Life in Caracas was stressful. Everybody had guns. I was robbed at gunpoint a few times. We used to carry dummy mobile phones to give to thieves in the traffic. My father and I were even ‘express-kidnapped’ by three guys once, who took us to the ATM to empty our accounts. They even took our car. When Chavez changed the constitution allowing himself to be president indefinitely, I realised that things were not going to change for a long time in Venezuela.

My wife and I first tried to apply to migrate to Canada. But after 7 years of waiting for an answer, we found out we hadn’t been approved due to an email they had missed. By then, I was really keen to leave because everything was really deteriorating, and there was a scarcity of food, medicine, and petrol.

We were both graphic designers but we decided to give that up to come to Australia on student visas. I applied for a BA in Visual Arts, which would allow my wife to work full time while I studied. But when I arrived, I was told that because of a course change I was actually no longer enrolled in a Bachelor degree; that instead I was enrolled in a Certificate IV, which meant my wife could only work part time!

Another bad thing happened with us. We had saved a lot of money to come to Australia, but two days before our flight, there was a devaluation of our currency, and overnight, we had only half the value of our money. So coming here was really hard. We had everything planned out financially and everything just fell apart.

I ended up having to work as a cleaner in addition to studying. There is actually a stigma about doing those kinds of jobs in my country. I remember telling one of my aunts that I worked as a cleaner and she started crying! But I was not ashamed, and I was prepared to work hard. It was difficult at first, especially when I started doing domestic cleaning, as some people were rude and demeaning. But at the same time, I also met a lot of great people, some of whom are still friends to this day.

The hardest thing for us was that even though I did a Cert IV and Diploma here and sent out more than 300 resumes, I was only called once for an interview. That was when I started doubting myself. I started to lose my confidence in my skills, thinking that maybe I was just good for cleaning.

It took me 5 years to find a job in my field. For the last 2 years, I’ve been doing marketing for a local company in Geelong who own a restaurant, a nightclub, and an art gallery. But with COVID, the businesses are not operating, so I’m currently on Jobkeeper.

My wife already had a degree in baking in addition to graphic design, but she couldn’t even find a job as a baker here, because her credentials were not recognised. So she had to study baking again. Eventually she got sponsored by a bakery in Geelong, on the 457 visa.

Then, the week before we were going to apply for permanent residency, the government scrapped that visa. At that time, we thought, “That’s it! If we can’t get residency, then why bother?” We even listed everything on Gumtree for sale! Luckily, she was offered a 187 visa, which was permanent residency straight away.

I knew it was going to be hard moving here, but I just didn’t realise it would be so hard. Still, we have kept going, and we’re really happy we did, because there’s no other place we’d rather be. Despite all the challenges, in Australia we’ve found the kind of stability and lifestyle we were looking for, and for the first time in a long time we feel safe.

Arrived 2013

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