I woke up at eight o'clock on Friday, ready to show Julianne the ropes of the kitchen. My methodology lasted about fifteen minutes before we had two big orders come in. Julianne would have to hit the ground running.
I panicked a little inside as I realized these orders were basically up to me. Quick, I thought, what could Julianne do that didn't require training. I pointed to the bread and told her to cut the loaves in half and place them on the grill.
While she did that I ran and got the frozen food out of the freezer. I dumped in several handfuls of chips, four calamari and a chicken schnitzel. When I finished Julianne was standing next to me, staring as if to ask what to do next. I glanced behind her at the avocados and asked her if she knew how to cut avocados. She nodded so I told her to slice the half avocado into fourths and put the slices in the tiny serving bowls. She went straight to work.
I checked my friers before rushing to the coffee machine. I prepared four teas and two milkshakes. Before running them out to the customers I pulled my chips out of the grease. When I got back in the kitchen Julianne showed me her work and I told her she was awesome. I then gave her two more small bowls and told her to fill them with tomato sauce.
Around then Yollana came in and asked if we were doing okay. I said we were getting there but could use a hand. When Yollana read the order out loud again I realized I hadn't even started on the bacon for the Chef's Breakfast and we had three orders of it! I asked Yollana to start the bacon and she did.
I dropped a piece of King Whiting into the fryer and then arranged a plate of chips, avocado and tomato for the Poached Egg order. In one swoop I turned around and lifted the fish out of the fryer and then grabbed the two pieces of toast that had been waiting patiently on the grill. The poached eggs I had started ten minutes ago were now perfectly poached. I carefully lifted them out of the water and placed them neatly on the bread slices that Julianne had prepared. Yollana cracked two more eggs while she simultaneously flipped the bacon. I glanced at the order one more time and then through some chips and calamari in a bowl before lifting the tray and heading out to table number three.
We had two more orders before two o'clock but both were simple and the timing spaced them out nicely. By three o'clock I had cleaned the kitchen and done all of the dishes from the morning. Julianne had proven to be pretty helpful in the kitchen. She wasn't a self-starter but she was good at doing what needed to be done. I told her she did a great job for her first day and Yollana told both of us take a break and have some soup at the hostel. I did as I was told and afterward I did some serious writing out on the veranda.
The late afternoon was peaceful and much needed. I wrote and I wrote and I wrote. Julianne was off by herself searching for phone signal, Alex was happily listening to music and cleaning salt shakers in the kitchen and I had no idea where Matthew ran off to. I think Yollana and her family were down at Cabin 5 relaxing. I really enjoyed the quiet and even took several minutes to just sit and be.
After several hours had passed Julianne walked up the driveway and I asked her if she was enjoying the sunshine. She said yes and we ended up chatting about phone service, the time difference back home and all the things Australia had to offer.
Julianne had spent several months in Sydney but she said it was very expensive. She did farm work at several different places and advised me to find farm work that pays by the hour and not by commission. She said farmers often jipped people because they know backpackers work for cheap and aren't around long enough to get established.
Julianne had a friend in a small town up north who had found a farming job that paid $25 an hour. She said after she leaves here she might go and join him for this great farming opportunity. As I listened I noticed that Julianne actually spoke English quite well. So why was it, then that she often seemed so lost? Maybe she was just shy, I thought.
After a bit I noticed my stomach growling and told Julianne we should go find out if supper needed to be organized or not. We wandered to the kitchen where Alex was and I asked if she had heard of any dinner plans. She told us that Yollana was keen on leftovers so I decided Julianne and I were off the hook. We helped Alex dry the dishes and sweep the floor. When Matthew walked in the kitchen he told us about the myths that had been busted on a show he had been watching in the cafe. A bit later he came back and said the cafe was clean and locked. I checked the toilets and closed them up as well. When we were all done the four of us walked over to the hostel and sat around the television while Will and the kids finished up the dinner preparations.
Yollana had two children. Erin, a girl of nine years and Ashby a boy of six, though everyone called him Ash. I had caught glimpses of them here and there throughout the day but for the most part they had been busy playing with their father. It was nice to watch them interact so intently with their dad.
The meal the three of them made consisted of lots of leftovers thrown into a big pot. Despite the description, it was a delicious meal and we were all pleased afterwards because there was not an ounce left. At dinner I was surprised that Yollana waited for everyone to be served. This was not the way we usually started our dinners. She then asked the kids to say a food blessing song. Will and Erin recited a long and beautiful prayer to the earth, thanking it for the food we were about to eat.
I laughed and said one of my favorite pre-dinner prayers.
“Good bread, good meat, good God, let's eat!”
Erin thought it was brilliant bc it was so short. And she repeated it several times before asking what would happen if you were vegetarian. I laughed and said I didn't know. She said it would be changed to “Good bread, good veg, good God, let's eat!” I laughed heartily at this.
The kids brought a whole new energy to the place. It was similar to having Leila around but not the same. Leila had been set on attention seeking. Erin and Ash were well-behaved, respectable kids. They enjoyed playing with us older kids but they knew when to back off and when to settle down. I was delighted to listen to Erin tell her highlight. A huge smile covered her face as she talked about how her mommy and daddy and Ash had made cubbies in the trees. I didn't ask but I am assuming cubbies are somewhat like a tree fort.
Ash held up his fingers as he counted five highlights for himself. Seeing the sunset, watching kangaroos, hanging out with Mom and the other two he forgot by the time he held up three fingers. He was a handsome boy. He had bright blonde curls surrounding his head and his eyes were as strikingly blue as Yollana's.
Erin's hair was two shades darker than Ash's. She had tan skin that matched her love for the outdoors and I had already gave her the nickname of “monkey.” Erin ran around barefoot always but that didn't stop her from climbing things. In fact, she explained that she could climb better without shoes. I watched as she climbed trees, poles and even people.
When it was time for the kids to go to their cabin, Ash ran over to Matthew and gave him a big hug goodnight. Erin was right behind him. She gave Matthew a hug and then turned to me. I was surprised for a moment when she jumped up into my arms and wrapped her feet around my hips. I gave her a big squeeze and wished her sweet dreams. She held on a little longer and then told me to remove my arms. I did so slowly and she laughed as she bent herself backwards towards my feet. She was holding herself onto me using just her legs. I was impressed but I quickly put my hands on her hips because I realized if she fell it would probably be my fault somehow.
Erin plopped down and gave Julianne a big hug and before leaving she jumped up on to Alex's hips and gave her a big hug too. Why do we lose affection when we get older? I imagined Alex, Julianne, Matthew and I hugging each other before bed. I guess when we grow up we assume affection has to be earned. I'm not sure if I agree or disagree with that.
When the family left the four of us volunteers looked around and grinned at the silence. Alex made everyone a cup of tea and when we decided the silence was too good to waste we declared it was time to watch television!
We all gathered around the set in the living room and relaxed together on the couch. The remote landed on How I Met Your Mother and we were pleased to see the episode continued right where we had left off the night before.