Wake me up when September ends?

Iḿ currently going through a phase of extreme sleep deprivation. In-laws are visiting for two weeks and itś bloody hectic. Iḿ not usually one who minds travelling long distances in a car but when you travel fifty kilometres to get to a beach on which it is raining, I reach my limits. Especially when I have my first day at work ever the next day and Iḿ exhausted and under slept. This, too, shall pass, however. I have a kickass new workplace and am enjoying the learning experience. More soon.

Friendliest people on earth?

Admittedly, I have not been to many foreign countries. My travels are limited (those that I can actually recall) to the UAE and Malaysia and Australia and of course, my own country, Pakistan. In my short travelling span, I have come to the conclusion that Australia people are the friendliest you could possibly encounter.

Example 1: When you’re crossing the street, people in cars will randomly stop to let a whole bunch of pedestrians just cross. And not even on a shared zone where they have to, but on a regular street, 9 out of 10 people will stop their cars to let you cross first if you are a random pedestrian. For someone used to being nearly run over every time I cross a street in Pakistan, this is a jarring, but refreshing change.

Example 2: For my first big job interview, we took the public transport system in Brisbane for the first time. Having left, several hours earlier than required (better safe than late), we were trying to navigate the complex bus system and arrive at our destination. This consisted of asking every second bus driver is his was the bus we should go and an apologetic prelude of “We’re new to this city, so we’re not really familiar with the bus system here yet”. When we found the right bus, the driver waves us on, and told us he would break our large currency note later with the appropriate fare when we would get off. After a long drive to the city (Fare AU$ 5 for each of us), we finally recognized the name of our stop and stepped forward to pay and exit the bus. The bus driver ignored our attempts to give him our money and instead gave us a smile and waved us out, saying “Don’t worry about it, have a good day!”. Stunned (in a good way), we profusely thanked him for his guidance and general niceness and got off.

Example 3: We were making a long, grueling journey by train from Sydney to Brisbane. Lugging around nearly 80 kilos of luggage and staying up all night because the train motion wouldn’t allow us to sleep comfortably was taking its toll. In the seat across from us, a New Zealander man was chatting with random people seated around him about where they were from and general things about their lives. He finally got around to us and struck up a conversation. Pleased to find someone interested in Pakistan, we told him a great deal about life in Pakistan and what the place is like, a good deal of which greatly surprised him, being so different to what he was used to in Australia. After three hours or so of chatting, we finally stopped and said goodbye and good luck to each other as our station neared. When the train stopped, my husband ran forward to secure our luggage stored at the back of the carriage, while I accumulated our bags and hand-held items at our seats. A presumably Australian lady seated just behind us, who we had not noticed through the 14 hours journey smiled at me when I stood up and said “I wish you the best of luck for your new life here in Australia!” and exited just ahead of us, giving us a goodbye wave as we parted ways outside the train.

Example 4: You know when you’re at a supermarket, or any store, and you are having your items checked out and preparing to pay for them? My typical experience in shops or all sizes was sullen silence from the cashier and only a brisk statement of the total amount and handing me the change without further comment. Turns out in Australia, they consider that sort of behavior highly rude. every single customer receives a warm and cheery “Good morning/Afternoon/evening, how are you today?” or a “Hullow there, how are you doing today?” sort of greeting. The checkout session ends with a cheery “You have a great day, dear” or “Have a lovely evening!” sort of farewell. Every single time. And when you ask someone stacking boxes or otherwise busy with some task in a gigantic supermarket for help, they’ll drop what they’re doing, and tell you which aisle you should find your item in and always ask you if you need them to help you find it. If you should say yes, they’ll promptly escort you to the exact item places on said aisle and make sure you don’t need anything else before they tell you to have a great day.

Just a few examples of the random coolness of Australian people. And bear in mind that we were armed with stories of hostility and racism against brown people in general and Muslims in particular, but nobody here seems to care about the color of your skin, just the warm friendliness they can offer you.

Australian Immigration

Okay, so it turns out I’ve recently been advising a lot of friends, relatives and even random acquaintances about requirements and their chances for Australian immigration. Since we have, so far, been one of the extremely lucky ones, having two people both with chances at applying for a Permanent Residency, and getting it, and landing a job that not only pays quite well, but has the exact annual pay that meets the requirements for company sponsorship.

So, for starters, for anyone interested in Australian immigration, let me advise you that it’s tough. The first thing you need to know about is PR. PR stands for Permanent Residency and it basically means that you are now authorized to permanently reside within Australia without having any sponsored job or a study visa. This is the golden ticket which you will be aspiring to reach if you should stat this arduous process.

The next keyword is the SOL (Skilled Occupations List). This list can be your best friend and your worst enemy. The occupations on this list mean that if you should be one of them, you get an automatic number of points in the Aussie point system for PR. You can imagine that if you are, say a Taxation Accountant (60 points), it’s great news for you, because you only need forty more points to qualify. If you’re not on the list, long term there’s  not going to be much in it for you to come here and work or study, you won’t be able to quality very easily for PR.

Apart from this, let’s talk options for getting you onshore. Say your profession is actually on the list, which is great, but it may not be for long, so you’ll have to take action fast. The quicker you can apply for PR, the better your chances of your occupation still being on the SOL.

The first route to getting onshore is obviously the job route. Ideal situation would indicate that one could, sitting in their own country, apply for a job and get someone interested and get a work sponsorship visa based on this interest. The reality is that jobs are not easy to come by, not even the really low paying ones, and if you’re a well educated person, (bachelors or above) you’re probably overqualified for lower paying jobs anyway. What you need is essentially:

  • A job offer
  • The company should be willing to sponsor you for a work visa
  • The company should be offering you a package of AU$ 47,000 a year minimum.

The chances of getting that offshore is not good at all, so you need to be onshore. Now one, risky, way is to get a vacation, collect your savings and get a visit visa and go camp out in Australia and apply as hard as you can for a good job before the time limit is up. However, you need some stability and some time to find a good job. The chances that you can find a job in a month or so are not too great. In addition, the chances that this employer will pay you enough to make you eligible for sponsorship work visas is limited. Additionally, further decreasing your chances, employers will rarely bother to get into your case if they know you are here on a limited visa (as they would have to file sponsorship proceedings and wait a few months for them to get through to actually start using you). Unless you’re someone in a technical position and some specialist skills or 10 years of higher management experience, the chances that a company will risk it all for you and wait for you is pretty low.

The second option, the one I used, was studies. If you have a decent four year bachelors, you can apply for a one to two year masters program that will assist you in getting PR. It’s the more costly route as your visa depends on your payment of your fees and enrollment so you need to continue paying a good 15,000 dollars a year (or more) just in buying your reason to be in Australia. Pricey, yes, and on a student visa, an additional caveat is that you can only legally work 20 hours a week, no more. The best way to do it is to get a well qualified spouse on board. One spouse can get the study visa, while the other spouse (on a spouse visa) can work unrestrictedly and earn a full time income. This offsets the costs of tuition and living expenses by a steady income. However, initially to find a job, you may need to use up a large part of your savings, so this is still a bit of a risk and very pricey as an option but if you’re on the SOL, it may be your best shot.

So anyway, that’s the basics thus far. For detailed checking into the situation and what you can make for yourselves out of it, I would recommend visiting a good consultant. We used Auspak for our educational needs. For professional based services, you’ll have to find your own as I don’t know any to recommend. Also, check out and keep an eye on the Australian Immigration site for changes and updates on the PR policies and requirements.

Good luck and G’day!

Foreigners

Don’t you just hate it when you make courteous and friendly overtures to someone just to have them rebuffed by aloof and cold responses, most of them borderline rude?

A little context: we moved into a shared housing arrangement a few months ago. Our biggest worry was, in fact, what kind of housemates would be we get? There are traditionally four rooms in an apartment, two of which can be used by a couple, which meant that at full capacity, we would have 3-4 others living with us in different rooms and sharing the facilities.

Now once we moved in, our fears were alleviated. We met a young man, studious and athletic, originally from South Africa. He was the friendly type that gets along with everyone and mostly spent his time out playing sports or at home quietly studying or taking in a movie on weekends.

We then met a bubbly young girl from a nearby town, who was extremely excited at having another girl in the place, surrounded as she was by two boys at the moment. Turns out, she was extremely chatty, had late shifts and enjoyed quiet times watching some TV shows on her laptop and cooking or cleaning on the side as a diversion. So far, so good.

The last flatmate was another young man, coincidentally at the same university as my husband. He was also Egyptian, and of the same religion, hence in theory much closer in relatablity to a Pakistani couple. However, as it turned out, the guy is an ass. He tends to hang out with his noisy friends all the time, not take his studies seriously, share his passkey to our flat with random friends, allowing them to enter our housing unit at random times of the night and goes away on vacation to his home country a good bit, allowing random friends to use his room while he is away. While we enjoy thoroughly the periods in which he is away (the place is so much quieter and less filled with random people milling about or coming in at will for no apparent reason) but when he finally came back, we decided to thaw out and give him another chance. Surely a fellow brown brother couldn’t be all bad? And if we can get along with a South African and an Australian, how could we not relate to an Egyptian guy? Turns out he’s still the same. And he’s back.

To summarize, we can’t wait till our lease is up at the end of the year and we can go back to living alone.

Healing

Time passes slowly, but surely. You forget to pick at a scab and it heals. Then a sudden thought, a word, a gesture, it picks the scab clean off. And you stare at it and wonder when the healing process will finally be complete.

On Deaf Ears…

Don’t you just love it when people discard your views based on your sex? When people assume you have nothing to contribute to a conversation because your place is in the kitchen or at a gossiping session with the other khawateen?

Men look at women and sigh and shrug. “What am I to do? I just can’t figure out what women want from me.” What they want, is more than a walking dildo. What they want is a partner. What that entails is division, right down the middle, with some area that both have equal claim on.

What they want, my friend, is to feel like you’re listening and that their voice matters. That when they sacrifice their personal ambitions for yours and take on instead the heady task of cooking for you, cleaning up after you and your children and making your house a home, that you don’t mistake it for resignation to a gender role, but a choice made out of love.

Solitaire

From one beach to another. It’s still the same ocean. Imaginary boundaries run criss-crossing through it, but you can’t segregate water quite so easily.

When I get too high on life, I look at the stars and the sea to remind me of the vastness I cannot hope to conquer in my lifetime. It makes me feel empty but maybe that’s a good thing, empty just means a void waiting to be filled up, right? Still, there’s nothing quite like moonlight on the beach to create a new void.

Belonging

Own. Is there a word that implies more familiarity? When does that which is not your own start feeling like it is? Can you only have one place that gives you that feeling of belonging at a time? Must I let go of the old to “own” the new?

Will all of this ever be home?