On a tightrope

You, yourself, arrived in Vancouver three months ago, a year ago, ten years ago maybe. So perhaps you too have had that feeling of dancing in the rain, of walking on a tightrope.

I chose Vancouver for reasons that were commonplace: the weather, the language, the price of the plane ticket. The important decision had been to leave. To leave behind that suffocating feeling of a life that might have been too monotonous and settled. To leave and break through barriers. To be a foreigner abroad. To put yourself in perspective by putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. To leave to renew oneself and to redefine oneself after the storm. To live an adventure surrounded by other human beings with a different sensitivity and culture. Forgetting yourself to rediscover yourself.

Barely landed on Canadian soil, at the front of the Skytrain that leads from the airport to Waterfront Station, I observe the landscape as it passes by. There’s quite the symbolism in this Skytrain that brings you safe and sound to your destination, sometimes letting you see what’s ahead – the future that awaits you. And Vancouver reveals itself. I walk alone, then you walk with me, and at a hockey event, we all walk together as friends. Alone and together at once. All passengers on the same boat.

I stroll along the beach in Kitsilano and ask myself the question: “Am I made for a life here? Am I acceptable to these people?” A wave slips under my feet, then a second, and I let myself be carried by that same wave that is the French “family” here in Vancouver. The one that brings you help, support, tools, friendship. Oh yes, the French spirit is alive and well here. A Resistance frame of mind allows for entrenchment in this far from hostile environment. Rather warm, actually. With its coded friendships that are made and unmade according to events and the eyebrow-raising job market.

I am an industrial engineer. But not here. I am a generalist in France. But not here. So who am I? What can I do? And how? I am that person who is not afraid, who rolls up her sleeves and is about to prove to you that she deserves your trust. I go where I am not expected. I take on new challenges. Cook or line operator, administrative assistant or journalist, sometimes even event coordinator. It does not matter, as long as I am useful.

Finding my feet

And I keep going forward. Sometimes lost in a book, like a little bookworm at the Vancouver Public Library. Sometimes, or maybe even often, meeting new people. I visit, I meet, I discover, I drink coffee. A lot of coffee. You are there and you are all reaching out to each other. You participate with me in these amazing exchanges and have fun. We find a smile, a laugh, a glow. And we feel good.

I’m walking on my tightrope. Sometimes I am off balance with so much new stuff. Will I manage to get across? Will I find and keep my balance? Somewhere. I have already become one of you. I am here and now a part of this “us,” which was only a “you” before.

It does not matter if I go back to France or stay in Canada. France is beautiful. It’s the country that has seen me grow up, and I’m proud of it. And Canada is wonderful. This is the country where I again move forward and remake myself. The one cold but welcoming. The other exciting but divisive. Either one can reach out to you or let you slip away. But it does not matter. What matters is that if there are other storms one day, here I have learned to dance in the rain.

Translated by Barry Brisebois