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Confession of an Immigrant

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This is a story of an immigrant who had to adjust to a stressful new way of life in another part of the country because job was scarce in the economic crisis. That immigrant was me.

The economic crisis made many of us jobless. Jobs were scarce back home. I had no choice, but to look for jobs away from home. After some time, I found a job in another part of the country, some 400 kilometers away from home and started my life as an immigrant. This is a story of what I experienced as I tried to adjust to a stressful new way of life.

The job was in the service industry. This was different from what I had been doing at my last job in the factory. There was so much to adjust to.

The job was new. How do I get it done right? How do I please the customers and yet be firm on the business procedures. What are the company’s policy, procedures, and directions? Who were the clients and colleagues that I had to work with? How do I get along with my colleagues and be part of the team? And the claims, reports and other paper work. Being new to the industry I had to adjust to a different way of doing things.

And the boss. What were his likes and dislikes, his expectations and rules? I found that there were two bosses I had to report to. I did not want to make any stupid mistakes and get marked out for the rest of my career. I remembered a saying that goes like this – “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” I had to do it right the first time.

Then, there was the location of the job. How do I know my way around? Getting a map and studying it gave me some sense of direction on where I was and where I had to go to service my client. I did spend some time pouring over the map, exploring the routes taken by the cars, buses and the trains and trying them out during my off days.

I drove a car. This did pose another challenge. The road signs were not very clear or complete. Sometimes, I missed the turnings and had to find my way back to where I started. The other vehicles moving very fast on both left and right side of my car were another matter. Luckily, despite the hesitation on my part when moving along with the traffic, this did not resulted in any accidents.

Getting a place to stay was another challenge. The first place I found was an extremely small room within an apartment with just enough space to put a mattress on the floor. As you can expect, for someone who had to travel light, there was no way I could carry a bed around. Just a mattress will do.

The apartment had a parking lot which I had to pay to park. But it was a good 10 minutes walk from my apartment. And it was not sheltered from the weather. Sometimes, I was caught in the rain just to get in and out of the car. At another time, I had to go on business away from my residence for a few weeks, leaving my car parked in the parking lot. When I came back, the car could not be started. The battery was flat. Perhaps, it was because the car itself was not in excellent condition in the first place. The battery drained off by itself.

Driving to work and coming back was also very time-consuming. The distance from my residence to my work place was about 30 kilometers away. In addition to that, there were traffic jams during the peak hours which coincided with the time I went to and came back from work. Finding my way around was also a challenge.

In addition to that, there did not seem to be any food stalls nearby selling food that suited my palate. And then I discovered that the other tenants in the same apartment smoked cigarettes. Sometimes the whole house will be filled with smoke. I knew that the second-hand smoke that I breathe will not do me any good but will harm my lungs.

As time went on, I gradually became more familiar with my surroundings, boss, work, and decided to shift to another location which was nearer to my work place. How did I find another place? The obvious choice for me was the local newspaper classified advertisements. With the help of my map, I studied the “room-for-rent” advertisements and short listed a few, and telephoned the owners to enquire about the rental rates and made several appointments to view the rooms. I was not very successful because I still did not know the locality very well yet. Some of the advertisements were for rooms that were just as far if not further than my present location.

My break came after I approached a relative who happened to know a friend who had a room for rent. I immediately jumped at the offer to view the room. As I was rather desperate by then, I decided to take it after I had viewed the house and the room.

Well, this house was better in some ways to the previous house. It was not an apartment, but a landed double-storied house built as a gated community that included facilities like swimming pool and gymnasium. The other tenant was a girl who does not smoke and the room was bigger.

But there was another problem which I did not realize before I moved in. The parking lot for the house was just enough for one car. So whenever anyone of us whose car was parked inside wanted to drive out, the other person whose car was parked outside had to shift his/her car. This was very troublesome but could be overlooked given the comparatively better situation than before.

However, there was a serious matter that simply begs for action. The one factor that I overlooked when I decided to move into that house was the high voltage electric cables running parallel to the house. They were very near, perhaps about 30 feet away from the house. Just below the house was an electric sub-station where step-down transformers would be installed. I had read reports about electromagnetic radiation risks from these high powered electromagnetic fields and I did not like the idea of being so near to them. It was not healthy for me to wait to find out whether they really can cause cancer to a person.

So, it was time to look for another place to stay again and to do it urgently. This time, I decided to look for a whole house instead of a room. I figured out that if I were to stay comfortably, I should be staying with more privacy, and it would be money well spent. Well, life is not about just making money.

This time I searched the internet instead of looking at the newspapers. In some ways, this was better. I could search more efficiently, sorting them according to my budget and location. I could also do comparisons more easily and some of these websites even provided maps to show the actual locations of the property.

I managed to call up some prospects to make appointments for viewing the apartments. As I had quite limited budgets and would be staying alone, my target was to go for the so-called “studio apartments”. After some attempts, I managed to find a suitable studio apartment and moved in.

I must say that I am satisfied with it because for the past one year I had been staying there. Meanwhile during this time, I had become more familiar with my surroundings, made new friends, found suitable places for food and got used to the facilities.

I have also become more familiar with the work, the places I had to travel to, my boss, my colleagues, and the job expectations.

The stressful period of a first time immigrant was over. I have become a resident.

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