Syrian refugees – Don’t be afraid – An immigrant experience – By Jacqui Henry

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By Jacqui Henry – AIM Contributor

Canada recently welcomed its 25000th  Syrian refugee and we all, or at least most of us, applauded the government for its swift action in giving a home to people so desperately in need. But as a former new arrival to Canada, I know that their arrival is just the beginning of a long journey.

The roller coaster ride is always fun until you’ve taken your first dive, then comes the unexpected turns and twists with every moment subject to another change.  Change is a part of life. It’s one of those things which we will all experience, regardless of our race, creed, gender age or geographical location. When we’re young, we experience lots of physical changes as we get older we experience hormonal changes.  Every new year we start a diet and what about all those people spending millions to try and change their appearance.  The fact is change is an undeniable part of life.

Then there are changes that happen around us which affect us, but are often out of our control, political change, industrial and technological changes and most worrying environmental

change. I really could go on, but the point I am trying to make is that as immigrants, we often face our most radical changes and greatest challenges at the same time. Everything looks, sounds, tastes and smells different.  I am originally from the United Kingdom and yet Canada was a culture shock to me.  I had the benefit of speaking the language, I could recognise the names of the places – we have a London too!  I also knew the difference between ‘where’ I am and what I will ‘wear’ English can be a very confusing language!

Yet with all these advantages, there were many occasions when tackling all of these changes simultaneously left me wanting to throw in my Maple Leaf towel and head for the nearest airport. But not being the type to run from a fight, I decided instead to adopt a few new strategies which helped to make the transition easier.

They included the following:  1). Always make sure you are looking in the Right Direction: Look the right way when crossing a road or street—this could literally save

your life! Most immigrants from countries that drive on the left are confused on this score when they arrive in Canada.

2). Always Ask twice: People are always willing to offer you advice. Your relatives if you have any here, are happy to regale you with their stories, tips and suggestions, but the golden rule is check what you hear.  It’s not uncommon to get an absolute matter of fact explanation that turns out to be completely and entirely wrong.

If you need information and wondering where to start, well why not start with the usual suspects; what, where, who, when, why and how much? That way at least you can make more informed choices.

3). Learn to Wait: Waiting can save you a lot of money.  Waiting for your food and household items to go on sale can save you a pot of money and leave you with the satisfaction of knowing you got a real bargain.

4). Try something New: Try buying a new food every time you go shopping. The North American diet has a lot to offer, if you’re only willing to discover what they have on the menu. Granted there is nothing that compares to a ‘toad in the hole’ with mash potatoes, hmmm….! but there are alternatives you might enjoy.

5). Make Canada your home but stay a Tourist: After liv

ng in Canada for a number of years and being a constant tourist, I still haven’t been able to attend all the parades, events, street festivals, theatres, restaurants and free talks there are in ever ready supply, regardless of what might take your fancy.  Even with limited time available, you could still make a moderate plan to attend something every quarter.

As an example: January – March : attend Winterlisicous April – June: rock your green afro wig at the St Patrick’s Day Parade – July to September: sing a long at an open air jazz event – these happen right across the GTA from October to December: why not go and cheer one of our home teams at the ACC or attend a free talk at The Toronto Reference Library. Your choices are endless.

The point I am trying to make is that change can be good, but it really depends on our perspective and our attitude. You can choose to see the glass half full or half empty. Why not rise to the occasion, be hopeful and full of faith and use these life giving ingredients to embrace change and live your best life at all times.

In conclusion – Socrates said it best; The secret of change is to focus all your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.’__________________

AIM welcomes Jacqui Henry as  a contributors.  Watch out for her columns in each edition.





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