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The Immigration Story of Carina Feng (Chinese Immigrant)

The Museum reviews and accepts donated personal or family memories and histories into its collection. As a learning institution, the accounts help us understand how individuals recollect, interpret, or construct meaning from lived experiences. The stories are not modified by Museum staff. The point of view expressed is that of the author and not that of the Museum.

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A Journey towards Destiny

My Chinese name is Chen Feng but I chose Carina as my English name when I started learning English at the university. It’s a kind of an unspoken rule or custom when one is in an English speaking environment. Carina doesn’t have a special meaning, I just liked the sound of it, but Chen means “morning sun”. I was born in the morning and I was very little and weak. My grandfather gave me a name that carries a kind of power so that I can grow up stronger, like the morning sun with all of the energy and hope.

I worked as a teacher in an English training school in my hometown Xi’an. I was also the foreign affairs department coordinator. My role was to help the school’s foreign teachers with any and all issues during their stay in China. Things like getting a bank card, phone card, finding an apartment, paying bills and setting up internet. Andrew had graduated from the University of Alberta and got an offer for a master’s degree from Dalhousie. He asked for a year deferral to travel. He wanted to visit an altogether different culture, so he picked China. He chose Xi’an because it’s a very old city and has a lot of history. After a Skype interview with the school manager he got a work visa. He came and we met and everything changed. There were many situations where we got together outside of school while I helped him settle down. After we got to know each other more, we decided to go on a date. I showed him the city and we tried some local food. I didn’t have any non-Chinese friends before and everything was different. I remember that after we first went out together, I told my mom that it was the first time in my life that a man opened the taxi door for me. When I got into the taxi he put his hand above my head to protect me so I won’t get hurt. This was special and new, never happened before. We became a couple really fast, less than a month after we met. Andrew finished his contract with the school and after he left China I started my own tutoring business. We maintained our connection online talking on Skype every day to keep each other updated and writing emails. I used to think that I’m not the kind of person who can handle a long-distance relationship because I need security, but with him I didn’t feel lonely and I didn’t need anyone else. I had complete trust in him. The only problem we had was the time zone difference. I couldn’t talk to him whenever I wanted. He came to China several times. We traveled and lived together for a few months. Everything was good except for my cooking. Once, I cooked some fried food and after trying it Andrew asked if we can go out for pizza. I got a lot better at cooking both Chinese and western food and now he prefers to eat at home. He proposed in Chinese, on my birthday. His pronunciation was somewhat incorrect but cute. He said that I made him a better person, that we completed each other’s worlds. I feel the same way. We got married in the registry office and had a small reception with only my family in China. We waited about ten months until I could come to Canada.

At first, I was volunteering at Pier 21 and then, I got the opportunity to work here. This has been one of the most enriching experiences for me in Canada. I love meeting interesting people, learning the history and seeing the many immigrants who found a reflection of their own immigration here. I also like working with people who are from different backgrounds in this very culturally diverse environment. Observing differences is the most interesting thing about my journey and it played a big part in my first fascination with Andrew. He makes me think differently, see things in different ways. Before I met him I would sometimes get stuck on a notion or couldn’t understand some people’s reaction or thoughts. Knowing him has opened my mind. I used to think in a certain way and now I understand that this may not be the only answer in the world. I have learned things that I never knew before. Being with him and having a relationship with him is like an adventure. It has also changes my own character and personality. There can be times when we are not on the same page. We need to accept all differences between us and change ourselves, so this adventure can be beautiful, happy, but also scary or unexpected. I think the joy from it is that you don’t know what you are going to learn next so you’re excited all the time. That’s probably another reason why I like Canada so much. I get to encounter people who are very different and unique. I feel that I am like a fish swimming in this big “ocean of the world” observing how different types of fish swim in a different way. I am changing and evolving, accepting the unexpected, moving with the currents of life. It wasn’t easy at first, coming to a new country. I felt a loss: l left my country, my culture and my family. I thought I couldn’t fit in. Today, I feel much more comfortable. I would love to visit China but I want to have my life here. Halifax reminds me of the countryside in China for it is very peaceful and quiet. People here are super nice. The houses are very beautiful and unique. There are many trees and flowers .The streets are not very wide and there are not so many people walking on them, especially at night. Everything closes early at the evening. At first it was strange but now I like it because I have more time to relax and do what I want to do. It is the opposite in China because the lifestyle there is very fast. There are many tall buildings. You almost can’t see the sky or 50 meters ahead. People barely greet each other, not even by eye contact. You can hardly chat with strangers. The driving manner is like a competition: people are more aggressive and nobody likes to wait. I feel that my life before was a lot more stressful, physically and mentally. Here, there is a lot more freedom to choose and to make your own decision even if it is not considered “mainstream” or the society’s choice. In China, most of the time you are told by teachers, parents, friends, even strangers what you should or shouldn’t do. Sometimes, people can’t decide for themselves. Furthermore, in some places or in some people’s mind, success is measured by how much money you earn, no matter in what business, what advantages it takes from the country and the people or how many people get hurt. I don’t want to live in this kind of environment and have no choice but to see my children being educated in that way. In addition, the society demands a much higher standard of success from women. The mom is always at fault and should be responsible for everything that happens in her family as well as her children’s accomplishments and failures. In Canada, I feel that I can just be myself. I didn’t purposely choose Canada. It just happened to be my husband’s homeland. I am happy that it turned out to be my fortunate destiny.

The immigration story of Chen (Carina) Feng