More Melons & More Beer

It looks promising that within the next week or more likely two I’ll be hitting the halfway point of the farm work. It’s frustrating that I’ve been living here for two and a half months and still not quite halfway – I’ve had a couple of shifts this week packing melons and it looks like work is going to pick up soon. We’ve been told since February that work will pick up in a few weeks every time we ask, but now should be the time of year where it actually does.

Because half the hostel left a couple of weeks back, I am #3 on the work list. This also means that not only am I the source of all information regarding food and whether or not it’s ok to eat because I’m a chef, I am the also source of information within this house of how everything works. Anything including explaining why the work list doesn’t mean shit, when work will come, how hot it is, why it’s so hot, why the internet is so slow, why the internet is so shit, what you’ll get fined for and the stuff that has happened so far that I hope we’ve not lost our bonds for – definitely a story for when I’ve left.

Monday night we had a movie night – Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and Tuesday We’re the Millers and Step Brothers in the TV room – a glorified shed. The mosquitos here are absolute shits – the little buggers bite through clothes.

On Wednesday we went to the park for a BBQ as there’s still this bloody alcohol ban and was a pretty fun evening. We would’ve done it in the hostel if we were allowed to have fun – it’s an instant $200 bond loss if we get caught drinking in the hostel. Thursday we went out, as well as the regular piss-up on Saturday.

Thursday night was fun; there was a DJ night at the bar we usually go to but we got there too late, instead we came back to the hostel and got told off once again. Luckily I was upstairs having a cheese toastie when the bollocking took place so I maintain my good-behaviour status. The alcohol ban is supposed to be lifted on Tuesday but depending on our behaviour over this weekend so it will probably get lifted like never.

Before going out on Saturday there were a few drinking games as well as a game of twister that someone picked up from the Reject Shop – just a few dotted stickers to put on the floor. On Saturdays we go to a few bars – Chlamydia (not the actual name but easier to say), Tav (once again not the actual name) and then to a club that gives out vouchers for one free drink and we usually somehow manage to get a few.

This coming week kind of sounds promising for work; we are definitely working tomorrow what will hopefully be a long shift because of the bank holiday. Apparently from the 22nd or something the melons will be getting picked like crazy.

From Planting Melons to Packing Them

This week started with weeding; the same as Sunday. The owner of the hostel volunteered me to ride shotgun and navigate the journey, my directions being along the lines of “it’s left here or the next one… its the next one… oh shit slow down it’s this one… it’s the next roundabout SHIT IT’S THIS ONE.” This time I did not have the previous nights antics to blame for it being such a horrendous shift, nor had I woken up in my work clothes just in case I’d be running late during the morning. We were crawling through the field picking weeds for five and a half hours which was soul destroying.

Tuesday was back to packing melons. It’s an easy job – the guys have it easier than the girls who put melons in a box. Wednesday and Saturday were the same. What happens is melons get brought into the packing shed on this conveyor belt which weighs, then drops them at a certain point down a ramp where we stand to pack them. Depending on how big they are depends on how many per box. I’m back working tomorrow and after that will be 48 days left to go, having worked 40. It feels great to be in the 40s as it’s nearing the halfway point, and then I’lll be counting down the work days until I leave this hostel and never come back here again.

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Check out my melons – they’re actually toad fruits – like a honeydew melon on the inside.

Last night was the regular hostel piss-up; I’m getting bored of visiting the same three places every Saturday. As we still have a drinking ban because we sneak alcohol in the hostel, we poured beer into tinted bottles and played a couple of drinking games indoors where there is no CCTV we completely followed the rules regarding this.

During the week I’ve had a bit of a Harry Potter marathon – it’ll be completed today with a Domino’s during the last movie. After having worked on farms for a couple of months I know what to do if someone gets bitten by a snake (well I hope I do) and I was watching the second movie. I just wanted to shout at the screen when Harry was sodding around after getting bitten.

Over the past couple of weeks we’ve started to notice that it is autumn. By autumn, I mean around the 30 degree mark – it is still hotter than the middle of the summer in the UK, but it no longer feels as though we are living in the depths of hell, though I’m still waiting for it to be t-shirt weather and not vest weather. The Northern Queensland autumn is making a UK heatwave look cute. I’ve also lately had new roommates – apart from the two of us who arrived during the first week, the seven others in the room are new. It’s like being in bloody Germany at the moment – five out of the nine of us are German, and there’s usually a German or two visiting the room.

I was going to go to Bali after farming, but at the moment the cheap flights are at inconvenient times – Townsville doesn’t seem to be the best place to fly to Bali. If I were to land at say 3pm in Bali, it’d be a $500 flight with a layover. Instead, I’m looking at doing a tour around the red centre and then try Bali another time.

Cyclone Debbie and a Great Big Piss-Up

A friend in England replied to my snapchats on Tuesday saying “what the fuck are you doing?”

Well, seven of us from the hostel ended up in a shelter for a couple of nights, and consequently ended up appearing in the Brisbane Times, BBC News and in the news on Belgian TV.

There was a category five cyclone destined to hit the town that I’m staying in on Monday so we had a choice of evacuating to Cairns, going to a cyclone shelter or hoping that the hostel lives up to its cyclone rating. Bearing in mind that I could not be arsed to pack and leave for Cairns and that the ceiling fan in our cyclone-rated room blows our door open, I ended up going to the shelter where we spent 40 hours. I had literally ten minutes to pack so I packed a pillow case instead of a bag because it was easier.

What I usually end up getting in trouble for is making a sarcastic comment at the wrong time, and it could’ve happened in the shelter. A journalist from the Brisbane Times asked me if I was still expected to pay my rent in the hostel, to which I laughed and made a sarcastic comment. Quite glad that we only had a picture on the internet. As for the BBC News, I now have celebrity status in the hostel as I was on BBC News and BBC Worldwide, and it seems like the only thing that they showed was me saying that I wanted a bed and a food – to be fair, that usually is the case whether or not I’m locked in a shelter.

7 News Australia tried to interview us, too. Looking back, it would’ve amused us to just pretend that we didn’t know that there was a cyclone coming and that we were just squatting until we got kicked out because it was free accommodation.

The shelter wasn’t that exciting; we were just tracking Debbie and playing Uno. She’s received a fair bit of abuse from us, and if anyone had overheard us and not known that it wasn’t a human we have been speaking about all week, we’d be in shit. We were tracking it for the whole time; it was delayed by a few hours five times, then it was destined to miss us completely. Domino’s was still open, and someone ordered a pizza and had it delivered through the window.

One good thing has come from this: Debs did not ruin my seven week Sunday Domino’s streak.

The days after the cyclone there were quite a few people leaving the hostel which meant going for a drink. One drink turned into several more and the best night out that I’ve had in this town – it is one very good story, though for now the less I write about it on the internet, the better. There is still an alcohol ban that I don’t quite understand in the hostel after the non-visit from Debbie which has quite obviously not been complied to. Whilst in bed and still drunk on Friday morning, I was asked if I could drive to one of the farms to replace someone working – luckily I had a more acceptable reason for saying no other than the fact that it would have been illegal for me to drive there. Instead, I ended up doing a short shift planting.

We also had the regular Saturday night piss-up – I had work the next day and was intending to be sensible. Thankfully, it wasn’t that hot compared to usual during the shift as it would’ve been a struggle – we really were not sensible.

Melons, Capsicums and Cyclone Debbie.

This weeks been a bit of a bore. I have now worked 31 farm days with 25 officially signed off, so there’s a bit of a farmer-chase-up which isn’t supposed to be easy or heaps of fun. Now there’s 57 days of slaving away left to go. I enquired about when work is meant to pick up and was told April – it means a few weeks of not much work, but the only things keeping me here are that I really can’t be arsed to move and there’s a Domino’s around the corner.

With that said, I did work a few short shifts. Monday and Tuesday I think we were planting capsicums. Sometimes we have to be out of bed and on call at a certain time if the weather’s a bit crap just so we can be up if the farmer wants us. That was me on Wednesday, and I honestly don’t know how I used to do it working a ski season. My personal best from bed to work, during a hangover on Christmas Day 2013, is three minutes; my nineteen year old self would have been very disappointed by my effort this week.

After doing a beer run on Saturday evening, I found out that I had a shift on Sunday, which will probably end up as a full-time job. There was also a notice above the job saying that if we turned up to work hungover, we’ll get fired from the job and kicked out of the hostel as the contract is that important to the hostel. As it’s an indoors job, I don’t have to douse myself in sun cream or wear a hat and was alright as farm work goes – just put eight melons in a box for five hours. For someone who got a G in their GCSE RE, I think I did a pretty good job of feeding the five thousand.

Cyclone Debbie has allegedly changed its course to come right at the town that  I’m living in, and is grade four. We may even have to get evacuated out of what has been described as “this wooden shack” and into a proper shelter, which according to Google isn’t fit to act as a shelter. When I moved out of my flat in London to go travelling, I had anticipated that I may sleep in more unusual settings – night buses/trains, sofas, uncomfortable hostels etc., but it never crossed my mind that I may be stuck in a sodding hurricane shelter.

Same Shit, Different Day

To start the week I didn’t have a job. Bearing in mind that I am within the first ten people on the priority list and all the new people are working, I had a moan to the owner of this hostel, and luckily I am very good at having an answer to absolutely everything. I landed myself a job, two days a week. To be honest, I’d rather repeat the day where I thought I might cry because I planted so much five times over than be stuck in the hostel for five days, but at least it’s something.

Monday, I worked at a farm that I was on last week and weeded for six hours. At first I thought that it’d be easier to crawl to ease the back and knee ache, though I ended up giving myself a dead leg after three hours of crawling and couldn’t feel my foot properly for the rest of the work day.

Wednesday was my first shift on another watermelon farm. It was quite amusing to hear people talking tactics in the van about how fast to go and a couple of others and me went at least twice as fast as the ten others without too much effort. Planting can actually get quite tactical and competitive; my tactic is to get a good playlist on and to go near the other quick people and keep up – with that said, I usually finish a row in at least third place anyway. There are days where you know that you’re just going to be working for a couple of hours so a lot of people will go slower as more time spent on the farm = more money. Having worked with quite a few half jobs in the hospitality industry, I’ll end up just annoying myself if I’m too slow.

Thursday, I was off again and was back to work on Friday. The people I was working with seemed to only be able to talk about goon, how drunk they were, how they were still drunk or about how they were going to get drunk after work. I was bored of it after two minutes of being in the van, and it carried on for the whole of the shift.

It got to the point on Friday where it was so hot (surprise!) that the farmer drove me to another part of the field and we just sat having a chat in the ute for five minutes with the air con on full blast. It was one of the days where sweat just drips off your face onto the plastic sheets that we plant onto. He asked me what I’ve done with myself before the farm work so I said about working in France, living in London and travelling pretty much the whole of last year, and he thought that I was a lot older than the people that I work with. I’m actually one of the young ones.

Friday was St Patricks Day. I wasn’t in the mood to go out so I hired a few movies and had watched a couple. Saturday night I actually didn’t go out and opted for a movie marathon, but only managed one and a half. Today, I’m two and a half movies in, about to watch the third and perhaps a fourth which I probably won’t manage.

I can’t remember if I mentioned it in another post but Sunday is the day to get a Domino’s for $5, nearing the $10 mark if you want a cheese stuffed crust (obviously I do), as the supermarkets are shut. Just an excuse to have pizza. It’s going to get to the point when I would’ve had pizza every Sunday for around 20 weeks in a row, and that might be one of my personal favourite achievements of my past 22 years. Today, I had one of the best pizzas I’ve ever had; not as good as the one I had when I accidentally booked a flight to Milan instead of Venice last year but definitely in the top ten.

Another Day, Another Field of Watermelons

It’s supposed to be autumn here now – I’m not too sure how much I believe it as I was sat drafting out this post at 9.15pm, dripping with sweat.

Our week started off with a 32 degree-90% humidity day. To be honest I don’t know how I didn’t pass out on the watermelon field; it seemed as though whatever we drank sweated straight out, although at least we knew for sure that the alcohol from the weekend had left our systems by then.  On the way to work we put the watermelon emoji sponge on the rear-view mirror which the farmer apparently wasn’t terribly amused by, but it is now hanging from my shelf in the room, much to the despair of my roommates.

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Tuesday turned out to be the last day of planting watermelons… on this farm, anyway. One of the nearby farms had a thermometer that measured the temperature as 37 degrees, and I’m surprised that there was any sweat left in me after Monday. I was seriously struggling with it, and on other farms quite a few people passed out. Luckily, it was only a half day where we were supposed to be joining the farmers for a BBQ at the end of the day. As we finished so early, the farmer gave us some money to go out for dinner which was much appreciated, so I rather enjoyed a steak dinner.

We’ve got a pretty good analogy for planting: it’s like being on I’m a Celeb – only that we don’t have Ant and Dec to warn us that there may be something out to poison us whenever we stick our hands in the holes in the ground.

As the jobs on the watermelon field had ended, Wednesday and Thursday were days off. There is more or less nothing to do here – there’s a swimming pool, bowling alley and a cinema  so Wednesday I was trying to kill the day. Thursday, we went down the pub and Friday I did a shift for just one hour, though it secured me work for Saturday too. Today has been another day off after a night out last night.

Planting Watermelons Like There’s No Tomorrow

Work this week started off with chilli picking; the first job that I’ve had so far that isn’t on a watermelon field. It’s work that no one really wants to do as it pays $2.50 per kilo and most people pick 25-30kg which means that I’ll get paid around $100 for 16 hours work. I got paid a bit less than four and a half times this for the same amount of work in Melbourne.

Our first day on the farm, the farmer met us at a petrol station to take us to his farm and the next day we got pretty lost on the way there. It took 45 minutes, half hour on the phone to the farmer and two phonecalls to the hostel to get there, almost running over a dog in the process. One of the things that no one really warns you about for farm work is that there aren’t really any toilets on the farms – this time a year ago I was tasting port in Portugal, and at the start of the week I’m advising a friend on where the best place to pee on a field is. Still living the dream.

After two days of having my head in chilli plants and my hayfever going wild, I was so, so happy to be back planting watermelons. The happiness did not last long, though. As there have been a lot of people leaving over the past couple of weeks, a small group of us are working double as we are having to do our work, then helping the fifteen  or so new people. Thursday, I would say was either the joint worst or second worst shift of my life (going out on the piss three nights in a row and the fourth day was a menu change at work and I am never ever doing that again). It got to the point where I had been working for nine hours and had done so much work that I could have cried if I had to plant another watermelon for someone else. Luckily, someone else was on hand to help me help someone and to listen to me chat shit about watermelons. It turned out that I planted somewhere around 6km of watermelons all day Thursday. On Friday morning someone forgot to wear their shoes to work. When I had a day as shit as it was on Thursday, having something like that to laugh about was well needed.

During the week it was one of my roomates’ birthday so I cooked seven of us a lasagne, not going to lie it was pretty bloody good. It was also pancake day so three of us had pancakes for dinner – first course chorizo and cheese, followed by chocolate and salted caramel.

I found a mascot for our work van; an air freshener probably wouldn’t help whatsoever when you consider how bad we smell by 8am most days. In the supermarket, I saw a sponge in the shape of the watermelon emoji for $2 with a string around it. We’re going to hang it from the rear-view mirror in the car as though it is an air freshener and see if the farmers humour us.

Today I am definitely feeling as though I went out last night. As per usual, most people staying at this hostel went out and got absolutely twatted.

After almost three years, my tablet has finally broken. I decided to opt for a small laptop instead of a tablet as I find that it’s just easier to use a laptop. For a while I have wanted to change the layout of the blog to something a bit more professional looking which is pretty hard to do on a touchscreen, so over the next coming weeks I’ll be giving onewomanonebackpack a makeover.

Feeding the World, One Watermelon at a Time

This week has been more of the same: work, the weather being ridiculously hot, having a copious amount of mosquito bites and being caked in mud.

I’m handling the work a lot better and I’m actually starting to enjoy it a little. I don’t know if I’ve legitimately gone crazy but part of me enjoys the fact that this isn’t my trained profession and have a little responsibility on the farms. I don’t have to train anyone and get a bollocking if they do a shit job, I have no idea what paperwork is involved for the farms and I get to listen to new music on spotify every day.

The first day of work this week was another barefoot farm day; at one point I felt as though I was wading through the River Thames on a 33 degree day. It got to the stage of walking through mud and being buried to just below the knee. How nobody has fallen over in that field yet is a mystery, but there have been several close calls.

Tuesday wasn’t that much fun; five of us were working and after most of us picking up some form of work-related injury, we got sent home. I was the first to be told to go and had a lift back from the farmer’s friend – I really appreciated the ride but it was pretty awkward making small talk.

I also probably have an unofficial world record for planting watermelons quickly; just under 800 in two and a half hours.

Last night there was a hostel night out, quite a few people were undecided as to whether or not to go out and it seemed in the evening that it’d be a relatively quiet night. We all got shitfaced, no one remembers what happened but today was spent recovering in the hostel pool.

I also finally got paid after being working for two weeks. It’s my first payslip since mid-November and have been half tempted to just spend it all and not care. My inner grown up/globetrotter, however, has refrained from doing so in order to go away somewhere nice and I know I’ll enjoy that a lot more.

88 Days a Slave: 78 Left

The past week has had its ups and downs in this hostel. For me, it’s been good as I’m now only in constant minor pain and have had a pretty fun night out.

We had a day off work because it was more ‘too hot’ than it usually is to work and that night was so hot that I’d been sweating as though I had done a workout in my sleep. The was also a day where we had to farm barefoot (and hopefully not come across any brown snakes) as it had pissed it down and the field was a state.

Towards the end of the week I confessed to someone whilst bent down and covered head to toe in sweat, suncream, mud and mosquito spray that I’d rather be good at something like languages and not bending down to shove a couple of thousand plants in holes. Just with a couple more choice words thrown in.

A lot of people here are leaving, thinking about leaving or have left, which is a bit bittersweet. On one hand, I’m used to seeing the same faces every day but it’s moving me up the priority list for work.

Farm Work – the First Week

I’ve been in Queensland for a week now and have been working every day since Sunday – it has flown by. The priority is to get all my farm days done as soon as possible, f.o. to Bali then Melbourne. The money is good, more than what I was earning in England but not as much as Melbourne. I’m just saving the $$$ for Bali and Tokyo, with some to help me settle in Melbourne too.

To be honest, the work in itself is alright, but bending down every time I move is the worst of it. I planted over 2000 watermelon plants yesterday over nine hours and everything just hurts. I’ve had an impressive blood blister on the web of my thumb from sweeping so much, and am currently sporting sunburn on my lower back from where my tshirt comes up from bending down.

I’ve settled into the hostel well; even managed to get a decent bed. It’s pretty average for an Australian hostel: the doors to my room don’t shut properly, the bathroom door fell off and the kitchen has some form of infestation. To be honest, I’m tired of hostels and can’t wait to be able to go to sleep and wake up when I decide – they hoover the rooms at 8.30am and people play ping pong as though it’s life or death right outside the door at 10pm.

Also, this hostel loves to threaten you with a $200 fine if you break a rule – if you are caught with a glass bottle, for instance. There’s a sign on the entrance gate saying ‘trespassers will be prosecuted’ – I’ll have to resist writing ‘and fined $200’ underneath when I’m finished here.

There are 82 days of work left to go. Hopefully in a couple of weeks I’ll write again and my back, legs, knees and what’s left of my sanity are in tact.