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Published: April 7th 2020
I got to spend three weeks with my family in Vancouver before I moved to my new home in Winnipeg. They come to the Philippines once a year but never during the Christmas holidays so it was great to have had the chance to celebrate the holidays with them again. Since Vancouver has a mild winter, we did get to do some sightseeing. I did a lot of shopping too, to prepare for my new life in the coldest major city in Canada. My winter clothes were no match for the freezing temperatures in Winnipeg.
I made a new friend before leaving Manila. She is Filipino-Canadian and we met up in Vancouver since she had a long layover there before flying back home to Calgary. She said life can get very lonely in Canada. It's very different from the Philippines where you can hangout with friends a lot. Partly because of the weather, culture, and costs. So she travels at least once a year to fight the depression. I wasn't too bothered because I knew I'd be busy with school and I make friends easily. Or so I thought.
My home stay host picked me up at the airport.
She was with her kid. First impression of Winnipeg wasn't so great. It was painfully cold although it was bright and sunny. I could have rented my own apartment but I thought it would be wise to take advantage of the home stay program offered by the college. For just $700 a month I get a room, three meals a day, internet, water, and electric. Great deal! But more than that I knew I'd need someone to show me how to survive winter in the prairies. I also knew I need people to talk to since I didn't know anyone in Winnipeg prior to coming here.
The day after my arrival was the students orientation. Right on my very first day there was an extreme cold warning in the city. It was -30 degrees Celsius. My new jacket and boots were certified for -50C so I did just fine... for the first 15 minutes. But after that my toes and fingers started to hurt. The next day was even colder. The bus was 20 minutes late and I arrived ten minutes early at the bus stop, so I waited for half an hour. The other people at the bus
stop started pacing and running around in circles so they wouldn't freeze. My fingers were already hurting so I wore mittens on top of my gloves. One of the other guys who was waiting for the bus checked his phone for the time the bus will arrive and said "It will arrive in six minutes. I don't think I can last six minutes more." I didn't know what to do. We were in a residential area so I couldn't just take him to a 711 for some warmth. The following day I found another route where the bus stop was heated. And that was the route I took ever since. So I only have a minute or two exposed to the elements while walking from one heated bus stop to the next.
After a month I've adjusted to the weather. It only becomes uncomfortable when it's minus 20 or lower. It's sunny and dry in Winnipeg so that helps me. I now call minus six as warm weather. Crazy what one month in Peg can do.
Winnipeg has the biggest Filipino community out of all the cities in Canada. Filipinos started to settle here in the 70's when
Canada recruited tailors and seamstresses for their factories. I met a couple of them in church. I also saw an old friend from college who I already lost touch with. We were both very surprised. He owes me some money but that was 15 years ago so I didn't mention it. Biggest challenge for me is to be part of a community. Being in school here is different than being in school in the Philippines. People are nice but it's harder to build relationships. Everyone's busy with their own lives. Maybe because we're students who don't have a lot of money to go out. I'm sure it's also because of the weather. Or perhaps because I'm studying software development and my classmates are not the outgoing type.
I've watched what was happening in the world as the pandemic unfolded. I didn't think it was going to reach this level. We transitioned to online classes on March 16. The program was already difficult to begin with so when we transitioned to online learning it made it much more difficult for me. School is six hours a day and I work three to five hours more after that. Suddenly all the
shops are closed, the gym is closed. Now there's nowhere to go. Being a very outgoing person this is really difficult for me. I take walks outside sometimes but I always worry that I might get infected and bring the virus home. I want to see my family in Vancouver but I'm afraid I might bring the virus to my mother. So I'm stuck here.
Sometimes I just can't help but cry about our misfortune. I worry about the future because everything is so uncertain. Will there be jobs available for me when I graduate? I know that the world will change after this. I don't know how. I feel like it's going to be a race for each person to find their own spot. Like when you're playing trip to Jerusalem and one chair gets removed each round so not everyone will have a place. And then they're out. I worry about my family back in the Philippines. I have two sisters who work in one of the hospitals designated to receive COVID-19 patients. My sister's daughter works for another public hospital and is also exposed. My heart aches for all the suffering and injustice happening in the
Philippines. I know millions will not have food to eat because they have lost their jobs. Sometimes I ask myself what I'm doing here. Was going out of my comfort zone really worth the loneliness and uncertainty? It might not all work out but at least I can say I tried. But is that reasoning always wise? Two weeks ago my homestay host's son asked me why I moved to Canada. I didn't have a ready answer. So I thought long and hard before I said "I felt like I already achieved everything I wanted to achieve in the Philippines. So I thought it was time for something new." And that was the truth. Or at least half of it. The other half is because I felt that I was being led here. Everything worked together last year for me to come here. It all went smoothly. I didn't even have to try. It's as if it was destiny. I know it sounds silly because I don't really believe in destiny. But that's really how it felt like. So that knowledge keeps me going when I start to question why I'm here. I'm here because I was meant to be
here now. Perhaps to learn something, do something, or meet someone. I don't know exactly what yet. So I'm keeping my eyes open.
I know I am very lucky to be where I am now. All I have to do is stay home and study and for that I am thankful. I have enough money to make it through without having to work for one year. But after that I'll have to start working. I hope the economy will already be recovering by then. I miss travelling. At this time of the year I'm usually travelling a lot. Now I just look at old travel pictures and reminisce.
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