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Emigrant to Immigrant

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Once upon a time I was only an American.

Now I stand between two gates adjoined in reality, opposed in the mind-a point of departure, remembrance and permanent part of me, and an open door to where my beliefs stood in full view before I arrived.

And now the question, "Do you really wanna change those plates?" Even a neighbor figured life for me would be easier while I still have New York plates on my car. But once you put your feet back on pavement, everyone here is potentially a Canadian.

The process is incremental and invisibly completing. You know that you're learning (and leaving) but, as my oldest said, she feels like she's in America. It's the familiarity, of course, because we both remember how she felt being in America. And though the familiar is expected, it is fascinating when faced with a cultural challenge such as cursing in public. You don't need to be improperly verbose in order to stand out. And if you hear any foul language, chances are good it's by recent immigrants. It is a rather lonely distinction. But we were faced with cultural challenges in America as well. And bike laws here clear the lens of distinction on the one hand, blurring it on the other. Laws providing for greater safety for children in the U.S. ignore the safety of adults. You can stop riding a bike on the sidewalk after a certain age, at least in New York; in fact, in many places, older children and adults are required to ride in the street. In Canada, unless they've got to get off the sidewalk, adults stay on it...for safety.

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Why does she always go back to cars? If you think back to that incident in Japan, when my husband and I had to get off the bike after imitating EVERYONE breaking the same law...well, were we at it again? Having observed at least a few cars going right on red after stopping, I decided to try it myself...oh so carefully. After my husband returned from a trip to the New York office, he noticed and questioned the same thing, and then tried it when I concurred that he wasn't imagining it. Several times later, I, finally, remembered to ask someone if it was lawful. In Ontario, it is.

Lawful has almost become an essence, as I have no intention of doing anything, knowingly, that stupid. But even at a red light, is it common to run across the street when the light is flashing that red figure, or is it bad manners? Again, how far does forgiveness go? Worrying about forgiveness has begun resembling the tingly-limbo stage of the Star Trek transporter. The mantra "Just live" is the crawl through my mind a good deal of the time. After all, no one's stopping me.

The biggest overt, daily immigration issue, aside from officialdom coming out of the woodwork, accompanied by an impressive degree of security, has been phone numbers. Still between area codes of the U.S. and Canada, I've been forcing people to call me long distance from across the street. We'd been using Nokia. Now it's Motorola. I'm sorry, Motorola, but your brand of radiation gives me a headache, and we've been through at least a few hands-free devices. It's (mostly) Nokia until it expires.

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How different do we really feel? The schools certainly don't egg on the concern. If anything, there's less paperwork for us as starting-up immigrants here than as citizens in New York. You don't fill out school forms ad nauseum. You answered the question once and now they know. And when I'm calm, my New York accent is nothing compared to other cut-with-a-butter knife versions. Still, it has given me to wonder if it's a stark flag or a whole lot of nothing. It's only been commented on once. The father previously mentioned who was questionably happy to make my acquaintance said he could tell from my accent that I was from New York. And after meeting us, he said, "Enjoy your stay." My oldest found that very curious. We thought it was understood that we'd moved into the neighborhood...

But the general sentiment within the community regarding our status as immigrants has been of pride, acknowledging that the choice we made has merit, and having faith that the life we hope for here can really happen. As immigrants, the nature of the business of getting started in a new environment takes far less muscle than it would have in so many other places. The language is only a start. The other mechanics of the not-so-new "daily" hold the possibility of no more than the usual headaches we used to experience. And stopping, periodically, to consider what may be comfortable, or new, or inconvenient, or downright pleasant, feeling fortunate for the opportunity to get out of the U.S., with its greed and idiocy, has produced a rather grateful group of immigrants. Living in a country landlocked to its apparent antithesis has, thus far, affirmed our expectations as we await our opportunity to again...vote.

 

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Raechel Gwyn Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram Page

Raechel's poetry, short stories, commentary, articles and interviews have appeared in print and online. Much of her work has, previously, appeared under the name, Rachel Gladstone-Gelman.

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