I came to Canada and then, I chose to stay. I did not come as an immigrant but I became one. I was successful and happy in my job back home and I loved my family and friends. What possessed me to leave it all behind and stay in Canada?
Not long after I arrived as a graduate student, the situation in Venezuela was rapidly deteriorating. As a single mother I realized that if I wanted to offer my daughter the same opportunities I had growing up, Venezuela was not the place. Choosing to stay was simple. I liked the little bit of Canada I knew. But it was not easy.
I had to reinvent myself. Instead of following the path I had built so far as a university professor, I became a high school teacher. I was very lucky to get a job quickly. It was ironic that I got it not because of all my degrees in science but because I spoke Spanish.
Leaving my family behind was much harder. I grew up in a large extended family. I had summers at my grandparents, numerous family get-togethers, and lots of people who knew me and cared about me. Here we had practically no one. With my choice I was able to provide many educational and material opportunities for my daughter but I felt I was robbing her of the family experience, as I knew it.
As I settled, I discovered so much about other cultures without having to leave the country. I started playing the djembe in an African music group. I went to a hockey game. I had a group of friends from Chile, Mexico, and Colombia. It was so funny sometimes when we couldn’t understand each other’s Spanish from the weird local jargon we each used. This is when I truly got to know what Canada was all about.
Some years passed and I met a Canadian who today is my husband. He can’t speak a word in Spanish and until he met us had no real contact with immigrants. I guess we came as a surprise to him. Everyday is an adventure in cultural misunderstanding. He has become the father my daughter never truly had and our little family has expanded to include his family and friends. Navigating the waters between our two worlds is sometimes funny and some times frustrating. But we are learning a lot from each other and building a great life here, in Canada.