Jigsaw Falling Into Place

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Canadian Sky

Canadian Sky

The question people ask me the most has to be: “why did you come to Canada?“. Truth is, I don’t have a clue.

There are the facts: when I was 18, I got a job in Hong Kong. After a few months, I realized I didn’t like it that much after all and quit to go traveling the world. Feng and I traveled for three years, almost non-stop. After each trip, we would come back home, on different continents — Europe for me, North America for him. We would literally slave for a few months, make money, and meet each other again to go traveling. Eventually, we were broke and got tired of it. We talk of settling somewhere, at least for a little while. We briefly considered the USA but then more or less agreed on Canada — at least, one of us would be legal there. I spent a year in Canada on a tourist visa, another year on a working holidays visa and eventually completed the immigration paperwork. And here I was, half Canadian.

There is the mindset: for some reasons that I can’t fully explain, I had never thought of living in France. I mean, I can’t really complain — I had it all. A democratic country, a loving family, friends and well, I was smart enough to get a few degrees as well. But I made a mistake along the way: I had a taste of freedom when I was 16, when I spend a summer alone in China, studying Chinese at university and traveling around Beijing. Once I realized the world wasn’t a scary place, once I realized I could go as far as I wanted and that, after all, it wasn’t because I was French that I had to live in France, I could only think of one thing: traveling and experiencing the world. I didn’t reject my country: I saw the world and got addicted to it. I like to think of it as the ultimate freedom: choosing a new place to live, instead of living my life where I was born.

And there is a little bit of luck: I was lucky to immigrate to a country that has an open immigration policy. It was very important for me to be legal, a full citizen. I couldn’t have spent years and years on tourist visas, working visas, you name it. I wanted to belong. Immigrating to Canada wasn’t easy but it was doable. That what mattered. And it worked out fine: it only took me a few months to get my permanent residence in Canada (after months of preparing the immigration file though). Meanwhile, I learned about my new country and got comfortable there.

All that wasn’t easy. It was a long process. Immigrating doesn’t come without a few tears, a few scars, a few questions and a lot of doubts.

At first, just thinking that I was alone in this big continent would make my head spin. Freedom was almost intoxicating. I could be whatever I wanted, do whatever I wanted. It came with its counterparts though, fear and angst. It’s not like I had a safety net. Adapting to a new culture can be tough too. Think of all that you learned in life and that you now master, the things you inherited from your culture: your mother tongue, the basic social skills, your political and maybe religious backgrounds. Now, keep them, but start from zero somewhere else, somewhere where the values and the way of live are different. See the world under a new perspective, and adapt to it.

But instead of feeling powerless, like I had felt in France, it seemed like I had the world in my hand. Sure, there were many things to learn and I felt frustrated more than once. But I had hope. Somehow, starting from zero was an headache but it was also very liberating. I would question everything and find the answers by myself. I would look at the bright side of things and would naively ignore things I didn’t like. Being somewhat of an outsider made me understand theories I would have rejected had I been at home. Made me more daring as well.

Maybe it’s that. Canada gave me a future, hope and the ability to choose the life I wanted. Little by little, the jigsaw fell into place. Today, I can’t really imagine what would have been my life if I had stayed in France. Maybe better, maybe worse, who knows. But I’m glad I took a chance.


About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.


  1. I don’t think anyone really starts at zero.
    Even the dna we inherit is a plus sum. We
    have tens of thousands of years in us…
    Moving to a new country is a transformative
    decision. I’d *love* to live in a “foreign”
    country, for six months or a year or ten
    years. The decision, however, of citizenship
    is an awesome choice. The past is still on
    your shoulders, in the corner of your eye.
    At least, your direction is a chosen path.
    Not everyone can say that. Best wishes Zhu.

    Seraphines last great read…An Overfertilized Mind

  2. I’m reading Eat, Pray, Love and now after reading this post, I feel like being 16 again and living in China, learning French and Italian and never settling down. 😉

    You’ve had great adventures! Don’t stop now.

    Scarlets last great read…the shack

  3. Nice Zhu, I had some idea but it’s really nice to see it in a post like this. Glad you are feeling happy with your decision :happy:

    Aiglees last great read…Future events

  4. Hello Zhu,

    I am back here in Buffalo, finally being able to sit down again and read your posts more pensively this time. Regarding what you said, I do not think that it is a mistake that you were able to go to China at the age of 16. It was a privilege, and yes, it was a trigger. But it never was a mistake. It may be Buddhist of me to say that our lives are simply blown by the wind, here and there. Some lives may never be blown as far as yours were. But being blown somewhere and that triggering a life that is drastic from the typical is never a mistake. I thought it was when I was a teenager, now, I see it as a blessing.

    Linguist-in-Waitings last great read…Day 1: The Friendliest People on the Planet

  5. Greetings my friend and thank you for sharing your interesting story.

    To me, the world is your oyster Zhu and I admired your guts in conquering the world – yr time, yr agenda 😀 I suppose if I am single then I would choose your path too but being married now somehow it takes two to tango (yup, hubby must support)… 😀

  6. Max Coutinho on

    Hey Zhu,

    Beautiful post: it borders intimacy (it was like we were in the same room and you were telling me this story of your life)!
    Immigration is not easy for both the person who immigrates and for his/her family: the longing is terrible!

    I didn’t grow up in the country I was born in let alone live; but I have also lived outside the country I was raised in (and I am about to leave again) so I know a bit what you are talking about!

    Each one of us has its destiny and ours is to be a citizen of the world!


    Max Coutinhos last great read…The Kiss

  7. Hi Zhu,

    The choices we make in our lives is equal to the amount of risk we are willing to take. Sometimes, we don’t even see it as a risk but as an adventure, which makes it so thrilling that risk doesn’t seem to be a part of the equation.

    Dangers become a challenge, and as an adventurer, we are enticed by it, to overcome and triumph over it. If we fail or get hurt, it’s a momentary setback. If we run out of money, with no place to sleep nor food to eat, we are not poor, just broke. But there is nothing like relishing the freedom to explore, to learn, and to imbibe. To be in a different place and reinvent yourself, and to realize there are no boundaries that would curtail your desire to accomplish anything, except those you allow to build in your mind.

    But there comes a point of wanting some roots, and perhaps an unconscious desire to reproduce oneself. Once this phase is done, and the kids have lives of their own, the itch to be footloose will rear its adventurous head again.

    Right now, perhaps you are in the “rooting phase”. There could be a point somewhere 20 or 30 years hence, when the winds of freedom will bring a renewed sparkle to your vision. In the event that it comes and you choose to yield to it, check out some hermit you might find in Greece and ask him if once upon a time, he was referred to as Durano. 🙂 –Durano, done!

    durano lawayans last great read…Fighting Filth with Fire

  8. @Seraphine – It’s exactly that: I’m glad I chose my path. I didn’t start from zero, you’re right. But when you’re an immigrant, it actually makes things easier to think that you did…

    @Froggywoogie – I hope so! I like living in Canada though, no doubt about that.

    @Shantanu – Yes, I was lucky! One thing lead to another I guess.

    @Max Coutinho – Thank you Max! I’ll put it in my award exhibition 😉

    @Scarlet – I won’t stop! I like adventures… even though it leads to a lot of questions!

    @Aiglee – And how about you? What made you choose Canada as your new home?

    @Linguist-in-Waiting – Hey you! Glad to se you back! I read a post about your trip everyday and I was so jealous 😉

    I don’t think it’s a mistake either but when I look back, I really see it as a turning point in my life.

    @shionge – Lucky me, hubby is a traveler too! No kids though, that helps for freedom.

    @Max Coutinho – Thank you! I really wrote as I was thinking for that post. Truth is, I don’t have a define answer on why I came to Canada… I think it’s a combination of different things. It was interesting for me to look back and analyse anyway.

    @durano lawayan – Very interesting analysis! I’m not in the phase of my life I want kids yet though… I think. My best friend here is pregnant and even though I love seeing her going through that, I don’t feel like it for now. I feel I have so much more to learn…

    I don’t know. I wanted to have a home to come back to and now this is done, I’m longing for traveling again…

    Thanks for your comment that makes me think again!

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