Friday, July 1, 2011

Becoming a Canadian

I was 14 when I fell in love with this 'strong and free' country. I became a Canadian 14 years after that, in the summer of 2000. When I go to the United States, people often tell me that I 'act and speak like a Canadian'. I take it as a compliment. I love Canada. I am proud to be a Canadian.

Coming from a country with a long history (2,670 years to be exact) and a strong sense of culture and heritage, being a Canadian can give me a sense of identity crisis. Today is Canada Day. We celebrate 144 years of Canada being a self-governed country. I typed in google: Canada's national food. The first hit: Ginger Beef. Second: Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pudding. I laughed but was not surprised. People say, Canadians are so nice and friendly and that we say "sorry" a lot. I know it is a dangerous task to generalize a whole nation of people--all 33,739,900 of us, but I tend to believe that. A few years ago I was walking through a crowded IKEA store. I kept bumping into people with my cart. It was my fault. But every one of those people I bumped into said, "sorry" to me. I fell in love with Canada all over again--in IKEA.

When I became a Canadian, I had to learn its history, culture, geography and politics. The immigration department sent me a little booklet to study. "You must write and pass the citizenship test in order to become a Canadian citizen", the letter stated. I learned about fur trade, Confederation, John A. McDonald, parliament government system and even memorized the words to O Canada, our national anthem. I nervously walked into a government building to write the test. 5 questions total. Multiple choice. One of the questions stated: What is the emblem on the Canadian flag? Options: 1) Eagle, 2) Maple leaf, 3) Rainbow, 4) Beaver, 5) Queen Elizabeth. I passed the test with flying colors and proceeded into a crowded court room for the official ceremony. I looked around to see people representing many countries all over the world. Young and old. Some seemed emotional. I realized then, that this 'strong and free' country has so much to offer to so many of them in that court room that day. I wondered what story they have to tell. I am sure many of them had lost everything, escaped danger and gave up so much to get where I was. I recently met a woman who has not seen her children in 16 years and and another who lost her family fortune in order to pay the bribery--all in order to come to Canada. I know no such hardships. I do not know war or poverty. I was in that court room simply because I married a Canadian. I did not have to give up anything. While witnessing the emotions in the room, I fell in love with Canada all over again. Hope and freedom it gives to so many. Open arms and open doors to those who have lost everything. I love this country. I am proud to be a Canadian.

The ceremony proceeded and the judge spoke about 'Canadian pride'. Cultural Diversity. That's our pride. He read off the countries represented in that court room that day. There were at least 20 countries represented. I saw beautiful women in Saris. Turbans and hanbok. The judge gave us each a paper Canadian flag. He brought an old tape recorder with a sound track for O Canada, which we sang proudly together. After finishing our singing, he flipped the cassette and played the other side which was "O Canada" in French. We all looked stunned and watched in silence as the judge sang alone with the cassette. It was quirky and sweet. Nothing fancy and majestic. We shook hands with people around us and left the court room.


The Tea Bag said...

I love your comment "It was quirky and sweet. Nothing fancy and majestic. We shook hands with people around us and left the court room." That seems to be the essence of Canada to me. Getting the job done unobtrusively and efficiently.

But you mentioned the judge, singing the French version of the National anthem alone. That sums up Canada to me too - quiet pride in what makes our entire nation our nation. I have fallen in love wiall over again with this country that is mine due to the happenstance of my father's birth, thanks to your reminiscences of citizenship day. Thank you.

irish coffee and chocolate said...

Cute post:) Interesting that the test is so easy! I wonder if all of us naturally born here Canadians would pass?;-)

Krista said...

Love it! All of it. all of you.

Ashley @ Root And Twig said...

Kiko, I've given your blog an award. Go here to see it: