By Kazuya Muto
I arrived in Sydney without any trouble. But little did I know what trouble was in store for me.
Before I left Japan, I wasn't worried about accommodation. One of my friends, who is Australian, told me I could stay at his brother's house in Sydney. So I went straight there when I arrived. I'd thought it would be a home-stay situation. I'd thought that it would be the best way to learn English and about Australian culture. But the reality was very different from what I'd expected.
The family was very kind to me. They told me to use the house as I liked. "If you have any problems, don't hesitate to say so," they said. But I was always self-conscious, and, to be honest, the rent was a little expensive at $220 (¥18,900) a week. Also, eating with them was an issue. I couldn't eat when I wanted to and what I wanted to. So I decided to find myself somewhere new to stay.
"Procrastination is the thief of time," as someone once said, and so on the morning I arrived in Australia (it was a Monday) I told the family I would move out on Saturday even though I had no plans. Looking back I feel my decision was quite selfish, but at the time I felt very happy about finding a new house. I expected many good things to come from it. I might share accommodation with other students from other countries, which would be interesting. I would also be able to cook and eat Japanese food whenever I wanted to.
So on Monday afternoon, I started looking for a new place to live. I didn't really know what to do. I was told to go to the University Accommodation Centre, but I didn't know where that was. So I asked some people from university but none of them knew where it was either.
I was about to give up when I saw a woman with a tag around her neck. "She must be a staff member," I thought. And she was. She was kind enough to take me to the University Accommodation Centre and helped me to apply for a room in one of the dormitories. Unfortunately I was told there were no rooms available. "Even before the beginning of semester most rooms are taken," I was told. "We're really sorry. Try the library. There are lots of ads there."
No room!? The library!? I panicked. Twenty minutes later I was in front of the library and staring at some A4 pieces of paper on the wall. They were ads for accommodation. Unlike in Japan, there were a lot of them. I looked at one: "Share accommodation $130 (¥11,200) per week including all taxes," it said. "Four-week bond." ("What's a bond?" I thought.) There was also a phone number, but ― can you believe it? ― no name.
In fact, none of them had names. Just contact numbers. It made me even more nervous about calling, and it wasn't until Thursday that I finally picked up the phone for the first time.
It was an ad written in English and Chinese. The person who placed the ad probably had an Asian background. He did. In fact, he spoke in Chinese, and occasionally in broken English. I was confused. I didn't really understand what he was saying. Before I knew it, I had said, "Have a nice day," and hung up. I composed myself and called the number on another ad. "Hello," I said. "I'm looking for accom..." "No available," said a woman and hung up. It was not my day.
I was at a loss. I had thought I would find somewhere to stay. With head hung low, I trudged back to my house.
Shukan ST: May 12, 2006
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