TORONTO WAS EH, CHALLENGING. These weren’t easy years by all means. The Canada that had opened its gates to this Cuban family did not lack hostility. Even as her parents were granted of visas to work in Canada under the category of professionals as electrical engineers—a profession they had acquired back in Cuba—, the reception was not what they expected, being a rather cool welcome both figuratively and literally. Being unfamiliar with the customs and language, the challenges to the family were not few. But they were already keen to devise life as it comes, making lemonade out of lemons.
Transitioning into a new culture and a new job market put the family under a lot of stress. It took Patty’s dad a while to actually find a source of income for the family. After many trials, through the help of a friend of his, he was able to arrange an informal job repairing computers. It wasn’t much, or exactly what he had studied for, but it provided some for the family. This period certainly put a strain on the experiences of the family in the new country, and with its many limitations, the near future looked bleak. But, once again a testament to the ingenuity of the family to get by, they were able to get through because of this job.
Nonetheless, her mom didn’t find a job until two years in, which added a lot of stress to the already tough situation. Patty recalls those days through the feelings of frustration that her parents brought home after seeking for jobs tirelessly. As she remembers them telling her, in Toronto, the market was unfriendly, discriminatory to newcomers given the unspoken requirement of “Canadian” work experience. Needless to say, this put the family at an unfair disadvantage. Of course they didn’t have work experience in the new country—they had barely set foot in it.
Having left Cuba with not a lot, meant sacrifices would have to be made. The first month in Toronto, Patty’s family lived with a friend who understood the family’s predicament and offered his house. The arrangement was extreme, but not unfamiliar to the realities of migrant families who struggle upon arrival. Once the family got a bit on their feet, they moved to a basement apartment in within Markham, which gave the family of a place of their own, a place they could call home for once since leaving Cuba.
When things got a lot more bearable, they moved again within GTA—the Greater Toronto Area—to a community called Scarborough. The new apartment was now in a more urban setting; the traffic, the stores, and the bustle of Toronto is what Patty remembers the most, along with her experiences with the playing in the snow with her family. Even with all the challenges, things were looking up.
As the family transitioned into their new Canadian life, Patty recalls going through eye opening and experiences of encounter at the school she attended. Because she did not know a lot of English, even though her parents made her take language lessons, foreseeing their need for the future, Patty had a tough adjustment into English. Nonetheless, this phase was quick given that she picked up the language pretty fast as other children do. The English as Second Language of her elementary school, also allowed her to connect with other students. She recalls the immense diversity of her friends like Pakistani, Guyanese. . Besides learning the language, Patty was also exposed to the many cultures and traditions of all children and they would learn about hers. She felt that she was fitting in for once
But the journey wasn’t over; a new border had to be crossed…