Making Friends With Spiders: My time as a Bush Nanny

Ever wondered what it would be like to work on a pearl farm in the Australian outback? Me neither. After reading this post, however, you may consider a career change, or at least a detour in your next trip down under. This is a guest post from Joya, a Tripper who has recently returned from a two year RTW adventure.

 

I found myself in Broome, Western Australia after a series of characteristically hasty, rash decisions. After eleven months of traveling what I needed was a job. What I wanted was an adventure.

The Wild West is a much less traveled part of this expansive country than the famed east coast, where destinations like Sydney and the Gold Coast draw tourists in droves. Perth, the capital city of the west, is professed to be the most remote city in the world. Surrounded by the Indian Ocean all the way to Africa on one side and thousands of kilometers of outback on the other, this area of the developed world is magically wild.

I arrived in Broome on a prearranged date, and, utterly nervous and recklessly excited, began an awkward introduction to my new family. Although Katie and I had exchanged emails and pictures as well as talked on the phone, meeting her and her partner Jason, and my new charges (God help me) sweet and sensitive Dane, 4, and cheeky charmer Sean, 2, was somewhat strange. We had plenty of opportunity to get to know one another intimately the next day, however, on the four-hour drive to their home at Luster Bay Pearl Farm. Really the ideal setting for easy conversation, we chatted earnestly about ourselves as we jolted and bounced over 202 kilometers of the worst dirt road I have ever seen – while I did my best to contort my face so as not to betray my excruciating position between two giant car seats.

As it turned out, it was well worth the whiplash. The stunning rustic farm sits on red dirt and white sand, surrounded by sparkling turquoise water and an archipelago of over 1,000 islands. However, it is as deadly as it is beautiful, as I soon learned. The sea offers sharks, jellyfish and saltwater crocodiles. The bush boasts venomous snakes and scorpions. But worst of all was the spider in the shower. Don’t judge me. When I reported my sighting to the man of the house, he smiled genially (with something wavering between pity and amusement) and recalled with familiarity the spider in question. Perfect – a family pet of sorts. Did I mention it was the size of my hand? And so it went.

Dane, Sean and I played pirates in the old boat in the yard and dinosaurs on the deck (I checked for snakes). I drove them to school at the Aboriginal community further down the peninsula, and learned how to properly handle a 4-wheel-drive on sand, rock, and dirt. ‘Mama Bessie’ sang old Aborigine songs (mostly about snakes and crocodiles, understandably) and told stories about the old days when she gave birth to her seven daughters under the old gumtree. I cleaned house and hung the washing out on the real line. The farm crew taught me how to fish, where to dig for mud crabs and the best way to chip an oyster off the rock. They also introduced me to a new measure of masculinity, namely the distance between tiny short and tall boot.

Throughout all of this, lines began to blur. When Jason was missing something, I knew where it was. When Dane had a birthday party, I made the cake. When the school needed volunteers, I was there. And Sean was starting to call me “mummy”. As things became more and more complicated I began to realize that my role in the family was not only confusing for me, but also confusing for the boys, and for the whole family. So it was with clear conscience if heavy heart that I decided it was time for me to leave. I said goodbye to those short-shorted men who had become my friends and to those crocodile infested waters I had come to respect, not fear. And I left feeling grateful for the opportunity at Luster Bay to make friends with spiders.

As you can probably guess, she has heaps more stories to share so stay tuned for more of Joya’s journeys or “Joyage” if you will.

-Lauren