A Turkish detour

At such short notice, the cheapest flights I could find were via Sao Paulo and Istanbul with long layovers at both airports.

My bags never properly got unpacked since 2012 and I had left a number of boxes with some of my belongings scattered around friends’ houses in Edinburgh, which I couldn’t wait to get reunited with (friends and boxes). Within a week of getting the new visa, I was ready to go.

I said my goodbyes to family and friends in Porto Alegre once again and flew to Sao Paulo, where I waited for 10 hours overnight. There was no point trying to leave the airport and I had some translation work to do, so I took as much advantage of the free wifi signing in with different email addresses as possible. Your passport and visa gets checked before leaving the country, so I went through security and immigration there and finally boarded my flight to Istanbul in the morning.

I’d never flown with Turkish Airlines before – they were actually quite a good company. I loved flying over the Sahara Desert in the daytime – it’s a bizarre thing, but you can see the desert moving from above. Truly amazing. I’d never been to Turkey before either, but regrettably, I’d get to Istanbul quite late and although I’d have to wait there for 8 hours, I wouldn’t risk going into the city centre at night so that would have to be a holiday at some point in the future.

I never felt insecure travelling by myself, but I did have a couple of odd moments after landing. First, as soon as I got to the lounge, I noticed that there was a guy following me. I wasn’t sure if he’d been on the same flight or not, but I kept walking and took a few turns and stops to see if he’d go a different way or keep going and he turned when I did, stopped when I stopped. I was under the impression he’d said something about me quietly, but I couldn’t make out what. I then spotted a large group of backpackers sat near one of the shops and made my way there, pretending they were my friends. The guy then disappeared. I saw an empty spot on the floor next to the group and sat there. I took my purse out of my rucksack and started sorting out my money to get some food soon and then another guy approached. Smiling, he took a bag of sweets out of his bag and offered me one. I declined and thanked him, he insisted, shoving the bag in my hand. I lied that I was diabetic and couldn’t eat sweets, which made him give up thankfully. He could be just a genuinely nice guy offering a random some sweets, but again… wouldn’t risk it!

After those two occurrences, the rest of my night at the Istanbul airport was fine. I had some food and some mad ice cream, worked a bit more, drank lots of coffee and eventually made my way to my departure gate, where they checked my visa and my backpack for a third time since I started my journey. The woman doing that was a bit confused about the visa, because the actual stamp on my passport had an expiry date in 7 days because the system changed and I now needed to collect a residency card upon arrival in Edinburgh. I appreciate that the card has biometric data and can be used as ID, which means I don’t have to carry my passport around with me and that’s good, but they could have informed all the people conducting checks that this is how it works so we avoid suspicion and embarrassment. I suppose that’s asking too much.

After all explanations made and accepted, I was allowed to board and head to my final destination – my beloved Edinburgh! This was end of October 2015, when after 3 years in limbo I was allowed to return – not permanently yet, but it was the best shot I had.

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What now, José? Joe Gets the Job

What now, José?
The party’s over,
the lights are off,
the crowd’s gone,
the night’s gone cold,
what now, José?

(“José“, by Carlos Drummond de Andrade)

I counted. Between January and November 2014, I applied for 39 jobs (2 in Brazil, 7 in Spain and 30 in the UK). I was only called for 1 interview. I’m still jobless a freelancer.

The Brazilian job market is weird. There are so many rules and regulations that do not benefit either the employer or the workers, only the government. It’s hard to find a job with a good career plan in Brazil, yet people tend to be tied to strict contracts – freelancing is still a reasonably new thing and part-time jobs are practically non-existing. Flexibility isn’t a thing in the land of Carnaval.

I didn’t spend enough time in Spain to have a better idea of how it works there, but they are still trying to crawl out of their big economic crisis and there aren’t that many jobs going – and the few vacancies that you might find will certainly go to Spanish people, they won’t be hiring foreigners at this time.

My UK job hunt met similar obstacles. HR people can swear as much as they like that nationality does not count, it’s only your CV that gets assessed, but I can’t shake off the feeling that the moment I tick the ‘non-EU’ box, that’s my application chucked in the NO pile. I can’t blame them, with all the restrictions imposed on employers as well, it is much easier to hire someone with a similar experience to mine, but who won’t require all the immigration faff.

All that said, I am aware it sounds like an easy way out simply blaming the political and economical context of countries for my lack of a job when the answer could simply be my own incompetence – which could mean either lack of knowledge/experience required for jobs I’ve been applying to, or bad CV/applications writing skills combined with weak powers of persuasion and inability to suck up to the right people. I thought back to the days when I was looking for a teaching job after graduating from my first degree in Porto Alegre and how hard it was for the first couple of months – despite an awesome TEFL CV. I realised I kept telling people at interviews that I was planning to move to Scotland within the next year or so, so they obviously didn’t want to invest on someone about to run away. Once I stopped saying that, I started being offered jobs and ended up working at two good schools (well, there was the Catholic school that rejected me because I revealed my atheism in the interview).

The thing is, I can’t quite figure out what I am doing wrong now, which is where my skepticism of HR neutrality comes from, particularly when I’ve had two near misses, both in Glasgow, when the people on the phone sounded mad keen to have me working with them right away, but were disappointed to find out I wasn’t a EU passport holder and therefore could not hire me due to the Home Office restrictions.

This whole experience reminded me of the story of José Zamora, who was having trouble finding a job in the US until he changed his name to ‘Joe’ on his CV and started getting loads of offers. Paradox, paranoia or coincidence? Open to debate.

Some people get kicked out of bars, some people get kicked out of countries

One of my best friends once taught me that good artists steal, so the above line was stolen from a Bacardi ad. If you’re reading this and don’t know me personally, hi, I’m Flav and I’m an alcoholic a theatre director/producer Brazilian. I’m starting this blog because something very bad happened to me recently and putting things in writing as if I’m talking to someone helps organise my thoughts. Also, because the whole situation is too ridiculous to bear alone, and I’m sure there are quite a few people out there going through similar predicaments. I say we find each other and start a support group. Anyway, if you’re new to my life you have to catch up and if you can’t be arsed reading, here’s a video of my telling this story. If you’ve been around me for long enough, you know what I’m talking about and may stop reading now.

I moved to Scotland in 2006 to study Drama and Theatre Arts, which was something I’d wanted to do for years. I had a Tier 4 Student Visa for 4 years, at the end of which I graduated with a First Class Honours (nae bad for an international student whose first language isn’t English). After that, I was granted a Post-Study Work Visa (previously known as Fresh Talent) for another two years. During that period, I got an alright “bill-paying” job and set up my own theatre company. I’d worked with quite a few theatremakers from the UK and beyond throughout the previous years and only now had a clearer idea of the artistic direction I wanted to pursue. I went to London for 6 weeks to take a course in Theatre Production to help me with this endeavour, and spent 2 weeks in Denmark training at the Odin Teatret as well. My company, Fronteiras Theatre Lab, put on its first show at the Edinbugh Fringe in 2012. Earlier that same year, the same company was a semifinalist at the Scottish Institute for Enterprise’s New Ventures competition.

However, despite being able to pay rent, bills and taxes, I didn’t make enough money to apply for a Tier 1 Skilled Migrant, or Entrepreneur visa to stay in the UK and take this project forward. What I could potentially do was apply for the wonderful brilliant well-thought out Tier 1 Exceptional Talent visa (applause, please). But in order to do that, I had to move back to Brazil for a few months. Because that isn’t counter-productive at all.

I don’t want to bore you too much, so I’ll cut the story short. I moved back at the end of September 2012. I organised an international theatre project, worked as an advisor for local cultural organisations in my hometown, and went back to my old job as a teacher and translator to get some money. I applied for the Exceptional Talent visa, but was not deemed Exceptionally Talented by the powers that be. I went to Edinburgh for a wee holiday and then went to Portugal for my childhood’s best friend’s wedding. Then I came back to Brazil and started planning my second attempt at that visa. That’s a whole new post, though. We’ll get to that.