Sunday, January 6, 2013


Happy weekend to all of you back in the US of A!

I'm reporting live from Monday morning. Not just any Monday morning, but this is the first Monday of the new year, the first of our fourteen Mondays in Sydney, and fittingly, our first day back to work. Nature is sympathetic to our plight: some heavy marine clouds rolled in last night, reminding me to keep my head in my books today, rather than at the beach.

On Mondays and Fridays, Nod will be working whopping 12-15 hour days at a physio (read: physical therapy) clinic on the north side of Sydney. He rolled out of here in khakis and a polo around 5:45 this morning, and with luck, I'll see him around 9pm tonight. By all reports we've received from those who have done this internship before, it should be fantastic--great patients and co-workers, and a really light and flexible work schedule Tuesdays - Thursdays. But on Mondays and Fridays, at least, I'm on my own.

Up until the moment we arrived here, my time in Sydney remained a bit of a mystery, even to myself. Would I use these 14 weeks to finally work my dream job as a barista? Some of my favorite jobs growing up were in the service sector, so it seemed like a great place to return to. With our "Working Holiday" visas we have employment authorization, so the world is my oyster.

Arriving here, though, things feel a little different in reality than they were in my mind's eye. Predictably with the world economy, there aren't very many job openings. Even though working either as a barista or as a hair stylist are my #1 and #2 dream jobs (historical tour guide is #3 on the list), I haven't actually gotten around to getting any work experience in any of these settings. And then we are only here for 3 months, and it doesn't seem right to have someone invest all that training in me just to leave as soon as I'm actually useful in my position.

The only job application I've sent off is for a position at a nearby Frozen Yoghurt shop. Should this work out, it would be absolutely amazing for the following three reasons:

1) FroYo all the time. Delicious.
2) My two year-stint at a Ben and Jerry's shop in high school was one of the best jobs I've ever worked, so fingers crossed that FroYo could be just as magical.
3) Minimum wage is $15.96 per hour.

But at the same time, I'm not sure that I really want to spend my limited time in Sydney working weekend shifts or encrusted in ice cream after a day at work.

So my plan B would take me off the clock and into the library. Whenever I'm in classes, I find myself wondering if I actually enjoy reading, or if it has become a chore and a burden because of the heavy reading load in my Ph.D. program. As I was happy to discover this Christmas break, I do actually love to read. On my shiny new Kindle, I've been happily bouncing back and forth between Katie Riphe's essays, In Praise of Messy Lives; Nick Cullather's study on U.S. international development policy in the Cold War, The Hungry World: America's Cold War Battle against Poverty in Asia; and Yaroslav Trofimov's journalistic account of the 1979 siege of grand mosque in Mecca, The Siege of Mecca: the 1979 Uprising at Islam's Holiest Shrine. All of this totally voluntary. Soo.... if my nerd credentials weren't already sealed by my years in school, this ought to do it.

And it's a good thing that I've reconnected with my love for reading, because I'll be doing a lot of it for the next few months. The next phase of my Ph.D. program is to read 200-400 books and articles in order to establish my (fairly dubious) "expertise" on fields related to my dissertation topic. So it turns out that the next few months in Sydney could look a lot like my normal life in DC: reading tons of books relating to my research, working from home, studying required foreign languages (I just signed up for French classes 2x a week, which start tomorrow. Sacre Bleu!). But the beautiful difference is my total release from multi-tasking: no need to trek 4 miles to campus to TA or go to meetings. No need even to spend much time running errands, cooking, or cleaning with our minimal set of possessions here with us. For the next few weeks, I get to settle into cozy cafe chairs, book in hand, and simply luxuriate in the task of reading. And with that, off to the library I go!

Cheers and Happy Monday to you all,

1 comment:

  1. You guys are making headlines on hot is it where you are?? Hottest day on record, fires everywhere, people being saved by clinging to a pier while in the water surrounded by fire.....I was thinking you'd be much safer than in Egypt, but with fires, poisonous spiders and pythons (also in our news) am not so sure. Stay safe!!