After two weeks in Indonesia, our return to Australia felt strange. As fun as Bali was, it was nice to be back in the western world. It was clean and modern and uncrowded. We were once again surrounded by English speakers and that felt reassuring, despite our situation.
Maggie had graciously lent us her car for the week while she finished up in Bali. This was helpful, yet it posed a new problem. Where would we camp for the night?
I had googled a bit but the nearest campsite seemed to be an hour from Darwin. Matthew and I didn't want to drive that far so we figured we could drive through the city and find a parking lot or something that would work for one night's sleep. What that turned into was an informal filming of House Hunters: Homeless Edition.
Finding the humor in the situation, Matthew and I made a game out of finding our parking lot. We weren't trying to be picky, but we did have a few needs. We wanted something civilized but not too crowded, complete with security lighting, but not too bright. It needed to be in the middle of town and free and safe and somewhat quiet. After twenty minutes of driving around town we thought seriously about camping in a McDonald's parking lot. We also thought about parking in a median because it was free and didn't say “No Camping” like many of the other signs around town. Eventually, we settled on some sort of office-like parking lot near the coastal edge of the city. The lot was dark and had a fence around it for security, yet there were no cameras or cops looking to kick us out for camping.
Sleeping in a Parking Lot
That night I slept hard but anxiously. I was so tired from a long day of traveling that I didn't care so much about my surroundings. Despite Matthew's warning, I rolled my window down so I could have fresh air to breathe. Multiple times I woke up to hear aboriginals hollering as they passed through the lot.
It was also hard to sleep sitting up. We didn't want to call attention to ourselves by opening all the doors and rearranging the whole car so we could set the bed up so we slept in the front seats as we were, having only a pillow to lean our heads against. When the first light of day came I was wide awake and a bit paranoid that someone would find us out. I slumped low in my seat and waited anxiously for Matthew to wake up and drive us somewhere else. When he did, we drove to a park so we could use a public restroom, then walked on to a nearby grocery store where we spent exactly three dollars on a package of blueberry muffins for breakfast.
Waiting for Correspondence...Again
Our plan for the day was to drive down to Adelaide River where a man named Ewan had a volunteer opportunity for us. The only problem was, we had to wait for his phone call so we could know where to drive to. While we waited we exchanged our books at the bookstore and Matthew got a haircut. We also snuck into the hostel we had previously stayed at and took showers and brushed our teeth. It wasn't the most ethical thing but it was what we did. Besides, it's not that we weren't paying customers. We were. Just not on that particular day.
As we waited for Ewan's phone call I noticed my phone seemed unnaturally silent. There were no notifications and no texts. Even my mother had grown quiet. The anxiety of waiting from email to email was making me feel like one of the crazy girlfriend stereotypes. Did you get my message? Should I refresh my email again? Maybe my phone email isn't working. I'll check my laptop. Oh, still nothing. Maybe I'll just message you my phone number in case you want to call. Matthew wasn't much better. Desperation had snuck in and we just wanted a place to stay, meals to eat, work to do. It was simple really. So why we're so many people turning us down. Was it something I said? Did our profile picture make us look too high maintenance? Maybe we weren't their type...
Eventually this unknown person called and Matthew and I were extremely relieved. He told us to head south on the Stuart Highway until we got to Adelaide River. From there we were to drive past a creek, down a dirt road and up a long driveway to the homestead.
As we headed south we began to wonder what new experience awaited us. We had become so desperate that we really didn't care. Still, it was fun to guess what lay before us. We started with guessing the description of our host. I knew how to spell his name but I had no idea how to say it.
I spelled it for Matthew and that led into a string of jokes.
“Maybe his name was supposed to be Erwin but his parents couldn't say because they had a lisp so they said Ewan, like Brits.”
“Or maybe it was supposed to be Aaron but they couldn't say that either.”
“Maybe it's like eww-an..because he's yucky and they were like eww..”
We laughed at our juvenile humor and by the time our jokes stopped we were pulling into the property.
Immediately a man in a blue shirt, shorts, hiking boots and a typical Australian outback hat, came out to meet us. He had a goofy walk and a big grin displaying a single missing tooth right in front. He was friendly as could be but immediately I thought to myself that this could go one of two ways. Either he was as goofy as he looked and this would be a long ten days, or he was as nice as he seemed and this would be splendid.
Fortunately, within a few hours I decided with the latter. Ewan, (pronounced You-An) was a very nice man who was well-educated and had tons of farm and business experience. He talked fast and choppy like a typical Australian but he was also typical as kind and inviting as one. We also met David, a kid our age who was Ewan's nephew, and Fiona, a Chinese girl who was also volunteering for the week.
Later that night we met Ewan's fiance, Tracy, and her two children, Isabelle and Campbell. With them they brought two cats and a dog as well. Together the eight of us shared a meal of steak and potatoes on Ewan's veranda. We chatted and laughed and swapped great stories. Afterwards we walked down to the fire pit where we had a few more laughs and sleepy yawns before calling it a night. Tomorrow would be our first day of work with Ewan.