Before she became a jail guard
Erika didn’t start her career in Canada as a jail guard right away. She first worked in a big multinational company, which she humbly claims as “a luck of the draw”. For an Asian to enter the corporate world, she says, you have to first go through the “Canadian experience”.
“It’s a form of discrimination. They realize that a lot of Asian immigrants are highly educated. They’re trying to protect their own so they can prevent new immigrants from taking over their jobs that are more prestigious and pay higher,” Erika explains. Most Asians, she says, end up doing blue collar work regardless of their education and professional experience.
Erika is just that good, so I don’t believe luck had something to do with her first hiring in a big Canadian company. She had a lot of things to say about this “Canadian experience”, but I’ll keep that between us.
It wasn’t all roses and rainbows at the beginning, however. She arrived in Canada in 2001, which was around the time 9/11 happened. While she didn’t get retrenched right away (she’s that good), recession eventually caught up and she had to be let go. She was jobless for a few weeks thereafter.
Not one to cave in and give up easily, Erika decided to go back to school. She passed a double major in Sociology and Criminology in a university in Toronto, and the rest is history.
Erika has always been fascinated by crime. As a Journalism graduated, she once interned in a prison back home. There, she got to interview inmates and immersed herself into how they live being incarcerated.
To support herself, she worked as a receptionist at a veterinary clinic. She sacrificed not going back to her home country, and lost a lot of weight. Everything she earned from the clinic went to her tuition and studio apartment rental. There were days when she couldn’t even buy food for herself, so she would fall in line in a food bank with the rest of the struggling students in a similar situation.
Since she couldn’t take a full load out of work (girl’s gotta survive), she finished her entire course in six years. In between that, she met her current partner (she was estranged from her previous husband after a few years since they arrived), a European living in Canada. She got pregnant, which made it even more challenging to finish her studies. It didn’t help that she had to move to another place that was around 45 minutes away by car from her university. But that’s Erika – she takes life’s punches for breakfast.
After giving birth, she went on with her routine, but with even more challenges. She would report for work in the morning and go to school with a heavy backpack containing her breast pump, milk bottles, insulated bag, and all other paraphernalia that a working/student/mother would need. Oh yeah, and perhaps a book or pen for her classes.
Let this sink in: as a working student, she got pregnant, gave birth, traveled for at least 45 minutes from home, worked as a receptionist in the morning, took classes at night. But that’s not all. To apply what she learns from school along the way, she took it upon herself to do voluntary work dealing with juvenile delinquents in between all these things. Mind you, not just in one probationary office, but three! I’m exhausted just writing all these things down. She’s the Tazmanian devil in real life!
“How did I do that? I can’t believe I did that!” Erika exclaims, herself amazed at what she did during those crazy years.
It was around this time that someone told her about a job opening in a youth detention center for a jail officer position.
Next page: Life among deviants