Category Archives: 88 days diaries

88 days is what you need to get through to get your second year working holiday visa in Australia. Three months on a farm can be a long time, but you have several options here. You could opt to split it up into several periods and spend them on different farms. A good option for a 3 month commitment is to do your farm work close to a city, so you’re not completely isolated. The government has defined which areas of Australia are considered rural. Fortunately the whole states of South Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory are considered rural. This means that even if you work in Darwin, Hobart or Adelaide, with all the entertainment and convenience of a city, you can still qualify for a second year in Oz. All you need to do is make sure your work falls into the right category. Among the approved industries are: plant…

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You never know what actually happens to your food. It happens everywhere; lying and cheating and messing around. A cherry farm is no different. The cherry season has ended, but the cheating continues. The cherries all go through a quality check, but if it didn’t pass, there was always a solution or the quality checker was asked to close her eyes. “Test this box. Is it better?” “No.” “What about this one?” “Not really…” “O well, it’s all we’ve got, so just lie about it.” A few days later I am asked to re-sticker some 1kg boxes. We pull of the old ones and replace them. So what has changed? The production date is suddenly three days later, indicating fresher cherries, and the size of the cherries has grown from 28mm to 30mm. There are a lot of cherry varieties. Some days we get a lot of different kinds through…

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I survived my last day. In the morning I had the shed to myself. There was nobody. It was quiet. At 8AM I already had two customers, brothers. They wanted 8 boxes of second grade. I just didn’t have 8 boxes. The boys were not in a rush, so as I quickly graded the cherries and filled the boxes, they waited. We chatted and I even got a 10 dollar tip out of it. Sweet! The next day as I enter the packing shed for the last time I see the farmer and his wife grading cherries. The kids were there too so I stayed for a while. Then it was time for me to go to the bus stop. “Thanks for your work Andrea.” Said the farmer. I’m impressed. I went through a lot here. I cursed and cried and laughed. The last weeks were so much better than…

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The end of my 88 days was quickly approaching. I didn’t want to stay much longer, but how do you talk about this with a stubborn, unpredictable farmer? When the others said they wanted to leave in a week, they were sent away straight away. I wanted to do the decent thing and let him know in advance. So one morning I walked to the office, practicing what I was going to say. He wasn’t there. Later, I saw him behind the pc, so I took my chance. “Untill when do you think the cherries last?” “Maybe another week.” “Oh ok… I was planning for the end of next week to be my last day. Friday or Saturday. Would that be ok?” “Yeah, that should be fine.” “Really? I’m not messing up any plans?” “No, that should be fine.” He said in the quietest tone I have ever heard him use.…

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I made 14,5 work hours in one day. Everyone had the morning off, but not me. My day started at 8AM, which is late compared to my recent 5.30AM starts. However, at 7.30AM the farmer was already knocking on my door. There were some second grade cherries that needed grading. When the others arrive at 9.30 I am still working my ass off. Shit, shit, I haven’t even had time to calibrate the scales. I push people aside and quickly check the scales as the cherries start rolling down the belts. There were plans to work on the area’s power supply in the morning, so at 10.30 the machines all stop. The packing shed turns into a ghost house and everyone is send away for the time being. While they are waiting in the heat outside I am still selling cherries. Without having a lunch break we start again just…

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Radio: “We’re talking about psychopaths in the workplace.” Farm hand: “O, they’re talking about the boss.” When the crows are coming in, the cherries are ripe. Someone came in to ask for second hand cherries instead of second grade. The first time a customer asked for ‘a couple of kilos’, I didn’t get it. How much did he want? Apparently a couple of kilos is literally two. To me ‘a couple’ could be any number. A hippie-looking man who has just bought cherries comes back into the shed. He gives me a note. His phone number is on it. If I am ever in Queensland, even if it would be in a year, I am welcome to call him if I need a guide or a place to stay. “Is that an American or a Canadian accent I hear?” It’s the umpteenth customer that’s asked me that. “It’s Dutch sir.”…

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The atmosphere is grim. It feels like I work at a cattle station, only the people are the cattle. After working on the farm for 8 weeks the farmer ‘likes’ me a bit more than the others, so I have some privileges. I am ashamed to see how the other people are treated and how they are shouted at. All the frustrations from the farmer’s own faults or just from stress are directed at the employees. I was supposed to get a big increase in wages when the cherry season started. Instead of getting a flat weekly wage I am now paid per hour. For weeks they motivated me with the idea that things were going to get better and I would make good money. In reality I get 1 dollar per hour more now, which still leaves me underpaid. The fact that people who live on the farm get…

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The cherry season is starting. I am not alone anymore. Two Taiwanese girls and an American boy have joined me in the house. It is so much fun to have people around, even though we all have to wait to use the shower now. It is refreshing to have people whom you can share your thoughts and frustrations with, or just to have a nice chat about random things. My first day in the packing shed was long. Cherries came past on a conveyor belt and I was standing in between dozens of women with head scarves to pick out the bad ones. The farmer’s finger showed ‘come’ and I was put on the second grade cherries. I only had to take out the really nasty ones. It seemed easy, but I was alone and in over my head. I had to pick out bad cherries, weigh the boxes and drop…

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During my travels I’ve met lots of different people. I’ve come across some situations where I felt like I was being pushed around. Somehow people think they can treat you like shit because you are a traveller. I find it hard to deal with this, but sometimes you’ve got to stand up and find out what’s going on. Situations are often delicate and your actions might not have the effect you were after…Here’s a piece of my diary when I was working on a farm in order to get a second year visa. It took me a while to get the courage, but finally I stepped into the office of the farm to ask if I could stay until the beginning of January. This way I would certainly get my 88 days in, without having to look for another farm. After all, my days in Australia were ticking away fast and…

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The cherry season was fast approaching, but there was one important thing to finish out in the fields: irrigation. This time I worked with a French backpacker called Ivan. Every day we got a quad bike and a repair kit and were send to work on different areas in the cherry fields. We worked as a team and had a good thing going. Firstly we flushed the mud out of the irrigation tubes. Then we had to check the broken ones for leaks. We had a lot of fun. Sometimes Ivan had to turn the water on and off. One day he came back on the quadbike, or quatterbike as he would call it, and said: “Hop on, the view there is amazing!” So we raced through the cherry trees to the top of the hill. It is like the property never ends. “Aaaah” I shout for the umpteenth time. This…

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