The day I achieved my childhood dream

So, yesterday I was at the library typing 1,000 new words of my second novel. I’m participating in Nanowrimo, the crazy month where writers around the world attempt to finish a 50k novel in a month, and Thursday was a “bumper” day for me. I had written a whopping 7,000 words, and was pretty proud of myself. I finished my last thousand words at the Goodwood library because I wasn’t ecstatic about typing the words alone at home (That’s the trouble with being an extrovert writer. The writer’s lifestyle goes against what it means to be an extrovert!). Anyway, I logged on to my e-mail to send a copy of my tale to myself – and then I noticed an email from my migration agent. My heart skipped a beat when I read the title of the e-mail: “Immi Grant Notification.” With trembling hands I opened the email.

“I refer to the application by XX for a Skilled – Regional (VB 887) visa lodged on 10 September 2014 with the department.

I am pleased to advise that on 20 November 2014 a decision was taken to grant this visa.”

Shit. I just got my PR.

I’m an Australian permanent resident.

That e-mail informed me that I’ve just achieved a decades-long dream.

I felt numb at first, then panic set in as I realised that I have to sit for my driving exam in three months. I called my agent to thank her for her effort and told her now I have to worry about the driver’s test.

She laughed. “Aiyoh, you very kan cheong*  lah. Everything will fall into place, don’t worry.”

Yes me, professional worry wart.

I had imagined how it’d be like to get that notification. Surely the earth will shake and the stars will sing. Or some silly thing like that.

Nope. Everything is still the same. There are still bills to be paid, annoying people to deal with and problems to be solved.

I think we often believe that “we’ll only be happy when…” In actual fact, when we get what we think will make us happy, we are joyful for a day or too, and then reality sets in. You’re still the same person you were the day before.

Happiness, well, we can be happy now, not when. 

So now I have a PR visa, and I am not sure where to go from here. Stay, leave, study, work….? Ah, life goes on as you can see….

* kan cheong = Cantonese for “anxious, too overly concerned.”

PR application, here I come!

I never thought I’d get here, to be honest. As we get halfway through April, I realise that I am now only four months away from my two-year stay in Adelaide. And that means one thing: It’s time to lodge my PR application. I still remember my first post on this blog, Putting in the papers nearly five (!!) years ago. Lord, what a long journey that was! The application process was long and arduous (for me, anyway) and I was frankly amazed that I emerged with a visa. 😉

For the first year of my life in Adelaide, I was mainly interested in surviving. As in getting a job. As in putting food in my belly. Then once everything settled down, I realised this date is looming ever so closely.

Frankly, that leaves my hands cold. I’m never been good at bureaucratic stuff; I’m always afraid I’d stuff it up and end up botching the entire process. I’ve always been more than happy to throw money at people to do it for me. A friend of mine said that a migration agent, who is based in Malaysia, is charging about RM4.5k for the service, but I’m no sure if I want to deal with a migration agent in Malaysia. While migration agents here charge about $4k too for that service.

Lots of people are telling me that it’s really easy to do it yourself, but I freeze up when I see the massive amounts of text I have got to go through 😉

I’ll be bogging about the journey here, by the way, and you can sweat it out with me. 😉

 

 

I got my visa!

But my reaction was not what you’d think it’d be. I remember getting that call in March and my heart sank. Yes, it sank.

In a way, finally having the visa in my passport was an anti-climatic experience. I trudged to the Australian embassy in KL. Got security checked. Headed upstairs where I’ll get the visa. There was no queue. I headed to the counter. Lady asked for my passport, and she stuck something on it. And then she handed me the visa. Wala. I’m now a certified Australian resident. I felt relieved that my long journey of documents, tests and more documents have come to and end. But I was also confronted with the undeniable fact that NOW, I have to make that decision whether I should go or not. It’s not longer the question of what if, but when.

I had hoped that the visa would be granted later. I wasn’t ready. Still am not. Sometimes I wake up in the morning, wondering about my situation, dreading the day that I’ll have to pack up and leave.

Not exactly the expected reaction of a person who had spent lots of money to obtain a golden ticket to the “lucky country”, is it?

The thing is, life in Malaysia has gotten … well, fulfilling somewhat. Despite the chaos of the political situation. I have found a church that has become a wonderful support system for me, and while work isn’t the best thing ever (honestly, I’m still being overworked like crazy), it is tolerable.

But my friends are encouraging me to take the chance, to break out of my comfort zone.

Because the honest goodness truth is I’m just afraid to step out of my safety zone. I’m terrified of what’s out there … joblessness, uncertainty, no income … all this seems a wee overwhelming for me to deal with.

I wonder if any of you felt that way before the Big Move?

GSM changes … and I’m only very slightly worried. Hmm!

Last December, my migration agent called me very suddenly, saying that I have to lodge my application like now because their sources were telling that big changes are afoot in 2010 and I may not qualify if it does happen and my application is not in.

Getting together around RM7500 in just a day wasn’t an easy feat, but I managed to scrape through.

Two days ago, the Oz government unveiled drastic changes to the general skilled migration programme. The gist of it, if I understand the usually convulated immigration rules correctly, that those who applied before Sept 2007, where the English standards were lower, may have their applications revoked. In fact, around 20,000 applicants have been rejected. The only good news is that the Oz government will refund them the money, and it will apparently cost Australian taxpayers A$14mil. Well, they better, or the Oz government will be called a big fat crook, pocketing people’s money and leaving them without the visas promised!

I called my migration agent and he said that he will only call me on Friday to see if I’m affected as those really affected is in the front of the queue.

And even if I’m not affected now, I could be in the future when the lovely (right now in my mind, he’s an asshole, sorry) immigration minister decide to tell us all that those who applied for 475 visas before X date is now not eligible.

You know, surprisingly, I’m pretty calm about the announcement. I think before I’d have been running around in total despair, sure that my dream of rejuvenation, restoration and renewal in Down Under is over and I’m condemned to living the rest of my life in my office cubicle contending with the office bitches (and bastards) forever and ever….

But the whole process of applying for Australian residence has given me a fresher perspective about life in Malaysia. I suppose when you realise that you only have X amount of months left in Malaysia (if the visa application is successful, that is) you start to appreciate things.

Like how my job allows me to travel to different parts of the world a few times a year.

Like how my job allows me to take beach vacations in Bali or Krabi!

Like how I have a lovely 1000+ book library in my apartment.

Like how I live in a big apartment, with my own study and library, all by myself, a luxury I probably cannot afford in Oz.

Like how when I make an effort not to read about the shitty injustices that are happening in Malaysia, I don’t find living here such an awful experience after all.

And I began questioning my move to Australia. Is this something I needed? In fact, my shrink – yes dear readers, since you do not know me, I can tell you that I have one – asks me if the whole thing was an “emotional decision”.

It certainly was, I confess.

I’ve been feeling so very trapped in Malaysia when I made my decision. I felt that I had to do it, but I didn’t really have concrete or really logical reasons why I want to do it. It would have made better logical sense to move to Singapore – where I’ll not only probably get a job in my line but be close to my family, something that is important to me – or even South Korea, where I could teach English! But why stop there? There’s also Thailand, which requires people with my abilities. Why Australia? Uhm, cos I studied there and its nice and Western. Uhm, haha. 🙂 [Feels sheepish.]

The truth is, my desire is to strike out on my own into the world. But it took me some time to realise that I’m already doing so in my own way – my job gives me the ability to experience new cultures, and my paycheque enables me (to a tiny degree) to indulge in discovery holidays too.

Of course, I could still qualify for that elusive visa. I could still move to Australia. Everything is still up in the air, of course.

Whatever it is I just hope they get on with it so I can start planning properly for my future. 🙂

Maybe Singapore would want me … this whole process, with the immi laws constantly changing in Australia, gives me the impression that Oz doesn’t really want me. Hmph.

It’s getting tougher

You know, I shouldn’t waste my time worrying really. The Australian government is making it harder and harder for me to make the trek down under. They’ve been throwing limitations after limitations my way… I had to redo my VETASSESS because they removed the occupation I was nominated for. Then they are changing the assessment criteria by January 2010. Apparently I am not affected by that, but who’s to say that the next ruling will not affect me? The noose is tightening, so to speak.

Oh well. Am trying my very best to reign my paranoia in.

But if I don’t make it, the decision is made for me then. Perhaps it was just not meant to be. Perhaps it isn’t too bad to live in Malaysia. It’s funny, ever since I decided not to read news about the political situation in Malaysia, I’ve become decidedly happier.

No bad news is good news, I suppose!

Sometimes, for one third of a second, I do wish I studied accountancy instead of something I really loved. Just for a microsecond.

Got my IELTS results!

And I got a Band 9. Woot?!

Band 9: Expert User
Has fully operational command of the language: appropriate, accurate and fluent with complete understanding.

It’s like, the highest band one could get for IELTS.  (o_O)

A totally unexpected result.  My friends, who had to endure my whining for the past two weeks, were itching to bop me on the head. My best friend certainly wanted to kill me because I didn’t believe her reassurances – thank God she’s in Scotland.

But seriously, I only had a week to prepare, and even then I had to struggle to squeeze in time as I had an incredibly tight deadline at work that week. So, really, it was a very unexpected for me! I literally yelped in surprise when I saw the marks!

My results breakdown:

Listening – 8.5, Reading – 9, Speaking – 9, Writing – 8.5

For those planning to take the general training IELTS for migration (you can’t take the Academic version), here are some things I learned from sitting for the IELTS:

1. Because you need to be alert and attentive for your Listening exam, it’s best not to eat a high GI, carbo-rich breakfast as it tends to make you sluggish and dull your brain (it does for me anyway). I ate an omelette with mushrooms.

2. Read the instructions carefully! When I took the practice tests for Listening, I lost points because I didn’t read the instructions carefully. When they say “use only one to three words”, they mean it!

3. Take the free practice tests available online. Here’s one for listening, which was tougher than the one I got during my exam. I spent about six hours doing these tests until I got all of them right.

4. For Writing, make sure there are no spelling or grammatical errors. Also, break up your essay in a few paragraphs, and make sure each paragraph has one idea/point.

5. Reading – because time is of the essence, to enable you the check your answers later, underline the necessary parts in the essay that answers the question. For example, I will underline a line in the essay that answers question 8 with the no.8. Then, I would return to that portion later to recheck.

6. For the Listening bit, it’s vital to come up with a strategy to help you answer the questions. You have about a minute or two to peruse the questions before the audio is played. What I did was underline and try to memorise necessary key words such as time, colour of bag etc. That way, your mind would look out for the answers when the audio is played.

7. For Speaking – just be yourself, and try not to be nervous. (Yeah, easier said than done.) Try using a wide range of vocabulary, but make sure you use it right!

8. Read. A lot. This will help you improve your vocabulary.

9. Sometimes they ask you really weird questions during the Speaking exam; I think it’s not whether you have the right answer that counts, but the way you answer it that matters most. Just be natural and relax… oh yeah, don’t mumble. Make sure your words are clear so that the examiner can understand you.

It’s fortunate that my job enables me to utilise all four skills needed to pass the IELTS.

Listening is a very essential skill in my line of work – I have to both listen and record what the  person said accurately, often at the same time. Writing and reading? Well, since they’re both my hobbies … they’re not exactly work.  And speaking? I guess I’m luckier than most from non-English speaking countries as I was raised in a home where we spoke English. Okay, English mixed with Chinese.

But one thing that I helped me lots is watching TV. I watch so much US shows that I’ve inadvertently developed a slight American accent. (-_-“)

One of the things you need to do before sitting for  the IELTS Listening exam is to get used to the accents used. Apparently, the Iranian guy sitting next to me said that IDP Australia’s IELTS exam was tougher because he couldn’t figure  out the Aussie accents. I had no problems with the crisp, English accents in the British Council audio clips. So, some actually say that the British Council one is easier to do. But don’t take my word for it!

I was really glad the exam was over.

Unfortunately, the British Council f**ked up my birth date (which is why I couldn’t access my results online, grr!) and I had to get them to reissue me another cert. And that’s after messing up my ID no. Twice.

I glared at the British Council dude and told him that if they mess up my results and give me a cert that says “Band 6”, I would positively murder someone.

IELTS worries

Apologies for not updating for so long – life had taken over in a big way. For starters, I took my IELTS exam recently. Since I only prepared or it a week before the exam, the whole exam-taking was a nerve-wrecking experience. After all, it is my first exam in 10 years!

People kept saying that I’ll ace the exam, but I’ve learned never to underestimate exams. So I am incredibly nervous about the results that I will be getting. As luck would have it the Australian government increased the passing marks for 475 visa to 6.5. (Though to qualify for PR, you need 7).

I felt that I was weak in the Listening portion of the exam so I practised using the handy IELTS workbook that the migration agency gave me. Listening is pretty tricky – the audio is played only once and you need to be very, very attentive to ace the exam.

I found Reading pretty tricky too – while most of the comprehension questions were straightforward, the last portion was damn tricky again. Having to choose between “false” and “not given” drove me a little nuts. The Speaking test was kinda fun because, hey, I love to talk. And writing? I just have no idea how I’ll be marked, so I’m the least confident about it. 😦

But the exam is over and I’m on my knees praying for a favourable result. Just give me a 7.0. God!

 

 

In the shadow of facism

Oh Lord,
My document hassle never ends. I couriered my documents to the migration agent, but the agent calls me and tells me that the documents never arrived at his office! It’s now two days since I gave that document to the dispatch guy and I’m seriously thinking that it’s lost.

I belatedly realised that the courier service guy did not give me the consignment number or a receipt. At that time I knew something was missing, but since I was new to this whole courier thing didn’t know what to ask. He told me it’s all okay.

Knew I should’ve just delivered the docs to the agent personallly!

Sometimes I wonder if this is God’s way of saying: Don’t leave Malaysia for Adelaide!

Sure, Malaysia is threatening to erupt into racial violence any time soon because the government-of-the-day is spewing racist rhetoric, but maybe I can ignore it and continue live in relative comfort. Maybe I’ll wake up with people baying for my Chinese blood on the streets one day but until then I can enjoy life.

I was being sarcastic, by the way. People  can’t tell when I’m being sarcastic.

It’s a little funny. Yesterday my colleagues and I were discussing the latest racist rhetoric from a government minister, and the talk shifted to migration.

Both said that they will not stop their kids from migrating. In fact, both said the would encourage it. Then one of them said: “You have cousins in Australia, why don’t you migrate?”

It’s a weird situation. Here am I, already processing my application, but I have to keep it a secret because the last thing I wanna do is tip them off that my seat will be vacant in a year or two (hopefully, two). So I lied to them and said that I don’t have enough money to migrate – not exactly a lie. (There are so many bills coming my way I wonder what will be left to bring over to Oz.)

warsaw ghetto childA lot of Malaysians are migrating because they’re afraid. I am moving away because I’m thirsting for adventure (mostly) and also because I’m afraid for my future in this country.

There will be years more of turmoil before Malaysia achieves any kind of balance. Even if PKR wins the next General Election, we’d have to contend with the religious extremists in PAS who would most likely push their weight around.

Imagine living under a cloud of fear and uncertainty every day. Imagine feeling helpless about your life. Imagine feeling like you’re standing on the train tracks, and could see a train barelling towards you, but feel to helpless to move? That’s how I feel like being in Malaysia.

It caused me a lot of stress. In fact, some days I’m so depressed about the whole thing I drag my feet around. Some people wonder why I feel so fearful – aiyah, enjoy life and ignore themlah! But I can’t do that.

I think about how the Jews lived in Nazi Germany (before they were carted off to the camps), and I see parallels with how we’re (the Chinese, at least) living in Malaysia now. The Jews never thought things would get that far. The Jews tried their best to ignore the racist and fascist rhetoric of the Nazis and lived their lives. They tahan and tahan despite having their rights stripped one by one away.

They say that things will never get too far, that no sane people would kill others just because they are of a different skin colour or religious belief, but look what happened to the Jews in Nazi Germany? Was it wrong for some of the Jews to flee Germany before the time came?

I know, some of you would probably be saying – aiyah, pleaselah! Don’t be so dramatic. But I guess we have two choices: Flee or stand up and fight.

Unfortunately, and I’m honest enough to say this, I’m too chicken shit to stay.

Document hassle

Sorry I’ve been incognito. Balancing work, life and the migration process is a very daunting task, I discover. For one, getting one piece of document can be such a long-winded affair.

I did a twinning programme with a local college and studied in Australia for a year. I’ve always thought that the most difficult document to get was from the Australian university. Ironically, it’s the local college that’s giving me an endless headache.

With the Australian university, all that I had to do was call the university’s student services, pay for it via credit card, and I got the transcripts in a week.

With the local college, it was a far more complicated matter.

First, they told me that they lost my transcripts. Yes, the stupid college lost them because they never bothered to put it in an electronic database. I was told that they kept the transcripts in boxes in some store room, for God’s sakes. Thank God I was a meticulous document keeper. I gave them my copies so that they can compile a one- to two-page transcript.

I called the college on the same day I called the Australian university and emailed them my transcripts.

Well, the transcript came two weeks later. With one semester missing!

Better, they didn’t provide the one-page transcript that they promised.

I’ve had it up to here with Malaysian incompetence. We’re a culture that promotes mediocrity, as the recent reversal to Bahasa Malaysia for Science and Maths subjects demonstrated. It’s a cancer that has spread and will continue to spread.

Ugh!

Well, I have to continue pestering the bloody college for my documents. It has been a month since I started this process and I am just so thankful that my agents are handling the other documents such as police record etc, because I’m not that eager to do it myself!

Shh! It’s a secret!

shhThe funniest thing, or the not-so-funny thing about my whole migration process is that I have to keep it a secret from most of the people I know – especially my workplace friends and bossess! Of course, that’s for obvious reasons.

When I have to call the migration agency, I’d go to a secluded corner and whisper. Worse, I’d have to somehow get certain documents from them without them knowing why I’m really getting them.

My agent said that they will even “disguise” their calls by saying that they’re from a different company if they call my office. I find that funny.

I am pretty close to my workplace friends. We go out for dinners and even “beauty trips” together. So, it’s really tough to keep it a secret from them.

I feel very fortunate about working in the job I have now. It’s not perfect, certainly, but I’m 80% happy at my work. The benefits are good, the pay is adequate (pay can always be higher!) and I get to travel overseas a few times a year. It is, in all aspects, a dream job.

I have the nicest bosses. At least in my department. I’m glad I got to experience having great bosses but at the same time it makes all this espionage harder for me. I also dread the day where I have to give them my resignation letter. I know, this is probably strange. I’m a loyalist – I’ve stayed in this job for 10 over years now, and I’ll probably stay for 10 years more if the case of restlessness had not struck me.

Adieu great workplace, adieu…