kangaroo island

Things I WON'T Miss

I have found that even in short, three-month stays, I treat every season in my life the same way. I write about it and reflect over it and make sure I leave that season with a clear understanding of what I gained and how I grew as a person. Throughout my last ten days on the island I have been assessing the end of this season.

 

There are definitely things about this place that I will not miss. I saw two examples of this last Monday while working around the cafe. The first reminder happened before breakfast. Just when I thought the war on mice was over, two ladies from Cabin 1 called me into reception to “tell me a story” about their stay. I had a feeling I knew where their story was going to be about but I listened patiently anyways.

 

“Well, last night I was laying in bed and I kept hearing little scuffling noises. I knew something was in the room with me, I just didn't know what. I laid there a little longer and the next thing I know it was in my hair!” I cringed and gasped. I would have fainted if I had been her. “It was a mouse! So I went in the other room and told Barbara what had happened. She let me sleep on the top bunk, so if you wonder why the linens are on the top bunk, that's why.”

 

“That is not a problem. I am so sorry...” I was cut off when I realized the story wasn't over.

 

“So we laid back down and then we heard noises again, this time coming from the kitchen.”

 

Barbara jumped in at this point. “So I got up and saw he was in the trashcan. I ran over there and tied him up real quick and I said, 'I got him! I got him!'.” My face was pure terror at this point.

 

“So we didn't know what to do with him so we hung the bag in a tree outside, so you should know that is why there is a trash bag hanging outside the cabin. We didn't want him in the room with us so that was all we could think of.”

 

“Yeah and the crows were circling him this morning but we don't think they got him because the bag is still tied shut. The poor guy probably suffocated, honestly.”

 

I took a deep breath. “Okay. First, let me start by giving you your money back.”

 

“Oh yeah, that would be nice. Thank you.” Their cool demeanors were throwing me off. There is no way I would have been that nice if I would have had their experience in an overnight accommodation.

 

“Second of all, I'd like to offer each of you a meal on the house. You can have your choice of breakfast and I would gladly prepare it for you, free of charge.”

 

“Oh, no, that's okay, we already ate. We just wanted to let you know what was going on. It's nothing horrible, everything else was wonderful and we would definitely stay again if we are ever back on the island.” They were both walking out the door and I was still standing behind the cash register stunned.

 

“Are you sure, there is not something else I can do for you ladies?”

 

Just as quickly as they had came in, they were gone. They hadn't wanted to complain, only to inform. I was grateful for their positive attitudes and also that the roles hadn't been reversed. This was an example of a really bad situation handled well. I don't want to know what would have happened if a cranky customer would have had the same experience.

 

Later that day I was walking outside when I heard Matthew talking to an inanimate object. I went over to see what the fuss was and he explained it was the lawnmower again. When I asked him what was wrong with it, I got a full-length tour of the (insert slang term)-rigged unit.

 

“About three weeks ago the handlebar disconnected from the engine so it had to be wired to the bottom. Before that the throttle broke so it now has to be controlled by a pair of pliers that I craftily installed on the top portion of the motor. Now if you want to start the thing, you have to know what you're doing. The pull string no longer holds tightly so once you pull it out you have to wrap it carefully around the handle bars in order to keep the tension. Oh, and don't mess with the duct tape on the bottom or else the machine won't work properly.”

 

Despite the mundane, low-budget fix-ups and mice-infested things I won't miss, there are definitely things about the island that I will miss...but that's another post.

Firey Women

Our second-to-last weekend at the property was a busy one. The regional fire council was hosting a “Firey Women” conference which was a two-day workshop for local women to learn bushfire safety. The ladies in charge were pleasant and charming. Yollana had been working with them for several months on all of the planning. I hadn't heard much about the event until the week before when Yollana forwarded an email and told me to make it happen. I spent several days organizing the menu, ordering food and planning out our work schedules for the weekend. We had only three volunteers (Maggie, Matthew and myself) and would be hosting an all day seminar for fifteen ladies who needed to be fed three times per day. We also needed to keep the cafe occupied and the cabins cleaned. It wasn't impossible, but it was a lot of work for one weekend crew.

 

The three of us were up early Friday morning. We spent all day cleaning the barn. The Barn is a huge closed in area built on to the cafe. It is where we host tour groups and large events. It is a beautiful space but because it is only used for special occasions, we don't clean it until we need to. The place is closed-in but we are in and out of it a lot, using it as a pass-through. Because of that there are sometimes birds and other residence who make the barn their own during the off-season.

 

Matthew spent all day alone just sweeping the floor and starting the fireplace. Maggie and I cleaned the tables and then moved inside where we filled water bins, counted plates, buttered bread and rolled silverware. The three of us stayed busy until six thirty, when the ladies in charge of the event arrived. We normally close the kitchen at four but they had made arrangements to eat dinner while setting up for the workshop.

 

The first thing the ladies said after introducing themselves, was that they would be using the cafe and not the barn. Apparently this had been discussed with Yollana but the information hadn't been passed along to me. Matthew, Maggie and I were only slightly dissapointed, as we realized we'd now be using the barn for cafe customers anyways.

 

After moving everything over to the cafe and making sure the ladies were content, we fed them dinner and closed up the shop. The next morning started at 7am. I opened the cafe and turned on the machines while Matthew lit a fire for the Firey Women. (haha)

 

Around 7:30 the leaders came and had their breakfast. From then on we were busy. We served tea and coffee for the group at 8 o'clock, followed by fresh-baked scones, muffins and fruit at 10am and for lunch we had chicken, cheese and ham sandwiches. At two in the afternoon the ladies had their afternoon tea which consisted of tea, of course, and also brownies with fresh whipped-cream.

 

In between serving we were constantly picking up dirty dishes and preparing the next meal. We also had customers in and out and an unending supply of washing to get done. This pace was kept for the entire two days that the ladies were here and when they were finished we were both relieved and proud of our hard work. We each received a fire-safety mug for being so efficient.

 

The hard work didn't stop just because the event was over. Sunday afternoon was spent picking up the mess and putting the cafe back together and just when we thought Monday would be relaxing, I received a phone call from Yollana saying she would be arriving on Wednesday. That spurred us into a tizzy of cleaning and organizing and finishing up any last minute projects we'd been avoiding. On top of everything else, we were anxious about having to share the hostel again, probably with more little kids and extra volunteers.

 

You can imagine the hyperactivity of our senses on Wednesday morning. We made sure everything was spic and span and ready for the general's inspection. It felt like I held my breath all morning until finally, a few hours after her arrival time, I called Yollana to see if she was going to make it. Her response to me, in a text, was: “Haley, I'm arriving on the 27th at 11am.”

 

I felt like an idiot.

 

I had complained multiple times about how hard it was for me to understand Aussies on the phone. This time it had really bit me in the behind. I was really afraid Maggie and Matthew were going to kick me in the behind as well. Fortunately they were understanding and let me off the hook. I think we were all mostly relieved that we didn't have to be on pins and needles for another week and even then it would only be for a 24-hour period.

 

Exhalation at its finest.

 

The rest of the week was spent keeping everything in order and preparing our things for our mass exodus to Adelaide. Tuesday morning we would set sail on a new adventure.

Let the Countdown Begin!

Maggie's request to stay a few extra days quickly turned into a few extra weeks. A few extra weeks turned into her staying the last month with us. Matthew and I were glad she did. When she had previously planned on leaving the three of us were upset we wouldn't get to travel together. We had all three created a really good group dynamic and though our timelines were different, we had the same destinations in mind. I guess sometimes bad things happen for good reasons. Since Maggie no longer had a job in Canberra to get to, she could relax and join in with us. It also didn't hurt that she had recently sold five designs and made a good chunk of travel change.

 

Originally, Matthew and I had planned on flying to Darwin, but since we had no deadline for our arrival we decided it would be much nicer to rent a car and drive up through the center of the country. We could see the outback and get a first-hand look at what the big middle was all about. For a few days we talked about renting or buying a car. Cars were cheap here but we still weren't keen on spending a thousand each. Then we noticed Maggie was thinking about selling her car. We pondered a few days on the idea of buying it from her before we all came to the conclusion that the best idea was to all three drive to Darwin together. When we made it to Darwin, Maggie could take her car and Matthew and I could fly on to Bali without the worries of selling or parking a car. We would all three save month because the road trip was split three ways and we could camp out of the back of the car.

 

We let these plans rest until June 1st. For some reason that day was like a time bomb for us. We could begin the countdown and start finalizing our plans. Together the three of us sat down and studied the map. There was one highway that went from Adelaide to Darwin, the Stuart Highway. I did my part by creating a Pinterest board full of ideas for attractions, accomodations and travel tips. Matthew and Maggie firmed up the plans by sketching out a route and making note of the attractions I mentioned.

 

Maggie had actually driven the Stuart Highway before. Her and a friend had driven across the country from Cairns down the Stuart Highway to Adelaide. While she had seen most of the main attractions, there were a few things she hadn't seen on her original journey. Her experience came in handy too as she could tell us how much time we needed to a lot for each stop. We figured we could do the drive in a week; stopping to see what we wanted along the way. All of the travel blogs I had read said it was best to take short driving days with lots of rest in between. The outback was a desolate and dangerous area and it was not recommended to drive it without full attention and awareness. We would need to keep extra water and petrol on us at all times and driving at night was an absolute no-no.

 

After a while Matthew and Maggie explained to me that the trip would probably take two weeks instead of one. I was fine with two weeks, in fact I was relieved to hear that both Maggie and Matthew were going to be lax enough to spend two weeks traveling instead of just working. They were both workaholics and I sometimes I had to make sure they relaxed. I worked hard too, but compared to them I often felt like the lazy bum who painted too much.

 

While Matthew and Maggie talked supplies, I went and fetched the three of us some ice cream. Together, we sat at the kitchen table licking our pops and dreaming about our future after the Outback excursion.

 

Matthew and I wanted to spend a week in Bali before returning to Darwin for six weeks of work. In September his sister and our friend Jacob were planning on visiting Australia for a few weeks. Matthew and I discussed the possibility of driving from Cains to Byron Bay and then on to Fiji for a few days before the three of them would fly back to the states and I would figure it out.

 

I was thinking of flying back to Sydney and then on to Perth where I could then meet up with Maggie some time after. Maggie would be in New Zealand with her boyfriend but later wanted to meet up with me to explore Tasmania. Her and I discussed the idea of me flying home with her to Germany in December. It all sounded wonderful and it was nice to let ourselves dream and plan, but we kept in mind the first rule of backpacking: no planning ahead.

Our Top-Pick Replacements

On Saturday we showed around our third and final set of potential managers: Tanya and Shawn. Although we loved Vanessa and Aaron, I think Tanya and Shawn fit the property better in mindset and skillset. They were both very friendly and very down to earth and when Shawn suggested building a giant seal at the front of the property, we knew they were in. Matthew and I had both read books that warned Aussie's fascination with giant statues. All around the country there were giant attractions: a rocking horse, a dog, a shoe, a koala..the list goes on and on. Because Shawn and Tanya were very enthusiastic about making the place more family-oriented with ideas like this, we knew Yollana would be happy. Plus they had a daughter who did make-up and a son who was a chef so they were the perfect package for getting weddings started here (that was a big goal of Yollana's as well.)

Homemade Brownies!

Homemade Brownies!

 

Tanya manages corporate restaurants around Adelaide and Shawn does remodeling work. Both of their backgrounds were perfect for this place. It needed some long term TLC and stability and it sounded like these people were willing to give it that. After the tour we invited them for dinner at the hostel later that evening. We arranged for them to meet us at 6:30 and they promised to supply the beer if we supplied the food. Sure enough, at 6:30 Shawn and Tanya showed up with a box of Hans Ultra and a 6-pack of Coke Zero.

 

We welcomed them in and together the five of us chatted about all sorts of things. They asked us our travel plans and Maggie explained we were all three heading to Darwin in a few weeks. With Maggie's change of plans it turned out we could all travel together and save a lot of money. Tanya said Darwin was an excellent place to be this time of the year. Shawn mentioned a few places worth stopping at on the way and Tanya even went so far as to give us the names of businesses who would be hiring backpackers.

 

Perhaps the most interesting advice they gave us was that of dealing with aboriginals in the Northern Territory. Shawn said it wasn't unheard of for one of them to jump in front of your car stark naked. He warned that if this were to happen to us, the best thing to do was to run him over and keep driving. In response to Maggie and I's horrified looks, he explained further. Sometimes the packs will send one man out to stop the car and the second the window is rolled down, the rest of the men jump out of the bushes and jack your car. Matthew laughed at this. Maggie and I looked at each other, not sure what to think.

 

For dinner Maggie and Matthew had prepared roasted chicken legs and fresh vegetables and I prepared some homemade brownies. The meal was fantastic and the company was even better. Shawn and Tanya stayed until about 11:30. They had fit in like a glove and we were anxious to give our good review to Yollana. She'd be crazy not to hire these two!

Flinders Chase

The first time I ever heard about Kangaroo Island was back in March when Yollana interviewed us for the management job. I did a lot of research on the island before we came here. The internet told me it was a cool island with lots of boutique attractions to visit. The attractions all looked cool but the thing I most wanted to see was an area called Flinders Chase. It was on the west side of the island and had several natural attractions that just looked beautiful. I told Matthew that even if we were only on the island for the one month trial period, I would make a point to see Flinders Chase.

Flinders Chase, Kangaroo Island, Australia

Flinders Chase, Kangaroo Island, Australia

 

How ironic it was then, that Flinders Chase was the last attraction I saw. I almost went with Alex and Yollana once, but they decided Julianne should take my place because she wasn't staying as long as I was. Maggie and Danny went one afternoon but I was working so I couldn't go. I had talked to Matthew about going but we were always watching the cafe or busy doing something. So you can imagine my excitement when Matthew and Maggie walked in the kitchen one day and told me I was going to Flinders Chase. It was Matthew's day off and Maggie had agreed to handle the cafe for the afternoon so we could go explore.

 

The drive from our property takes about an hour. The island terrain is different on the west side. There are more curves and hills than in our area. The drive was a chatty one. Matthew had been drinking coffee again so he started up his own conversation about being able to pul out people's imaginations by sticking his hand in their brain. This monologue was quite comical and made the drive go by faster.

 

When we arrived we first stopped at the gift shop so we could purchase our park passes. The gift shop was a beautiful modern building with a reception area and a complete cafe that had outdoor seating. I looked around at the trinkets they had for sale. It was pretty much the usual stuff; postcards, keychains and coloring books. I found stuffed koalas that were so cute I considered buying one, that was, until I looked at the price tag. Matthew and I continued looking around until we bumped into Sarah, the volunteer we had met at Wayne's party a few weeks earlier. She was very friendly and quick to explain that she was now volunteering with a local family who had chickens and a garden.

 

After chatting with Sarah we made our way to the front desk where we purchased our park passes. The woman who took our money was very friendly. She made the comment that everything on the island was much nicer during the off-season because there were no tourists to compete with. She handed us a paper map and highlighted the suggested route for us to take. We were to head south until we saw the road leading to the Remarkable Rocks. That would be our first stop.

Remarkable Rocks, Kangaroo Island, Australia

Remarkable Rocks, Kangaroo Island, Australia

 

The hype in my mind from months of waiting for this was exceeded by the hype of actually seeing the rocks. They were every bit as cool as I had imagined. In fact, they were twice as cool as the pictures and articles had let on. In front of us lay a huge pile of the weirdest looking boulders I had ever seen. At first we were timid. We approached the attraction slowly, taking lots of pictures and soaking in the beauty of it. After a few minutes, we realized the rocks were climbable and there were only two other people in the whole area. Matthew had brought his GoPro camera and he wanted to use it. Immediately he ran and jumped on a rock and climbed to the top of it. I took several pictures before we switched places. I chose another rock that looked like a recliner. We ran around and under the rocks for a solid hour—taking pictures and making funny poses. We got a kick out of the “No Access” signs around the perimeter of the rocks. The sign said if we went passed the signs we could potentially fall off the side of the mountain. We took that as a challenge for some awesome photos.

We like to live life on the edge...

We like to live life on the edge...

 

Another rock looked like a giant nose. I held on to the center piece and claimed I was a giant septum piercing. Matthew said my green shirt made me look more like a booger. I felt like a little kid on a playground with no grown-ups around to stop the fun. By the end we were sweaty and exhausted from all of our running around. With a camera full of photos, and a group of tourists approaching, we decided to head out for the next attraction. But first, we had to play a trick. Matthew stopped and bent over a small patch of dirt on the ground. Following his lead, I did the same. We both pulled out our cameras and starting making remarks about how cool this “thing” was. The plan worked because within minutes the group of tourists were surrounding us with their cameras, taking pictures of a non-existent attraction. Matthew and I walked off before having a really good laugh at the experiment.

The picture quality didn't turn out that well but it's still a funny pose!

The picture quality didn't turn out that well but it's still a funny pose!

 

Our next stop was a beautiful lighthouse. We took a few pictures and then drove on down the road. We had seen lighthouses before and this one was locked so you couldn't even go to the top. Traveling further south, we made it to the other big stopping spot, Admiral's Arch. Admiral's Arch was a natural cove full of sea lions and massive waves. The sea lions here were a different bread from the ones we had seen at Seal Bay. First we walked over the arch and then we took a path that led us right up under it. The view was remarkable, and it was close to sunset so it was even prettier. We saw a few baby sea lions up close and watched for a while as they swam and played in the waves. The arch was definitely worth driving too. It was exquisite and unique. After taking lots of pictures and soaking in the sea air, we noted the setting sun and decided we needed to get back to the property. 

Matthew posing inside Admiral's Arch.

Matthew posing inside Admiral's Arch.

Movies

During our three months at KI, we watched a lot of movies. It was our choice of evening leisure. I think we all looked forward to the end of the day when we could change into our comfy clothes, sit around the fire and watch a good flick. We had to flop between guy movies and chick flicks but normally we tried to choose a neutral movie that everyone would enjoy.

 

We watched children movies like Minions, Big Hero Six and Monster's Inc. We watched movies we'd seen a thousand times like Pitch Perfect, Blind Side and Wedding Crashers. There were new movies like Ant Man and Divergent 2 and there were old movies like Breakfast Club. One crazy night we watched Wanderlust, Age of Adeline and Zack and Miri Make a Porno. I was the only one that noticed that we had watched 6 hours of movies.

 

When Matthew found an American classic at the library he rented it. Maggie had never seen the film but Matthew and I assured her it was hilarious. The movie was Napoleon Dynamite and Maggie hated it, even after we explained the brainless humor.

 

We watched a few educational movies as well. Frost vs. Nixon was a good one about the Watergate scandal and Richard Nixon. Another good one was the Nelson Mandela story. We learned about his personal life and the struggles he went through to gain peace in South Africa. We also enjoyed watching the DVDs of an Australian television series called “Jillaroo.” It was about five urban women who moved to a ranch and learned how to be Australian cowgirls. It inspired me so much that I wrote a whole blog post on it.

 

One of my favorite educational movie series was a History Channel film called, “The Men Who Built America.” Each episode included stories of several American moguls who helped shape America after the civil war. We started with Vanderbilt and his railroad monopoly then moved into John D. Rockefeller and his Standard Oil venture, followed by Andrew Carnegie and his feat with steel and J.P. Morgan investing in Edison's electric lightbulb. The series ended with the fall of monopoly and the introduction of Henry Ford's automobile for the masses.

 

I loved the series because it really capitalized on the American entrepreneur. Each man had moments of insight and courage. I thought about the creativity it took to move past the present and how awesome these men were for bravely doing just that. The economy and business structure is completely different world than it was back then, but the base principles remain the same. If you have an idea and the aspiration behind it, you can make it happen in America.

 

At times I wondered if our television watching was pointless, like it was turning our brain into mush like mom said it would. But then there are times when I remember the good in movies. The feeling you get at the end reminds you that everything is going to be okay. That deep down you will always know what's right, what's true, what's important. And then for a brief second you can exhale, because the problem has been resolved.

 

Life on Kangaroo Island was kind of like that; like the feeling at the end of a good movie. Life was pure and simple and reminded you of what was important. Not the money, not the stuff, not even the make up or the clothes, just being. Being is the most important thing you can learn. Being yourself and loving those surrounding you in the present. No one is promised tomorrow and you never know when your time to leave the island and start a new journey will come. You have to pour into people as much as the current situation allows. It's now or never, truly.  

Ups and Downs

Life has it's way of ups and downs. There was a three day period when everything seemed to be going wrong. It started with a double-whammy of complaints. The first one came by email. A couple who had stayed in the cabins last week, sent a complaint email with a detailed list of all the cabin's flaws. Everything from cleanliness to plumbing and from pots without lids to a handicap ramp that didn't seem wide enough if they had needed to use it.

 

These kinds of emails are always disheartening. With a complete staff of three backpacker volunteers, we tried our absolute best to make both the cafe and the cabins a place of comfort and luxury. We cleaned more than we were instructed and we took great care in keeping our customers happy and relaxed. When complaints come it can feel like a harsh blow to your self-esteem. It's hard not to take it personal when you and two others are the only ones to blame. It's even harder when you personally interacted with the customers who have complains.

 

This particular couple had seemed happy while they were here. They asked about our travel plans and even had a long conversation about fishing with Matthew. We spoke to them each day they were here and they always seemed please with their service. Unfortunately, the email said otherwise.

 

After finishing my reply to the email I walked over to the cafe to pick up some dirty dishes. That's when I found the second complaint. I looked down at an empty table. There sat an entire plate of untouched pasta with a nicely written note on top. “This is not up to acceptable edible standards.”

 

The next day of bad juju involved Maggie. She had accepted a position working on a ski resort outside of Canberra. She had filled out the paperwork and agreed to start work on June 1. In just a short few days she would be loading the ferry and heading northeast across the mainland. I'd watched her clean her car and prepare for her departure. Everything was a go until she received an unexpected phone call one day. It was the ski resort. They had over-staffed and it turned out they didn't need her. Maggie's spirit was crushed. All her planning and dreaming had dissapeared and now she had to start over again at ground zero.

 

I tried my best to comfort Maggie with words but times like this called for more than just words. We both needed something positive to focus on; something to lift the mood. I told Maggie it was time for us to talk about Bali. Matthew and I had been talking about doing a week in Bali before beginning our second stint of work on the north coast. Maggie had been to Bali three times so she was a wealth of information. I figured this would give us something to do. Trip planning always gave me a sense of purpose. It was fun and it gave me something to look forward to.

 

I was right. Both Maggie and I's spirits were lifted as soon as we opened our laptops. She showed me pictures of her first trip to Bali in 2010 and told me all the places I needed to visit. I took careful notes. We then read through a long message Matthew had received from a friend of a friend. Her name was Megan and she had all sorts of recommendations for Bali as well. I found a few articles on Pinterest with good ideas so Maggie and I wrote them down too.

 

After all of our research I broke out the highlighters and categorized the attractions by area. I figured we could hit Bali by staying two nights each in three different regions. Matthew walked in as I was saying this. He looked at our notebooks, the highlighters, the open computers with maps and itineraries and articles and then said, “This looks incredibly complicated” before walking away.

 

For dinner I made kangaroo enchiladas and they were amazing! We finished the whole plate and nearly licked the bottom of the pan. I was pretty impressed with myself. I couldn't remember if I'd even made enchiladas before. That was a positive!

 

 

The next day we had another downer. There was a great thai restaurant I had heard about. It was supposed to be the cool local spot and it was open every Thursday with live music. I had researched the place and made plans with Maggie and Matthew to make it happen. We spruced ourselves up, jumped in the car, drove forty-five minutes up the road and then found out the place was closed due to a new baby.

 

The third and final downer happened the following day. Maggie and I were around the kitchen making dinner when all of a sudden the electricity went off. The entire hostel was dark. Matthew flipped breakers and jiggled handles but nothing worked. We put extra logs on the fire and stayed up till 2am talking and laughing. Maybe that negative turned into a positive as well.

 

The next we had to close the cafe until the electricity was fixed. All of our water and machines were electric and without them we couldn't do much at all. Eventually the power came back on just in time for closing. We had worked hard cleaning and painting and we were all exhausted from our work.

 

To cheer us up, Matthew came up with the idea to go to Parndarna to the pub. Maggie and I thought it sounded good so we jumped in the car and went. The fire was hot and the music was playing at Parndarna. There were a few older gentlemen sitting quietly with newspapers so the rest of the place was ours. Matthew challenged me to a game of ping pong and before long we had a full blown tournament. Matthew beat me, I beat Maggie and then I lost the championship round to Matthew. We gave him the title of May Pong Champion but warned him about the rematch coming in June.

 

For dinner Maggie taught me how to make sushi and then the three of us watched Jillaroo, the other movie we had borrowed from the library. It was an Aussie tv show about several women who learned to work on a farm. The show left us all inspired and ready to do ranch work. More about that here...

Interviewing Managers

When Matthew and I agreed to stay an extra two months on the property, the deal was that Yollana would continue looking for new managers during those months. On three seperate occasions we entertained prospective managers and showed them around the property. Our first couple was here just over 48 hours and we saw them a total of five minutes. We politely gave our feedback to Yollana and waited for the next prospective couple to arrive.

 

Vaness and Aaron showed up at our hostel doorstep around 6 o'clock one evening. We only spoke with them for about five minutes but instantly all three of us liked them. They seemed eager and friendly plus they mentioned they had a dog with them.

 

At 10am the following morning Matthew and I gave them the grand tour of the property while Maggie tended to the cafe. We toured them around together and then split up; Vanessa and I talked marketing while Matthew and Aaron talked plumbing and maintenance. Talking to Vanessa was very easy. We had similar ideas about what the place needed and she had an impressive background in restaurants and hospitality, something that I thought perfect for the job. I asked if her and Aaron would be here long term and she said they already planned to move to the island. They were looking for something like this to get them out of the city and into a slower pace of life. I told her she had come to the right place.

 

I led Vanessa into the cafe and showed her the bar. We spent fifteen minutes talking about the arrangement behind the bar and how something as simple as that could increase sales. We also discussed the natural flow of ordering and eating. Her and I agreed that everything would flow much nicer if the kitchen were behind the bar instead of in a totally separate building. We talked about the marketability of wifi and how it could increase sales as well. We also talked about events and the profit margin on liquor. Her and I were on the same page with everything so far.

 

At one point we went into the cafe kitchen and looked at the menu. I told her my ideas for fresh, local, organic options and she agreed whole-heartedly. She even took off with my ideas and came up with even better ones. She had dozens of simple but brilliant recipes for how to construct an entire menu based on fresh, local options. Maggie joined in with her own ideas in between customers. Together they could have designed a really beautiful menu in less than an hour.

 

Eventually the guys joined back up with us and together we all four threw around some ideas. Matthew looked at Vanessa and then looked at me and said he felt like he had de ja vu watching us. Everything Vanessa was saying was stuff I had been ranting about for months. He and Aaron agreed that they didn't understand the industry that well but they knew Vanessa and I had the right ideas.

 

If I were Yollana I would have hired them on the spot. They were perfect. We loved them so much that Matthew invited them over for dinner. What would we feed them? I wondered out loud.

 

“Snags and potatoes, of course!” was Matthew's answer. That seemed to be the typical dinner party meal from our experiences. It was perfect. I offered to do the mashed potatoes and Matthew said he'd do the snags and veggies. We decided we could probably sweet talk Maggie into making some kind of delicious side salad as well.

Yummy Australian sausages (Snags)

Yummy Australian sausages (Snags)

 

When we went inside to the office we found Maggie stressing over her freelance work. She fretted before asking us if it would be okay for her to stay an extra two days.

 

Before the words left her mouth Matthew and I both interrupted her with a resounding “Yes.” She asked if we were sure and we again echoed “yes!” She then agreed to make our salad before we gave her big obnoxious hugs.

 

After closing the shop it was still warm and sunny out. We hadn't had a nice day like this in a while so Matthew and I took the opportunity to play with the kickball. We pegged each other with it and then threw it as high in the air as we could. We would occasionally stop and feel guilty for not helping Maggie clean up but she assured us we had worked our fair of the shift today and said she didn't mind doing the clean-up.

 

When the sun went down we put on MTV and drank goon while we cooked dinner. Maggie showed us some of her magnificent dance moves and I laughed and watched with pleasure. Matthew popped us both with his towel and together we had great fun.

 

Around 6:45 Vanessa and Aaron showed up. The guys drank beer in the kitchen while us girls talked in the lounge room. We discussed Gogglebox, the Aussie TV show we all watched the week before and when we heard the guys talking about guns we discussed our view on that as well. I learned that Aussies can own guns they just have to be registered and per strict requirements such as land owning and what not.

 

Vanessa said her and Aaron wanted to purchase some 140 acres on the north coast near Emu Bay. They'd like to work here and own land there; eventually starting a business or something up north as well.

 

The two of them had been traveling since the first of March and were ready to start working sometime in the next few months. I couldn't imagine Americans doing anything like that. Aussies were definitely big on travel and caravans. Aaron and Vanessa had bought a 4-wheel drive land-rover and were driving across the country staying in free camp sites or caravan parks. They had visited both families and were all over the south region.

 

They had been living in a town near Albany. Port Campbell, I believe. I thought it was interesting that they mentioned Albany because just this morning I had messaged a girl about volunteering in June and she said she was currently in Albany. I knew she couldn't mean New York so I had to google the place to find out where it was. It was just off the south coast of Australia—west of KI. The place looked cool and hearing Vanessa talk about it made me really want to go. In fact I thought it would be amazing to buy Maggie's car and drive from Adelaide to Perth by Albany and the south coast. Only time would tell..

Kangaroo Island Wildlife

Thursday was a good day. The three of us must have woke up with motivation because we decided it was a good day to deep clean the hostel. Maggie turned on MTV and the three of us danced and sang along while we cleaned.

 

Around noon a guy from Raptor Domain showed up with a huge white bird. Raptor Domain is a bird, spider and snake show located just across the road from us. When I saw the bird I went out to greet him and the man. The guy explained that this was a Whitebellied Sea Eagle. His name was Mericai.

 

I smiled and repeated the name. “Merica!”

 

“No, no, not Merica, Mericai. but he is related to the American Eagle.

 

He was a nervous bird. The man told me Mericai didn't like women for some reason. They were preparing Mericai for a show in Kingscote. He had never ridden in a car before so this was his test to ride in a car across the street. We told him we were glad we could provide a roadtrip for Mericai and Maggie took photos of him too.

Mericai and his buddy.

Mericai and his buddy.

 

During our lunch break Matthew and I talked politics. Oklahoma was making abortion completely illegal in 5 days. Hilary insulted Trump by saying he didn't meet the requirements to be president. Matthew and I disagreed. He was right-middle and thats what we needed. We also disccussed the upcoming Liquor by the Drink election going on in Tillman County.

 

After work Maggie and I went on another adventure. This time to the Parndana Wildlife Park, just a few minutes up the road. We had heard you could hold a koala at this location and that was 90% of why we were going.

 

When we arrived it was late in the day and it seemed as though we were the only visitors in the park. Fortunately the staff were very friendly. We chatted with them quite a bit while holding Blue, the park Koala, and then followed them to watch the baby penguins get fed. Blue was a nice Koala who had been raised in the park. Most koalas are wild and can do some serious damage to people trying to hold them. It was a very unique experience to hold Blue. He was soft and cuddle and quite heavy. He weighed about 10 kilos, which is close to 20 pounds! The funnest part was watching him eat the gum leaves. The staff was handing him twigs of leaves. In between bites he would stop and look around. The staffers explained that koalas can't do two things at once. What we were seeing was blue listening, and then eating; two separate actions. How simple koalas are!

 

Next we watched the staff feed pelicans and then baby penguins. While they fed the birds they told us the story of each animal. One pelican was from Adelaide. He had wound up in a park by some chance and got used to people feeding him. The locals tried to put him at sea but he was too used to being fed by humans so he almost starved. The park took him in so he could survive in an environment that included humans feeding him fish daily.

 

The other Pelican had M shaped wings. That's because one night during a storm he flew into an electrical wire and messed up his wings so he couldn't fly anymore. He was from Kingscote.

Baby Penguins have a natural habitat on Kangaroo Island.  They're adorable!

Baby Penguins have a natural habitat on Kangaroo Island.  They're adorable!

 

The penguins were born inside the park as part of the penguin breeding program. They are called “little Penguins” and can be found wild in Kingscote or Penneshaw but not on the western side of the island. This is because they are a big part of the diet for sea lions and Ferrell cats. When the sea lion population goes up, the penguin population decreases and when the penguin population increases, the sea lion population decreases.

 

I thought how funny it was, this park full of animals of all backgrounds, kind of like a hostel full of backpackers. The pelican from Adelaide, the naive penguins who were born in the park, and the M shaped Pelican who had at one time actually been wild... I bet they had fascinating discussed at night when the humans left.

 

Next we feed kangaroos and wallabies with our hands. I was kind of frightened at first because I had been warned so many times not to mess with kangaroos, but after watching Maggie feed them with no bites or scratches, I gave it a go. The roos were so tame and gentle! They hopped right up to me and stood politely waiting for me to feed them. Well, not all of them were polite. One guy got a little impatient and pushed on my hand so I would hurry up and feed him. That gave Maggie and I a good chuckle. For the most part the roos nibbled the food gently out of my hands. Sometimes they'd even put their paw on my hand like a dog would do. That was really cool.

Me feeding a kangaroo!

Me feeding a kangaroo!

 

We saw everything at the park. Snakes, spiders, peacocks, parrots and even a wombat—he was huge! We saw something called a Quakko and also albino wallabies and roos!

 

I enjoyed seeing a kookaburra up close because it was the very bird that was on the necklace Wayne had given me. The baby koalas were adorable and we even saw a live crocodile!

 

It's hard to say what the highlight of the trip was, but I did thoroughly enjoy a double scoop of cookies and cream ice cream when it was all over. I hadn't had flavored ice cream in a few months and the cookies just made for the perfect end to a good day!

Pierre Leaves

Matthew and I opened the cafe but there were no customers at all, so we played outside. We watched Kyle, the Koala for a long time. Then played on the massive wagon wheels out front.  We had a contest to see who could balance the longest.  Eventually Maggie came out to see what all the fuss was about.  It was sunny and warm and I think we all wanted to enjoy it.  At some point Matthew dared me to do a back-handspring and Maggie caught it on film. That made for some cool pictures!

Working hard or hardly working?

Working hard or hardly working?

 

At 2 o'clock Matthew, Pierre and I went to town.  It was Pierre's last day and he needed to catch the five o'clock bus in Kingscote.  Before leaving him at the bus stop, he joined us for our weekly errands.  We bought a tartar sauce bottle then went to the library to return a movie for Yollana. We ended up getting two movies of our own. Frost/Nixon and Jillaroo School, an aussie tv series. In order to check out the movies I had to register for a library card.  As I read through the form I commented on the part about parental consent.  The lady behind the desk said if I was old enough to travel, I didn't need parental consent. I laughed and thought about having to call my parents to ask for permission to get a library card.

 

After the library we went to the post office where I mailed four postcards.  It cost twelve dollars. Next, we went to the bank, the bottle shop and the grocery store.  When we finished all that it was 4:30 so we dropped Pierre off at the bus station. He had just purchased a beer so Matthew and I sat on the curb with him while he drank his last beer with us.

Pierre had been a good worker and good company too.  I think Matthew was going to miss having another guy around.  We gave hugs and good wishes and then headed back to the property.  

 

On the way home I told Matthew the story about getting my oil changed in Altus and not getting the oil put back in.  I left the shop and made it a half block before my car warned me it was going to explode.  When I returned to the dealership the mechanic realized his mistake and offered me a free oil change.  My dad was pretty upset with that mechanic when I told him what happened.  

 

We came home to Maggie working on her design work. Matthew made stir fry and together the three of us ate our dinner in the lounge room.  We had lost another volunteer and now we were down to three.  Maggie would be around another week and then it would be just two of us.  We commented on how much quieter it gets with each deduction of the group.

After dinner I put in the Frost/Nixon movie.  We all really enjoyed the movie.  So much, in fact, that afterwards we looked up details on Watergate and talked about how that compared to current day political scams, such as Hillary Clinton's.

Of Mice and Men

It's no secret that in a rural area like this, you're going to deal with mice. I would have had the same problem back home except I chose to get lots of cats. Grandma always said she'd rather by cat food than deal with mice. I agree. Perhaps that's why my first question upon hearing about the mice was, “Why not get a cat?” It was explained to me that cats are not welcome in Australia.

 

Wikipedia puts it this way: “Cats are kept as pets in Australia and are also one of the major invasive species that are causing detrimental effects to indigenous wildlife. For biosecurity reasons any cats that are imported into Australia must meet conditions set by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.

 

After I thought about it, I haven't seen one cat since I have been in Australia. It makes sense. But if there are no cats to catch the mice then the duty falls to humans and that is not necessarily an easy job.

 

In April Alex saw a mouse run across the bottom shelf in the cafe kitchen. My former restaurant instincts told me to pack my bags and work somewhere else. I had never worked in a kitchen with unwanted critters but I knew what happened to restaurants with such. I don't know the laws in Australia but if a health inspector in America finds out you have a mouse you'd be shut down immediately. Maybe the rules are bent for cafes on the island since it was rural. Regardless of the laws, Alex and I had Matthew put a mouse trap on the bottom shelf to catch the mouse. Within ten minutes we had our victim. Matthew emptied the trap and set it again. A few hours later we had another victim. This went on for about a week. In all we caught around six mice.

 

The next week I was in the dry storage room and I saw a mouse run across the floor. I told Matthew in hopes that he would set another trap but he said I needed to learn how to do it myself. A battle of stubbornness lasted for 24 hours before I decided I'd rather not have mice running around the canned food. I got out one of the traps we had bought with Yollana and I read the instructions on the box. It was simple enough. Put a small dab of peanut butter on the wire thingy and then pull back the other wire and set it down. I sat the trap and told Matthew how heroic I was; sacrificing myself for the good of the cafe.

 

The next morning when we opened I saw a tail hanging out of my trap. It felt good to know I had done my part to fumigate the place. When I showed Matthew my success he nodded and told me to dispose of it. I begged and pleaded and argued but Matthew was once again more stubborn than I thought. The next day I went in with plastic gloves and a distant mind. It was all in my head, I told myself. I grabbed the trap and held it in front of me while looking behind me. I walked a hundred meters behind the barn and then slowly pulled the wire back. I flinched when I watched the corpse slide off the tray. It was pretty gross but once again I felt good for doing something I didn't want to do. I had overcome my fears...well, sort of.

 

A month later all of us volunteers were having a cozy night in the lounge room. The fire was hot and our tea was fresh. I was in my pajamas and thoroughly enjoying a good movie. The movie was so good and so intense that I didn't want to leave for a restroom break. I held it and held it until I finally couldn't hold it anymore. I didn't want to miss anything, but I couldn't wait. I rolled back the door and ran as fast as I could to the toilet, untieing my pajama pants as I went. When I got to the toilet I shut the door, lifted the lid and sat down as quick as I could. As soon as my pants hit the floor I saw it. Panic went all over my body and I screamed like I had never screamed before. I didn't even know my voice could still go that high. I hopped back and forth on my feet, trying to both pull up my pants and open the door at the same time. Meanwhile Stuart Little is freaking out as much as I am. He's running back and forth from one side of the wall to the other, looking for a way out. I screamed and screamed and felt chills run all over my body as my heart pounded on my chest like it wanted out too. Seconds seemed like eternity but I finally got the door open. The mouse scurried off around the corner and I ran out into the hall, holding my pants up with one hand and holding my chest with the other. I was breathing heavy and I felt adrenaline surging through my blood. I looked to my right and saw all of the others had came to see what was wrong. Their eyes were wide and they looked concerned.

 

“There was a mouse in the bathroom with me.” I was frowning and I hoped tears wouldn't fall, though I could feel them trying to form.

 

“That's it?” Pierre put up his hands and walked off. Maggie's entire body relaxed and she smiled at me. Matthew was already back in the lounge room, laughing loudly. I let my breathing steady out before going back to the lounge room. Everyone laughed and told me I was a bit dramatic. I tried to explain how scary it was but the group made a good point: it was a mouse, it couldn't hurt me. They are more afraid of me than I am of them. I took those words to heart and tried to continuously remind myself that it was a mind game. From then on I felt more brave about facing the enemy.

 

The very next day I had to conquer my fears again. I opened the door the cafe kitchen and watched calmly as one ran across the countertop, not two feet in front of me. I winced, swallowed my disgust and kept moving. I earned a point.

 

The day after that I was wiping down tables at the end of the day when I saw something wiggling through the cracks of the wooden table. I was again about two feet away. I watched as a little rump squirmed back and forth, waving like a flag between the cracks before contracting and then sliding through to the other side. I didn't even shiver. I only thought, “ew.” Mice-1, Haley-2

 

Perhaps the biggest test was the furry friend in our bedroom. I first noticed him one night while I was sitting in bed writing, waiting for Matthew to finish brushing his teeth and turn the light off. I saw something move out of the corner of my eye. I looked past the top of my laptop and saw a little mammal coming out of a small hole in the floor near the door. He looked at me and I knew he had to be fearful. I looked back at him, making sure he couldn't smell fear on me. If mice were like dogs I didn't want to give away my weakness. For several seconds we sat there, me and the mouse, staring back at one another. Neither of us knew what to do. We were both trying to be brave, but cautious. Finally the mouse withdrew back into his hole. I eyed his hole carefully as I continued to type about my day. When Matthew came in the room I told him we needed a trap by the door.

 

Our bedroom trapped killed three mice in three hours. Then it killed two more the next day. We had killed a total of five mice in our bedroom. I guess that's why I started having restless dreams about mice. One consisted of two mice cuddling next to my head on my pillow. Another consisted of them running all around my body while I slept.

 

Perhaps the most intricate dream was somewhat like the movie Ratatouille. I pictured hundreds of mice running all over my bed. They were sewing dresses, making coffee, dancing and celebrating. They moved all around my sleeping body with ease. The ones who drank coffee moved faster and faster until they looked like cocaine addicts. I woke up to that one with chills.

 

One night after we turned off the lights I layed in my bunk thinking.

 

“Hey Matthew..”

 

“Huh.”

 

“Do you think the mice would crawl under my covers if they got cold?”

 

“No. Absolutely not.”

 

“Why not?”

 

“Because they won't. I told you, they are more scared of you than you are of them.”

 

He then joked about them crawling up in my sheets and cuddling with me. I laughed and tried again to keep mind over matter. I still wondered about them crawling up the posts of my bed and sleeping with me, but I didn't want to think about it in the dark of the night.

 

All of this has been ongoing for the past few months. The colder it gets, the more guests we accumulate. For the past few weeks I had noticing something else. Every morning when I think about my options for breakfast I do the same thing. I look at the toaster first, then the fridge, then the eggs and finally the pantry. One morning when I looked at the toaster I noticed there were a lot of black crumbs around the counter near it. I looked closer and realized the black crumbs were not crumbs. They were something much dirtier than crumbs. I looked around the counter and saw no food laying out so I gathered that they were eating bread crumbs in or around the toaster. I thought about how many times I had put toast in that toaster without even thinking. I bet every night they were squeezing themselves inside and having a feast. So I washed the toaster, disinfected the counter and opted for yogurt.

 

The next day I saw the same thing. I washed and disinfected and ate yogurt.

 

The day after that was another repeat. I showed Pierre and he shrugged. Matthew put a trap in the pantry on the floor, which never brought any carcasses. We didn't want to put a trap on the counter but we also couldn't find the place where they were crawling up on to the counter. One side of the counter led to the wall and the other side led to the fridge. On the other side of the fridge there was a door leading into the hallway. With no solution we continued to set the trap in the pantry and we became more careful about wrapping and putting away food.

 

The same phenomenon was going on in the cafe kitchen. The droppings were showing up more often. One day we forgot to put up the bread box and the next morning there were “black crumbs” all over the inside of it. Some days there would be no crumbs on the counter, no bread, nothing edible at all left out, yet I would still walk in to find lots of black crumbs.

 

Last week I had the boys buy more traps. Pierre sat one in the walk-in fridge, one in the cafe and one in the dry storage area. I watched them everyday for a week but saw no success.

 

This morning was the motherload, though. When going through my breakfast routine I noticed an ungodly amount of black crumbs on the counter next to the toaster. The only thing left out was a brand new kilo of butter, fully wrapped in paper. We hadn't even touched it since bring it back from the store because it was wrapped. I didn't think mice wanted anything with butter so I looked around behind it and figured it must be the toaster crumbs again. I picked up the butter so I could wipe off the counter and that's when I saw it. There was a huge chunk missing from the side of the butter. The paper was torn and there were tiny teeth marks all around it. I looked on the other side and saw more droppings stuck to the wrapper. Around that time Maggie walked in and I showed her. We were equally grossed out. When Matthew came into the kitchen I watched his face melt in disgust as well. He threw away the entire block and told me to order another one.

 

After my breakfast of cereal I walked across the parking lot to open the cafe. I opened the walk-in fridge and once again saw no carcass in the trap. I grabbed the breadbox and walked towards the cafe kitchen. I looked in the box and found a bag of sandwich bread and a bag of hotdog buns. lots of droppings. How could this be when the box was locked up in the walk-in fridge all night? I also couldn't understand why there would be droppings when there were no crumbs outside of the bags. What had they ate? I looked closer and saw a huge chunk of hot dog bun missing. The bag had the same bite marks on it that I had seen on the butter. I walked back to the hostel to show Matthew and Maggie.

 

“This means war.” I was not only disgusted but tired of dealing with these pests. We didn't have the inventory to keep throwing away good food like this. The traps weren't working. Something needed to happen.

 

“It's poison time.” Matthew shook his head as he lifted his cup of coffee to his face. We had put off using poison because we didn't want to find dead mice all over the cafe and kitchen but enough was enough, these guys were overstaying their welcome.

 

That afternoon Matthew put down blue squares of poison all over the place; our bedroom, the hostel kitchen, the cafe kitchen, dry storage and the walk-in fridge. Each time I walked in our room I was delighted to find the cube getting smaller and smaller. I don't know what the poison companies put in their cubes but it must be something that tastes good to the mice because they were eating it like butter.

 

That night I thought I would sleep well knowing that the mice were on their way to death row. Unfortunately, I was wrong. My first three hours of sleep were fitful. I kept feeling itchy as if something were touching me. Every time I woke up I checked my sheets and every time they were rodent free. Then I woke up because I heard noises, a few different noises that sounded like scurrying and tails hitting wood. I grabbed my phone and shined it around the room. Sure enough there were three mice running around the room wildly. Shivers went down my back and I let out a whimper.

 

“Ewwww..they're running around the room!” I said out loud. Matthew rolled over and asked me what I was talking about. “The mice! There's more than one! They are running around.” I was breathing heavy and tears were swelling up in my eyes.

 

“Well, that's what mice do.” Matthew obviously wasn't too worried about it.

 

“I know, that's why I can't sleep. What if they crawl in my bed?” I am ashamed to admit that at this point I was full out whining in fear. I sounded like a five year old and if I cried I knew for fact that Matthew would call me a five year old. I couldn't help it. I was terrified that these little creatures were going to crawl up on my bed while I was sleeping and wiggle through my hair or my sheets.

 

“They won't crawl in bed with you.” He paused. “Well, they might.” I let out another whimper and then saw one of the mice shoot across the floor underneath a pillow Matthew had laid next to his bed. I pointed and told him but he didn't seem to care. He rolled over and went back to sleep.

 

I tried to calm myself down. It was only mice. They were more scared of me than I was of them. But if they were really more afraid of me then why weren't they respecting my personal space? I only wanted them to stay away from me and my things. I wish I could tell them that. When breathing and thinking didn't help calm me down I decided to full out pray.

 

Jesus please put your hedge of protection around me. Please, please, please don't let the mice touch me or my bed. Please keep me safe. Don't let them get on my bed. Keep me safe, Jesus. Amen.

 

Back home I would say a similar prayer before going to bed at night, only that prayer was that no one would break in my house. In comparison I felt silly, but prayers always gave me peace in fearful situations.

 

I did eventually calm down enough to lay my head on my pillow. The mice had left my mind but I found myself thinking about odd things for most of the night. I saw the sunrise peak through our bedroom window just before I fell asleep.

 

In the morning I woke up feeling very unrested. I walked into the kitchen and found Maggie and Matthew. They asked me about the mice and Matthew kidded me about being scared. It was all fun until later I found a whole tray of milk ruined from where the mice had cut through the cardboard and got inside. What was interesting is that of all our selections—full milk, skim milk and soy milk—they only attacked the soy milk. The boxes were all the same so I concluded that the mice are either hipster or vegan.

 

For the next two days I watched as each cube of poison slowly disappeared. While I waited for the poison to kick in I was curious if other islanders were having similar problems with the species so I posted a little something in a KI Facebook group. Within hours I had dozens of polarising answers. Apparently poison is highly discouraged on the island due to its effects on the wildlife around the area. Though most people voiced strong opinions against poison, there were one or two individuals who said it was hippy hogwash to think of poison as evil. I enjoyed reading the discussion though I dare not admit the sins we committed on our property. Once again my redneck side was coming out. How giddy I was at the thought of poisoning dozens of mice.

 

Despite the Facebook outrage against poison, the mice did disappear within the week. I started sleeping through the night again. I began to enter dark rooms without anxiety. I was even able to go barefoot for small amounts of time. Things were really looking up. Once again the humans proved victorious over an unwanted species. Thank God for rat poison.   

My Birthday!

On May 10, 2016 I turned 25 years old. I figured this will probably be the only birthday I spend on Kangaroo Island though you never know! My special day was full of modest celebration and kindness. I felt so blessed to be able to share my special day with three volunteer friends and the entire world of Facebook.

 

The night before I had tried to go to bed at eleven but Maggie and Pierre coaxed me into staying up until midnight for a small celebration. I'm glad I did because at midnight Maggie placed in front of me a wheat-bix with a candle in it while her and Pierre sang “Happy Birthday.” I felt special. We each had a small glass of white wine as a sentiment and then we talked about birthday wishes for a while before heading off to bed.

My midnight birthday party.

My midnight birthday party.

 

In the morning I woke up and went into the kitchen around nine. The others were all standing around chatting suspiciously. Maggie suddenly appeared with a big pink polka-dot gift bag. Warmness filled my entire body when she handed it to me. I was so humbled. I had already told myself that this would probably be a year without any presents. After all, I was on an island far away from the usual people who gave me gifts. Somehow Maggie and the boys had secretly gotten a few gifts together and even signed a card for me. I was so touched. The bought me a coloring book and pencils—my favorite! And also a small pink purse and some wonderful honey lotion that Maggie and I had sampled at the goat farm. I was ecstatic. The card was about dessert. They all wrote sweet things in beforehand so that while I was reading it they could joke about my love for food and sweets.

My sweet gifts!

My sweet gifts!

 

After my specialness limit had been reached everyone else went to work. I was fortunate enough to have the day off on my birthday so I painted, read my bible, thanked God, then colored in my new coloring book. Around noon I took a break from my coloring and baked my favorite birthday dish, a red velvet cake with cream cheese icing.

 

The cake went perfectly with my birthday request dinner. Real beef tacos and Corona. All four of us ate around the table and laughed and joked the entire time. It was everything a birthday dinner should be. Fun and tasty.

 

Afterwards we played rap music while Maggie and I danced around the kitchen. At one point Matthew let out a belch and Maggie yelled something and put her hand on her forehead. When the rest of us laughed she bopped us on the head. We didn't get it but we knew it was funny. Later she explained.

 

“In Germany we play this game. When someone burps you have to say “shultz” and then put your thumb on your forehead. The last one to do it gets thumped in the head.”

 

As you can probably guess, we spent the rest of the night burping and hitting each other in the head. We also played a more conventional game of cards too. The night ended with laughter and jokes, just as it should had.  

Wayne's World

Wayne's house was quite opposite of Graham's. He had a huge veranda that could easily host a small wedding. It was all wood and in the center there was a huge table that held all nine of us quite easily. Everyone else was already at the table chatting when we got there. Tonight there were new faces, though. We met Graham's volunteer replacement for Danny. She was a German girl named Sarah. Maggie instantly asked her questions about which part of Germany she was from but Sarah seemed to be less of a conversationalist than the rest of us.

 

We also met two of Graham's close friends from Kingscote. Archie, a middle-aged woman, and her daughter Linda. I suspected Linda to be in her late teens but was surprised to find out later that she was only twelve. The two of them were very pleasant and Archie won our affection when she told us she had made desert.

 

Eating at Wayne's felt like an unformal fancy dinner. (I know that is an oxy-moron, but hear me out.) First, Wayne made sure every guest had a full glass of wine to start with. He then brought out soup and served each of us a bowl. I had just tasted the soup when he brought out a cheese platter, followed shortly after by a vegetable platter. Maybe it was the huge table but I felt quite mature to be at this dinner. On the other hand, the reality was we were outside in the cold and I was starting to shiver.

We had to take two pictures, one with me in and and one with Maggie in it.  

We had to take two pictures, one with me in and and one with Maggie in it.  

 

Being the hunger-driven volunteers that we are, our side of the table didn't feel full after one bowl of soup so we dove into the cheese and veg trays. I was trying to be polite but I was ravenous and I feared the soup wouldn't stay with me until breakfast. Thankfully, I watched as my piers also took seconds and thirds on the veg trays. I did likewise until Wayne came out with a new pot of something. How sily we all felt when we realized this was a several course meal and soup was only the beginning. I then feared I might have ate too much soup. If this went on very long I'd have to pace myself to survive. It seems like the other volunteers had the same realization, because after that we all took small portions and denied seconds.

waynesworld

 

The second dish Wayne served us was a type of gulosh. It consisted of carrots, several types of beans and a thick tomato sauce. Before I could finish my serving Wayne had refilled our wine glasses and placed palette cleansers in front of us. To be honest, the palette cleansers were one of my favorite parts. One bowl contained cashews and pistashios and the other was mixed dry fruit. The dry fruit was unlike what I had previously had in America. I asked him what types of fruits were in but he said he didn't know because it was storebought. There were definitely different flavors besides the regular raisins and cranberries that seemed to be so popular back home.

 

Round three was very nice. Our bowls were taken away and replaced with plates full of a linguine mixture of bacon, prawn and cream-style corn. The corn really brought a nice pop of flavor to the pasta. There was a light olive oil and garlic butter sauce on top that made for a really nice dish.

 

This time Graham refilled all of our wine glasses while Matthew and Pierre went to the kitchen to help Wayne with the next course. In the meantime the women stayed at the table chatting about this and that.

 

“How do you know Grahams?” Maggie asked Archie

 

“We go way back. I used to work for him about fifteen years ago, then he helped me get a job in Kingscote. My daughter and I live there now and Graham and I have remained close friends. We try to visit each other every few weeks or so.”

 

Archie was a pleasant woman with krimpy hair and glasses that matched Grahams. She had been mostly quiet throughout the meal, sharing an occaisional private laugh with Graham. Throughout the meal she had a smile on her face and she seemed to really enjoy listening to those of us who chatter more than she.

 

Next we quizzed Sarah.

 

“When did you start working with Graham?”

 

“I arrive yesterday and worked the evening and today we worked as well.” She had a small voice. Her English was good but maybe not quite as good as Maggie's. She was very petite with a short blonde haircut.

 

“What all did you do?” I wanted to know more about the volunteer life at Graham's.

 

“Yesterday I helped harvest the honey.”

 

Maggie and I were totally into that answer. “Did you get stung?”

 

“Only once or twice but it did not hurt so bad as I remember when I was young. It does not feel as bad as wasp sting.”

 

I was thoroughly impressed. I would like to try the honey harvesting but I'm not sure if I would voluntarily get stung by bees. I was trying to decide if it would be worth it when the boys came out with phase four.

 

The contents of my plate consisted of a piece of chicken breast covered in cheese and wrapped in bacon. Pierre told me the proper name was “Chicken Camembert.” Apparently camembert is a type of cheese. Of course, the Frenchie knew which cheese was which. I wanted to be that cultured some day. The chicken, cheese and bacon made for a mouth-exploding combination. It was a rich cheese and that made each bite very succulent.

 

I might have said phase four was my favorite but that would be excluding Archie's homemade desert. Just when I thought I couldn't eat anymore, Archie brought out fresh plates with her specialty all over them. Cheesecake crumble topped with fresh strawberries. What made the cheesecake extraordinary was the fact that the crust consisted of crushed up macadamia nuts. How blessed I felt to have tasted such delicacies.

 

By this point in the night we had all had several glasses of wine. Paired with the food, we were still relatively sober. That was, until Wayne surprised us with a bottle of heaven. It wasn't wine but it wasn't a liquer either. It was a Kangaroo Island original called “Honey Mead.” It's contents were created at the honey farm up the road. Graham helped harvest the honey that went into the drink. We each were poured a very small amount of the drink. I soon found out that it was because the drink is so sweet you won't want much more than that. Nevertheless, the drink was amazing and I loved it. I loved it even more because before tasting it, the group made a toast to me and my birthday that was coming up in just a few short days. How sweet it was to share a drink with good friends for my special day.

 

The sweetness soon blurred into a beautiful melody. It would be poetic if I was talking about our laughter and conversation, but I'm actually referring to a tune Wayne played on his organ. We all moved inside and attempted to name the tune he was playing, though no one could, not even Wayne.

Inside we sat around Wayne's massive fireplace and enjoyed more good conversation. When Wayne stopped playing the organ I could hear the old country music playing in the background. Matthew and I tried to guess the name and artist of each song before the other.

 

The night ended in a beautiful way. Wayne handed Sarah, Maggie and I each a small felt box. He winked and told me happy birthday when he presented me with mine. I looked down and saw a beautiful sterling silver necklace with a kookaburra on it. I was elated. How sweet it was to receive such a gift. I decided that would be my only birthday gift this year so I gave Wayne a big hug and told him how much it meant to me. He was so sweet for thinking of us and even more so for befriending us. My necklace would remind me of his kindness and I would wear it throughout the rest of my trip.

Adventure Days

We loved having Maggie around for many reasons. Most of all she was a kind heart with a good work ethic. She had amazing talents that she spread all over the property and she was a kind of mother figure for the rest of us. She made sure we ate properly and took care of business. One of the more shallow reasons we enjoyed having Maggie around is because she had her own car. The combination of Maggie's cool car and kind heart equaled something wonderful. Day trips.

 

For the first time in six weeks I had an opportunity to see other attractions on the island. One day after working all morning, Pierre, Maggie and I took a field trip up the road. First we stopped at the Island Pure Dairy Farm. We were too late for the tour but we did get to see lots of sheep and we bought some of their homemade cheese to have with our dinner in the future.

 

After the sheep farm we continued north until we saw a sign that made me cry out in desparation. Shep's Art Studio. This was a cool stop just outside of Kingscote. It was there that I found inspiration to keep painting. Shep was a local who passed away in 2015. His wife was now in charge of the studio and though appointments are recommended, she gladly welcomed a random drop-in from three volunteers. The best part about this studio was that we actually got to see where Shep used to paint. That is not something gallery's usually share with the public.

Me petting a sheep at Island Pure Dairy Farm.

Me petting a sheep at Island Pure Dairy Farm.

 

Shep's style was a little all over the place. He had some interesting abstract pieces but my favorite was the whimsical landscapes of Kangaroo Island. He really brought the beauty of the island to life in his pieces. One painting was a blue field full of crops and old farm machinery. Hanging right next to it was a picture of a beach with beautiful pink waves splashing about. It was a great observation of the diversity the island has to offer.

 

After lusting over his work and coming to the sad conclusion that I couldn't afford even a print, we got back in Maggie's car and headed towards Kingscote. It was there that we realized we were just in time for the famous pelican feeding show. I had heard about this by many cafe customers but never seemed interested by it. Now that I was in the moment and had the chance to go I was excited to see it for myself.

 

Pelican feeding was way cooler than I ever expected. We were right up close and personal with the birds and the guy doing the show was super personal throughout the whole thing. It was all very humble. It was as if we had just happened to find a guy feeding pelicans and he just happened to be explaining the process to some other people passing by.

Pelican Feeding in Kingscote

Pelican Feeding in Kingscote

It was amazing getting to see the pelicans up so close. They were huge! Above them flew tons of smaller seagulls, trying to get the fish out of the guy's hands before the pelicans. We learned a lot about pelicans and I had a wonderful time watching and taking pictures.

 

 

We all took turns going on trips with Maggie. A few days later her and Pierre went to a beach on the north coast and a few days after that her and Matthew took a trip to Hanson Bay. They left early in the morning so they could be back for the afternoon shifts at the cafe. When they got back they were so happy with their trip that Maggie offered to go back again that very evening with me as her companion. A lady had told them the beach was even more beautiful at sunset and Maggie wanted to be there to find out. I agreed to the adventure and we left around four o'clock that afternoon.

Hanson Bay at Sunset

Hanson Bay at Sunset

 

The beach was breathtaking. The sunset made it even more breathtaking. Maggie and I climbed all over the beach taking pictures. We marvelled at the fast changing colors of the sky and watched in amazement as the waves seemed to get bigger and bigger. I took lots of pictures and Maggie took pictures of me taking pictures. We didn't want to leave but eventually it got cold and dark and so we had to.  Needless to say, Maggie made us mobile and for that we were grateful.  

Meatloaf Party

Sometimes I wondered if we were going to be stranded on the island forever. Like maybe this whole thing was a conspiracy by people who practiced witchcraft that would make us stay. What if they cursed us into staying and we ended up being here for 20 years before some super-human came and broke the curse, setting us free of our slavery. Then again maybe we were all part of a serial murder that one of the locals were in on. Huge workings had led us to live alone in a hostel that just so happened to be very far from all other parts of civilization. This could be someone's slow plan of execution.

 

I'm just using my imagination here. But seriously, there were days when the monotony was more than I could bare. We all went through days like this periodically. Thankfully we had neighbors like Graham and Wayne to break up the repetition, if only for a few hours.

 

Today was like that. All day long I frowned at my work, being an ungrateful guest.  Luckily dinner perked me up because it gave me something to look forward to.  After figuring which of Matthew's meat options made the most sense, I decided the meatloaf would be kangaroo based.  Kangaroo-loaf, perhaps.  I read back through my mother's texts that included the recipe and topped it off with Graham's homemade tomato sauce.   We had discovered it while eating at Graham's and now I couldn't get enough of it.  That tomato sauce would make dirt taste good!

For our side dishes I made my dad's famous mashed potatoes and fresh coleslaw and Matthew cooked up some sausage, onions and carrots just to make sure no one went away hungry. Maggie made for a great hostess when the guests arrived. She welcomed Graham, Wayne and Danny and put their coats neatly in a pile.  

When I came out of the kitchen I was excited to see the set-up in the cafe.  Maggie had moved all of the beer and wine to the cafe and set the table accordingly.  Pierre had worked hard to make a nice fire for us and the group had pushed together several tables around the fire to look like a barricade. Graham said it was so we could stay warm and also so he could have a backrest.

My first attempt at Kangaroo Meatloaf.

My first attempt at Kangaroo Meatloaf.

 

The dinner was a huge success. There wasn't one drop of food left by the end of it and the wine was nearly gone too. Wayne and Graham told us stories about the island and we all toasted to Danny's last night. In the morning she would be heading back to Adelaide so in her honor we clinked glasses by saying “Gumbay”, the Chinese word for “cheers.”

 

At one point Matthew stepped out and Wayne asked me how the weather was in Oklahoma. I told him it was hot and dry and the wind was like a hair dryer. He asked about the waving wheat he had heard in the song and I went dreamy on them. I told them the wheat was beautiful this time of year. I explained the waving wheat was our ocean and watching it blow in the breeze was just as mesmerizing as watching the waves at sea. I went on to explain that this time of year we always had a big celebration for wheat harvest. Wheaties came to town. We through breakfast celebrations for them and even let them talk on the radio. Ecstasy fills the streets as our town doubles in size for a few weeks. What is normally a one-horse town, quickly turns into a city with massive traffic jams. The big trucks line the roads while they wait to dump their load into silos and railroads.

 

Wayne found this process fascinating. The others had similar reactions. They asked me where all the workers came from and I explained that the “wheaties” came from places like Australia and New Zealand. They are highered on by harvesting businesses in Nebraska, Kansas and South Dakota. They travel with the harvesting company across the middle of the States, beginning in my hometown and making their way north to Montana. This takes them about six months. Most of them pile up a lot of money and then go back home to support their families for the rest of the year.

 

At the end of the night Wayne invited us to his house on Sunday. He wanted to cook for us and he said he had a special treat for Maggie and I. That was just what we needed. Something else to look forward to.

Design with Maggie

On Monday Matthew and Pierre went to town around 1:30. I had been working on a list for two days. It was very detailed. On one side I listed all the errands they needed to run, like going to the post office and the bank, picking up glass for the fireplace, picking up the tires for the car and of course, grocery shopping. On the other side of the paper I had a list of all the groceries we needed. I even had a special section for personal requests under which I wrote wine and hamburger meat for Wednesday's get together.

 

The afternoon was slow. Dead slow. So slow, that Maggie took some time to work on her design work while I worked on my blog. After a few hours of this I took a break and went to see what Maggie was up to. Her design work was amazing. It was like looking at the pages of an Anthropology magazine. She had a nicely built portfolio which she clicked through to show me her work.  It was everything my Intro to Design class had been in college and oh, so much more.  I watched in fascination while she tweaked a design she was hoping to sell in a few days.  Textile design was her specialty.  I gathered that this meant she designed things like rugs and kitchen towels. Of the few designs I saw I would have easily purchased 60% of them.  They were beautiful and I thought it was really cool to see the back end of the work.

The typical work station for a freelancer..

The typical work station for a freelancer..

 

At that point Maggie and I connected on a creative level. We quickly dove into the exciting world of Photoshop, InDesign and Illustrator, contrasting our likes and dislikes of each of them. That led into a discussion about Mac computers and how they were most obviously better for the creative worker. We shared admiration for 15 inch screens and compared our models. That led into a small discussion on photography and digital cameras.

Maggie had a professional camera and millions of beautiful pictures to prove it. I was just as impressed with her photography as I was in her design work. She had talent, I saw that much. She told me how she'd like to start a design and travel blog using the pictures she had taken on all of our trips.  This was a golden statement.  I had been studying the art of blogging for six years.  I quickly jumped at the chance to help her build her own.  I told her a blog with her stuff could easily be profitable and marketable online because she had an actual product, goal and audience to shoot for. I explained that I had the same goals for myself but it was hard to sell something using a blog when the end goal was to get paid as a writer.  This was something I had studied for years and though I couldn't crack the code for myself, I was already seeing visions of success for Maggie.

 

Maggie asked to see my blog. While she was clicking around she found my picture. It was a nice professional picture a friend of mine had taken of me about a year ago. Maggie was shocked. She said I looked so different in the picture. I told her that's how I normally looked, with full hair and makeup everyday. She told me I looked better now than I did in the picture. I was surprised to hear this because in my current state my hair was in a sloppy bun and I only had on light foundation and light mascara. I felt rough. She said I looked 20 years older in the picture and that I didn't need to wear that much makeup ever. At the time I didn't think much about the comment other than surprise but it must have been the last bit of encouragement I needed because the next day I went completely bare faced and I haven't turned back since.

 

In the twenty minutes I had chatted with Maggie, Matthew had called three times. My phone was on the charger so I had missed all three of them. I quickly called him back and when I asked him what he needed he said, “nothing now.” I asked if he was sure and he said “all the decisions have been made already.” He hastily hung up the phone and I looked to Maggie and told her I would bet money that they messed something up. She laughed and said she'd bet even more money that the groceries would come back a mess.

 

An hour later when the boys showed up I was busy sweeping the floor. Maggie went outside and helped them unload the car. I continued sweeping until Matthew walked in the cafe.

 

“Haley, I have to tell you. I messed up big time. Today was a total fail.” I tried to hide my smirk as I asked him what exactly happened.

 

He said he saw on my list that I wanted three kilos of minced meat.

(We had discussed this before they left. I needed enough meat to make a meatloaf for our dinner party that week. We had planned to invite Graham and Wayne over and I wanted to make a southern meal of mashed potatoes, meatloaf and brownies.) Matthew said he looked at the meat section and knew he needed to remember a specific kind but couldn't remember what it was. He said he then thought it would be cool to mix it up so he got a minced chicken, a minced kangaroo and also a minced mystery mixture. I gave him a cold stare as he went on to say it wasn't until just now when Maggie was helping unload the groceries that she pointed out we needed minced beef for the meat loaf. He said he was extremely sorry and he felt bad.

 

I laughed and said he'd have to eat minced chicken meatloaf to make up for it. He said we couldn't even do that because he didn't buy enough of it.

“What the heck is minced chicken anyways?”

 

He laughed and said he wasn't sure either. It was just mushed up stuff, really. I smiled at the disgusting thought of mushed up chicken guts baked into a loaf. Awesome job, guys. This is why we don't send men to the grocery store.

 

A few minutes later Pierre came in and announced they had bought the wrong kind of cheese too. He knew this because Maggie had pointed it out.

 

I asked Matthew if he had priced salt and pepper shakers like I had asked him to and he said yes but didn't buy them, or tell me the cost of them like he was supposed to. He also said that he couldn't find the milkshake glasses we needed or the phone charger but they did manage to find an allen wrench and an axe handle. Figures.

Our first "Barbie"

Within a few days Yollana had decided that we didn't need five volunteers this late in the season so she asked Danny to make other arrangements by the end of the week. I helped her by calling multiple volunteering stations around the island. The only one I didn't call, called me.

 

His name was Graham and I had briefly met him once before when he was delivering jam to the cafe. He was our closest neighbor (a rough ten minutes up the road) and the island's own fruit and honey distributor. When he called I mentioned having an extra volunteer that needed a place to stay. Within the hour he was on our doorsteps, making himself a cup of tea. He had a very brief conversation with Danny and then decided he could use her for the week as a volunteer at his place. The two of them made arrangements for him to pick her up at eleven the following morning.

 

The next day we learned a lot from Graham. We learned that Danny would have a cabin all to herself and that his place had wifi and meat. We all beamed with jealousy at the sound of this.

Our final group of volunteers!  After this we drop off like flies.

Our final group of volunteers!  After this we drop off like flies.

In addition to working with honey and fruits Graham also said he took his volunteers with him when he did deliveries so they could see most of the island in just a few days. This was a better deal than our current situation.

 

After a while we took a group picture and gave Danny big hugs. We wished her luck and watched as her and Graham got in the truck. Right as we turned to walk off Graham shouted out to us to come over for a BBQ tonight at his place. The four of us looked at each other with big eyes and hope. Matthew walked back towards the truck and said he thought that sounded great. We hadn't had meat in several weeks and our bodies were craving it.  Maggie piped in to say she would bring a salad and I was thankful for that because I had been hastily trying to think of something to bring other than wine.

 

With that we waved goodbye and told Danny and Graham we would see them that evening. When the dust had settled we looked around and realized it was now just the four of us. 2 girls. 2 boys. The perfect balance for deciding on the genre of movie we would watch at night.  Together we stood in the sun, talking about our freedom and the work ahead of us.

 

That evening after work we all showered and put on our nicest outfits.  Maggie and I even went so far as to put on a little mascara.  This was the first time we'd left our property in quite a while and we were all a bit excited to be getting out of routine.  

 

When we pulled up to 618 Huckman Road, we were a bit confused as to where the actual house was. We saw a bunch of old machinery and cars scattered about the yard. To the right there was a metal building with a drapery extending out to the lawn. Next to that there was a car parked on some cement and another little building that looked like part of a used trailor house. There seemed to be no organization. I couldn't find a front door or even a sidewalk. We all looked around and finally decided the mass of the buildings were probably where we neeeded to go. We parked the car in what might have been a driveway and when we got out of the car we saw Graham lifting a piece of plastic around the door as if to invite us in.

 

Inside was just as hard to figure out as the outside had been. I greeted Graham, showed him the wine I had brought and then looked around. Immediately in front of the door there was a huge metal stove where Graham was cooking all sorts of meat. I saw pork chops and sausage and onions all simmering and popping lightly. My mouth watered and we all licked our lips I'm pretty sure.

 

I looked to the left and saw Danny sitting at a messy table playing on her phone. When she looked up she raised her hands and yelled “yay!” She was happy to see us. Across the table sat an older gentlemen. He introduced himself as Wayne. While the others filed in behind me I looked for a spare seat and found one just out from the table a bit. It was wedged in between an end-table with a box of snakeskins in it and a furnace which was warm and inviting.

 

I looked around behind my chair, trying to make sense of the room. It was a long rectangle shaped space with no walls, dividers or walkways really. It was all open, yet it was all cluttered. I saw tables full of all sorts of trinkets but nothing distinguishable. There was boxes piled up and big piles of stuff. I took my seat and looked above the wooden table where Danny and Wayne were sitting. The wall behind it had three paintings on it all side by side and squished together. One was a man hunting doves over a lake, the second one was a nautical boat scene and the third one was a landscape of trees and mountains. They were all different and of no distinctive style. Beneath the pictures lay other piles of stuff and then the table was pushed against the wall. There were only two free chairs at the table so Pierre sat down and Matthew and Maggie kind of danced around, not sure where to sit.

 

Matthew and Danny scanning the maps.

Matthew and Danny scanning the maps.

Before long Wayne was pouring us wine and asking us where we were all from. I had been caught up in my surroundings so I had missed some of the conversation but I looked up to see Danny flipping through a book of maps.  She pointed to her hometown, or city, rather, and then gave the book to Matthew.  I watched him flip through until he found Oklahoma and pointed to a small town called "Frederick." 

 

I asked Wayne where he was from and he said he had lived all over the east coast in Australia and had been in Kangaroo Island for the past 16 years. He was recently retired and absolutely loving it. Wayne was an adorable old gent. He wore a button up shirt, brown slacks, a pair of glasses and a mustache that made him look handsome for his age. Apparently I wasn't the only one who thought so because later in the night he told us his girlfriend was only 42 years old. There was a 29 year difference between the two of them. He pulled out a picture and pointed out a man with two 40-year old girlfriends, himself, and his girlfriend. She was tall and blonde and leggy. Afterwards he poured us each another glass of wine.

 

Dinner was just as amazing as we had hoped for. We had sausage, lamb chops and Maggie's tuna salad. For desert Graham surprised us by giving us each a bag of his best-selling chocolates. It was a native fruit, a muntrie, covered in chocolate. The combination was delectable, especially when paired with the Shiraz in front of us.

 

In conversation, Graham said his interest was making sure KI kept a good reputation with visitors and backpackers. When he hears of a backpacker feeling angry and sour towards the island he tries to pick them up and personally take them on a tour around the island to ensure they enjoy the island as it should be. It was his effort to keep the KI spirit alive. I thought of it as a sort of grassroots PR.  Branding in the most fundamental level. That was something a lot of business people needed to understand.  

Our group (minus Maggie, the photographer) enjoying our dinner.

Our group (minus Maggie, the photographer) enjoying our dinner.

 

Pierre talked about tonight being an authentic backpacker experience because we were having a barbie with a local.  He went on to say how he hated how most young people took backpacking as an excuse to party. “They party in every big city up the east coast and then they go home. That is not how you experience Australia. You have to live amongst the locals, go to the outback and see stuff. You can party back home so why even come here and spend all the money?” He was very passionate about his words.

 

The night was a great relief from our regular routine. We all left in good spirits and thanked Graham for his hospitality, offering to return the favor in the near future.

Manager Eyes

Throughout my life I've had the opportunity to work under several different managers. I feel like I'm a decent worker, but no matter how hard I work or how much I clean, upon inspection a manager always finds something else that needs doing. I've always marveled at this. It's like they would see things that no one else can see. I've heard it called, “manager eyes”, a term meaning managers can see what the other workers can't. I confirmed first hand that there was no myth to this theory. The second Yollana left I inherited the manager eyes. 

 

Because of my manager eyes, our first day on our own was spent cleaning, and not just daily cleaning but big, deep, spring-cleaning type of stuff. It was magical. All of a sudden I saw all sorts of things I had hardly noticed before. Together all five of us picked up trash that was caught in the bushes. We cleaned behind the appliances in the kitchen. Then we cleaned under the appliances (gross). We found cobwebs in dark corners I previously didn't know even existed. We even raked leaves around the property.

 

Maggie found a bucket of bleach and took the liberty to clean the sinks, child toys, showers and toilets. I found sanitizer and gave Danny the job of spraying down all of the chairs, couches and tables. Pierre spent half a day cleaning up the yard and Matthew made a concoction for killing weeds.

 

Before we could eat we stopped to give thanks for a clean and quiet house.

Before we could eat we stopped to give thanks for a clean and quiet house.

By the end of the day we were exhausted but we had enough energy left to celebrate our newly found freedom. Maggie and I prepared kangaroo spaghetti, and salad while the others poured glasses of white and red wine (goon) to go with our meal. We toasted to our first day on our own and relished in the feeling of a clean and quiet house.

 

With five young people representing four different nationalities, our dinner conversations were very interesting. We discussed World War II and how we were all related to it; how it shaped all of our countries and helped modernize the world. We talked about how in the beginning the Brits and the French made settlements all over the world, therefore their influence is all over the world. Matthew gave the example of the Louisiana purchase and how New Orleans and even Quebec are still very French. Pierre mentioned the African tribes who are heavily French influenced and Maggie suggested the huge British influence on Australia.

 

As we sat talking, I thought again about how the country of origin shapes people. Here sat the Frenchmen talking on and on about history, power and politics. The Americans would chime in now and again with their powerful statements but most of the time they just smiled and and nodded. The German girl was loud and her presence was known. She was quick to suggest beer with the meal. The most powerful of all, perhaps was the Chinese. Here sat a girl from China who was very silent throughout most of the evening, yet she was probably the most powerful in intelligence, money and influence—but us arrogant countries would never know until we needed to find out. Even in WWII China was silent but powerful. French, German and US all fought loud and proud. Australia joined in when they finally had to—China stayed silent and strong, even still they remain today that way.

 

After my second glass of wine the business phone rang. It was Cabin 6 in need of an extra blanket. I excused myself from the table and journeyed towards my first after-hours management responsibility. When I arrived at the cabin I knocked on the door and watched in amazement as the shadows behind the curtain removed first a chair, then a broomstick and finally the curtain. When I saw the face of the shadows I realized it was the two older ladies who were booked in for ten nights. There names were Desirae and Penny. They had been to the cafe a few times already. I knew this because with each visit to the cafe the ladies were kind enough to mention which of our services needed improving. One time the coffee was too hot and another time I had to remake a coffee because the cup was too heavy for the woman with weak wrists. She requested that I remake it in a to-go cup so she could lift it easier.

When the shorter haired one opened the door I flushed a bit when I realized she was only in a nightgown. I handed her the blanket and made sure I had my work smile on. “Is there anything else I can get you ladies?”

 

“Yes, dear. Our lock doesn't work from the inside. We had to barricade the door so we would be safe but it still feels quite scary out here. We're just two vulnerable women alone out here so we'd like to be able to lock the door. Mind you come in and give it a try for us?”

 

I stepped inside the cabin and was hit with an odd mix of smells. There was a floral, perfume scent mixed with cooked peppers and medicine. The other lady was sitting in a chair not far from the door, watching Jeopardy. There were blankets all around the common area and bags and bags of groceries too. I turned back towards the door and wiggled the key for a few minutes before calling uncle. I already knew our locks weren't the best because I have trouble every time I clean a cabin. I told the ladies I'd go get one of the men to come look at it.

 

I killed the car once before making a jerky reverse out of their driveway. I drove up the road and back to the hostel where I found Matthew helping the others with the dinner dishes. He grabbed a few tools and then asked politely if he could drive.

 

This time the ladies had on robes. They smiled sweeter and made cute comments towards Matthew. I laughed when one of them made a joke about inviting him to stay the night and keep them warm. Naturally they were very impressed when Matthew fixed the lock after just a few tries. They thanked us for our work and then went straight in to a story about Canada. They told about Niagra Falls and how they talked the tour guide into letting them take extra pictures. They told us the name of the Canadian hotels they stayed in and which ones had the best views. They named each city they visited and what was unique about it. We listened to their synopsis on Canada for fifteen minutes before they switched gears and began reviewing their thirteen day tour of America.

 

While I listened to them talk it struck me funny, what some people found important compared to others. Here these two ladies were near the latter part of their life. I had had two or three brief conversations with them before this point and all were about their travels. Even still, in this epilogue, the two of them talked in great detail of all the wonderful places they had seen in the world. They could tell me how many miles they traveled in each country, which stops they made in what order, where they stayed, how much they paid for their meals, the name of the restaurants, the curve of the earth along with its landmarks. They spoke with such description and importance of each place they had visited. They didn't want to stop telling us of all the wonders the world had showed them.

 

Though I normally loved hearing travel stories, for some reason I found myself having mixed emotions about older people sharing so much emotionalism for travel. One part of me thought it was inspiring. They had explained that they didn't want to wait any longer to see the world because like many of their friends, they probably would decease.

 

On the other hand, I felt a sort of sadness. I figured the ladies to be in their early seventies or so. Though they were approximately ten years younger than my own grandmother I thought about the things my grandmother held important to her over the past ten years. Her and my grandfather had traveled plenty throughout the entirety of their life, yet they didn't talk about the earth like these two did. My grandparents, on any given day will gush in great detail about all the wonderful people in their family. My grandmother knows from memory each of her five children, thirteen grandchildren and ten great-grandchildren's names, birthdays and current life seasons. She talks to all of these individuals on a regular basis, or at least does her part to contact them. The love my grandparents have for each of their offspring was just as great as these ladies' love for travel. Though travel is neat, I think about how much more powerful the love of another human being is. I have cousins and second cousins who don't have a clue how much they mean to my grandparents. They have sometimes been surprised when I share with them the fact that my grandmother regularly asks about them and prays for them.

 

What better blessing than to have someone like that in your life, much less as family related by blood!

 

I wondered if these ladies had children. Perhaps they did but their children had grown up and left them all alone. I had seen it happen all too often at the Assisted Living centers. My grandparents have visitors two or three times a week. Our family is constantly in and out of the center, taking grandma and grandpa for drives, dinners and outings. We love them as much as they love us. Yet across the hallway there are wonderful people who don't get so much as a monthly phone call from the children they raised. How sad it is to watch them sit at the dinner table alone during the Thanksgiving holiday meals we are all invited to.

 

I could be wrong. Maybe these ladies lived the best of both worlds. Maybe their children and grandchildren loved them very much and called them often but they also had time and passion for travel too. Maybe they were the blessed few.

 

After forty minutes had passed, Matthew finally said we had to go. Desirae started in on another story about Sydney but Matthew and I politely made our way out the door and told them to have a wonderful evening. They were sweet but we did need to get back to the hostel.