Interview with Mr O
This is the fifth and last in a series of interviews with the new arrivals. One of them will interview the interviewer (me) later.
Welcome to Mr O! Handsome looking guy, isn’t he? But I am very biased.
You took a very long couple of flights with four young people who had never flown before: how was it being Dad-in-Charge for the journey?
I stayed behind them and set my eyes on them all the time. They kept asking me, “Are we still going to catch another flight?” and I said “Yes” and Miss O 2 said “Dad, it is too far!!” They were very well-behaved really, they all fell asleep.
You have recently finished your first “school” course as a mature age student with English as your second language. Did you find going back to study, after so long, difficult?
Yes, I found it very stressful and strange being a new field of study for me and a different way of speaking English. I was very nervous at the start because I have been out of studying for a very long time.
You are studying in a field that is not a common career path in Nigeria, yet you have enjoyed learning about plants and gardens. What was your favourite part of the course?
I really enjoyed the practical experience, learning how to grow the plants. As soon as we started the practical planting work, I could remember what I had done when I was a volunteer in 2009 and 2010 and that gave me more focus.
During the course you often commented when we get our own house we will have the best garden in the neighbourhood. What style of garden are you planning?
That will be a Japanese Garden. I really like the Japanese Gardens because of the way they are arranged.
Did you find learning in Australia different from how you remember learning in Nigeria?
There are a couple of things that I found very strange at the start. Like the way they teach theory: here the teachers give you more theory assessment sheets, there seemed to be more homework than what I remember when I was in high school many years ago. There would be homework for three or four subjects and then more to do in class and I found this very stressful.
I kept focussed and put more effort in: I had started it and I wanted to pass. I wanted to prove I could study again after so long.
Do you think going back to school has improved your English?
Yes, it has improved both my English and my knowledge. It gave me more confidence: there is nothing a person cannot do if you focus and are determined.
I have noticed that when I speak to people on the phone now, they rarely ask me to repeat anything any more. That tells me people are understanding my accent more easily than before I did the course.
When you were working in the Fitzroy Gardens on practical placement, you found some experiences quite strange and some funny. Please share some of those experiences with us.
Tourists kept wanting to take my photo without asking my permission. I found that very funny. There seemed to be some very young people, only 15 or 16 years old, kissing and cuddling on the grass in the middle of the day where people were passing by. That was very strange to me. I saw young kids smoking: I hate that.
I know you won’t feel you have really started your new life until you get a job, but do you feel as if you are well on the way to establishing a future now? How does it feel after so long wandering the globe?
I feel much better than before when I couldn’t do anything that I wanted to. I was looking for freedom and now I have it. I didn’t know what was happening to the children back home and I was always worried and thinking of them. That was very, very stressful and made me depressed quite often. Now they are all with me.
Who did you like the best on X-Factor?
Johnny Ruffo was my favourite. I like him because he was good to watch on stage and he had good music you could dance to.
What is the biggest difference, for you, between the way of life in Nigeria and the way of life in Australia?
Here everything is a lot of paperwork. What might take 30 minutes in Nigeria can take a month here! There is nothing like a driving test to get a licence in Nigeria. Everything is more “official” here, which is good, I like it because I can see people are more protected, but it can be stressful at the start but now I am getting used to it.
When I was here in 2009 I went to a pub for a couple of drinks and I had perhaps three. When I went to buy the fourth, the barman said no, he said I had had enough. To me this was very strange: in Nigeria there is nothing like that, if you want to spend money you are their best customer!
Like any city in the world, I have seen places here I would not let my children go to. I do not want my children getting bad habits from some young people I have seen, such as 13 year-old children hanging around train stations and not going to school. To me, education is much more valued in Nigeria. The education system may not be as good as Australia, but people value the education they can get much more. Here in Australia I see some young people not taking advantage of the opportunities they have. In my course, where several students’ fees were paid by the government, some of those students were not interested and tried to distract the serious students. If I was not determined, I have seen a lot of things that could have pulled me away from my studies. I do not understand how students here could just leave the class without informing the teacher. Very strange! It seems there is not the same respect for the teachers here as there is in Nigeria. Students throw things to each other when the teacher is teaching, the teacher would tell them to stop it yet they would continue to throw things in the classroom.
In Nigeria, respect is given first to God, then your parents, then your teachers. Here the teachers do not seem to be given the same level of respect by the students. We believe in Nigeria that whatever you are going to be in the future is due a great deal to the contributions from the teachers that taught you, which is why they deserve to be respected.
One 17 year-old told me not to ask questions. The first time I ignored him. The second time I told him not to speak to me like that, I have a daughter his age and he dropped out of the course. He was not a serious student at all.
I know you find the much more casual style of dress here quite strange.
In Nigeria we do like to dress very well, we are very fashionable. Here there is no colour in men’s clothes!
What is your favourite sport and why do you like it so much?
Soccer of course! I grew up playing soccer as a child and Nigeria is a soccer nation. I did play here with friends in 2009 and 2010; these were social games.
Thank you Mr O for letting us delve into your feelings and experiences.
Do you have any questions for Mr O? Ask away!