This week has been the best and the worst since I’ve been here. I hit my breaking point the same day I bought my car. (Yeah, I drive an Audi…from 1989). I decided to spend the night in my car and then in the morning head to Lake Taupo and try to find work there. As I was napping in my car wondering what the hell I was doing in a parking lot on the beach, no blanket, no pillow, just the sound of the waves and teenagers getting drunk in a nearby car, I got a text message from my ex-roommate, Tony. He said he had work for me that was boring, but not too physically demanding. I immediately checked into Tommy’s hostel, which I could book at a weekly rate for 17 a night. (approx. 12.75 US). The next day, bright and early I picked up Tony and we started work on an apple orchard.
It’s amazing how fast things can turn around.(Which is why I’m not worrying too much right now). I was lying on the seat of the car thinking, “Dad says I always land on my feet. I don’t even know if I have feet to land on…” And then boom. Work. Things change. Things happen. When I checked out of a hostel a week or so ago, they gave me twenty dollars for my key deposit. I didn’t remember giving a key deposit. I kept it for about an hour and thought about whether or not to return it. Eventually, I did, because I thought I needed good kharma, and because if I didn’t, for the rest of my life, any time something bad happened, I’d think it could have been avoided if I’d returned it. After I knew I’d be working, I was really glad I returned it.
When we got to the orchard, Tony just picked some rows and we went to work. It seemed like there should be more to it. “Shouldn’t I check in with someone….”
Nah. Tony spent about 1 minute showing me what to do and then was off, because you earn by the tree and he goes really fast. I started, and about twenty minutes later, some guys showed up wanting to know who the hell I was and where I came from. They were not thrilled that Tony had randomly brought someone who didn’t have any experience without telling them. Fair enough. But, they also realized if they told me to leave they’d lose Tony because I’d driven him. (Yeah, Audi). They gave me a bit more of a detailed training and then I was okay.
Some facts about Tony. He is tough. I mean, 250 pounds of muscle, a reformed badass, can drink a case of beer, has a “Fuck the Police” tattoo on his arm, has been working on orchards for years tough. When he said it wasn’t physically demanding, I don’t think he was lying. But he was wrong.
I was slower than everyone there. I was the only woman, I think that had ever worked there. I felt like I had to prove myself—show that just because I’m a girl doesn’t mean I’m weak.
I still have cuts and bruises all over my forearms. My wrists weren’t strong enough for this. They became strong. Pruning apple trees. Basically, I spent eight hours a day in the sun weeding trees.
I’ve never been more proud of myself. I’m doing really hard work that I got on my own. I did this all by myself. I was making friends, I got a job, I was networking. I had a place to live. I had a car. I was figuring everything out. I even wrote myself a letter:
“Dear you, I am so proud of you….”
Easy come easy go, I suppose. At the end of day three, I stabbed myself in the eyeball with a tree branch.
Now I’m back to square one. Don’t have a job, don’t have any leads, have even less money, and at the moment, don’t have much vision in my right eye. I had a great few days here. But this week was too rough. As soon as my sight is back and I can drive I’m moving on to another town. I’m going to head to Wellington, try to find work there.
The worst part was being alone. I haven’t really minded yet. But I had to drive myself to the hospital. When I woke up in the middle of the night and knew something was seriously wrong, and nobody else in the hostel was awake, I had to drive myself there, navigate the health system, the roads, talk to doctors, strangers for directions, chemists, the whole time thinking, “I’m going to lose my sight.” Nobody knew why it wasn’t healing. Different doctors giving me different medications and different suggestions. Try this. No, he shouldn’t have put you on that…” Walking around the streets in an eye patch. Other than that I was just in bed for three days. It hurt so much just to have my good eye open because that meant my bad eyeball was moving around. So I just had to lie here in the dark, eye covered, body burning with fever and infection and fear thinking. Couldn’t read, couldn’t write, just had to think and sleep. I lost track of time, to the point that I only knew whether it was light or dark. Periodically, the pain would become unbearable and I’d go to the hospital.
Today things seem better. They have to, because I’ve been out of bed. They transferred me to a hospital in the next town, to a specialist. This morning, they told me the scratch has mostly healed, so there’s some sort of infection under the surface, that the branch must have actually penetrated. I was so sure I was going to lose my sight. So in a way, today was really wonderful. Because I learned that I probably won’t. I got a girl in my hostel to drive my car to the hospital. It was nice. I felt a little taken care of. But it’s really hard to just ask strangers to take care of you. Even when you simply have to in order to survive. It’s hard to feel that vulnerable. But at the same time, I’ve never felt so self-sufficient in my life.
I’m still mad that this situation didn’t work out. But, I still did all of those thigns. I still found a job, made friends, got a car, found a place to live, I did that. Now, I also figured out healthcare, took myself to the hostpital five times, nursed myself back to health.
I’m giving Napier another shot. I think I may be able to get work on Monday. It’s really hard to just keep trying, talking to strangers, calling random numbers from kids in my hostel, hoping that something works out, paying for a room in the hopes that I’ll get the money back really soon.
Had dinner with Janet and Alice Bogan the other night. Janet is about fifteen minutes away and Alice just a few streets. Small world. I never really knew them that well in Swarthmore, but having people here from my hometown is certainly enough of a coincidence to merit a relationship. Hope to spend some more time with them while I’m here.
More to come later.
p.s. I think I'm better at everything here. Got a car, bank account, room, all these daily things that were just too hard at home.