My Thick Accent

From Frozen Pizzas to Podcasts: An Immigrant's Inspirational Tale | Ft. Oscar Cecena Ep. 039

July 27, 2023 Gurasis Singh Season 1 Episode 39
My Thick Accent
From Frozen Pizzas to Podcasts: An Immigrant's Inspirational Tale | Ft. Oscar Cecena Ep. 039
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Meet Oscar Cecena – a man of creativity, resilience, and an undying spirit of exploration. He is a sagacious storyteller, a lifelong learner, and the former host of the acclaimed podcast, "Immigrants of Toronto." Come, join us on a journey that transcends borders as Oscar recounts his remarkable transition from the bustling cityscape of Mexico City to the multicultural mosaic of Toronto, Canada.
Tune in to know more about his painstaking immigration process, his unwavering determination to thrive in a new land, and his experiences growing up in a progressive family back in Mexico.

Oscar's story is not just a tale of immigration. It's a narrative of navigating through uncertainty, battling challenges, and the sheer grit it takes to uproot oneself from familiar surroundings. Hear an honest account of his struggles to find a job, his strategy of networking over coffee, and the disciplined routine he adhered to in his pursuit of success. But it's not all struggles and hardships, as Oscar also shares his love for storytelling, his fondness for frozen pizzas, and his passion for movies.

In the concluding segment, Oscar discusses his experiences with job loss, his evolution into a resilient individual, and his newfound appreciation for life through these hard times. His interest in writing takes a front seat as he discusses his adventures in podcasting. So, tune in to this captivating conversation and be inspired by Oscar's journey.

Follow the host and the podcast on Social Media channels below:  

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Don't forget to leave a comment or a rating!

Stay tuned for the exciting new episode every Thursday and let's continue knowing each other Beneath The Accent!

Want to share your story? Or know someone I should invite next on the show? DM us or write to us at Hello@mythickaccent.com


Gurasis:

Hi, this is Gurasis Singh and you're listening to My Thick Accent Podcast. So in today's remarkable installment we have the honour of exploring the inspiring journey of a true adventurer, a multi-talented, a lifelong learner, creative story teller and host of the renowned podcast Immigrants of Toronto From bidding farewell to his beloved vibrant Mexico City to embarking on a new chapter in Canada, and how he navigated the unfamiliar terrain, overcame obstacles and embraced the opportunities that awaited him. His story is a testament to the indomitable spirit of immigrants and the impact of community support. Let's dive into his creative journey, explore the power of storytelling and discover the profound impact of sharing immigrant narratives and why frozen pizza tasted better than any pizza at one point in his immigrant journey. Please welcome Oscar Cecena.

Oscar:

Hi, thanks for having me.

Gurasis:

It's an honour to have you. Like I said, Oscar, I was always out of this conversation. Let me start by asking you your question, which you usually ask your guests, which was that if money wasn't an issue, what would you be?

Oscar:

Y eah!

Gurasis:

And in 2021, I know that you said that if I could have everything I have at LinkedIn, but instead of talking to clients, I could spend my time writing either a novel or just Dungeons Dragons adventures. So what would you be in 2023? Today? I think it's still the same.

Oscar:

Yeah, okay. Yeah, if I could still have like the, I mean at LinkedIn. I think it's a great company and there's a lot of things that we can do there. For example, I just took on the leadership of the Embrace ERG in Toronto, which is the idea is to embrace all cultures and all those things, and if I could have everything that I have there but instead of doing client work, I could be able to write and play Dungeons, Dragons on any tabletop RPG. I would do that 100%. Okay, it's still the same answer yeah, okay.

Gurasis:

Okay, I think you are sort of doing that right With your second podcast, is that so?

Oscar:

Yeah, Actually, you mentioned that I'm the host of the immigrants of Toronto podcast. I actually stopped recording that one like about a year and a half ago, like a year ago, almost After 100 episodes. I just thought it was time to move into something else. And I recently just started a new podcast that's called why we Write Fantasy and the goal is to kind of give our take on what fantasy means for us, like how we write it, what do we do to write it, how do we want to use it to tell different stories, maybe dive into certain difficult topics that, for example, you can see it in the news and then you're going to get upset. But if you read about that in a fantasy or sci-fi novel, it might just pick your interest and helps you understand how the world works, like social and economically and politically and everything. So that's kind of the idea. So it's a new thing, completely different to my previous one, but yeah, I'm excited.

Gurasis:

Yeah, definitely sounds very fascinating, and how you got interested into that. Let's just talk about that. Let me take you back to Mexico where you grew up. That last little bit about your formative years and what were you doing before you moved.

Oscar:

I was a project manager, an IT project manager, back in Mexico. I have a degree in computer engineering and I was a developer. Then I moved to project management and kind of like the career of all of them. But by the time I was in Mexico I moved here 10 years ago. I was an IT project manager. I was working for an international company which is pretty big. I actually moved to Spain for a few months to work on a project there. Then I went back and then I moved to Canada to try my luck, I guess. But back then I was. I didn't say my life was pretty normal. I was married to my wife. We got married 15 years ago and it was. I would say it was kind of normal, like you go, you wake up, you go to work, you come back, you meet your friends, your family and those things. But yeah, I would say it was a pretty normal, boring, standard class life.

Gurasis:

No, but tell me a little bit about your childhood, probably, or what the focus was on growing up, or just the family environment, because I feel like that really impacts your later years of life. Tell us about that a little bit.

Oscar:

So I grew up in a very progressive family and I think I'm always very thankful to do that. My mom has five sisters, no brothers, and I grew up always with the idea of feminism was a big thing. So my mom and my aunts, they all grew up in the 60s and 70s with all the feminist movements, so that was something that stayed with them. And seeing growing up, seeing very successful women around me, kind of gave me the idea that I mean that was normal, right, like there was no, no issue, like it was very ingrained in me that I would never discriminate anyone because basic gender or anything like that. And I guess also fortunate because my dad was the same like he would. I would never see him talking to my mom and saying that he was better than her because of XX and he was a man, never, ever. So I think growing up in that type of family it gave me some, I would say it gave me all the background and, I would say, the fundamental principles that I live by. Today it's a little bit different, like I think the I mean I guess that's why I don't have kids. I grew up in a very, very, I would say very progressive. So we were, we thought we knew about the issues of I don't know like what's going on with the world. Like every time there was, even when I was a kid, if we had a family gathering, most of the talking with the like the adults were talking. I was a kid, I was trying to play in it. Sometimes I wanted to feel like a grownup, so I went and sat with them to listen to what they were saying and it was usually about politics and it was not only a ranting about politics, it was like the analysis of the government and the analysis that was happening in the world. And my grandfather he was a very, very smart and wise man, so he always knew what was going on and he was always able to go back and reference things that happened in the past, like all the histories, like oh yeah, this is because in 1931, this happens. Like, oh, I find that fascinating. So I grew up with, like, with all this old, old environment, so I started getting a lot of interesting history and literature and and all that. So it kind of gave me the basis of what my life is today.

Oscar:

Like I just tried to understand. Like something comes out and it's different to what I believe, and maybe I was never exposed to this back in Mexico. So, instead of dismissing it as if it's not something that shouldn't happen or anything, I just tried to understand it and try to try to get an idea of what is this and why is it important for this other person. So, yeah, that's kind of what what my, my childhood was, but the thing is that the Mexican society doesn't work like that. So I always say that I grew up in a bubble, because once I moved out of the world and it's like, oh, okay, I'm gonna see what's going on, I don't know I got the feeling that I didn't belong.

Oscar:

Okay, because it was a very it's a very patriarchal society, which is something different to the way I grew up, like. I grew up around women and strong and powerful women, and I go to work, and then I realized that one of my colleagues, which is smarter than me, she works harder than me, she didn't get the promotion, but I get it and that's because our boss was a little, let's say, misogynistic. So it's like getting into those things later in my life. It just it. Just, it just shocked me a little bit, like like this is not, I don't belong here. This isn't, this is not how I grew up. This is not. These are not the values that I that I live by. So what's happening?

Gurasis:

Yeah, you actually answered like my next question was about to ask that at one point you felt like, oh, I grew up in an environment where women were always empowered to know feminism was the word of my conversations here and there. So what time it happened? You did say that, yes, it was during your, you know, corporate experience, probably. So how did you navigate that, that? How did you kind of process that or did that impact the further years after that?

Oscar:

I think it did in a. In a way, I think the problem is that when I was like, when I was working in in the, in a corporate job, back in.

Oscar:

Mexico and things were happening like that. I don't think I had the wisdom or even the strength like it was in my 20s so to stand stand up and tell my boss you know what? What you're doing is BS. I'm not, I'm not with it. I was just thinking about like, oh, I need to pay rent, I need to pay my bills and this is the system. So okay, just let's go through it. I'm upset, but it's hard to go out of my way if I cannot feed myself. So kind of. I think it's a little shame of that part, but I think it's part of growing up. Like I was in my 20s was like 20 years ago. I'm 45 now. So all the wisdom and the things that happened back then, if I had all the knowledge and all the even the confidence of saying I don't think this is correct, I think I think I would have to do it Like I would do it today.

Oscar:

I didn't do it back then, I was just immature and all that. But it's part of growing up, I think.

Gurasis:

Yeah, absolutely, I'm sure you must be having another thing to kind of focus on, maybe your career or, like I said, with the rent and the job, and you kind of went into the flow of things happening and considered unminding your own business. Yeah, exactly, yeah, so I want to go back to the Mexico point, once again, tell me something that people don't know about Mexico that you would like to share.

Oscar:

Okay, Wow, okay, I'm thinking that this is I mean, lately I've talked to a lot of people who want to go to Mexico City to visit and all that and I think one of the things that people might not know, especially in North America and Europe, which, like racism, is different. The Mexican society is racist. In a way, it's more like a caste system than actual the color of your skin. But if you like, nobody really talks a lot about that and I think it's because it's not like if you go to the, to the states and and you think about racism, like the racism they have there is it's pretty terrible, like it's, it's, it's really bad. And even in Canada we have some type of racism against either the black community of the Asian community, especially with COVID and all that. In Mexico you cannot see it like that, like nobody. But you won't see like an indigenous person in the street and then another Person with start yelling like go back to your state or go out, get out of. That would never happen in the city. So that's what some people don't think the Mexican society is racist in that way. But it's all this systemic racism that we have and this caste system that you know that if you are, if you are indigenous or if you come from Like indigenous background, then your opportunities are limited. Just to give you an idea, like the the when we're applying for a job. I don't know if it's happened, still happening now. Honestly, I moved out 10 years ago, but 10 years ago we still put our photos in our resume and and most of the time you you could get dismissed by just the way you look like. So I Never had that issue because, like half of my family's from Spain and their halves from Japan, so I'm I don't have I don't really have indigenous Roots, but it pisses me off that someone that looks like me just gonna have another, another opportunity when someone that it's smarter, harder worker and everything will not get it just because the way they look like and that was that was. I am saying that's 10 years ago. I know society has evolved and all that.

Oscar:

This is one of the things that I want to mention, but that's kind of like a bad thing. I think a good thing that Mexico has that maybe people don't know is. I know people like street food and when people go to Mexico City they usually ask me like where should I, where should I eat and they usually ask for restaurants. And If you're, if you're in Mexico City, you're just walking around. There's a taco spots, like in on the sidewalk. If there's people there, it's good. So it's and it's. I love street food, so I wouldn't. I would tell people who haven't never been in Mexico City that if you want to go there just to visit, make sure that you eat some street food. It's just. I think it's the best I ever ever tasted, and there's so much. If you see taco place that is packed and then one on the side that doesn't have that many people, maybe it's more convenient to go there because you're gonna get your food faster. But, trust me, go where the people are, like that's where you can get the best food.

Gurasis:

Yeah and I. It's funny, oscar, when you were talking about Mexico, it didn't feel like you're talking about Mexico for me, because it felt like you're talking about India, except the taco part, because Talking about, you know, the caste system and sort of the racism and Something that you said, that it just there, it's, it just exists, and I think I'm not alien to that thing as well. I will not disagree that it does not exist in India, from from the, you know, differentiating from the colors of skin, or To having photographs on the resume and not hiring and and all those experiences and caste system. It does exist in India. But I would say the only thing which I have experienced in the past five years since I am here and talking to people here and when visiting back To India as well, that, yes, the education has Specifically close that gap and I'm happy about that, that it has definitely helped in Making the country go grow a little bit.

Gurasis:

And obviously the second thing is said the food. Yes, I would never recommend anybody to go into those fanciest restaurants or food chains exist all around the world. Go to the street food, try the local street food. Nothing beats that for sure.

Oscar:

Yeah, yeah, actually there's. There's a book that I read I think was last year is called caste and it's the author is Isabel Wilkerson, and she talks mostly about the caste system in the US. She compares it with the the caste system in India and when I was reading it's like this is the same thing we have in Mexico.

Gurasis:

Mexico okay.

Oscar:

It's very, very easy. It's a really good. Give us a really good book. I have it somewhere over here, but it kind of explains Very easily in a very, very straightforward way how the caste system was built and a why it works, why it hasn't quite worked. So yeah, I'm just like a random recommendation.

Gurasis:

Yeah, well, I hope it definitely changes and it works for the betterment of the country for sure. Okay, tell me something, oscar, that something from your Mexican cultural traditions that have stayed with you even after you move to Canada.

Oscar:

I think. I think that one's easy. The day of the debt, it's something that it's very, it's very important in Mexico, even though I'm not I'm not religious, I don't believe in the afterlife or anything like that the Though, the fact that we dedicate a day where we set up this altar that we call of Brenda in Spanish, what that we do, that is to honor the debt and to give them what they kind of like, the things that they like, so I know if someone was Helping and I don't know if, let's say there's there's Someone who liked tacos, for example we're talking about street food, so someone who liked tacos, they, they really liked it, and then during during that period, we we go to the, to the graveyard and in the tombstone we put some tacos on that and we have a meal with the death. So it's kind of one of the things that I like. I mean here I can't because all my my Love ones are to have passed away, are in Mexico, but it's kind of a that idea and it's something that has stayed with me.

Gurasis:

Let's pivot towards your journey to Canada. First of all, tell me when was the first time you heard about Canada and what brought you to Canada?

Oscar:

I think I heard about Canada in school, like when we're learning geography and all that, but Canada was never really studied in In school, like we focus mostly on, like Mexican history and the things in Mexico. Yeah, also maybe a little bit on Europe and the the wars, like the French Revolution.

Gurasis:

That's all those things exactly, yeah.

Oscar:

Maybe a little bit on the states, like we learned that they had an independence. So that was kind of like the one test question, but cannot never really figured in in in school. So it was mostly like you look at these Amazing pictures of the Rocky Mountains, like Banff and Lake Louise, yeah, thanks. It's like this looks beautiful, like I want, I want to leave there because it looks amazing. But what happened with me was when I when I finished high school, I think, actually I took a couple of years off to work and like do other things, and then when I was going to get into university, someone told, told me is like hey, have you ever thought about going to like university in Canada? It's like I mean, no, I never thought about it because, yeah, why would I? Then I started looking at it and it always I mean it was really expensive for me at the time. So it's like, yeah, this is impossible for me, but it's kind of like planted the seed on like Canada as destination, as Living destination. And then when I met my wife one day, we were talking about it and they said like, hey, you know what I always wanted to go to to university in Canada or or something like that. And she said, yeah, she, she came to Toronto when she was 14 and she remembered that trip very. I think it was very, very close to her heart, like the, the trip and everything. And what she did was, like you know what? I've always wanted to move to to Canada, like for real, like, yeah, when I was 14, I loved it and I always wanted to move to to to that country. And because I always wanted to as well, we just said, like you want, start looking into moving, would it be something that you'd be interested in? And, unfortunately, we both like the idea. So we started thinking about it and that was, I would say, 2010, maybe a couple of years after we got married. And then we started looking into the process, like what do we need to do all that? So it took us about two and a half years to Finally get.

Oscar:

We were applying to permanent residency, but I was 35 back then Well, 33 when I, when we started looking at the process we're looking at, there was a different process than it is today. There was no express entry, nothing like that. You needed to get into one of the Kind of like the, the, the slots that they have, depending on your, on your education and everything. And that year somehow they removed the IT IT, the IT Category yeah, the category, but there was just a specific way. I never mind. They removed that category so I couldn't apply. So we're sort of thinking about what we do. The agency we were working with they said like hey, you can apply through Quebec, so you only need to learn French. So only yeah, yes yes, yes, it is.

Oscar:

Yeah. So my wife and I we started learning French and we we took French classes for about a year and a half. We would pass the test and and they, they submitted it. Like the agency submitted. It is like, hey, I have good. One day they called as I have great news and bad news. Like so we went there's, like, hey, okay, tell me the good news. The good news is that you were approved for the application in Quebec. The bad news is going to take a couple of years for you to get the interview.

Oscar:

And at the time, the, the political situation in Mexico's, really we were really upset with that. Like the, the party that had been in power for like a hundred years before, was returning to power, and it was kind of like it's gonna be the same again, like we don't want to live in in a country that is governed by that party. So, so I asked like hey, do you have any alternatives? I said, hey, you can come as a student. Like fine, yeah, okay, and yeah, that's why we decided to. I kind of lost the, the, the coin toss, and I had to study. I don't like school, so I had to study your study, human resources for a bit and and then. So that's was 10 years ago. When do kind of like when the journey started, like the immigration journey started?

Gurasis:

So then, in April 2013, I believe, you landed.

Oscar:

Yes.

Gurasis:

Yeah, so tell us about your first day, just exactly when you landed the initial impressions and your thoughts.

Oscar:

So we landed in the morning, like before noon. We we got into the airport and I just, I don't know, like I couldn't, like part of me couldn't believe that we were doing that and the other part was like this doesn't feel real, something like that. Okay, we stayed at a guest house in in blue and I Think it was blue and sherburn type of area, there was a small guest house. So we paid there for a week while we were looking for for an apartment rent. And that day we went to smaller I don't remember the restaurant. There was like a small restaurant, again like a pub style. We got some food, then we walked around the downtown to kind of get to know that the city, yeah, and again I was still like I Don't believe, like this is really happening. But as the days went by and then we have to sign the, the lease for the apartment, everything, it just became More real than than the beginning. But the beginning, I think, my feeling was I just don't believe that we were actually doing this.

Gurasis:

Okay, and you know I also heard you say in one of your podcasts, obviously, that I'm more of a. I'm not of a plan B guy, I'm more of like a plan a guy. So is the you're saying that your plan was to move to Canada and if it did not work, you'll think about something else, or not? What was that about?

Oscar:

so. So I think the yeah, I'm not. Usually what happens that I set a goal and and okay, I'm okay changing the plan like how I'm gonna get to that goal, but the goal rarely changes was basically when it says as big as moving to another country, mm-hmm, yeah. So I think at the time our goal was like we're gonna move to Canada and this is so like, let's say, our first plan was to go through the permanent residency, through Ontario.

Oscar:

Yeah it didn't work, then Quebec it didn't work, then the student that worked. So it's more like Uh-huh, it's it, this is, this is where this is where we're gonna get to. It just doesn't matter how we do it, we're just gonna get there. But to answer your question, I know I didn't really have a another Goal set or any other plan. I was like we already did this, we're we're moving to Canada and we're just gonna make it work. That's it. Like not even going back to Mexico was never an option for us.

Gurasis:

I've heard these people saying that when you have a plan B, you always know there's a cushion to fall on and you might not give you 100% of the plan A. So maybe that's the mentality you are kind of moving with.

Oscar:

Yeah, I'm kind of like a black and white person, like either go all in or I don't do it at all. So I think in this case was more like I'm going all in. We sold everything that we had in Mexico. We put everything in our bank account. We had a couple of suitcases that we arrived with and that was our life. Yeah, there was no. There was no. No, there was. For us wasn't even a consideration of going back. Like what for? Like no, we're not doing this.

Gurasis:

We did talk about, you know, going back to school in your mid 30s and I did something in India like it's not that common to have a classmate who's a decade older than you. Of course, things are changing now and you have people from of all ages, you know, coming back to school and doing various programs and everything. So how was what you like like at this age you're going back to school and how was the experience like?

Oscar:

or just like to the point where the differences in the cultural education or even general education yeah, I mean, surprisingly, I wasn't the oldest person in the in the, in the classroom, I'm sure, but I was, I think, the second one or something like that. I would say that 90% of them were in their 20s, like early 20s, starting human resources, starting a career and all that. And in my case, it was like, well, I already had a career, like I started working, I was 20 in in IT, I stopped and I'm starting human resources. So I think the approach was different In my case, my goal was, first of all, to finish this so I can get my work permit and I can start working. And and also, I think the cases is because we moved here with our savings, I knew that I wasn't able to go I don't know like out and with them as friends. So I think I went out with them maybe a couple of times during the whole year that I was studying there, also, like I wanted to save money. Also, like the things that we're doing, like that we're going to clubs, like yeah, I went there like 10 years ago. I'm not going back this is not me, but I think the the I think the main thing that happened is that I was really insecure when, when we got there, especially about my, my English, even though I was working in for a for Verizon in the States.

Oscar:

Back in Mexico I was a contractor for Verizon for a couple of years and I was speaking English all day with them I never felt confident to to do it. So I think that was one of the things that that I noticed when I got there. Like it's like hey, now it's back then, like I was, I was like posted in Mexico city but I was working for Verizon. So I had a call with one of my colleagues. I would put my headphones on talking English, hang up and then turn around to my friends in Spanish hey, let's go, let's go out for lunch. And so my whole life was in Spanish, with a few things in English.

Oscar:

When I moved here, it was the opposite. It was like okay, now my whole life is in English. So it took me a while to kind of like come to come to terms that I have an accent, my English is not perfect and I just want, I just have to live with it Like I. It's either that or I'm never going to speak to anyone. So it was like you know what, let's do it, and yeah, and I started like forcing myself to to speak more English than Spanish and everything. I even went like I told you like I'm a all or nothing type of guy. So even my wife my friends makes fun of me because when we got here I told her like I don't want to, I don't want to have any Spanish speaking friends, because I know that if I find someone in Spanish, I'm going to gravitate to them and then I will never force myself to learn this language that I need to learn if I want to be successful in this country.

Gurasis:

Yeah.

Oscar:

So, yeah, I forced. I forced that, like, every person that I met was in English, even though maybe some, some of them, english wasn't their first language, they didn't know Spanish, so we had to communicate in English. So forcing myself to do that, I think it helped me a lot to the with the confidence and with the understanding that nobody really cares Like as long as they understand what you're saying. Nobody cares if you used a verb incorrectly or if you have an accent. As long as they understand you, they're happy because they're more. They're more and I guess this is part of like. As humans, we care about the message, like what it means, not actually if it's written or spoken properly.

Oscar:

So I think that kind of opened my eyes.

Gurasis:

And I've also heard you say again one of your podcasts I consume a lot and you said that in Canada you can get along with broken English as long as you can put your point forward.

Oscar:

Yeah, yeah, that's one of the things I learned. Like I never thought about it, I thought I had to be, my English had to be perfect, and because it wasn't perfect, I was very kind of self-conscious, like yeah, I don't need to. Or sometimes I thought really hard on what am I going to say and how am I going to say it, and by the time I said it it was completely irrelevant because the conversation had moved on. So it just it's kind of like opened my eyes to like, yeah, as long as I get my point across, I'm okay.

Gurasis:

There was another anecdote I heard where you said that you were walking with somebody some classmate of your, maybe a friend of yours, and you went to a corner and he just went away.

Oscar:

Yeah.

Gurasis:

And you were kind of left questioning that. What just happened? To tell me about that?

Oscar:

It was funny because I think it was one of the I don't know, maybe the first couple of months at school and my wife started working. So I was walking towards my wife's job to pick her up and one of my friends was like, hey, I'm walking in that direction, well, let's go together. And we were having a conversation and then we got to the subway entrance and it's like hey, this is my stop ticker Like in the middle of the conversation I was like what just happened?

Oscar:

And especially because I come from a culture. Then when you're talking to someone, and even if it's your stop, you finish the conversation, or sometimes just this is a good conversation. You know what? Let's grab a beer. Let's grab a coffee.

Oscar:

Or sometimes you start a second topic at the same time and then, yeah, you never know, and it's like it's 10pm. Okay, I think I need to get home. But here was like kind of a. I just found it funny because like our conversation was going normally, as I would expect it, but for me the flow would have to be different. Like, based on what I learned, the flow is that you get to your corner, we stop because you need to go the other way. I need to go straight, we finish what we're saying, we shake hands, hug and take care. That's kind of what we would do it in Mexico. So here he's not even shaking hands, just like raising his hands like hey, this is my stop ticker. That's a different culture thing and I think that was part of the culture shock that we had when we moved here. But that that that I make do this pretty funny.

Gurasis:

When was the moment, oscar, you felt like, like we're talking about the language, right, with a hesitant in English, and then so when was the moment you felt like, okay, now I feel comfortable in the language, which further led you to start the podcast, right? When was that moment?

Oscar:

Huh, um, you know what? I don't think I still feel comfortable with the language. I think it was more like a thought that you know what, I just want to do it, I'm just going to do it, that's it. What's the worst thing that can happen?

Oscar:

But there's a couple things that helped me, I think. First of all, I joined Toastmasters and that helped me a lot to get a sense of not whatever I'm saying makes sense and kind of like gave me confidence to you have an audience. You have 20, 30 people sitting in front of you and you need to deliver a five, seven minutes pitch and you need to keep them entertained. So what do you do? And you need to keep them entertained. They need to understand you. So it kind of forced me to take that step as, like, you know what, I just need to do it.

Oscar:

But recently I started speech therapy because I still want to improve. So I think Toastmasters helped me the first year, the second a little bit more. But then after that for me was like I think I got everything I should get from Toastmasters and I'm done. I need something else and that's when I like looked into speech therapy and finding a way to get better at speaking, but, as you said, like I still don't feel that my English is perfect, I don't think I will ever feel that, I don't even feel that with Spanish. But there's a moment when you say, like you know what, just let's just do it, that's it. Nobody cares. And I think that was the sense.

Gurasis:

And I think it's absolutely normal to feel that you don't have to be an expert in it, or I think I can speak for myself. Also, you know, I speak like three languages and I'm on the verge of learning the fourth, which is like French. So it's like there's no way I can be right for them all of these. There's not possibility. No, there's so much my mind can. What's the word like? Preserve?

Oscar:

Yeah, yeah, yeah, for sure yeah.

Gurasis:

Okay, is there this another point? I learned that you were reluctant to buy winter boots for the longest time.

Oscar:

Tell me why is that? Basically, it was stupid, I think that's, that's that's. I don't know if you can, you can put that in the show, but I think the the main reason was that it were they were expensive and we were living and saving and I was studying. I wasn't making a dime, like you can't work when you have a certain perfect. So it was like I don't want to spend money there, like I'm sure that I'm going to be able to do it with sneakers and I'm just gonna walk. It was like for five blocks away, like my college was five blocks away. It was like I think I can just make it like that.

Oscar:

And it took me until, I think, almost Christmas time, when the snow it was a really snowy winter, that one in 2013. And it was when, when one day that I was walking around and it was snow was pretty high, my sneakers go got wet and I felt like my feet were going to fall off my body. So I think that was the time when I said you know, I think I need, I need winter boots. But yeah, I was just, but mainly just like stupidity. What's the what's the reason why I didn't buy them?

Gurasis:

Yeah, okay, so you can call it stupidity, but I think that's the instant, I would say the reaction or the behavior that one kind of falls into when you are new to the country, including myself, you know. I think I was also hesitant to buy certain clothes or certain things which might be helpful for me, which would, might keep me warm. I was like no, that's pretty expensive, I can't afford to spend this much money, especially the the time when I am literally converting my Indian rupees in the Canadian dollars, and that was kind of hitting me hard. That, okay, that's expensive. You know, maybe I can survive two more months, three more months.

Gurasis:

And I kid you and I kid you not. I'm very similar to you. I did. I came in August and I did not buy my winter boots up until December as well.

Oscar:

Very, very similar. Yeah, I think I knew. I knew the winter was going to be cold, but I didn't think it was going to be this cold. But that was the last time since then I have my winter boots. I actually, you know, I don't need to pay, pay money to get good things like I got them and hope. I got them almost 10 years ago and they're still good, so it was a good investment.

Gurasis:

The other thing Oscar want to talk about is you know, many people talk about their first car, their first job, you know, their first house, and, but somewhere they forget to mention the path that they took, the struggle that they have done where they like, find they were able to afford all these things. And one thing which I absolutely love about your journey is that you have always embraced your struggles and you have even shared you know through your writings and through articles and your stories, that you have written that and all the hardships that you have gone through and how you have learned from all these, which is which is amazing and, I think, three things from your journey. I would like to discuss a few points which you have mentioned that, and the first thing is regarding the work permit situation and and once again, it's very similar to me, because I was left with just three months of work permit and I was trying to find a job and just running against the clock, just like yourself. And tell me about your that time and how were you keeping yourself motivated?

Oscar:

That was really tough. I think in my case was kind of topics. I was let go from my first job right before Christmas time and I was going to Mexico for Christmas and it was really stressful because my my wife's work permit was tied to my work permit. So if I couldn't find a job in the next six months because I had to renew my work permit in June, if I couldn't find a job, I wouldn't be able to, we wouldn't be able to stay here Like there was no way to to to be here. So I started I, when we came back from Mexico, was like early January I was I just focused on I need to get a job. I need to get a really job, that that it's in my field and that I can put through. But back then they had a different NAFTA agreement and it, if it was it, I could just go through it, ask my employer to submit a letter and then I would pay for it and I will get the work permit. So I needed to work and needed to get back to it. I was I couldn't work in human resources, even if I just started. That was like I need to get back to it and I need to get back to it fast and and we know that finding a job is not easy. It's especially when you come to your country with no network. Nobody really knows who I am and the people who know who I am, they know that I'm, that I finished a human resources program. They don't know if I can work in it. Like I told them, I was an IT project manager, but I mean they have. No, they can't really vouch for me because that's something I told them. They and I think my my main problem, that my main goal there was just to get the the job, and the way that I motivated myself. I push myself as I've never done before and I think I've done it after.

Oscar:

Every morning. I woke up as early as I could. I made breakfast for me and my wife, I made lunch for my wife so she could take it to work and I went to the gym and then I spent an hour in the gym just trying to get like endorphins and everything. After gym I went back home and I was home by, let's say, 930, showered and everything, and I started looking for a job. So I actually put myself like I'm gonna work, I'm gonna look for a job, from 930 to 530 when my wife comes back. So I wanted to link. Then I went to other, I think indeed, or something like that, trying to look for something I needed to build my network and it was. It was again. It wasn't easy, so I actually went to LinkedIn and so I and I started finding people who work in In it, or they had similar stories than myself and I just messaged them randomly like hey, I'm new in the country and trying to get into the field. Can I buy you a coffee? Yeah, something like that.

Oscar:

So my day was mostly applying for jobs Like tailoring every recipe that I was sending to each one of the companies, writing cover letters and trying to meet with people, usually around lunchtime that they had like 30 minutes break or I don't know, after work weekly at five, something like that. I think I was fortunate enough because our first, when we got here, we lived downtown. I mean, we still live downtown, but that was the main one, like we live downtown Toronto. So for me it was very easy to walk around and meet with people. So I didn't have to pay three dollars for the subway, which I'd rather not pay it, and I usually try to write early so I could get a tea or the cheapest thing in the menu for me. And then, when the person came in, someone's like hey, can I buy you a coffee? And they would pay for their own. So that was kind of like a trick that I was using, because every dollar, every cent, was just going out like there was nothing coming in, because I had no job.

Oscar:

And I think that routine, that like forcing myself to work out, then find a job for eight hours and then, as soon as my wife came home, it was like, okay, I'm done, my mind is tired, like my brain is dead, I need to do something fun. So our fun stuff was usually like watching TV, like playing a game by ourselves or something like that. But I wanted to forget that I was doing that so I could recharge and have energy the next day. And yeah, that was like three months, like January to March. So yeah, that was kind of the.

Oscar:

I never done anything as structured as that in my life before. So, yeah, that was. I just thought it was the only way. Again, my goal was to stay in Canada, so I had to do something and I did it and I was fortunate enough to find an amazing company that helped me with my status and all that. I stayed with them for six and a half years and I cannot thank them enough. They are just the best people. I wouldn't be in Canada without them and with all their support.

Gurasis:

Hmm, and so that structure that you got yourself into that worked in your favor, right?

Oscar:

It did.

Gurasis:

Did you still try to implement that in your current years?

Oscar:

I think that I should implement it, but I don't really. I don't really do it. I think it's one of those things that when you're stressed and you are like trying to survive, you just do whatever it takes.

Gurasis:

Absolutely.

Oscar:

When you are in a more comfortable situation, like when you have your job. You have your and now I'm a citizen, so I don't need to worry about that. I think you just lay back a little bit and it's like you know what it's. I mean, you cannot leave stressed all your life. So those three months were really, really stressful for me and I think that's what I needed. But I haven't put myself in that situation ever again and I think I would do it again if I had to survive. In quote unquote yeah, but yeah, it's not something that I'm not as structured as it appears when you look at those three months Like I'm more like chaotic in certain ways.

Gurasis:

But yeah, it was good, it helped, it helped all the time, and it was also the time where the virtual coffee charts wasn't a thing. You were doing them physically and that definitely takes a lot of time. But yeah, all in all, I think that's a great advice for anybody who is listening that you do whatever it takes to do and I think I've mentioned it so many times on the podcast do the best you can in that certain situation. You know whatever it is in your control, focus on that, not on the something which is not in yours. Yeah, so like talk about, you know, your permanent residency situation where you applied once and it got rejected. Tell us the reason behind that and how did you cope up with that?

Oscar:

So the reason is pretty. So I applied by myself. I read everything about the application and all that and I thought I knew how to do it, but I uploaded our merge certificate, like I. Just a mistake. I uploaded the original version in Spanish instead of uploading the translated version in English. It was just a mistake when I was putting all the documents up there and unfortunately, the immigration agent that got my case, I guess, didn't have any patience for mistakes. So instead of getting back to me and say, hey, you uploaded a different one, can you upload the one? They just rejected the application. And I was devastated, like I remember.

Oscar:

I was at work in this company names Horizon. I was in the office when I got the email and I don't remember, I don't know how it was. After five, I think I was wrapping up and I got the email. I was checking because there was not a lot of people around and I don't know what face I made, because one of my colleagues was passing by and she was like everything else okay, and I just turned around like I got rejected for my permanent residency and and she's like give me a minute.

Oscar:

And she called the CEO. Like was my boss the CEO and they say, hey, oscar just got rejected. And then she called me back and say hey, don't you worry, we're going to hire a lawyer for you and we're going to help you with the whole process. Oh, wow. So yeah, like I said, I wouldn't be here without them. It's, it's just the like they didn't have to. I mean they, yeah, of course, like I have been working with them for three years back then, but they really didn't have the the obligation to to do all this for me and they did, yeah, and yeah, it was just. It was kind of one of those moments that just humbles you that there's so many people that want to help and I was lucky to find them.

Gurasis:

It's incredible you do come across some people in their life which definitely leaves you in awe that, like I said, they were not obligated to do it, but they just did it to help you that. That's incredible, okay, and obviously they just talk about that. Why frozen pizza tasted better than any pizza at one point in your journey.

Oscar:

Tell me about that. So when we moved here I mean we again we're living in saves we didn't have any money. So for our kind of like Friday or weekend night, like after work and after school in my case and my wife's work we we used to turn on Netflix and watch the office. And it was so fun because we, in our way home, we stopped by the grocery store and we bought, like frozen pizza, we put it in the oven and and then we ate pizza watching the office. It was kind of like our, our date night and and that's what I say like it tasted better than anything else, just because what it meant. It meant that it was kind of a treat that we were giving to ourselves. I don't, I don't eat frozen pizza anymore, but but at the time it was really it was. It was amazing. This tasted, tasted great.

Gurasis:

I bet you know it does, as five, six dollars you get to eat the full pizza.

Oscar:

definitely it would be good yeah exactly, and I think back then it was cheaper than I was, maybe three, four dollars, like yeah, we also got like some less Sanya, like frozen less.

Oscar:

It was terrible, but it was like it was like a one dollar each. So sometimes like you want like another treat, like let's do frozen pizza and frozen less, and then we paid, let's say, five, six dollars for everything and we went home and and that was our meal. So it was kind of like a treat ourselves. We didn't have to cook, we didn't have to do anything, we just put it in the oven and and then we just waited, we watched the office and and had fun. It was our date night.

Gurasis:

So tell me how do you feel about your whole journey so far? You know, like to the point where you went to the bank and this person said that I don't make any rules here, but with your energy and enthusiasm I'm sure you'll make it from that point to up until today, and including this journey of a managing budgets and, you know, figuring out and navigating life, finding the job and living on title, deadlines and everything. So what do you think it has made you today?

Oscar:

I think I feel that the journey is over. The reason why I'm saying this is because, now that I got a citizenship, I have like a stable job that I really like. I mean, that happened before as well, but this one is more like. I feel that I got into another comfort zone in my life after 10 years of struggles, and I think that journey changed me in so many ways. It showed me how to appreciate the smaller things, like I said, like frozen pizza or watching the office, and even now, like I listen to the, the, the theme of the office intro theme, and I like sometimes I get emotional just by listening to because I think it made me.

Oscar:

It showed me that all the things I thought I needed, I didn't really need. I needed some stability. I needed my wife, I needed my friends, my family, and that's what it's important, absolutely. So all the things that at some point I chased, like designer clothes or having a sports car, all those things I don't really care about them anymore. It's more. I value the people that I interact with. I value my relationships more than anything else. Yeah, so I think it changed me a lot in that way Sounds very inspiring.

Gurasis:

Thank you for sharing everything with me. And you know for I was just thinking about it when you were just talking that for me it's the theme music of the show how I Met your Mother, because it was, I think I started just before the pandemic and I was picking out my job and work part made everything that was like my escape at that time. I don't remember now.

Oscar:

Yeah, I think there's always one. I was starting to friend at work and she moved to Canada as well and she, when I talked about the office, she messaged me like hey, my show for me was Arrested Development and I think there's always one that you tied to that. And it's funny because I just rewatched the whole office, like all the seasons, and I still feel it, I still get emotional and still remember those days and nostalgia, I think it yeah, I think it grounds you in a way.

Oscar:

It's like yeah, you might be comfortable today, but don't forget the last 10 years. Don't forget the first two, three years in Canada, like. You always need to understand that, even though I'm privileged enough to be where I am, there's so many people who are struggling in the same way we did. So if there's anything I can do to help, I will do it. That's actually why I started the other podcast. I wanted to share stories and hopefully people could start expanding their network, because I thought like, hey, if I bring people to the podcast and someone is listening that is just arriving to the country, they will have an excuse to reach out to this person.

Gurasis:

Yeah.

Oscar:

Like, hey, I saw you, I heard you in this podcast and you work in the same field that I want to work. Do you mind connecting? So I wanted to do that. It was my way to get back to the community in a way that I was okay doing Like a podcast. You can record it anytime, you can do it in your free time and all that. So, after a lot of ideas, I landed in that and I think it was kind of the way like, if I felt that way, I'm not alone. We all felt that way. Maybe not the exact way, because every person is different, but there's some struggle happening. And is there anything we can do to help? I mean, let's do it.

Gurasis:

Yeah, yeah, and you said that you have stopped making it now, but I have to like mention it to you and to my listeners as well, that your podcast was like a reference point for me, you know, when I was researching about it. You know the way you were talking and the stories you were bringing on, you know, or just the conversations you were having. You know, I was always up for learning about new people. In general, I'm very curious person, so that was a great reference point for me and the episodes are still out there for listeners to listen. So share with us that, where they can find it, and also about your second podcast, where they can find that.

Oscar:

So I don't know if the first podcast still out there. I think it might still be there in the podcast apps but, like even I stopped paying for the website and everything so that one might be able you might be able to find it in the podcast apps. The new one is it's mostly YouTube channel, so it's called why we Write Fantasy and it's there. There's a podcast version that you can find on any podcast app. But we're trying to focus our we're going to know that our audience is in YouTube a lot, so we wanted to do that. Yeah, if someone wants to listen to it and see our faces, then you go to YouTube. You don't want to see your faces and just go to the other one. There's nothing really exciting happening in the video, so getting the audio version is fine.

Gurasis:

Okay. So to all my listeners, the links to check out the podcasts and to reach out to Oscar. The links can be found on the show notes. Okay so, oscar, let's just get into the final segment of the podcast. I call it Beneath the Accent. I'm going to ask you a couple of questions. You can answer them in one word or a sentence, or however you feel like. The idea is just to know more about Oscar. So ready, yes, let's go. This is one habit you adopted that has changed your life.

Oscar:

I would say writing every day. That has changed my life. Even though I don't write not every day, I write about my novel or whatever I'm writing, so I just write random things. I think it helped me to calm down and relax and don't feel stressed and in a rush every day.

Gurasis:

What's the best advice someone ever gave you?

Oscar:

I received so many advice. There's so many, so many good ones. I think the best one was it's okay to ask for help. I think that would be the best one that I got, because I would have never received all the other advices if I wasn't feeling that asking for help was okay.

Oscar:

Especially growing up again in a very patriarchal society, you know the idea. Like boys, don't cry, like you can do everything yourself. You need to be strong all the time, finding that it's okay to open up and say, hey, I need help. That actually happened a lot with my job search and all that reaching out to all the people. It's a very vulnerable position where you're putting yourself in, even with new friends, like you're going out and it's like, hey, I want to be your friend, I'm 35 and I want to be your friend. It's a very vulnerable position, but everybody is in the same place sometimes. So if you just happen to connect at the same time, then it's great. So, yeah, I would say the best advice for me is just it's okay, it's going to think less of you if you ask for help.

Gurasis:

Any worst advice someone ever gave you.

Oscar:

Oh, worst advice. I can mention a lot of my Mexican bosses. I think there's bad, especially like I'm thinking about, like moving to Canada. I think the worst advice for me and again this is me who likes to I wanted to push myself and do other things, but the worst advice for me was to find my Mexican community when I moved in, because I think if I had done that, I would just move from one comfort zone to another. I will be speaking Spanish all the time, all my friends would speak Spanish and I think that would be really bad for me. It might be great for someone else, especially if you're homesick or you actually need that connection with the language, but in my case that I just wanted to move as fast as possible, understand the culture, blend into the culture, learn the language. For me it was a really bad advice, yeah, but again it's me, it's the way I am.

Gurasis:

Okay, is there something you recently bought in an AudiGret?

Oscar:

Maybe the car? What? Why? So we bought a car during. We live downtown Toronto, so there's no need to have a car here. We bought one with when COVID started and all that. We weren't able to travel Like my wife and I would like to travel like one or twice a year, but with COVID there was no option to travel and you can even take the train because again you're risking getting sick with some people around. So we bought a car and we used it for the time, but now the things are getting back to normal and you can take the public transit and everything. Our car is mostly parked downstairs. I would say maybe we use it like once or twice a month. But yeah, I mean I don't buy that much stuff and usually the things that I buy are books or video games and I usually consume them and I don't really regret buying those. But I think the car was. It was just a lot of money.

Gurasis:

So, yeah, is this something which is like the most expensive thing you would like to own?

Oscar:

I think my home Like I mean, we're paying for this one, but still we still have the mortgage. So I think once the mortgage is done, I would be super happy.

Gurasis:

So what's next on your bucket list?

Oscar:

I think traveling to Japan is another thing. So my family and my mom's side comes from Japan, so, but I've never been there.

Gurasis:

Are there any movies that you like to watch over and over again?

Oscar:

Yes, I do. I'm a huge sci-fi and fantasy fan, so I can think Star Wars is one Like first of the first three, like the ones that came out in the 70s, early 80s. That kind of like forged my childhood. The Godfather is another one that I really like to watch over and over again Blade Runner, terminator, jurassic Park, like, honestly, anything that is sci-fi-ish I'm going to be watching, even like TV shows as well, like anything, yeah, anything that it's just take me away, take me to a different world for a few hours, and now I'll rewatch it.

Gurasis:

So who's your go-to person when you feel stuck?

Oscar:

My wife, for sure she can give me, like very different perspectives on the things that I'm thinking.

Gurasis:

So if you could have one superpower, what would it be? Mind control 100%.

Oscar:

Yeah.

Gurasis:

So describe Canada in one word or a sentence.

Oscar:

I think I would describe it as embracing. I find the culture very open to different ideas, different cultures Like outside cultures, different people, like we're saying different accents, and I think the again like the weather is so harsh here that I mean we rely on getting people from other countries. So that wouldn't work if the culture wasn't as embracing as it is.

Gurasis:

Yeah, Great answer. If you could leave me with one piece of advice about podcasting. What would it be About podcasting?

Oscar:

Yeah, don't look at the numbers. That would say when I started the other podcast. I remember like getting maybe a hundred listens a month and at the beginning was very discouraging. But it just takes time. So don't look at the numbers, just keep going. Whatever you like to do, just go ahead.

Gurasis:

And finally, if you could leave me with one piece of advice in general, what would it be?

Oscar:

I'll take keep an open mind for anything. As I said, like I leave through. I know I'm usually a person who kind of like plays with the the cards I've dealt with. If something random comes up, you just pick it up and keep going. That's, that's kind of what I do, and you kind of do that if you don't have an open mind. Things change all the time. So, yeah, just keep an open mind on even the things that you don't understand or you don't like. The fact, like I was saying, like the worst advice that we're saying, like the fact that it was worse for me doesn't mean that it's worse for somebody else. So things that work for me might not work for you and things that work for you might not work for me, but if we understand them and we understand their differences, it will. It will just make us happier and less stressed. So, yeah, open mind for sure.

Gurasis:

Love that, thank you. Thanks a lot, oscar, for the advice and for being on the podcast and adding value to my listeners. Thank you.

Oscar:

Thank you for inviting me, Gurasis. Did I pronounce it correct , guru Siss? Yes, okay, made it Well. Thank you for inviting me. This was really fun. I love what you're doing and I'm, I'm, I'm a new fan of your, of your show.

Gurasis:

Awesome, thank you. Thanks. A lot Means a lot. Thank you, hey listener. Thank you for making it to the end. I highly highly appreciate you listening to the podcast. Subscribe to the podcast if you haven't as yet, and please share with your friends or anybody you think would like it. And, like I always say, we encourage you to follow your heart but also ask. On Instagram, the handle is@ mythickaccent. c. You can also leave us a review or write to. , us hello@mythickaccent . at. com. c .... mythicaccent. com. So stay tuned and let's continue knowing each other beneath the accent.

Inspiring Journey of Oscar Sucena
Caste System and Mexican Cultural Traditions
Journey to Canada
Overcoming Challenges and Embracing Struggles
Job Loss and Job Search Struggles
Journey, Resilience, and Appreciation
Advices, Traveling, and Podcasting