Travel.P #36 – Lentils as Anything

“Never Underrate A Street Boy With Wifi” 

Genereux Philip

Living on the streets is getting more and more comfortable. I go to bed, and lost nearly all of my fear that anyone will come and try to rob me off my things or wants to start a fight, because he is drunk, drugged or I live in his territory. I never had any trouble alike and no one ever stole anything of me. I mean alone the backpack and the hammock inclusive my walking shoes are like 500 Euros in total. I have to add my camp was quite hidden and the tarp above my hammock covered my backpack and my shoes.

I got used to the trams at night, they were even part of living there now. I kinda enjoyed watching the lights passing by in the dark. Rainy days were still spend in the library and sunny days I liked to just cycle around and see things, sit down, chill out in parks, watch people or read.

first night outside in Melbourne

But I somehow liked the vibes of this restaurant ‘Lentils as anything’ that Abby showed me. It works by contributing as much as you want to contribute for your food, so that affluent people can manage to contribute more to carry the needy people. Wow, amazing. I couldn’t get rid of the idea to work for this company. So I went to a restaurant, there are three in Melbourne, had some lunch and asked for a job, I started working two days after that. The restaurant was in St. Kilda and it was also the first of the four restaurants in Melbourne.

Made it to my list of favorite jobs

Two days later after leaving my camp, having a wash at the showers at the beach I started my first shift. Working there is volunteering unless you are a chef. But I started small, so I waited the first time in my life. I rally enjoyed serving the guests in the Restaurant. I did the dishes, while always watching the chefs, asking for tips and preparing food in the back of the restaurant. The kitchen is Indian, it was my first time working and preparing Indian food. Indian food is amazingly spiced, mostly turmeric, Marsala and paprika in our case. Our kitchen was completely vegan, from rice with kidney beans, to lentil burgers, a kind of pancake with salad, and quinoa salad. Chai was my favorite drink, the other choice was tap water. Dessert was Chiapudding with a kind of honey and nuts. Sometimes vanilla, sometimes chocolate taste.

The restaurant itself was super small. I would say as wide and 3/4 of a trailer of a big truck. There were two small tables outside and 5 of them inside, a big one in the back and two smaller ones a the entrance. In the middle of everything was the open kitchen and the dish washing place. In the back was as well small storage, a bin, a toilet, and a fridge. Modern local art was hanging from the red brick wall. Usually every table was full. Even people that didn’t know each other were eating together and chatting around.

The Customers were a wide bunch of different people, from homeless, smelling, drugged, and not calculable, to wealthy looking business people. In between were the most people hipster and younger folks like me, travelling, studying or working. We had lesbians and homosexuals, cool girls and cool boys, kind older men and woman. Outside the restaurant was a small queue of hungry people.

I never smiled so much at work like in this place. Work was quite stressful but also not. Somehow there was no pressure. And waiting, oh my good, I love it. So much love to share with everyone, so much energy so much fun. Trying to give everyone a crazy experience. I loved it. Washing dishes was classic washing dishes. Nothing special about that, but somehow really cool, because it was an open place and you had customers just next to you, talking or just hanging out. Also beautiful was that customers could sit for as long as they want to. I really liked that. Our chefs were Indian, I couldn’t even understand one chef, but he was amazing. Quite old., I guess around 55 years old with teeth wide apart from each other, but so lovely. Always smiling and sharing his vibes. The other one was a younger one around 40. He was simply great and taught me a lot about preparing the dishes. Than we had a German woman around 30, she was kind not so cool and then we got a girl from Venezuela, around 28, and she was amazing, I think her name was Arianna. Listening to techno while working. I loved her vibes, so much good energy and always smiling unless she had a bad day. My boss was super great as well. After I told her I am sleeping on the street she instantly told me she can get a place for me straight away. But I liked it too much at the street. Angelique, she was french and really really nice. I sometimes covered her shifts, so she wouldn’t have to double. Later on I had my favorite team, a girl from Finland, a guy around 45, that lived on the street as well at a point before, he was great as well, and offered me I could eat and sleep at his place, but I told him that I do this, because I want to.

Bunch of crazy people, including me

I made a lot of double shifts when Arianna was working in the evening. Usually there was Indian atmosphere in the morning, Indian music and relaxed vibes and to evening it converted into a hipster spot. Loads of young people and techno. After a week and a half I started to get taught by Arianna to work in the kitchen, I even could have got the position for a chef, because I was working so good. It was an amazing time! I loved it so much. Volunteering at a place like this, where you can learn a lot and people and customers are amazing, and sometimes some crazy stuff is happening like a guy coming in and pretending to be the dishwasher while trying to drink the high alcoholic cleaning liquid. People that are only allowed with a glass a fork and a knife, because they would lick the cutlery and everything. Really crazy people, but that not so rare in St. Kilda. A lot of homeless people in the streets. Usually after work I took the rest of the rice and try to give it to the homeless around the block.

New Home for s few days

Then one day, while the kitchen was officially closed, but because it was me on chef and not the German woman, I can understand her as well, she wants to go home, I got nothing to go to at home, a guy around 1.70 with a kind of Afro came into the restaurant and asked for a burger, and I made it straight away for him. He liked it a lot and we came into a discussion, while having a Chai. He came a few times the next week as well and after work we just hung out and strolled around the streets of St. Kilda. After I told him I was living on the street he told me I could come anytime and sleep at his place, he lived on the street as well, but now is fine and got a job as a teacher. He loved speaking and got Italian roots. Sometimes I even had to tell him to calm down and have a break from speaking. Thats why I called him Antonio instead of Anthony. I rarely met a guy this much giving.

The next day in the park, while I did my yoga, I watched him checking out my place and trying to steal stuff. So I had to confront him. He told me he thought it’s a camp of a friend, he wa on drugs and apparently just out of prison. Walking really fucked up with a stick and looking even more fucked. After that I packed my stuff and moved. At work after I shared the story with Angelique, she was living in an area where there were so many Jews. It was funny to watch them all being dressed up and walking through the streets., I could drop my backpack at her place and just live out of my small backpack and sleeping bag. I slept a night at the beach, which was great and than I asked if I could sleep at Antonias place. He was super keen and I slept for a week on his floor. After work I always took some leftover food and shared it with him. We just sat outside, had a small fire and talked. Once we hung out with a really good musician from African and a gut that talked as much as Antonio, haha. That was a fun evening.

Anto taught me a lot about living on the streets, he lived there for two years, and he really knew all the homeless while we were strolling through the town. But no one was angry that he made it out of the street, everyone was happy to see him and talk to him. He told me of gang fights of homeless people, loosing friends to drugs and having territories that if you engage those it can become very violent and dangerous. I never had any experience a like, but I chose to live on the street. Those guys don’t. It must be hard to escape this trap and start a normal life.

But than at some point I wanted to see more of Australia, so I was sad to decline my chance to become a chef at the restaurant said by to everyone and took a train out of the center to the last stop. Walked my way near the highway and started hitching towards north.

What I learned from living on the street so far was to be more thankful for everything I have, health, energy and a little bit of money. A family and friends I can talk to and that support me and give me security. I learned to appreciate food way, way more and to not worry about clothes and stuff so much. I learned to reduce my things to just a bit. I figured I don’t need much to be happy and to live simple. To listen to people, to share a smile here and there and to not be scared if things go wrong. To stay calm and don’t worry too much, because if things go really wrong, I think I wold be able to handle them.

Badala Foly – Mama Africa

Next time I’m gonna share my experience of Australian heat and endless flat areas. Of crazy views and nice hitchhiking experiences. Of amazing people and really nice tasting fruits. And of my update on how fuckking big Australia actually is. Wow it is huge.

I think I wrote enough for today, so you can get excited to read more about some crazy things the next time. Like about my first job in Australia, why I moved my camp to sleeping on the floor of a friend and having a great time, mostly just by myself. About sleeping at the beach, learning how to cook and learning a lot from an ex homeless friend about rules and honor on the streets. I also checked the homeless organizations in Melbourne that are working amazing and started to get itchy feet to leave Melbourne and go further north.

Why don’t buy regional products the next time, maybe products that are actually in season at the moment.

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