Posted in Canada, English

What I have learnt after 5 years of immigration

March marked 5 years since I landed with one suitcase in my hand in Canada. Back then I didn’t plan to stay here so long. My plan was pretty simple, use my one year long work permit to experience all four seasons in the north and save some money for my dream trip to South America. I didn’t dare to think that it would turn out like this and that five years later I would still be in Canada, living in Montreal. For some people five years of immigration is nothing, for others it can be too much, and for me it has been enough to get know myself better and gain many new experiences. 

I rediscovered the world map all over again

Before I moved to Yellowknife I had a vague understanding of the Canadian north. I had spent two summers in Alaska before, and became familiar with the geography of that state,  but my overall knowledge of the Canadian, northern frontier was limited to the Yukon, including Whitehorse, and the famous gold rush from the early 20th century.  I was also aware that somewhere in the east exists the territory of Nunavut. Everything in between was just a big, white spot on the map and that was where I was heading. Back in Poland, when I was looking at a map of Canada I was under the impression that Yellowknife is located at the edge of this enormous country. My brain was telling me that further north, there must be only polar bears and permafrost. A few years later, when I was working as a flight coordinator for a local airline, I looked at the same map and I saw Yellowknife as a southern reference point, a gate to the great, white north. Within 4 years of living in the Northwest Territories I learnt names of rivers and national parks I hadn’t heard of before. I listened to many stories about the Northwest Passage expeditions and the first white people who had reached this part of the world the hard way.

I learnt a few things about myself

Thanks to my previous travels and my immigration to Canada I got to know myself better. I have realized what I like to do and what I detest, what I long for and what doesn’t make any difference to me. Small things, that I wouldn’t realize if I hadn’t move out of Poland. I would never have thought that polish donuts on Fat Thursday ( a Polish tradition of eating as many donuts as possible on the last Thursday before Lent) and big croissants filled with white poppy seeds on November 11th would be so important to me. Although this year I managed to make it up to myself (5 years without Fat Thursday) with a fair amount of donuts from a local polish bakery. After some time in Canada I noticed that I was missing someone with who I could watch old, Polish comedy and someone who would understand my jokes related to them. I could probably keep going and multiplying those examples, but the conclusion is that during immigration the longings which we didn’t know existed start coming out of us. It is probably because when we live in our country of origin we take many things for granted and only after they are removed from our daily life that we start missing them.

In Yellowknife I experienced the true appeal of winter. Crisp frost and white snow, crunching under my feet. The northern lights and sun dogs with their characteristic rainbows. Days were short but when the temperature drops below -40 you have the certainty of a cloudless sky with a low hanging sun. I got to know how it feel to have frozen eyelashes and a white, frosted tangle instead of hair. I felt how metal burns the bare skin in -40 and I was able to made my own snow by throwing boiling water into the cold air.

Thanks to living in Canada I polished my English (pun not intended) and although to the end of my days I will have an accent and probably more than once I will mess up the placement of “a” and “the”, but today I can say that I am bilingual. I discovered that English is easier for me to express feelings and emotions with. Since Canada is bilingual and I just ended up in the french part of the country, now I am working on that language in a very fast pace.

I learnt arts and crafts

In the early school years I made myself believe that I was too clumsy for anything that involved the use of my hands. Since then I was avoiding activities like painting, sewing or crafting. The large amount of free time during my immigration processed pushed me to find something to do. This is when I found the beading group, a group of women who spent their free time making jewelry out of beads. I decided to give it a try and joint them, but deep inside I didn’t have too much hope that it will last too long. I quickly noticed that I am not that clumsy with a needle as a thought and besides beading and learnt crocheting and sewing. I kept with it and later I enrolled myself in quilting and painting classes. My artistically gifted mother was happy that she could finally pass some knowledge and skills on to her own daughter and she did so by teaching me how to weave paper wicker. All this wouldn’t happened if not for my forced unemployment in the far north.

I fell into aviation

My knowledge about aviation was close to the zero before I moved to Canada. Shortly after I started living in Yellowknife, I met Jason, who worked as an airplane mechanic at that time. On one of our first dates he took me to the hangar he worked in and showed me an aircraft’s engine and explained how it works to me. Later on when we lived together, I was learning new words about planes’ construction which I even couldn’t translate to Polish. When Jason started his commercial pilot career, I started to learn aviation from the cockpit side. Finally I decided to try my hand in this industry and I became a flight coordinator. I quickly got bitten by the aviation bug and now I cannot think about doing anything else.

There’s a funny story related to aviation. Before my big move to Canada, my skeptical, or maybe rather cynical brother, asked me: “And what are you going to do there?”. Knowing that float planes are his weak spot, which I knew since we took one together from Vancouver do Victoria in BC, I answered back: “I will marry a pilot, who flies float planes.” Scary how all my plans relating to this year long trip to Canada fell through and only one sentence thrown out as a retort for the cattiness of the elder brother became true 100%. I fell in love and for that reason I decided to turn my life upside down. So you better be careful what you wish for.


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