Monday, March 14, 2011
My real life Underbelly- The Tale Woolloomooloo
Kings Cross.... Not the usual way I would start a blog, but it’s been on my mind lately. I was watching Underbelly- the Golden mile on the weekend and it brought back a fair few memories from when I first arrived in Sydney last year.
Those who know of my adventures in Sydney would know that an Aboriginal Hostel in Leichhardt wasn’t my only place of residence while living in the city of sin. I moved from Beautiful North Queensland, the place I had grown up my whole life, surrounded by rainforest, mountains, fresh water creeks and croc infested oceans, to a suburb in Sydney by the name of ‘Woolloomooloo’. For those who aren’t familiar with Sydney, Woollo (as they call it), is just metres down the hill from the most notorious streets in the country; Kings Cross.
I remember driving from the airport and arriving in Woolloomooloo not having a clue about what kind of suburb it was. I had Google mapped the place I would be living while I was still in North Queensland, but I didn’t realise until I was living there, that nothing can prepare you for that part of the world.
Woolloomooloo is a funny area, it’s a place mixed with the rich and poor, and smack bang in between the city of Sydney and Kings Cross. Middle ground for rich players like ‘Russel Crowe, Delta Goodrum’, ‘Kyle Sandilands’, John ‘Ibrihim’ and other’s living in multimillion dollar houses and apartments, and just three streets back from those very houses, lived me in a housing commission flat.
My mum, naturally was worried about me when I first moved down to Sydney and asked one of her childhood friends (we’ll call him Aiden) if I could come and live with him in his housing commission flat. I didn’t really know ‘Aiden’ other than him being my mother’s friend who she had grown up with, and that he’d once worked as a Stylist for the rich and famous. I was reluctant to move in with him, but I didn’t know anyone in the city, rent was cheap for my student budget, I didn’t want to live at the Hostel and the flat was fairly close to my school; so I stayed.
To say I settled into Woolloomooloo would be a lie. From the moment I arrived to the day I left, that suburb was nothing but drama for me. On top of home sickness and trying to start a new chapter in my life with fulltime study, I was living with a serious alcoholic who spent all the food money I gave him on cheap food and cheap wine.
3 LONG weeks is all I lasted at Woolloomooloo. Living with an alcoholic who would keep me up all night with his drinking, music playing, random dodgy neighbourhood visitors and all round eccentric behaviour slowly drove me mad. I couldn’t concentrate on my study because 49 year old Aiden would want to come into my room and talk all night about his epic adventures drinking with locals down the end of the street, or tell me about the latest person he was interested in. Even when I wasn’t at home, the guy would call me wanting to know where I was and what time I would be home. It’s fair to say, this guy was doing my head in and the more I convinced myself to stay and stick it out, the worse it got.
My bedroom windows in Woolloomooloo literally had bars on them. I had a key chain that constantly hung around my neck that I used to lock every door behind me on my way in and out of the flat because of crack cocaine heads and ice addicts who lived in our street. Living across from us were heroin dealers and takers, two flats down was a single mother who had her kids taken off her, and at the end of the street, a notorious family who were known and feared by police for their brutality and drug dealing. The easiest way to get to the bus stop to get to school from Woolloomooloo was to walk up another notorious street, Bourke Street. Majority of my classes were night classes which meant I had to do a 25 minute walk down Bourke Street at night, passed prostitutes, passed drug dealers, and prostitute customers in dodgie cars, just to get home.
A lot of people thought I was crazy having to do that every night, but I had no choice. When you finish a class at 9:30pm and don’t catch the bus until 10pm, your only means to get home that time of night in Sydney is either a cab (which I didn’t have money for), A bus (which stop at certain times in the night in my neighbourhood) or a walk straight down the hill to your place. The easiest, but not the safest journey home was the one I used to take every night. I never told my mum about the street I would travel down on my destination to home every night, or about her how crazy her friend was, because she would’ve FREAKED. The only way I would get through it was to simply own myself. Own the walk, look as if you’re not one to be f**ked with. It may seem like I’m trying to be all tough and hard, but reality is, if you don’t own yourself at 10:30am down a side street in Sydney, then you will become a target.
The high ratio of homeless people in Woolloomooloo really opened my eyes. As much as I hated living with this guy who drove me crazy every minute of my stay, I would look at the many people (and I mean up to 100 people lying outside of people’s houses, under the train track, out the front of the local store, and just two streets back from me), and knew I had to be grateful. I had a roof over my head, food in my stomach and an opportunity to succeed and grow. Although I felt sorry for the prostitutes selling their bodies and souls on the street to sleazy and potentially dangerous men, I would still acknowledge them and say a friendly hello as I made my way home each night.
I often wonder what drives a woman, with all her beauty and knowledge of life, to go and sell herself. To see these women, someone’s daughter, perhaps someone’s mother, out there on the streets, selling something as sacred as sex to just anyone, all for the price of a high in their arms, troubled me. But who are we as a society to judge; obviously, something has happened to these girls for them to be making such horrific choices in life.
The closest shopping complex to me was the Kings Cross Coles. Walking down the cross in the day is TOTALLY different than at night. There are friendly cafes and bars that are welcoming and the folk are generally nice. As soon as the sun goes down, Kings Cross turns into Luna Park on steroids, without the rides and general supervision of responsible people. I’m not going to lie, I’ve had many epic nights at Kings Cross, the playground of the rich, the poor, the homeless, the naked and the sold.
My time in Woolloomooloo came to end when I arrived home late one night after a class at school only to see my house mate fighting with a member of the neighbourhood who had been staying with us for a week. His drunkenness and all round personality caused the Kings Cross Police to be called to our flat and put on a complete show for the neighbours. At that moment while being interviewed as a witness by the Kings Cross Policeman, I weighed up my options and thought, can I really go on living in a place where the police will be called after a long night at school, drug dealers watching your movements in the neighbourhood and a woman now threatening to get your housemate bashed by the most seedy characters in Woollo??.... ‘HHHMMMM.... Nah, no thanks’ and with that, I bounced.
After a heated argument with ‘Aiden’ about how his actions were now affecting me, I left Woollo and was homeless for about a day. My good friend Noella Green (my knight in a shining Holden Ute) came to pick me up and let me stay with her for 24hours after 3 weeks ordeal I had been through, before moving to the hostel where I lived until the remainder of my study.
Woolloomooloo and Kings Cross isn’t a bad place. I am grateful I got to have had those ridiculous experiences. Not many believe me when I tell this story. To my family and friends back in QLD, it seems like a world away and some type of movie, but it was all real and all an experience. I don’t hear from Aiden anymore; He wouldn’t dare call me after the state I left his place in. If it wasn’t for the three bad weeks I spent settling into Sydney, I would never have become as close with my good friend Noella and I wouldn’t appreciate all parts of Sydney like I do now. It definitely made me grow and opened my eyes up to the social problems we as a nation often turn a blind eye too.
Only a year later, and I’m not back in safe old North Queensland; the only danger being a wasp’s nest in the front yard. That life I led when I first arrived in Sydney seems like a life time ago, but yet the memories are still fresh in my brain. For anyone moving to Sydney or thinking about going there, enjoy the city for all its greatness, but appreciate that it, like so many other places around this country, have a lot of bad in it as well. Woolloomooloo isn’t such a bad place, it’s just filled with a lot of different characters who can all be appreciated if you look at their situations close enough.
I’m off to Sydney this time next week for the first time since I left to see Usher live in concert and to have a general 5 day break away from the craziness I’ve been faced with in the past three months. I will visit Kings Cross and maybe even take a stroll through my old neighbourhood Woollo. As much as Sydney can corrupt you and change you, it can also make you grow, and I for one, cannot wait to go back and see how far I’ve come..
One Love, One Life.... X