March. Oh March, I have never been so happy to see you. Growing up, March was generally a pretty ‘blah’ month. The weather was unpredictable, ski season was sort of over, and it was my sisters birthday. I love my sister, obviously, but when you’re a kid, your siblings birthday is the MOST annoying day of the year. They get all the attention, and all the cake. Plus when your younger sibling looks like a small blonde angel doll, and you have missing front teeth that make you look demonic, not much is working in your favorite. But in 2016- oh, sweet, sweet March.

After several hot months here in Sydney, there’s a small break in the heatwave. It’s tiny- blink and you miss it small, but it’s there. You can feel the wind is tinged with something just a slight bit cooler. You can debate the use of a fan at night. The lack of iced coffee everywhere no longer seems quite so evil. The beach is ever so slightly less crowded. It’s a small shift, but it’s there. The high octane beat of summer parties and late nights is slowing. It’s glorious. But more importantly I can finally chill the heck out. My last school payment is due Monday. While I don’t relish coughing up thousands of dollars to a school who won’t let me have a paper cup for the water cooler because I’m an ‘International Student’, I can’t WAIT to be done worrying about this. Let me explain. The life of an international student here in Sydney is a funny thing. Tourism in Australia is massive, and has to be- there simply aren’t enough people in the country to survive without foreign money coming into the economy. And foreign money WANTS to be here, because, hello, beaches. And thanks to good ole’ capitalism, many many people are profiting off of this reality. Basically, anything can be bought here, and it’s a pretty transparent process- that is to say, it’s all above board and on the books. Literally, it is government driven- my school is a government endorsed school. You want to come work? Sure! No worries, that will be $450 and Australia is your oyster for a year. With caveats. You want to come study? Sure! No worries, that will be $450 and a heap of strings attached.

So, in this vacuum of young people working and living who are facing expiring visas, in step the schools. Schools with specific programming that caters JUST to international students. Awesome, right? Well.. Sort of. These schools are also all too aware that once you are on a student visa, your success (or failure) at school determines your ability to continue staying in the country. My school handles this by charging us for everything – $50 if your late to clinic, $50 if you cancel within 24 hours (unless you get a doctors note, but a doctor costs $70 if you don’t qualify for medicare, which we don’t, so pick your poison..), $50 if you fail a test, $50 to reissue your letter of enrollment, reschedule a clinic date, make up a class, and the list goes on. You get the picture. It is lucrative to run a program for international students. They hold the keys to whether or not your visa is revoked, at all times. Combine this with the visa restrictions- you can only work 20 hours a week, in one of the most expensive cities in the world, and you have a hotbed for stress.

It is incredibly difficult to find an employer who will 1) honor your class times when scheduling, 2) hire you based on your hours restrictions and 3) maybe pay you under the table so you can keep eating. When you do find someone who will do those things, it is then hard to find someone who will pay you an equitable rate as they are “doing you favor”. All this makes it hard to really focus on school- because in the back of your mind you are constantly worrying about rent, tuition, food, and whether or not your new boss is really okay with you not being available on Mondays and Thursdays. I’m really not complaining, I love my life here in Sydney, but it has definitely been a stressful few months. In an incredibly moment of foresight back in October, I said to a friend, “it will be okay, I just have to get through to March.”. She was all, why March? Terrible as I am at financial planning, I knew in that moment, that that was how long it would take me to right the ship. I could see the journey.

And here it is! March! You sweet, gorgeous thing you. I realized I’ve been clenching my jaw so hard in my sleep, because last night it finally relaxed and I felt it pop, snap, and crackle. Pain so horrible but I giggled because I knew it meant something good was coming. And while I’m not thrilled that I spend this summer learning to like canned tuna, I think I’ve learned some really valuable lessons about spending, my habits, and budgeting. Maybe a little late in life, and not without repercussions that stink, but I understand what it means to live on meagre means and how to cope.

My grandmother always jokes that I somehow always manage to land on my feet. I never believed her before now. I can’t believe I made it through to this moment. I’m not totally out of the woods yet, but there is a sweet feeling of victory I can’t help but savor. I know so many people have listened to my unending tales of stress, and seemingly impossible deadlines (Cough*mysister*cough), and I can’t thank you enough. All I can say is, we made it. Well, maybe not my masseter muscle, but the rest of me finally did. Excuse me while I go celebrate with some student run acupuncture to relieve my jaw.

Hospo Observations (pt.1)

Let’s get something out of the way – I’m currently back working in hospitality or ‘hospo’ as the linguistically lazy Aussies say. I always have mixed feelings when I’m working in restaurants, because I’m warring against two sensations- 1) I should be doing so much more than this/I am so much smarter than this and 2) I really enjoy this, I meet lots of people, and I’m good at it! The best thing about working in a restaurant is really the ability to eavesdrop on so many people.

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Mojo is killing my Mojo

If you haven’t noticed by now, I am a grade ‘A’ worrier, a bit of a narcissist, and not afraid to tell people what I think. Now that I re-read that, I recognize it’s sort of a weird intro to this post but I’m sticking with it. I was just reflecting on how awesome and clean my house sort of is these days, and the reason behind it dawned on me- the dog is gone! I didn’t kill her guys, stop watching so much NCIS (did you know this is like the most watched show in the US?). For the last several weeks Mojo the dog has been staying at my flatmates moms house. And, while I like the dog, I can’t say that I miss her all that much.

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New Year: New You

If I see one more ‘affirmative’ New Years post, I’m going to have a heart attack. Generally I don’t pay too much mind to social media. Obviously, I’m as addicted as every other millennial, but I just don’t put much stock in what people share on social platforms. Whether it’s good or bad news, you know you’re putting it on a public platform. There’s generally an agenda. Besides, I get severe FOMO when I see other people traveling when I’m not. With that said, for the last 48 hours (downside of being in the future in Oz), all I’ve been forced to read are posts celebrating ‘The best year EVER!’. Please read that as Dionne from Clueless for best emphasis in regards to comedic delivery.

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Writers Block Relieved: One Woman’s Frustration

For months, there’s been a tiny niggling at the back of my mind. A feeling of being unfulfilled, despite leading a life full to the brim with joy and opportunity. Discovery. I mentioned to a teacher of mine who specializes in Aromatherapy that I’ve recently developed quite the sweet tooth, and if she had any recommendations on how to alleviate these annoying (and powerful) cravings. She shrewdly looked me over and said maybe I wasn’t really craving sweet foods, but craving sweetness in life, that my life was ‘lacking’ something. She asked me what I do as a creative outlet, and I kind of muttered “ah, I like to write..”, and she asked when was the last time I wrote. I had to admit it hadn’t been since August. She tapped her nose and instructed me to start writing again. That was almost two months ago.

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Scheduled train departure time: 10:30am

Current time: 10:47am

“The train to Matara is running late”. That’s the entire announcement made over the crackling P.A system at the Colombo Fort train station to tell us the status of our incoming train. The platform, though out of the sun, is stifling. No one seems to work here, so there’s a pedestrian-controlled chaos running the show. With one last refused offer of a ‘ten-day guided trip” from my cab driver, I was deposited on a dusty curb in front of a family of about ten who openly gaped at my appearance. After some wandering, I found the appropriate queue to buy a ticket, but was then consistently cut by pushy travelers even though we had 45 minutes to go until departure. Finally muscling my way through the throng with my bags, I got to the counter, only to argue with the man selling them over the cost. This wasn’t the typical bartering system- the cost of the fare was printed ON my ticket and on the board over his head. He thought he would win by refusing to give me my change but then became alarmed as the line built up behind me and I refused to move without my rightful change. Scowling he gave me my notes but I was on my own for finding my platform- nothing else was printed in English.

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It’s funny how something so innocuous can kick off an entire wave of memories unexpectedly. There’s a regular who comes to the restaurant who wears the same cologne as my Uncle Jack, and it reminds me of dusty Vermont mornings, with him letting me sit between him and my Aunt Barbara ‘driving’ down the dirt mountain road. Or someone will waft by me wearing a lotion that reminds me exactly of my favorite Jivamukti Yoga teacher, and I’m reminded how thankful I am that hers was the first class I ever took in my yoga journey. I smell fresh cut grass and damp earth and I think of early fall mornings playing soccer for the entirety of my youth. For the most part, scent and my nose are my biggest memory ‘triggers’.

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Marina Abramovic

About a month ago, I was back in NYC for a whirlwind tour of friends, family, food, and feelings. I had purchased my plane tickets in a wave of impetuous homesickness. I was missing my friends, my city, and more importantly the feeling of being “apart” of something. A friend of mine was getting married, and I was truly deeply conflicted about missing such a momentous moment in her life. She’s the kind of friend I don’t see or speak to that often, but I feel our lives have always only crossed in the big moments, the momentous moments, so it felt wrong to miss something like this. As the deadline to return home approached, my distress about missing this wedding turned into distress about going home. Ever the ultimate self-critic, I decided I simply wasn’t accomplished enough yet to go home. Here I was, halfway around the world, and I had nothing to show for it, not even a tan. Thus began an internal war of controlling a cranky running commentary on my lack of accomplishments.

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(Partly) My Mother’s Daughter

I don’t write a lot about my family, partly because they’re not in my day to day life in Sydney, and partly because I find it really difficult to encapsulate the personalities of the people closest to you. At least, I *thought* they weren’t apart of my day to day life until I realized what a closed-minded perspective that was. Just because they’re not physically with me, doesn’t mean I don’t carry pieces of them with me every day. Outside of that, my sister and I text so much, I actually have anxiety when whole days pass and I don’t hear from her. I see shows and think of my grandmother, I go to museums, have a nice bottle of wine and think of my uncles, I go to the beach and I think of many of my cousins. So really, I carry them with me all the time- they are small parts of my whole, whether I like it or not.

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