Dodging the annual bullet



[ Note from Noel : Just fair warning to you precious reader, this rant & rave probably beats all others in self-centeredness and introspection; I might as well put in length and depressingly longwinded as added attractions, pasensya na po; congrats and good luck to the marathon ambitions of Atty Cristina Godinez, Efren and Vangie Gregorio and Richard Yao, happy birthdays to Susan Lao (4th Nov), Ramon Tan Jr (5th) and two of our favorite kabatch across the miles, Annette Sy (7th) and Joy Rosenbaum (10th). Woohoo! ]

When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong.  You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt, I am the Lord your God. – Leviticus 19:33-34 ESV

IF I HAD my way I would run around the block everyday the Lord made (or bawa’t araw na ginawa ng Diyos sounds a little better).  Wind, rain and hale, erratic work scheds and the inevitable laziness creep in sometimes inconveniently but, on the whole, running, besides the obvious fitness and aesthetic aspects (keeps my love handles at a certain size), lends structure to my ADHD life.  I know that if I can’t decide between pigging out, reading, playing Tri-Peaks Solitaire or watching old DVDs, I can just lace up, trot around manicured lawns, wave at dogwalkers (and their dogs), gawk at babysitters (and their babies) and scoot away from aging motorists (and their death machines) and do something productive while marking the time.

[ By the way, it’s just a figurative block.  Actually it’s around 15-20 minutes’ worth of running, more like 5 to 6 blocks + an entire high school grounds worth of perimeter; and if I want to extract at least three-quarter hour’s exercise I have to run the route twice and then some. ]

The last few weeks, I’ve needed the running a little more : it relieves a little of the stress while applying for a new Work Visa.  Not reapplying, which implies some continuity of the old visa, or renewing, which recognizes the existence of the current one, but applying for a new visa, which is in our native Taglish back to zero or zero balance.  Such is the nature of temporary residence in NZ, which should by rights be expected from a First World country, albeit one sorely affected by the 2008 subprime economic crisis and whose primary industries are sensitive to the movements of international debt markets and rates of exchange.

There’s been no exact date since I started applying, but definitely it’s around this time of the year.  Fittingly, everything comes to life in Wellington: birds dogs and humans are warmer and therefore happier, days are longer, and nights are toastier.  Barbecues are inevitable and ball games of every sort pop up everywhere.  But I can never allow the general aroma of bliss (sort of like everything’s right in the world) to completely overwhelm me.

Roughly half of the 30,000-plus ethnic Filipinos in NZ came here on a “Work To Residence” Visa (WTR), meaning they met the requirements set by Immigration NZ, were invited to search for employment here that matched the set of skills they possessed, and promised permanent residence if they were successful in their search. Theoretically it sounds quite promising, but in practice… (I’m making kibit-balikat, waving my palms around and whispering Bahala na if you can see me now… better yet, click here for a personal account.)

The other half came here courtesy of various visas (Visit Visas, Student Visas, Working Holiday Visas, there are a few more) ,  and were somehow able to obtain Work Visas based on skills deemed crucial to the New Zealand economy.  Those skills are listed under the so-called Short-term Skills Shortage List and Long-term Skills Shortage List.

For better or for worse, I’m in the second class of workers.  Yup, the visit visa was turned into a work visa, another work visa and yet another work visa.  Yehey!

Not to be overly dramatic about it, but my blessing is also my curse.  I nearly gave up March 2008 on finding a job that would allow the (remote) possibility  of permanent residence before a referral by a kabayan ( Thanks Ross C! ) led me to being hired as a trainee miller, then as an assistant miller in Wellington.  But because the job was taken off both the short-term and long-term lists, I could never use the job as a springboard to staying in NZ permanently.  In short, I could choose to shoot for the moon and look for another job in the lists, or stick with the job that landed on my lap, and hope against hope to have luck on my side every time I needed to apply for a new Work Visa.

Which was what I was doing now, and unlike previous years, I was more or less prepared to meet any uncertainty (but how do you know if they’re by nature uncertain, hmm?).

Proof that Kiwis weren’t interested in my job?  I had newspaper, internet and Work and Income ads, even internal circulars that advertised a vacancy for a milling career, promising humble wages but lots of responsibilities (not good attractions for the locals).

Evidence of stability and consistency in my employment?  I had been in the same position since 2008, , enrolled courses to be certified in my trade, and had taken Health and Safety and accessory courses to help me improve my performance.

Just to be on the safe side, I secured declarations from the employer that there simply wasn’t enough interest in the job among Kiwis and locals and not more was expected, now or in the near future.

Just two weeks before my Visa was to expire, the carefully laid plan for me to seamlessly weave between my old and (hopefully) new Visa hit a snag.  My NBI / police clearance was two years old, and I had to get a new one.

I moved heaven and earth to get a substitute document, but because I was cutting it close, every effort had to be nanoseconds fast, and I had to use multiple approaches.  I requested the Ministry of Justice here to issue a document stating I had no criminal record, a process that inexplicably took 10 working days; I asked a big favor from a bro back home for a police clearance from their local PNP precinct, and I of course spun like a trumpo trying to renew my NBI clearance, which believe you me wasn’t easy with a window of less than two weeks.

All told, I was able to lodge my application with the deficiencies requested a week before Doomsday.  Unlike previous years, TWO lives were dependent on such application, mine and that of esposa hermosa.  Of course, another two academic careers back home (that of Ganda and Bunso) would also be drastically affected by a negative decision, so it’s only the most important decision of my life. 😉 For all the hospitable working environments so far that I have encountered here, political realities dictate that every effort is made to accommodate locals before foreign guest workers continue working here.  I know how the game is played, especially during election season.  But to be blunt about it, I don’t want to go home ; the work visa is my all-or-nothing ticket to stay, for now.

It’s the bullet I dodge, every year.

Thanks for reading !

Noel

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3 thoughts on “Dodging the annual bullet

  1. Pingback: Gauge nowhere near “F” &amp Golden City on the event horizon | YLBnoel's Blog

  2. Pingback: Darkest Before Dawn | YLBnoel's Blog

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