Monthly Archives: January 2012

A Peruvian in Australia: Work (or the lack of it)

Finding work was one of my main concerns before coming over to Oz. My student visa allows me only 20 hours of work per week which is alright but my main worry was the fact that I was going to start all over again. Whereas in Peru I had been a successful tour leader with excellent job opportunities I decided to quit all that. I knew I would have to work as a waiter, cleaner, or any of the jobs usually no else wants. My friend Johan, also from Peru and a guide there as well, has found this new beginning quite difficult in Australia. Here he works cleaning and that change meant an obvious punch to his self-esteem. I have been feeling a bit like that, back home I was the man with the knowledge  and the know-how. Here I’m another immigrant without a clue, and I feel so minuscule when I have to pull out my map to find my way around.

But still, the possibilities to find a good job are always there. Always positive, right?  I was aiming at finding something in the tourism industry where I have been working for the past 8 years. I contacted my previous employer in Peru and they offered me a job, it was perfect! I was going to be selling and advising on how to sell South America. Sadly the chance fell over when I learnt that they needed a full-time person with the proper visa. Pretty soon it dawned on me that it was going to be impossible to find something in the tourism industry so soon. I then decided to leave that for later and meanwhile dedicate my time to learn how things work here and to know the history and facts and practical info that I will be needing in a hopefully not too far future. As part of that masterplan I have enroled myself in studies for a 6 month Tourism course focused on the retail industry. There I will learn the tools to create and sell product and the software-knowledge to work at a travel agency.

You know what it feels like...

Money has been an issue though as it is not flowing in as I would like it to. I am amazed at how much I have been able to stretch my savings. Of course I have an advantage that many immigrants don’t: my partner. Mel is been crucial in understanding this whole situation and more than once lending money for what I need. Luckily we foresaw all this and since the early days when we met in Peru she said to me ‘look, I don’t need a provider man, I need a man that loves me, so I’m happy to help you now’. I’m thankful for that and aware that when the table turns I want to be ready for it. Even though it has been a bit of an issue for me. You see, I was raised in a traditional Catholic,Latin American, struggling, middle-class family. Whether I like it or not, there is some macho training in me, and having less money is not the comfort zone of your typical latino male. Of course there’s a lot of bloodsuckers out there who make a living like that, and I don’t mean only latinos, but that’s a whole other animal. For my own peace of mind I have had to find a job, at least a little one that helped.

Family is always a blessing in difficult situations and it was through my uncle Alex and his wife Cecilia that I was referred to an events company. They hired me right away and after investing my last bucks on my uniform I was ready to get my first cheque and cash-in. Weddings, graduations, special events, functions for companies, etc. I’ve been working as a waiter and a bar helper at these and the job has been going great, very fast-paced and surrounded by good people. The hours went by quickly until 2 am every weekend. Until Christmas came…

I missed my last day of work because of playing football (soccer). I did not warm-up or stretch and I forgot I’m not the guide who climbs mountains every weekend or goes on treks every other day. At the end of the game my back was killing me and my leg was limping. Oh dear, welcome to the 30’s! And then Christmas came and everyone went on holidays. In Peru we call it ‘the January steep-climb’. Everything slows down, people are still on holiday, the new year has just begun, people are relaxed, others try not to spend anything because the holidays left them indebted…and there’s no work.

So back to the work chase, printing CV’s, posting adds on the web, walking around with resumes at hand and a pretty smile. This chase can be depressing. Some of my school mates can’t believe that I find it so hard to find a job. Maybe I am being too picky? But I am looking for all sorts of jobs: waiter, barista, cleaner, Spanish teacher, writer, nature conservation volunteer, translator, guide. I’ve had a couple of funny anecdotes looking for a job too. I went to see a bar where they needed a manager. That’s a fun job, I used to run a bar some years ago and it was fun and active. But this was not the case. I learnt what the word ‘bogan’ (Aussie redneck) means when I saw the clientele. To describe the place may I use the words of the owner ‘we don’t warm up partygoers, this is where they come after the party’. Then I went to see an Italian restaurant where they needed a waiter. The owner asks me how to carry 3 dishes and I show him how. He says that’s not the way to do it and I ask him to show me how and he says ‘you are supposed to know that, i’m not telling you…’ I’m still wondering what secret way that is because where I work now I carry 3 dishes and they tend to stay on my hand.

I’ve tried to keep a balance between jobs I have to take and anything I really want to do. Recently I came up with a couple of ideas, one for a tour where I could be the guide and another one for a radio show where I’d be the announcer. Both are doable projects but they need a lot of input and with lots of luck they will pay little or not too often. I need to tell myself the quest is hard ’cause it must have a good surprise for me later on and difficult times create character. I’m lucky to have a supporting partner and to be very stubborn. But I knew this about the world of the immigrants, work (or the lack of it) is an essential part of it. It has made me remember when I used to work and live in the USA with Mexican illegal immigrants, or when I lived in Europe and performed all sort of jobs to get by. It is when I look back at my path that I find the strength and trust in myself to know that I will make it, it’s just a matter of patience. And a little of good luck too.

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Filed under Australia, Cultural Differences, Cultural Immersion, Immigration, Living Abroad, Peru, Travel, Travel Stories, Travel Writing, Work

My favourite albums from 2011

I’ve always wanted to write for a music magazine. It would be one of my dream jobs just like it was for John Cusack in ‘High Fidelity’. Like his character I also love making tapes for people. On the same note, another film that comes to mind is ‘Almost Famous’. I wish I was that kid.

I also have what I call a ‘DJ complex’ and am always checking other peoples record collections, exchanging, copying, or simply playing them, wether I’m in a pub, a cafe, someone else’s house or car or even public transport. Some people hate me for that, like real DJ’s at clubs because I’m always making requests. I have DJed a couple times too, at pubs I like and when I actually used to run a bar, playing music was one of my favourite parts of the job.I still want to have my own radio show and if things happen this 2012 I will have one, or something similar. What can I do, I am a frustrated musician and music is such an important part of my life.

So writing a list of my favourite records of the year is one of those things that I love doing. I did last year but never published it (this blog was on diapers back then and that would’ve been the first post as a matter of fact).

So here it is, in no order whatsoever. These are simply records I really liked and listened to a lot the past year and all of them were published during 2011. I have included links  to videos of the singles or to cool live performances. Hopefully you will like them too.

  • LET ENGLAND SHAKE/PJ Harvey

I can’t believe it was February when I downloaded this album and loved it! I honestly thought PJ had nothing else to give but the woman surprises yet one more time and manages to sound like nothing she’s done before. And she sounds so good. A strong record with a constrict rage and an open statement of what is happening in England. Maybe the first record that speaks so openly of themes related to globalization and loss of culture in a nation that is pretty much the mother of modern world as we know it today. PJ is the Lars von Trier of music, always controversial and able to reinvent herself.

Check a live video of ‘The words That Maketh Muder’ here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KhaEt2Hdod8&ob=av2n

  • IN THE MOUNTAIN IN THE CLOUD/ Portugal. The Man

Yeah, their name…

I heard ‘So American’ once on the radio without knowing who it was or what was the song’s name. Thank God now Iphones have that application that tell you who! I was instantly hooked on the good mood of the tune.

This band of psychodelic rock has made a record with so many happy, catchy tunes that it’s really hard to put it down. Potentially every song is a single. This confirms my idea that music today recycles stuff we’ve heard before and though I had something against that before now I’m sold. I fact most records on this list have that element. Don’t think that Portugal are new though, this is their 7th record and that’s why it’s so good, cause they seem to have found their best sound after experimenting for 10 years of record-making.

See the video of ‘So American’ here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Iww-l4UtygE&ob=av2e

  • HELPLESSNESS BLUES/ Fleet Foxes

Good blues and folk that has the power to transport you to another time. These guys sound like Bob Dylan´s backing band. That is if Bod Dylan had had a band during his first years. There´s some quiet peace and a something delicate about their music. Some nostalgia that reminds me of Mumford and Sons first record. Not sadness, pure nostalgia is what this is. I gues that’s why it’s called ‘blues’.  Thanks to Elena for the tip on the Fleet Foxes!

Watch the video for ‘Grown Ocean’ here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LDWOKyKkGnI&feature=fvst

  • EL CAMINO/ The Black Keys

Ah, the vintage sounds that pour out of the imagination of these two! And how does Danger Mouse manage to be the producer of so many great records one after another? When I got ‘Brothers’, the Keys previous album, their songs became quickly the most listened to in my Ipod. ‘El Camino’ has the same potential, road music to drive tirelessly listening to full volume good ol’ rock. Watch the video for ‘Lonely Boy’ here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a_426RiwST8

  • ANNA CALVI/Anna Calvi

While listening to Calvi I couldn’t help but be reminded of Jeff Buckley. That may sound like blasphemy but she does have a similar guitar technique and sometimes her voice sounds similar too. Maybe the obvious resemblance would be with PJ Harvey since they share Rob Ellis as producer, and in fact Calvi sounds like Harvey (on her first records) but it’s undoubtable that she has a talent of her own. So, if she sounds a bit like Jeff Buckley that is if he reincarnated in a woman after actually being in hell. Listen to Calvi and you will understand what I mean. Watch ‘Suzanne and I’ live here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uTol6RxtqMk&feature=related

and ‘Love Won’t be Leaving’ here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w4OjzDAtpaQ&feature=related

  • METALS/ Feist

There’s nothing metallic about this album. It’s more like a long whispered melody. A low, introspective look into the delicately crafted world of Leslie Feist. Sometimes jazzy, sometimes pop or blues, her music has no hurry to please or to explode. Her beautiful voice fills the songs with life and movement as if a faery was singing you a bedtime story. Listen to Graveyard, The Circle Married The Line, Cicadas and Gulls.

Watch the video for ‘How Come You Never Go There?’ here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I2uVRMBD5RY

  • UNDERNEATH THE PINE/Toro Y Moi

The future of electronica is here and sounds like Toro Y Moi. Like their name, I don’t know what to make of their music. It sounds like listening through the stethoscope to the sounds of a living organism from another planet, some sexy alien trying to flirt with me. Reminiscent of Stereolab’s sound experiments. Once again thank you Elena.

Watch the video for ‘New Beat’ here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W4J6bFDvvwY

  • SUCK IT AND SEE/Arctic Monkeys

When I read on an interview that the last record from the Monkeys was perhaps their best, I was sceptical. After their first record the 2 that followed were disappointing and had only good moments. But I gave them a chance because I heard ‘Black Treacle’ on the radio and I liked the shift in sound. And guess what? It’s true! Arctic Monkeys are back in full form with music that matches perfectly the witty lyrics of their vocalist. And guess what also, they are recycling music too! With a sound that is reminiscent of the 50s and 60s in spirit they sound a lot better than on their harder experiments.

  • WHAT DID YOU EXPECT FROM…/The Vaccines

I couldn’t resist it, The Vaccines made it to this list actually on the last minute. I listen to ‘Post Break-up Sex’ and can’t help to think of The Smiths or Belle And Sebastian. Maybe that’s what’s got England rendered to their sound. Such misery and beauty altogether. The future of rock is on this guys and I believe this could be the best rock album debut of the year.

Watch ‘Post-break Up Sex’ video here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dU9hrd35Dsg

  • KING OF LIMBS/ Radiohead

Just when you thought Radiohead couldn’t get any weirder sounds from their pocket they surprise you again. At this point these guys have already settled themselves comfortably in a style (a league if you prefer) of their own. Just the other day I was listening to The Bends album and it was actually hard to tell myself that that was the same band that released this record. King Of Limbs is a work closer to In Rainbows than to Hail to the Thief. Don’t be alarmed by the few songs, the record is 40 minutes long and each song  is a gem, some are electronic, some are acoustic, but they all sound like Miles Davis (Bitches Brew phase) was producing . The question now is what (and when) will Radiohead sound like next.

Watch the video for ‘Lotus Flower’ here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cfOa1a8hYP8

  • PULL UP SOME BLUES & SIT DOWN/Ry Cooder

Does Ry Cooder need any introduction? well, you’re not gonna get it from me…This bluesy, folk, mexicano music is the ultimate protest record. If ‘Let England Shake’ talks about problems there, ‘Pull Up Some Dust…’ is a mosaic of what’s happening in the USA: economic crisis, immigration, drug trafficking, racism, a political system not representative of the people, etc…Cooder is a radical. He was not on the wave of making a record against Bush some years ago, he’s been riding on that wave for long (he was investigated for openly going to Cuba to record with Buenavista Social Club and has an open posture againts the embargo on the island). He is not an Obama suporter either, he is old enough to know Obama is just another guy in a corrupt system (listen to ‘John Lee Hooker for President’). Cooder’s lyrics have the wisdom of a Noam Chomsky who sings the blues.

Watch the video for ‘Quicksand’ here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mf1uAMPETH8

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Filed under 2011 Records, Indie Music, Music