By Rhonda Dredge
International students are adding flair and imagination to the selling of products at the Queen Victoria Market (QVM) and market stall holders are helping them adjust to life in lockdown Melbourne.
When Hyung-Gil Shin arrived to study creative writing at the University of Melbourne he had never worked before.
He now has a job selling organic vegetables, but he also has a 1000-word story due in for assessment.
“I’m calling it Men with Women,” Hyung-Gil said. He’s met quite a few since starting at Twinkle Berrys in March but the title is all he’s really worked out so far.
It wasn’t easy for Hyung-Gil to clinch this prime job at the market.
He had three discussions with the stall holder Rob and refused to take no for an answer even though he’d never heard of celery, thought potatoes came in one variety and bought his vegies ready to go at the supermarket because they were easy to cook.
“It’s a long story,” he said, of his road from all-night Netflix addict to early-riser. “When I first came here, I always wanted a part-time job,” he said. “It was really hard. I’d been here two months when I saw an ad on Seek.”
“I texted him [Rob] and he said ‘Okay. Call tomorrow. Do you have any experience with fruit and vegetables?’ I said no. He said ‘it’s probably not happening. I’m looking for an experienced guy.’”
Hyung-Gil pushed, and Rob suggested he come in so they could talk face to face.
Two days later they met each other, and Rob asked the same questions. He got the same answers and Rob said he might contact Hyung-Gil in two months.
“I thought no. It wouldn’t happen. I was frustrated. I couldn’t leave here. I was sitting on the bench and tried to understand. I still wanted the job. I took notes for 5-10 minutes and I went to see him again. I asked him if there was training.”
“I said ‘I can really work hard’. He said okay. He didn’t say I’m going to hire you. He said come tomorrow at 5am.”
That was six months ago just after the lockdown started.
“I love it here,” Hyung-Gil said, “but the vegetables in Australia and Korea are totally different. When I first started work, I really struggled. When they said bring silver beet I didn’t know what it was.”
Hyung-Gil now works five days a week starting at 2am. He said he was getting further from reading and writing.
“I used to watch a lot of Netflix. I started feeling symptoms. If you use your brain too much you get back ache and a lot of stress. This [work] really helps with symptoms. It’s a smart phone detox.”
Rob was empathetic towards the young student when he applied in March. He’d just bought the business himself and opened two weeks before the State of Emergency was declared.
“As long as you are willing to work and learn, everyone’s got to start somewhere,” he said. “We’re both Aquarians.”
Twinkle Berrys specialises in organic vegetables at affordable prices. A three-kilogram bag of navel oranges was selling for $6.95 and snow peas for $12.95 a kilogram when CBD News visited.