Pickin’ Coffee

Let me tell you this: If I had to pick all my morning coffee beans myself, I would be drinking a lot less coffee… I’ve just spent 8 days working 11-12 hours daily, picking coffee berries all day long. It’s not really that hard a job to be honest, but it takes a long time. From now on, I will always send a kind thought to the person who hand-picked the coffee that I drink!

Now where did that image go?

This is about 8-9 hours worth of picking…

I had been told by my saviour Andrew, that I could make up to $200 a day, which sounded like an incredibly good deal to me. I guess that it was indeed possible to make that kind of money, but I sure didn’t…

When I got dropped off at the farm by one of the ponies, I went up to the owners house to present myself. He reassuringly said; “oh yes, you must be Andrew’s mate”, but then not so reassuringly continued; “you are here for a day or two right?”. Wrong. I was thinking more like a month! What had happened? I looked at him very puzzled and said that I had been told there’d be work for at least a few weeks… “Well, thing is, we’ve nearly spent all the money we can afford on wages for the pickers, so there really isn’t much work for you… But let’s see how it goes and then perhaps there’ll be 4 days of work…”

“I’m happy to work for you in whatever capacity you may find fit” I replied, feeling like a desperate man, pleading his bank-advisor for yet another loan. But there were no other capacities – only picking – so picking it was…

That first night, I was the only picker on the farm – the others had gone to town for a day off. I barely pitched my tent before a great big storm of rain and wind came rolling in over the beautiful hills of the Bangalow area, and as the nature showed off its muscles outside I took refuge in the old rickety dairy barn where the other pickers had set up a manky make-shift kitchen space.

At least I had brought lots of food and a good cooker, so I carved out a space for myself among all the trash and sacks of coffee beans, and sat down to enjoy myself with a meal and my mandola.

“I ain’t got no money, but I’ve got a soul! And I wouldn’t trade my life or death, for anybody’s gold!” I sang to an improvised blues-riff. One of those evenings where you don’t know if you’re bought or sold and whether you should have perhaps done something completely different with yourself… “Ah well”, I thought to myself after a long time feeling a mixture of disappointment and frustration; “I might as well make the most of it!”.

Now where did that image go?

Believe It Or Not, This Machine Actually Works Just Perfect

It turned out that Andrew had thought that the farmer would end up giving me at least a weeks work and that I wouldn’t have come if I hadn’t been sure of more than a couple of days. Quite rightly so and good on him for not telling me: The farmer did hire me for 8 days, which was sufficient to make it all worthwhile for me.

The next morning, I set out to pick as much coffee as I possibly could, and surprisingly I did quite well. 58 kg I picked, and even the farmer was quite impressed, when he weighed my crates on the old and battered bathroom scale. The whole operation was a bit “ram-shackle” in his own words.

That’s one way to put it. Another is “charming”. You see, in Denmark, there would have been a whole hangar full of hi-tech machines and state-of-the-art equipment to handle the processing of the beans. Every picker would have been issued with matching work-clothes, ergonomic buckets for carrying the pickings, digital scales weighing every gram of coffee-berries, big and shiny new tractors to drive around the farm with and so on and so forth. Here at Bangalow Coffee, it seemed that a wheelbarrow and a 1950’s Massey Ferguson would do the trick. I loved it!

The only thing that made the next 8 days different to each other, was the slight variation in how many kg I picked and how tired I felt. The two things kind of went together, and towards the end I was picking minimal amounts with progressively heavier arms. Oh yes, there was one other difference. I only got a tick-bite 5 out of the 8 days.

Now where did that image go again?

A Huntsman Spider On The Roll…

Those little fuckers, can’t believe how strong their jaws are. It took my co-worker three strong pulls to pry one out of my hair and it felt like my skin would come off too. Not to mention the one I pulled off my left testicle… But beyond that (plus a few snakes, wallabys, laughing birds and giant spiders), nothing much to write home about really – although we did have lots of laughs in the evenings.

Basically, it was me and 3 other pickers who were there full-time. Interestingly, we represented 4 different continents gathered in a 5th; Andrew from South Africa, Xavier from Canada, Fumi from Japan and myself from Denmark. Not that it mattered much; we all had stiff necks and cramped fingers by the end of the day, regardless of our nationality.

Now where did that image go?

My Temporary Paradise In The Himalayas

Another thing we had in common was India. Many a conversation revolved around this incredible country (litterally; hard to believe) and its enigmatic citizens. And for the first time since I left my temporary paradise in the Himalayas in June this year, I actually felt like I might return to India – one day. Definitely not soon. Maybe never. Argh, who knows..?

Anyway, in my last post I wondered how much coffee I would have to pick in order to earn $1000 dollars. The answer is 465 kg. And guess what? As the coffee farmer weighed my very last bucket of beans, I triumphantly threw my hands in the air, happy and proud that I had picked 468 kg in total, thus making just over a thousand bucks in little more than a week!

What next? Well, I’m heading back to Ponyland to rest my arms and enjoy the exquisite company. Hopefully I can find some more work around Nimbin (no ginger-planting!!!) but as it is, I have enough dough to see me through the next month at least. Come what may, I’m ready!

Now where did that image go?

Kicking Back In The Sunset After A Long Day’s Work

Meanwhile, you will perhaps enjoy reading the song that I wrote in my head while picking picking picking away. Whenever I came up with a verse, I would sing it out loud, much to the joy of my fellow pickers. One day, however, I realised the farmer himself was picking away in the row right next to me… So, dear coffee-farmer, if you are reading this, please understand that it was a joyful way of passing time, not some kind of criticism of my job. I am very happy indeed that I got this opportunity!

Imagine a slow and rusty blues melody sung by someone like this guy and with a whole choir of coffee-pickers singing the chorus for him:

Pickin’ Coffee Blues

Chorus: Pickin’ cofffee, pickin’ coffee all day long, pickin’ coffee

I got a job on a farm (chorus)
I got a job on a farm (chorus)
I got a job on a farm,
lost my lucky charm, pickin’ coffee all day (chorus)

My arms they feel like lead (chorus)
My arms they feel like lead (chorus)
My arms they feel like lead,
I’m like a living dead, pickin’ coffee all day (chorus)

I got a tick on my ball (chorus)
I got a tick on my ball (chorus)
I got a tick on my ball,
yeah it’s no fun at all, pickin’ coffee all day (chorus)

I got no money on my pocket (chorus)
I got no money on my pocket (chorus)
I got no money on my pocket,
gotta be a hole in my bucket, pickin’ coffee all day (chorus)

If I was paid by the hour (chorus)
If I was paid by the hour (chorus)
If I was paid by the hour,
I would’ve had time for a shower, pickin’ coffee all day (chorus)

Instead I’m paid by the tonne (chorus)
Instead I’m paid by the tonne (chorus)
Instead I’m paid by the tonne,
ain’t got no where to run, pickin’ coffee all day (chorus)

I might just drink me a cup! (chorus)
Oh yeah, just pour me a cup! (chorus)
Goddammit, pour me a cup,
so I can wake my ass up, for pickin’ coffee all day

BREAK – then triple tempo

Pickin’ coffee, pickin’ coffee all day long, pickin’ coffee!
Pickin’ coffee, pickin’ coffee all day long, pickin’ coffee!
Pickin’ coffee, pickin’ coffee all day long, pickin’ coffee!
Pickin’ coffee, pickin’ coffee all day long, pickin’ coffee!

repeat and fade out…

 

 

The Art Of Applying

 

I’ve come across a most interesting position as a fencer in the remote areas around Broome in Western Australia. No, not the sword-sport, but putting up cattle fences out in the bush, sleeping under the sky and working in the sun all day. Like some western movie. And the guy’s name was Kurt Finger! He grew up on the land, probably an outback legend. Why not?

On behalf of my dear friend Anton and myself, I sent the following mail to the man with the great name. I believe job applications are art pieces in their own right. This is really one of my better applications if I may say so myself. So if you’re into that sort of thing, here’s one for the gallery:

G’Day Sir,

We are two mates – from Ireland and Denmark – who have come to Australia to look for work. We saw your ad on the Internet and thought this would be just the kind of thing we are looking for. Below you will find a brief resume from us both.

We are both hard workers from rural backgrounds and we have worked as a contracting team on numerous occasions throughout the last 7 years in Copenhagen and Europe. We enjoy camping out and self-reliant lifestyles and between the two of us we have been roughing it in nearly half of the world, working and travelling. Make no mistake, we know that this is hard work in a different and difficult environment, but we are up for the challenge!

Being on our 1st Working Holiday Visa, we are looking to do at least 3 months of regional work to enable us a 2nd year visa and from there on possibly a sponsorship. Under this scheme, we can, unfortunately, only work for any one company for up to 6 months at a time, but we are looking into how that works if we are ABN registered. In any case, the time frame for us at the moment, would be 3-6 months, but we would be happy to extend that if possible.

We are ready to start from the 5th of October, but would need about 10 days off from November 8-18 as we have prior engagements in North Cairns at that time.

We’ll be honest with you; we came here to make some bucks, so we’d like to ask you how much we are looking at salary-wise?

Here are two brief summaries on us both:

Anton White Orbaek
Age: 28
Nationality: Irish/Danish
Qualifications: Mechanical Engineer Technician (Dublin), Master in Sustainable Technologies (Copenhagen),
Relevant Work Experience: Construction (carpentry, concrete-work, welding etc.); Farming; Maintenance; Casual Labouring and more.
Extra: Hard Worker; Self-motivated; Experienced Arc-Welder; Knows his way around a number of heavy duty machines i.e. tractors, diggers, bobcats etc.

Cornelius Lundsgaard
Age: 32
Nationality: Danish
Qualifications: Jack-of-all-Trades (school of life)
Relevant Work Experience: Construction (carpentry, concrete-work, flooring, plumbing); Farming; Maintenance; Casual Labouring and much much more.
Extra: Hard Worker; Self-motivated; Danish Fork-Lift Certificate; Has worked on ships; Fluent English; Knows his way around a number of heavy duty machines i.e. tractors, diggers, bobcats etc.

We hope to hear from you in the near future!

Sincerely,

Anton and Cornelius

Mr. Finger got back to us very quickly, but it turned out the wages were much too small to make it worth the relocation to tropical Broome. I hope to get there eventually though, sounds like a beautiful place in a rough sort of way…

Keep dreaming out there folks, thanks for checking in!

 

 

Getting A Paint-Job

On the magnificent Gum Tree website  I came across a job as a house painter. Sure, I have painted houses before, but how to apply..? I came up with this:

Hi there,

We’ve just spoken on the phone and so this is just for you to have my details etc. on “paper”. (Read: I really need the money)

My name is Cornelius, I am a Danish man – 32 years of age – who is looking for temp jobs in Byron Bay Area. (I’m probably leaving soon)

I hold a Working Holiday Visa and I am eager to earn some cash before heading North to look for a more permanent position. (Bogus excuse that sounds respectable but really is a festival)

I have substantial experience with house-painting and other tasks pertaining to building and renovation. (Now there’s a nice ambiguous word – substantial)

I am used to working on my own and I am a reliable and hard worker (never been fired) with experience in many different sectors, i.e. a Jack-Of-All-Trades. (Just trust me, I can do it. Anything. Please.)

I am known to be a very sociable and service-minded person who gets the job done without delay or quarrel. (Ain’t nothin’ to it, but to do it!)

If you hire me I can guarantee you that I will be doing my very best to make your customers happy with your services. (Exactly what kind of guarantee am I on about?)

You can contact me on my mobile or alternatively on my email.

Thank you for your time and looking forward to hearing from you!

All the best

Cornelius

I actually got the job (good omen) but opted for going to Nimbin instead to try my luck there. Seems like Australia is the place to be for a Jack-Of-All-Trades with not a single paper to prove my skills – wish me luck!

Nimbin – Take One

On my quest for exploring the rare sites in modern society, where anarchy is a positive concept put into practice, I have – for years – heard of Australia’s flagship of freetowns – Nimbin.

Studying this cultural misfit from afar I have always thought it to be much like my favourite freetown Christiania in many respects.

There is, of course, the age-old issue of marihuana legalisation. Both Christiania and Nimbin are in it for the long haul. The carricature of a burnt out stoner with greasy long hair and lazy red eyes, drooling a “dude” between tokes, pops all too easily into the minds of conditioned net-surfers and news-readers. But there is more to Nimbin than that.

For the original Australians here – the Bundjalung People – Nimbin and the surrounding area is known as the “Rainbow Region”. The name Nimbin comes from the Nimbinjee spirit people who protects the area.

For the white Australia, up until 1973, Nimbin was your regular little town, where dairy farmers and banana-growers were barely holding on to a livelihood under the pressure of recession.

Then suddenly a gang of Hippies decided to throw a big bash of an experimental party: The Acquarius Festival was the first event in Australia that sought permission for the use of land from the Traditional Owners. The festival has de facto never ended. Thousands of people have attended it by now, lived in it, had children in it, worked the land in it. Imagine that.

A Way In

I wanted to find out more and I had a feeling that my street-wisdom from Christiania would serve me well here. But how to approach it? I could of course take the daily Nimbin Tour Shuttle – a 4 hour sightseeing from an old and colourful bus with “wicked tunes” booming out and the above mentioned stoner hunched over the steering wheel. It includes a sandwhich and a stop on Nimbin’s High Street (the one and only street in town) long enough for you to buy a few joints’ worth of pot from the local hustlers, whose business hours are directly aligned with the bus schedule.

Fortunately, I never even had to consider the tourist trap tour, for already by my 3rd Australian sunrise, my guardian-angel Rad sent me a text saying: “Planting work in Nimbin: 043476…”. I called the guy up, and the conversation went like this:

– Yello!?

– Yes, hello, my friend gave me your number. I am calling about the job you’ve advertised out in Nimbin?

– Yeah, too right mate.

– So I understand it’s to do with planting ginger?

– Yup, we grow ginger and other stuff. You interested?

– Yes! Very much so! But I was wondering what sort of wages you are offering and how much work you’ve got?

– Well it’s 27 bucks an hour if ya wanna do it by the books and 20 if you’re lookin’ for cash. Whatever you like man, we know how it is…

– That sounds very good. I’m still waiting for my TFN (tax file number) so maybe we could do a bit of both?

– Yeah man, no probs, we know how it goes.

– Excellent.

– We’re out in the back of Nimbin and if you’re on a working holiday visa, we can also give you the paperwork you need for the 3 months regional work. I guess you’re from Ireland eh?

– Well, I did live there but I am actually from Denmark.

– No shit! Could’a sworn you were Irish. What’s you name mate?

– My name is Cornelius.

– Dude! Planet of the Apes! You know!?

– Yeah, well, I am hairy but I am not an ape.

– Ah yeeh? Right on. So, Cornelius, do you smoke weed?

– Ehr, mmm, yes I do smoke occasionally…

– Good, it’s just that we smoke a lot of weed out here, and we’ve had a few guys out here before who, you know, by the end of the day when we start rolling up, they didn’t like that. We prefer people who are cool with weed smoking.

– Oh, I see! Well, to be honest with you I am from a similar community to Nimbin, also a pot-smoking community, so I am quite okay with that to say the least.

– That’s good mate, very good.

– Yes. So, when were you thinking to start the planting and also, how much are you paying?

– We’re just about finished preppin’ everythin’ and gettin’ the holes made, so I suppose around Tuesday or Wednesday…

– Sounds pretty good… It’s just that I’ve been invited to a corroboree  next weekend, and since that’s apparently a rare chance, I should like to go there first, so that….

– Ah yeeeh?

– Yes, it’s a sort of rainbow festival not far from here I think, my friend is going to take me there.

– Ah, you’ll be goin’ to the rainbow, I know about that one, lot’s of mates are goin’ there.

– Yeah, so I was thinking, if it’s okay with you guys, that I could start working on Monday 8 days?

– Yeah, sweet, whatever works for you mate.

– Fantastic!

– So, you can get back to me mid-next-week if you want the job mate.

– Well, I was just gonna say; that’s a deal!

– Ah yeeh? That’s cool…

– Great, so I guess I’ll call you sometime next week and get your address and some details.

– Yeah, you do that, Cornelius.

– That is just perfect, I’ll call you in a few days, and thank you very much!

– My pleasure mate, catch ya soon, then.

– Yes! Thanks, all the best, bye for now.

– Yeah mate!

Impossible Accounting

Hell yeah! How bloody brilliant is that! Everyone I told the story to, told me that this kind of money was almost impossible to find around the Byron Area, and especially Nimbin where the unemployment rate is the region’s highest. I could hardly believe my luck, and looking back I really shouldn’t have. I am a chronic high-hoper and I frequently end up in these imposible dream-like states of accounting, where the same money that I haven’t made yet is spent over and over like a never-ending magic purse. I like being optimistic and It’s a good trait to trust in goodness, but jeez will I ever grow up!

Thing was, I couldn’t get a hold of him again. I called and called and left one message after the other over the next week. I didn’t even know his address! But then at the Rainbow Corroboree (LINK coming soon!) I met a woman who thought she might know where this dude was living.

So on the Monday after the fabulous festival, Rad drove me all the way to the very back of Nimbin, over the hills and into the rainforest, only to find a farmer who’d run out of seeds out in the sticks where the phone conncetion had been off-line all week. He told me to come back 2 weeks later…

Needless to say, I was disappointed and somewhat in trouble. I was down to my last $30 dollars in the middle of no-where. Luckily my bus-driving “job” at the Arts Factory had earned me a 5-night voucher back in the jungle-camp. So Rad drove me back out to the coast (bless her soul) and I was back to square one again, wondering how I might get a second chance to get out and into Nimbin, land of the free and the freaky. Gotta be room for me somewhere out there…

To be continued…