When I woke up Friday morning I wandered into the kitchen and found Leila and Alex eating breakfast. Upon seeing me Leila got up from her chair and wiggled over to where I was standing. She poked me and asked why my hair was different than it was the day before.
“I wanted to wear a ponytail today.”
“But yesterday your hair was like this.” She held her hands to her head and pushed her hair around in pigtails to imitate what mine had been the day before.
“Yup, and today it's not.” She studied me for a bit and then decided to mess with Alex for a bit while I gathered my cereal.
When I joined the two of them at the table I began my morning ritual of checking the social media outlets I care about. I had a few Snapchats from some friends back home. In response to one of them I held up my phone aimlessly and pressed the shutter button. Leila just so happened to be in the background of the shot, something that I didn't give much thought to until she pointed it out.
“Are you taking pictures of me?!” She raised her voice and pointed her finger at me.
“No, it's just Snapchat.”
“No, no, no, no! No pictures of me!”
“I wasn't taking a picture of you, I was just taking a picture so I could write on it.”
“I heard your camera! You can't take pictures of me!” Never in my life had I seen a young girl get so wound up about NOT having her picture taken. Most girls loved the camera, I thought. I tried to refocus on my snapchatting but Leila was really worried about the picture I had taken.
“Where is it? Let me see it!” She grabbed for my phone but I held out my arm so she couldn't reach it.
“I don't have a picture of you on my phone. It's gone already.”
“It is not! Where is it! You must delete it!” I was beginning to think Leila was being quite ridiculous but rather than get angry I decided to egg her on. I smiled at Leila and held my phone up in front of her face. She immediately started squirming and screaming with her hands in front of her face.
“Come on, just let me take one picture.” I poked her stomach hoping she'd drop her hands and let me take the picture. She only continued to holler with disapproval. This went on for some time before Alex stepped in.
“Leila, the picture only lasts 10 seconds then it's gone forever.” Alex and I took turns trying to explain but Leila wasn't having it. Finally Alex and I took a picture together, showed it to Leila and then let her watch as we sent it off into the universe for one lucky person to see for only ten seconds.
“Where did it go?” Leila was interested now.
“It's gone forever. My friend will see it and then it deletes itself.”
“Do it again!” Alex and I laughed and sent more snaps out to random recipients. After seeing Leila's grin I then took the camera and applied a face filter which made my eyes turn into hearts and a rainbow fell out of my mouth when I opened it. I showed Leila and she laughed hysterically. I asked her if she wanted to do it but she declined. Instead, she ordered me to do it to Alex. When Alex applied the filter to her face Leila laughed even harder. We did this repeatedly until Leila said she would let us take one picture, one time for ONLY TEN SECONDS.
I asked if she wanted the filter and she said no. Just one picture. I snapped the picture and instantly she grabbed the phone out of my hand to look at it.
“Okay! Make it go away forever!”
I told her I would save it so I could remember her and she said she didn't want me to do that because she didn't like the way she looked. I told her she was beautiful and Alex said most girls would kill to have her beautiful hair. Leila disagreed and made me send the picture off into outer space so no one could look at it ever again.
Around that time Yollana came in with our list of duties for the day. I was to take some promotional papers to the cabins and slip them in the guestbooks. I looked at the papers. They were informative papers for Easter weekend on Kangaroo Island. They listed all of the businesses and attractions with their holiday hours, phone numbers and addresses. It took me about a half hour to fill the books in each cabin. Afterwards I made my way back to the cafe to see what else needed to be done.
It was just before noon and there were not many customers. Leila was running around the yard in between the cafe and the hostel. When she saw me she stopped me with her arms extended and told me to watch her trick. I watched as she extended one leg in front, the other behind and slowly eased herself to the ground into a left-sided split.
“Nice job!” I gave her a thumbs up.
“Your turn! I bet you can't do that!” She said in a mocking manner.
“I can to do that.”
“You can't! Prove it!” I looked down. I was wearing jean capris and tennis shoes. Though I knew I was very much so capable of doing the splits, I also knew that it wasn't going to happen in denim.
“How about I do it later when I'm in different clothes?” She argued about this for a minute before realizing I was serious.
“Fine! But you HAVE to do it today!”
“Okay, how about after dinner?”
“No! Before dinner!” She was such an imperative young girl.
“Fine, I promise I will do it before dinner. But right now I have to get back to work.” She pulled on my shirt as if to make me stay but I told her if she stretched out my shirt I would be mad so she stopped and then crossed her arms over her chest and made a look I had seen on Mean Girls, the movie.
As I stepped into the cafe kitchen I heard her holler after me. “You look like a witch!”
There was an order in the cafe now. Alex, Kim and Yollana were busy working on the food so I grabbed an empty tray and went to the cafe to gather empty dishes and wipe down the used tables. After clearing the tables I noticed the others had an order ready so I walked it out to the customers before returning for the second order. When I finished delivering the meals I went back to the kitchen and began rolling silverware for later use. I had worked in the cafe for one week and I was extremely comfortable with the flow of things. I think Yollana could tell because she pulled me aside and showed me how to use the cash register. I knew from previous experience that that was a sign that she trusted me.
The cash register was pretty standard as far as cash registers go. The buttons were itemised and the prices were all on the wall behind me so I didn't even need to memorize the menu or anything. It took about five minutes for Yollana to show me everything. I told her I'd ask if I came up with any questions and then resumed my utensil rolling.
A few minutes later the stove was smoking from something Kim had left on too long. We had a good laugh and then Kim left to put drops in her ear. Alex and I picked up where she had left off and finished cleaning the dishes from lunch.
Around then Kim walked back into the kitchen. I was rolling silverware again and Alex was drying dishes. Kim looked around and when her eyes hit Yollana her voice followed.
“How come Haley gets to learn the till and I don't? I'm just wondering if this is some kind of trust thing with you or something because I've asked every day since I've been here and you say no and yet Haley gets to learn it and she has barely been here a week!”
I kept my eyes on my rolling. It was an awkward situation for me. What was I supposed to say? I decided to say nothing and let Yollana handle it. It was her idea to keep Matthew and I's management status a secret so her answer would be her idea too. I listened closely as Yollana began to explain.
“Well, I wasn't going to say anything but I guess it's okay that you know. Haley and Matt are in training for management. I need them to use the till so they can manage the place when I leave. It is not a trust thing against you, I just don't think everyone needs to know how to run the till.” Good answer. But wait..she blew our cover. What do I say now?
“So it has nothing to do with the fact that you don't trust me?” Kim was blinking dramatically at Yollana. Her hair was standing up around her crown like it always did. She had on a pair of sweats and a t-shirt that swooped down across her chest. She was beautiful in a wild sort of way. Like a lion that needed taming before you could pet it.
“No, of course not. I think you're very trustworthy.” Yollana never batted at an eye at all this. She was smooth and confident in her answers and I was thoroughly impressed. I guess Kim was impressed too because she seemed content with the answer. Yollana and Kim walked outside and began talking about some chore that needed to be done out back.
Later Kim found me and asked me about the management stuff. She told me she thought I'd be a great manager and she asked how Matt and I found the job. I told her all about Global and the Skype interviews and about the trip from Kingscote where Yollana told us to keep our intentions a secret. I told Kim I thought it was good that I had to start out at the bottom like everyone else. She said she had talked to Matt about all of this already. She said at first she was mad we lied to her but after understanding she thought it was okay. She then let me in on a secret of her own. She said she had applied to volunteer at a nearby animal sanctuary. She said she was ready to get out of here and do something else. She didn't like it here but she didn't want to go back home yet either. I encouraged her on her decision and wished her luck with the position. I told her she'd be missed but I didn't blame her for wanting something different.
Our conversation was interrupted by a late wave of customers coming in. It was two o'clock so this was rare. Yollana was out of the kitchen so I decided it was now or never on running the till.
“Hi there. I'd like a beef burger and a fish and chip please.”
I looked at the board behind me. Beef burger. $18. Fish and Chip. $15. “Will that be all?”
“Yup.” Subtotal. $33.00
“Thirty-three please.” The man handed me two red dollar bills. Cash. Enter.
When I opened the drawer a horrible feeling rushed over me. I realized for the first time that I knew NOTHING about Australian money. In fact I had barely used cash since entering the country. I was a plastic kind of girl and that made it easy for me. But now, I needed to make change. I was bad at making change in American Money. Well I was bad at making change period. But now, I was looking at four different colors of dollar bills and five or six different kinds of coins, all worth different values, plus I had to subtract thirty-three from forty. At least there was no small change. That helped tremendously. Okay, breathe. Forty minus thirty-three is...seven, right? I think so. I lifted the clips off of the bills so it looked like I was doing something confidently. I saw a five dollar bill and grabbed it.
“There's five...” I looked at all of the bills. Five. Ten. Twenty. Fifty. Where the heck were the ones? Oh wait..I remember Matthew saying something about a coin worth two dollars..or was it one dollar..crap this is embarrassing. I looked at the coins and tried to decide which one would be worth a dollar or two. There were gold ones and silver ones, big ones and small ones.
“The small gold one.” I looked up. The man was smiling and pointing to the change in the register. I didn't realize he could see it. I was frustrated that he caught me looking stupid. I decided to play it.
“Ahh yeah, there it is! Two makes seven.” I handed him the bill and the coin and smiled confidently like I knew what I was doing. He thanked me and went across the way to the cafe. This scenario happened two or three more times while I made it through the other orders.
After the orders went out and the customers were happy, I pulled Yollana aside and asked her to give me a briefing on the Australian currency. I didn't want her to think I was a total idiot so I only asked about the coins. I figured I could examine the bills on my own. She took me to the register and thoroughly explained each coin and its value.
The small gold coin was worth two dollars. That was pretty cool but also kind of scary. The coin is so small it would be easy to lose a whole two dollars if it fell out of your pocket. It was smaller than a one cent penny back home. The other gold coin which was about the size of a nickel, was worth one dollar. There were no one dollar bills, only one dollar coins. Interesting, I though. Next there were big silver coins the size of a fifty cent piece back home. They had jagged edges and were worth fifty cents. I was grateful that it looked like the fifty cent pieces in the States. There was another big silver piece but it had smooth edges. It was worth twenty cents. The smaller silver round piece was worth ten cents and there was a teeny tiny silver piece worth five cents. There were no one cent pieces. I liked that because everything had to round out to at least five cents. Yollana said they had done away with one cent pieces a few years ago and the general consensus agreed that it was quite nice not having to worry about one cent pieces. She then drew pictures for me to study at my leisure. I was so glad for that. I was a read and study type of person so this was exactly what I needed.
Leila walked in on my lesson and tried very hard to make me feel like an idiot. She couldn't understand why I didn't already know the value of coins. Yollana and I tried to explain to her that I wasn't from Australia and that my money back home was different but I don't think Leila wanted to understand. She wanted to prove that she was smarter than an adult because she knew all of the coins and their values. I let her have her moment.
When we finished I walked outside to see if there was any dirty dishes left in the cafe. In between the cafe and the parking lot on the sloped hill, I stopped to see what Matthew and Leila were up to. Leila was barking orders and Matthew was rebelliously throwing sass in return. I walked closer so I could hear what was going on.
“I challenge you to a cartwheel contest!” Leila was poking Matthew in his stomach, trying to enforce what little authority she thought she had.
“I don't want to have a cartwheel contest!” Matthew was theatrically putting his hands on his hips and leaning forward into Leila's face. His eyes were wide and his demeanor was silly. Leila laughed and tried again to maintain control.
“You don't want to have a cartwheel contest because yoooouu can't even do a cartwheel! Look, I'll show you how to do a cartwheel! I bet you can't do one like this!” She spoke without stopping to take a breath and all in one movement she was throwing her feet over her head and making a full circle with her tiny body. “See! You have to do it like that! You can't do it! You are a baby!”
Matthew was not one to be easily outwitted. “I can to do it!”
“No you cant!”
“Yes I can!”
“Do it then! Do it right now! Prove it!” Leila now had her hands on her hips like she was not impressed with Matthew's declaration. I think her and I were both overcome with laughter when we saw Matthew actually attempt a cartwheel. He was awkward and his legs were bent. He stuck his butt in the air and hopped from one side of his stance to the other. He did complete the challenge, though so I gave him props for that. Unfortunately, Leila was the tougher critic.
“That's not how you do a cartwheel! You looked ugly! You HAVE to keep your legs straight or it doesn't count!” Leila was walking around in circles. Her hands were flailing everywhere and she was really letting Matthew have it. “Look. Let me show you. You have to look like this...” She stopped mid sentence and did another cartwheel. “See! Like that! Not like this..” she did her best imitation of Matthew's cartwheel and then continued her instructions. “Your feet have to be like this and your hands have to be like that!” Matthew was mimicking Leila, making faces and wiggling his hips. Occasionally Leila couldn't help but giggle but she tried hard to keep her bossy demeanor.
I laughed at the whole charade and finally went back to the kitchen to do some cleaning. Leila was a mess. Plain and simple. She was a beautiful nine-year old mess with a big personality. At times it was cute but at other times it needed to be reigned it. It was going to take a special parent to raise such a bold young girl.
After work we all ended up back at the hostel where Kim and Alex were cooking dinner. When I walked in Leila was tugging on Yollana's arms begging her to play. When Leila saw me she used me as a replacement for Yollana and immediately tugged on my arms.
“You have to do the splits! You promised!” With relief and peace in my belly I told her I'd go change into my leggings so I could show her my trick. She still didn't believe me and I was going to show her that nine year olds weren't the only flexible ones.
When I changed clothes I walked into the living room where Leila was showing off her trick to everyone who would watch. When she saw me walk in she immediately began her speculating. “You can't do it! You can't do the splits! I dare you to try!”
I widened my stance and then bent down towards my right leg. “What are you doing!? That's not how you do it!”
“I'm stretching, first!” After a few minutes I told Leila I was ready. I turned to the left and slid straight into the splits. She looked in amazement for a few seconds before accusing me of cheating. I held my position and told her to show me where I was cheating. She said my legs weren't completely on the ground but Matthew pointed out that she was clearly wrong. Unsatisfied with my success, Leila challenged me to do a center splits. When I completed that challenge too she told I couldn't do a backbend.
I'll admit, I was a bit nervous about the backbend, though I didn't dare let Leila know that. I had done backhandsprings and cartwheels and assorted flips at random times throughout the past five years but a backbend was a slow, deep stretch that I hadn't done since high school. It wasn't hard it was just deep. I used to do it before tumbling at pep rallies and ballgames. It's one of the first steps I learned towards doing a backhandspring. I was probably six or seven the first time I did one. But now I am just about twenty-five years old and though I regularly stretch and do yoga, I definitely don't do backbends. I thought about it for a minute and then decided to go for it. It can't be any worse than busting out a backhandspring on the beach in Alabama without stretching first. Actually, it was probably a lot less strenuous on my body than a backhandspring. So I lead Leila into the hallway where there was plenty of room. I didn't want to hit any furniture or anything. Leila watched in disbelief as I put my hands over my head and slowly leaned backwards until my hands touched the lanolium floor. I exhaled quickly as my weight shifted from my legs to my hands and I felt the deep stretch happen in my back. I wasn't sure if it was pain or relief but I thought it felt like something that would create soreness in the morning.
“Can you kick over?” I leaned my head back and saw upside-down Leila still staring in amazement at me. I thought about it for a minute and then instructed her to scoot back a few feet so I wouldn't hit her. Sure enough, I was going to give it a try. I rocked my weight a little bit before I bent my legs and heaved my ab muscles as hard as I could to pull my legs back over my head. Plop. My legs went straight back into the formation they had been in. I let out a noise of frustration and exhaust.
“Hang on. Let me try again.” Leila was stone silent as she continued to watch. I rocked my weight again, heaved my abs and let out another grunt as my legs flopped back over my head and landed right side up on the floor. I flipped my head over and held my hands up towards the ceiling. “Ta-da! I did it!”
Leila clapped her hands and smiled big. I had finally impressed her beyond words. She ran off into the kitchen to tell her Dad what I did. I laughed and then leaned forward to stretch my back in the opposite direction. It felt good. I felt good. Maybe I needed to do backbends a little more often.