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Day 282 - Margaret River

'Saturday night tears at the thin fabric of human culture, exposing the beast beneath.'

-- Margaret River Lodge motto
The hostel was quite unlike any I had stayed in before. Monday to Friday its residents dutifully rose early to toil in the vineyards surrounding the little town. To endure biting wind and stinging rain while working on grape vines that produced wines that they couldn't afford. Come the weekend though there was full-scale rebellion against this government-ordained monotony. A cauldron brought out and placed in the centre of the kitchen, goon and evil spirits cast into it for unholy concoction and ungodly intoxication. We whooped, we caroused. We painted our faces and shaved our heads. We steeped ourselves in wine, (lack of) women and song. We played topical drinking games like 'wine waterboarding' (not me) and entered the swimming pool via the shopping trolley delivery method (me). In short we were frothing. I had swiftly (well it may have taken a couple of applications of this particular truth) learned that midweek revelry was to be avoided. Lack of sleep and 7 hours manual labour mixed about as well as the various drinks in my stomach and after the previous night's alcohol had worn off about an hour into the day...oh, the horror... Thus the hostel resembled a community, a group of indentured workers united in purpose. People came and people went but a core remained. Battling shyness and mild social ineptitude I made good friends and memorable acquaintances in due course and relaxed into the pleasant simplicity of small town life.
45 days had passed since I had arrived in Margaret River and by my reckoning I was halfway through my regional work. I had moved on from pruning the vines which was something of a relief given the vicious electrical secateurs we used for the task. They hadn't the slightest reluctance in detaching a misplaced finger as an unfortunate girl on another team could attest. Though, Labour Solutions, the agency I was working through was locally referred to as 'Slave Solutions' they had thus far given me exactly what I needed in the form of consistent work. Okay the pay didn't buy many $9 pints of Swan Draught beer in the Settler's Tavern (best, almost only pub in town) but it bought enough and my confidence was increasing that I might just get a second year out of this country yet. My job now was 'wrapping' - each year the vine is chopped back to leave just the trunk and 2-4 strong shoots growing from it. Once these shoots reach around 3 feet in length they are wrapped around a wire running in line with the top of the trunk so there is formed a rough T shape, see here. You didn't know THAT 5 minutes ago did you? You wouldn't want to devote much more than half a minute to this process given that the pay for 1 vine was about 20 cents. In fact I had gotten quite adept at the work (doubling my weekly wages compared to a month ago) for a white person at least. Labour Solutions workforce was, at a guess, 95% Asian and they brought a furious, effortless energy to their endeavours that left us indolent Europeans trailing. At least I had company among the vines in the form of Matt and Nik a couple of Geordie lads (or thereabouts) arrived in MR not long after me and a large part of the reason my money saving had thus far gone not well. But all in all I was having a blast, allowing myself a measure of pride in my bootstrapped social scene. My enjoyment was only tempered by a survivors guilt, amplified and refracted by a guilt at not feeling guiltier. The sweeping command I exerted over my own life in stark contrast to the complete lack of influence I had improving another's...

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