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...