Back to Australia
It was just after Easter in 1974 when I landed at Sydney Airport. I had this time flown half way around the world to get back to my old home. It was an arduous journey in those days taking over 28 hours and I was both exhausted and excited to be back in Australia again.
After clearing immigration and customs I was led to an office where I was given a taxi voucher to take me to the Villawood Migrant Hostel. It was just after lunch when I arrived and was allocated a bed and lockup cupboard in a room with four beds. The staff showed me around and gave me a sheet with the house rules printed on it.
A few years prior to my arrival I had fallen out with my mother's sister who lived in St. Mary's over some personal issues, so staying with her was now out of the question.
Before leaving Holland myself, a very good friend of mine from England, had already set off for Sydney some years earlier. He met a lady there and moved in with her and her three children. During one of their picnics at the Nepean River the young son found himself in trouble whilst swimming, there had been a strong undercurrent from the recent rainfall. My friend rescued him but was pulled under himself and tragically drowned.
I stayed in touch with Sandra and she told me if I did ever come back to Australia to give her a call. Having nothing else to do until dinner time I thought I would contact her and let her know I had arrived. Sandra was excited to hear my voice for the first time, she told me to be at the entrance in one hour and she would come over to meet me.
Sandra and her new husband Bill arrived an hour before dinner and the first thing she asked was where are your bags? I told her they were in my room. Bill said to go and get them now as I was not staying in a hostel, I was invited to stay at their house in Narwee. How nice was that?
It took me a few days to get over my jet-lag and thought it was time I started looking for a job. The Australian government had given me a permanent residency visa valid for three years and would be renewed after that if I found work and could support myself.
Checking with the employment agency I was told that to be able to work as a nurse I would have to do a two-year refresher course. This was not what I had expected and didn't want to go through that again. So, I thought by myself, I'm here now so what other work is available? Surely, they are not going to send me back if I take on some other type of work. I purchased a newspaper and together with Sandra we went through the classifieds.
There was a position open for a reservations clerk with World Travel Headquarters in the city. They stipulated that the applicant needed a good knowledge of Europe, which was something I definitely had. My hopes weren't high as I thought there would be quite a few other people applying for the job.
When I arrived for my interview the manager asked me when I had landed in Australia? He could not believe I had only been here for a few days and found my English perfect. He was so impressed with my enthusiasm that he confirmed immediately that I had the job, and could start the following Monday morning.
World Travel Headquarters were taking reservations from travel agents around Australia for various tour operators in Europe. Contiki Tours being one of them. When I started work on Monday, I was trained in taking over the Contiki Tours reservations area. This section was steadily growing and needed a dedicated person to look after it. My office skills kicked in and I was soon familiar with the operations.
To improve my English vocabulary one of the ladies in the office advised me to start doing the crossword that appeared in the morning newspaper. She would help me out at lunchtime and even gave me one of her old dictionaries so I could look up the spelling of new words.
After a few weeks I was ready to move on to the next stage of my life; finding myself somewhere to live.....
At my desk... no computer or aircon back then.