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Living Overseas

Australian Working Holiday: Everything You Never Wanted to Know About Packing Oranges

Looking for information about picking oranges on a working holiday visa? Click here.

Throwback post! In July 2009, I was living in a tiny, rural town along the Murray River in South Australia, working a citrus-packing job at a large shed. Some of my hostelmates and I were on the arvo shift (arvo = afternoon = 4:30 pm – 1:30 am), working 6 nights a week, so life was weird! After a couple months there, I decided to “update my resume” with some of the skills I picked up at the factory:


What is it? Packing basically consists of hand-packing fruit into boxes (or occasionally bags for Woolworths). After being sorted, citrus fruits come flying down into bins we pack out of. The way the fruits are arranged in the box depends on the count, displayed on a small screen above the bin. Sometimes we have to weigh the boxes, which usually means lining up in front of the scale holding 14.5-15.1 kilos of fruit. All quite riveting, I know! It can get exciting though, when we switch from oranges to lemons or tangelos! I’ve even been able to take home the occasional bag of limes or grapefruits.

* Multitasking: It takes a bit of effort to master the art of packing while imagining you are doing something infinitely more interesting (i.e. anything else). It’s also important to make sure that your hands are moving at the same speed as usual when chatting to the person next to you, in case the supervisor is lurking nearby.
* Time management: If a bin looks like it’s almost empty when I start packing, I work slowly. Otherwise, I’ll have to be creative coming up with ways to look busy when I’m finished packing. On the other hand, if a bin is ridiculously full, I pack quickly to avoid being stuck in the same place all night.
* Space management: It’s tough to squeeze obese oranges into a box, but even harder when the pack is loose and I’m trying to hold onto 14 oranges at once while setting the next layer on top.
*Ability to slow/stop time: Yeah I’m pretty sure time has actually stopped a couple of times!

Best part: Sometimes we pretend to smuggle the fruit out, Mission Impossible-style, even though we can just ask and take it home!

Continue reading “Australian Working Holiday: Everything You Never Wanted to Know About Packing Oranges”

A Visit From St. NichoLeslie*

‘Twas the week before Christmas, when all through Korea
People were freezing, due to winds from Siberia; 
The passports were placed by the front door with care, 
In hopes that Leslie Teacher soon would not be there; 

The children were sniffling and picking their noses, 
I even had one kid throw up on his clothe-es! 
And me in my jacket, scarf, boots, mitts and cap, 
Thought: “It’s definitely colder than home now, what crap!” 

But decorations are up, I have holiday cheer! 
(And I wouldn’t turn down a good holiday beer.) 
I have a small tree, and some half-working lights, 
And a plan for avoiding a cold Christmas night; 

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly, 
Like Dasher and Dancer, I’ll mount to the sky! 
I will sure miss seeing you all, that is true, 
But I will be travelling (’cause that’s what I do!) 

That’s right, while you’re trudging through snow that’s knee deep, 
I’ll be indulging in a massage in Siem Reap! (Sorry!) 
Now I may not be getting a new Christmas toy, 
But I’ll be saying “Happy New Year” from Hanoi! 

The whole time I’ll be thinking of family (and food), 
Of gingerbread, injera, the holiday mood; 
Guitar songs, board games, Secret Santa, and more, 
That special warmth you can’t get from a store. (Thanks, Grinch.)

Now perhaps I will see all of you soon on Skype, 
But in case there are technical difficulties, I’ll type: 
Though I’m not there person (which just isn’t right!), 
Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night! 


*Last year was the third time I was away from home at Christmas. (I spent it in Siem Reap… I know, I know. Life is rough.) I was feeling inspired on a lunch break, and sent this out to my relatives.

12 Ways to Deal with Holiday Homesickness When You’re Abroad


First, let me say that this post is loaded with privilege. Not everyone has a good relationship with family, or positive holiday experiences, and on top of that has the ability to be overseas missing them. I’m very grateful for my family and for the opportunities I’ve had to travel long-term. Also, it’s a very Christmas-oriented post, but feel free to replace the C-word with your holiday or non-denominational celebration of choice!

        Whether you’re working on the other side of the world without the means to go home for a visit, or choosing to take advantage of days off to travel, it can be tough to be away from home for the holidays. Here are some ways to ease the ho-ho-homesickness:


Continue reading “12 Ways to Deal with Holiday Homesickness When You’re Abroad”

Australian Working Holiday: Orange Picking 101


One morning in rural South Australia, I arrived at a vineyard for my grape-picking job, shortly after the sun had risen. The mist was still suspended above the vines, and the air was cool. As I approached, I squealed as I noticed three kangaroos nearby, hopping away through the rows of grapes.

Sound romantic? I thought so too, at first! Not only is following the Australian harvest trail and picking produce a great way to save money fairly quickly, it allows you to extend your stay for another year, if you’re on a Working Holiday Visa.

pHowever, it’s not all kangaroos in vineyards. (That only happened once!) Harvest work is tough; you have to be prepared to work for long periods of time without a day off, to work quickly if you want to earn a decent wage, and to accept that you will probably come face to face with some not-so-cute Australian wildlife.

Still think you might be up for harvest work? Read on to learn about a day in the life of an orange picker.

Continue reading “Australian Working Holiday: Orange Picking 101”

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