The Share House

I remember vividly the day that my dad dropped me off at the terminal. I had spent most of the day with my brother and his fiancé investigating the San Francisco airport map in an attempt to avoid getting lost and missing my first-ever international flight. Of course I was scared shitless, maybe more of saying goodbye to my family than actually uprooting to move to a new country all on my own. I hate goodbyes. To this day, a goodbye, in any form, is one of the things I dread the most.

I managed a tear-free exit from Dad, James and Ashley but as I walked down what felt like the longest hallway in SEATAC to the international terminal, I knew that I didn’t dare look back.

My first two days in Sydney were in a tiny youth hostel in Redfern, where I ate little {mostly out of the uncertainty of not knowing where to shop} and spent way too much money on public transport. Thinking about my state in those days and comparing it to where I stood just a short week later; in the kitchen of a share house on Newtown’s Alice Street, it’s amazing how quickly your entire life can change. My search for a place to live during my semester abroad was one of a 21-year-old who’d lived all her live in housing provided by her parents or her University. I had no idea what I was looking for.

I only looked at three places. The first was old and L-shaped. The interviewer was an older man, very kind and easy to talk to, but I sat in the overgrown courtyard with fear that this was all that Australia had to offer. The other flatmates were full-time grad students, they weren’t going to want to hit up the local bars with me. I foresaw a semester of loneliness.

When I got back to the hostel that evening, a new ad had popped up on Gumtree. A nice share house of ten on Station Street in Newtown. Newtown was the place I wanted to be, the place where the students were, where I’d feel like I was at home on the streets of Seattle.

Stepping into the old, white terrace house on Station Street was likely the moment that everything changed for me. Joanne, the landlady who organized the house, had picked me up and brought me over to meet the current residents. At that moment they consisted of an English couple, a Canadian computer animator, a couple of Italians and a few others here and there. I sat uneasily on the couch across from two Canadian girls and a French girl, whose accent was so thick, I was actually afraid she’d just resorted to speaking her native language with me.

The Share House - Newtown, Sydney Australia

I didn’t get the room. I lost it to the three girls on the couch. {Two of the same girls in the photo above}.

But Joanne had one more house.

I walked into the modern kitchen, marble counter tops and an open plan kitchen leading out to a courtyard.  The details of that first meeting are really irrelevant. I’ve never felt so at home so quickly in a house. I walked straight into the conversation and was quickly made aware of the honour I had of meeting the elusive Kiwi chef, Matt, who simply speaking to was an occasion most of the housemates rarely saw. Guitar in hand, he was on his way out the door. Matt was always one of the most curious housemates for me, we spent a few late nights discussing the music and films that a Seattlite like me just must know {I really didn’t know most of them}. I’ll never forget the boozy night in the early days when we stayed up until the dawn hours and he insisted on making me his famous french toast with bacon and grilled banana and then proceeded to shake me awake from my slumber on the sofa to ensure I didn’t miss out on this special dish.

The Share House - Newtown, Sydney Australia

I moved in on Valentine’s Day. We went out to the pub that first night and pretty much every night after. The local Irish Pub was our favourite. We spent many nights singing karaoke, taking Baby Guinness shots and getting into heated discussions. Cultures collided and friendships were born; lifelong friendships.

It wasn’t all sunshine and roses though. We, of course, did have those flatmates. They seemed to make everything difficult. We were too loud, too messy, too good of friends. We had an Irish flatmate for a while who was pinching food and money from the others, straight out of purses strewn on the couch in trust. We learned not to leave our things lying around in those months. Eventually the democracy won and we pushed him out.

Joanne would show up unexpectedly and scold us like a house mother when she found dust and leftover food spread across the floor, cigarette butts littering the black and white checkers of the courtyard. But her and her husband loved us, almost like we were their second family. They brought us each special birthday cakes.

The Share House - Newtown, Sydney Australia

Some days, it makes me sad to think that we’ve spread out all over the world, the occupants of that house. That we are continuing to spread and leave that share house further and further behind. There have been marriages, companies created, new relationships, break-ups and more overseas moves. But these people, they were there, they witnessed firsthand as I navigated the seas of independence. These people were pawns in the moments that changed my life. I’ll be forever grateful for them.

The Share House - Newtown, Sydney Australia

I still keep in touch with most of them, even though I haven’t seen the majority in over 4 years. But these were the moments that started it all, the tequila-stained shot glasses on the marble kitchen benchtop, the karaoke, the late night courtyard parties, the stolen toilet rolls. These were the moments when I grew up, when I realized that I was a traveller, an explorer. The first moments that made me realize that Sydney just may be the place where I belong.

I’m told our photos still adorn the old shelves of Alice Street’s living room.