12 Oct 2016

Diary of a Raspberry Picker

Travelling.
It's a funny thing. It's so much more than the Instagram photos, the amazing snap chat story and the envy you can up stir. It can be hard, very hard. 
This time last week I was in tears at my hostel reception here at the Hoey Moey Backpackers in Coffs Harbour, somewhere I have called "home" for the past month, Nothing was going right. I'd given up a job I enjoyed in Sydney where I was being paid $30 an hour, to replace it with the life of a bum. Literally. While 20 odd people in the hostel where already established working tenants, the other 50+ of us were waiting around in the hope of finding some farm work in exchange for another year on our visas here in Australia. For those of you who don't know, as British citizens we are entitled to a one year Working Holiday Visa in Australia under the terms that you can work for any one company for a maximum of 6 months at a time. A lot of people get lucky and earn sponsorship, others like me, work in offices, call centres and receptionist positions in Sydney or Melbourne where the salary is higher and there is a lot of work to go around for the thousands of backpackers fighting for them. There comes a day when you start to panic, and think that you may actually want another year to explore this vast commonwealth country. At this point, you have to complete 88 days of regional work in Australia in certain postcodes deemed "regional" via the Australian Government website. The general idea is sort of a 'giving back to the country'. Others may call it 'slave labour'. If you're lucky (or a boy) you can end up doing construction work which is a much better pay. Here in Coffs, you either pick blueberries or raspberries. Raspberries tend to be more in favour as you can work all the time whether it's rain or shine. They're underneath dome-like tunnels and so they don't get wet and are still OK to pick. The blueberries become wet and crumbly meaning you're more than likely to get called off work. 
With our job, we work for a huge farming company named Costa. As a raspberry picker I'm paid per punnet. So we have to pick and fill 5 half buckets of raspberries and then we have to pack them into the punnets you would see in a supermarket ready for distribution. Every day, the rate varies. In the first few days I picked 53, 30, 35, and 75 punnets. Depending on which rows you are assigned and how fast you are depends how much you are able to make. On the days where you have picked less the rate tends to be much higher ($1.30) and on other days it can be anywhere from 75c. This is so that you are able to make an equal amount of money each week.

So last week at the exact time I had decided to give up and book a flight back to the UK, we had a phone call from Costa and our lives were suddenly looking rather peachy. We bought a car that same day, sharing the cost between 4 of us who would be driving to the same place each morning, we had our induction at Costa on the Friday and by the Sunday we were working. We start earlier than any of the other farms people work at in the hostel, leaving each morning at 5.30AM in order to start at 6.30AM. We had to set up our trolleys and packing punnets for the day and off we go. We haven't finished at the farm any later than 12.30PM so far which means we're able to come back, get lotionend up and nap on the beach all day. Honestly, I know they say everything happens for a reason but it truly does. I went from an unemployed, minor alcoholic bum to an employed minor alcoholic bum with the freedom to drive anywhere I want again and actually enjoy my time in Australia instead of constantly worrying about it.
4 days down, 84 to go!

Just Write About It.
Raven Twigg.


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