Friday, April 12, 2013

people who wear jumpers during heatwaves

Of the many Filipinos I’ve worked with or known, there was only ever one that I disliked.

[Well, I won’t add Imelda Marcos to the list of unlikeables. I’ve never actually met her. Besides, Imelda’s a special case – a nut case.]

In the previous post I provided some clues about how we came to invite JJ [our Filipina house guest] into the days of our lives in Franger.

When JJ first arrived in Oz, her mum and my cuz picked her up from Tulla and took her straight home to a small town which has a pub, a dozen houses, and 12 billion sheep. JJ had left a rather green place in the tropics and suddenly found herself in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by brown paddocks.

somewhere on the Zamboanga peninsula

She wasn’t sure Australia was all it’s cracked up to be.

somewhere in NE Victoria

After a few days, the family went to Kyabram for a day out with the district’s Filipino community. Maybe Kyabram was not too bad… at least it has some shops.


To get a student visa, JJ had enrolled in a TAFE course in Aged Care – the price for overseas students exceeds $5,000. There’s a shortage of Aged Care workers in Australia, though heaven knows why – a minimum wage is nothing to complain about, is it?

The course JJ enrolled in was to be delivered at the Franger campus. [I won’t give you any more clues about which TAFE, because I would hate anyone to sue me. Though, win or lose they would be sorely disappointed.]

When everyone rocked up for orientation, the overseas students were loaded onto a bus and driven to a Dandenong Campus. They were told there had been a change of plan and their course would now be delivered at Dandenong. Most of them had arranged accommodation on the Frankston line but, hey, shit happens.

Next, the overseas students [a major source of export income for Australia] were told their course would start 5 weeks later than the Oz Student/Frankston Aged Care Course.

I guess the cost of 5 weeks accommodation on the Frankston line is not too much money down the drain for people from Third World Countries. Some countries don't even have drains.
I mean, shit happens and if it has to happen, at least these students are better off than other people ‘back home’ who do not have the means to rustle up $6 thou for airfares and tuition fees.

JJ has a B. Sc. in Nursing and in the Philippines is registered as a Div 1 Nurse. There is a shortage of Div 1 Nurses in Oz, though heaven knows why. Crappy pay is nothing to worry about, surely, if you really have a calling?

JJ is in debt up to her eyeballs and has left behind her husband, her 5 year old daughter and an extended family to spend at least 6 months living with strangers in the hope that she can eventually become an Australian citizen. The TAFE course is just the first step in a longer-term plan.


For the first 5 weeks she was at our place, JJ rarely emerged from her room. We suspect that she spent a lot of time crying. At least she can talk with family and friends using Skype, we thought. At first her daughter didn’t “get” the skype thing, and wouldn’t come and speak to her mum cause she was busy playing. It left JJ too much time to think about how much debt she was in.

The fifth week we asked JJ would she like to visit the zoo. Finally, we saw a smile and some excitement. Did she want to see koalas? No. She wanted to see kangaroos. 

In fact, I don’t think we even got past the kangaroos and baby elephants and orang - utans and meerkats in time to see koalas. The maps provided by the zoo are bloody useless and before you say anything, Andrew, I can read a [decent] map – even if I couldn't possibly drive a vintage motor vehicle.


Finally, the TAFE course started and JJ’s mood lifted, possibly because there was at least some reason to be here, so far from home. She made some friends at TAFE, and they all “take a plate” to TAFE and share some familiar food each day, buffet style.

There is an electricity supply in her village at home, but it’s so unreliable people continue living as if it doesn’t exist. Fish and rice are the staple diet, with fish and vegetables prepared in some weird way using vinegar so it lasts forever.

None of the fish sold round these parts looks fresh enough to eat for someone used to buying fresh fish directly from boats.

TO took her fishing off the Franger pier one day and they both managed to catch some garfish and a few mullet. JJ made short work of the garfish, with the skeletons at the side of her plate reminding me of cat cartoons.

She then did the pickling thing with the mullet, and ate a little every night for a week. Unfortunately, subsequent fishing expeditions weren’t so successful.


Before coming to Australia, JJ had never seen an automatic washing machine or a vacuum cleaner. TO informed me that when I was showing JJ how to vac and mop [her share of the housework] I sounded like a plantation manager talking down to one of my slaves. My only defence is that I find vacuuming stairs a back-breaking business, and I was excited to palm the job off, okay?
Well, alright, I was probably also thinking we only need one more house guest and I’ll never have to get off my fat bum again – I might be lazy, but I’m also honest.

It’s a relief all round that JJ is starting to open up, laugh a little, and even watch some TV with us. We’re all gradually getting to know each other. And the carpet on the stairs is clean.

After 3 months at Franger JJ has not rioted, staged a protest, destroyed anything, demanded anything or even complained.

It's only FruitCake here who is one of those Australian Whingers La Gina “complains” about, because I wouldn’t have been impressed so far if I were in JJ’s shoes. The MYKI system alone would have tipped me over the edge.


  1. After reading this I want to shake your hand and give JJ a hug. May she pass every subject with flying couloirs!

    1. Kath, I think JJ would appreciate the hug if she wasn't so shy, but she is certainly the one who deserves a shake of the hand.

      In the next instalment... more about tests and tafes [well, my whole blog is full of bitching about tafes, so why not just keep on and on about it?]

      She'll pass, and this time she'll get the right result!

  2. I recall hearing a counsellor from Melb Uni talking about overseas students and how they adjust to life here and you cannot imagine the things that pop up in their day to day lives that cause them great stress. Well, perhaps you can.

    It is not good enough for idiotic bureaucracies to play games with them when they are paying good money for courses and are somewhat trapped.

    I know what you mean about zoo maps. I am getting well over stylised maps.

    1. Idiotic is exactly the word, Andrew. Oh well, let's add callous.

  3. Really enjoyed this post FC..We (well not you now) really don't have any idea of the difficulties overseas students face every day here or wherever that's not home. I think JJ will definitely ace her exams she seems pretty determined after all she's been through and I think she's also very lucky to have found her way to you. Laughed when you mentioned the vacuuming, me too with the back ache.. Tell Jj I'm going to take some kangaroo shots just for her..

    1. Special kangaroo shots? You've already posted some pretty amazing shots of roos. Well, of lots of things really. I'll email her some links!