Friday, October 12, 2012

"My First Day in Canada" - Part 2

        Long before 1971, when Canada established its multicultural policy, the reality was there. From the very beginning, Canada was settled and populated by immigrants – some just earlier than others. The First Nations came across a land bridge that connected Siberia to Alaska; the French settled on the banks of the St. Lawrence; English loyalists streamed into Upper Canada from the Thirteen Colonies; Irish emigrated during the potato famine; and my neighbors from Sri Lanka arrived two months ago. We can’t generalize the immigrant experience, but we can learn to appreciate the uniqueness of each story. I want to share another “first day” experience from one of my students at Seneca College. This is Hazel’s story:

        I still remember the very first day that I arrived in Canada. It was the first week of January, 2008. The airbus plane of Air Canada arrived at Vancouver International Airport. At that moment, I was a little bit scared and nervous. I got up from my seat and followed my fellow passengers to exit from the plane. I went to the crowded areas where immigration officer was checking the documents. I had a strange feeling that I was half a world away from my family. I think that is what they call “homesick.” After the documentation process, I still had a connecting flight going to Toronto. As I was sitting inside the plane from Vancouver to Toronto, I looked out the window to see if there was snow, but nothing was on the ground. I was silent and went to sleep because I was exhausted from the long flight.
        I arrived at Toronto International Airport around eight in the evening. The sky was dark, and the weather was cold. I got up from my seat and exited the plane feeling tired. I walked through the baggage section to claim my luggage. As I looked around, people were so busy. I saw different cultures of people and I was one of them coming in Canada to work and live.
        As I stepped through the exit door, someone called my name. I looked around and Ronnie was there with Derek. I was so happy to see them because I was thinking “what it nobody will pick me up in the airport?” Ronnie hugged me and Derek shook my hand. Derek was my sponsor here in Canada and Ronnie was a Filipino. They really gave me a warm welcome.
        We stepped into the car and we talked. As soon as we left, Derek told me that we were driving two hours to London, Ontario. As I was sitting, I was amazed by all the cars and buildings that surrounded the city, but I was still looking for snow. We drove on a long road and the weather was so cold for me. We stopped at McDonald’s as I was hungry. And then we drove back again on the road.

        London, Ontario is a small town west of Toronto. It is the place where I was going to stay and work. It is a very quiet town. There are no tall buildings like Toronto. We arrived at Derek’s home at around 11:00 in the evening. I took my luggage from the car and met his wife. Ronnie helped me move all the things in the house and I went to lie down on the bed. Then, I didn’t even realize that I was sleeping.

        The next morning I got up, opened the door, and went downstairs. I looked out the window and the snow was falling. It was the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen in my whole life. Well, I lived in a tropical country and hadn’t experienced anything like that.
The Thames River, London

Photo courtesy of Giles Whitaker,

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