I was listening to a radio program where people talked about their experiences of coming to Canada. They spoke of challenges and struggles in achieving certain standard of living. So far, all the experiences have been quite similar: we came, we worked very hard, and we obtained cars and houses and jobs.
I did feel for every single speaker as this is a familiar story to most of us. I remembered the days of learning a new language, a new way of life, obtaining information, education, …
For me, living in Canada has been about anything but material gain. I have established a mere adequate standard of living, but that is all. All my friends and relatives, of the same age or older, who live in Iran have houses and cars. Some of them have paid both off; I haven’t! And I don’t think I will anytime in the near future. Many of them are ready to retire soon and do other things. They are too young to sit in the porch for the rest of their lives, and they are thinking about change of career, working on contract, or new degrees.
The main explanation probably is that I kept moving (studying for so many years didn’t help either), and they stayed put. Accumulation of wealth, for those working on salary, requires stability. I think I have spent most of what I have earned on moving expenses from one country/city to the next. But, for the most part, I enjoyed it or deemed it necessary; so I have no regrets.
For me, the most valuable thing about living in Canada has been the chance to look at my homeland and my culture from a different perspective. I have been learning new ways of observing, thinking, and evaluating on a daily basis for the last 20 years, and I think I will continue the same way for the rest of my life. I acquired tools and skills I could use to explore the culture, art, and history of my origin.
Also, I often thought we were the only people who were this or that meaning good or bad at one thing or the other. Traveling and living in Canada has given me a chance to see people of many different places on this earth. This has made me re-evaluate my old beliefs. It is people who are both good and bad, who are both honest and dishonest, who are both trustworthy or unreliable… I have seen people of many nationalities suffering from addiction, inflicting pain/abuse on themselves/others, engaging in fraudulent activities, not taking responsibility… I have also seen people of all nationalities selflessly devoting their time, energy, money into well-being of others, caring, loving others. We are not unique in any of these respects.
That every culture has its own characteristics that may be unique has not escaped my attention. I am still looking for another culture that includes fresh herbs with meals (sabzi-khurdan); I don’t know why, but I really like to know. That is what I love about people: they are so different in their beliefs, their habits, their views, and their actions. Yet, we are all bound within the framework of being human; thus, at the end of the day, we are very much alike. And that is a good thing. How else could we feel sympathy and compassion toward each other if we didn’t feel the same way when we are hurt?
I learned about all our commonalities in a country known for diversity. And I learned so much more about where I came from thousands of miles away from her. I think this is T. S. Eliot: “We shall not cease from exploration And the end of all our exploring Will be to arrive where we started… And know the place for the first time.”