Category Archives: Work

A Peruvian in Australia: Friends Found Faraway.

I have friends that I made a long time ago. I even say these days that my best friends are those I haven’t seen in ages. Just the other day I was talking to one of them: Fufo, who lives in Sweden. It was the first time we had talked on Skype. We haven’t seen each other’s faces for, like, 7 years, at least. Now he is married to his long-time girlfriend, Nancy, whom we used to hang out with back in the days of Mexico.
It is hard not to be melancholic when one is away from home. Friends from a distant memory, far from home like me (or at home this time) is all it takes to feel better. They have seen me in other places and situations and know me better than almost anyone in Melbourne. They are friends, new friends, becoming friends, whatever you wanna call them.
I have had the luck to meet with several people I met over in Peru as far back as 2004. This happened with Catherine D, whom I met during my days as a bartender at the Flying Dog Bar in Lima. She showed me a cool pub in Melbourne’s CBD that I would have never discovered on my own, nevermind it being so close to my prior school! And where does one begin to resume 7 years of life and how on Earth one got here? We tried and promised a BBQ soon to meet our significant others.
I’ve also met with a couple of people from my tour leader days. It’s funny to see them in their country, doing what they do and telling them my stories as a tourist here. We have switched roles now and meeting with them actually brings lots of perspective to my life. That’s what happened with Catherine S, with whom I went for a drink and caught up in Fitzroy, one of the liveliest neighbourhoods of Melbourne. We had dinner at a super busy and popular veggie restaurant there and shared a couple of beers. Melbourne is becoming a mecca for small breweries and artisanal, organic beers. I don’t think I’ve been so happy beerwise since my days in Belgium! It was weird at first to meet. We hadn’t seen each other in at least 2 years, when she was in Peru and we walked the Lares trekk together. But it was great to see her and know she is well and nearby, so next time I promised to pay her a visit and go surfing together.
With Shalla I also went to Fitzroy while she was visiting Melbourne, something she luckily does frequently. She is somewhat of a music guru to me and we always talk about music and share new bands. We still have a pending date to go to a gig together. But we did go to a rooftop bar and talked for hours and hours reminiscing of the days when we got stranded in Aguascalientes due to a strike or a mudslide (whichever happens more often in Peru) a couple years ago. How time does fly! She gave me some clues about how to become a radio announcer, one of my long-time procrastinated dream-jobs.
Meeting these friends has brought me perspective. Not only perspective, but help. Zoe, with whom I struck a friendship after chatting at Positive Bar (best pub in Puno, Peru) recently contacted me. She is running a café here in Melbourne, Per Diem Café in Richmond (excellent coffee by the way) and she needed staff. I was in need of a job because the starting months of the year are really slow in the Hospitality bussiness, where I have my other job. She remembered something I didn’t: when we were in Peru I sort of organised a trip for her and her mum, who were traveling independently with little knowledge of the places. I guess I helped them out by just doing what I always do. Now I have a job in a cafe! How’s that for good karma ?
Life takes interesting turns. It’s like 6 degrees of separation all the time with me. And I love it. The idea of people traveling over the world, settling in places or just venturing to exotic places, meeting others, sometimes friends, sometimes lovers and then moving on, yet carrying all that memory. To me that’s the clearest way of expressing what interests me the most in this world: chance, coincidence, the unknown, love, choice.
So now, I’m about to catch a plane to Brisbane for my first aussie domestic adventure. Mel is going there for work and I decided to join her. I have traded my miles flown with LAN and so the trip is free. But there is another reason that I’m exited about going to Brisbane: I’m gonna get to meet with my friend Renata, whom I haven’t seen in what must be around 15 years at least! We were friends back in the days when I was studying secondary school in Cuernavaca, Mexico. Then I moved to Mexico City and I lost track of her. It was a few years after, with the marvel of email, chat and later Facebook that I started contacting a lot of friends whom I never got a chance to keep in touch with. Renata was one of them. We have continued our friendship ‘virtually’ all these years. And in a couple days we will meet. How will we recognise each other after all these years?
Well, the good news is that we did recognise each other! She came along with her partner Nick and we headed to a cool pub in Brisbane (The Joint) on one of those fews nights when the gods decided it was time to rain, and rain it did for all of the day and all of the night. Under a ceiling that cared little about doing its job, we begun to catch up and all of a sudden I was telling stories of my time in Europe, of when I left Mexico, of my journey to the jungle of Peru, of how I got to Oz…
She and Nick are both biologists and while she studies the ocean and its inhabitants, he studies birds. Together with Mel we visited Mt. Glorious the next day, and though it was still rainy, the forest was beautiful and with Nick´s help, I had the luck to spot a couple of never before seen birds. At one point, while driving back to Brisbane, I started sharing a story with everyone of how we used to hop in the back of a friend’s truck with buckets filled with cold water. We would drive to a nearby posh club and just splash the hell out of the people queing at the entrance! I had forgotten that Renata was there on that truck! Suddenly, as if a plug was removed, memories started pouring in. It is true what they say about memory: it is a muscle and it does need exercise. But how to remember so many things, so many wonderful things!? And what an amazing thing memory is that it can take you back so long ago!

Mt Glorious eerie forest

I am so happy to see someone that I enjoyed talking to so much when I was younger and how she has grown and how our paths have crossed again. It makes me happy and makes me feel lucky to witness that. Normally people meet again after so long when they are 45 or something like that and cliché says they are usually dissapointed and end up depressed of the meeting. I don’t like judging people but I like seeing the people I care for well and happy. In my case meeting all of these friends is a proof of the magic of travel and life.

Advertisements

2 Comments

Filed under Alternative tourism, Australia, Birdwatching, Cultural Differences, Cultural Immersion, Education Abroad, Immigration, Living Abroad, Peru, Travel, Travel Stories, Travel Writing, Work

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.

4 Comments

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