Friday, December 08, 2006

Immigrants

Once a week for the past six months I mentor A, a new immigrant from China, recently married, extremely educated (MBA, CFA,) humble and all round great girl. A is inspiring. She and her hubby met in China, and he then immigrated to Canada two years before she arrived. They then got married, and A had to defer to immigration law, and wait for another six months till her SIN # (which allows you to work) came through. Now most people in A’s position, put their legs up and watch TV for 6 months. Instead A, took ESL classes, took the CFA test, volunteered to run a local MP’s election campaign. A inspires me. So when she asked me to dinner I jumped at the chance.

I went over to their apartment last night, which A and hubby share with another Chinese couple. A cooked a great dinner, and then we all got to chatting. I learnt that in China, there are few paid public workers. Instead the people are responsible for most of the daily chores, for instance as university students A and hubby were responsible for cleaning the snow of the roads and highways twice a day. In school all the children do the job of the local janitors. They clean floors, scrub windows. Even the itty bitty kids in Grade one are expected to perform these duties, if they can’t manage their parents lend a hand. A and Hubby talked about how when Chairman Mao took over, one of the first things he did was to make the intellectuals, white collar workers, spend time in the villages with the farmers, to learn how to feed themselves.

We then discussed the trials and tribulations people face in Canada as new immigrants. The one thing my family and I took for granted when we immigrated to Canada, was our perfect command of English. A and hubby said the main obstacles they face in a society like Canada, one based so much on the service industry and sales, is their inability to communicate in the most basic way. Thus everything becomes more frustrating, more depressing. We talked about how when people immigrate, the first thing they need to forget is their pride. No matter how rich, important or what a great job you had in your own country, Canada humbles you in an instant. You take any job you are given, just to earn the prized Canadian experience. For instance since coming to Canada, my dad has sold vacuum cleaners, worked night shifts in factories, and done telemarketing, just to help us survive. All this from a man who used to manage 65 people and hadn’t done manual labor in over twenty years. Yet there is light at the end of the tunnel. While the first generation of immigrants, no matter where they hail from, never truly feels ‘Canadian,’ it is their children that thrive. For my part I am a weird hybrid of a first generation immigrant as well as a ‘lucky’ child, who went through the system long enough to get acclimatized. I like to think I understand both sides of the track. The danger of course is that we ‘children’ quickly forget the sacrifices made on our behalf’s. Thus you see a lot of first generation parents in old age homes, abandoned, and bewildered at how soon they have been forgotten.

I am not a good Catholic or religious person. Most of the time, I question the idea of God or God's very existence. At Mass I want to debate the priest.

What I do believe in, is people. I believe good people like my dad, A and her hubby. The people who you don’t read about in the papers, who don’t invent a cure for anything, who for the most part lack any sort of major egos, are the ones who can truly save us. Through their simple every day actions, I find hope.

My challenge to you is, don’t say the world is getting worse. Do something to make it a better place.

2 comments:

Abeni said...

Yup,heroes are all around us.

CoolDestiny said...

There is a revelation that always takes place when you hear about another person's experience of struggle.