Wordsworkinc's Weblog

Life, love and language

Immigration, then and now


Sunday morning, a few weeks ago, we were up in the mountains at Crowsnest when I received a text message from my sister in South Africa.  My nephew, who had been fighting cancer for the last 3 years had lost his final battle. 

As we packed up and got ready to leave my daughter in Saskatoon frantically tried to organize flights for me. She finally managed to get me onto a plane leaving Calgary at 3pm, flying to Amsterdam, with a connecting flight from Amsterdam to Johannesburg, and an early morning flight from Johannesburg to Port Elizabeth where I arrived on Tuesday morning with 3 hours to spare before the memorial service. 

Four flights: PE/JHB/Amsterdam/Vancouver/Calgary brought me back home a week later.

We have lost a wonderful young man who has left behind him not only his parents and sisters but a young wife and 3 young children. So naturally at first my only feelings about the trip were those of relief and gratitude that I was able to make it in time to share in the celebration of his life.

But thinking about that trip today I realized how different immigration is now than it was for the first immigrants to this country.  With no LSD (look, see, decide) trips and  little or no opportunity to visit the home country or have family visit them here,  immigration was literally a one way ticket to a harsh, unforgiving land. 

Most immigrants (and I must admit here that my impressions are based on The Last Illusion – letters from Dutch Immigrants written between 1924 and 1930 – and that there could be very different stories out there), but most immigrants back then were poor peasants who left their overpopulated countries in Europe to find a living in the vast prairies of Canada.  Most of them worked in the fields where the work was arduous and the pay poor.  The farmers eagerly hired them in Summer but no longer needed them after the harvest had been collected and the first snows had fallen.  Many were disappointed, disillusioned and in dire straits. 

I’m not disputing that immigration is difficult and stressful.  That visiting and being visited from distant lands requires money that many may not have and that adapting to a very different culture without the support of family and friend takes time and fortitude.  But, thinking of the long, tiring flights, I realized how aeroplanes, international phone calls, and above all the internet with Facebook, Skype, email and the many other social networks have shrunk the world in the past 20 odd years, and I’m so thankful that travelling over 15000km to be with our daughters in Canada has not severed my relationships with friends and family left back in South Africa.

June 16, 2013 - Posted by | Living in Canada, Relocating | , , , ,


  1. Greetings from Ohio! I’m bored to death at work so I decided to check out your site on my iphone during lunch break. I really like the information you provide here and can’t wait to take a look when I get home.
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    Comment by Hack Clash Of Clans | August 3, 2013 | Reply

  2. Thank you for visiting my blog 🙂

    Comment by wordsworkinc | September 16, 2013 | Reply

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