test. Mine sites also restrict the amount of alcohol you can have, I’ve heard of different methods, they only open the wet mess (bar) for a couple of ours, other mine sites only sell you a limited amount daily or they only have light beer. In this industry alcoholism is rife!

 (KCGM Super pit mine site)

So the city of Kalgoorlie was built by the mining companies and for mining families with a LOT of disposable income and in their shift off they want to spend it. That’s why just next door to the post office and near the supermarket is a brothel  and it’s such a part of the town culture it’s somehow not offencive or strange at all. In fact they do a tour through the day and serve home baked cookies, they even have a gift shop. That’s also why there are about 20 pubs all within walking distance. Some of them serve excellent food; there are places for fine dining that you would need to have a reservation for any night of the week and it’s going to cost $100 per head. There are all the major fast food places including, maccas, KFC, red rooster, subway, jesters, nandos etc. Food wise what I feel is lacking compared to the amazing fare in big cities is Asian food, the Chinese food is very poor they don’t have yum cha sessions either.  The Japanese is also disappointing –and before you moan I am allowed to judge I lived there long enough!!

 (In front of the legendary Exchange Hotel in Hannan Street, Kalgoorlie)

There are also all the main shopping chains that most shopping centres have which was a massive relief. It was very hard prior to coming to research what shops Kalgoorlie has if you just ask google a whole lot of random results came when what I really wanted was a list. They have K-mart, Target, Dusk, Sanity, Just Jeans, Jeans, West, Supre, Diva, Jay Jays, Rivers, Katies, Susans, Betts, Collins, Priceline and many more. But more than anything else there are so many jewellery shops and pharmacies.

All in all Kalgoorlie seems to be quite family orientated and peaceful. We live on a street very near the main part of town and do hear (especially on Friday and Saturday nights) the odd yelling and someone publicly drunk.  

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Our Move over to Kalgoorlie (the desert mining town in the middle of nowhere)

We arrived in late October so have been here just on 3 months now and I can honestly say I am so pleasantly surprised and happy here!
We packed up our whole life in a month and drove over from Melbourne. We had a big farewell / engagement party at our old place 2 days before we made the epic drive over here.  This was mistake number one. What were we thinking? It was one of those ideas that seem like a great idea at the planning stage and then hind sight is a beautiful thing.  Turned into too much to do with not enough time and cleaning the house up and moving out the day after your engagement party means you don’t enjoy the party the night before.  My recommendation is don’t hold big life events so close to each other give them each the time they deserve.

Thank god my best friend came over from Adelaide for the week to help us.  He just makes me laugh the whole time when he is around. So instead of the stress spiralling out of control and being exhausted he kept us happy and distracted. Not to mention all the man power he supplied with the actual lifting of furniture. That's a true friend one that will help you move house. My best friend drove 12 hours and took a week off work to come help me out.

We had made the choice to keep our belongings in a storage unit in Melbourne until we decided if we had made the right decision.  As mentioned we had so many people telling us we were making a mistake that kind of negativity can get very draining and cause doubt and fear. So we thought it was a rather mature decision at the time. Another mistake let’s call it number 50. I recommend trusting your instincts don’t listen to others especially those that have never actually done it. Do your own research and follow your own dreams that way even if you make mistakes there won’t be regret or resentment.

So on the Wednesday before the party we moved most of our belongings to a storage unit. I did have a massive clean out and had to make cut throat choices whether to bring things or not. I tried to sell some on eBay and to friends but strangely was not very successful which baffles me to this day. Our furniture was all very nice so we couldn’t work out why people didn’t want it. Especially since we would have taken any token amount of money because taking it to the tip is very expensive in Melbourne we did so many tip runs I lost count and spent over $150 a pop for each tray load. So we just needed people to take it off our hands to be honest. I think that we lived so far from most people in Melbourne no one wanted to make the effort to come so far.  

 (Me with my best friend Dion)

I did pack 2 of my friends cars Dion had driven over from Adelaide for that very reason. I donated over 17 bags to charity bins and the op shop my mum works at. We gave a huge amount to Geoff’s family as well. It’s about here in the story you will realise I have a shopping problem.  So we stored just the most important things to us and in hind sight should have got rid of most of that too as the removalist cost over $6000 to truck over to us. Add to that the petrol costs of over $2500 for us to drive our cars here it’s a lot of money that we could have used to just purchase it all new again. So much of it arrived after being trucked here, just looking worst for wear.  With nicks and scratches and dints and a couple of items completely broken, the insurance excess isn’t worth paying for those items alone. See it’s all a massive catch 22.  My recommendation to anyone making a cross country move is if your moving costs are higher than $2000 then don’t move it buy it again from there.

(Our dog Bam Bam packed snug in the car amongst all our clothes and bedding)

As my partner Geoff had lost his licence I had to do the entire drive alone, which I was quite nervous about to say the least. Mistake number 3 was not taking his car which is a big Hilux instead because I don’t know how to drive manual and felt more comfortable in my car we packed up some clothes, dog , our bedding  and a few items to help get us through the first few months. All this was put into my tiny Holden Astra and driven 3000 kilometres across Australia. Lesson learned I should have just learned to drive manual. I do recommend driving as you can bring more with you than the limited luggage restrictions airlines have. Also shipping cars is very expensive and you can’t have anything inside the car that means NOTHING only floor mats are permitted. Another great thing about driving is it’s an amazing experience that you have together. We saw the most amazing sunrises and saw sights that are once in a life time. We took quite a leisurely pace and gave ourselves plenty of time had lots of little pit stops to let our dog stretch as well.

So we left on the Monday morning stopping off in Adelaide first for a night with my best friend Dion who cooked us a lovely meal after 12 hours of driving even gave up his own bed for us. Then we drove for 10 hours the second day and stopped for the night in Ceduna where we snuck our dog into the cabin in one of our bags and left early in the morning so he couldn’t be detected.

 (Stunning view of sunrise on morning 3 of road trip)

The 3rd and 4th day the driving was truly breathtaking along the Great Australian Bight and then heading inland to our final destination Kalgoorlie. Other than my arms giving me a little trouble (I suffer from RSI in my arms) and the roadhouse we stayed in on the last night being horrible (like out of a horror movie kind of horrible). It was a truck stop in the middle of nowhere I had driven for 12 hours that day and the next nearest pit stop was another 5 hour drive so there wasn’t much choice in the matter. I basically didn’t let any part of my bare skin on my body touch anything in the room. At about 3am I couldn’t take it anymore and sleep wasn’t likely so I woke Geoff up and we headed off again. I drove really slowly as we didn’t want to hit any wild life in most cases the damage to our car and us would be worse than the psychological damage of killing an animal. We did however kill millions of bugs and had a near miss with a giant eagle that gave us a fright. 
 (My car front full of bugs)

Having made us leave at 3am we reach Kalgoorlie on Thursday morning at 9am. We went and checked into a caravan park and had to put Bam Bam our dog into a kennel. The lady at the kennels told us it took her 8 weeks to find a place to rent and that rentals we at less than 1% vacancy and competition was really high for places to live. Our hearts sank to say the least. We found we were unable to apply for places before we arrived online as Western Australia has a rule that we must have inspected the place before we apply. Also a strange Western Australian rule is you can only apply for one place at a time per real estate agency and to regulate this they charge you one week’s rent to submit the application. We couldn’t afford to not rent a home for very long the caravan park, were charging $550 per week! We later found out that Geoff’s work would pay for our first 2 weeks accommodation. We also didn’t want Bam Bam to be in a kennel for that long. 
 (Geoff my partner posing on the open road in Western Australia)

So we were in a slightly panicked state of mind when we approached the real estate’s looking for a home to rent.  We were accepted for the first one we applied for though and it ended up being a complete non- issue.  We moved in exactly one week after arriving in town. We only had a car load worth of possessions so I just did this myself and it gave me a chance to clean the house like a maniac while Geoff was at work. We slept on an air mattress for 3 nights until we bought a bed. So then we had a bed so I bought us a couple of bean bags so we could sit and watch telly, play on our laptops and eat etc. I learned that bean bags are not as fun as I remembered, my body ached and Geoff must have felt the same way because as soon as his first pay came in we were off to buy a lounge suite and he got one with 4 recliners so he must have really hated those bean bags!  

As you might have gathered we decided really quickly to have our things shipped over which means that we are staying here for a while at least and giving this new life a fair chance.Loving every minute of it so far!

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Let's get this BLOG started

First things first here is the plan for this blog. 

To share my [sometimes incoherent] thoughts on the following topics;

The Present;
We have just made a life changing decision to move 3000 kilometres from home to try a new career path not only to try and earn the big bucks, but to change our life style and follow our dreams.
There is so much to adjust to in this new place and with my partners mining job. There are so many people that feel we are making a huge mistake and we can feel the weight of that. It pushes us on determinedly and gets us down at the same time. It’s never pleasant to have someone doubt you. The good news is there are so many people that do support and believe and are really happy for us.

Wedding Planning and Weight Loss;
I’m ALSO planning our wedding in Phuket in 2013 so there is lots to do including lose a ton of weight and organise it all.

My New Business;
I’m also about to start a new business venture that has been a dream of mine for many years –so that should be full of interesting stories. Stay Tuned…..

The Past;
I lived in Japan for about 9 years in my 20’s and just had the most amazing experiences and life. I worked as a hostess in various night clubs and then after a while settled down did the domestic scene for a few years. I got married, had a huge Japanese wedding, bought a house, had a dog, got divorced in a total mess.  You know the usual mistakes people make…except I was doing it in another language in another country.
I can only say the Japan story will be strange to a lot of people that read it. It’s surreal now looking back I shake my head with wonder. The situations that I found myself in, it was common to spend the night drinking with Yakuza (Japanese Mafia). I earned ridiculous amounts of cash and seemed to spend it on nothing much. I was taken on glamorous overseas trips and given extremely generous ostentatious gifts! I will put a rest to the debate on hostess’ being prostitutes and be honest about my sex life back then.

The Philippines was a whole other drama in the 11 short months that I lived there I went through so much I opened a 24 hour licenced café,  sold the business, got ripped off, was almost killed, was accidentally addicted to steroids (so was agro and crazy), eloped (huge huge mistake I can’t say huge enough here), had petitions signed against me to be evicted from the town, put on a massive amount of weight that I have never been able to shake since. That is just the tip of the ice burg.

Pet Peeves and other Rants;
Everyone needs a good rant every now and again! To get the things that annoy us off our chest and send it out to the intangible ether of the internet could give us more satisfaction. This for me is especially therapeutic as my partner is often away working and my family and friends live so far away.
They will be the usual peeves, things that men do that are annoying, in-laws, chumpy drivers, bobble head dolls, just general things that angry up my 

Recipes and Crafts;
I love to cook and have been told I am excellent. I make most of what I cook up and even when using a recipe I basically improvise most of the time anyway. So it will be nice to keep a catalogue of some of my cooking here.
I love all crafts and have gone through many fazes such as scrapbooking, jewellery making, soap making, collage, design, beauty products and therapies (I’m a trained make-up artist), painting. This list is endless but you get the point. So when I get in the mood and those creative juices flow it will be nice to share that. My tips and step by steps.