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Friday, 24 April 2020

My Immigration Journey

Heading Towards Mount Robson Park

Acrylic, 18” x 24”, $550


Blog 10



Twenty-five years ago, on April 21, 1995, I came to a country that was foreign to me. I had never left Europe except for a trip to Turkey in my early twenties. I did not know much about Canada, except that people wanted to move there to escape the densely populated Germany. People were looking to experience the openness and ruggedness of the Canadian landscape, a land full of possibilities. They were looking to create a new life with more space and fewer restrictions. I was happy in Germany. Sometimes, when the rainy days bothered me, I dreamed about moving to sunny Spain. I had spent some wonderful holidays there, and that was the extend of my emigration dream. I enjoyed living close to my parents, my sister, grandmother as well as my large circle of friends. I could reach all of them in 30 minutes or less. Several evenings a week, I went dancing. I even was the assistant to one of the dance teachers at the dance school. I had friends at the tennis club and the fitness centre. I owned a nice apartment with a small garden on the first floor of a five-party dwelling. I had a good job as head of the administrative department of a big leasing company, and an even better job offer.


So why did I pack up everything and followed my fiancé Ingo to this land of unlimited possibilities?


I was deeply in love with Ingo who had always told me that he wanted to go back to Canada where he was raised. I probably also wanted to do something unexpected. Since I was a child, I was always reliable and sensible. The most daring goal had been to become a fashion designer. However, when I was not accepted into the programme at university, I went for the very reasonable enrollment at a language school to become a foreign language correspondent, followed by studies in business administration. I had steadily climbed the carrier ladder from secretary to head of the administration department. My life followed a successful but also very predictable path.


When we moved my furniture out of my apartment was the first time I was questioning my decision to leave Germany. Suddenly, my choice felt real: I would leave everything I knew behind. At that point, however, our flight was only days away, and there was no turning back. In retrospect, I doubt that I believed that I would leave forever. I was rather elated by the prospect of an adventure before settling down. Ingo and I had agreed to spend six months in Canada before making a final decision. We had stored my furniture in the basement of my apartment and rented it out.


After arriving in Toronto and moving in with Ingo's parents, we bought a car and drove to Vancouver. The trip through beautiful Canadian and American landscapes provided new breathtaking sights every day. I am glad that I took the time to journal extensively about our daily discoveries. After years of working like a maniac, I enjoyed the time to explore and be quiet. It was an unforgettable vacation, although I was quite homesick and often unwell from the many fast-food meals we eat to save money.


After we came back from Vancouver, Ingo applied for a job. At first, he started a temporary position. I spend my days at his parents' home as I did not have a work permit nor a residence permit. During these first months in Canada, my situation was not much different from the way we live right now due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While I did not have to worry about my health, I still worried nevertheless: about not earning money, about having to start from zero, and about an insecure future. I was wondering if I had made the wrong decision to follow Ingo.


As I did not know anyone but Ingo's immediate family, I spent the days isolated, writing journal and letters, plus making teddy bears. I felt quite alone, except in the evenings and on the weekends when Ingo and I would go for bike rides, or put on the roller blades, to explore the area. It surely did not help that I did not earn any money or was mobile. However, more than anything, I was intimidated by the huge city and not ready to explore it by myself. Despite speaking the language, I felt judged as stupid for not being able to articulate myself like in my mother tongue.


My situation felt surreal. I had been an independent woman with a good-paying job who had an apartment and a new car. I had lots of friends and family to spend time together. Suddenly, I had become dependent and totally out of place. The people I lived with were strangers, even though they were very nice to me.


Different from today, however, there was no easy and inexpensive way to connect with my family and friends at home. Phone calls were very expensive, especially overseas. Cell phones and internet service were still in their infancy. For most people, emails and video calls were inventions of the future. Jumping forward twenty-five years, I cannot even imagine how to survive the current physical distancing without the use of modern technology.


In two weeks, I will continue my story with our move to Ottawa and the return to certain routines. I hope you enjoyed this part of my journey. Please share my blog with friends and family. Thank you in advance for your help to increase my audience.

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P. S. Did you know that you can purchase my paintings directly on my website www.KerstinPeters.ca?  If you find a painting you love, please proceed to the Purchase tab and pay conveniently from your home. Shipping cost will be added depending on your location.

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