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 | , , , , | 2 Comments

Three Years in Canada

This January marks three years as permanent residents in Canada. Because I have spent a few weeks outside of the country, visiting Egypt, Nepal and South Africa, we will have to wait until March to apply for citizenship, something we are really looking forward to doing.  This is where we belong now.

Looking back at my blog after two years I can see how much has changed.  Then I was captivated by the countryside and everything that was new and different.  Now, although I still think we are blessed to be living in the most beautiful country I know, life has become … normal.  And that is good.  We have friends, a routine, shops and restaurants which we frequent and where we are known.  We have added another little Pom to our family. We have joined a church in the little hamlet nearby and enjoy the fellowship of the small but friendly congregation.


We have experienced all the ups and downs of everyday life and, most important right now, we are working towards opening our own business and giving back something to the community that has welcomed us so generously.   This has certainly not been all plain sailing, and I have recorded, and continue to record, our progress on another posting in this blog.


The year ahead holds so much promise – challenges and opportunities – and, I hope, by the end of it we will truly be able to call ourselves Canadians.




January 29, 2012 Posted by | Living in Canada, Relocating | , , , | Leave a comment

Canadian Skies

I still remember clearly the first time I ever looked at the sky in Canada.  It was sixteen years ago that I flew into Vancouver that night.  Born and bred in South Africa, this was my first venture into the northern hemisphere and I stepped off the plane, jet-lagged after 2 days of international travel, and walked out of the airport into a bitterly cold, strange, white world.

I drove with my daughter and her husband through Vancouver to catch the last ferry across to the Island where they were living.  After landing in Victoria we continued our journey through the dark to the little village of Shawnigan Lake.  With the voluble excitement of our reunion over for the moment, I leant back in my seat and gazed out of the window at the sky.

Of all the new sights and experiences it was the sight of that alien sky which suddenly made me realize just how far I was from home.  I’m no expert on astrology and could probably not name more than 3 or 4 of the constellations that grace our southern skies, but their absence made such an unexpected impact on me that even now, after 13 years of visiting and 3 years of living in Canada, that first impression of a foreign sky still remains with me.

December 22, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | 1 Comment

Two Years and Counting

The 14th January marked the end of our second year in Canada.  Time for some introspection as I look back at the 24 months which have flown past.

Moving countries was easier for us than for many who have taken the same route.  First of all, because we visited extensively, usually for 6 months at a time, between 2003 when we first applied for permanent residence and December 2008 when our application was finally accepted; and, secondly, because, by then, both of our daughters and our two grandsons were living in Calgary.

The only part of South Africa that I can truly say I have missed is the people, friends and family, whom I have had to leave behind.  But visits from a good friend in 2009 and both my sisters in 2010 helped to lessen any feeling of loss, and, of course, Facebook, Skype and emails keep everyone connected these days.   It also helps that I will be going back to visit this year and plan to do so every two years if possible, so the ties may be stretched but certainly haven’t been cut!

Meeting new people, making new friends, and getting involved in the different activities Canada has to offer has also helped.  Richard has re-written his Ham Radio exam and regularly meets with other radio aficionados.  I have found hiking companions who have become valued friends and joined a book and a writing club.  And, after a few fairly disastrous attempts at skiing, I have made snow shoeing my winter sport of choice.

I have grown to love Calgary and the surrounding countryside.  I love the prairies, where the grass and canola fields stretch endlessly under an ever changing sky. I love the mountains with their tree-clad sides and craggy, snow-covered summits.  I love the many parks, such as Nose Hill, Bowness, and Fish Creek which bring the wild countryside into the city. And I love the rivers and creeks which flow in and around Calgary.

The wild life might not be as varied as that of Africa but it is ever-present.  Moose, coyote, foxes and even bears have wandered in close proximity to our home and mule deer sleep in our yard in winter and dig through the snow to find the grass which sustains them.

Many of our visits were in winter so the snowy landscape was not unfamiliar to us.  Driving to work and back in the dark, however, when the snowplows’ valiant efforts have not been enough to clear the roads and black ice is an ever present threat, can, at best, be described as interesting, at worst, as a white-knuckled, clenched-teeth roller coaster ride.  For all that, I haven’t yet lost my delight at waking up to a snow covered landscape and still marvel at the sparkling crystals which sometimes dance in the air turning our garden into a fairyland.

But, strangely enough, it is sport which made me realize just how much I identify with my new country.  During the Winter Olympics in Vancouver I sat glued to the screen as Canada and America battled it out for the gold in ice hockey and celebrated with the same feeling of euphoria that I experienced when the Springboks triumphed over the Ozzies at rugby.  Similarly I mourned with the rest of the country when Russia overran our team in the Junior Championships during the third period.

Cale has now lived in Canada longer than he lived in South Africa and it won’t be too long before Asher can say the same.   Both of our grandsons speak with a Canadian accent and their memories of their home land have, I think, faded a little, as they haven’t been back in the 5 years they’ve lived here.  Richard and I will always have our South African accents and we lived too long in our motherland to ever be anything but African-Canadians.  Still we look forward to being able to apply for citizenship of this great country in another year and, more and more, Calgary is truly becoming our home.

January 16, 2011 Posted by | Living in Canada | , | Leave a comment


2009 was, for us, a year of change. A new country to explore and learn to embrace;  new traditions to forge; new friends to make; and, ultimately, a new job.  2010,  I hope, will be a year of consolidation (accepting that life has a way of turning our well-laid plans on their heads).  On the 14th of this month we will have been living permanently in Canada for a year.  Time to leave the category of re-locating in the past where it belongs and move on to recording our life in Canada.  The years are flying past and I intend to wring everything I can out of each and every one of them in the time God has given me on this earth.

January 1, 2010 Posted by | Relocating | | Leave a comment

Christmas in Canada

I'm dreaming of a white Christmas

Our first Christmas as permanent residents in Calgary and it couldn’t have been more perfect:  a picture postcard white Christmas, the ground and trees covered with snow, the sun shining and friends and family to enjoy it with.  And thanks to the marvels of modern technology we are also able to stay in close contact with loved ones scattered around the world.

December 27, 2009 Posted by | Relocating | | 4 Comments

Starting work

After 11 months of freelancing, I have decided to join the working force again.  So two days ago I braved the dark and the cold and the slippery roads and headed off to work.  And, believe it or not, it was … nice.  I no longer feel as if I am a visitor here, on an extended holiday.  I fit, I belong, and like everyone else, I look forward to the weekends again!   And, for the first time in Canada Richard and I each have our OWN vehicles and our OWN cell phones.  We are part of the greater Canadian society, and it’s good to be here.

December 19, 2009 Posted by | Relocating | , | Leave a comment

Black ice

Black ice, we have been told time and again, is the most treacherous surface to drive on.  Snowy, slushy roads present a challenging driving experience, especially for those of us from sunny South Africa where dodging mini taxis was the biggest concern on the roads.  But snow covered roads are clearly visible and slow, careful driving will usually get you to your destination safely, with perhaps a few minor slides along the way.

On Thursday we encountered black ice for the first time.  As we rounded a corner onto an off ramp suddenly the seemingly clear, dry black top became a skating rink.  We lost control of our vehicle completely, spun around,slamming into the snow covered concrete barrier and ending up facing back the way we had come.  From our vantage point we were able to watch a number of other cars and vans hit the same patch and slide sideways past us, at least one of them bouncing off the same barrier which caught us, before proceeding on his way.

Thankfully, after a fruitless and frightening wait for the police to arrive, a good Samaritan stopped and held up the rest of the traffic so that we could turn ourselves around and limp home. The Tracker looked as if it had been the target of a number of army tanks but managed to get us back safely.

Our previous accident – that time someone ran into us from the rear – brought police, ambulance and fire trucks to the scene within a few minutes.  I can only presume that the police had their hands full this time round.  In fact, we must have seen 4 or 5 tow trucks on the stretch of the Deerfoot Trail where we were stranded, each of which was towing a battered car.

If nothing else, we have learnt one more lesson in Canada – if the weatherman tells you it’s an ice rink out there – stay at home!

December 12, 2009 Posted by | Relocating | , , | Leave a comment

Feeding the birds

We are still having pretty good weather for this time of the year, but winter will soon be upon us.  Most of the birds which frequent our garden have moved on.  Yesterday we watched the  Canada geese trace V’s across the sky as they headed south.  The little red polls have returned en masse.  Small but hardy, they winter in our area.

Last year I hung suet cakes in the tree outside my study window after the first real snowfall.  Not only did this help the birds over a period when the pickings are very scarce, but I had the endless pleasure of watching them swinging on the branches as they tried to work their way to the front of the queue.

Here is the recipe, slightly modified, which I found on the internet, if anyone would like to try it.


Suet Cakes


450g lard
450g crunchy peanut butter
5 cups all-purpose flour
6 cups cornmeal
3/4 to 1 cup wild birdseed or sunflower chips
3/4 to 1 cup raisins and/or berries.

Directions: Cook lard in a saucepan over medium heat until melted. Remove from heat and add peanut butter until melted. Add raisins, berries, flour, cornmeal and birdseed, stirring after each ingredient is added. Spoon into empty store-bought suet containers or any similar-sized container. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Yield: 8 to 10 squares.

Happy bird watching.

November 14, 2009 Posted by | Relocating | , , | Leave a comment


Here we are, nine months down the road, long enough to have produced another human being, and I’m back at my blog once more, perhaps more consistently this time around?  In this time we have passed our driving tests, arranged our SIM numbers, signed up for Alberta Health Care and, quite unexpectedly, received Blue Cross cards as well.  Although we had spent 6 months at a time in Calgary during the wait for Permanent Residence, this is the first fall we have been here, our first Thanksgiving, and, coming up, our first Halloween. Despite this, I have easily and almost imperceptibly taken on the mantle of Canadian and feel perfectly at home in this beautiful country.  Right now the 10 cm of snow we had last week has all but vanished and a gentle rain is falling.  The trees, perhaps taken by surprise by the early snowfall have yet to drop their leaves in our yard and I wait patiently for them to give up their load so that I can use the leaves to protect my garden during the cold winter months.

October 19, 2009 Posted by | Relocating | | Leave a comment