Each time I return to tell a new story I feel that I have undergone a drastic transformation, both mentally and emotionally.
The Friday following my interview with The Chocolate Box I was offered the position and was ecstatic to begin last week. Training with Bethany (the girl I was replacing) was ironically similar to the experience I had in Miami just before I left, training a girl to take my place. I remember sitting at my desk and thinking, how could I possibly explain everything that I handle to you in a week? And strangely enough five minutes into our first training day and Bethany regurgitated the very same phrase, sending the fear of inadequacy through my bones.
The next four days remind me of a journal entry I found from 2010, describing my initial days at TresKoi PR: “The tornado hits me from the second I open my gmail at 9:30 and round and round I whirl in a bliss of media, clips and phone calls, until 6 o’clock (and sometimes much later than that) comes around and the tornado spits me out however it darn well pleases.”
My title in this role is Marketing Coordinator…I know you’ve all been asking the same questions, what does that mean? Well, I am in charge of many things, hah. On a non-marketing note, I handle all corporate chocolate orders, providing insight on how we can customize our products – i.e. a company party requesting branded chocolate boxes to give out as gifts to employees, I will put together a package with pricing and process the order from start to finish, sending it in the mail at the end of the day (and sometimes the end of the week if you’re slowly learning the POS system lol).
I also oversee all printed collateral for our eight stores – designing and printing new price tags and posters for our weekly specials and holidays, polishing my oh-so-amateur Adobe Illustrator skills as I go.
On a marketing aspect I am expected to do many things. PR is a much-needed boost at this Australian-owned company, so I’m trying to push for media coverage in the few minutes spare time I have (NOT). I am also responsible for receiving and assessing all sponsorship/partnership enquiries – as it turns out there are quite a few companies interested in creating mutually beneficial relationships with chocolate!
Finally, I am the personal assistant to the owner of the company – a fantastic and enthusiastic 65 year-old woman who is a brilliant chocolatier and already one of the best clients I’ve ever had (figuratively speaking)! Literally, one may suggest an idea, and Marion will come up with a new concept, and BAM – you see a brand new product on her shelves in a matter of 3 days tops – now that’s someone who knows how to get it done!
Anyhow the most exciting part of my job is yet to come; planning food expos for The Chocolate Box! Coming up with a theme, maybe a new product, doing what I do best – putting all of the elements in place for a successful experience that gives the brand some much-needed community TLC. Enough work talk, on to the fun!
The Friday of my training week, my adorable Texan friend Megan called me to see what my weekend plans were, and long story short I end up hopping on board for a little getaway night to Mornington Peninsula. Sounded like a brilliant idea. So what did I expect? Well, to be honest, I expected a quieter and more spacious version of Melbourne. What a pleasant surprise when we are greeted at the train station (about 1.5 hours southeast of the city) by Megan’s friend Anna, who she met during her first 6-month stay which she spent in Mornington, before relocating to the city.
Anna – a quirky and bubbly bohemian chick who is strikingly gorgeous and very warm and welcoming.
We head off to their friend Jas’s house straight away for family dinner night, which has apparently been a tradition for months for them. Pulling into a quaint little house, I am slightly intimidated when I walk in to see about eight people around the dinner table staring at us. And then Australia proves its charm once again, each person takes their turn with a genuine and friendly welcome, as Jas’s dad offers me a drink I’ve never had – grape juice and fizzy water.
“Just have as much fizzy drink as you would like,” he says with a smile. Revolutionary.
After a delectable dinner of roast lamb, salad, tater tots, guacamole, olives, cheese and freshly baked bread and baked pumpkin, I dip into my new and secret purse chocolate stash for some real Belgian Gianduja chocolate. Content with a full stomach and a choco-buzz, we head over to Anna’s house to get ready to have a night out on the town.
I truly wish I could have had each of you with me at this point in my pocket, letting you peer into the scene that unfolds on the drive to Anna’s house. Caught in conversation, I realize we have been driving for about 15 minutes down a dark road, and all at once we are turning off onto a real red dirt road engulfed by weeping trees overhead.
“Where are we??!!!” I say with an unprecedented pang of excitement in my tone.
As I bump up and down in the back seat, staring at my American and Kiwi friends up front (driving on the right side nonetheless), I am in awe of my surroundings. We turn off the road and the thrill of this drive gets so much better – have we really stumbled through the back of the wardrobe, or drank from the miniscule bottle of potion – have we been thrown into magical fantasy bliss? We are on the narrowest road I’ve ever seen, surrounded on all sides by flamboyant, gargantuan flowers and shrubbery, with only the headlights to guide the way up the winding and seemingly unending hill. Words can’t describe how out-of-my-element I felt.
When we finally make it to the top of the hill, where I assumed Anna’s house was, I have a rude realization – spiders and snakes. After making the mistake of enquiring, Anna assures me that it’s no big deal, she’s killed all of the large spiders in her room recently – WTF?? I swear I was never scared of spiders until arriving in Australia, where the fear has been spoon-fed into my system, creating a psychosis that haunts me daily. For those of you who know how dramatic I can be at times, here is a photo to show you the Huntsman spider, FIVE of which she had found and killed that week in her bedroom.
Three bottles of champagne and many memories later, we returned in the pitch black to Anna’s quiet country house and fell fast asleep amongst the spiders.
Morning came quickly and the girls suggested we go to the springs – whatever that was. After a regretfully greasy Macker’s (short for McDonald’s) burger, we shoot over to the springs for some real R & R.
Entering the building I feel as though I have warped into a Zen Buddhist relaxation heaven as we stroll sluggishly along the cool stone walkway leading up to the counter.
The sweet woman at the desk wishes us a good day of relaxation and offers us three plush white robes; we toss our clothes aside and prep for the good stuff. As we pass through the entrance there are women bathing with their children in a nearby pool.
We cross a small white bridge and begin a slow ascent up a hill. While I pull off my robe reluctantly in the chilly wind, I absorb all of the beautiful scenery that surrounds: to my right a playful stream makes its way down the jagged rocky edge of the hill, as couples and groups of girls having their hen parties lounge in the hot pools.
To my left a lagoon that engulfs the end of the quaint stream, encompassed by towering Eucalyptus trees swaying in the summer breeze. Overwhelmed with the coziness of the warm water I slowly dismiss my fatigue.
For the next four hours, we meander from spring to spring, gradually working our way toward into hotter and hotter waters. After scooting back down to the bottom of the hill to meet up with the girls’ friend Ryan, we decide to take a plunge and head up to the top of the hill, which is known for its scenic charm. On our way up we traipse cautiously through the foot-massaging pool, a variety of oddly-shaped stones which knead the soles of your feet under about 6 inches of lukewarm water.
Once we finally reach the top of the hill, I am astounded by the stunning view that unfolds. Fresh flowers line the path to the spring pool, which sits atop a cliff overlooking beautiful rolling meadows and vineyards as far as the eye can see. Set against a flawless blue sky, I feel as if I am in another country, though in reality I am only about an hour and a half from my humble Melbournian abode!
Off we drove to check out the scenery in town – our first stop is of course the beach, where grassy sand dunes lead you down to the fluorescent aqua waters and shores. Anna’s dog frolics in the tide as we play a serious game of fetch with him.
Next stop is another beach, just as gorgeous as the first. And yet another gorgeous waterfront scene beholds as we take a stroll down a long pier where a young group of children prepares to scuba dive.
Alas, another culinary experience accompanies my Mornington journey as we sit down to dinner and Anna orders a lime milkshake – strangely awesome. Megan and Anna rave about how I need to try a famous Melbourne dessert called Vanilla Slice, and so I do – a rich, creamy custard made with all natural vanilla sandwiched between two layers of flaky pastry crust and dusted with just the right amount of powdered sugar…combine that with a seaside parking spot and cool ocean breeze tussling your hair and you’ve got a hell of a Sunday snack.
I cannot believe I have only been gone for one night, my experience in Mornington was one I will never forget (especially since I’ve vowed to bring my girlfriends back sometime soon to take them to the hot springs).
Meanwhile Valentine’s Day hits and Max surprises me with dinner and drinks for Jess and I at a restaurant in the CBD since he cannot be here to take me himself. I am stuck under his country spell as I read of the gift on my Facebook wall and then call him to thank him. And I go to sleep thinking that I really do have the greatest Valentine in the world. Here is a preview of our very clever night out:
One other thing before I sign off… There are some really CRAZY black and white killer birds in Melbourne!!!! And FYI – I am not talking about penguins (although there are plenty of those, too, actually). There are birds called magpies, which I have been noticing on my walk to the train each morning for the past couple of weeks. During a recent chat with some coworkers, I was told that there is a dangerous type of bird here which “swoops” at you, literally knocking the wind out of you and in some extreme cases causing paralysis!!!! Yep, you guessed it, the cute little magpies that I’ve admired for days are really lethal little villains! Just thought I’d share it with those I know will appreciate that fact, since here I am just considered a dramatic American haha. No big deal – deadly spiders, snakes and birds prancing around town – why be dramatic??!!
Stay tuned for details of my upcoming journey to the Great Ocean Road, an iconic Australian road lining the southern coast of down under.