Truthbutter

Highs and lows

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My first hours in Perth found me huddled in my coat on my bare bed under a single bare lightbulb, eating instant microwavable Pad Thai out of a paper cup with a borrowed spoon, watching 27 Dresses, missing Sydney like crazy, and wanting to go home.

…yeah.

Everything had started off well enough. Another exchange student (from Cali) was awesome enough to pick me up from the airport and then take me to the grocery store, and she was super friendly and enjoyable to talk to. But once I got to Murdoch and entered my apartment, things went downhill. My internal conversation with myself went something like this:

This place smells funny.

You’ll get used to it.

And the floor is sticky.

It’s fine.

My room is really ugly.

Shush, you’re just spoiled. It’s fine.

I miss Sydney.

…oh no, don’t say it!

…I want to go home.

NO. Hush. You’re in Australia and it’s going to be great. Stop being so moody.

Okay…but really though, why is the floor so sticky?

Stop thinking about it.

I know I’ve been spoiled thus far with my living conditions, especially this past year when I lived in Ram Village at UNC (best place ever!). I try not to take things for granted, but it’s impossible to fully realize how good you have it until you see how bad it could be, and my new apartment (which wasn’t even that bad) was definitely a bit of a shock. The whole place was just generally old and ugly, and the kitchen was a mess. Only one of my five flatmates was there, and she wasn’t very friendly. She didn’t speak English very well, though, so I think part of it was just a communication problem.

I wanted to unpack and get settled, but the shelves and drawers in my room were dirty too, and there were somehow no cleaning supplies in the entire flat. No paper towels or clean dish towels, either. I didn’t feel like I could cook anything, because all the dishes were either filthy or belonged to someone else, and honestly, even if I had dishes I wouldn’t have wanted to cook in that kitchen. (I know I sound so stuck-up and whiny in this post. Bear with me!) Thankfully I had bought a Pad Thai noodle bowl that was on sale at Coles, so all I needed was some water, a microwave, and a spoon. The other girl lent me a spoon, but unfortunately the microwave turntable had been floating in a pond of starchy noodle water for who knows how long. With no paper towels or towels, I just rinsed it off in the sink and stuck it back in the microwave dripping wet, then went on with it.

This was probably the first time I’d had instant food in six years, and it felt very wrong. It was wholly unsatisfying, and I was really wishing for just a simple, solid meat-n-potatoes meal. I also had a box of Glutino pop-tarts, because they were on sale at Coles and I figured it was something I could eat without any dishes, but they were equally unsatisfying and made me feel gross. Just because it’s gluten-free doesn’t mean it’s healthy, people! I was definitely feeling sad and lonely (and hungry), so I decided to watch 27 Dresses to make me feel better. So glad I threw in those movies at the last minute!

I didn’t have time to finish the movie, but there was something else that improved my outlook on the day a bit. When I closed my computer and looked out the window of my room, there was a rainbow! Me being both nature-loving and apt to give symbolic meaning to things, of course the rainbow immediately made me feel better. Yes, there will be rainy patches, but I know everything will turn out amazing. Like this rainbow.

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See? Symbolic.

That night, we had the “Early Arrivals Dinner” for study abroad and exchange students. I already knew Chelsea, the girl who had picked me up at the airport, and it was really nice to see a familiar face after a bit of a rough afternoon. Then Malcolm, the study abroad coordinator, handed us a game called Cards Against Humanity (which is sort of the dirty version of Apples to Apples), and everyone introduced themselves and we started playing. It was actually a pretty great way to break the ice, and it was fun to be around other exchange students. The most represented nationalities studying here seem to be Americans, Germans, and Brazilians, but there was a fair assortment. 

Some of us at the dinner!

Some of us at the dinner!

For dinner, they had sausages on hot dog buns and kangaroo, and they even bought GF buns for me! That was really cool of them, although I was definitely reaching the point of way too much processed food in a short period of time. The kangaroo was amazing, though, and fulfilled some of my desire for real food. I’ll probably be eating lots of it while I’m here, because I think it’s cheaper than other meats.

The whole evening definitely lifted my spirits, because I sort of got some actual food and got to hang out with other people and didn’t feel as lonely. But it was definitely a little depressing coming back to my room, especially once I realized I had neither a blanket or a pillow, and my one flatmate wasn’t around so I couldn’t ask to borrow anything. And again, no central heating here; just a radiator that automatically turned off every hour, I presume as a safety measure. I ended up sleeping in as many layers of clothes as I could put on and using my towel as a pillow, and it was a restless and chilly night.

Not the best sleep I've ever had

Not the best sleep I’ve ever had

Also, the ‘exit’ signs here are weird, and we had two of them in our apartment. I don’t know why that bugged me, but it did. Missing American exit signs is not the manifestation I would’ve expected for homesickness.

For breakfast I had the rest of the GF pop-tarts, because I didn’t have a bowl to heat up the leftover kangaroo that I had nabbed from the dinner the night before. It was a sad state of affairs. But then I made a really good decision: I decided that I was not going to stay in this room. A good friend who recently studied in Spain posted some traveling tips while she was abroad, and one that really stuck with me was “don’t settle if you aren’t happy” (thanks Jess <3).

Normally I’m the type of person to kind of accept things as they come and just try to make the best of it, and not make a big stink if things don’t go my way. But instead I went and checked out some other students’ rooms in a different part of the student village, went to administration to request a new room, and then waited impatiently for an email from the housing coordinator.

Then I decided I really needed to go to the store for dishes, cleaning supplies, a blanket, and a pillow, and luckily I ran into a couple other exchange students who were heading that way as well. The walk to the store was really nice, and we even picked an orange and a lemon on the way from trees by the road. The weather was nice (mid-60’s, even though it’s the dead of winter here), and it didn’t take too long to get to a little shopping center with a grocery store and a K-mart.

I decided to splurge on a fuzzy purple blanket for $20 instead of a smaller gray fleece one for $10, which was probably the best decision I’ve made since getting here (other than my decision to move). It brightens my spirits every time I look at it. Or pet it. Purple fuzzy blankets are good for that sort of thing. And I was reveling in the fact that I wouldn’t have to sleep without a blanket again tonight. I also bought a plate and a bowl for $1 each, some silverware, and a mug.

Guess how much the mug cost?

‘Bout tree fiddy.

I’m sorry. I had to.

That wasn’t even accurate. It was exactly $3.50.

Anyway. I definitely felt better after the shopping trip, although I was sad to discover on my way back that I had forgotten to buy a pillow. (It’s really distracting trying to shop with two other people!) At least I remembered paper towels, though. And I was sad to leave the other students in their nice north village room to go back to my depressing south village room. But once I got back and opened my computer (and messed with the internet for about 20 minutes to get it to work), behold! An email from the housing office! They had a room in north village for me, and I could move right away! I went down and filled out the paperwork, and was out of there. Hallelujah!

Walking out of that flat for the last time felt amazing, and honestly, I think it was worth suffering for a night to put everything in perspective. Who knows how I would’ve felt about my room in north village if I had moved straight there, but let me tell you, I appreciated the heck out of that new room after living in south village for a day. And I appreciated even more how amazingly good I have it at home.

My beautiful new room!

My beautiful new room!

I’m going to end this post here, partially because I don’t want to make it too long (probably already have; whoops), and partially because I feel like moving was my first big “taking control of my own travel destiny” decision, and that seems like a good way to end my first Perth blog post. Now to make my new room actually feel like home!

2 Thoughts on “Highs and lows

  1. Anne luck on July 15, 2014 at 9:29 pm said:

    How I wish I could send your art, your piano, and a kitty cat for your lap when you need one.
    …and of course, your pressure cooker 😉

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