Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Chapter 5. Why NZ?

I was working under a great deal of stress in 1976 as a wireline operator in SSB because I felt that I needed to make JG5, to get enough money, for sending all my three children one day to overseas universities for their further education. So, I changed my job to trainee driller in 1978 in order to have a chance to make tool pusher (JG5). I was unaware that there was no serious intention on the part of Shell to finish the driller training programme. As it turned out, the driller training scheme was merely a political ploy used by SSB to bluff Petronas. Shell owned no oil rigs in Sarawak and did not require drillers because drillers are all included in the rigs rental contracts of Sea & Land or Reading and Bates.

By 1982, I was convinced that I was there only for the ride. My hope of having three graduates in the family was no longer possible. The fact was, in twenty years of working and saving hard, my wife, Christine and I managed to save barely enough money to send just one child, Kevin, to uni and our other two children were destined to become bus drivers in Pujut!? I knew that it was unfair to Pearl and Eugene; but there seemed to be no other way out at the time. We needed to have another 400K!! We have just two more years to save this impossible amount. Because of this big problem and job stress off-shore, I almost went crazy with worries and I had a near nervous breakdown in 1983.

One friend, Chen Ah Ngiaw said to me "David, be smart like me, resign from Shell and come with me to Australia, play golf and become rich!" I thought that he was an idiot! How could I possibly become rich by resigning from Shell?! I was making very good money then as an assistant driller, working on the oil rigs. All my efforts were just starting to pay dividends. I would soon become a driller (JG6) after I passed my round one exam in Holland. The JG5 promotion to tool pusher appeared to be within easy reach.

However, another friend, George Liew, who migrated to Canada in 1973, was back on holidays in the 80's and he also said something similar to me. So, I started to think. Was it possible that I, David Chin have two stupid friends?! I came to the obvious conclusion: two to one, I was the idiot, not my friends. I then realized that if it has taken my wife and me twenty years to save 200K for just one child's overseas uni education, it will take us another 40 years to save enough money for the other two children. I was certainly the idiot, not my friends! By the time I have the money, I would retire aged 90. Pearl and Eugene would be too old to go to uni. So when the VSS opportunity presented itself, I took my friends' advice, quit my "lucrative" job working for Shell and migrated to New Zealand in 1995 as a permanent resident. I played golf and became rich. Smile!

Actually, I did not play golf initially and no one became rich; but Christine and I were able to send all our children to university to do the degree courses they chose to do, not those courses decided by the Malaysian authorities or whatever courses were left, after all the bumiputras have made their choices. It was no fun to be second class citizens in Malaysia. Chinese were 5th class, after the Malays, Ibans, Kadazans and Kelabits. We certainly are better off in NZ. Strangely we have more rights here as permanent residents compared to our rights as citizens of Malaysia!

To enter NZ as an immigrant, there is this points-system devised by the NZ government to screen all incoming Asian immigrants. I had no points; but my wife, Christine, being a staff nurse and midwife with 20 years working experience, had 24 points. Using the 200K we had saved for Kevin (for Harvard), we bought 2 more points @ 100k/point and just qualified for PR at 26 points! So, my family became Permanent Residents (PR) of NZ in 1995. After finishing form 5 in Malaysia all my children managed to complete a one year pre-U course (called form 7 in NZ). They have to sit for the bursary exams which fortunately they all passed and entered university a year later. The rest is now history.

Eugene, our youngest son began work in 2002 as a design engineer with Fisher and Pakel in Auckland. Today, I am very proud to say that we have no bus drivers in our family, all engineers! Do you know the Sermon on the Mount, in the bible? After Jesus preached to the Jews, he fed them all with two fish and five loaves; all 3000 of them! A miracle, you say? Certainly! I realized in Hamilton that a similar miracle was happening right before my very eyes! That 200K which we had got ready for Kevin's education in Harvard, Oxford, Yale or Cambridge; suddenly was enough to pay for all the three children's uni fees in NZ! The Lord be praised! God works in wondrous ways etc. etc. Amen! Instead of having to pay full fees like all foreign students do, PR pay only about a third, same as for NZ citizens.

The NZ govt gives PR all the rights of a citizen except one! I cannot stand for election for member of parliament against Winston Peters or Helen Clark, but who cares about all that. All I really wanted was for my children to get their degrees so that their lives can be a little easier than mine, that is all! What I needed to do was find a job in NZ, put food on the table for 5 years and we are home free! Perhaps a management degree from Waikato U is not as good as getting a Harvard law degree for Kevin. We are not complaining! The Americans have a saying: there ain't no free lunch! One cannot have the cake and eat it too.

There was a little money left over after spending most of our life savings in NZ, I tidak tahan any more and I bought myself a Mercedes Benz in Feb.1998! OK, it was a second hand one. I used the 280SE for two years and traded it in May 2000 for a Volvo! These are great cars to drive; but very thirsty and too expensive to maintain. Actually, I am working my way through the big 5 and then the small 3! I need to find a job because these are very thirsty cars with huge tanks to fill up! I also need to get myself a Rolls Royce, Lamborghini, Humvee, Harley and a 50 foot yacht to go to Fiji! It is good to have dreams isn't it? (Big 5: Mercedes, Volvo, BMW, Jaguar and Rolls Royce. Small 3: Porsche, Ferrari and Lamborghini. Small because these cars have only two doors.)

Unlike in Malaysia, no one in NZ wants a second hand luxury car. These are all very cheap. I paid only 7.8K for the Mercedes 280SE and 9K for that Volvo 760GLEI paid 6.8K for the Honda Accord in 1995 when I first came here. That was my dream car in Borneo. In NZ my dreams have become slightly bigger! It is heaven here for the car enthusiasts and boy racers. I must drive them all before I leave this place and return to Borneo, he-he! 

All my children have found good jobs in Auckland and Wellington. As parents, we now rarely see them. The one big question is: What happens next!? Is it time for me to consider Pujut again? After ten years in NZ, it is unlikely that we will ever want to live in hot and hazy Miri once more. The air is clean and fresh here and we truly enjoy the freedom of speech and the equality in every way for all residents or citizens in NZ. No one has ever asked me yet whether I was a bumiputra or not. It is true that there is no EPF here in NZ and some times it is cold and foggy in the winter months; but I am sure that my family can learn to adapt.
golfer, handicap 16 (April 2010)

Monday, June 13, 2005

No bus drivers

no bus drivers
In 1995, I decided to give up the struggle. There was re-engineering going on at Sarawak Shell Berhad where I worked in Miri. The company was down sizing. Employees over fifty years old were invited to step forward for a golden handshake. I was among the first to volunteer! At the time, I was working as senior buyer in materials department. It was time to leave and I did just that! Today I have no regrets whatsoever. My goals of having three graduates in my family is now a reality and it is time to relax, smell the flowers and play some serious golf.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Life in NZ

Trailer yacht sailing

Life in New Zealand is not as rosy as I would like to make out in my e-mails to friends back home in Malaysia. It is not all golfing and yachting. It is mostly a very lonely and boring existence here, without friends. The weather is cold in the Waikato, especially in winter when it is also wet and foggy. However, somebody has to make the sacrifice. So, why not the parents?! Only this way, can I afford to educate all my children and there are not many choices left for me. 

Golfers at Narrows

In general, life has been very kind to me on the whole. I have had my fair share of opportunities to make some thing out of this life; but I blew it every time! Otherwise, I might have achieved some thing more worthwhile like JG4. :)

Head tool pushers were JG4. It should be within easy reach for me if I had worked harder and angkat pillae a bit; but I had too much pride to kow-tow to the mat sallehs. Before that, I could have made a bigger effort in Australia as a Colombo Plan student and later, on the oil rigs with Shell. I threw away all my chances to an easier life for myself and the family. It was entirely my own fault that I am where I am today, living as an exile in NZ.

It is therefore necessary now for me to take my medicine like a man and sacrifice the rest of my life and career so that all my children will have a better opportunity to succeed in life. If it meant leaving the familiar life in Miri and making a new start by working on farms and in factories in NZ without friends, so be it! The plus sides are many: the healthy weather, the golfing, the sailing, the cheap cars and the government pensions given freely to all citizens and PR at age 65. No personal contributions required. You don't have to work for the gomen to qualify for an old age pension. Everyone who lives in this country, qualifies, rich or poor, bumi or not bumi. This is a major consideration for me to continue staying here as a permanent resident in NZ. My sons are now working in Australia and my daughter Pearl is married and living in Wellington. The nest is now empty in Hamilton (empty nest syndrome) and I am now even considering selling this house and living permanently on a 50-ft yacht!