lunes, 8 de marzo de 2010

Canadian Experience.

So here I am ready to share with you part of an experience I had during the last semester of 2009 in Canada, specifically in Toronto. It is the recall of a few months only and I would not be so silly as to narrow down a canadian experience to just the one I had in Toronto, which is only a city in such a great nation. About the reasons why I am writing about it until today it is because I am now faced with new decisions that require me to chose for now between Canada and Mexico, but also because I owe it to my friends who supported me.

To make a brief introduction of the reasons that prompted me to seek Canadian Residency I can just say that I wanted to feel safer, but more than this to have a greater chance to go further in my career, that is as a fashion and textile designer. The journey that started in january 2005 and ended in september 2008 between the canadian visa authorities, my lawyer inToronto, the mexican authorities and I was a very suffered one that I only endured because the prize was "to high". You cannot imagine the great excitement I felt when I picked up my Candian Permanent Resident Visa at the Canadian Embassy in Mexico City: a lifetime dream had come true.

Then, the preparations for the move, saying goodbye to family and friends, to colleagues, to my job, my home, my was all worth it, a new life awaited me and it was what I had prepared for all my life.
I won't say that I had placed all my apples in a basket called "Canada", because experience has taught me not to bet all in just one number, time would only tell, the only thing that surprised me is that such time came to fast and it happened in late November of 2009, months after I landed in Canada.

The first experiences were amazing, for me all of the new experiences I was going through seemed exciting, and they were so in every sense of the word. My welcome to Canada was just great, all doors would open, my visa was the key. Then things started to change, where it hurt the most: in the two things that prompted me to leave my country: safety and higher professional opportunities.
Toronto is not the safe city you think it is. I lived in Yorkville, one of the most expensive areas in the city, in a building with 24 hour concierge service where Maseratti's and Porsches were parked in the garage. I could see the Four Season's Hotel from my window and when the TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) was on film stars hanged around the area with its high-end boutiques, bars and restaurants. But in the evening it was unpleasant to walk around the corner, as me and my dog saw everything from drug dealing to prostitution, from many homeless people to filthy streets. We lived in a building where drug dealing and call girls from Eastern Europe were our next door neighbors. Don't get me wrong, I live in a major city, Mexico City, and these things don't scare me, but when you are living in an expensive area surrounded by the above, well it is not pleasant, also because back home my neighborhood was a lot safer and cleaner.
So feeling safe was no longer part of the deal I made, I was willing to accept such new reality as long as the second, and most important reason of the two: job opportunities, would still be there. This is where I received the hardest slap called "Canadian Experience", meaning if you have never worked for a canadian employer in your field in Canada then you don't have it and so, you will never have access to the kind of job opportunities you are used to in your home country unless you get your first canadian experience at a job where the requirements (and wages) are low and far below your expectations: Starbuck's, Subway..........this was not part of the bargain, I immigrated as a professional skilled worker, and the mountain of documents to give proof to the Canadian Visa authorities of my abilities (proof of education, letters from my employers, etc, etc) I did not provide to end up serving sandwiches and coffee. Underneath such "canadian experience" lies a truth: racism. An ugly word that so many immigrants in Canada live with.
The above is the reality most people who immigrate don't talk about and you feel betrayed, and you start feeling worthless, frustrated and depressed. The initial excitement washed out just like the chilling autumn wind that hit my face like nails in every corner. Then you start missing everything you left, from the most dear to you to the most insignificant. "Forget Mexico" some canadian friends would say, but how could I when life where I came from was so good. I then had to make a balance and take important decisions before it was to late, that is, before I would have to forget about who I was, a textile designer with 16 years of experience. I became a keen observer of everything I would see in Toronto, I was no longer surprised to see that the ones wearing the nicest clothes were almost entirely caucasian, or that whenever spanish was spoken it was because I passed by a cleaning guy who was wiping windows in a building. It would feel awkard when they would greet me in english, as I do not represent the mexican or latino ideology most non-mexicans have, seems like I am "to tall, to white, or to educated" for a mexican. I am Mexico too!
One saturday afternoon a friend from Australia who was also having a hard time finding a decent job made me a question; we were planning on going to yet another job fair. "Where is your move right now?" she asked, "It has not left Mexico yet" I replied. My move included all of my furniture and the things I could not part with. She asked "Can you stop it?", and suddenly I understood what she was talking about. She had left Sidney, quit her job, sold her house, her car and given up on everything for Toronto, Canada. She lived close by to my appartment, and because her flat was not big enough, she was paying for storage. After almost a year, she still could not find a job that would value her many years of experience. Many times we would end up talking with nostalgia about the many things we missed from our hometowns, it was painful. The next sunday I took a decision and it was the best I ever took: I needed to close that first chapter with Canada and go back to Mexico. I did so sometime after, with five overweighted bags, my dog, and seven kilos less of flesh. To see the coloured roofs of houses from the plane illuminated by the afternoon sun, the city that is MY city, in a country where my ancestors from Europe set in roots and taught me to love and feel proud of, brought tears to my eyes. I now love my country even more, with all of it, its good and bad side, because it is mine. So now I am setting in roots again in Mexico and watering those that I did not dare to cut. I am excited about life again and grateful for the whole experience of being again at home, in my house, in my city, in my country.

I will go back to Canada, but do not know when exactly and it will be for short periods only with a different plan. Only time will tell, as it always does, perhaps in the end Canada will be my country of destination, but right now its not time. To anyone thinking of immigrating to Canada feeling that it is the new frontier, just do not fret into burning all of the bridges with your homeland, especially if you have an okay life, because in these troubled times, of so many uncertainties an okay life that you live everyday is better than a mirage.

A few days after I arrived back home, I went to look for a magazine at my local newstand. The owner saw me and with a smile asked me "Where were you?, I missed you", I looked at him, someone with whom for years I hardly exchanged anything more than five words. "I lost my way for a little while but I am back", I replied. He said "Good, here is your favourite magazine, I remember".

How wonderful is the feeling of belonging to a place.

Thanks for reading.