Reality Check

After nearly two years of living a perfect life of overseas fun,  a few unwanted realisations set root in the bottom of my gut and slowly began to unsettle me:

  1. My bank account had dwindled to the point where I could not afford the next month’s rent;
  2. Even with full time hours, the low wages of unskilled work in Canada was not going to allow me to stay overseas and keep travelling; and
  3. I had an honours degree in environmental conservation and the longer I spent away from it the harder it would be to break into the industry….and unfortunately Canadian employers were for some strange reason preferring experienced Canadian graduates over some random Australian who knew little about the Canadian wilderness.

And so with a bag full of trepidation, I said bye to those I’d grown to love and sadly made my way home.  With the rest of the world and a million of the greatest memories behind me, I once again found myself tucked away in the little corner of the world that is Perth, Australia. As luck and good fortune would have it, three weeks later I began a series of interviews for a dream job and with the help of some good old positive thinking it soon became mine – I officially became a zoologist! For the last few months I have been doing my best to settle into a nice life back home, working hard at my new job, catching up with friends and family, and trying to find the time for art and writing. All the while I am dreaming of getting back out into the foreign world again and I am stubbornly determined that next time it will be with the funds and work experience to create a more permanent life overseas. Until then, I just have to satisfy myself with exploring remote parts of Australia in search of endangered animals threatened by mining and other types of destructive development. Here are just a few of the little critters I have found running around the outback:

Industrial Evolution

Upon reading a book chapter about the industrial revolution and how it grew out of the demands of intensive agriculture, I was struck with an image of something metallic sprouting from something organic. And with some chillies and a few tools at hand for inspiration, this was the result. Using a colour scheme inspired by Mambo, I used acrylic paint to give the paper clay sculpture a dramatised 3D effect.

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King of the sea

This clay piece is an exploration of space and point-of-view, and is my first attempt at using glazes. The general observer will simply be looking at a diving bell helmet. But should they look a little closer, they will discover that the helmet’s window is actually a mirror. Looking at their own reflection, they might get the sense that they are the person inside the helmet and they can then begin imagine themselves floating in the three-dimensional space that is the underwater world of the ocean. This relationship between the observer and the piece is enhanced by the animal silhouettes (sea dragon, turtle, seal and fish) that are reflected onto the surface of the helmet from the underwater world, which give the observer a direct glimpse into what other things exist in the imaginary space that they have found themselves in. So although the piece occupies a relatively small physical space, it creates its own, much larger, virtual space, which, although invisible, is itself a fundamental part of the work.

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Just relax on it

Here is a piece of furniture I made quite a while ago. The inspiration came from a discussion about gender roles during which a girl went on a rampage about how leading positions in society are unavailable to women as their lifestyles are still being restricted by expectations that their place is in the home, cooking dinner and doing the ironing. Thinking that her point-of-view is a bit old-fashioned in this day and age, I decided to make her a chair. But not just any old chair. Rather, it would be a super-comfortable easy-chair made out of an old ironing board and covered with calico upon which I repeatedly stamped a symbol from the kitchen (i.e. I cut a capsicum in half and used the image from the inside face of the fruit). Now she can relax comfortably on her own ideas and have a rest from expounding her, dare I say, out of date opinions!

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Finding home

QUESTION: How long does it take to move to a new country, find a home, secure a job and furnish a room?
ANSWER: Ten days.


Leaving behind the early Saturday morning hustle and bustle of Washington’s Seattle, I was suddenly overwhelmed by the situation I was in. There I was at sea on a little boat, on my way to a land I had never been to, but which I had already started to think of as home. It felt as if I was reliving history, getting a secret glimpse into the feelings and emotions that accompanied those old wooden ships that carried new settlers into the unknown. It was a feeling of excitement, adventure and curiosity, all mixed together with a healthy dose of, ‘What the hell am I doing?’

The weather-maker had given me a welcoming warm and cloudless sunny day and as I looked across the great expanse of ocean that stretched out to the feet of looming snowcapped mountains, I was shocked to see a large, black animal throw itself from the ocean with a crash of seawater and spray. It was my favourite animal from childhood and one which I had always dreamed of seeing: a killer whale. This, I thought to myself, is just the beginning. Yes, Canada is going to be a place where many more dreams will come true.

After dumping my stuff at a hostel, I had a quick walk around the city and an even quicker snooze before being picked up by a guy I had met in Slovenia and joining his friends for a night out and a hilarious conversation: ‘Hi, we have had a complaint about the noise coming from your party’. ‘Oh really, we’re not really having a party’. ‘What are you doing in there then?’ ‘Ah…playing pictionary’. ‘Well how many people are there?’ ‘Um, just six.’ ‘Hmmm…well just try and keep the noise down’. I thought the first time I met the Canadian police would be for something more exciting than a rowdy game of pictionary. It is an exciting game though!


Because there is not much point dawdling in life, I got straight down to business the following day. My first mission: find a home. Thanks to the wonders of the three w’s, I already had a number of appointments to see the filthiness, disorganisation and rare perfection that automatically comes with rental properties. Despite such horrors and before the sun disappeared that night, I was lucky enough to have a room to call my own and a master bedroom at that. Shared with two cool guys and in a great location near a little private beach, I had found my perfection!


Then came a big Monday, by the end of which I had a social insurance number, a bank account, a new mobile phone, a membership to the public library system, a sore back from moving my stuff into my new house, and a new sense of happiness after having a longawaited dinner with a beautiful girl I had met in Ireland a year before. That night as I crawled into my sleeping bag and got comfortable on the floor of my unfurnished room, I couldn’t help but smile big. Life just keeps on working out!


It was soon apparent that nothing tires you out more than moving to a new country and that is why on Tuesday I found myself sleeping much of the day away. A quick walk to the local shops to buy some basic groceries was all I achieved.


Rested up and with rent payments leaving my wallet a little light, it was time to throw some good old positivity at all those nagging comments I had heard about how hard it is to find work in Victoria and go find myself a job. I spent the day walking here, there and everywhere, scoping out the city for potential employers.


With a long list of possible jobs at hand, I worked at developing a range of resumes, each one targeting a different type of position. Thanks to a very nice lady at the job centre in town, I soon found myself armed with a thick pile of photocopied resumes with which to bombard the city.


It turned out I only needed to hand out one! Dropping off my resume into the Quiksilver clothing store in the heart of the city, I met the manager and was sat down for an interview straight away. Trying not to have my hopes up too much, I travelled out to a Fedex office to pick up my bicycle that I had sent over from South Carolina. While chatting with the office, I mentioned I was just out and about in town looking for work. Five minutes later I had an interview arranged with Fedex: turns out someone just left, so there was a position waiting to be filled and apparently I appeared to be a smart and able candidate. As if that wasn’t lucky enough, I was thirty seconds out of the office when my phone rang and I was called back into Quiksilver to have a second interview, this time with the store owner. I was to hear from them soon, I was told. All in all, a good day as far as job-hunting is concerned!

Saturday and Sunday

As a respectful person, I treated the weekend as it ought to be: lazily catching up on chores around the house (giving my room a good vacuum and bathroom a good wipe over), going out for a few drinks and relaxing at my little beach with a book. As well checking out craigslist, searching for something better to sleep on than the floor, I also prepared myself for another day of job hunting come morning.


Morning came and before I had even left the house, I got the call I arrogantly expected to get. I had a job at Quiksilver!!! Feeling as if my work was done for the day, I went into town to be a tourist and get to know my new home city a little better. While walking home I passed a nice-looking wooden chair on the sidewalk and after a quick word with its owner, I carried it home. Job…check! Something to sit on…check! Something to sit at…not yet! Something to sleep on (besides the floor)…still waiting!


On Tuesday I met Gary. Gary had some free desks available. Not only did Gary have some free desks available, but Gary was happy to deliver them too. Not only was Gary happy to deliver them too, but Gary was happy to drive me across the city in his truck and help me pick up a free and practically brand new sofabed! Something to sit at and something to sleep on…check, check!! Yep, Gary was a nice man. I ended this lucky day and my first ten days in Canada back in the centre of Victoria, enjoying a few drinks with Belgian friend I had met while hiking in Montenegro.

A good ten days I must say!

POSTSCRIPT: I had my interview with Fedex and was eventually considered one of two finalists but unfortunately missed out on the job. Fortunately I have settled into my work at Quiksilver and love it! The desks from Gary did not fit through my bedroom door, so I purchased (no, not free unfortunately, but only $50) an awesome second-hand Ikea desk. Last weekend I had my first Thanksgiving ever – helping to devour the yummiest roast turkey this world has seen – and in a few weeks I will get to have my first proper Halloween! All in all, life here in Canada is pretty good!


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