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  • Writer's pictureJoanna

Ripe for the Pickin'

Updated: May 30, 2022

First day?

Not so great.. I hated every second of it.

I was not raised, cut out for or intended for this type of contemptible work. No way. After a long, scorching hot day of dragging myself, hunched over, carrying a heavy bucket through the killing fields of Bundaberg, I was officially DONE.

I arrived back at the hostel, determined to shower, pack my bags, and bus down to Sydney to look for a job as a nanny... or something. Anything. Anything would do.

I was filthy - from head to toe. I stunk. There was rotten tomato gunk in my hair. My entire body throbbed with pain. I was too slow at picking tomatoes. The farmers didn't like me. The bucket was too heavy. I wasn't good at it and I never wanted to do it again. I hated it and I hated everybody.

This life was NOT for me.

I was outta there...

I hated Bundaberg.

I hated this hostel.

And more than anything... I hated tomato picking.

Who wouldn't?

It was hard work.

Azhra, Donna, me and Scottish Jan

My entire body ached and seized. For the first week, I walked around like I was in a marching band. I had sore muscles where I didn't even know I had muscles. I had to get out as quickly as I could...

I seriously contemplated calling my parents and begging them for a substantial loan to tie me over while I escaped this dire straits situation I had unwittingly landed myself in. Broke.

Then something extraordinary happened.

I made friends.

AND... we all had one BIG thing in common. After a rough day in the fields, we all liked to spend our evenings (and our money) across the street at the local beer garden.

Suddenly... I felt right at home.

We picked fruit every single day, except Sunday.

We were all absolutely filthy. Arms, legs, face... covered in tomato field filth.

Our clothes were filthy. Our hair was filthy.

Some days, work was so excruciating that we just came straight home and passed out in our bunks. Other days... we went straight to the Beer Garden.

I'm not sure when we managed to fit in laundry, shopping, personal hygiene, rest & relaxation and a good, healthy meal...

None of the above mentioned rings a bell for ANY of my time spent in Bundaberg.

But man, did we laugh.

As I mentioned... I made friends.

Ashlynn, me and Donna

I made friends that I am still in touch with to this day.

Two in particular were Donna & Ashlynn from Northern Ireland.

Ashlynn actually fell in love with one of the farmers in Bundaberg and still lives there today!

Donna liked ketchup to the point that she would slurp it up with a straw. And once... she pretended to be sick, skipped a whole day of work and ate 60 Mandarine oranges while we were all off picking tomatoes.

Simon Andreoli and Ashlynn

She didn't have to 'pretend' she was sick the next day...

The other two in the second picture is Azhra (Ontario) and Jack (New Zealand)... unfortunately we fell out of touch and even the powers of FB have not been able to reconnect us yet.

Jan, who I had originally been traveling with, moved on further up north. She was always more responsible than myself. Instead of drinking away her tomato picking profits at the local Bundy beer garden, she chose to save her money.

I... kept... on... picking... tomatoes.

Damn straight I did.

Me, Blue, Jenny??? and Donna

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