Born in New Zealand, Christine Andrews has lived in Japan, China, Australia, NZ and South Africa over the past 18 years. While while living and working overseas, she managed to graduate with a double degree majoring in Chinese language and Accounting. She also found her passion for wine and the wine industry when she moved to South Africa in 2010. Now she's the Asia Pacific Business Development Manager for South Africa's Journey’s End Vineyards based in Brisbane, Australia. Since the advent of Covid-19, she faces challenges in getting orders from existing customers and new ones. She worries how long this pandemic will stretch out and if her business doesn't pick up, how long will she be able to hold on to her job.
This is Christine's story as shared with Affluent Society from Australia:
A cloud of financial insecurity looms overhead
Since Covid-19, I have not travelled once. I actually have not travelled since Nov 2019. At first, when I realised in February that we wouldn’t be going anywhere for the year, I was worried. I remembered thinking, if I don’t travel, how will I keep my job? If I don’t travel, how will I get new business? I was extremely concerned about job security.
My husband lost his job in March and then his side business started losing money not long thereafter. Our fridge at home decided to break down, the fridge in the garage decided to stop working, so all the chocolate for the business my husband had melted. It was one blow after the next.
I thought about finding a part time job and going back to accounting. I also thought about getting any part time job to buffer the loss of income a little. It is very unfortunate that my husband is not a citizen in Australia. Therefore he cannot access government support. The owner of our apartment didn’t want to give us a discount on the rent too. It is scary.
Sometimes I have felt bad eating a meal, knowing someone back in South Africa has nothing.
Someone is worse off than us
Despite my concerns with financial security, the saddest thing for me right now is that people back in South Africa are struggling to pay rent, put food on their table and find work. Since Covid-19, the government closed restaurants and these operators can’t even do takeaway during the lockdown. All alcohol sales were banned twice over a couple of months, so many people I know in the industry whether it is wine sales people, waiters, sommeliers etc, have lost their jobs.
People have contacted me on Facebook asking if I can financially help them out. It has been so sad to hear just how much they have been impacted. Many don’t have government support or an income to get them by. They purely rely on donations to now get them through this difficult time. Sometimes I have felt bad eating a meal, knowing someone back in South Africa has nothing. I feel so guilty.
Focus on happy moments
I feel so grateful to be working for a winery that let’s me own my position in the company and have almost full responsibility. I also feel lucky that I can gain from my own hard work. I get to live close to my family who are in New Zealand and China, plus live in a country that is safe, has great public transportation and government support. One of my greatest daily joys is going for a walk on the river. The river brings me such happiness as does the beauty of Brisbane. My dream is to own a property on the river.
I think how I got to where I am is also a source of happiness and maybe somewhat inspirational. When I went to South Africa, I went there from China, as my boyfriend (now husband) needed a kidney transplant. I really struggled living in South Africa. I didn’t understand the language and struggled to get a job because I was a foreigner in a country which had an unemployment rate of around 30%, and didn’t have experience with the accounting software they used over there. Then to top it off, I didn’t know how long I would be there, so no one was too keen to take me on if I left within a year. I ended up staying there for 7 years, all the while struggling to get hired.
To cheer me up my husband would take me to a winery on the way home from his work meetings. It turns out I loved visiting wineries. I loved the whole experience. The artful design of cellar buildings and tasting rooms, attentive staff, wine tastings, picturesque views, and romantic fireplaces in winter. Many people in the Cape would often go to wineries on weekends with friends, and have lunch or dinner. Most of the top restaurants in South Africa are in the Cape and at wineries.
Life is like a camera. Focus on what’s important, capture the good times, develop from the negatives, and if things don’t work out, take another shot.
Finding my passion
After three months, I had visited around 24 wineries. I started a blog called westerncapewineries.blogspot.com to introduce these wineries to visitors to South Africa. With 1,000 views in a month, I then went on to start a wine club to share what I was discovering especially to my husband's friends who often kept to the few wineries they knew. I obtained a bottle of wine from 10 wineries and hosted blind tastings for my guests each month. They would vote their favourite wine and winery at each event. With a database of more than 300 wineries as a result of my blog and wine club, I decided to work in the wine industry officially.
I was super lucky that one of the wineries gave me a job in the tasting room of their winery. If it wasn’t for that winery, I do not know if I would be where I am today. I worked at Haskell Vineyards as the Tasting Room Manager for around 11 months. It wasn’t all smooth sailing, but from this experience I learnt a lot about wine and got my foot in the door of the wine industry. I then started a wine industry wine club which landed my next job as the National Sales Manager for a new and unknown winery.
I worked super hard and put myself out there (still without being able to speak Afrikaans). I got to own my position and had a great amount of responsibility and respect in my position. I built relationships with sommeliers, restaurateurs, managers etc. and doubled sales for the two years I worked there. To top it off, almost everything I know today is thanks to the winemaker of that winery who made me study a wine region each month, and present my learnings to him and a group of people. He also gave me a row of vines to call my own, to learn how to prune, sucker, and harvest. The wine I made from that row of vines, I got to bottle and use at my husbands and my wedding in 2016. That was pretty special. I called the wine Stepping Stones. Not just because of the journey I had taken and the constant learning along the way, but also because the vines grew in pudding stones and bokkeveld shale beside a river. I felt the name was apt.
Keeping the passion alive
I want to get another 5 importers in Asia this financial year, and increase my salary by 50%. I am busy creating a name for myself in Asia on Facebook, Tik Tok, Wesee, Linkedin etc. I also hope to become a WSET teacher once the course is allowed to proceed again.
I would like to share three quotes that I live by with fellow readers:
1) The harder you work the luckier you get.
2) Life is like a camera. Focus on what’s important, capture the good times, develop from the negatives, and if things don’t work out, take another shot.
3) You never know what people are going through in their lives, so be kind to one another, like you would wish people to do the same for you. I personally feel life is hard enough, we don’t need people to make it harder that it already is.
About Human Stories:
All of us have a story to share. Some are joyful. Some are teary. Some provide perspectives. Several are downright heartbreaking. Others are simply inspiring.
I've been receiving and exchanging stories of COVID-19 lockdowns with business and government leaders from around the world since June. As the third wave of the pandemic handcuffs some nations and borders, I turn my attention to you - readers and followers of Affluent Society - and your emails and feedback to me these past months. While I continue serving my sentence in Melbourne, I will try my best to tell your story.
This Human Stories Series is a cumulation of stories shared with Affluent Society by its readers and followers from around the world.
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