Human Stories: Christine Andrews, Brisbane, Australia

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.