One Month in Alexandra

ToNZ #3 – After almost 3 months I stopped being a receptionist in the Chillawhile. I was planning to write a whole post about my life there because I felt that it deserves that but I was too lazy and life just kept going on. Let’s see, how.

Getting Horticultural

Being a receptionist in Oamaru helped me a lot to hear people talking about various things which sometimes included some handy information about my future plans as well. The most relevant one was that if I’m working for three months in the horticultural industry, I can extend my working holiday visa in New Zealand by 3 months. Since the receptionist work has about nothing to do with horticulture, I started to look for jobs like fruit picking, packhouse work, because staying a bit longer in New Zealand is something I wouldn’t mind at all.
The Chillawhile usually accepts volunteers, little helpers who can stay for free if they clean the toilets, and a few of them went to the town called Alexandra after finishing their volunteering life in the hostel, to actually earn some money. They told me that there are many horticultural jobs in that area. So I started to think that my next station will be that area.
Katja, my previously mentioned receptionist colleague heard my secret plan and since we started and finished our receptionist jobs at the same time and she was also thinking about extending her visa, she suggested to go there together. Through the Central Otago Rail Trail. By bike. Which will take 3 days.
First this idea sounded way too extreme to me but she said that she will do everything: rent the bikes, book the accommodation and then find a job in Alexandra at the end. It would have been hard to say no, after all.
We left the Chillawhile on February 17th, then hitchhiked from Oamaru to Dunedin (my first time hitchhiking!!), stayed in Dunedin to surf (my first time surfing!!)(okay, I wouldn’t call it surfing but my first attempt!!), then went to Middlemarch, which is the first town of the trail and where our rented bikes were already waiting for us. We took them and after 190 kilometers of biking we arrived to the hostel in Alexandra.
When Katja said that she will find a job in Alexandra, she wasn’t kidding. On the evening of our arrival a woman called Linda came to us to the hostel and told us that she will be our boss in the apricot packhouse, and we will start tomorrow at 8am. So that’s where we were working for the next 2 weeks. Splitting, stoning and spreading the apricots. A horribly monotone job for about 8 hours a day. After finishing it, we found some other jobs on the local vineyards for about 2 weeks as well. On the vineyards we could listen to our personal music which made the 8 hours fly away relatively quickly. I usually started the morning with some chilling music, then continued with presentations in Hungarian and finally turned off my brain for the last few hours.
The vineyard job was finished a bit earlier than we expected so we had a few free days at the end. This had some financial disadvantages but still, it didn’t hurt to have some time to look around.

Today’s Lesson

In the beginning I wasn’t too enthusiastic to go to Alexandra together with Katja but now I’m pretty far from regretting that decision. I was going to come here, start my three months in the horticultural universe, collect some money and then keep going to another city. Now that she came with me I still started my three months and I also collected some money but having somebody around all the time made me feel that it’s not enough. Katja said that she wants to keep her work-life balance, and working and sleeping only is not what she meant by that.
One time, when we were having break in the packhouse, she looked very excited. Why are you so very excited, I asked. Because this is the last break for today. And after this she will go biking with the bike that she just bought. And it’s hot so she might go and swim in the river as well.
And am I excited for anything, she asked. Yeah, I said, that there is already less than 3 months to do to my extension. That I will have a nice time in the summer when I go back to Asia. And that I will have a lot of money after finishing all my horticultural jobs. That’s not good, she said, it sounds that I’m living in the future. I should try to enjoy the present too. Because the present days go away anyway, but it also matters, how they do that. She convinced me to buy a bicycle too so we could bike together. And she gave me her professional headphone so I could listen to my music on a next level during work. And she said that we should find something for every day to look forward to after the work. Buy a pizza. Bake a pizza. Watch a movie. Play some game. And things like that.
This whole idea made me think a little bit. In about my last 15 years I was living in the future, always looking forward to better times to come, without even realizing it. The only time when I was able to enjoy what I’m doing for a longer period was during my Asia trip. When I didn’t daydream about the upcoming part of my life, just paid attention to my closer surroundings. And now, looking backwards, I can confidently state that my Asia trip was the best time of my life so far. I’m not quite sure yet how exactly but that must have some correlation with not keeping my eyes on the future all the time.
It looks at the moment that our ways with Katja will split soon but if I learned only one feature from her that I could build into my “how to live life”-repertoire, it’s the one of trying to enjoy the present days a bit more.

Back to the Future

As you might know, dear blog reader, the real world summer equals winter in New Zealand. Which means, among others, cold weather and less jobs. That’s one of the biggest reasons why I’m going to go back to Asia, concentrating on the two countries where I had my best experiences last time: Taiwan and Korea. I’m going to spend a few weeks in places that I found on workaway, one in Taipei and one in Busan. Between those countries I’ll make a short detour to Hong Kong, to check out Áfonya and to Chengdu, to check out Nina.
I already made my plan back in Oamaru but now that I actually made some money in Alexandra, I also bought my flying tickets. I will depart from Auckland to Taipei on June 13th. And I haven’t bought a return ticket so it remains a surprise when will I arrive back and from where.
Despite of my new skill of living in the present, I’m absolutely looking forward to this trip – especially after spending my next two months in the horticulture.


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