Finding Home In Ontario: Gracemeda’s Abroad Life.

December 6, 2019

Another day, another chance to catch up with Nigerians who aren’t under a president whose real-life nickname is ‘Daddy Bubu’. Today, we’re hanging with Gracemeda (@trussmidaddy on Twitter) who lives and works in Ontario, Canada. She talks about the very real challenges of moving to Ontario from University, Canadian niceness and Nigerian men.

So Miss *checks notes* Trussmidaddy? Give me three hundred reasons in Canadian Dollars, why I shouldn’t send your username to your favourite aunt right now!

Hahaa. How now?!!

I kid, I kid 🌚. Now speaking about family, do you have any with you over there?

I do have family actually! But family in the, all your mom’s friends from NYSC sense. So while I don’t have family in the nuclear sense of the word, I am surrounded by quite a lot of family.

Got it. So I’m going to play a little game, tell me how long you’ve lived in Canada and I’ll use that, plus pictures to guess how old you are.

Well, I moved to Canada about five years ago. That was when I —

What? You moved when you were 12? 

Crying! As if! I was actually 17 when I made the move to Canada. I was still in my second year in the American University of Nigeria when boom,  I made the move to Canada. It was actually like film trick.

I don’t think there are many Nigerians in Canada that would describe their two-time Canadian visa denials with ‘boom’ and ‘film trick’. Give us this tea.

Well, like I said, I was still in uni when out of the blue one day, my dad called to ask if my passport was still valid. At the time it wasn’t, so I went to renew it and told him like the good child I am. What I didn’t know was that he had applied for a Canadian permanent residency for me. Another day he called me to tell me he had gotten me a Canadian visa and I was to leave school.

Wait. These are the kinds of surprises your dad gives you? Is there room for one more pikin perchance?

Haha. It is oh. He had discussed the move with my mother, and pretty much everyone but me. The plan was for me to leave school in the first semester of my second year, but I eventually finished both semesters before leaving.

So how does a 17-year-old inform friends and family that she’s moving countries? Did you create a group chat, send a BC to your friends and then exit the group? Did you have a going-away party? Spill!

Funny thing is. When I was leaving for Canada, I genuinely thought I’d do a couple years in school, graduate and return to Nigeria to continue turning garri in my father’s house or whatever. So that was the energy I and all of my friends carried when I was leaving, there was no need for a big blow out to mark leaving the country. But then, I had my PR, I could work here, it started to look like there was no real rush to return to Nigeria. 

Hm. They used 24-hours light and a fine Prime Minister to confuse my good sis.

Haha, please don’t kill me! The funny thing about this is, I’ve always felt like I’m being held hostage in this country with its better standard of living and constant light and promise of a better life.

Pahdin?

Okay, let me explain. I was 17 when I moved here and contrary to the dream everyone has about moving to Canada, I was just honestly and truly miserable. I mean, even though this wasn’t my first time away from home — I had attended boarding school and my university was in a different state. The loneliness just hits different when you’re in a whole other continent, living alone. It was hard as fuck adjusting to a new life in the beginning. I just wanted to be with my family and friends.

Oh wow. It’s so easy to get caught up in the hype of moving abroad, it’s just as easy to forget you really are moving abroad, away from everything familiar you’ve ever known. So sorry you went through that.

Yeah, it was pretty tough. I did fall into a depression for a little bit, and I’ll be honest, I didn’t really decide on remaining in Canada until this year, five years after I made the move.

Completely understandable.

But thankfully, my best friend, who also attended ABTI (American University of Nigeria) with me, moved to Canada and also made it to York University. Slowly and surely, things started looking better and Canada finally started to feel like home.

Yay to work-in-progress, happy endings. Now speaking of university, how frustrating was it though, having to switch schools right after you were making some headway in University in Nigeria?

Funny you should ask that. It really wasn’t. I think some Universities in Nigeria might have this option, but because I attended ABTI and it had some connections with York University where I eventually attended. I was able to transfer most of my credits. So rather than having to start from scratch, I was able to continue from my second year and I just made up the credits I couldn’t transfer.  

That is so great!

It was, especially because I was able to switch courses from environmental science to something I really wanted to do, which was psychology and still continue from my second year. The only thing is, it took me a while to get into the right mindset for school because I was just so depressed. Thankfully, I was able to eventually adjust.

I really did a wiper here when you said you eventually adjusted. 

Haha. I mean, it was challenging, but hey! Now I have a whole tribe here, so it’s great.

Whoop! Now think fast! ABTI and York University get into a school fight, who’s winning?

Oh, York easily. I mean, ABTI had smaller classes, but somehow York had better teachers, better learning materials. It was just better really.

Oop. Let’s hide this from Atiku.

Now, for a sustained baby girl glow, what’s the process for working and getting continuous dollars through a permanent residency?

Hmm, there’s no real process. The only thing is, with a Permanent Residency visa, I didn’t have to apply for a work permit which is something you’d have to do with a student or a temporary visa.

Got it! So what do you do?

I work as an ABA therapist.

Now, before I do a very Nigerian thing and ask for a discount without even knowing what ABA therapy is, what does it entail?

Hahaa. Well, first off, ABA means Applied Behaviour Analysis. As an ABA therapist, I work with autistic children and I teach them skills. Everything from behavioural to social skills. Sometimes the children are non-verbal, so we just try to reinforce positive attitudes and try to minimize any negativity the child can be prone to expressing.

That’s fantastic! Do you know if this sort of therapy is present in Nigeria?

I’ll be honest oh. I’m not too sure, but I’ve seen first hand that special needs are catered to in Nigeria. So I grew up in Calabar and I live there when I’m not in Canada. My primary school had provisions for children with special needs and mental challenges, so the children never went without.

Impressive! Now let’s talk about regular life in Ontario. There’s this stereotype that Canadians are the nicest people, I don’t buy it. Am I just being a hater?

Hmm, you might be oh.

Wow, so #

No seriously, I’ve had so many kind encounters with Canadians, I can’t even start to remember most of them.

Oh so this one time, I had just started schooling at York University and was living in student accommodation. You can imagine how that goes – loud music at 1 AM, people laughing in the streets etc. Well, this one day, it was around 2 AM and this group of people were making the loudest noise outside our rooms. Next thing, I just heard someone shout: “WILL YOU PLEASE SHUT THE FUCK up?!’ at the guys outside. You know they actually did shut up and the guy said ‘thank you’ right after. It was the most Canadian thing.

Oh these Canadians are … different.

Look! And then there was this other really sweet day. I was out and it was one of those really cold days that starts off looking normal, so I wasn’t dressed to give the cold a little gbas-gbos. It was actually almost funny, I was at the side of a street, just shivering and wondering who sent me message when some lady came over and gave me a spare hairnet to put over my shoes so I’d be able to walk over the ice. Then some guy came over to offer me cigarettes to stay warm. I don’t smoke, so I didn’t collect it, but it was so sweet though.

Aww. These people are nice oh. Now to spoil this rep. Let’s even the scales a little, can you remember anytime a Canadian was particularly mean to you?

See, I worked retail for two years and after that, I worked customer service for another two years. I.have.seen.things. These people can get nasty. I can’t really think of anything right now, maybe it’s PTSD, but I had my fair share of ‘you’re pretty for a black girl’ and other really dumb sounding things like that.

God dey create actually!

So, so sorry you had to go through that.  It’s almost enough to discourage anyone from moving to Canada, but in reality, some people are probably reading this article with a pen, paper and anointing oil on their foreheads. Now for people looking to move to Ontario, Canada what are some things they should know about life in Canada. 

Let’s see. Rent! Yo, rent is so expensive here. When I moved out of student accommodation to get a place of my own with friends, the prices were giving me, what do they call it? Chest pain.

Oh dear!

You can get a place for about 1500 CAD a month which can be almost half of your monthly paycheck. I currently share an apartment with two other people and we pay 850 CAD a month and when we tell people it sounds like we hit the lottery. And we did actually, other prices are just crazy.

Oh?

And if that isn’t enough, taxes are waiting to take whatever is left. It is actually ridiculous. But let me move from all the negatives. For anyone who moves to Ontario, I know where you can get the best jollof rice in the whole province.

Drop that name it like it’s hot!

Afro Spice! See, in my life I haven’t had jollof rice that sweet, It is so good, 10/10 would highly recommend.

Now speaking of moving to Ontario, is deportation as widespread in Canada as it is in other countries like say The US and The UK?

Not at all. I don’t think I’ve heard of anyone being deported in Canada and I’m around a lot of Nigerians, so you already know that kind of news would spread anyhow. The only thing anyone can really get deported for is crime, and well, that’s because it’s crime. Other than that, you’re good.

If you needed the 4000th reason to move to Canada, dazzit. Let’s talk social life. Nigeria V Canada, who’s winning on a Friday night out?

Okay, I’ll be honest here. I am the biggest homebody, going out isn’t my thing at all. Back home in Calabar, I was hardly into the going out and clubbing scene and I’ve brought that behaviour here as well. But, I will say this. There is always a party in Ontario. Some friends want to hang, some Nigerian or Caribbean is throwing a party, some house party is popping, there’s always something. I go out like once every three months, that’s when I get to see all of this.

I hear you, lazy social butterflies unite! Now, for those of us that do usually lonely, what are the best places to meet significant others in Ontario?

Sis, I’m going to tell anybody to go electronic. Twitter is where it’s at. The coolest Nigerians in Canada are on it, and you’ll get a chance to read their tweets and gauge if they have sense beforehand. Again, 10/10 I’d recommend.

Got it.  Taking things a step further for my sisters in the Single Army, Three Years Plus regiment. Nigerian men V Canadian men V Nigerian men in Canada. Who’s winning?

Nigerian men in Canada, no doubt. Now Nigerian men in Nigeria are just another breed, we all know. But for these Nigerian men living in Canada, there’s just something about the breeze of international exposure, doesn’t mean they’ll have sense oh. But there’s a little sophistication in the mix, if you can call it that.

Say no more! Nigerian men in Canada for the win. Random, but what’s the best city to live in Canada, and do you plan to ever live there?

Definitely Ontario, which thankfully is where I live. It has everything, it’s a trip.

You have all the luck! So five years from now, where can daddy be trussin you to be?
Hmm, probably doing more of what I love, more work with ABA therapy. But who really knows?

Want more Abroad Life? Check in every Friday at 12 PM (WAT) for a new episode. Until then, read every story of the series here.

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