She loves to laugh

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susancFriday, 14 August 2015 - 3:46pm

She loves to laugh, she loves to share meals with friends, she loves to work, and she loves Jim.  You can’t be with Emma long before you see how she blends all these things together in her lovely, open, happy personality.

Emma Morota was born 1974 in the Bicol Region in the south of the Philippines, the 6th of 10 children –Emelina, Edelberto, Elizalde, EIdgardo, Eric, Emma, Elmer, Erwin, Exor, and Jim Junior after her Dad, Jaime. It was a fishing community and Emma wanted to fish with her Dad and brothers.  But, because she was a girl, Emma’s brothers wouldn’t let her go with them.  Her brothers’ opposition was a barrier that Emma was determined to overcome.  And she did – she went fishing with another group of fishermen catching small fish to eat such as whiting, yellow tail and crab (if you go out to dinner with Emma, you’ll see how much she still enjoys crab!). So, from early in her life, Emma found a way to deal with barriers. 

School for Emma, her brothers and sisters, was a 30 minute walk from home along the highway.  It was a full day – from 7 am to 4 pm in the classroom, in addition to the long walk to and fro.  Here was another barrier in her life – and Emma overcame it by taking shortcuts through the bush.  She learnt both American English and Tagalog, the local dialect. It is easy to see how Emma learned to work hard.  She did well at school, usually being appointed Sergeant-at-Arms because she was the tallest in the class.  (Filipinos are usually shorter than Emma.)  Her job was to look after her classmates – a role she still plays in the wider Filipino community of Newcastle.

After High School, Emma’s parents could not afford to send her to Uni, so she decided to find a job in Manila, the capital of the Philippines. The journey to Manila was not an easy one – the train had no air conditioning and the journey started in the evening and ended a day and a half later.  Emma lived with friends and tried to find a job. At first she worked with a cousin, selling chips and drinks from a cart. Somewhere in this time, she met and married a young man and gave birth to a son.  Then someone suggested she apply to go to Japan as a cultural dancer performing in a Japanese hotel.  Emma remembers that she didn’t have a nice dress for the interview, but she was successful and began the three months training in dance and Japanese language.

Emma was 22 years old when she began the first of four six-month long contracts working in different Japanese cities:  Fukuoka, Oita, Kumamoto and Miyazaki.  She left behind her husband and very young son to be cared for by her parents and her husband. 

Each time Emma went back to the Philippines to apply for a new 6 month contract and visa, it was harder and harder to leave her son. So her husband applied for work in Jeddah, in the Middle East, and this time Emma stayed behind to care for their son.  After a few months, Emma’s husband stopped communicating with her and simply disappeared. 

She was alone, with a child to raise and no income - another barrier that Emma was going to fight.  She was grateful when her sister, Emelina, stepped in to help her train as a beautician and get a job in the UAE (United Arab Emirates) where Emelina was, herself, working.  Emma had a phone interview, got a job, and in 2005 flew to the UAE.

Now in an Arab country where English was rarely used, Emma taught herself Arabic – her fourth language. But there were more barriers to a good life - the salon owner refused to pay her the wages agreed to in the contract, made her clean the salon and allowed her only a half day off each week.  Emma complained to the Labour Office, like our Department of Immigration, about her working conditions and said she wanted to go home to the Philippines.  The Labour Office agreed with Emma and began the 28 day process of cancelling her visa.  But while she was waiting this time out, ready to go home, she did the nails of an American friend of Emelina who knew someone who was planning to open a new spa. What happened next is no surprise.  Emma went to meet the owners of the new spa, got a job, did 3 months training in Dubai, and worked happily for some four years.  Then she was offered a better position at the British Hospital in Dubai where her clients were mostly the extremely wealthy wives of sheiks who wanted beauty treatment after surgery or giving birth.  Two years into this job, Emma’s life changed forever.  She met Jim, a handsome Australian on a three month posting with the Air Force.  It was New Year’s Day 2012. Emma explains they met at the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa.  It is not easy to begin a romantic relationship in an Arab country but they managed to spend two Fridays together, 2 weeks apart.  No phones were allowed on the Air Force base – another barrier for Emma, but communication through emails and Skype were possible and when it was time for Jim to leave, the relationship was solid. 

He invited Emma to visit Australia but the Visitor Visa application was refused because the supporting documentation to the Visa was misplaced.  More barriers!  So they met in the Philippines where Jim got to know Emma’s family – no small feat with all those brothers and sisters. They knew they loved one another and were committed to one another when it was time for Emma to return to the UAE and Jim to Australia.

The paperwork necessary to get Emma’s visa application approved was mountainous – but Jim persisted in his quest to get the right paperwork submitted and her Visitor Visa was granted. Emma visited Australia in December 2012 for the first time and spent a month with Jim.  It was her first experience with ‘The Cove’, and Jim made sure she enjoyed that month with water sports, fishing, jet skiing and so on. He even drove Emma to Adelaide to meet his family at Christmas, coming back through Canberra and Sydney. When Emma had to go back to the UAE, Jim was certain this was his future wife. Another trip to the Philippines in April saw Jim and Emma get engaged.

 It was another eight months before they could get together again on another Visitor Visa to Australia, since Jim cannot travel to the UAE because of his work. When Emma arrived, Jim immediately submitted a Partner Visa and Emma was granted a Bridging visa which allowed her to study or work in Australia. Finally, after 18 months and pages of paperwork submitted to Immigration by Jim, Emma was granted a Partner Visa.  During that 18 months, she fell instantly in love with the Cove, found work easily, and today lives happily with Jim.

You’ll see Emma walking around the Cove with her backpack and headphones as she strolls off to her next cleaning appointment, and you’ll notice that almost everyone waves – Emma is well-known and well-liked by the local community.  You can wave too now.

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