Scammed in Sydney

Sydney, Australia 11/7/12

I'm safe and sound and still in Sydney. I moved from the haunted house( run by Natalie the witch) and into a more sane setting at the YHA (Youth Hostel Association) on Sydney Harbor. What an upgrade!

To put it plainly, yesterday sucked. 

Right away, I needed to get out of that house. My gut had been telling me to run for the train the moment the witch had opened the front door, but I told myself to chill out and relax. I told myself to have an adventure....and I did.

This adventure involved conflict, boredom, frustration, thievery, French-speaking companions, conspiring, and quick get-aways. I've had enough of an adventure for a while. I want peace now. At least a week's worth of peace is all I ask for. 

I started walking around the suburb of Ashfield the next morning, thinking that maybe I'd feel different about the witch and her fortress in the light of day.

Ashfield was a busy mess of Asian supermarkets and Indian restaurants, which is usually right up my alley, but I figured that if I was going to be around this much foreign culture I'd like to see it in its original setting….like Asia.

I wandered for as long as I could bare it before spontaneously jumping on a train, still in my pajamas, to go to something picturesque, something monumental, something truly Sydney. So, I went to the Opera House. 

I hadn't eaten breakfast or drank coffee. I was running on fumes in a hazy lethargy, feeling exhausted even after a full night's sleep. 

I snapped photos of the Harbor Bridge, the Opera House, and some old stones. It was a beautiful city. Lovers walked dreamily hand-in-hand, sipping coffees and eating gelato. Little kids were running circles around their parents. Boats were ferrying people across the water. But I felt like a prisoner watching a beautiful world from a cell because my mind was still locked up at #3 Knox St. I had to get free.   

Motherly wisdom (whose name is Kim) arrived in my email's inbox, telling me that she had prayed for me to have discernment about whether or not to stay at this house. She told me to listen to my gut and get the hell out of that place. 

Oh the power of a mother's persuasion even from thousands of miles away!

After reading her message, I immediately walked over to the YHA and booked a room for that night. But, first I had to recover my $220 deposit from the witch. The thought of interacting with her gave me a chill and planted a squirming pain in my stomach. 

The Inner Western train line out to Ashfield offers magnificent views of the city's finest graffiti. The farther the train clumps away from Central Station the deeper its passengers are taken into a world of run-down apartment complexes, trash-littered streets, and store fronts in every language other than English. 

The witch was nowhere to be found in the house, so I began to do the chores she had required of me for the room and board. I determined to do an amazing job on each of them as I waited for her to come home with my deposit. I vacuumed my bedroom, cleaned bed sheets from previous guests, folded laundry that wasn't mine, washed dishes that I hadn't used, vacuumed and mopped the kitchen floor, and deep cleaned all of the baseboards on the bottom floor of this crazy old house. I was going to give her no reason not to return my deposit. 

She arrived home around 5:30pm and I asked if she had listened to my message. She acted confused and said that she only checks her voicemail once a day. I said alright and told her that I was leaving today. She looked surprised, but not angry. 

She walked away without saying a word and retreated into her bedroom. 

My backpacks had already been packed and were set by the front door. The chores were completed and I felt good about having given her more work than she asked for me to do. I wanted to leave that place with total peace of mind. 

I waited by the front door, knowing that she was on her way out and would have to pass by me to leave. I waited like a miserable puppy waiting for its owner's attention. 

She handed me $100, which made me feel better because it at least demonstrated that she knew she owed me my deposit back. She said that she didn't have any more cash and that she would have to run to an ATM for the rest. I said that would be great, but that I was leaving that evening so I'd wait for her. 

She quickly left with a man that I assume was her boyfriend, or pimp, or sugar daddy, or all of those things.  

As I waited for her, I met some of the other house guest prisoners. There were two young Korean boys that were in Oz to study English. The witch was their study-abroad hostess. I'd heard her be so cruel to them, but fortunately, the language barrier resulted in most of her harshness being lost in translation. Still, her body language was fiercely manic and mean. I made conversation with one of the Korean guys and he practiced some of the basics he had learned thus far. I felt so bad for him. He was getting such a negative taste of the world.  

There was also a French couple staying across the hall from me. They'd been told they could have access to cook in the kitchen and paid for everything upfront. The Frenchman told me that after a few days of being there, they'd had some terribly uncomfortable encounters with the witch. He had come down to the kitchen to make toast while she was sitting at the counter. He had just dropped the bread into the toaster when she turned to him and gave him an angry glare before banishing him from the room, saying that he was not to use the kitchen facilities again. They've since resorted to cooking on a camp stove on the balcony, trying to stay as far away from her as possible. 

Also in the mansion was a couple from Quebec who'd been there for a week or so and had plans to leave soon. They wanted to leave sooner, but they had already paid for their stay and feared being unable to retrieve their deposit if they did leave. 

They told me that, one day, the witch came banging on their door telling them they needed to pay their week's rent. Since it was late in the evening, they requested that they run to the ATM in the morning and pay her the next day. The witch became angry with them and demanded that one of them retrieve the cash straight away. The guy went to get the cash as his girlfriend waited nervously in their dorm. She had begun to fear leaving their room without her man by her side because she didn't want to be alone with the witch. 

As I waited for her to return with my deposit, I began to grow impatient. An hour had passed since she left and I didn't know what to do with myself. My freedom, and a clean room with a shower at the YHa was only a short train ride away, but I was determined to be repaid the remaining $120 deposit. 

I began snooping through some stacks of boxes strewn throughout the home. It looked as if she had done some garage sales, but hadn't sold everything and left the unsold items in stacks in all corners of every room. 

I waited in the lounge room where a mattress was lying on the ground shoved in the corner. Plastic bags were scattered on a bookshelf that acted as a headboard for the mattress and I could see that they were filled with unwanted items left behind by a former house guest. This guest was named Kirsten and she was Canadian. The witch had told me that I would have been working with her, but that she had spontaneously decided to go to Africa. I understood now why this traveler wanted to get away. 

The couple from Quebec and I joked that perhaps Kirsten would be at the YHA as well, having used the excuse of leaving for Africa as a way to leave as quickly from the haunted house as possible. 

Two hours passed and I was still waiting. I was so frustrated I started doing push-ups just to get rid of pent-up energy. 

Three hours passed and I started to rummage through the pantry in search of food. I had forgotten to eat all day because I was so anxious to do my chores and leave. I found a container of dried ginger that looked absolutely delicious, but wasn't necessarily mine. The agreement had been that I would receive food and accommodations in exchange for the work. Since I had put in a day's worth of work I figured that I was entitled to some food. My hands were shaking because of my hunger. 

I ate a ginger and made a cup of tea. 

Three hours passed. I decided that I'd eat a ginger for every half hour I had to wait as a consolation prize for patience.  

The French couple came downstairs. We had already said goodbye when they had first seen me waiting with my backpacks by the front door. They asked why I was still there. I told them I was still waiting for my deposit. They gave me a sympathetic look and wished me luck. 

Then the couple from Quebec came down again and they laughed when they saw that I was still waiting. I had already said my goodbyes to them an hour earlier. I laughed too at the ridiculousness of the situation. We talked for awhile and began to make up stories about how the witch had come into ownership of this old mansion home. We surmised that the property had belonged to her family, but that she had killed them all and buried their remains in the backyard. We laughed at our outrageous stories, but then freaked ourselves out at the same time. We knew that our stories weren't outside the realm of possibility. This witch was capable of all sorts of evil. 

The witch had told me that she loved traveling to South Asia. We'd had this conversation before she took my deposit and was still putting on all sorts of social niceties. I asked what she had done there.

She told me that she worked in Thailand.
"Oh!" I said. "What kind of work?"
She looked at me coldly and grumbled out "work." 

The Quebec couple and I talked about what kind of "work" she was capable of and we all assumed the same things; drugs, prostitution, trafficking of all kinds. It was terrible to think these things of someone, but never before had I met someone more perfect for that kind of soul-destroying labor than the witch. 

Four hours passed, and I began to get worried that I would miss the last train back into the city. I was positioned in the front room so that I would hear her come in the front door. I went to the pantry and rewarded myself with another ginger candy. As I went through her pantry I was surprised to hear a door open. My ears had been on high alert just waiting for the sound of a metal bolt to unlatch and snap open. My stomach flipped a nervous turn. She had come in the back door. 

I shoved the ginger into my pockets and quickly shut the door. I greeted her kindly and gave her time to gather herself before asking for my money. 

She began to frantically throw stuff into drawers in the kitchen. She asked if I would help her tidy up. I told her that I had already done everything she asked me to do, and more, and that I needed to leave. She rolled her eyes and started throwing silverware into the drawers. I knew there were knives in that drawer and, for a second, I legitimately feared that she might grab one and go crazy on me. I prayed a desperate prayer and my heart started pounding. I had told the Quebec couple to keep an ear out for me and that I would yell if I needed help. They laughed, but also knew that it wasn't unlikely that the witch would do something crazy. 

She told me that I hadn't done the dishes. I told her that I had. She told me that I should have put them away, but I didn't know where things went so I had placed them in neat piles on the counter. 

She asked if I had thoroughly cleaned my room. My heart beat harder and faster as I quickly escalated into an inner rage. She had kept me waiting for four hours and then proceeded to assess my work like some manic inspector with a mental disorder. I told her that I had cleaned the room. In fact, the room was cleaner than it had been in years. 

She asked if I did the laundry. I told her that I had done three loads. She asked why there was still clothes on the line outside. I told her that those clothes weren't mine. They belonged to the French couple who had been doing their own laundry. She said she didn't care that the laundry wasn't mine and that it was my job to clean it. I told her I had already done three loads. 

She walked into her room, and yelled a question as she went away, "do you have my key?"

"Do you have my deposit?" I asked back. 

"I'm charging you for a night's rent." She said.

"Why?" I asked.

"Because you didn't do all the work." She said.

I knew that this was possible. In fact, I expected that she would put up a fight, but I had already stubbornly waited for four hours and I wasn't leaving without my money. However, I had also told myself that no amount of money was worth getting injured over. I would have gladly left my $120 behind in exchange for all my body parts intact. 

I told her that she was stealing from me. 

She went to the front door and opened it for the large man she had left with earlier that evening. His face was flushed red and his eyes were watery and distant. My heart beat faster and I started thinking about my mom. 

I knew that she would have wanted me to leave and I wasn't going to let my stubbornness get me hurt or killed by some drugged-up lunatic and his bi-polar witch of a girlfriend. 

"This dude's trying to get his deposit back without having done the work," she said to the man. 

An angry look spread across his red, no-nonsense face.

"I just want to leave" I pleaded, "I've been waiting four hours just so that I can return this key, retrieve my deposit, and go." 

"I'm charging you for a night's rent," she said as she handed me $70. 

I was all rage inside, but I knew that if I pushed it any more that her boyfriend was looking for an excuse to show her how tough he was. 

I could hear the Quebec couple upstairs speaking in French to one another and it gave me a slight peace knowing they were there. 

"If this is how it has to be for me to leave then that's how it's going to be, but know that what you are doing is theft."

I accepted defeat and handed her the key. She handed me $70. 

She profited $50 off of my staying there and also had her house cleaned for free.

The boyfriend chump looked at me hard and I told him to have a good night.

I walked toward the entry way to grab my backpacks, slung them over my shoulders and yelled a farewell "bon SWAHH!" to my French-speaking roommates. 

I prayed for their safety and praised God that I was leaving. 

I boarded the train at 11pm and headed back into the city. 

...ramble on...

No comments:

Post a Comment