27 Feb Rocky: A Year in Canada
After living as refugees for 14 years in Kenya, COA’s 200,000th participant – Rocky N’daye – and his family have made it through their first year in Canada. COA’s Nader Kaddour joined Rocky to explore London, Ontario’s outdoor trails on a sunny summer afternoon, while catching up on a year’s worth of challenges, triumphs, and lessons experienced by Rocky, his family, and new Canadians like them.
Nader KaddourCOA Reporting & Communications Specialist
Donuts in tow, I came up to Rocky and his family’s quaint apartment nestled between downtown London and the Western University Campus. The sunny July afternoon was perfect for Rocky to recount his experiences of living in Canada for a year as we chatted and strolled around his neighbourhood.
COA: Tell me about your first year. What stands out the most to you about the country?
Rocky: A lot of things stand out, but first and foremost it’s the winter. It’s amazing, it’s also shocking. And also it’s terrible at some points. Back home, when we watch on TV the winter season, the snow, it’s appealing to the eye. I wish[ed] it could be me in that winter. I remember the first day when it fell it was a Saturday at night. “Yeah we’ve seen winter, we’ve seen snow.” And one of our friends told us that’s not winter, that’s not snow, you haven’t seen anything yet.
By December, January, you have to wear heavy clothes, you feel tired, it starts to get boring again. You are afraid of getting outside.
It was the first time I had seen snow. My sister Blessing liked it, she always wanted to play in the snow.
COA: What were you doing over the winter? School, studying?
Rocky: Getting settled, going to the store. Here, I noticed that cars, vehicles are a necessity, not a luxury.
Here in Canada I’m experiencing so many new things. At the grocery store, all kinds of food are there, even Kenyan, international foods. I also got a chance to eat shawarma, sushi, every day just experience something new.
I don’t feel any homesickness – I just feel at home. Home in a new environment.
COA: What are your plans for your next year in Canada?
Rocky: Definitely applying to go to school. They require a lot of documents, so I’m trying to contact my friends back home for university transcripts. They won’t give them to me easily, because I haven’t yet graduated. I’m applying to Western University and Fanshawe College. I want to diversify my education; you can’t expect the same courses that are popular in Africa to be … here.
COA: If you could contact Rocky from one year ago, what would you tell him?
Rocky: I would tell him: “You need to come here and plan your life. There’s opportunity, security again, everyone is equal – life is waiting with things to offer. Back in Africa, there came a point where I didn’t want to come to Canada anymore because it was taking a long time. People say that the world is the same everywhere, but no, it is different.
COA: Speaking of differences, tell me about your family’s adaptation. Who is adjusting the best?
Rocky: My sister- at times, for her, she doesn’t know a lot about home (Kenya). She doesn’t have as many things to miss, memories, friends. You look at what you’ve done, what you’ve gone through, what you’ve reached, and then someone tells you, “forget about all that, start new, start again”
COA: Is it worth it?
Rocky: Yes, it’s worth it.
COA: And your parents? How are they doing?
Rocky: They’re good, lots of patience. The government says to you in the first year: “we want you to adapt, get to know this country.” Within that year, a person needs to be patient with themselves. You just want everything to happen at once, you want to reach that next level. There’s a lot of pressure from people back home, too – they expect you to send money. I was able to study in Kenya and learn English, for them, they still need to take classes.
COA: Canada is a big place. What in Canada do you want to see, and where do you want to go?
Rocky: Life has so many things to offer. So for Canada, Toronto, downtown is my first goal. And Canada’s Wonderland. Since the COA orientation back home, the Aurora Borealis is something I need to experience. I want to see everything in Canada – in Africa the world feels so big. In Canada, it feels so small, you can get up and go. Just take a car and go wherever you want to.
COA: If you had to give three pieces of advice to a new immigrant coming to Canada, what three things are most important for them to know?
Rocky: The first thing I would tell them is: patience. The same way you were patient waiting for the journey, is the same way it is when you arrive here. Be patient with yourself and don’t allow the external forces or pressure to hinder you or prevent you from achieving what you want.
The second thing, adaptation; it’s up to you. Sometimes, when someone doesn’t want to adapt, it’s easy to develop a negative attitude. People say “oh I don’t like this place, people are so like this, and this, and this.” You try and compare it with home. No, Canadians won’t change their regulations and adapt to you – you are the one who has to adapt to the system and the new environment.
Finally, just enjoy life. For those who believe in a certain god, have faith and don’t forget people back home because communication is always the best. Some of us, when we come here, we just decide I won’t receive calls from back home or hear from them because there is a lot of pressure. It’s good to communicate and let people know: “this is how it goes, give me time”