How I Survived 3 Months of Banana Farming in Rural Australia
Just under a decade ago I had my first encounter with sedation.
For as long as I can remember, I've had an ambitious sweet-tooth. By the time I hit 13, my candy-crushing abilities rivaled that of an Oompa Lompa's. Luckily, my metabolism supported this habit and therefore I saw no reason to put the cookies down. Until one fateful day, the consequences struck.
YOU KNOW WHAT RHYMES WITH SUGAR?
The first time I ever had a filling done, I had four done at once. It was the first time I'd ever been put under for anything, and Jesus H. Christ was it an experience. The dentist who did the deed used the drug commonly referred to as "laughing gas." I vividly remember the moments leading up the minor surgery. Shortly after the fumes began flowing, the entire room lit up. I entered a new galaxy. I didn't know where I was, all I knew was that my life would never be the same.
What felt like 1.5 seconds later, (actually probably like an hour in the real world) it was over. I was certain, beyond question, that I had woken up dead.
Dead. Deceased. Finito. Gonzo. Bye
I remember looking across the room and seeing my mom. I squinted at her, wondering why she was also in this new universe with me. I sat up, nodded at her and said, "yes, hello," to which my mother replied, "are you ok Victoria?"
I blinked, nodded again, and confirmed, "yes, I am fine, I have come to terms with this, it is fine." Naturally, she had no idea what I was referring to. Noting her puzzled look, I continued.
"It's ok mom. I know that this is my new life, and that things will never be the same. This is my life now and that's ok."
It wasn't until recently that I once again muttered that exact same sentiment ...
13 WEEKS AGO I BEGAN WORKING ON A BANANA FARM IN AUSTRALIA
I was entirely aware of the country's unique visa restrictions before arriving. What I wasn't aware of was how hilarious the experience of fulfilling them would be.
In order to assure a second year in tropical bliss, working holiday visa holders have to complete 13 weeks of agricultural work (in the middle of nowhere) to give back to the land down under.
Through a lot of googling, and social-media scouring, I discovered a working hostel to kick off my farm-chic career. The hostel I chose housed over 80 travellers from England, Ireland, Germany, Sweden, Holland and Chile. Each and every one of us were transported to work at the crack of dawn to toil our well-travelled bodies for the benediction of bananas.
Many times throughout the past 13 weeks I found myself genuinely in awe of my life. What exactly did I do at work you ask?
For 9 HOURS a day I put lids on cardboard boxes.... Cardboard boxes full of bright green bananas. Little did I know when I began, that this would be my one role and one role only. Yes. For three full months this is what I did. This and this alone.
On the busiest week we ever had, I put 16,000 lids on in one week. SIX GOD DAMN TEEN GOD DAMN THOUSAND.
Anyways.... from the top. This is how my banana career went down.
MY INAUGURATION DAY
I am woken up at 4:43 am and told I have 17 minutes to get my backpacker butt out of bed and into rubber boots. A neighbouring farm called the hostel manager that morning and said they needed an immediate replacement. Luckily, I was told to have food prepared, so I stuffed my backpack full of sustenance, not knowing what treachery I was about to endure (too dramatic? maybe).
Upon arrival, I was taken into a giant rustic shed. Inside was a massive assembly line with green nanas, machinery, and packing materials. There I was introduced to my farmer. I was pleasantly surprised to be introduced to a kind young Aussie named Ernie*
** His name isn't actually Ernie but I've always wanted to use a name change like they do in magazines and now is my time to shine. I've also never met an Ernie and I feel like it could maybe happen in Australia if I keep looking hard enough**
Ernie said he was pleased to meet me, made a few jokes about Canada EHHHHHH and then walked me over to my work space. I was told that my job might seem a bit "repetitive at first" but that I would adapt and that my job was "extremely important."
REPETITIVE AT FIRST!!!
SCROLL UP PEOPLE!!
Anyways...The thing is,
it wasn't even easy at the start.
It was incredibly stressful.
The assembly line moved fast. To my left, there were banana-filled bundles coming at me at lightning speed. To my right, a fellow banana packer was waiting impatiently to receive the freshly lidded boxes from me. I have never worked so hard in my life as I did on day one.
Need I mention it was 38 DEGREES. I drank 9 litres of water over my 9 hour shift. My knuckles were literally bleeding from being cut by cardboard.
I went home. Called my mother. Bawled my eyes out.
Two days later, I called her back calmly and told her in my numb state of exhaustion that I had "come to terms with my new life."
WEEK NUMBER TWO
Post nervous-breakdown, I went back for round two.
To my delight, this week I developed the knack.
My lid applications began flowing like honey; smooth and silky cardboard choreography.
What I didn't anticipate was that without warning, I would sporadically lose the knack. When this happened I would momentarily go flaming ape shit.
I once punched, ripped, kicked, cussed and even spat on a cardboard lid for its lack of co-operation.
The rest of my time at the farm all sort of blurred into one big cardboard cloud. The only other part of the farm worth discussing is the wildlife.
The most Australian thing that has ever and will ever happen to me can be seen to the left.
One fine morning, Ernie took us all on a little field trip into the banana paddocks to check out the python he'd found over the weekend.
A THREE-METRE python that had swallowed an entire WALLABY. A wallaby is like a small kangaroo, but I assure you it is still far from small. After feasting on the wallaby, the python, Ernie explained, had become paralyzed for up to a week. Pythons swallow their prey whole and are forced to go into a literal food coma in order to digest. When I asked the farmer how he knew it was a wallaby in there, he replied that his dog was accounted for and that no staff had called in sick that morning.
OH K PERF.
The subsequent snake, which Ernie invited me to hold, was practically cuddly following the python encounter. The tree frogs were my personal favourite. By comparison to the common cockroaches and geckos that often scurried around the shed, the frogs were welcome company. Unfortunately, after smooching the frog, I still have no Hemsworth-caliber Australian prince to call my own.
Would I do it again for the sake of the visa? Yes absolutely.
Would I do it again, like for giggles ? NOPE not a chance.
The best part of the experience, was without a doubt, the people. Staying at a working hostel meant being surrounded by a ton of travellers in the same boat. Working as hard as we did, meant celebrating equally hard on the weekends. It's not often you get to live with 80 people as amusing as my hostel mates.
None of us would have chosen the farm life, but by the end we were grateful it chose us. A year from now I'll still have at least a few of those friends with me in my everyday life. What I won't have is banana sap, cockroaches and cardboard cuts all over my body.
Cheers to that.