While there's still another 46 days to go until I head off to China, Dan is spending the next six weeks jetting between Adelaide and Japan to snowboard, returning to A-town to crew on Donny - The Rock Opera at The Adelaide Fringe and then heading off to go snowboarding again.
Really, I'm not jealous at all.
Anyway, all this toing and froing means that Dan has to get everything packed up, stored or sold in about 15 days. At the same time he'll be helping to provide a spectacular AV experience for Donny, celebrating his 27th birthday and getting all those pesky pre-travel things sorted. Like visas.
As we're planning on travelling across to Europe by the Trans-Mongolian railway we have to get visas for China, Mongolia and Russia sorted out. Obviously, the Chinese visa is the one we needed to sort out first and Dan needs his passport back so he can fly out on February 7th.
So, on Friday January 20th we sent off our passports and visa applications. I have to admit, we'd intended to send them off on Thursday, but I'd stupidly brought my British passport along instead of my Aussie one. (one day's delay)
I've been experiencing a slightly more relaxed view of time now that I'm only working in the afternoons (telemarketing kids - it pays the bills), so I personally didn't take weekends and public holidays into my calculations of when we'd get our passports back. 4 working days of visa processing, 2 or 3 working days of postage to Canberra, 2 or 3 days postage back?
She'll be right mate...
But then I began to think about Australia Day last Thursday and Dan's imminent departure to Japan. What happens if the mail was slow? What if our passports were lost in the post - even though they were sent by registered mail?
So I took a visit to the Chinese Embassy website to find out how to contact them to check up on how our visas were going. And I found this notice:
NEW NOTICE FOR CHINESE NEW YEAR! IMPORTANT CHANGE!
For Australia's National Day, the Visa Office is to be closed on January 26th.
For Chinese Spring Festival Holiday, the Visa Office is to be closed from January 30th to February 1st and reopened on 2nd.
While we'd considered delays due to Australia Day we hadn't even thought about how Chinese New Year might affect our applications.
So, I rang Dan and explained the situation and understandably he freaked out and we worked out a back up plan if our passports weren't going to be sent back until Friday...
Dan could fly to Canberra and pick up his passport by hand. Or he could pay for an emergency replacement passport (which would require 4 days of processing anyway and a new Chinese visa). I even generously offered to go to Japan in his place - I've always wanted to learn how to snowboard and at least the tickets wouldn't go to waste! Of course I immediately regretted saying that and whenever I mentioned how lucky it was that I had two passports Dan would send me a very dirty look.
Not only was Dan's trip to Japan in question - but it looked like he was questioning my worth as a girlfriend...
Cue an evening of super stressed Dan and Pippa
I swear, never before have I seen Dan look so stressed or so relieved.
Now of course he has to organise an Irish working holiday visa in the two weeks between the Japan trips.
Can anybody send me some Xanax? I can feel a fortnight of panic attacks coming on.
It's probable that if you don't live in Adelaide or know me, then you won't know what I did for a living or the reason why I'm now "between jobs".
To put it bluntly, Midway, the American company which bought Ratbag Games halfway through 2005, closed the studio just before Christmas. Luckily, the Australian games industry has grabbed the opportunity to employ many of my 70 or so extremely talented and lovely (ex)co-workers. Hey! I even had one studio ring me up and ask if I was interested in working in either Brisbane or Adelaide - the support that we've all received has been amazing.
However, I'm not desparate to return to the games industry just yet, possibly never in fact (especially as a programmer). One of the main reasons that I now get a wee bit too anxious over seemingly normal stuff is because of the high stress environment that I was working in. In early November I burst into tears at 9.30 in the morning after staying at work until 11 the night before, four days after having a panic attack. Oh Joy! I suppose the benefit of the time I had to take off was that I discovered I had an anxiety disorder and wasn't crying because I was a wussy girl working in a male dominated industry.
All in all this whole losing-my-job business is going to work out well for me. I'd decided to resign in order to go travelling and working overseas, but had chosen to stay working until March so I could save up more and learn how to manage the stress a bit better. Luckily I don't have the stressful job anymore and I was given a very reasonable redundancy payout which went straight into a savings account.
I have to admit that I also spent a significant portion of time over Christmas and New Years travelling around South-East Australia living off some of the annual leave money from my redundancy. Oh. And I bought myself a digital camera and spent over a thousand dollars on having my car's airconditioning repaired. Which meant that Dan and I were able to drive around, try to relax (very important for a stress bunny such as myself) and take photos.
Of course, now I don't have a job and i don't want to eat into my savings much more - I need to earn some money!
Much as I expected, the money which I've put aside for travel and for my return to Australia in x years time, has meant that I won't be eligible for Newstart benefits until March 16th. Inconveniently that date coincides with the week that I intend to depart Adelaide for Shanghai.
Which means that I have to get together enough money to live for the next two months and to hopefully save up a bit more for life on the road. So far I've snubbed the effort of hardcore "looking for work" and an opportunity to stand on street corners looking like a hippy whilst being paid to ask for donations.
It looks like now is the time for me to be a little more proactive - not only will I use newspaper and online resources to look for actual jobs, I'm going to try and make money doing stuff myself.
I'm thinking about working along the lines of $100 for the first day / 8 hours work ($12.50 an hour!) and then if you like what I've done we would take part in a beautiful process known as negotiation wherein we work out how I will get paid somewhere near what my time is worth.
As a sign of goodwill to you, my future clients, and as a way to justify withdrawing from my savings, I'm actually going to employ myself to redesign Battlecat two days a week. I shall now go and write myself a design brief.
The final drawings from my "bored [and stressed] at work" series.
In between attacks of self-doubt and minor anxiety I find time to think of and do more constructive activities.
* eat grapes cold from the fridge
* pile unwanted items in a corner of a room - determined that they will be sold at a garage sale in the near future.
* place retained items into vacuum storage bags, utilise the vacuum capabilities and marvel at the space saving wonder brought about by a simple plastic valve.
* make a list in my mind of things to do tomorrow: go to dentist for filling, speak to travel agent about ticket details, ring up Centrelink to see if I'm eligible for the dole. (NB: Only one of the three aforementioned activities is even faintly fun. Guess which!)
* realise that in two months time I will either be on or preparing to board a flight to China so that I can meet a post-snowboarding Dan for an epic journey to as yet undetermined places.
It hasn’t descended that heavily yet. Maybe, if I eat some salad, tidy a drawer, read a book, pull up some weeds I can escape and stop the sky falling or the ground opening up.
The closure of the studio has left me feeling vulnerable, formless. I have no idea what to do with myself, how to approach working out what to “do” next. And all the things I said I’d do when I had the time don’t interest me anymore, I have all the time in the world and suddenly today, I feel no desire to grasp the opportunity.
I never knew that the romantic sound of summertime cicadas was a prelude to literal golden showers. But having sat on the banks of the Murray River under creaky red gums which buzzed with insects, I can now assure you that even though the skies were blue (not a cloud to be seen) I was rained on.
By cicada piss.
I've done a little more research on this phenomenon and i've discovered that a more delicate name for the fine spray is honey dew. Suddenly a cool fruit salad with melon does not seem quite so appetising as before.