The Colombians, Glen Eira, Part One

We follow the Hawks in footy. If they’re on TV we watch the game, even if they’re losing – it’s a nightmare if they are losing – but it is good, we share time and we say, ‘Come on!! Come on!!’ 

An audio snippet from this interview with Colombiana: 

 Colombiana, perhaps you could start by telling me at a little bit about a normal day for you.

A normal day for me on weekdays or weekends? I have two different days. On weekdays, with my kids I wake every day at 7-7:20am and then I get ready myself and then I get ready to drop my son to school. Then I remain with my younger daughter. She’s with me all the time. On Wednesdays she goes to childcare, but Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday she’s with me. So we have a lot of activities so that she can learn English because we speak Spanish at home and she needs to learn English so she can go to school and have a normal life. We normally go to the library Baby Time and Story Time, and we have mother’s group so we can join them at the park. This is always between 9am and 12noon and then I prepare lunch. This is more important than dinner. We have a big meal at lunch time. So I prepare lunch and I have lunch together with my daughter and then at 3:30pm, if it’s raining I take the car and pick up my son, but if it’s not I will always walk. It depends on the weather. We go home to my place, he has lunch, and then on Wednesdays I take him to tennis lessons and on Thursday he goes to rock climbing lessons and now he’s going to swimming lessons on Friday. He was going before on Saturdays but we changed to Fridays so that we can have the Saturday – so we can do whatever we want and not always be going to swimming. We can have the whole day off. So this is Monday to Friday. On Wednesday because I don’t have any chance with a child there, because my daughter goes to childcare, I try always to do something with a friend, to have a coffee or whatever, but if not, I’m at home. In the morning, I try to get the house ready and do cleaning and everything. At 2.30pm I have Japanese lessons. Studying Japanese is quite difficult. They have three different alphabets. I don’t remember how the first one is called, but the second one is katakana and the third one is kanji. I’m at the second level.

On Saturdays we try to share time with my husband. He is working every day in office hours so we can’t share much time with him on weekdays. On Sundays we wake up early as my younger one has swimming lessons at 800 to 830am and then we get ready to go to church and then we can go to the shopping centre or museums, parks or just stay at home and see a movie. This is what we normally do. We follow the Hawks in footy. If they’re on TV we watch the game, even if they’re losing – it’s a nightmare if they are losing – but it is good, we share time and we say, “Come on!! Come on!!”

Tell me, have you always lived in Australia?

No. We have been living here in Australia for the last four years-ish. We arrived on 2 May 2013.

Where did you come from?

Colombia?

What was like life in Colombia?

Hm!! Different. In Colombia, Monday to Friday, I was working in a company that supplied plastics for the big retailers, similar to Woollies, Coles and Aldi here. I was working 7.30am to 6pm but maybe 30% of the time I was travelling to other cities in Colombia because I needed to know every single detail. A little bit like going to Canberra or Sydney to see how things are going, if the products are on the shelves or not. So I was working a lot. My job was quite far from my home so I had to wake up at 5.30am and get ready and then my son got ready to go to school on the bus. It picked him up at 6:10am, then he went to school and then the bus dropped him home at 3 or 4:10 pm and I was unable to pick him up so my parents always picked him up because I was often home at 8pm. It often took an hour to get to my home and then Monday to Friday, if I travelled, I had to take a first flight to go wherever I had to go. It was so hard. My son basically was raised by my parents and he shared more time with my husband then with me. So now for example if you ask him, “Who is the person you love the most?”, he will say, “My sister and my father”, and then, “my mother”.  It’s like, “Oh yay, I’m the third!” It’s okay. Actually, I’m the fourth because he says the first one is God. It’s quite heart-breaking. Then Saturday is the day we had to do all the bank stuff, because in Colombia we don’t have many Internet procedures, so if you need to move money you have to go to a bank. I’m not sure now if they have an Internet processes but then we had to go on Saturdays. The banks are open 8am to 12pm and that was the time that we had to do all the bank stuff and go to the shops. All the things I had to do for my family had to be done on a Saturday. Now I can do shopping on weekdays. Now I can have the weekends with my family. In Colombia, I had to do everything on Saturdays. Then on Sundays as we visited our grandma, my husband’s grandma, and my parents. If someone was having a birthday that was where we went. So life was quite different in Colombia. Life was more stressful. You had less time to do what you needed to do. People are always in a rush. Here life is more quiet and more relaxed. So that was my life in Colombia.

What was it that brought you here?

When I was at school … well first, I had an aunt who was living in France here whole life. I don’t remember when she went to live in France. When I saw her living in France always I thought, “Life is better outside Colombia, overseas”, and then I started to think that Colombia was not the place I wanted to live. I love my country and I miss my country, miss my family, my friends, everything, but I also know that life. I don’t like the lifestyle in Colombia, to be honest. One day my aunt came to Colombia and she said, “Do you want to live overseas? I said, “Yes”, and she gave me some money. She told me, “Okay, this is the money so whenever you finish Uni you can go buy a ticket and you can come to France to live with me and stay with me. I said, “Okay”.

So when I was at Uni I always thought that I was going to live in France, and I started learning French, but then I met my husband. I should say I met him when I was 14 years old but I fell in love with him 10 years after that. So he wanted our relationship to be more serious and I said, “OK, we can do this, but I’m going to go to live in France in about two years, so are you sure that you want to stay with me here for these two years because I’ve made a decision I’m going to live there.” He said, “I’ll go with you”, and I said, “OK”. So we decided to stay together and then I became pregnant and then we got married. We had to cancel the plans to leave to France and meanwhile there was a crisis in Europe so France wasn’t a good place to live.

So we started drawing up a big list of all possible countries where we would like to live. This included things like lifestyle, unemployment rate in those countries and how the people who live in those countries react to those who come from overseas. Racism. We never thought of Australia. We shared with some close friends that we would like to live overseas and one of them told my husband, “You know my friend is living in New Zealand and she’s coming next week. If you want, you can come and meet her.” We didn’t know New Zealand. We hadn’t thought about this part of the world so we went to this meeting with her but we didn’t like what we heard of New Zealand, but that day we thought, “But what about Australia. It’s close to New Zealand. If we are thinking of moving to New Zealand we can go to Australia. Let’s check it straight out”. Australia was a really good option, so at the end of the list we had Canada and Australia. I didn’t like Canada because of the weather. I don’t like the winters. I thought, “No way”. The other thing was that in Canada we could not work the first year. I don’t remember the reason. Maybe because we need to learn French. But the thing was that we couldn’t work the first year and we didn’t have enough money to go to Canada, which is an expensive country if you compare it to Colombia. For my husband that was the main reason but for me the weather. Australia has to be warm. No, I’m going to Australia. So we made a decision to come to Australia. We saw that Australia was a multicultural country, the weather was nice, and we saw the life style, that people are nice and there is no racism against people from overseas. That’s why we decided to come to Australia. It was expensive. If you compare Canada and Australia, Australia was much more expensive in the migration process but I preferred to pay more money at the beginning instead of paying less money and then thinking, “I don’t like the weather” and feeling like that wasn’t a good country to come to, just because of the weather.

So how are you finding the Australian weather?

For me it’s good. Winter is cold but it’s not that bad. I thought that summer was going to be warm all the time whereas it is only two or three weeks in January. I like the weather today. If there is anything I don’t like it is that I have allergies. When it’s raining and it’s really wet I have hayfever. That’s the only thing I don’t like.

In what other ways has your life changed since coming to Australia?

In Colombia, you can’t raise a child by yourself. You have to have a nanny or family or someone with them to help you. Here in Australia I have the opportunity to be with them, and only one of us has to work. The other one can be with the kids. This is different in Colombia. Both people need to work otherwise you can’t pay for things. For me the main difference is being with the kids. When we came I had one son and the younger one was born here in Australia, but I never thought I could be with her. When I was in Colombia I could only have time with him at night for couple of minutes because he was going to bed. In Australia, I can pick him up, take him to swimming, to tennis, to whatever he wants, and always have time with them, which is amazing. The other difference, I think, is security. In Colombia, there are some places that you cannot go with the phone or even with your money at a bank. With your money at the bank you can be assaulted. Here, it’s so relaxed. You can have the phone and talk for a long time and no one will hurt you. For me those two things have changed a lot.

Tell me, if someone who didn’t know you saw you on the street, what is something that they would be surprised to know about you.

My age. People think that I’m in my 20s. My son is now nine years old, and recently he was doing triathlon with my husband. The kids started at 6am and it took an hour for him to finish. I thought I needed to go to the toilet while my husband was still free otherwise I would not have enough time because I would be looking after the two kids while my husband was running. So I said, “Could you please stay with the kids?” and the toilet was busy so I was in line and the lady behind me just started talking. She asked me, “Why are you here?” and I said, “Because of my son”. The minimum age to run the track is seven or eight years old and so she asked, “your what”, and I repeated a couple of times “my son” I thought she didn’t understand me because of my accent. Maybe my accent was not that good. I just assumed there was something wrong with my accent. She asked me, “How do you have a son?”, and I said (smiling), “Well, with my husband, and we decided to have a son”, and she said, “No, no. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. No. You look 17 years old.” My age is a common thing people mention to me. They never think that I’m 34. They always think I’m in my 20s, that I’m younger. That’s the main thing.

Is there anything else that you’d like to tell the reader?

I don’t know. I was learning German when I was at school, for two years. I used to remember some words and the numbers. The first word that I learnt was an impolite word. Everyone was saying that word and I thought of I’ll say that word. So I was saying that word and then my teacher came to me and said, “Do you know what that word means?” and I said, “No”, and the teacher said, “This is what it means it, ….” and I said, “Oh, I’m so sorry”. I didn’t know. I was quite ashamed.

How is it that you came to study Japanese?

Because my son is studying at a bilingual school. I’m not sure about Australia, but in Victoria there are few schools that are bilingual, and this is one of them, it’s bilingual with Japanese. So he is doing half of the time in Japanese and the other half in English. So he speaks almost 3 languages, English and Spanish as well as Japanese. He’s doing well, so now, for example, I hear him talking in Japanese with someone in the school and I’m completely lost. So I decided, “Okay, I can also learn to speak Japanese”. It’s so difficult but doing it with him it’s easier. I ask him, “How do you say this in Japanese?”, or “If someone asked me this, how should I reply?” He helps me a lot. So the main reason was because he is learning Japanese and I wanted to go to Japan. I know we could go now. He is ready to talk in Japanese but I also want to learn Japanese so maybe I’ll be ready by the time we go to Japan – probably in three years – so that at least then I can say something like I’m thirsty or something. So that’s why I started training and studying Japanese.

Thank you so much for your time. Is there anything else that you would like to add?

Hello, Australia! I love Australia!

It’s great having you here!

Read the Spanish language version of this interview at the blog, De Colombia Hacia Australia (From Colombia to Australia), with our thanks to Colombiano for translation.

This interview is part of the This Is Us Australia project. If you are interested in taking part, please read our Project Description and use our Contact page or email us at thisisusaustralia at gmail.com.

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