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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4 Comments

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

4 responses to “A Peruvian in Australia: Work (or the lack of it)

  1. Isaac

    My dear Pepe,

    I still remember our conversations with a beer and smoking tabacoo, side by side. That time has past and now our lives drive through another countries and our age is not helping us physically but in experience we can say something… Nos la pelan todos!!! Remember that you are better

  2. carla soto

    My dear Pepito!!
    Hang in there! you will find sth, just be patience and don´t forget to smile, don’t do any doggie job though!! haha!!
    Good luck and you have no idea how much I love to read your posts!!
    cheers!!
    carla

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