Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Canada's 'space' is sweet release
Long johns, toque, parka, yellow snow -- these were some of the strange new words I learned when I first arrived. They were not Canadian desserts, as I realized later. They were essential to being "winterized" -- uncharted waters for someone from a tropical country with two seasons, hot and hotter. Being able to laugh at ourselves kept our sanity in this strange and frigid land.
For the first two years, I trembled whenever the phone rang -- it could be one of the hundreds of places where we have applied for jobs. Answering in straight English could be intimidating. Like many other new immigrants, we couldn't find jobs. Our stack of rejection letters grew by the inch monthly. We could not even get work cleaning tables due to the lack of "Canadian experience." We both worked on assembly lines at various factories, late shifts to make ends meet.
I also found myself volunteering, working without pay to build up Canadian experience. I volunteered at the provincial Fisheries Branch, spreading the word to the new immigrants about the rules to harvest fish, and ended up with a short-term paying job.
It led to another contract job at the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans, helping to spread the word on ocean conservation to the Inuit communities in the Arctic.
How does a science teacher from a country near the equator transition to designing communications materials for Inuit in the high arctic?
What did I know about the Inuit? I started with nothing. Hours of research in libraries, consulting scientists who worked in the Arctic, conducting interviews in Inuvik, Iqaluit and Yellowknife, studying Inuit lifestyle and respecting their traditions, even enduring extreme wind chill values, must have paid off.
Somehow the research skills from my past life were transferable. Two years of working for the federal government opened a new world of possibilities.