flowers, bikes & beaches

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AUSTRALIA
December 2015 to February 2016
Sydney – Melbourne

Leaving Asia isn’t easy but the three months here are over. Next stop: Down Under. A place of many peoples dream to escape with a camper van, discover the east coast, surf and live a fully road-trip-life for one or if you do some farm work even two years. In Germany it’s common to do the ‘work & travel’ year after high school. I never thought of it when I was in that age. But while I was planning my route for this around-the-world trip I considered Australia as the perfect ‘middle part’ – a place where I could stay for a little while before I continue on ‘the other side’.

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And optimistic how I was, I calculated three months for me here. Hopefully enough time to find some freelance jobs as a Graphic Designer to fill up my bank account. That’s the plan! And the reality seemed to be even better!

On a day in Laos, on the 4000 islands, I thought I should probably start looking for something. I tapped ‘Graphic Design’ – ‘jobs’ – ‘Sydney’ and something showed up, a job description without any company name. I had to sign in and fill out some questions about me. I didn’t finished to fill the blanks but I uploaded my portfolio. I thought I’ll complete it later. Later was completely forgotten. This day ended at Ken’s ‘One more bar’ by Ginger beer, like every evening. 

Weeks later, after Cambodia, after my return to Bangkok I received an email which almost ended up in my e-mail trash. It was the agency I signed in. This is how I found out that is was an agency not only a job. In her mail she told me that she likes my portfolio and would like to meet me. This happened four days before my flight to Australia. We did a skype interview while I was still in Bangkok. Traffic noise have accompany our conversation and after all we decided to meet on the following Monday in Sydney – in three days.

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The flight was fine, I felt a sleep. It seems I get used to it slowly. We had some short turbulences in the beginning but it felt more like a car driving over some hills. Now I’m in Australia – country no. 7 and 2nd continent. Wow! It’s kind of ‘fresh’ here, the air, all is so different. My arrival in Sydney is smooth. I had a place to stay – housesitting for a friends friend – I inscribed myself in a one-day ‘creative writing’ workshop at Sydney University and I have the job interview on Monday! All good.

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My first day in England, well no… I mean Australia. It all looks so British here that I’ve the impression ‘I’ve seen that before!’ I think all my expectations were a bit to high. Everyone talked about Bondi Beach, ok. Well, it’s not that mind blowing. No Cafés or Bars really close to the beach. I’m disappointed after a three hours walk down to Bondi I thought I will have my beer-watching-the-ocean-moment, but not really. Later on I found so much nicer beaches along the coast where you can do BBQ’s and hang out. Like Bronte or Coogee beach for example were my favorites.

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My first eye-contact with the Opera was also not the best moment, or at least not for the Opera. I arrived at the harbor and there was this huge and massive cruiser just next to the Opera – it made look her so tiny. Another weird thing is that all coffee shops are closing around 4pm – when it’s Kaffee & Kuchen time! And the public bus – let’s just not indicate the name of the bus station, it would be too easy for travelers! 

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To make it short I had some difficulties to ‘get along’ with Sydney or in general Australia, even so this place brought me so much opportunities. My expectations were way to high and I was to picky so it took me awhile to like it here, to find out the parts where I feel good. Sydney has to much business-attitude for me and it constantly tells you that you need money if you want to enjoy it and there were other things that make me think critically about the issues in this country.

I’ve learned couple of things about Australia and one of them shocked me in particular. I found out about there immigration politic or rather their inhuman detention of refugees on small, relatively poor Pacific island nations. While Europe cope with the flood of migrants and refugees arriving by boat, Australia has for years embarked on a controversial and unusual policy. ‘The government says it is trying to send a clear message to potential asylum seekers that if they board a boat there is no hope of settling in Australia.’ – CNN article here
The decision of Australian’sgovernment reminded me of the movie ‘The Beach’ by Danny Boyle, in particular the scene where one of the group got attacked by a shark while fishing in the ocean. He is injured 
and his condition worsens despite attempts to care for him, his constant moans of pain lowering the morale of the group, so they take him out into the jungle and leave him to die. He was disturbing the paradise!
It is an absurd concept of how-to-deal-with-a-problem, so instead to confront and solve the problem they just displace and deport it. One of theses places is ‘the Nauru Regional Processing Centre – an immigration detention and offshore asylum processing centre located on the South Pacific island nation of Nauru.’ – Wikipedia (more articles here)

It’s incomprehensible for me how a continent like Australia can react like that when the majority of the population is descended from immigrants.


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To find out what I like, I started to explore Sydney with my new friends in all directions and I realized I’m a fan of the suburbs like Redfern, Newtown and Marrickville. I love the nature and the coast walks, there I found my secret place – where I could spent time with me and the ocean. Listen to the power of the waves crashing on the coast. It made me think about relationships between people. Between me and people. Even if I would like to keep everyone. The letting go and accepting it is one of the things I’m learning here. Be like the ocean, like waves. Receive and send back. Take and let go.

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A friend-ship
on the ocean
breaking waves
getting closer
and distant
constantly
receiving and letting go
breath
there is another ship at the horizont

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It’s christmas time or at least you see all the decorations in front of houses, in streets and shopping windows. For me it doesn’t feel like christmas, it’s my first time in 29 years that I am away from home. Away from a cold winter, snow, Glühwein and christmas-present-stress.
I’ve got a job over the holidays. I’m replacing another Graphic Designer. It’s fun and my colleagues are great. They are all in the last christmas preparations and morning topic is the huge and dangerous spider someone saw last night in his house. 

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I had plans for New Year’s but I didn’t know where and with whom to celebrate Christmas. Only one week before the 25th I decided to write a request to some couch surfers. Well it was a little bit to late – all are full or with their families. Then I thought that maybe friends of mine know friends here in Sydney. I posted some lines on Facebook and indeed friends answered me and I also got a message from a girl I’ve met just one week before.

When I planned my trip to Australia I absolutely wanted to catch up with two friends of mine, one of them is Marie. She started this awesome bicycle group with her friend Jullietta – Sydney X Rides aka SXR. 

They organise Night-Rides every Tuesday and sometimes they do overnight rides or food tours by bicycle. I participated on some rides and it’s an awesome feeling to be part of a group. It’s a great and fun atmosphere and both of them take good care of their ‘bike lovers’. She told me the group grows since August – now they are almost 800 people on facebook. So it was time to celebrate this and make it official with a launch party – picnic, bikes, photo shooting, ice cream and live music.

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The last part was my chance to meet Loretta, the girl who offered me to celebrate Christmas with her and her boyfriend and families. She is a saxophone player in a french gypsy Jazz band called Spyglass Gypsies from Sydney, which music I used for the launch video for SXR – and so the circle is complete.

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Time flies – 3 days of being surrounded by lovely people. It was amazing and overwhelming how both families were welcoming me. Most of Australians have european background, so it’s not atypical to combine european traditions with the typical aussi BBQ on the 25th. We had some traditional Portuguese food ‘Consoada‘ – consists of codfish with green vegetables and boiled potatoes. For desert we made ‘Filhós’ – fried dough sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon. That was lots of fun. All the girls together in the kitchen preparing little rings of dough and drop them carefully in hot oil. Talking, joking and eating one, two or three of them. I enjoyed it a lot, my short time of being part of a big family! Thanks so much!

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After christmas I was not sure if I’ll have another job so I decided to go back on the road – direction Melbourne. I’ve heard only positive things about this place and I was curious how other parts of Australia look like . So I bought me a cheap train ticket and started this 10-hour-journey. Hilly and flat parts and once a while a kangaroo. I arrived in Melbourne, exhausted but already feeling ‘home’. Out of a sudden my motivation and inspiration is back even at 40 degrees in the shade. I just realized how important it is where I am. Sometimes we search desperately for motivation or creativity in the place where we are but actually it would help us to change the place to get another perspective and to realise that there are places where everything just flows and you don’t need to search for it.

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For me Melbourne was this place. I finished couple of videos and among other things, the video for my friend Sophia Kaplan.
Our paths crossed already 3 years ago when she was in Paris. I produced my first collection ‘Blütezeit‘ and Sophia created a flower crown for one of the outfits. We stayed in contact and now years later may I express my gratitude. She has her own flower business in Sydney and so I followed her to Sydney’s flower market at 4am. I captured moments of her, preparing the flower arrangements and decoration for a wedding. Here you can see the short film I made of her and read more about her passion.

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During my stay in Melbourne I just went from coffee shop to coffee shop, worked on videos and photos and discovered a great ceramic artist – Ruby Pilven. Her ceramics were exposed in one of the shops next to the Queen Victoria Market and I couldn’t resist to ask the girl behind the counter – ‘Who does these beautiful ceramics?’ She gave me a card with her name and I wrote her an email the same day. Telling her who I am, what I do and if she would be interested in collaborating with me. Her answer was ‘Yes’ and so I planned my day trip to Ballarat – an hour from Melbourne – to meet her in person, to film her working process and talk about future projects! The video is stil in progress but I do my best to finish it very soon!! For now check her website and fall in love with her work like I did! 

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I got another job for which I had to move back to Sydney. The Office of Environment & Heritage of New South Wales booked me for five weeks. My mission was to transform overloaded word documents into light, easy-to-understand pdf’s with diagrams and three simple explanatory films. The people I worked with were great and I got an insight of the complicated world of bureaucracy in a government agency.

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On the weekends I went with friends who live since couple of years in Australia far after the blue mountains in the bush to do camping. We arrived late afternoon and saw a bunch of kangaroos just next to our camping place. We prepared our fireplace, BBQ and talked until midnight about stars and the univers. 

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Next morning we packed and I was shocked about how much trash we produced in only one night! 4 people – 4 trash bags – but it shocked me even more when I saw how they treated the trash we produced – they just burned it! A black smog raised over our heads and we were covering our mouths with our hands. I ‘rescued’ one bag and started arguing with them. Their answer was – ‘Everyone is doing it like that.’ – What a great apologies for burning trash in a national parc. They continued to burn plastic, paper, cans and glass bottles. I collected some other trash that was laying around, exactly where we saw the kangaroos the night before!
On our way out of the parc I searched for any trash container but no chance – nothing. It’s still not an excuse to burn it! People are lazy and they find all kind of excuses like this one: I don’t want my car to smell BBQ – seriously?

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As a backpacker it isn’t always easy to find the balance and I assume that I produce a lot of ‘fast’ trash like cups, plastic bottles or other food packaging trash. So if I can avoid it I do. I realized for example that I consume quite a lot of coffee-to-go in Sydney so I bought me a coffee cup which they fill up in the shop. I always say no to plastic bags or try to refill my water bottles in countries where you can drink the tap water. Little steps which everyone can do!


My last day in Sydney comes closer and towards the end I got used to this place. Had my routines, friends and jobs. A almost ‘normal’ life or let’s call it Comfort Zone! 

But no, it’s time to go back on the road still so many places to see … so here my resume: I worked for two different clients which filled up my account and I can continue to travel. I had two interesting job interviews for a photo and film agency which motivated and inspired me for my time-after-this-journey. In this three months I changed almost every week my sleeping place which gave me the opportunity to live in Marrickville, Elizabeth Bay, Birchgrove, twice in Redfern and at Kings Cross. I spent three nights in a hostel in Newtown and did one week couch surfing. I celebrated christmas with strangers who became family. I explored Manly and the coast walk to Coogee several times. Made new friends and saw old ones! I had my ups and downs with this place but in total I’m grateful for every person that I crossed here and even the ‘No’s’ I got were the doors for other opportunities. Often life can only be understood backwards.

Bye bye Australia, I think I’m gonna come back… there are still some unfinished projects here!

Further Projects