I finished studies in November 2014 and soon thereafter started looking for a full-time job related to business.I applied to all ads online as it was all I could do. I wanted to do walk-in application but I could not muster the courage to do it. I fell into a pit of chronic sadness, paranoia, emotional distress, and physical fatigue. I worked at night and walked for one hour to get to and from the house to the train station. It was a very tough situation for me. I only had my part-time job as a cleaner in the hospital, where my earning was just enough for a hand to mouth existence.
In February 2015, I applied for an open-work visa and was granted a few days after. That fast. Still I found no job.
As soon as I got my visa, I widened my network by attending a Job Search Seminar sponsored by a not-for-profit organisation for migrants. They even arranged a buddy system opportunity for me, which unfortunately, and to my regret, failed to grab.
For months, I was isolated. I was scared to socialise with most Filipinos after a very traumatic incident that happened to me in the previous flat. I got into a point of avoiding a lot of my fellow Filipinos.
I wanted to go home even if it is just momentarily. I decided to go home even if I have to deplete my savings and credit card to see my partner. My brothers in Australia knew my desperation and decided that I visit them there for a few weeks before I fly straight to the Philippines. So I did. In Australia, my brothers and sister in law fed me. They would not want my mother in the Philippines to see me stick thin.
I came back to Auckland on June 2015 from the Philippines. I was rejuvenated with a new hope of making it in New Zealand. I became creative with my job search by making my own personal calling card, but it did not work out. Every time I attempt at distributing my card and search for a job through walk-in, I get a sinking feeling in my stomach. I just sleep instead to calm myself.
I also widened my network by attending another job search seminar sponsored by a semi-government agency in Auckland. I also monitored job openings in Filipino e-groups where I got some leads. I was not however successful. I was stuck with a part-time job cleaning in the hospital while my twelve-month open work visa was slowly consumed.
With only six months left in my open-work visa , I had to take another risk – move to central South Island and take it from there. I had always wanted to leave Auckland, and my mind says Christchurch. I don’t know why Christchurch, but I have this tug in my heart that I should come to this place.
So I moved from Auckland to Christchurch with the desire to get an employer-assisted work visa but none of it happened within my time-frame.
It took me a month looking for a job related to my diploma in business but no calls came. I had already greatly improved my CV, having attended my second seminar for job search. Nothing happened however. My money was also dwindling with only a few dollars left on my bank account and weekly bills to pay.
I was pulled back again into the dark. I was defeated, bitter, and angry. My depression took a toll on me. I was at rock bottom. Alone, dejected. I had nobody to talk to about my personal struggles, nobody to trust within proximity, but my friends back home, in the Philippines.
I decided then that I will just take whatever job comes first to sustain myself and save enough. If worst comes to worst, at least I have money to book a ticket back home.
I found a job as a Checkout Operator in one of the biggest food retail store in the city. I have always wanted to work as a cashier (that is what it’s called in the Philippines), it’s a wish that I whispered each time I shop for food in Auckland, and God made it come true here in Christchurch.
I did not realize however that it was a very physical job, more physical than the cleaning jobs I had. It gave me back and shoulder pains. The first three weeks was very tough until my body adjusted to the routine.
I was juggling between work and the desire to look for a job that could possibly sponsor a work visa for me. But I was crumbling emotionally. I spent most of my time lying in bed, drowning in pain and tears, and fervently praying. I lacked sleep or I sleep too much. Either way, I felt tired physically, mentally and emotionally.
I tried to be strong and I kept the faith, I still looked for a job while working at the store. I got an interview twice, one in Christchurch and the another in Queenstown. I went there and walked-into establishments to apply but I was the right person at the wrong time on both occasions.
I stuck to my job and was thankful at least I had one. I was grateful with my full-time work, because for the first time I was earning that much money. It was already much to me. Every time I look at my cupboard, I feel so thankful because I never had that much before. I religiously paid my credit card as well, and saved money.
The one thing I love about my job is packing items in the customer’s trolleys. My obsessive-compulsive brain is happy about it. There is something about arranging things that gives me satisfaction. I am consistently praised by customers as a very tidy and organized packer with the American accent.
I am often mistaken as an American, not that I look like one, but they think I was born and schooled there. I have no idea that I speak with the American accent, I told them. I haven’t even gone to America yet, but I shared with them a little bit of Philippine history, how we were colonised by Americans, the books I first read, and the American movies and tv shows I watched.
I met and spoke to hundreds of people a day, half of which are tourists coming from all over the world. There was this introverted in me who just wants to process and pack their groceries in silence but there was also the curious side of me who wants to know more about their culture. I often make a mental game of telling which country they come from, judging from their language or English accent and confirm it with them. That is when our small talk starts.
The only thing that is daunting about the job is when faced with customers who speak very difficult kiwi accent and even if they repeat it, I still couldn’t understand anything. I am still adjusting to the kiwi accent even up to know.
I didn’t get my work visa from the retail store though as a company policy. I was happy however that my managers appreciated my efficiency.
I resigned effective a week before my visa expired. It was also the week that I got the biggest break of my life.