Working in Te Anau - The Dishwashing World!

-JANUARY 2016-

After the fastest interview ever in the history of interviews and the amazing cruise in the Milford Sounds (I was telling everything about it here), here I am, Kitchen Hand at Bailiez Café, a café/restaurant belonging to the Distinction Luxmore hotel which is just next door.

(Lis cet article en Français, bébé!)

The lake in between the mountains

Working is good, but having accommodation is even better. Unfortunately for me, there’s no room available at the staff house, with a super great deal rent at 90$/week. I post a note on the Fresh Choice Supermarket notice board and in no time, I got a call from Bruce who’s offering me a room in his house on Worsley Street. Bruce is in his 40’s, had lived in China, in Europe, it looks like he has been travelling a lot. He lives here in Te Anau with his dog Ralph, a bloody tornado! His wife and kids are living in Indonesia, and he happens to be just coming back from there in Te Anau. This is why he’s renting two rooms in his beautiful house. My housemate, John, is a ‘bloody Irish’ freshly arrived in New Zealand and working as a chef in another restaurant in town, The Fat Duck. He’s really sweet, he’s sharing with me his Guinness crisps. In this house, I have my very own room, big, with a lot of windows, a mirror and even a night table, some space in the fridge, a garden, a barbecue, and even a bike! It’s a bit expensive, 130$/week, but I’m hoping to make good money here.

I start my new Kitchen Hand job on a Tuesday (really) and when I arrive, there’s literally no one to welcome me and explain to me how everything’s working. The chef is pretty busy, the waitresses are pretty busy as well. Lucky for them, I know how to use the dishwasher since I already been working a bit in the dishwashing world when I was a student. I put my apron on, and I start to wash this bloody pile of dishes. So, yeah, it’s exactly that I’ll be doing most of the time here (let’s say hem 97% of the time): washing bloody dishes. And since the dishwashing machine is really shit, I have to wash everything with my own hands and sponge before putting anything inside. Yes. I know.

It reminds me my experience at Eris Cafeteria in Carrefour when I was a student (it was about… 9 years ago, holy crap! And for the record I was already writing bullshit in this blog.) Back then, with my best friend Cynthia who was working in another cafeteria (Flunch), we promised ourselves: ‘Never Again’. But now, I’m convincing myself that it’s for a good cause (getting money to go to Bali). And finally it didn’t took me so long to realize exactly why we used to say ‘Never Again’. The dishwashing world is really the worse job ever in hospitality. You sweat, you stink, everything’s dirty and wet around you, and the washing, wiping, never ends. There will always be something new to wash or wipe. And it goes without saying that you’re also everyone’s slave, from the waitresses who needs cutlery and cups urgently, to the chefs who needs these specific plates urgently or to make you peel 42 onions even though you have water until your armpits.

Fushias at my window

The work days are exhausting, I only take a 10 minutes break to eat for a shift that can last up to 7 hours straight. The food is for free, it’s good for my wallet. I would almost be happy about that, until I realize the third day that I get only burgers for my lunch break. (Hello, I gained 10kg since I arrived in New Zealand 7 months ago, and I would looove to lose some weight. No? Please? Even if I ask kindly?) Another black spot, the dishwashing world is completely isolated from the rest, I often alone. Completely alone. Without music, without a nice co-worker to laugh with. And if I don’t speak, my English can’t get any better. I’m getting slightly depressed. Besides all of this, I worked almost 45 hours on the first week, and that sounds like good money is coming.

Unfortunately, it won’t last. When I look at my roster for the next week, I realize that I’ll be working less than 35 hours… And then will follow the most horrible experience I’ve ever had since I arrived in New Zealand: I’m asked to catch the crayfish and put them into these bags in order to freeze them. Alive. And I actually do it. But they are alive, you see. ALIVE. They are fighting back, scratching my arms. And I’m putting them into these plastic bags, and I am making them suffocate. I’m killing them. As I’m going with this fucking job, I start to cry. More and more. I know that I am an emotional person, I really do. And I also know that a lot of people, and especially the ones who saw me doing this particular day, won’t even understand a bit what happened in my head, in my heart while I was doing this. Ok, I’m a pretty sensitive girl. I know. And killing these crayfish with my own two hands, I’m sorry to say but it really broke my heart. Really. I promised myself that from now on I would never, NEVER, do something that I’m feeling wrong, even for a bloody job. I was shaken. No compromise. I understood that I had to get the hell out of this place.

Brod Bay on the Kepler track

So I went to the Fresh Choice Supermarket notice board again. They just put a note about a job at the bakery in the supermarket. And I’m thinking, ‘actually why not?’ I rush to the library and write a nice e-mail about my love of new experiences. They call me back (yihaaa!) and I got an interview a few days afterwards. I meet Monica, the owner, who tells me that she already found someone for the bakery job, but if I want it, there’s a position at the produce department. She’s guaranteeing me 40hours/week and the opportunity to do NightFill as well, the shelves stacking after closure, 3 times per week, which is pretty much 6 hours of work more every week. Monica tells me about her team, the roster, the opening hours, the two days off per week, she tells me a bit about her life, her Dutch origins, her children in Europe. I kind of like her, this Monica. I sign the contract. Now, I just have to say to my boss that I’m leaving, since I won’t be able to work both jobs at the same time.

Marie & Kris came to visit me at home!

I’m in distress just to think that I’m telling my boss that I’m leaving only after two weeks working. How will he react? I’ve never ‘quitted’ a job before. I take a deep breath and I finally tell him, later that day. I’m very surprised when I realise that he’s not angry, and seems to understand exactly why I’m leaving. He says that he knows that being a Kitchen Hand isn’t a really interesting job. It’s okay that I was looking for something else. He even thanks me for helping him. Yeah, you read it properly, I AM QUITTING AND THIS GUY IS THANKING ME FOR COMING. So here’s how ends my Kitchen Hand adventure in the dishwashing world, on a Sunday afternoon after three weeks of sweating work.

Weeks are passing by and are looking alike in Te Anau. I’m working, swimming, running, walking along the lake,  Geocaching, and devouring Harry Potter. It’s the first time in months that I have my very own space, so I behave like an autistic kid for my first week here, locking myself in my room, enjoying my loneliness. I eat balanced meals while watching Tv Show on my computer (especially Flight of the Conchords!) I haven’t done such a thing in 7 months travelling (neither the watching TV shows, neither the good eating… Well. This is how I got so fat I guess). After a while, I’m ready to go back outside and to socialise.

As I already noted in New Zealand, the typical kiwi without kids week goes something like this: hard working as hell and getting drunk starting Thursday night. Which is also one of the reasons I can’t see myself living in this country, but I’ll probably write about this in another post. Therefore, it didn’t took us long with my friend Clémentine, to get to know the three pubs in town with a little bit of animation, dancing as if there’s no tomorrow and meeting some locals. Surprise! I Te Anau there’s a big Latin-American community!

It’s summer in Te Anau!

As a result, I meet Paulina at work. She’s from Argentina and works at the Distinction Luxmore Hotel. She was in the kitchen for one day to help around. It only took us a few hours to have a really good vibe going on between us. She invites me to her Green Sunset Party the same evening. Yeah, sure, why not? I’ll brought the fruit juice. I meet a lot of couchsurfers when I arrive, two German girls and three French people, Sandra, Julie and Charles-Antoine. This party is like a melting pot, there’s Bruno from Québec, Karan from India, Andrea from Bulgaria, Roxana from Hungary, Juan from Argentina and so many other people coming but whom I don’t really pay attention to because I’m too busy laughing and dancing. Yes, you read it, I was DANCING. All night long, never stopping, under the rain, under the porch, whatever, the stereo is loud, I don’t know anyone here but it feels like I know everybody.

On my way home, that night, I couldn’t stop. I danced in the dead end with my shadow for about 20 minutes. There was a big naïve smile on my face. Like a kid who’s not afraid of anything. And on Monday, I’ll be discovering the amazing world of fruits and veggies. I can’t wait.

In the dead end, that night, I was dancing with my shadow…


–              Dishwashing ? Never again. (I hope so)

–              Peeling onions quickly. And carrots. And pumpkins. And cutting cucumbers. I’m way less frightened of big knives now.

–              It seems like I’m also able to run. It took me less than three week to run from 1,80km to 3,40km. Yeah, you read it well, I started running. In order to lose my fat ass without spending any money. I might even start liking it!

–              I really enjoyed going for a swim in the lake… Topless. We just fnished running, Clémentine and me, for about 15 minutes, it was hot, we were craving for a swim… And here we were, in knickers in the frozen lake, getting sunburns on our boobs. But seriously, besides the sunburns, this was one of these moments where I felt so… Free.


BAILIEZ CAFE (Or not), 41 Town Center, Te Anau

THE RANCH (On a Thursday night), Off Milford Crescent 111 Town Centre, Te Anau

SANDFLY CAFE (For the afternoon tea), 9 The Ln, Te Anau

MILES BETTER PIES (For the best pies in New Zealand), Milford Rd, Te Anau

DOLCE VITA (For the home made gelatos), 90 Town Centre, Te Anau

TE ANAU SWIMMING POOL, 18 Howden Street, Te Anau

WILDLIFE CENTER, Lakefront, Te Anau

Working in Te Anau - The Dishwashing World!
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