After the return from our wedding in Germany, we did not have much time to settle into a daily routine before my friend Britta came for a visit. I enjoyed her company very much because we have been friends since elementary school. We talked about everything without any language barriers.
The relationships with my school friends are still different than all the friendships I have made in my adult years. We share the same roots, and we can remember our childhood or early adulthood together. Even when we do not hear from each other for months, it is still as if we have seen each other just yesterday every time we meet.
After Britta left, I was sad because I felt quite isolated again. However, I was also craving some alone-time to digest the events of the past two months. I did not have time to fall into a deep hole, because less than seven weeks later my friend Bettina came for a visit, followed by our friends Marion and Chris. I enjoyed all these visits and showing our German guests our new home and the Ottawa sights. However, I needed to connect with others and make friends to feel at home in our new environment.
My early friendships in Canada were based on the same mother tongue. However, often we drifted apart before we even got to know each other better because we realized early on that coming from the same country was not sufficient as a foundation for a friendship.
My first real friendships developed once we had our first child. They started out as playgroup meetings to socialize with other new mothers and find playmates for our kids. Over the years, our kids built their own circle of friends outside of the group, but I am still friends with some of the other mothers.
My deepest friendships developed, however, once I spent time with other painters, about ten years later. Being invited to a paint-out of a group of painters from the Orleans/Cumberland area was a turning point. They were just all very welcoming, even to a novice plein air painter like me at the time. The dynamic was very different from my previous friendships. Until this point in my life, I had always been the oldest, whether it was in my family or in my circle of friends.
Suddenly, among the other painters, many of them in early retirement, I was the youngest by many years. I felt that the others looked out for me while accepting me as an equal. The friendships with some of my early painting buddies have deepened and we have each other's backs not only in the tough business of art but also when life is challenging. We also celebrate our successes and highlights together.
With the prospect of being accepted as a landed immigrant, I had to study for my driver's licence. Fourteen years after I had passed my driving test in Germany, I had to start all over again as my German licence was only valid for a couple of months as a tourist. We extended this time span by leaving the country a couple of times. However, once I became a landed immigrant I needed an Ontario driver's licence. This was very strange because in Germany, I had to take many months of theoretical and practical training before I could register for the test while here people just needed to pass the written test to sit behind a wheel.
At the time, I had to take the written test and then the road test to receive a full G licence. I drove myself to the drive test office. There, they almost did not allow me to do the test because my passport still showed my maiden name. However, once this was settled, one employee was very helpful when I had some problems to understand the questions. I passed with 100% and got my G1.
After the test, I drove myself home, which was legally a bit of a grey area. I still had my German driver’s licence but after receiving the G1 licence, usually one is only allowed to drive when accompanied by a driver with four years of driving experience. The next step was the road test for the full G licence. I had a hard time to book the road test. I was devastated because the next appointment in Ottawa was only available in November. I called all around, until I finally could book a test in Cornwall for September 5 which I passed without problem.
The day after my G1 test, I finally became a landed immigrant. However, this was only the beginning of more running around. Next, I had to apply for the Ontario Health Insurance Program. Ahead, there were the prospects of more documents to fill out and more waiting around. I was quite frustrated. Three months later, I was finally insured.
As it turns out, the paperwork does not seem to end. As a German citizen and permanent resident to Canada there is double the paperwork to deal with as both my passport as well as my permanent resident card have to be valid to enable me to travel abroad and return to Canada. Since July 2015, the German embassy in Ottawa does not offer any consular services anymore, which means that my family and I have to travel to Toronto to have our passport renewed.
Looking back on my more than 20 years in Canada, I am now at a point in my life where it would be as hard to leave my Canadian friends behind as it was to leave my German friends behind when I moved to Canada. The move has challenged me in ways I never considered and brought me unexpected blessings. I feel content as an artist and instructor. This is a passion I would probably never have fully developed if I had stayed in Germany, where I most likely would have continued in the financial business field.
A Turkish friend of mine once said to me that he neither felt fully at home in Germany nor in Turkey. I now know exactly what he meant. I will always be torn between the two countries.
|Winter Glow, Acrylic, 36" x 24"|
Thank you for following me throughout the first chapters of my life in Canada. I hope you got a glimpse of the challenges immigrants face, and also learned some new facts about life in Germany.
I would like to wish all of you all the best for a happy and successful 2017. I will do my best to keep you entertained with my blogs which will be more art oriented again in the new year.