Life Lately: Work & Play in Hervey Bay
Now that we've been here a while, I thought I'd finally give some insight into what we've been doing in Australia for the last four months. (Yes, I am four months behind. Thank you painfully slow Aussie internet). When we first arrived in Oz, we spent two weeks doing a bit of exploring. (More on that soon, hopefully). Then, at the beginning of August, Emmett and I went to Hervey Bay in coastal South Queensland. Why? Well, to do a work exchange at a holiday park. Most of the clientele at the park were older couples from Southern Australia - "grey nomads," as they're called. Some of them are long-term visitors who stay for weeks (or even months) at a time. The holiday park has sixty campsites available for either campervans, RVs, pop-up campers, or tents. In addition to that, there are fourteen cabins & studio rooms with ensuite kitchens and bathrooms plus three basic budget bedrooms. Our work exchange meant that we would clean the rooms at the park and/or work reception for four hours a day.
After a few weeks of just getting accustomed to the cleaning and reception work, we began doing extra paid hours. We took an online certification course in construction site safety and got our own steel-toed boots. We painted, plastered, sanded, and filled all of the walls, ceilings, and skirting in four new apartments built at the park. It took us about two months of working every day to finish but we did it! In the meantime, some of us gradually ruined our clothes (spoiler: it was me, I am a slob) but I think the apartments turned out pretty snazzy in the end.
Other than working, we had a bit of free time to enjoy ourselves. Every Sunday night was bring your own (B.Y.O.) Happy Hour/Karaoke and a lot of the guests showed up to have a rollicking good time. Our good friends Ian & Karen lead the night. Ian has a beautiful baritone voice and starts off the night by singing songs from his repertoire. Karen runs the sound system and pops on to sing a few solos and duets. As the night goes on and everyone gains a little bit of "liquid courage," Ian & Karen will step back and leave the mic open for anyone to have a turn.
Well, for those of you who might not know, Emmett can actually sing pretty well. (He's been in choirs his whole life, singing his little tenor heart out). Sunday night karaoke has allowed him to hone his skills. He had never been much for solo singing but Hervey Bay has been a great place for him to come out of his shell and sing a lot. He was a bit of a hit with the older crowds who loved his retro style. I really wish I'd had the GoPro out the night they all started chanting "Emmett! Emmett! Emmett!" Anyway, Emmett gained enough confidence to do karaoke outside of the park as well. He sang at two karaoke nights at pubs here in town, too.
Our work exchange hosts, Pauline and James, also got really into the karaoke. They both sing on occasion and Pauline is an excellent dancer. When we first arrived and the park was super busy with grey nomads that had fled the chilly southern winter, James even dressed up and sang in character a few times. He's been a Blues Brother, Elvis, Elton John... Pretty cool!
Outside of the park, we've been able to do some cool stuff like visit nearby Fraser Island (the world's largest sand island), check out a huge flying fox (bat) colony, walk the super long Hervey Bay beach, dress up for the Melbourne Cup, watch mama and baby humpback whales, and hang out with Pauline & James' super cute dog Max.
We actually left our work exchange there in H Bay last week! It was really difficult to say goodbye to our friends, the holiday park has definitely felt like a home away from home. But they gave us a pretty rad sendoff, so we went out in style. Pauline, James, Karen, & Ian: we love you!