In 1981, I moved to Vancouver in order to work, learn English and escape Quebec’s winters. My original two-year plan has now spanned 30 years, thanks to people I’ve met along the way. Their integrity – a rare quality these days – has attracted me so much that I folded my globetrotting wings to stay and be inspired.
Over the years, I’ve met people from all over the world: Belgium, Japan, Germany, Australia, Nevis, Korea, Poland, Kyrgyzstan, France, Iran, Greece, Malaysia. One particular family even acknowledges me as “Auntie Lynka.”
Speaking with Haitians born in Canada or Chinese from Costa Rica or East Indians from England, I find it fascinating to learn how much people move around. After listening to them and sharing their experiences, I’ve come to the conclusion that, whatever our background might be, human emotion is our common link.
If you’re a newcomer and you want to meet new people in Vancouver, I recommend you attend the numerous free activities all over town, or volunteer for a charitable society or other organizations. Above all, you should accept any party invitation.
If a feeling of loneliness takes hold despite these outings, here is an aboriginal antidote: close your eyes; think of the people, alive or not, who have loved you; then, imagine their peaceful faces floating above you. See! These companions are all watching over you.
Traveling obviously means leaving behind people and places, but quite often I bump into reminders of the past.
For example, 30 years ago I took my first step in Vancouver on Quebec Street, where I was dropped off by the couple who had given me a ride from Prince George. Fancy that! Being dropped off on a street bearing the name of the Province I grew up in.
I found my first job in New-Westminster on a street called Sherbrooke, the very name of the town I was born in. I took singing classes on St-Catherine Street which brought back memories of Sainte-Catherine-de-Hatley where I spent most of my youth. It’s small world, indeed.
The luxurious nature and mild climate of Vancouver have also inspired me to stay. This city offers – in a way rarely encountered around the world – quick access to the mountains, the ocean and the countryside. Having been raised in both urban and rural settings I love the idea of having it all in one place. I need a measure of proximity to nature.
I don’t miss the East Coast winter, as I never got used to bundling up for seven months of the year. In Quebec the rain would totally depress me but here, it makes me smile. I am so happy not to see snow, what a friend of mine calls “the white pest.” In fact, all-day rain is less frequent than people believe; many have learned to enjoy the sunny breaks.
To live in multicultural Vancouver means to constantly discover new writers, singers, cuisines, traditions and opinions. I sometimes wonder about the consequences of using a second language on a daily basis. Is it an interesting challenge or am I masochistic, since using English makes everything more difficult for me? It’s certainly a challenge but not my only option as there is a vibrant French community. I’ve been navigating both linguistic environments for the past thirty years, yet never felt totally assimilated. I have preserved my mother tongue and also managed to teach Anglophones the French way of thinking about things.
Would I ever leave Vancouver? No. Even if I go away temporarily I intend to keep my Canadian residence in this city. In any case, here or elsewhere, my home has always been a state of mind more than a precise location. One will find me wherever I recall a certain harmony experienced long ago near the Petit Lac Magog by a clear and enchanting stream where I spent many hours filling myself with Peace.
Translation Monique Kroeger