kangaroo island

Newbies Arrive One Last Time

Just five days after Camille and Alex left, we received two more volunteers. Maggie, a fun and brazen girl from Germany, and Danny, a meek and quiet girl from China. The girls drove themselves to the property and arrived late one Saturday evening around the time Pierre, Matthew and I were settling in for some good relaxing in front of the fireplace.


When the girls walked in we welcomed them and right away. Instantly, I felt a good presence in them.

We showed them to their room they were sharing with Pierre and left them to it. I was looking forward to training Danny and Maggie. It was a fresh start; new volunteers for Matthew and I to train up correctly. Yollana was leaving in a few days and Matthew and I would be the acting managers. Training Danny and Maggie would be our first step towards managing independently. I was ready for it.


The next morning I walked them over to the cafe and showed them the kitchen, the light switches and the cafe. We cleaned the toilets together and then I explained the placement of the cleaning towels. They seemed to understand everything with great ease and for that I was grateful.


Everything was smoothly sailing along and then we got a customer. They wanted two double shots of espresso. I had just explained the coffee so this was perfect timing. I made the espressos, careful to explain each process as the girls watched.


Just as I finished the espressos, I heard the door jingle and knew there were more customers. This couple wanted two flat whites. I explained what a flat white was and then asked Danny if she wanted to try. She had been watching attentively and looked eager to get her hands involved.


I was very pleased to see Danny pick everything right up. She moved slowly but with no mistakes. Her first two flat whites were beautiful and I congratulated her on her quick learning abilities. While she ran the coffees out to the table, the first couple came back inside and asked for two more double shots of espresso. I couldn't imagine drinking that much coffee in such a short amount of time but I gratefully took their order and asked Danny to try this one too.


Danny had just started the coffee machine when Yollana came in and asked how it was going. I told her it was going really well and she asked if she could take Maggie to do a different job. I hesitated but then decided it wasn't worth the fight. Yollana was already halfway out the door with Maggie quick behind. The rest of the morning was like that. I didn't get to spend much time training either Danny or Maggie. Everyone ran in different directions and I was tired of striving for excellence when nobody else seemed to care.


Fortunately, dinner that night was amazing. Maggie cooked pumpkin and potatoes and it was sweet and succulent and delicious! The kids and their parents had made a trip to town and ate there so we had the table to ourselves. Over dinner Matthew and I split a bottle of Shiraz and Maggie and Danny split a bottle Riesling. Everyone relaxed and enjoyed getting to know each other.


First we discussed age. Matthew was 25 and Pierre, Danny and myself were 24, me being the next closest birthday. What surprised me was that Maggie was 31. Although after she said it I wasn't surprised at all. She carried herself with the comfort and confidence that is gained in one's thirties. I recognized the same air in all my friends back home who were around that age. Something settles in after your twenties and it just makes you radiate stability to everyone else around you. It was a good thing.


Maggie had actually driven through the outback and stayed safe. I found this interesting. Up until this point I had thought that was impossible, but Maggie made it sound like cake. She said her and her friend camped out in her car at caravan parks and paid an average of $15 per person per night. That was affordable!


While we did dishes I learned that Maggie had been with her boyfriend for 8 years. We debated on wether or not marriage was less of a life goal in Europe than it was in america. We all decided divorce had become way too common and Valentine's Day didn't need to exist if we just told the one's we loved that we loved them throughout the year, not just on one day.


We also discussed religious holidays. I explained Santa Claus and how he had nothing to do with the Christian holiday of Christmas; that America had made him a mythical gift-giving character so that the holiday revolved around presents and kids and cookies for a fat guy (which they laughed hysterically at because I said it was typical American) rather than Jesus which is the true reason for the season. Pierre and I both explained that the reason Santa Claus was combined with Christmas was because a pagan holiday was combined with the Christian holiday. That is irony in itself.


I learned that Germany is mostly Christian too and that they celebrate Christmas more on the 24th of December than they do on the 25th. On the 24th kids put out their shoes and boots and hopefully get candy and money in them.


We talked about Easter and once again I explained how America had made it a commercialized holiday rather than a Christian holiday. I explained the Easter bunny's role of bringing presents and how the Easter egg hunts were about money and candy. Maggie said the problems were similar in Germany. Lots of people celebrated the holiday but didn't know the real reason for the season.


We asked Danny about Chinese holidays and she said their biggest one was called Spring Festival. I asked her what that was and she was as surprised as I was to hear than they didn't have Santa Claus. She said Spring Festival was a huge holiday for the Chinese and it was quite popular as well. We talked about the Chinese New Year and I learned that the Chinese actually use two different calendars. I never quite understood what the other one was for but apparently it involves animals.


They all asked me what the heck Thanksgiving was and I explained it was a big meal with family and its origin was when the white people made peace with the Indians. Pierre laughed and said, “Oh so you eat dinner with them and THEN you steal their land!” I laughed because it was true. But I also pointed out that we were still paying them for that mishap. We talked about the wishbone and Maggie said that was British tradition and we figured that was probably where America got it from.


After the dishes we moved to the living room, thankful that we had it to ourselves. Here we started the heavy discussion of guns, once again. They could not believe I believed so strongly in owning one for self-defense. We then came to the conclusion that it was more common to own one for self-defense in America because the bad guys were more likely to own one for dangerous reasons. I was shocked to learn that policemen in London DIDN'T carry guns. I didn't understand how that was reasonable but Pierre said London was one of the most highly monitored video camera cities in the world and if they needed back up with guns they could call them in. They explained that guns were less common so people didn't feel as obligated to protect themselves with guns.


Matthew explained that guns were really a way of life for us. We were raised around them. We used them for recreation and agricultural use as well as for safety. Then again guns carried for safety were mostly carried by those with fear. I made the point that if someone were to attack me I couldn't very well hurt them; even with a knife, so a gun made more sense for me. On the other hand, Matthew could protect himself pretty well without a gun so he didn't feel as obligated to carry one.


As the discussion got heated apparently so did a lighter that was sitting on top of the fireplace. We all five jumped and screamed as something popped and pieces flew all over the room, hitting us in different places. The lighter had exploded. We laughed at how the explosion had perfect timing with the discussion.


At some point we discussed the facd that “how are you” sounds the same in most languages.


Spanish: Como Estas

Italian: Como Estai

French: Comment allez-vous


We then looked at Danny and asked how to say it in Chinese. She paused and then said they don't use that phrase. We asked how she would start a conversation with a stranger and she said they usually don't, it is very uncommon. We were caught off guard but then she said they would start a conversation by asking, “When did you last eat?” We laughed and laughed but she eventually explained that it was no so much about eating as it was a conversation filler like we would ask about the weather. It made sense really because the “how are you” question wasn't taken seriously anyways.

Little Sahara

Tuesday was exciting because Matthew and I got to make a road trip to a nearby attraction: Little Sahara! After working our mandatory hours we grabbed our things and quickly told Yollana where we were going. We had discussed everything at dinner the night before so she was fine with it.


The dunes were a short ten minute drive from our place and it was $20 to get in, even though we had brought our own board. (Yollana had loaned it to us from the business.) After paying our fees and signing our lives away, we threw our flip flops off in the corner of an unguarded public area and headed towards the mountains of sand.



The view in front of me was magnificent; huge mountains of sand billowing up in the middle of all the bushland. There were people of all ages doing all sorts of things. I watched a middle aged guy lay down on his board backwards before sliding all the way down the hill. Another guy near him wiped out and gave me a good laugh.


We walked passed the first two hills, which were a decent size but smaller than the back ones. When I asked why, Matthew of course told me we would be climbing the tallest point so we could go down the toughest course. I commented that this would be the double diamond of sand surfing. I had not sand surfed before but I was up for the challenge.


Surfing was not as smooth as I had imagined. The sand stuck to the board more than snow so it didn't glide as easily. Plus it was sprinkling so that made the sand stickier. We tried to warm up on the back side bunny hill part but it wasn't even steep enough for that. And so, we did our first runs facing the double diamond head-on. Fortunately it was easy to keep balance and the sand permitted us from going too fast. The speed was a medium intensity so you had plenty of time to laugh and holler on your way down. It seemed as though every single time I had to yell “Rippin!” just as I had done during surf lessons.


It took no time for us to catch the hang of it. Previous experience snowboarding, wakeboarding and skateboarding really came in handy. The scary part was that you had to lean forward quite a bit in order to get the leverage you need to move forward. An extra learn forward and you could easily be sumersaulting down the hill.


The board had two handles where we stuck our feet, other than that you were on your own. Matthew and I had a contest on who could surf the farthest without falling or running out of steam. He beat me by a foot. Afterwards I found out how much fun it was to roll down the hill like a child. I got sand everywhere but it was totally worth it.



We only had 45 minutes on the dunes before they closed but by then we were ready to go. The surfing wasn't bad but climbing back up to the top was very tough. Matthew and I both had trouble making it back up. We would stop half way to the top and take big gulps of air. I gulped more than Matthew. The good thing was, we only had one board because that meant while one person boarded the other person had a chance to breath.

Alex & Camille Leave

On Monday the cafe was super slow. So slow, in fact, that Camille and I spent the morning pulling weeds. I actually enjoyed the task because it gave me a chance to enjoy some good music I had recently downloaded. The task was also pleasant because I had a huge load off of my shoulders. Today I wasn't working as a manager in training. I was simply working as a volunteer, and that was nice.


When we did finally have customers I waited on them and quickly fell into a good conversation. It was a family of four from Perth. The man reminded me of my Dad because he shared a lot of the same views as him. He told me thought America needed Trump because it had turned soft. He thought Trump would pull us back to our conservative roots. I asked them about Perth and they recommended going to Darwin during the winter and saving Perth for the Spring time. I hadn't yet thought about Darwin but after listening to them talk about it for several minutes I figured it was as good a place as any to head next.


The wife asked me what part of America I was from and when I responded they said they had never been to Oklahoma but thought it seemed nice. The man asked me if there was a lot to do for tourists there. Little did he know he was talking to a Oklahoma tourism fanatic.


“I think Oklahoma is relatively new to the tourism industry. We are one of the younger states and because of that we are still branding ourselves as a destination. I've worked a couple of different jobs in the Oklahoma tourism industry and I can tell you there is plenty to do, it's just not that well publicized.” I went on to tell them about the amazing opportunities in agritourism, the beautiful lakes and the delicious southern food. I told them about Oklahoma City and the Thunder, though they weren't familiar with the NBA.


“Yeah, the city sounds cool but it sounds like it might just be another big city, you know what I mean? Is that where you are from or do you know any smaller towns that might be interesting?”


That was the jackpot question I had waited for.


“Actually, I'm from Frederick, it's a very small town in the southwest corner of the state. We're actually just a ten minute drive from Texas.” I paused and noticed their eyebrows were raised.


“So is it real Western like Texas, with cowboys and stuff?”


“We are western but not like what you see on TV. My community is agriculture based and so there are plenty of farmers and ranchers in the area, but we also have a lot of neat museums and activities that make us unique too.”


“Wow, that sounds like a lot for a small town. What sorts of museums?”


“We have a little bit of everything, but a lot of it is history-based. We have a 1920's Mediterranean style theatre that is still in good use, a WWII Air Base that is currently used for living history demonstrations and an entire park that resembles a town in the early 1900's.” I was trying to keep my shpiel relatively short because I knew I could easily discuss my hometown for hours.


“That's quite a bit!” At this time I realized they had all finished eating throughout our conversation. I felt a bit embarrassed about this so I cued my exit.


“Well, I better let you guys finish your meal. I didn't mean to talk your ear off!”


The wife laughed and said it was a pleasure. The husband spoke up and said, “Well, you are a fine ambassador for Oklahoma and for Frederick. If we ever make it to Oklahoma we will definitely come visit your town and told them Haley from Australia sent us!” I laughed and told him the town was small enough that that would actually work. They thanked me again as I cleared their table and watched them walk to their car.


When I finished my shift I was invited to go to town with Matthew, Alex and Camille. Alex and Camille had packed their bags and were going to catch the bus and ferry back to Adelaide. I eyed their backpacks and a million questions filled my mind.


I asked Alex and Camille if they carried nail polish and make-up and they said they wanted to but the limited space deemed it unnecessary. Alex talked about how backpacking had taught her to care less and less about what people think. Like me, these two girls had been glamour queens before hitting the road. Now they both sat barefaced and carefree in front of me. I wanted to be like that but I wasn't quite ready. I couldn't let go of my mascara. It was the last thread between me and nature.

One last photo with Alex!  

One last photo with Alex!  


Before starting this trip I was a minimalist by American standards. I have never been name-brand conscious and I have a hard time spending money on clothes and electronics. Unlike my piers, I preferred to buy things like books and paintbrushes. Looking back I see how materialistic even that is in comparison to where I am now. The huge suitcase I had stressed over packing was now too big and too much. I had a great urge to mail half its contents back home and start over with a smaller bag. I didn't need all the fancy clothes I had packed. I didn't need multiple coloring books and hair products. In fact I had yet to brush or straighten my hair since I left the United States. It was really nice, actually. I think that's one of the things I like about the backpacking mindset. There is no glamour in backpacking; only life and living. That's the authenticity of it and that's why it's life changing.


The ride to town was a short one this week. Alex and I nearly cried when I told her goodbye. She gave me a big hug and told me good luck. I wished her a safe trip back to Canada and told her to keep in touch. Camille thanked me for the brief meeting and I wished her luck on her journey as well. It was a bittersweet goodbye for us all.  

Talk about a Math Wiz!

The next day Camille and Pierre got thrown in head first to cafe life. We had a tour bus coming at noon. Forty-one people from the South Dutton Cattle Breeders Association. They would be having sandwiches, passionfruit cheesecake and their choice of tea or coffee. Everything needed to be clean and set up for them by the time they arrived. Pierre helped clean the barn while Camille and I worked on the sandwiches.


When Alex came on the clock I let her take over my spot with the sandwiches so I could work on putting out dishes, napkins, silverware and the welcome sign. In between the preparations we were still taking orders from people walking in the cafe. It hadn't been too busy but I know there were a few coffee sales.


After drawing a beautiful chalkboard welcome message I reentered the kitchen and found Alex working alone.


“Where's Camille?”


Alex turned around and let out a big sigh. I knew she was about to tell me something bad.


“She is outside talking to Yollana. I think she wants to leave.”


“What? Why? What happened?” Camille hadn't even been here twenty four hours yet so I can't imagine what made her come to a conclusion so quickly.


“I don't know. I was showing her how to make a milkshake, and then a coffee order came in. I told her how we make coffee and then she just started crying and she walked out.”


I was in a stupor. Alex was the kindest, most patient instructor I had ever met. There was absolutely no way she could have overwhelmed or belittled Camille. There was something else upsetting her.


“That doesn't make any sense.”


“I know. I felt bad but I did not know what was wrong.”


I poked my head around the corner and saw Camille talking to Yollana. She had tears running down her bright red face and she looked very distraught. A few minutes later Yollana came in and saw Camille wants to leave the island for reasons she didn't understand. Fortunately, Camille was willing to work the remainder of her time here. That was great because we had a lot to do that day.

Our welcome sign for the tour group.

Our welcome sign for the tour group.


We finished up the sandwiches, plated the cheesecake, prepared the coffee and cleaned the tables just in time for the tour group. The South Dutton Cattle Breeders Association was full of lovely people. They were mostly older and very pleasant. They loved the food and told us so multiple times. While they were eating Matthew and Alex ran the cafe and the kitchen while Camille, Pierre and I kept the tour bus full on coffee and void of dirty dishes. We all worked very hard and at the end of my shift Matthew told Alex and I that we ran 27 tickets and had over a thousand dollars in sales even though $600 was from the bus. It was a very busy day for the cafe and Pierre and Camille handled it like champs. We told them how proud of them we were before taking our breaks for the day.


Grateful that my shift was over, I sat down on the front veranda to read the new book I had just bought in Kingscote. I had been very careful to only buy one book. The used bookstore was so intoxicating but I eventually made it out with a winner. It was an Australian novel about a young girl who spends her life writing books. A twinge of excitement passed over me as I opened the cover and began reading the first page. I was two paragraphs in when Pierre appeared in front of me with a bowl of cereal. I put the book down and listened as he talked about his job predicament.


Pierre was a licensed diving instructor and had several years experience but for some reason he couldn't find a diving job in Australia. He recently read his email and discovered he had a diving instructor offer in the Dominican Republic. This was great news but bad timing. If he were to accept the offer he would waste his one year Working Holliday Visa in Australia. Once the visa is granted you have exactly one year from the time of your arrival, no matter the circumstances. As badly as Pierre wanted to stay here, he hadn't found any work and had been here a month already.


We sat discussing his options for a few minutes before Matthew came and joined us. A few minutes after that Saha found our group and joined in as well. Saha had also arrived over the past few days. He was Uzi's son, a beautiful six year old boy with curly brown hair and a sweet demeanor. He was much more background than his sister, Leila, who was the queen of everything. I hadn't much talked to Saha because he spent most of his time doing boyish things with his companion, Ash.


“Hey guys, want to see a trick?” Though I was hoping everyone would leave so I could read, I couldn't resist Saha's cute little voice.


“Sure. Whatcha got?” I leaned forward and watched as Saha's eyes got wide and turned to Matthew. Matthew grinned and I wondered what they had plotted.


“What's one hundred and twenty three times seven hundred and forty five?”


Saha rolled his eyes back and began working the problem in his head. Five seconds later he responded.


“Ninety-one thousand, six hundred and thirty five.” I looked at him and then looked at Matthew.


“Is that right?” I asked. Matthew closed one eye and thought for a minute before nodding his head and smiling.


“Do another one!” Pierre said. “What is seventy three times ninety-two?” While Saha set his mind to work I pulled out the calculator on my phone. Before I could type in the question Saha responded.


“Six thousand, seven hundred and sixteen.” I looked at him with a face of shock.


“How are you doing that? I can't even use my calculator that fast, much less my head!” Saha simply grinned and asked for another one. The math quiz went on for a few minutes. I was laughing because I couldn't fathom it and the boys were hollering encouragement to the young kid. It really was amazing.


After a dozen math problems we all decided it was time to move inside because the mosquitos were ruining all the fun. I found a quite place in the lounge room and opened my book. This time I read a full page and a half before Matthew came in the room, harassing me about the dead mouse he had found in our room.


I told him I wanted to read by myself but I felt guilty—like I should be making supper since I was now the only other woman and Yollana was closing the cafe. So I talked myself into it and decided to make a vegetable stew for dinner.


I turned my iTunes app on shuffle and began chopping vegetables. The music was relaxing and the kitchen was inviting so I decided to crack open a Corona as well. This was nice. I missed this. Back home I loved a nice quiet evening to myself, cooking and humming a good tune in my kitchen with no one else around. The pleasant feeling lasted about five minutes before kids came running through the kitchen. Ash stopped when he got to me and started moving his hips.


“What is this?”


I looked down and giggled. My phone was playing “Rapper's Delight” and Ash was loving it. I turned it up and he continued to dance. I laughed. Erin then came in the kitchen and began hula-hooping to the music.


“Watch this!” She pulled the hoola hoop around her neck and wiggled around like turkey. Ash was on the floor doing some kind of breakdancing and I was recording it all on Snapchat. The pleasant feeling had returned, but in a different form.

Meeting Pierre

In between Matthew, Uzi, Yollana and I discussing the severity of our almost contract as managers, Julianne left and we gained two new volunteers: Pierre and Camille. Meeting them was awkward for Matthew and I because we weren't managers but Yollana wanted us to manage them.


Pierre and Camille arrived around dinner time one night. They had the joy of being thrown in head first to all the things our property entails. Their first dinner consisted of being squeezed in at the end of a table full of four kids and five other adults—seven including them. They only slightly made a face at the odd soup in front of them and they kept their mouths shuts when we ran out of food and the kids demanded the adults what to do throughout the rest of the dinner. I felt bad for them. If that was my first day I would have been way overwhelmed.


Thankfully dinner ended and the newbies had a chance to sit and talk with Matthew, Alex and I, sans kids and bosses. Camille made the courageous decision to go straight to bed and that gave us an excellent opportunity to get to know Pierre on a deeper level.


Our chat took place beside a warm fire in the lounge room. We talked about all sorts of things but the conversation quickly got interesting. Somehow we jumped in to our thoughts on society's problem of over educating people and shaming those who have common labor intensive jobs. This is something that has bothered me for years. Our culture only values people who use their brain for a living, yet the ones who use their hands are just as valuable in the big picture.


Pierre made the point that countries like Australia, America and France have to allow immigration or else they couldn't function because Americans, Australians and French people do not want to do the crappy jobs. Americans use Mexicans, Australians use backpackers and French use the refugees to do it for them. That's why Australia has so many jobs for backpackers and thats why America has so many jobs for Mexicans and sometimes even Asians. We don't want to have to do those jobs. I hadn't thought about this before but it made perfect sense. Immigration was economic, really. Immigrants take the labor intensive jobs like fruit picking, housekeeping, construction and childcare.


We could tell immediately that Pierre was wise and well-travelled. He knew history and politics for almost every country on the globe. I knew he was just 24 so I asked how he got to be so well-travelled.


“I went to university and I tried to learn but after a year I decided I couldn't take anymore. I didn't want to sit on a bench listening to someone talk all day. The professors hadn't even lived or worked in the places they were teaching me about. It doesn't make any sense. I really wanted to learn, but I want to learn outside of a school building.” He said he has traveled ever since.


I shared my similar story about taking a year off from college. I learned more about people and life and work in that one year than I did in all three years of sitting in a classroom. We all talked about the stigma that comes with traveling. Most kids our age were starting families and careers. Our choice to travel is sometimes frowned upon or seen as a threat. We had all experienced situations like this yet we were here anyways. Pierre said he wants to look back on his death bed and know that his entire life was full. He didn't want to look back on life and wished he would have done something when he had the chance.


Pierre told us his desire to travel started when he was quite young. His mom moved when he was only three months old. Pierre began to see moving around as a way of life, and though his mother has been stationary for quite some time, his urge to roam has remained.


He remembers talking to his grandad when he was very young. His grandad said he had the opportunity to try skydiving once but he didn't take it. Pierre said for some reason that conversation has always stuck with him. He doesn't understand why people like his grandfather are okay with never leaving the place they were born. We decided there were three types of people in the world. Those who never leave their home and are happy with that, those who are most happy to travel, and those who never leave but wish they would have.


Around that time our conversation was interrupted with business. Yollana called Matthew and I into the kitchen to further discuss our contract. Before long Alex wandered in and the conversation got silly. Yollana left for bed and Matthew ended up telling Alex and I stories about getting handcuffed in middle school by our school resources officer. The prank was meant to be a joke but his mom didn't think it was so funny. Alex asked us if our hometown was really country and we told her about the farmland surrounding it. She asked how much land my family farmed and I responded in acres. She wasn't sure what an acre was so Matthew drew up a map and explained acres, 80s and the whole loot. I pitched in and would up drawing a map of the entire family farm. Alex laughed and said if she was ever in Oklahoma she'd stop by the farm and know her way around each field, thanks to my map.


We all laughed and then realized it was nearly midnight. Our conversations had been so hearty we hadn't realized the time.   

Week 5 & Week 6 on Kangaroo Island

Weeks five and six were very eventful, but due to privacy concerns I cannot post the details at this time.  For now I have summarized these two weeks into one post.  


Fiona, in all her glory.

Fiona, in all her glory.

Manual Driving Lessons

Up until this point in the story I have been unable to drive. This is for several reasons. For one, I admit that I am a horrible driver and everyone knows that. Matthew would much rather keep his life than risk it on my driving. For two I have never driven on the left side of the road and that might worsen my driving skills. The third and main reason I haven't driven is because most every car here is an automatic.


Fiona, the feisty Festa, who I have mentioned in previous posts, is the only business car that the resort has. We use this car to drive from the hostel to the cabins for cleaning and on Mondays we drive her into town for groceries and errands. She has also been known to haul firewood and garbage if needed.


After five weeks on the property it was decided that I needed to learn how to drive a manual so I could independently clean cabins. I did want to learn. I just needed to find a willing instructor.


One night after the most stressful day, I was in my pajamas ready to shut out the world for a while, when Matthew hollered for me to come outside. I huffed about it a bit but when I got to the door and realized he was going to give me a driving lesson I perked up a bit.


The lesson really didn't take as long as I had expected. Don't get me wrong, it was a lot of information to take in, but I didn't expect to be driving within fifteen minutes. My first drive was from the hostel parking lot to the dam pond. It wasn't pretty but we made it alive. I learned that the clutch was BAE because it came before all else. You had to use the clutch if you wanted to do anything. I also learned that the hard part was stopping and taking off. For that reason they told me cleaning cabins would be a good way to practice because of all the starting and stopping.


Ever since that night I've been practicing my manual driving and though others may disagree, I think I'm slowly getting better. I have yet to leave the property but I do drive back and forth to the cabins quite often.


Modelling for Food

Another big thing that happened that week began when my modeling agent called. Okay, just kidding, I don't have a modeling agent. But Matthew and I did get to do some modeling!


Yollana needed a picture for a voucher that would be printed in a KI tourism booklet. She wanted to offer customers a discounted meal and a glass of wine. After working all morning in the cafe she asked Matthew and I if we'd like to pose for some advertising material for the voucher. I thought it sounded like fun so we both changed clothes and freshened up for our big shoot.


One picture quickly turned into a four-location photoshoot with multiple angles, cameras and lighting instruments. We had a great time. We posed and smiled and held up glasses of wine for nearly two hours. The best part was that we got to eat the model food and drink the model wine afterwards. More on that later, though.


Negotiating the Word "No"

During week six the landlord, Uzi, returned to the property. While he was here he helped Yollana make important business decisions like the negotiation of Matthew and I's contract. For five nights in a row we stayed up late discussing the details of our management contract. Before we came to the island we were told that we would have a one month trial period and then we would decide if we wanted to take the management position and if Yollana would still want to offer it to us. The one month trial did not include compensation or hours towards our contract. It was simply a trial month. As you may have read, we worked really hard during that month, especially because we were trying to prove ourselves as managers. But when it came down to it Matthew and I realized that we were going to be signing a contract that bound us to Kangaroo Island for an additional six months; that would be seven total months of our entire trip. Our visas gave us a year in Australia. Seven months was over half of that one year. Besides that, Matthew had to be back in the states at the end of seven months, meaning he would leave Australia with only living and working in one place; missing out on a majority of the mainland.


After many nights of praying, negotiating and seeking wisdom, we eventually decided to turn the offer down. This was such a surprise to Yollana that she had to scramble to come up with a Plan B. To make a long story short, Matthew and I agreed to stay and manage for two months, giving Yollana time to find our replacements.


During these two weeks of negotiating I learned a lot. It may sound silly but saying “no” was a really big accomplishment for me. “No” was a word I had rarely used in my life. I was raised to love others and keep the peace if possible. I am a people-pleaser at heart and that has led me to do things I'm not passionate about. The big victory in this story is that I was reminded that 2016 was going to be my year. It was a year away from everything I have previously known. When I made the decision to come to Australia I told myself I would free myself of all inhabitions and I would spend my time doing things I was truly passionate about. Managing cottages and working in an office wasn't one of those things. It was far easier for me to sit down and take it than it was for me to stand up and say, “No. This isn't what I want.”

For most people that wouldn't be a big deal, but for me it was the most victorious part of my trip so far. Despite the fact that we stumbled back to working for two months, it still counts as a victory to me. The best part is, at the end of two months our accounts will be full enough to carry us to a new city with new hopes and new things to do. For now I will stay on this island, spending my time painting and writing and thinking.


Fortunately I didn't have to work until noon on Friday.  I slept until 10am, got dressed, then worked on my blog. Matthew came back from a run and enjoyed the wifi with me. Matthew read outloud some of the reviews of our resort on TripAdvisor. One said the food was managed by a bunch of amateurs and another said the bedding was mismatched. Though there were plenty of good, positive reviews, it was those two that stuck out to us.


We did this until it was time for me to go to work at noon. I ran into the kitchen to hurry and grab a slice of toast but when I got there Alex was heating up soup and she said the cafe was super slow. So I slowed down and ate soup with her.


We hung out at the cafe but no customers came. After a while Yollana came and told Alex to go clean the hostel and she gave me a job of ordering phone batteries.


When I finished that there were customers: a couple from Perth. I delivered their meal and talked to them throughout the whole thing. We talked about Perth and agriculture.  I told them I wanted to visit Perth and they explained the area around them regarding agriculture.  They explained that as you move east of Perth you hit family farms, and if you continue east you hit corporate farms. I asked them how long I needed to stay in Perth in order to see the sites.  They said for Perth I only needed a week but if I wanted to work my way around on the farms I would need a month or more.

The man mentioned that the entire state of Western Australia is the size of Texas. They warned me about the weather and suggested I go during the warmer months. We talked about Seal Bay Cafe and the 35 acres it sat on. I told him I found it interesting that so much of the beef in Australia is exported, he said it mostly goes to the middle east because the prices are better there. He also told me that 80% of the crawfish in Australia is exported to Asia. I asked if that was why I had yet to see crab or lobster on an Australian menu and he said yes.

I told him my Dad was a farmer and he thought that was interesting. He asked how long I was staying and I said a few months because I am managing. His wife recommended that I get a car to explore the island. They said KI was as beautiful and diverse as anywhere they had seen in Australia. He explained that the wool market had taken a big hit in the 90's so many smaller sheep farms like the one we were sitting on closed back then and have never reopened. To reopen a farm operation like this it would take lots of money, I said we had the same hurdle in America. 



After they left I found Matthew out back shaving the sides of the new mirror for the car. Until now it had only had one rearview mirror.  I watched for a while before he asked me to lend a hand in holding a block of wood and a piece of cloth while he taped it to the mirror because the clamp wouldn't work.


After that we worked on the wood pile. Matthew had built this huge contraption out of old benches and pallets. It was designed to keep the wood off the ground to avoid moisture and snakes. It was a nice design but it needed to be placed inside the shed. We tilted and shifted and moved and scooted until we got in there nicely. Matthew had to crawl up under the contraption to fix the back legs. We took pictures and admired our hard work. I wished there was another boy on staff to help with this kind of thing.


After the wood pile we went to fixing the signs up front. I pulled out the sign Yollana and I had uprooted for the tour group. There was a couple drinking tea and watching. They recommended that the ordering be next door in the cafe. They said your eye naturally goes to the cafe and dismissed the cottage. I agreed but we explained that the kitchen was still in back of the cottage. After the couple left we decided to swap the flower pots. While moving the empty one Matthew set it down too hard and broke it in two. He freaked for a minute but I assured him it wasn't a big deal. Julianne sat watching while she drank her tea.


In the middle of fixing up the area around the pot it suddenly started raining and we remembered the laundry.  Matthew and I took off running through the cafe and out to the laundry line where Yollana was already taking stuff down. We each went to different lines and collected the clothes as fast as we could. Everyone took their piles to the couch and I got to work folding. Yollana ate some soup and Matthew went back outside to move things that didn't need to get wet.  When I finished folding the rain had stopped and I went back outside to finish the sign work with Matthew. We moved the second pot and though it was super heavy, we didn't break it.


Next I then put some WD-40 on the squeaky door that held the linens. After that I saw a mouse going in the dry storage; it was the second one I had seen there this week so I found one of the $7 mouse traps we had bought on our first day and I read the instructions. It said to place a bit of peanut butter the size of a pea on the trap. I got the peanut butter but didn't trust myself with a painful contraption so I got Matthew to open it while I baited it. We got it baited and then sat it at the back of dry storage to do it's job.


After that I went to the front of the cafe and fixed the screen door with a butter knife and a hammer. Around that time Yollana's mother arrived with the groceries and kids. They had been at Kingscote all day and the silence had been golden. She handed me a package of Whiting and Matthew and I sat to work deboning the batch. He deboned and de-whiskered while I wrapped in plastic wrap and put them into a freezer box.


While we worked we talked about our latest ideas. I decided that the black shirts would make our staff look a lot more professional. I also told him I thought volunteers should really strongly be recommended to stay at least a month to cover the energy of training and such. Matthew talked about the bedding still being an easy fix and I agreed. We talked about how six more months would be a while and though we wanted to get on with our travels, it was a good job and we needed the money. We agreed that if Yollana switched up the menu to vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free friendly items like she wants, she would have a lot of success. We also thought a full-time hired chef would not be a horrible idea.


We talked about asking her for the old Festa and wondered if she would trade it to us for our time here if we paid for gas and maintenance on it. In exchange we would be using our own phones and laptops for admin work.


Finally, at six o'clock, Alex and I sat down on the front veranda of the cafe and played on our phones. I was taking a survey about gap years for a chance to win a two hundred dollar travel voucher. The survey asked me if I was in between education, jobs or life stages. It asked me what my biggest obstacle was and I selected the choice about concerns for family health problems because I did indeed worry about my grandparents. It asked me if I had chosen a travel company to work through and I said yes. It wanted to know why and I said peace of mind. At the end of the survey Yollana came outside and said we could close up. Alex was off the clock so she went to the hostel and Yollana and I got busy closing. She did the dishes while I did the odd jobs.

After work Yollana made pasta with pumpkin soup poured on top and we ate as a staff while the kids watched TV.   Despite the lack of customers in the cafe, we had been a very productive crew around the property today.  

Rainbow Vomit & Playgrounds

Tuesday came around again and I enjoyed my second day off. Yollana and the kids were going to Kingscote to drop off Will at the airport and get the weekly groceries. She asked if I wanted to come along and I decided it was better than sitting around the hostel doing nothing.


Me and the kids just before the rainbow vomiting starts.  

Me and the kids just before the rainbow vomiting starts.  

The Festa was loaded down with all of us and Will's luggage. I sat in the backseat between Ash and Erin. We hadn't left the driveway yet when they caught me using snapchat. Like Leila, Ash was fascinated with it. Unlike Leila, Ash wanted to take his own picture and send it out to the world over and over again.


When I showed him the rainbow vomit filter I thought he was going to explode. He screamed and laughed and begged me to show him how to do it. Erin laughed when Ash successfully made rainbows fall out of his mouth. I had to set it up for him again and again. He wanted to make sure they were going on my story so all my friends could see his rainbow vomit too. This made him even happier.


When we got to the airport my phone was on thirty-two percent. I told him we couldn't play with it again until after his Dad was on the plane. I didn't want to be the cause of a distraction from family and I also wanted to save at least a little battery for use in town.


Our time at the airport was strange. I felt like an older cousin or a babysitter that had tagged along on a family event. Will bought a hot chocolate and shared it with the kids. They loved this. Yollana was checking her phone until Will politely asked her to enjoy the kids in front of her. She was a bit huffy but she did put down her phone for a few minutes.


At one point Erin crawled onto Will's lap and teared up as she begged him not to go. He hugged her tightly and whispered something in her ear. She hugged him back and wiped her eyes. Yollana was looking at her phone again.


When the plane arrived Yollana told the kids to tell Will goodbye so we could be on our way. Erin didn't want to let go of her daddy but eventually she had to because the Cessna had loaded the other fourteen passengers and it seemed to be waiting for it's last member to board the plane. From the window Erin and Ash stared with wide eyes as their father waved through the plane window. I felt a pain for these two. A moment later Yollana was leading us outside to the car. Erin looked up at me and said that I looked like I should be her and Ash's mother. I tried to hide my embarrassment when I asked her why she thought that. She said my hair was wavy and blonde like theirs but their mother's hair was straight and brown. I wasn't sure if Yollana heard the conversation or not but she hadn't commented and I was glad because that might have made it worse.


In Kingscote I was free to roam while Yollana did other errands. I had a list of things I needed. First I refilled Matthew and I's wine stash. Next I searched out new socks for myself. I had only packed three pairs because back home I only wore tennis shoes for running. I underestimated the amount of usage my socks would get while working at a cafe. All three pairs I owned now had holes in them and I had to do laundry twice a week just to keep up. A new batch of socks wasn't out of my budget.


Next I went to the gift shop and headed straight for the art section. I had waited long enough. The urge inside me was getting cranky. I knew I didn't have space, time or money enough for acrylics or oils so I settled on a nice set of watercolors and a two dollar brush. I could use my journal for paper and double the watercolors as supplies for my bible journaling too.


I wasn't sure if I'd get another chance so I also went to the grocery store and bought stuff to make tacos and a bar of chocolate for myself.


When Yollana picked me up afterwards the kids were begging her to take them to the park. She asked if I'd mind going with them and I said I wouldn't so she dropped the three of us off at the playground.


I don't know for sure but I think we spent two and a half hours at the playground. I enjoyed it, though. The kids were funny. I thought they would just play on the equipment but the surprised me with how many games they used to play on the equipment with. My favorite was the pirate ship game. I actually joined in to play this one. The playground was a pirate ship and the ground was the ocean. We couldn't step off the playground or else we were “it.” The it had to tag someone else and when they did that person would be “it.” I was corrected when I asked if it was just like the game tag. Apparently they didn't play tag in Australia, they played “tips.”


Around and round I ran and jumped and played as Ash started off as “it.” I quickly learned that the top of the slides counted as pause, but only for ten seconds or else you would be it. Erin and I were quite good at keeping away from Ash but when he got frustrated and started to cry, Erin was quick to let him tip her. Erin was harder to keep away from. Her monkey feet gave her a superpower on the playground. I felt fairly limber but there were moments when I realized my body was larger than the intended size for use of the equipment.


I wondered why we didn't have playground equipment designed for adults who wanted to let off steam in between work breaks but couldn't come up with a good reason why. Since adult coloring was in style, maybe adult playground climbing would be the next big thing.


When Yollana honked the horn for us to leave, Ash and Erin pretended not to hear her. They suggested that we act oblivious in hopes that she would come join us. I tried to play along for a few minutes but I already knew the outcome of this game. I had tried it many times before in my own childhood. I gathered the kids shoes and told them we needed to get going.


When we made it back to the hostel the kids begged me to watch their new movie with them. They had rented it at the library and it was about a magic house that saved an old man. I actually enjoyed the comedy in it and found it to be a very creative movie. The kids mostly just laughed at it. Sometimes things are funny just because.

A Trip to Vivonne Bay

On Sunday we had a tour group we had to feed for lunch. This group was bigger than the others I had helped with and so it required extra preparation.


Alex, Julianne and I worked all morning--filling the bain maries, preparing tomato sauce bottles, cutting cabbage for coleslaw, and plating the cheesecake. When the food prep was under control I moved the menu and till to the bar area in the cafe. Yollana thought it would be a good idea to take cafe orders from the bar so I could double as a beverage server to the tour group. These were college kids so they were more likely to drink, I was told. I found out another reason they would be drinkers when Yollana gave me the tour group name to put on the sign. The University of Adelaide German Group would be our guests for lunch. I hoped they would be attractive. I hadn't seen anyone my age of the opposite sex in weeks, other than Matthew and other volunteers and I wasn't interested in those options.


My position behind the bar turned out to be very successful. I served twice as much beer to the cafe inhabitants simply because I was convenience in distance and thoughtful in asking. The German Group enjoyed the bar atmosphere too. I sold out of West End and Carlton completely and a few blokes bought bottles of wine to take back with them.


When the bus left it was half-past two. The relief of ending a successful tour lunch was great and so Yollana suggested we celebrate by having tea and cheesecake in the barn. Will, Yollana, the kids and us volunteers all sat down and thoroughly enjoyed the leftover Passionfruit Cheesecake that we had served the Germans. Ash liked it so much that he told Will he didn't want to share with him. Will tried to suggest that a full piece was too big for Ash but it was of no use. We all laughed a few minutes later when Ash was full after only a few bites. Will was patient and polite towards his son and though he had already had a piece of his own he was still happy to finish Ash's other half.


After cake, Julianne, Matthew, Alex and I washed dishes and put everything back in its place. Halfway through the washing Alex suggested that we go to Vivonne Bay for the evening. We asked Yollana if we could go after we cleaned the kitchen and she said we had earned a day at the beach after all of our hard work.


We finished with the dishes around five and quickly after we were all piled in Fiona the feisty Festa and headed towards Vivonne Bay. I suppose the most memorable part of the drive was that Will had drawn Matthew a map with instructions on how to get to the jetty. We all pointed to dozens of signs that pointed towards the jetty and with laughter we all admitted that we had no idea what a jetty was. This turned into a very silly conversation that lasted until we reached “the jetty.”


As it turns out a jetty is basically the aussie word for a pier. The jetty had lots of fishing boats all around it and we didn't feel like it was a welcome tourist spot so we walked passed it on to the beach.



The smell around us was very fishy, but not in a smelly way. I guess that's why this time when I looked at the sea I thought about food. I contemplated how the earth gives us nourishment naturally. As a farmer's daughter this was something I was familiar with. On land there is cattle, pork, chicken, kangaroo, buffalo, or whatever meat you fancy. There were ranches for making this meat edible and profitable and that was the world I came from. On the other hand, in the sea there is squid, fish, lobster, crab, oysters and other exotic delicacies such as caviar. I could smell the rawness of it. It was like realizing for the first time that seafood is an organic meal from nature too. It just doesn't come from dirt.


I thought about the blog posts I wrote a few years back about my experiences as a novice gardener. It had really brought my attention to all of the wonderful things about dirt. It gets wet and produces food. How fascinating it is to put a seed into dirt, top it off with water, and then wait as magic takes place and food is produced—not just any food, but real food that tastes better than anything you can buy at the store, food that's good for you and recommended by nutritionists. Nothing tastes better than fresh vegetables out of the garden. Especially fresh okra that gets fried within the hour of picking.  It all starts with dirt and seed.


The ocean is similar to the magical world of gardening but yet it is altogether different. Rather than being mostly dirt and a little water, the ocean is all water and a little dirt. It stays wet and produces food. There are no weeds to fight with so you could say there is not as much labor. Then again, I've never tried to harvest oysters from the sea, either. I have learned that oyster shucking requires truck-fulls of hard working men just like wheat harvest does so maybe there is an equal amount of labor involved.

It's tough to say if one is better than the other.  In the beginning of time God made land and saw that it was good. God also made water and saw that it was good too.


The four of us walked up and down the beach taking pictures and skipping rocks. We laughed at how great it felt to leave the property. We jokingly thought about not going back, but then did the mature thing and drove home.



We were very grateful to see that Will had made us a dinner of kangaroo nachos and leftover pork chops from the tour group meal. We thought we were in heaven. We hadn't seen that much meat in weeks. The four of us cleaned up what was left after Will, Yollana and the kids had filled their plates. Everyone left the table with a full belly.


After the kids went to bed we did dishes once again before settling into our nightly television watching routine. Alex and Julianne boiled water for tea and because there was no hot chocolate I decided to give tea another chance. The warmness of it was too tempting. While the others decided what movie to watch I decided tea was alright as long as it had a splash of milk. I felt pretty grown-up for thinking this. All my life I had been a breakfast outcast because I liked neither tea nor coffee. Now I was in a country full of people who drank tea and coffee at least twice a day, if not more. I was glad my tastebuds had matured and agreed to like the taste of tea. I couldn't wait to tell my mother. She would be so proud of me.


On Wednesday I got up and was ready by 8am.   Yollana had a phone call and had asked me to watch Ash and Erin. Luckily they already had their breakfast and were camped in front of the TV. There was no bread and no cereal and no peanut butter so I skipped breakfast and went straight to cleaning. I made the double bed, swept and mopped the kitchen, bathrooms, hallway, laundry room and dining room. I wiped down the counters and then it was time to open the cafe. I opened the cafe and rolled silverware, then Matthew came for his coffee. Just after that I had a few other orders for coffee and stayed busy for about half an hour.


I had a few tables that weren't complicated orders, just fussy customers. The one lady ate her Poached Eggs and then complained there was no avocado. She said that was the only reason she had ordered it and she demanded her money back for the avocado. I apologized and gave her $2. I figured that was more than fair for trading out for small slices of avocado.


The next table was two older couples. They ordered three BLTs, two milkshakes and a coffee. One woman had requested avocado so I charged her an additional $2, again guessing. At the same time I realized the first woman wasn't going to get avocado, I realized the second table wasn't either. I went outside and apologized and the woman said it was no big deal at all. I asked if I could get her anything else and she said she was absolutely fine.


I had all of their order out at a decent time. They smiled and cooed at the delicious looks of their meals so I went inside to clean up the kitchen a bit. Around the time I figured they would be done, one of the gentlemen came inside and asked about his fourth BLT. I explained that they had only ordered three and he got upset. He asked if I charged him for four and I showed him the receipt and ticket and assured him I only put them down for three. I offered to make him a fourth BLT and he angrily said it was too late for that now and told me they were in a rush and had to leave right this instant. I apologized again and went back to my cleaning.

Seal Bay cafe

A few minutes later one of the ladies from the same table came inside. She demanded a refund for their fourth BLT. I assured her as well that I had only charged them for three BLTs. She wanted to see the receipt and she told me I was wrong, that I owed her money. I was frank when I said I had only charged her for three BLTs plus the milkshakes and coffee. She then realized she hadn't calculated the prices of the drinks. Before she turned to walk off she asked me about the avocado one last time and accused me of stealing money from her for the avocado. I explained that I didn't know we were out until I started cooking and gave her back $2 for the mistake. I offered once more to fix a fourth BLT for her and she told me it was no use. As she walked off I could tell she was still angry but I had no control over that. If she wanted me to fix the problem I would but she didn't. In past service jobs I had learned that some people just want to complain, they don't actually want you to do anything or fix anything. It's really a petty attention type thing I think.


After the lunch rush Yollana asked me to sit with her at the picnic table to discuss an award application for the KI Food and Wine Awards. I asked if we should go inside so we could see better but she said the weather was too nice. As I read through the first question, Yollana wrote it down in her notebook. Half way through the second question she suddenly remembered the laundry and told me to finish taking notes while she went down to the cabins for a bit. I read through question two and wrote my own notes next to it. Question three dealt with the KI Brand and I loved the work KI had done in their branding. I highlighted some of the words and wrote notes in the notebook. My head was spinning with ideas and inspiration and I knew this was a good exercise for not only me but also Yollana. This was the PR building blocks that needed to be examined before moving forward with the company. People quite often skipped these parts, assuming they were unimportant but my degree and real life experience told me that that was a crucial mistake.


When Yollana got back she asked me to come inside with her so we could look at her laptop. I was grateful to go inside where my skin wouldn't burn and my eyes would adjust better. Inside we looked at the bookings for today, there were no new check-ins. She then skipped forward to May and realized we needed to add more volunteers to the end of April. We switched tabs and got on Helpx.com which was a website for volunteers to be hired and posted. We looked through a few profiles and she called the second one we read. When she got a voicemail she decided they weren't worth it. The third, fourth and fifth profiles got emails from us. We emailed a 29 year-old French dude who had great reviews and a killer smile. We also emailed a German couple and an Australian girl named Andrea. 


In the middle of an email Yollana stopped suddenly and walked outside, towards the cafe. I played on my phone till she got back. When she came back inside she announced that Julianne was leaving around the 13th and Alex was leaving around the 19th. Shortly after that Yollana and her kids would leave too.


Her phone rang again. I could hear it was someone wanting a room for the night. It was a couple and they were in Vivonne Bay, just a few minutes away. When she hung up she invited me to go with her to the cabins to check and see if number two was ready to go. While we were down there I looked in the window and saw that it was good. Her phone rang again, it was someone we had just emailed. I could hear a man's voice and lots of enthusiasm. I heard him say he wanted to work more than 35 hours and he was happy to help. Yollana hung up and told me it was Arnald, the French guy. I was happy to hear this. He seemed like the most qualified volunteer we had profiled.


Matthew, Yollana and I sat at the table and I told Matt about Arnald. He got very excited at the idea of having another guy around. I told him the guy seemed like good help and he liked the idea even better.

Yollana told us she didn't think the award application was worth our time; that we had other priorities to take care of. She turned to a new page of her notebook and began with the number one priority. Next to number one she wrote “Package” in big letters and then began talking about accommodations; four nights for the price of three, a sealink ferry deal we would arrange, three free meals, a Little Sahara deal...she then stopped and started calling Little Sahara. When she got off the phone Matthew and I told her it would be a good priority to buy new double bedding. She nodded her head and then called another business to ask about pricing. Matthew and I chatted about his evening plans. He had talked to a guy named Ted about the local footy club. I asked if he was going to do it and he said probably. I told him it was a yes or no question.  He agreed and decided the answer was yes, he would do it. He then got up and left the room to go change clothes.


When Yollana got off the phone she told me I was done working for the day and thanked me for sitting patiently.


I walked outside and found myself under the control of Erin. She wanted me to play body stretching with her. Before she could explain how to play her grandmother pulled up and I met Yollana's mother for the first time. Her name was Leonie and she was a very proper woman with more of an English accent than an Aussie one.   Her and Yollana were very formal in their greeting and once again I felt like the tagalong babysitter during a family event.  After the initial welcoming chit chat Erin took me into the front yard to continue her explanation of body stretching. I did a few cartwheels and jumps with her before politely begging her to let me sit out and watch.


Thankfully Matthew came in and said it was time to go to footy. He said I could go and play on my laptop while he practiced and we could eat at the hotel in Parndana afterwards. I was happy he was going to let me go so I grabbed my laptop and hoodie and jumped in the car. Yollana mentioned all of the gang going to Parndana for dinner and we agreed that that would be fine. Matthew just didn't want the whole kit and kaboodle watching him play ball on his first time, he didn't know what to expect.


In the car Matthew told me how nervous he was. He didn't know what to expect. What if the guys were extreme or super good. I assured him his athletic skills were universal and reminded him of all the American football awards he had earned back home. He yabbed on about not having a proper workout in over a month and I told him he'd be fine, he was only 25.


The road to Parndana was dirt. Solid dirt. We laughed at “Highway One” which looked like the dirt road I lived on. At one point we came to a fork in the road and I told Matthew if I were to take a wrong turn on this island I would probably end up driving off a cliff. He said that's why I didn't need to drive, even if we did get an automatic car at the cafe.


Parndana had a nice big welcome sign. In fact, the sign was more fancy than the town. The town reminded me of Tipton. It was small and quaint. There was a hotel, a lodge, a bakery and a quick stop. We had to stop at the hotel to ask for directions to the field. The field was actually a pretty nice complex. Matthew yelled out as he noticed the men were all in uniforms. They looked really good too. Then we realized they were kids, not men. He yelled out again. He said his mouth was dry he was so nervous. I told him he was going to be great and held out my hands as he gave me his wallet, phone and chapstick and told me to put them in my purse—probably out of habit or nervousness because I just sat them in the empty seat next to me.


I noticed a wife and child in the car next to me and decided I was definitely in the supporters section. I told him good luck and watched as he shook his hands wildly and walked towards the group of men, (not children.)


I watched in anticipation as I saw him shake hands with who I assumed was “Ted”, the guy he had talked to on the phone earlier. He then pointed at Matthew's foot and then towards a group of stretching men. Matthew walked over and began stretching too. Not many minutes later him and two other guys started running a lap around the field.

When they finished their lap they went back to stretching before doing some warm up kicks and catches that reminded me of baseball warm-up.  


Next they got in a circle and clapped like football before splitting up into a five star sequence that reminded me of the drills we used to do in basketball. One guy would kick, another would run and catch and then kick to another guy. They did this for quite some time. I thought Matthew did pretty good considering it was his first time. He kicked as well as the younger gents and could catch the ball just like he had in football in high school.


The whole group stopped and ran a lap around the field. As they ran they kicked the balls too. I thought that had to take a lot of coordination.  I really didn't understand anything about Australian Rules Football and since this was only a practice, I didn't learn much either.  


I chuckled at all the guys' wearing short shorts. It made me think of the wheaties that came to oklahoma during harvest. I thought about how many times me and my snotty friends had made fun of the guys for their short shorts. The wheaties always took the teasing well but I thought here we are in Australia and Matthew's normal length shorts make him look like a thug compared to everyone else. Maybe they thought our attire was too lengthy. I didn't like the short shorts though.


I continued to watch as they did some blocking/tackling exercises that looked similar to the football practices I had watched back home.  Then they did some push-ups and some more running and eventually they finished by stretching near a warm fire. I don't know where the fire came from but I was starting to get cold and a fire sounded nice.  


When we arrived at the cafe Yollana, Leonie, the two kids, Alex and Julianne were all together at one table waiting for us to join them.  I ordered a beer and then studied the menu.  It was quite similar to ours; chicken schnitzel, burgers, fish and chips, calamari and chips...the plus side was that every entree came with access to a buffet of salads and veggies.  I ordered fish and chips and then filled a buffet plate with salad.

Matthew, Julianne and Alex all ordered Chicken Schnitzel and then joined me at the buffet.  I was surprised when Matthew said he was trying to down his beer without throwing up.  He said he hadn't worked out that hard in months and he was really feeling the pain.  Luckily he made it through the meal like the rest of us.


Yollana, her mother and the kids went home while we stayed and finished our beers.  When we finished we all four piled in Fiona and made the dark and bumpy ride back to the hostel.  We saw six dead wallabies and one dead kangaroo before we got to the hostel driveway.  

Good Bread, Good Veg, Good God!

I woke up at eight o'clock on Friday, ready to show Julianne the ropes of the kitchen. My methodology lasted about fifteen minutes before we had two big orders come in. Julianne would have to hit the ground running.


I panicked a little inside as I realized these orders were basically up to me. Quick, I thought, what could Julianne do that didn't require training. I pointed to the bread and told her to cut the loaves in half and place them on the grill.


While she did that I ran and got the frozen food out of the freezer. I dumped in several handfuls of chips, four calamari and a chicken schnitzel. When I finished Julianne was standing next to me, staring as if to ask what to do next. I glanced behind her at the avocados and asked her if she knew how to cut avocados. She nodded so I told her to slice the half avocado into fourths and put the slices in the tiny serving bowls. She went straight to work.


I checked my friers before rushing to the coffee machine. I prepared four teas and two milkshakes. Before running them out to the customers I pulled my chips out of the grease. When I got back in the kitchen Julianne showed me her work and I told her she was awesome. I then gave her two more small bowls and told her to fill them with tomato sauce.


Around then Yollana came in and asked if we were doing okay. I said we were getting there but could use a hand. When Yollana read the order out loud again I realized I hadn't even started on the bacon for the Chef's Breakfast and we had three orders of it! I asked Yollana to start the bacon and she did.


I dropped a piece of King Whiting into the fryer and then arranged a plate of chips, avocado and tomato for the Poached Egg order. In one swoop I turned around and lifted the fish out of the fryer and then grabbed the two pieces of toast that had been waiting patiently on the grill. The poached eggs I had started ten minutes ago were now perfectly poached. I carefully lifted them out of the water and placed them neatly on the bread slices that Julianne had prepared. Yollana cracked two more eggs while she simultaneously flipped the bacon. I glanced at the order one more time and then through some chips and calamari in a bowl before lifting the tray and heading out to table number three.


We had two more orders before two o'clock but both were simple and the timing spaced them out nicely. By three o'clock I had cleaned the kitchen and done all of the dishes from the morning. Julianne had proven to be pretty helpful in the kitchen. She wasn't a self-starter but she was good at doing what needed to be done. I told her she did a great job for her first day and Yollana told both of us take a break and have some soup at the hostel. I did as I was told and afterward I did some serious writing out on the veranda.  


The late afternoon was peaceful and much needed. I wrote and I wrote and I wrote. Julianne was off by herself searching for phone signal, Alex was happily listening to music and cleaning salt shakers in the kitchen and I had no idea where Matthew ran off to. I think Yollana and her family were down at Cabin 5 relaxing. I really enjoyed the quiet and even took several minutes to just sit and be.


After several hours had passed Julianne walked up the driveway and I asked her if she was enjoying the sunshine. She said yes and we ended up chatting about phone service, the time difference back home and all the things Australia had to offer.


Julianne had spent several months in Sydney but she said it was very expensive. She did farm work at several different places and advised me to find farm work that pays by the hour and not by commission. She said farmers often jipped people because they know backpackers work for cheap and aren't around long enough to get established.


Julianne had a friend in a small town up north who had found a farming job that paid $25 an hour. She said after she leaves here she might go and join him for this great farming opportunity. As I listened I noticed that Julianne actually spoke English quite well. So why was it, then that she often seemed so lost? Maybe she was just shy, I thought.


After a bit I noticed my stomach growling and told Julianne we should go find out if supper needed to be organized or not. We wandered to the kitchen where Alex was and I asked if she had heard of any dinner plans. She told us that Yollana was keen on leftovers so I decided Julianne and I were off the hook. We helped Alex dry the dishes and sweep the floor. When Matthew walked in the kitchen he told us about the myths that had been busted on a show he had been watching in the cafe. A bit later he came back and said the cafe was clean and locked. I checked the toilets and closed them up as well. When we were all done the four of us walked over to the hostel and sat around the television while Will and the kids finished up the dinner preparations.


Yollana had two children. Erin, a girl of nine years and Ashby a boy of six, though everyone called him Ash.  I had caught glimpses of them here and there throughout the day but for the most part they had been busy playing with their father. It was nice to watch them interact so intently with their dad.  

The meal the three of them made consisted of lots of leftovers thrown into a big pot. Despite the description, it was a delicious meal and we were all pleased afterwards because there was not an ounce left. At dinner I was surprised that Yollana waited for everyone to be served. This was not the way we usually started our dinners. She then asked the kids to say a food blessing song. Will and Erin recited a long and beautiful prayer to the earth, thanking it for the food we were about to eat.


I laughed and said one of my favorite pre-dinner prayers.


Good bread, good meat, good God, let's eat!”


Erin thought it was brilliant bc it was so short. And she repeated it several times before asking what would happen if you were vegetarian. I laughed and said I didn't know. She said it would be changed to “Good bread, good veg, good God, let's eat!” I laughed heartily at this.


The kids brought a whole new energy to the place. It was similar to having Leila around but not the same. Leila had been set on attention seeking. Erin and Ash were well-behaved, respectable kids. They enjoyed playing with us older kids but they knew when to back off and when to settle down. I was delighted to listen to Erin tell her highlight. A huge smile covered her face as she talked about how her mommy and daddy and Ash had made cubbies in the trees. I didn't ask but I am assuming cubbies are somewhat like a tree fort.


Ash held up his fingers as he counted five highlights for himself. Seeing the sunset, watching kangaroos, hanging out with Mom and the other two he forgot by the time he held up three fingers. He was a handsome boy. He had bright blonde curls surrounding his head and his eyes were as strikingly blue as Yollana's.


Erin's hair was two shades darker than Ash's. She had tan skin that matched her love for the outdoors and I had already gave her the nickname of “monkey.” Erin ran around barefoot always but that didn't stop her from climbing things. In fact, she explained that she could climb better without shoes. I watched as she climbed trees, poles and even people.


When it was time for the kids to go to their cabin, Ash ran over to Matthew and gave him a big hug goodnight. Erin was right behind him. She gave Matthew a hug and then turned to me. I was surprised for a moment when she jumped up into my arms and wrapped her feet around my hips. I gave her a big squeeze and wished her sweet dreams. She held on a little longer and then told me to remove my arms. I did so slowly and she laughed as she bent herself backwards towards my feet. She was holding herself onto me using just her legs. I was impressed but I quickly put my hands on her hips because I realized if she fell it would probably be my fault somehow.


Erin plopped down and gave Julianne a big hug and before leaving she jumped up on to Alex's hips and gave her a big hug too. Why do we lose affection when we get older? I imagined Alex, Julianne, Matthew and I hugging each other before bed. I guess when we grow up we assume affection has to be earned. I'm not sure if I agree or disagree with that.


When the family left the four of us volunteers looked around and grinned at the silence. Alex made everyone a cup of tea and when we decided the silence was too good to waste we declared it was time to watch television!


We all gathered around the set in the living room and relaxed together on the couch. The remote landed on How I Met Your Mother and we were pleased to see the episode continued right where we had left off the night before.

What do angry Frenchmen rap about?

Woke up at 8, ate breakfast, got ready and noticed more bumps all over my body. They were itchy so I put aloe vera gel on them. After breakfast I took Thomas down to the cabins to clean.


At first he played something he called, “music you like” which was Emenem, Black Eyed Peas and Shakira. I assumed I was supposed to like it because it was American. He was right, it was decent music.


Then I heard a beautiful piano intro followed by a slow, passionate french voice. I had no idea what the voice was saying but I could tell it was a love song. I tried to ask Thomas what it was called but he couldn't understand my question. Next I heard a French male voice. He was rapping. I couldn't help but laugh hysterically. I don't know why it was so funny. I guess I laughed for the same reason I did when I was twelve and discovered the Japanese version of “Barbie Girl.” It was funny because it was foreign.


When he noticed my laugh, Thomas explained that the french guy was talking about drugs even though he was using the words for soap and something else. They were french slang terms for drugs. I laughed to myself as I thought about the angry frenchmen rapping about his drug problems. French were usually so proper so this vision made me giggle.


A bit later Thomas asked me if Matthew was my boyfriend. I told him no and he said he didn't believe me. “Why not? He a beautiful boy and you a beautful girl. It should work.” I told him no and he told me to say “je t'aimeto Mat-chu. I said no and he laughed and thought it was funny that I didn't like the teasing.


We cleaned Cabin A and Cabin 1 in only an hour so we went back up to the hostel to get more supplies and keys. While I was there I stopped to make a milkshake for an order that Matthew and Yollana were working on, then it was back to the cabins.


The night before Yollana had told us to start doing the laundry down at the cabin washing machine instead of at the hostel. Her reasoning was that the hostel washer uses rain water and the cabin washer uses dam water. By using the cabin washer we would be prolonging our rain water supply. It was important to use the rain water sparingly because it was our main supply of water for drinking, cooking and showering. When we ran out of rain water we would have to purchase more water and that was not desirable for the business. For that reason the resort used dam water whenever it could—for flushing toilets, filling mop buckets and now for washing clothes.


Before Thomas and I went back down to the cabins Yollana explained to me how to jam the washing machine so we wouldn't have to pay the standard three dollars per wash.  It took Thomas and I a few minutes of jamming and prying but we finally got it.  


Next Thomas and I started on cabin 3.  I had just stripped the beds when Matthew called and said Yollana needed me back at the cafe. I walked back up and left Thomas cleaning.


Back at the cafe things were fairly slow. I helped take a few orders while Yollana and Matthew rushed around the kitchen. A teenage girl asked me what part of america I was from and when I said Oklahoma she was disappointed. “I thought you would be from California.”


After a bit of ordering and cleaning, I went next door to the hostel to get my laundry off the line and make myself some lunch. Thomas was eating his own lunch in the sun and watching a french movie on his laptop. He asked if I liked sports and I said yes. Golf, Yoga, running. He said yoga only counts a tiny bit.

His sports were extreme. Hang-gliding was his favorite. He showed me a video of him hang-gliding off a huge cliff near the Pacific Ocean.  He told me I had to try it. I agreed and went inside to heat up some soup. Inside Thomas showed me pictures of the animal sanctuary he visited in Melbourne. He got to kiss a kangaroo! He also got to hold a snake and a koala. I wanted to do that.

A bit later Matthew came in and ate his soup then I watched the ginger episode of Southpark with him before he went back to work and I went to relaxing.


I got my laptop and water bottle and sat on the hostel veranda to write while I watched for customers. After a few minutes of writing, Matthew asked me to watch while he jacked the car up on the side of the veranda using a piece of wood and a rock. “Redneck car jack” he called it.  Occasionally I had to look up from writing to see what Matthew was grunting about from underneath the car.


After an hour or so I went inside to put away laundry and get started on supper. Alex and I had discussed making a tuna salad to put on lettuce or toast. I grabbed a can of tuna, a bowl of crushed tomatoes from the fridge and one bag of pasta. I put a pot of water on the stove and went to the cafe while I waited for it to boil. In the cafe I grabbed a jar of mayonnaise, two carrots, a cucumber and an onion. When I got back Alex volunteered to cut the vegetables. Thomas volunteered to help but I told him it was his turn to relax because he had cooked the night before. He finally agreed and sat down to study his book of Australia.


I dumped the can of tuna in a large glass bowl, followed by several huge spoonfuls of mayonnaise. As Alex finished a vegetable she would scrape the diced pieces into the big glass bowl and I would stir. I went to the pantry and tried to make the best of our spice selection. I held out my hand a poured a small serving of chili powder in it. I had to be sneaky with the chili because Yollana had made it quite clear that she didn't like spicy food. I can respect that but I cannot respect food without flavor. I dashed in some black pepper, a handful of basil and a smidge of dried parsley. Alex continued to add chopped veggies to the concoction.


I then noticed the water boiling so I added half of the bag of pasta. I went between stirring the pasta and stirring the concoction for several minutes until both were done. After draining the pasta I poured it into the bowl as well and gave it one last final stir. Alex put some fresh lettuce in a bowl and we placed both servings on the dinner table. I then toasted several piece of bread while Alex sat the table with bowls and utensils.


Dinner was ready by 6:30 but Matthew was outside on the phone and Yollana was in her office probably on a phone call too. Alex and I were starving but we waited patiently. Around seven both Matthew and Yollana wandered in from different directions. We all sat down and thoroughly enjoyed a light supper. 

A close up of our Tuna Salad.

A close up of our Tuna Salad.


After dinner Yollana retired to her cabin and Matthew, Alex, Thomas and I enjoyed watching the movie, Ratatouille. We laughed as we compared the five-star kitchen to our own establishment. We decided Alex was the sous chef and Matthew was the head chef.


After the movie we made our way to our rooms. I hit the pillow with a smile on my face.

Hello & Goodbye

On our tenth day Matthew and I opened the cafe by ourselves for the first time. It really wasn't any different from working at 9am, we just got to use the keys and turn on the lights ourselves. Everything went smoothly. We cleaned and chatted till the first major order came in around 11am. I handled it by myself while Matthew ran over to the hostel to help prepare for the weekly trip to town. While I was in the middle of the order Liela ran in to the kitchen. She asked me to braid her hair but I was busy. I told her I would after I finished the customer's order but she said she had to leave immediately. I stopped what I was doing and told her bye. I knelt down and opened my arms but she wouldn't give me a hug. I picked her up anyways and she screamed until I put her down. I didn't know if I would see her again or not but I guessed the latter.


When I finished the order I looked outside and saw that Kim, Uzi, Leila and Matthew had left. I felt horrible that I didn't get to tell Kim goodbye but I knew everyone was in a rush to meet the ferry. Kim was going back to Adelaide to figure out her next move. Uzi and Leila were going back to the east coast and Matthew was doing the weekly errands before coming back to the resort.


I heard more customers pull up and Alex came in and started helping me with the orders. From that point on we consistently had two or three orders at a time until three in the afternoon. Yollana was in and out of the kitchen helping too. We were busy but it was manageable. It didn't get stressful until we ran out of food. We were out of chips, bacon and blueberry muffins.


After the rush I did an inventory check for Yollana. While I walked in and out of the various food supply spots, Yollana and Alex were off and on the phone with Matthew. I heard them say there were three backpackers in town who needed a place to stay. Apparently the backpackers were French with very poor english skills so Alex was translating for Yollana.


By the time I finished the inventory list, I heard Yollana confrim that Matthew was picking up one of the three backpackers and bringing them back with him.


I went to the hostel, changed the laundry and took a 30 minute nap break. When I got up I cleaned the third bedroom for our new volunteers. It was around 4:30 and when I stepped outside I saw the green Festiva pull up in the driveway. Out stepped Matthew and a skinny guy with a short shaved hair cut. I walked over to the car and Matthew introduced me to Thomas before showing me the four bottles of wine he strategically picked out for our personal stash.


After admiring the wine I watched as Thomas unloaded his suitcase and began talking to Yollana. His English was pretty bad but he seemed an alright guy. While Thomas unloaded and got the tour from Yollana, Alex and Matthew and I went to the dam to check the water levels. On the way there we saw a kangaroo hop right in front of the car!


When we made it back to the hostel Thomas was busy cooking pumpkin soup via Yollana's recipe. We all sat and chatted with Thomas as best we could with Alex interpreting when we needed her. Thomas was in the French military but was taking a six month break to travel Australia. He had a girlfriend back home and he missed her tremendously. He was going to be staying and helping us for the next two days and then he would be on his way to Adelaide.


Yollana had learned about Thomas and the other two backpackers by way of a local farmer who didn't need them anymore. He said they were lazy so he cut their stay short and dropped them off in Kingscote. Thomas confirmed that he had been volunteering at a nearby farm with a French couple but they were lazy enough to get all three of them fired. He said he was relieved when they went back to Adelaide without him because he didn't care for their company much anyways.


After dinner we all set around the fire for a good bit before I excused myself for bed. I had worked hard today and my mind was full of information from the new character we had just met. I was full and happy and exhausted--perfect for bedtime.

Easter Sunday

Our local and talented musician, Graham, getting down on the guitar.

Our local and talented musician, Graham, getting down on the guitar.

Easter Sunday was not unlike any other day at the resort. I woke up early so I could have a good quiet time. Though it was weird celebrating Easter without church, I made sure I honored Jesus on Easter before starting my day. By nine o'clock several of us were in the cafe making sandwiches for the tour bus we had coming at noon. Even Leila helped.


I worked through the lunch rush; bussing tables, taking orders and delivering food. By three o'clock I was hungry and exhausted. I went to the hostel to have my lunch and get off my feet. After eating I found Leila in the lounge room watching The Chronicles of Narnia. I watched it with her for several minutes before falling asleep.


Some time later I was woken by Yollana. She asked if I'd like to take pictures of the live music going on in the cafe. I agreed and grabbed my phone. Inside the cafe there were multiple tables full of people. I smiled and asked each table if I could take a picture of their group for advertising purpose. All but one table was more than happy to pose for my camera.


I got some really good pictures of Graham, the musician I had heard about. I also got some really good pictures of the cafe as a whole; full of people and excitement. After getting dozens of pictures I sat down on a bar stool to enjoy the music. Very quickly I found myself lost in it. t was the most raw, relaxing moment I have had since beginning this trip.


I listened as Graham played a John Denver classic that reminded me of home.


Country roads, take me home

to the place I belong

West Virginia, mountain momma

take me home, country roads...”


Next he played a few selections from the Eagles, one of my favorite bands. He followed those up with Copperhead Road and Keep Your Hands to Yourself. The best part about Graham's music was that he was a one-man band. Not only did he sing and play guitar, but he also had some kind of technology that added in drums, background singers and even special instruments like piano and saxophone. I wasn't quite sure how he was doing it but it sounded really nice.


When the show was over Yollana took me away from the crowd and introduced me to Graham. I told him I loved his music and I asked him how made so many sounds at the same time. He was all too happy to tell me about his “gadgets.” He had one thing called a BeatBuddy. It was a device that matched the beat on his guitar to play background music behind him. He had an Ipad that read him the lyrics and an app that showed his playlist. He could sync his app to his BeatBuddy so they were always on the same song. I was fascinated to hear all of this and very grateful that Graham was honest and down to earth about his skills, unlike a lot of musicians I had tried to carry on conversations with.

Some Aussies hanging out and listening to the music.

Some Aussies hanging out and listening to the music.


After listening to music I walked over to the hostel and found Kim making dinner. She was working on a homemade peanut sauce for the Pad Thai she was cooking. I noticed she looked a little glum so I asked her what was wrong. She had just found out her eleven year old brother was pretty sick. He had a collapsed lung and was hospitalized. I listened to her talk about her brother for quite a while. I couldn't imagine the worry she was facing.


At eight o'clock we all sat down for dinner together. Before anyone had a chance to start eating I asked Yollana if I could say an Easter prayer for our meal. I thanked God for our food and the roof over our heads. I thanked him for each of the people at the table and I asked that he heal Kim's brother and keep him safe.


After the prayer we each said our daily highlights. Mine was the music. Yollana's was getting the sandwiches done so early. Uzi's highlight was seeing Matthew and I work so hard around the business, day after day. Alex's highlight was the meal we were eating. Matthew's highlight was playing with Leila. Leila couldn't think of a highlight. Kim looked at me and said my prayer was her highlight.

Maybe Easter didn't have to be celebrated in a church after all.

All About Food

KI-Day 7

Saturday before Easter


For some reason Saturday seemed to be all about food. Multiple times I had my mind opened to new flavors or new ways of eating things I had tried previously. Australia and America have pretty similar tastebuds but there are a few things that Aussies either made up for themselves or inherited from the British that America dibbed out on.


It started at breakfast. Yollana opened a package of bread rolls and said she was really excited about Easter cross buns. I asked her what that was and she looked concerned.


“You don't know what hot cross buns are?”


“I don't guess so. Doesn't sound familiar anyway.”


“Well you have to try one! Here let me fix you a proper one.” I watched as she pulled apart a bun and cut it in half. She then toasted it for a few minutes before smothering it in butter then melted as soon as it touched the bun. I didn't know anything about the hot cross part but I sure loved bread so I knew I was in for a treat. Yollana handed me a saucer with the two halves on it and told me to try it. The smell was delightful. I raised a half to my mouth and took a bite. First I tasted the warm, salty butter then a sweet bread flavor. I chewed a bit and noticed something that felt like a raisin. I sensed a cinnamon flavor as well.


“What's all in this?” I asked with gooey buns sloshing around my mouth.


It's got cinnamon and spices in it, plus some dried fruit. A lot of times you'll see these with a dribble of icing in the shape of a cross on them too. This particular kind doesn't have any, though.


“It's really good. Is it an Australian thing, I'm assuming?”


“I don't know, is this an Aussie thing?” Yollana turned to look at the only other Aussie present, which was Kim.


“I didn't think so but sure enough if the American's don't eat it then it probably is!”


“It's really supposed to be an Easter thing, you know, with the cross symbolising Christ's death on the cross and whatnot.”


“So you don't eat them year round?” I asked, still chewing happily.


“Oh no, you only see them around Easter time—maybe a month before. It's definitely a holiday food.”


I was beginning to realize that Easter was taken more seriously in Australia than it was in America. Sure in America we go to church and maybe eat with a small family gathering afterwards but other than that it wasn't a vacation weekend or anything for us. Australians on the other hand, seemed to treat it like we do Labor Day. It is their last warm weather holiday before the winter season so like Americans, why not use it for a three day vacation in addition to the religious observations.


The cabins were booked for both the week before and after Easter. Yollana told us the Easter holiday lasted around two weeks because of different school schedules. Most of the people I had talked to in the cafe were just passing through for their last summer getaway. They weren't driving in to visit family for the holiday or visiting a church, they were simply here to relax. It's funny how far we can stretch our holiday time in both America and Australia.




My next mind opening food experience was at lunch. Matthew was eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and I thought it looked good so I made myself one too. While we were sitting at the table eating Kim walked in and observed our plates.


“What the bloody hell is that?”


“Peanut butter and jelly.” I said again with a full mouth of food moving around.


“What?” Kim was making a horrified face and cocked her eyebrows to one side of her face.


“Pea-nuuttt buttt-err and jelll-eeeee” Matthew said with a touch of dramatics.


“Ugh.” Kim made a disgusted sound. “You American's put peanut butter on everything don't you?”


I laughed. “I didn't think we ate that much peanut butter.”


“You eat more peanut butter than anyone I've ever met. Both of you eat it on toast in the morning. That's weird!” Kim had a way of talking that always made me laugh. Her Australian accent was thick and she was always loud and dramatic. If she was in the room you knew it. If she was talking you were either laughing or listening closely to figure out if she was making up stories or not.


Matthew laughed too. “Well, I guess we do like our peanut butter. Do you not eat it?”


“No way! I eat vegemite. I've been craving it like crazy since I got here. Yollana won't buy me any.” I remembered the small tub Matthew and I had bought it Surfer's Paradise. We had only tried it the one time. I thought it tasted alright I just hadn't thought about eating it again.


“Hey I have a small tub in my bag! I'll share it with you.”


“Oh my god that would be amazing! I'd much rather have that then your bloody peanut butter.” I just laughed and shook my head. No Aussie was going to talk me out of enjoying my peanut butter. It was one of my favorite foods.



The food lessons continued when lunch time was over. Matthew and I went back to work at the cafe and found Yollana taking some biscuit looking things out of the convection oven.


“What are those?” I asked and pointed to the ball of baked dough on the plate.


“Scones.” Yollana continued stacking the scones two to each plate.


“I thought scones were triangular. And fruit flavored.” I had learned about scones several years ago while visiting my aunt and uncle. We had seen them at the airport and my uncle introduced me to them. When I got back to college and tried baking my own and did a decent job. Every scone I had seen from then until now had been triangular and fruity but Yollana didn't seem to know anything about those kinds of scones.


“Have you not had scones like this before?” Matthew and I shook our heads.


“Well you need to try them so you'll know what you are selling to the customers.” Once again I knew I couldn't go wrong with bread so happily accepted the offer.


I watched as Yollana cut two scones in half. She smeared all four pieces first with butter, then a thick white cream and finally a bit of local jam. I learned that the cream was whipped thickening cream and by itself it did NOT taste like whipped cream. It was almost bitter and quite tasteless. The jam on the other hand was amazing. It was just the right combination of tart and fruity. It had currants in it. I hadn't had currants before but I knew they smelled good because I always gravitated towards currant Scentsy refills.


Matthew, Yollana and I each picked up a half of scone and bit in. I loved it. It was a lot like Mom's Sunday morning biscuits except better. They were soft and almost doughy plus a little sweeter than an American biscuit. The whole thing was round which meant there were no flaky corners to mess with. I like things soft and doughy. It is my texture of preference. I also like sweets and breads so basically I was really digging the scones.


“If this is a scone then what do you consider a biscuit?”


“Biscuits are flat and crispy, not doughy like this.”


“So like a cracker?” I used my finger to wipe some jam off the side of my mouth and then licked the jam off my finger.


“No, biscuits are sweet. Crackers are not.”


Matthew translated Yollana's explanation so I could understand. “Basically their biscuits are like a crunchy cookie for us.” I nodded my head and chewed another bite of scone while I thought for a minute.


“So what is an Australian cookie?” At that moment the door ringed and Yollana jumped up to greet the customers walking in the door. I looked at Matthew and he shrugged his shoulders and went in for another half of a scone. I was thoroughly confused on the Australian food terminology but I did know one thing: scones are good.


Yollana walked back into the kitchen with an order paper in her hand. She announced that the customers had ordered a fisherman's basket and a classic hot dog. I hadn't seen anyone order a fisherman's basket yet so I didn't know what the plate consisted of.


“Alright, I've been wanting to see this one. What's in a Fisherman's Basket?” I followed Yollana to the freezer and held the bags she was pulling out one at a time.


“The Fisherman's Basket is four prawn, four calamari and a piece of whiting on top of a bowl of chips.” We walked back into the kitchen and put the bags of food on the counter.


“That sounds good. What are prawn, though?” She pointed to a blue plastic bag that had a clear front. I looked through the front and saw shrimp.


“Is prawn another word for shrimp?” I looked again more closely but couldn't tell a difference between the two. Yollana was off on another task and Matthew was busy dumping fries into the fryer.


I walked over to where Yollana was and I watched as she put butter on a hot dog bun. I hesitated before asking. “Is that an Australian thing too?”


“Butter on a hotdog?” I nodded.


“No, it's just how you make a proper hot dog.” She moved back towards the fryers and dumped some prawn in the basket.


I had never in my life seen anyone butter up a hot dog. I knew for fact it was an American food. Then again, I didn't want to be aargumentative or annoying so I shut my mouth and prepared a basket for the meal instead.


While Matthew cooked the hotdog I watched the fryers to make sure nothing burned while Yollana took another order. A few minutes later she walked into the kitchen with another announcement: “one chicken schnitzel and a poached egg”


“Alright, so what's the deal with Chicken Schnitzels?” Matthew turned to face Yollana. He had a pair of tongs in his hands and an apron around his waist.


“Boy, you guys are learning a lot about food today, hey?” Yollana smiled and looked at us for a moment before heading back to the freezer for more supplies. I knew what Matthew was asking. We had seen schnitzels in every city we'd visited so far and they had all looked slightly different. In America the only time I heard the word “schnitzel” was when someone was making a derogatory joke. The schnitzels at the cafe were wide and flat, shaped in a heart. It was basically chicken fried chicken without a crumbly crust.


Yollana explained that most schnitzels were covered in gravy or sauce, though what kind of sauce, she never said. It was simply “sauce.” I heard that a lot from Australians ordering schnitzels. “Do you have any sauce?” Never a specific kind. Just “sauce”. And when I ask if they mean tomato sauce I get a hard no and a “never mind.” What was worse than asking an aussie if they wanted tomato sauce on their schnitzel, was asking an aussie if they wanted ketchup with their fries. In Australia they aren't french fries. They are “chips.” And it isn't “ketchup.” It's “tomato sauce.” Mentioning either french fries or ketchup is a dead giveaway that you are American. Oh, and another fun fact—French people don't call them french fries either. Go figure.


As for tomato sauce. It's pronounced toe-mah-toe no toe-may-toe. I'd always heard the saying, 'you say toh-may-toe, I say toh-mah-toe,' but I had never actually heard anyone pronounce it toe-mah-toe until I came to Australia. What's worse is that within two weeks I was doing the same even though I disagreed with the pronunciation.


The other foodie things I had noticed in the cafe were that Aussies loved putting beetroot on their burgers. Apparently it was a common thing to do even though the only person I know back home who eats beetroot is my grandpa. I also learned that it is totally acceptable to serve milk with a mug of hot tea. I thought this was an aussie thing but Matthew told me it was a regular occurrence in America too. I was probably just unaware because I don't drink hot tea.


“So, did you say Americans don't put butter on their hot dog buns?” Yollana caught me off guard with this one.


“No, I've never seen that.”


“Maybe we shouldn't do that either, then. I'm sorry I didn't think about it earlier but you probably know more about hotdogs than I do since you are from America.” She laughed at her mistake and I told her it was no biggie.   

The best thing I learned about Aussie food is that because they use the metric system, they don't have any calories at all!

Visiting Seal Bay

KI-Day 6

Good Friday continued...


At 3 o'clock I was done for the day. I went to my room to grab my laptop for some writing. When I opened the door I found Matthew sitting on the edge of his bed, checking his phone. He was done for the day too. Before I could grab my laptop, my phone rang. It was Yollana and she wanted me to come to the front of the cafe so she could ask me something.


I walked to the front of the cafe and found Yollana and Uzi sitting at a table. Leila was on Uzi's lap and they looked as if they had all been discussing something. I took the remaining empty seat and asked what was happening.


“Leila was just wanting to go to Seal Bay. I wondered if you might be interested in going too since you haven't seen it yet.” I wasn't dieing to go to Seal Bay but I figured I would go for the sake of Leila. I looked at Leila and she looked bored with the conversation, put off even.


“Sure, I can do that, except I can't drive so someone else would have to take us.”


“Oh yes, that's fine. Matt can drive you. He wants to go too.” She went on to explain that she even had a company card that we could use to cover the entrance fees. I nodded my head and went back to the room to find Matthew. The way Yollana said it, I figured she had previously talked to Matthew about the arrangement.


“I guess we are going to Seal Bay?” Matthew looked confused so I explained the conversation I had just had with Yollana. Matthew, like me, shrugged his shoulders and said he didn't mind taking Leila.


Within a matter of minutes Matthew, Leila and myself were all in the Festa heading for Seal Bay. I sort of felt like it was a taste of motherhood. Leila was in the backseat and Matthew and I took turns getting on to her about this and that. She kicked the seats, pulled my hair and asked a million questions about where we were going, despite the fact that it was only a ten minute drive. Each time I had to tell her to sit in her seat, stop punching me or act right, she would listen for a few seconds before moving on to another prank. Leila finally understood our authority when she kicked the back of Matthew's chair a little too hard.


Matthew pulled the car over and turned around to speak to Leila. I was careful not to let a grin cross my face even though I was having major flashbacks to my father doing the same thing with me as a child. How funny it was that Matthew and I were playing the same games with some Australian girl we had just met.

Matthew sternly told Leila not to ever mess with someone while they are driving. He then told her she could either straighten up and act nice or she was going to go back to the house and sit by herself. Leila tried to be funny at first but I think Matthew's severity eventually got hold of her and so she sat quietly with her arms crossed and face skewed. She wasn't happy but she also knew she wasn't in control.


The remaining three minutes of the drive were quiet and enjoyable. When we arrived at our destination I asked Leila if she was excited. She said no because she had already seen the seals several times. I thought that was odd considering what Yollana had shared with me but I disregarded it as a misconception.


Seal Bay had two options: a guided tour or a boardwalk. The boardwalk was $16 or so and the guided tour was $30. Since our trip was paid for we decided to go for the guided tour. The lady at the front desk told us the guided tour included a walk on the boardwalk as well. We orderd three passes and the lady directed us to a big glass door behind her. She said the tour would start in two minutes. When she finished her sentence I looked down to give instructions to Leila but she was gone. I looked around and found her across the room, looking at some seal skins. I crossed the room to where she was standing.


“Leila we need to go stand by the doors, our tour is about to start.”


“Look at this!” I looked at the fur in her hand and verbally admired it. It was pretty neat but I also saw the group of people at the door going outside. That was our tour.


“That's cool but let's look at it afterwards. Our tour is starting.” Leila was making it obvious that she didn't care what I said or asked her to do. “Leila, let's go!” I grabbed her wrist and pulled her toward the door. I could see Matthew waiting behind the rest of the group with an irritated face in our direction.


“Leila, get over here!” Matthew called from where he was at. Once again Leila crossed her arms and put her bottom lip out as she drug her feet over to the glass doors.


With an exhale of either relief or exhaustion I joined the rest of the group in time to hear the end of the tour guides introduction. She looked at Matthew, Leila and I and asked if we were ready to see the seals. I smiled and nodded and with that we were off towards the beach.


Seal Bay was and wasn't what I thought it was. It was definitely a beach covered with lazy seals but it was also really interesting and it didn't stink. The tour guide instructed us to follow her lead and to never get closer to the seals than she was. She explained that sea lions were actually really fast runners and if they were to get irritated they could easily run across the sand and put 400 kilos of force on a single human body. I didn't want that so I decided to take the tour guide's advice.


As we walked along the beach we stayed about six meters from the seals. I was really excited that we were allowed to be so close to them. I made sure I got a really good look at the creatures in front of me. They were huge, really but kind of cute. The tour guide explained that these were a certain type of sea lion, which was a certain type of seal. She said they were called sea lions because the older males developed a yellowish mane around their heads, similar to the mane of a lion. She explained that we could distinguish between the males and females by the size and shape of the sea lions.


As I gazed at the sea lions I couldn't help but get a kick out of what my brain was doing. It was making a very obvious connection between the sea lions and Minnie, my parent's basset hound back home. Both animals were fat, lazy and long-bodied. I watched the lions laying in the sand. The most activity they did was stand up, stretch their neck way back and then waddle around to another spot where they would lay back down and close their eyes. This was the exact routine of our family dog. She too enjoyed laying in the sun, sleeping and stretching her long neck. Minnie was also pretty tubby and she waddled the same way the sea lions did.


I tuned back in to the tour guide and heard her say that the animals slept so much because they had just finished their five day journey of hunting for food. Apparently the males go hunting for food for seven days at a time. They swim out to the middle of the ocean and dive up to 245 meters deep repeatedly; catching fish, crabs, and even octopus for food. When they are done they swim back to shore where they mate.  They then spend the rest of their time sleeping to both regain and store up their energy for the next quest.


I was so intrigued by both the animals and the tour guide's facts. I looked down to see if Leila was enjoying it as much as I was. To my surprise she was sitting in the sand, looking at her feet. I knelt down and asked her what she thought about the seals and she mumbled something half-heartedly. I stood back up and took a few pictures. Matthew was asking the guide about the behavior of the seals. There was a couple of males about fifty meters in front of us who were barking and hitting each other's necks. We all watched in horror as we wondered if they were going to fight each other. The tour guide laughed and said these were teenage boys wrestling just like human teenage boys. We then saw one of the bigger males walk over to another large male. He barked loudly. The second male was sleeping soundly and didn't seem to even notice the angry bark in his ear. This went on for a bit before one of the females walked over to the loudly barking male and whacked him in the neck with her own neck. The tour guide laughed and said that was the female's way of telling the male to shut up and sit down. To my surprise, it worked.


After fifteen minutes of viewing and listening, the tour came to an end. Our guide had been excellent and had even answered lots of extra questions because our group was small and it was the last tour of the day.


When we got back to the shop area everything was locked up and the lights were off. Leila ran over to the clothes and pulled down a shirt she had been talking about since we left the hostel. Uzi had given her a fifty dollar bill and told me to only let her spend it if the shirt was under thirty dollars. I walked over to Leila and asked if that was the shirt she had wanted and she said it was. I then told her she needed to get the right size and I helped her sift through the shirts until she found a size ten. The price tag said twenty-nine dollars and I didn't want another fight so I followed Leila up to the cash register.


When Leila placed the shirt on the counter the teenage girl behind it looked panicked. She looked to her left at a middle aged woman and asked her what she should do. I looked confused at her reaction but then heard the middle aged woman say they had already put away the cash box. They both turned to me and asked if we were going to use cash or charge. I said cash and they looked towards a young man walking towards the back door.


“Hey, Adrian, bring back that cash box, right quick!” The man turned around and handed the woman a box. Leila handed the woman her fifty dollar bill and the lady counted out change. I told her not to worry about a receipt and thanked her for her extra effort, though I didn't think it was proper to close a business while there were still tourists on the property. The staff around me didn't seem to think it was an issue so I kept my mouth shut.


With Leila happy, Matthew and I hoped the ride home would be a simple one. We were wrong. Once in the car and buckled Leila started calling me a witch.


“Your nose is so big! You're a witch, you're a witch, you're a witch!” She was singing her own tune using these lyrics.


“Leila, it isn't nice to call people that.” I looked her in the eyes, hoping she'd relent.


“But your nose is huge! It's so ugly!”


“Thanks, Leila. I didn't already have a complex about that.” I tried to shrug her off so she would stop.


“Haley's a witch..Haley's a witch..” she continued her chanting with a rotten smile on her face.


“Leila! Did it ever occur to you that you might want to be nice to us? Did you ever think that maybe Haley and I are being nice by letting you come with us? We don't have to take you places. In fact, if you continue to be rude to us we probably won't take you anywhere else. You can stay home and not go anywhere.” Matthew was using his stern voice again and Leila realized it as quickly as I had. I was grateful and Leila stopped her chanting.  

Life with Leila

KI-Day 6

Good Friday


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.

Meeting the Landlord

I was outside hanging up some fresh laundry when Matthew came up to me and asked if I wanted to go with him to pick up the landlord from the ferry. I asked if Yollana thought it was okay and he said yes so I decided to go for it. I grabbed a jacket and decided I'd wear a pair of my new jeans since we were picking up the landlord. I wanted to look somewhat nice for this first impression. Matthew changed clothes too and put on a nice polo shirt and some clean shorts to match.


The car ride was interesting only because Matthew had just finished a cup of coffee. He jabbered on about all sorts of things and I laughed and listened and chimed in when I could. We talked about the Spanish teacher we had in high school. We had him at different times during the day but our stories were the same. He was in class with several of his friends and together they would push the limits on Mr. Morrero.


The best story Matthew told was how he bet Mr. Morrero that he could do more push-ups than him. Mr. Morrero said if Matthew won then the class wouldn't have to take a vocabulary test but if Matthew lost then everyone had to take it. Matthew said they got close to one hundred and then Matthew finally lost control of his biceps. Mr. Morrero did two more and then lost control as well. The class still had to take the test but Matthew got ten bonus points for his brave attempt.


When Matthew ended the story I looked up and we were at the back porch of a house where we were supposed to pick up a wine order for Yollana. We got outside the car and I noticed the temperature had dropped several degrees. Before I could start towards the door a tall blonde man with a beautiful tan came outside.


“You two must be from Seal Bay?” He smiled when he spoke and his teeth were white and neat in two perfect rows.


“We sure are. Do you have some wine for us to pick up?” Matthew stuck out his hand and the man introduced himself as Jeff. Matthew said his name and then Jeff turned and shook my hand while I introduced myself.


Jeff then turned and picked up four boxes of wine. Matthew took them from him and I watched as he put them in the car. I thought there was going to be more but Jeff said that was it.


“So whereabouts are you from? Not Australia, I assume.”


“Yeah, we're both from Oklahoma, USA.” Matthew said.


“Oh, nice. What brings you to KI?”


“Well we're uh, hoping to be the new managers at Seal Bay soon.”


“Ah, very nice. I'm sure I'll see you around pretty often then, huh?” I couldn't tell what Jeff's accent was but it was smooth and easy to understand, but not Australian. Maybe he was from America too, but then again, maybe not.


Matthew and I got back in the car and Matthew told me about the first time he got a ticket. He was seventeen years old and it was for public intoxication. He said he didn't tell his mom for several weeks. When he did tell her he started the conversation while he was driving.


“So you aren't supposed to mess with someone while they are driving, right?”


“That's right.” his mom said.


“Well then, I need to tell you that I got a ticket for public intoxication a few weeks ago.”


He said his mother was horrified but then eventually responded by saying he was going to have to pay for the entire thing himself. He was horrified because $200 is a lot of money to a seventeen year-old.


In time we made our way to Penneshaw. We watched as people poured off the ferry looking for their next mode of transportation. As we watched we realized that we had no idea what this guy looked like, other than he would probably be brown bc he was from Israel and he would also have a small child with him.


Matthew pointed to his notebook and told me to call the number on the paper. I giggled a little when I saw the guy's name was spelled “U-z-i.” I got his voicemail.


“Uh, Hi Uzi. This is Haley from Seal Bay Cottages. We are here at the ferry to pick you up. It should be a green Ford Festa right out front. Thanks. See you soon.”


We continued looking around and finally found a big dark man with dark hair and a small child. He approached our car and him and Matthew shook hands. I got out of the car and shook his hand before looking to see a beautiful young girl. She had bright blue eyes and a ton of big blonde goldilocks curls bouncing all over her head.


“What's your name?” I bent down to look her in the eye but she quickly hid behind her father's leg. He looked at me and said, “Leila. Her name is Leila.” I smiled and thought it was the perfect name for such a beautiful girl.


Matthew and Uzi loaded the suitcases in the back of the car and I helped Leila get settled in her seat. She sat in the middle seat and I had to squeeze in next to her and the door. It was a tight fit with all of the luggage and wine but we made it work. While Uzi and Matthew chatted up front I tried to make conversation with Leila.


“How old are you?” She put her head down with embarassment and pretended to look at her book. I asked her a few other questions before giving up. I heard Uzi ask Matthew about Donald Trump and I laughed a little before turning my gaze out the window.

A few minutes passed and then I was surprised to hear Leila ask me a question.

"Do you speak Hebrew?"  She was grinning at me as if she had a great secret.  I looked her in the eyes and told her I did not speak any Hebrew at all.

She then turned to her father in the front seat and began talking wildly in a language I didn't understand.  Her father ignored her at first and then finally shushed her and told her to use her English.  I was intrigued to see a young girl with such good bilingual skills.  She was fluent in both English and Hebrew.  I wondered if she knew how blessed she was to have this talent.  My guess was that she did.

"How much longer until we get there?"  She restated her question so Matthew and I could understand it.

"I don't know, Leila.  Half an hour."  His accent was thick but his English was not bad.  The only other Israeli I had interacted with was Ethan, the guy from the balcony in Adelaide.  Ethan's English was so good he might as well have been American.  Uzi had a Hebrew name, a thick accent and he definitely looked Israeli, so there was no mistaking his nationality.The two spoke again in Hebrew before Uzi suggested that Leila teach me some Hebrew.

"How do I say, 'Hello, my name is Haley'?"  I was looking sweetly at the girl, hoping she would focus on me and forget about the length of the trip.

"Shalom hashem sheli Heli" she spoke faster than I could listen.

"Say it again, slower."

"Shalom hashem sheli Heli" she hadn't slowed it down much.  I had no idea what she was saying.

"Say it really, super slow so I can understand, please."  Her father said something to her in Hebrew and she made a dramatic exhale before repeating herself extremely slowly.

"Sha-lom.  Hash-em. Shel-i. He-li."

"Shalom. Hashem sheli, Haley."  I tried it out the phrase and thought I did pretty good but Leila seemed to think otherwise.

"No, no, no, no! It's not Haaayleeee like you're from Australia or something.  It's Heli.  You can't drag it out like Hayyyleeee, you have to say it in Hebrew like Heli.  Heli. Heli. Heli. Heli.  Got it?"  

The entire car burst into laughter.  I was a bit embarrassed that such a young girl had essentially called me a hick.  Matthew laughed too and said it was our Okie accent that made us talk like that.  How quickly this girl had picked up on accents and pronunciation.  

After I proved I could say my name without a southern accent, Leila went on to ask me about the holidays I celebrated.  I told her Easter was in a few days and she said she didn't know what that was.  I explained to her that Easter was a holiday for Christians to celebrate Jesus dieing on the cross and defeating the grave so we could all be saved from our sins.  I told her that we celebrated by going to church and by hunting easter eggs with chocolates in them.  She asked if she could celebrate Easter with us and I said of course she could.  

She told me about a Jewish holiday, Shushan Purim, that they celebrated in Israel.  She said they loved to celebrate it even though they weren't really jewish.  She went on to name several Jewish holidays that I had never heard of.  She could not believe I hadn't heard of these holidays and when she wouldn't stop telling me how silly I was for not knowing about them, I asked her if she celebrated Thanksgiving.

I learned that Leila was in year 3 at school even though she was meant to be in year 4.  She was soon to be nine years old and she had one younger brother who was six.  She travelled with her father to Israel once a year but they didn't want to live there because it was full of war.  Her and her father lived in Brisbane, near Byron Bay.

When we arrived at the house Leila and Uzi put away their things in the bedroom Alex and I had made up for them earlier in the day.  After they put away their things all seven of us sat down for a delicious dinner that Kim had prepared.  We had curry, rice, vegetables and baked sweet potatoes.  It was very yummy in my opinion but Leila voiced her difference in opinion.  Because she didn't like it she didn't have to eat it.  Yollana made her a piece of toast with Jam and she had a few bites before Uzi allowed her to leave the table.

Leila and Uzi were exhausted from their trip so they went straight to bed after dinner.  Yollana retired to her cabin and the rest of us cleaned up dinner before settling down in front of the television with a box of Tim-Tams and some hot chocolate.  Together we enjoyed watching an animated film called Big Hero Six.  It was quite cute.

When the movie was over we all went into our bedrooms and retired for the evening.  In my bunk I prayed for Jesus to heal the broken hearts on the island.  I prayed that he would open the floodgates of heaven and let His spirit fill the place. Shatter our walls and melt our hearts. Let your love wash over us and cleanse us of our fears please, Lord. You are great. Your love has more power. There is no fear in love. Perfect love cancels out fear. I declare that your love would cancel out all fear in this hostel, Jesus.

Let me show your love to the ones I work with, Lord. I want to be your hands and feet.   

Cleaning Cabins (Days 3-5)

On Tuesday Kim showed me the ropes for cleaning the cabins.  First we loaded the car with the essential tools: a mop bucket, a broom, a vacuum cleaner, a torn up cardboard box full of cleaning supplies and a red milk crate full of toilet paper, soap and coffee samples.  

Next Kim took me inside the hostel where we filled two laundry baskets full of bedding for the cabins.  Each cabin needed pillowcases, a fitted sheet, a flat sheet and a doona cover.  I learned that a doona cover is what Aussies called a duvet cover.  The actual duvet was called a doona.

Aside from bedding we also had to pack a fresh bath mat, hand towel, bath towel, washrag and cleaning towel for each cabin.  By the time we gathered all these things for three different cabins we had a car full of supplies.

Kim drove us in the Festa down to the cabins.  I couldn't drive a manual so this was a given.  In all honesty Kim probably drove about the same way I did.  However, being in the passengers seat is always more eye-opening than the driver's seat.  I just grinned as Kim punched the gas pedal and took a hard turn around the road that led to the cabins.  When we arrived at Cabin 1 she slammed on the breaks and my head bounced as we came to a complete stop.

When we arrived inside the cabin Kim gave me the explanation Yollana had asked her to.

"It's really all common sense, I mean, you find what's dirty and you clean it.  There's not much explaining."

I laughed and then got busy helping Kim change the linens on the bed.  While we worked she did most the talking.  I learned about her work history and why she had decided to come to Kangaroo Island.  Kim was from the Melbourne area and she had needed a break from her family and life back home so she decided to volunteer at Seal Bay for a month to get her mind straight.  So far she had been here a week and was really feeling much more relaxed.  

I decided cabin cleaning was really a pretty good way to get to know people because their attention was captive and you were working in a small space for about an hour at a time. Other than the social aspect I didn't enjoy scrubbing toilets and cleaning up other people's messes. Regardless, Kim and I cleaned three cabins and then made our way back to the hostel.  We ate leftover chicken noodle soup for lunch and then following Kim's lead, took a break on the couch and watched a thirty minute episode of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  

Around the end of the show Yollana came in and told us to get back to work.  She handed me a list of check-ins for the weekend and asked me to organize the bedding for them.  After seeing the basics to cabin linen preparation I figured this would be a pretty simple job.  Little did I know I would be working on this task off and on for 24 hours.

The trick to packing ahead for linens is that you have to know how many people will be staying in which cabin and what kind of bed they will be using.  Sometimes a double bed was enough, other times they needed a double and four single bunks.  The problem I ran into was trying to find enough linens of the right size that matched colors.  We had linens of all colors: red, black, brown, blue with leaves, purple with swirls, black with checks.  The odds of a fitted sheet and a flat sheet matching were probable.  The odds they would be the same size were a little lower.  The odds that you could find a doona cover to match were extremely low, much less in the same size and with four matching pillowcases.  

What my job amounted to was searching the hostel for extra linens and doing load after load of laundry until I had all the pieces to my puzzle.  When I did finally have all the pieces I used masking tape and a sharpie to clearly mark which pile was for which cabin.  At the end of it all I had filled an entire bench in the dining room full of cabin linens.  I had two laundry baskets piled very high and beside the baskets there were two more piles; each three or four feet tall and taped with a label.  Yollana was thrilled with my work.  I was pleased but exhausted.  The next few days it would be my job to make sure the correct linens went to their assigned cabins.  Easter weekend was a busy one for the island and the cabins would be full for a solid week.


Thursday was quiet around the resort. I woke up around 7 and had a good quiet time in the living room. I took a minute to listen to the words of “How Can It Be” by Lauren Daigle. I felt like it was a very good reminder of what Easter is all about. “You gave your life to give me mine, you say that I am free, how can it be?” The lyrics pierced my heart and immediately put me in a humble demeanor. I prayed that God would use me for his kingdom and that I could be a light to Kim, Alex and Yollana.


After my quiet time I got dressed for the day and then went for a short walk to the highway where I made a phonecall to one of my friends back home. When I got off the phone it was 9 o'clock so I gathered the basket I had prepared the night before and a broom and headed off walking towards the cabins.


I really enjoyed my walk to the cabins. It was only about 5 minutes but in those five minutes I noticed some beautiful birds with red bellies and white wings. I saw a pile of huge ants and I walked through some thick grass that could have potentially been full of snakes. I thought about what I would do if a snake popped up and bit me. I decided I wouldn't be as calm as I would hope to be.


When I got to the cabins I started with Cabin 2. Cabin 2 needed two wash rags and two soaps added to their room. I dug to the bottom of my basket and found two wash rags and two soaps and entered the cabin. Inside I checked over everything once more, making sure no more bugs or mishaps had disturbed the residence. When I saw all was clear I went into the small bedroom and neatly folded the washrags and pushed them inside the towels they belonged in. I then topped both washrags with a bar of soap each.


After locking the cabin I got the key for cabin number three and walked a few feet to the back door of number three. I looked at my list. All cabin three needed was a good sweeping of the back porch. I sat my laundry basket down and used my broom to scrub off old bird poop and dead worms.


Cabin 5 needed a single doona cover taken out of the cabin and Cabin 6 needed a pillow case placed on one of the pillows. On my walk back to Cabin 1 reread the note at the bottom of my list.  I thought through what I had written and realized I had forgotten to bring the extra bedding for Cabin 1. I took the bedding off of the double bed, folded it and neatly put it in my basket before walking back to the hostel.  


Carefully I walked past the ant pile, by the birds and over the two wire fences. After getting what I needed at the hostel I made my way back towards the cabins with a much lighter load. I had put up the broom and extra doona cover from Cabin 5. I put away all the keys except for Cabin 1 so I now only had one key and one set of bedding in my basket.


When I started putting the bedding on Cabin 1 I noticed that the doona cover I had grabbed was actually a single and not a double. I folded it back up and walked back towards the hostel yet again. This time I noticed a bird with a long beak sitting by the road. I climbed carefully over the two wire fences and back up through the tall grass where snakes might live.


I remembered to check the hostel linen closet for a double doona. Sure enough, there I found a double doona that matched the sheets and pillowcases I had put on the bed in Cabin 1. I left the basket and took off for the third time down to the cabins.


Despite my multiple mistakes, I actually was beginning to think I kind of liked the cabin work. It was quiet and peaceful and surrounded by nature. There were no people down there, only critters and I had no one to talk to unless I wanted to. I finished the bedding for Cabin 1 and then made my way back up to the hostel. I sat down and had another short chat with Matthew before taking a big gulp of water and walking towards the cafe. It was now 11 o'clock and I knew the cafe would be picking up speed soon.