When we applied for PR I had to write an IELTS test.
Oh! Horror of horrors!
I promptly informed them via email that I studied in English and worked at a company where I spoke mainly English.
“Noooo,” they said, “we’ve heard every excuse in the book. We want proof, and that proof is IELST General and you have to pass it.”
“Eish… met ys ja!”
Now look, I can gooi die taal, but hoped that the last exam at uni really was the last one.
We were on a LSD trip to Kalgoorlie during that time, after having lived in Bunbury for a year. It was scorching and we stayed over at the Prospector Caravan Park in a cabin, which is basically an upgraded shipping container, or so it felt when I had to study for my IELTS.
I reverted back to my student tricks of not being able to concentrate for very long and was distracted by a TV program of the Australian Wine industry. If you know of any good Australian wines, my husband would be ever in your debt.
So where was I? Oh yes, being distracted. Combine that with a quest to save my child from an ant infestation and of course, I was more than prepared for the test!
I have to admit, while I was waiting for the aircon to kick in, being a wee bit dizzy from the aroma of Doom and trying to entertain a toddler, I wondered if this South Land was really so ‘great’.
Anyhow, we’re still here, so you know which answer won!
So the day arrived and we travelled to Perth. Once again I stood in line to enter an examination hall. I realised the fate of the Venter trio rested squarely on my ability to converse in English. Oh, I yearned for a pie and chips. I wonder, do the Kaf at Kovsies still sell pie and chips with mushroom sauce? Does it still exist?
One bit of advice that I did heed from those who knew was to not drink water. People warned me that there was no time to go and pee. I don’t know about you, but quite frankly, I do not need water to want to go to the loo. I just need stress, and then a nervous wee is the last of my problems!
My neighbour during the test was a friendly chap from Brazil and we got talking. My only real overseas experience before Australia was Zimbabwe’s Kariba lake, and of course, I was very interested in meeting a hot-blooded South American! The talking was nipped in the butt by the girls making sure we did not cheat, even before we had the chance to exchange krip notes. This all happened before the papers found their way to us.
Now, imagine you are from Gauteng and you driving on the Ben Schoeman. Imagine that the little cubicle where you are sitting is your car. It is you and you alone on that road and te moer met die res! Jy moet skryf broer! Write with the speed of lightning, don’t ask advice, just write.
Luckily the test followed the format of that on the web and it went quite well. I even had time to feel sorry for the poor Asian bloke that sat in front of me. I do not know for what he arrived, but I was pretty sure the IELTS test was not on his agenda for the day as he had absolutely no idea what he was doing! That poor man paid hundreds of dollars to sit a test and have no idea of what was going on.
As you would suspect the essay writing went well. And I had time for a loo break. When I walked out of the morning session I felt as giddy as a matric (year twelve student) who have just finished school. I would have killed for a pie and chips, but had to settle for a choc chip muffin and coffee.
But, it was the afternoon session that took on a life of its own.
We once again assembled in a hall. This time, I did not chat up any foreigners, even though I could.
I was called. I went. I spoke. And, ‘O aarde sluk my in!’
The bespectacled interviewer asked me to “Tell me about your best friend.”
And, he was witness to a teary, frog-in-the-throat declaration of my admiration and love for my best friend who just happened to be… tada! My husband! Oh boy oh boy! The strain of the day took its toll but I soldiered on and spoke eloquently and fluently in my best British Afrikaanse accent I could master.
Two weeks later I received my pass marks and the joy I felt was more than I felt when I donned my toga not once but twice and received a degree. I did not let my tribe down.
Dear Migrant to the Great Southland
You are more than able to do this. If at first, you don’t succeed just keep on going. You can do this.
And when you arrive in Perth, let me know and I’ll meet you for a vetkoek and mince, or even a pie and chips, who knows!