Rubenang’s sister, Tanimakin arrived in 2009, a year after her husband arrived.
I wanted to retire from the Ministry of Health, but I had to think about my kids. If I stayed, they would have missed a lot of school. It was only three months, but that was a long time since they had to adjust to the new life here. I know if we came in 2008, my kids would have benefited from a better education. I regret not doing that. Looking back on it though, we didn’t know. We thought teachers would accommodate her, but it wasn’t that way. She had to repeat a year of school, we didn’t know a lot of things when we came, and I think it is like that for everyone who comes over. Once you get here, you have no time to learn. You must know English to get a job, house, car, bank account, everything. Necessities to New Zealand life, these things are largely foreign to Kiribati life. We didn’t know how to enroll children in schools when we came. We didn’t know there were free (public) schools, so we enrolled all of them into the Catholic school. Work and money are vital, and once you get a job, you need to know how to budget, save, and where the cheapest food stores are. We had to change everything to live here, and fast.
Over we accumulated furniture, plates, and new clothes since we were not able to get it all at once. We learned the first thing needed is a car. Compared to Kiribati, driving here is much stricter. There are many laws, and sometimes even if you follow the laws, police will take advantage of us because they know we are not from here.
I knew exactly what she was talking about. A week prior I had just returned from the grocery store with my Kiribati sister when the phone rang. Unloading the van, I could hear her. It sounded serious. “I know, we aren’t from here, so we don’t know how it works, but now we are aware.” What was that about, I asked?
Racism in New Zealand, I heard about it, even felt weird when around white people at times. They would give me looks of disapproval, assuming something. The funny thing was when I spoke, people looked at me differently. Clearly, I was not from New Zealand. My American accent came out and awkward smiles appeared.
“My husband got a ticket for a car he was not driving.” Apparently, the police ticketed him, for not wearing a seatbelt, which he had on. Even more confusing, was the absence of his name on the ticket. It cited a child without a seatbelt. When asked about the citation, her husband described the officer as demanding, and forceful. Unfortunately, these incidents were not uncommon. He could have easily challenged the ticket, but as a permanent resident, he did not want to upset his chances of becoming a citizen. In the end, he paid the $200 fine without contest. New Zealand Police one, Kiribati immigrant family zero.
They should also learn the laws of New Zealand. It’s a must to have a car seat for kids here when there is a child in the car, but that policeman was confused. In Kiribati, we don’t have car seats, and on the outer islands, we don’t have cars. There are so many things here that are so different from home. We live in a white world now where everything revolves around money, and new migrants need to know this. Building a resume, with good professional references is important.
She paused for a brief second and then continued,
If all of us work hard, employers will know that Kiribati people are good workers and good people. If they see this, hopefully, they will sponsor more PAC winners in the future. We work hard for our families, but also for our country, because in Kiribati family is everything, and everyone is family.
Although getting a job offer is important, you don’t want to stay in the first job offer. You want to move up and get better jobs that will let you live. Rent is high, and if you take a job that only pays twelve dollars an hour, life will be hard, especially if you have a family. Twelve dollars may seem like a lot in Kiribati, but here it is very low pay. I got seven dollars an hour in Kiribati, and I was one of the top people in the government. Back home, people earn maybe one dollar an hour in service jobs. We didn’t need money like we need money here. White people plan. They even plan their death! They buy life insurance to pay for a funeral, even those cost money. Can you believe that? You need money to live and to die! White people plan everything.