Chapter Eight - Contrasts
On nights when Jews around the world are eating apple dipped in honey for Jewish New Year, I find myself in Kings Canyon making a camel tagine.
When I think about my family, I know they are all together celebrating the Jewish New Year.
Every year is the same: we all gather at my cousin’s house and bring a dish. As we share a meal together, we are reminded of the year that has passed and what the future year will bring. It's a beautiful night together.
But this evening I’m gathered around a campsite, 300 kilometres from Alice Springs, hosting a group of 12 for an overnight stay in an ancient landscape.
Rosh Hashana is a period of reflection and a time to make changes.
A lot has happened in the past two months. I've gone from seaside suburb, a corporate job in the travel industry and the support of loved ones to the middle of Australia, a not-so glamorous job and thrown into a situation where I had to make new friends.
If someone told me all of this six months ago, I would never have believed them. It's not every day a Jewish girl from the eastern suburbs moves to one of the most remote parts of the country.
Goodbye Winter, Hello Summer
For the last six days and five nights I have been at Kings Canyon without WiFi or telephone reception.
My days start at 4:30am in order to beat sunrise. I feed the travellers breakfast and then I make between 15-20 beds. Making beds is the least joyful aspect of my job.
I do enjoy being in the kitchen though, and when people help it's fun to have a chat and hear about their lives.
There are some groups that don't help at all and that's when I feel like the hired help. It's not that no one is helping (that I don't mind), it's the fact that people don't engage with you, other than to say thank you.
After breakfast, beds and then lunch, I head up to the Kings Canyon pool. I do this for six days. It's absolutely heavenly when the temperature is getting to be above 35 degrees.
I sit by the pool, read, write and relax. The week I'm there is school holidays so it's a little more hectic than normal but I don't mind the buzz of school kids laughing and splashing in the water.
I start to develop a routine and from 1-4pm, I'm at the pool and from about 4:30pm till 5:30pm I'm at the pub, The Thirsty Dingo.
By the time I get picked up by one of the tour guides, the sun is setting and with a sense of relief I know the weather will finally cool down just in time to make dinner – another camel tagine.
Living the High Life
We may live in a hostel, but we can afford to eat at the Hilton.
The Double Tree Hilton is the best and busiest restaurant in town. There is a long line at the door and it's only a Tuesday night.
As we wait to sit down, I chat to William, my flamboyant date for the night.
Will is Biggy's younger brother. Biggy and I work together; she equipped me with the skills and knowledge to host.
Will and I order an entree and a main to share. I drink a lemon lime and bitters and Will orders a cosmopolitan. When it arrives it’s as pink as a flamingo.
After dinner, we toy with the idea of sneaking into the pool for a swim. Neither of us have our swimmers with us.
Will seems up for anything, so we decide to go for a quick dip in our knickers. As we dash past reception, we speed up so we can walk through the security gate behind a hotel guest.
Bang! The door slams behind us. We're in.
As we settle in, we can't believe our luck. There are soft, fresh, white towels, the pool is warm and the spa bubbling.
We jump in. The pool is lit up saffire-blue, the water is warm and the perfect to escape the balmy night.
We swim the distance of the pool and jump into the bubbling hot spa. We decided this was a great date; in fact we called it a practice date, as our relationship is purely platonic.
We get dressed and exit the Hilton, feeling refreshed as the remaining heat of the day fades into a still night.