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[Interview] Chiruza Canadiense, An Argentinian Stuck in Immigration Limbo

Chiruza Canadiense - Dreaming of Canada
Chiruza Canadiense – Dreaming of Canada

Update: Things turned very weird with “Chiruza Canadiense later on. She did make it to Canada but the country didn’t live up to expectations and she wasn’t the person I thought she was either. Read the whole drama here.

Meet “Chiruza Canadiense”, deeply ironic nickname she picked. In Lunfardo, a slang spoken in Uruguay and Argentina, a “chiruza” is a poorly educated woman.

Yet our “Chiruza Canadiense” is a young professional woman in her thirties. She is from Argentina and lives in Buenos Aires. She is one of these thousands of immigrants who applied under Quebec’s skilled worker category and she is stuck in processing limbo.

I met “Chiruza Canadiense” through this blog. She reached out because the long processing times were driving her crazy. I had very little advice to offer and felt terrible because I had it easy—back in 2005, it took me only five months to get my permanent resident visa.

She is still waiting, like a lot of prospective immigrants. She went through hell but keeps a positive attitude and makes plans, both for her life in Argentina and her future life in Canada.

1)     Why did you decide to immi­grate to Canada?

My answer is twofold: there are reasons why I don’t want to live in Argentina anymore, and there are reasons why I chose Canada.

I decided to leave Argentina because I can’t stand life there:

I went to university for 10 years, got my degree, have 5 years of experience in my field, speak three languages, and keep on doing a huge effort to become a better professional—yet no one in the job market since values my efforts or give a damn about it. I notice a lack of professional opportunities, it’s really hard to grow or move on in your field. Yes, I’m professionally frustrated… and I admit it.

If at a certain point in your life you were not lucky enough to find a good, stable and well-paid job, then you’re basically screwed and condemned to jump from one shitty and badly-paid job to another. The latter happened and keeps on happening to me.

The lack of planning and the way everything is being half-done at the last minute drives me crazy.

I know for a fact that here, I can work all my life and yet never be able to buy anything (and I don’t want that for me). Everything is extremely expensive and overpriced, credit is nonexistent, etc.

In Argentina, the one who avoids the rules is the smart one….and the one who likes to stick to them (which is my case) is the fool one. This behaviour is so common we even have a term to refer to it: “Viveza criolla”. I’m sick of looking like an idiot for liking respecting others and following the rules.

I don’t like dealing with corruption, distrusting the banks because otherwise, they steal your money, insecurity, devaluation, super high level of inflation, the hospitals and education being so collapsed, the transit chaos, the constant subway strikes, the stress, the society being so chaotic in general…

The lack of respect for others, and the loss of values.

Because I’ve had it.

And why Canada? Because…

It’s a country open to immigration, with an easy and fast (well, not anymore!) immigration process.

In theory, for me, the process should have been easy, since I have the right background: my brother lives in Québec and I have friends there, I meet all the requirements (I speak both official languages, I’m young, healthy, with a highly-demanded profession, 5 years of experience in my field, a new graduate, etc.)

It’s a first world country. And I want to experience life in a first-world country.

I want to stop feeling so worried and stressed all the time—I am so stressed out that I am losing my hair. And Canada is one of the countries with the best life quality in the world. I wouldn’t mind having some life quality.

Opportunities exist for real, and it’s up to me: I’m the one who decides where the limit is or how much I want to grow or in which direction.

I’m thankful for everything I know Canada gave to my brother.

I know in Canada I will work as hard as I do in Argentina… but I will be worth it and valued.

I think I’ll find everything I long for in my life, basically, everything I’m tired of searching for (and not finding) in Argentina.

2)     When did you start the immigration process? Which immigration category did you apply in?

I applied in November 2011 under Québec’s skilled worker program.

3)     At what stage of the process are you currently?

Hard to admit (and accept!) that it’s been 15 months already and that I’m still at the beginning of the process!

I’m still waiting for the BIQ México (Bureau d’immigration du Québec in Mexico) to assess my application and to make a decision regarding a possible interview.

4)     Do you speak French? Where did you learn English?

Yes…I speak both languages. I’m fluent in English, and I speak French as well at an intermediate level (Salut tout le monde ! ;-).

I started to learn English with a private professor in 1996, when I was 16 and stopped taking classes after passing the First Certificate with a high mark, three and a half years later. I’m still learning though:  I listen to music in English, I watch movies without subtitles, I try to speak English as much as I can, etc.

I started to study French in October 2011 because of my immigration process. I take classes at the Alliance Française, the best (and most expensive!) place for studying French in Buenos Aires! I also took private classes with a French teacher from Paris. I’m focused on getting ready for Québec’s selection interview.

5)     How do you deal with the wait? I.e. are you doing research on Canada, thinking about it a lot or are you focusing on living your life at home?

How do I deal with the wait? Oh, I don’t deal with it well at all! I am not a good example—I hate waiting. I always say that I won’t have to worry about my hairstyle for the Québec’ selection interview since by then I will have pulled out all of my hair!

When I started the immigration process I had no idea I’d have to go through these oh-so-long processing times.

After the desperation, the anxiety, the hair pulling, the worrying, and all those not-so-nice feelings, you reach a point where you realize there’s nothing else you can do and you just have to let it go.

I mean, how long can someone live with his life completely on hold? It’s just not healthy anymore.

At one point, I was stuck in a job I didn’t like and didn’t treat me well and life was hell. I wasn’t buying basic things I needed for my apartment and everyday life, I decided not to start any new relationships of any kind (to cut my ties with Argentina), I walked the streets with the bare minimum because I was scared, etc. Most of the time, I stayed alone in the small studio apartment I live in. I was feeling sad, I didn’t want to go out anywhere but to the Canadian Embassy. I had no fun,  no time to relax, I was worried about everything all the time, obsessed with my French studies, terrified of the selection interview, etc…I was alive but felt dead.

See what I mean? Not exactly a healthy way to live.

It all has to stop. Wanting to leave for Canada ASAP and not being allowed to, and being on hold for 15 months with no news is shitty, but I realized that immigrants were right when they said that life goes on wherever in the world you are.

So things changed. I took another job, rebuilt friendships, furnished my place, I go out more often… and love even showed up in my life 🙂

I don’t forget I’m in the immigration process but I realized I’m not dead in the meantime either.

6)     What would be your plans once in Canada? Where do you want to live, what kind of work would you like to do?

I plan to land in Montréal during spring or summer time. For the first months, the plan is to rent a studio apartment in Côte de Neiges, a neighbourhood which, according to friends (thanks Cristina and Martín!) is great for a newcomer since it’s close to everything, affordable, etc. There, I will adapt to Canada.

After that, we’ll see how things work out. I’m fond of Ile des Soeurs neighbourhood but I don’t know how things will turn out. Will I find a job in Montréal or will I have to move? Will I enjoy living in a French-speaking province? I will go with the flow.

Two or three years after landing, I’m hoping to have a steady life, both economically and professionally speaking. This is something I was never able to do here in Argentina. It’s truly important to me, and it is one of the reasons why I decided to leave Argentina.

O the long term (in 5 years’ time), I’d like to achieve simple but important things, such as buying my own apartment (again, an impossible goal in Argentina).

I’m an information system professional with a focus on Java, so my plan is to continue moving forward in my field. I have already contacted HR professionals in Montréal and looked up IT profiles (thank God for Linkedin!). I wrote several emails (in French!) explaining my situation, and the feedback I received was great.  Most people asked me to contact them again once I get my visa to discuss professional opportunities!

7)     From what you’ve heard, what aspect of life in Canada do you find interesting?

I long for the things I want for my life and could never find in Argentina: an orderly society, in which the smart one is not the one trying to avoid the rules but the one who follows them, stability of any kind you can imagine (economical, political, social, etc.). I want (and deserve to!) live in a place where I don’t have to worry all the time about inflation and that is safe, where there is no corruption (or at least not as much!), with equal possibilities for everyone, where there is respect, where values are not oh-so-damn lost, where streets are clean and rules followed… a place where I can find some peace for my mind and soul.

I always wonder how it must feel to live in a place like that.

8)     What’s one thing from Argentina you would take with you? Literally… or culturally speaking!

If I could, I’d take along the people I love and I care for. But that’s not possible, since they’re happy here and have no plans to immigrate.

9)     What do you wish you would have known before starting the immigration process?

This applies only to me, but I wish I had known that the BIQ at Sao Paulo would be closed down and therefore my immigration file would be transferred to the BIQ in México, a visa office with a much longer wait time!

If I had known, I’d have managed a couple of things differently and made different decisions…

10)  What advice would you give to someone starting the immigration process?

Make sure this is what you truly want since the immigration process is not a piece of cake. It consumes time, energy, money, nerves, patience… all limited resources!

And secondly, be patient… you will need some. Everyone keeps on saying that, and I realized it’s absolutely true and vital if you don’t want to drive yourself nuts!

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French woman in English Canada.

Exploring the world with my camera since 1999, translating sentences for a living, writing stories that may or may not get attention.

Firm believer that nobody is normal... and it’s better this way.

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