24hr waitress/$13.00

To whom it may concern,

I badly needed a summer job. The difficulty with this is that my parents live in Melbourne, my home for 3 of the warmer months, I landed on November 27th and pretty much every employer had filled their Christmas roster before I even had the chance to lie about my experience in making coffee.

On a scorching Saturday afternoon, my parents decided to experiment with some Indian food. Nothing screams “wild summer” like curry. Our waiter spoke only slightly above a whisper and when my dad asked him what the mystery curry on his plate was, he responded with “Just try it, Sir”.

When the manager, Rohit, came by to check on us my kind father asked if they had any job vacancies for me. Rohit took one look at me and said he could definitely use me as a waitress. I was jazzed. Rohit handed me a menu and told me to learn it and return the next day for training. “Two hours of your training is unpaid, the rest we pay on a fortnightly basis”, he said.

No contract, not even a handshake to prove I was an employee of this fine establishment but I didn’t care. when Rohit said they pay $13 per hour, a whole lot less than the minimum wage of $22 which casuals usually earn in Melbourne, I was less jazzed. On the other hand, I had no other options so who was I to complain – I was officially an underpaid, exploited brown girl. Fantastic.

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My mother spent the afternoon testing me on the menu which not only served Indian food but had a Chinese section also: Gobi 65, Paneer 65 – your usual Asian suspects (wot the hell). Nothing makes you feel like you’re fulfilling all your Pinterest dreams like when you’re mates are graduating from Medical school and getting sworn into the Bar and you’re learning the Indo-Chinese menu for a place that won’t even pay you minimum wage.

 

I arrived at the restaurant the next day and was introduced to Charlie. Charlie is from India and has been in Australia for 6 months, has a tattoo that reads “Mum & Dad” on his forearm and is studying IT. His experience working at Taco Bell, an Italian place which “taught him the basics” and as I soon discovered, being a male, made him my superior.

“We’ve had some dumb females here in the past. We don’t want any more donkeys,” said Charlie.

Charlie had been there a week. While Charlie ranted at me for 20 minutes about the importance of loyalty to an establishment, each of the chefs took it, in turns, to step out of the kitchen and hold eye contact with me for a little too long. Uncomfortable does not begin to describe what I was feeling. Finally, one chef wasn’t a weirdo and actually introduced himself to me and let me know I was welcome to any food I wanted. This offer alone almost made it worth it – the food was out of this world. Each time I entered and exited the kitchen there’d be a low wolf whistle and I just want you to know that wearing an all black, baggy outfit, in a kitchen as hot as satan’s balls was not my hottest look. Also, they’d run out of caps and there may or may not have been a hairnet involved.

I finished the 4-hour shift with my sanity intact but my feminism a little bruised. Aside from Charlie’s sexism and the chefs’ sexual harassment it had been an easy shift with pleasant customers. And then I received this from Rohit.

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FYI: Although his compliments of my display picture were somewhat appreciated, Rohit never did pay me for the 2 additional hours I worked and thus ended my brief career as a waitress.

I, however, am not the unlucky one in this story. It’s Charlie – I have the option of refusing to be paid below minimum wage and to say no thank you to the harassment. My parents give me a home and food while the hunt for work continues. But Charlie and people in his situation have to put up with earning $13 and in his case, all of us dumb, nasty females.

Feature image via Wikipedia Commons

H2O

It’s a hard time breathing in my house; the hayfever is only half the culprit. On the surface everything looks ok – the house is spacious and light, the windows frame the gardens. Inside, however, the air is stagnant. Our financial demise sits in the corner, grinning maniacally; not saying a word or making a sound – just breathing our air, our precious, limited air.

Then he walked in – all glasses and arms. His joy is irrepressible – even in the gloom. His hands show struggles worse than ours but it doesn’t seem to have touched him.

He said, “my name isn’t traditionally spelled with an H – I’m the only person with my name”.

“Me too!” Said I.

The air grew lighter with a shared smile.

A hostage in my own home

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To whom it may concern,

This morning I woke up with a bad feeling. I had a group presentation at 9 and upon checking my phone discovered one of my team members had fallen sick and I’d have to organise someone to cover her spot. I took out some of the angst with a new exfoliating mitt I’d purchased the day before, stepped out of the shower feeling clean and supposedly smelling like Manuka honey. I was running late so had to skip breakfast but I cut a piece off the brownie I’d left out to cool overnight, popped it in my mouth and raced out the door.

The presentation went well and even the girl that stepped in, at the last minute, aced it. I relaxed for the first time since Monday morning. The rest of my Friday was looking good, I hung out with my friend Annabel, I called my dad and let him know how the presentation went, had more brownie, and settled into a sunny spot in my lounge, not a care in the world, ready for an afternoon of Grey’s Anatomy, Brooklyn nine-nine and How to get away with murder. I took a break between B99 and HTGAWM to delve into one of those Youtube trips – the ones where you start by watching a cover of a Sam Smith song and end up on a video of Oprah Interviewing Justin Bieber on his then relationship with Selena Gomez. I was halfway through Justin explaining that his fans understand that he can’t be single forever when out of the corner of my eye I saw it.

A black, furry beast, with a tail as long as my woes, runs from the top of the stairs straight behind the couch opposite me.

 

My body went into what I can only describe as shock. I was hot and cold, all at once and the scream that left my body would give any final girl a run for their money. I panicked. Now before you judge me, I’m not one of those girls who has never been camping and is scared of the wilderness. But when you’re going camping you’re mentally prepared…and there’s bug spray and torches. I was in the comfort of my living room with nowhere to hide. The door to my four storey flat was locked and I was acutely aware this vermin was stuck in my house, with me. It also hit me that I was home alone and my flatmate doesn’t return until tomorrow afternoon.

Naturally, I grabbed my phone, momentarily considered dialling 111 but decided my dad would have to do. My dad roared with laughed for a solid 5 minutes. I should probably also mention my dad lives in Melbourne. I have now also learnt that I don’t operate as well under pressure as I would’ve liked to think. The rat, disturbed by my scream and now very loud conversation with my dad decided to run, in slow motion, back out from the couch, and launch itself off the top step back down the stairs. In that instant, the rat and I knew this was the worst moment in either of our lives.

My dad’s unhelpful suggestion was to make friends with it. I called my flatmate next, standing on my couch, in case Ratchet the rat decided to reappear. She told me to remain calm, she returns tomorrow she assures me, the rat is probably back in the garage where it was hiding. She suggests I call an exterminator to organise a visit as soon as possible.

I looked up the number for Rentokil. Supposedly New Zealand’s leading pest control company I knew they’d be able to help. I was wrong. The website, although very tidy and mobile friendly unfortunately also offered me facts about rats and why they are dangerous. Did you know that rats are a health risk to humans? Apparently, they also carry diseases such as cryptosporidiosis, tuberculosis, E.Coli and Salmonella. YAY.

Considerably more panicked I called Rentokil only to be greeted by their after-hours operator. I don’t know who this lady is, but for the first 5 minutes I felt like I’d accidently called a friend’s house and their mum picked up.

 

Operator: “Hi..welcome to Ren-toe?-kill, how may I help”.

Kethaki: “Hello, I’ve just witnessed a rat run across my living room…is there any chance of getting someone to my house and can I get a rough idea of…”

Operator: “Look I don’t know. This is the after hours line but I can take a message from Brent”.

Kethaki: “Who is Brent?”

Operator: “Brent might get back to you over the weekend but I’m not sure. Rentokil operates Monday –Friday. Would you like to leave a message?”

Kethaki: “Yes please”

Operator: “Did you say it was a rat?”

Kethaki: “Yes a rat”

Operator: “Ok, I’ll just say rats because there’s probably more than one”

Kethaki: !!!!!!!!!!!

Operator: “Well thank you for calling”

My next call was to Annabel. I couldn’t go downstairs to get out of my house, the garage door was still open and the rat could come up at any time. Annabel also laughed but knowing that I would never leave my house said she would come over with a mouse trap and save me. What felt like a lifetime later, but was in actuality only 15 minutes she got into my house using the keys I threw at her from my room on the third floor. Like an expert Rentokil wish they had working weekends, she put some peanut butter on a trap, explored the garage, rescued my laundry from the garage, set the trap and closed the garage door – saving me from Ratchet the rat. I, however, read on the Rentokil website that rats can get through spaces as small as 1cm so am I really safe? Is anyone really safe?

Feel free to follow @kethakim on Twitter for any Rat updates. Rentokil, if you’re out there, please send Brent.

 

UPDATE: Ratchet was captured and is no longer with us.

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Tragedy on a treadmill

 

To whom it may concern,

Someone has changed the speed settings on my favourite treadmill. I discovered this at the gym in a most unfortunate manner; while I was increasing the speed level to my usual 8.5 but realised I was Usain Bolt-ing it at 6.9.

Firstly, let’s take a moment to acknowledge that I have a favourite treadmill but have somehow still managed to gain weight – a true achievement. While I was trying not to sound like I was having some sort of respiratory breakdown on what used to be the good treadmill, my long-legged friend Ella looked like a damn Baywatch commercial on the treadmill beside me. I on the other, hand looked like Bellatrix Lestrange had just finished her stint at Azkaban – line up gents.

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After what seemed like a lifetime of dealing with this travesty, which was surely a punishment for avoiding the gym for some time, I decided 10 minutes of hoping the agonising stitch would go away was long enough. And just as I considered lowering my speed from Usain bolt to ’07 Britney is when an attractive guy walks in. He’s the kind of person you chuck on a pedestal and you know it’ll never happen but you pretend to be attractive around him anyway. And he walks by and smiles and you have to try and hold in the asthma attack and smile back till he’s out of hearing distance.

So I was forced to feign athleticism for another excruciating 15 minutes on a treadmill that was out to get me, running beside Gisele bloody Bundchen with a stitch that had now escalated to a health risk by all standards. I would just like you to know I’ve learnt my lesson and did not return to the gym today. Mostly out of necessity because it hurts to breathe. And to the person who changed the settings of the treadmill, I don’t know who you are but I dislike you with every fibre of my being.

Who invented snowflakes?

To whom it may concern,

Snowflakes. What. Who. When. How. Skdjfhalskdjhf.

Now you know the complex thoughts that rushed through my mind as I stood in a field, staring up for the very first time to experience snow. As perfect little crystals settled in my hair like something out of bloody Snow White I couldn’t help grinning like a maniac.

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Let me give you a little back-story. I grew up in Colombo, Sri Lanka and later Auckland, New Zealand. While both places have many wonders of nature to offer: great beaches, intricately decorated temples, Dilmah tea and sheep to name a few – neither offered me a snowy experience.

When we first moved to New Zealand, my mother was adamant we have a full Kiwi upbringing. That first year was packed with experiences on a farm, learning to milk cows and attempting to ride horses but one particularly traumatic day was the visit to Snow Planet.

Snow Planet, for those of you who don’t know, is a place on a hill in Auckland, which is covered in artificial snow. Here is where my mother decided I would learn how to ski. Dressed in a silver, matching Adidas tracksuit, because why not? I was quickly separated from my little brother and cousin and thrown into the older group. I think they assumed older would mean more strength. They did not know me very well. The trouble with being in the older, supposedly stronger group, is that we weren’t allowed to use the chairlift. No, no, this group had to climb sideways up the mountain with skis on. Already we were off to a terrible start. My mother and aunt sat in the café at the bottom of this artificially snow-laden hill with hot chocolates, looking up once in a while to tell me to “get up”. My first experience with snow left much to be desired for.

Having told this experience to my friend Annabel, she was determined to change my relationship with this supposedly magical snow. Ever the optimist, I knew it could only get better from my first, frankly humiliating experience. The week of storm and snow warnings felt so long – it wasn’t until Friday, walking home from class that I stood, gobsmacked at falling snow. Annabel rings, “Can I take you to the snow tomorrow?” Why yes Annabel, you can.

With freshly made eggs on toast on my lap, and a snug outfit that resembled nothing of my Adidas tracksuit we set out to her parent’s cottage in Kowai. Oh, my giddy aunt. What a drive that was. Kowai is a magical place, an hour out of Christchurch city. By the time we reached Springfield, 5 minutes away from our destination, I was in an American Christmas movie. Approaching Springfield I noticed that every surfaced looked as though it had been sprinkled with icing sugar, and I love icing sugar. There were snowmen, and children playing in the snow, a snow clearing truck-thingy drove past us, and I was documenting every second of it like nobody’s business. We stopped at Springfield which, I kid you not, had a giant doughnut monument, for a doughnut. I was the happiest lass in all the land.

But the snowy adventure didn’t end there. No. We got back into the car and drove over snow-laden bridges that went over little rivers flanked by sugar-dusted pine trees. Down a long country road we stopped at Annabel’s cottage where her parents had already lit a fire, her aunt greeted us with the best hug, her Gran made bird puns left, right and center, her mum handed us a cuppa and her dad provided us with muesli bars aplenty and chucked on the soundtrack of Guardians of the Galaxy. The Woodward-Kean clan annihilated any chance of me not enjoying my real snowy experience. And we haven’t even gotten to the part about real-life snow cones and frittatas.

Fast-forward to standing in their neighbouring plot of land where the family grows native New Zealand trees, and it begins snowing. My sheer joy momentarily overshadowed the fact that perfect little snowflakes were falling everywhere. But one landed on my moss-green coat and I was spell-bound. SNOWFLAKES. WHAT. WHO.WHEN.HOW.SKDJFHALSKDJHF.

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