Welcome to my blog! Disembarking at Ontario is a series of short accounts that chronicle my experiences in Canada from my arrival to the present day; everything written about it is true.
ArrivalI look up from my tiny movie screen to meet the eyes of a Caucasian air stewardess who has wide hips and a matronly smile. I stare at her, I can’t help it. I’ve never seen hair so naturally blonde, nor eyes that shade of bright and sparkling blue.
I’ve been on planes before of course, but Asian airlines generally only hire painfully skinny women who wear too much makeup. In comparison, Caucasian stewardesses appear more solid; comforting in their plainness. I am bizarrely cheered by their sensible pumps, their sagging belly flab outlined by their tight blue skirts, the proud way they don’t try to powder away their laugh lines, wrinkles, crow’s feet.
The pilot announces that we are passing over international seas. Somewhere over Europe, I think about asking for a bit of wine.
I am to be part of the latest generation of Canadian settlers. My parents say that, politically, there is no future for me in Malaysia. There is talk back home, you see. Insinuations that the Chinese should go back to China; that the Christians should go to hell.
Even so, the world is too big for the likes of me — it feels like arrogance that I am stepping out to reach for even a corner of it. The curved line of the horizon is beautiful math — mountains and cities dipping in and out of sight. If the Earth was flat we should have fallen off by now. It is impossible to think that I will cross half the world in twenty hours.
I doze as much as I can, losing pockets of time whenever I close my eyes. I wonder if the Canadians will like me, if they will find my accent strange, if they really walked around indoors with their shoes on, if the tap water over there is actually clean enough to drink.
I ask a passing stewardess for a fizzy drink. She looks at me funny, before she asks if I want a cup of pop.
It will be four years later that my University will force me into a Canadian Literature course to complete my English degree. We read the poem Disembarking at Quebec by Margaret Atwood, and I am haunted by its last line: I am a word in a foreign language.
Right now, I have never heard of Atwood, nor do I have anything but a passing interest in Canadian poetry. I pull my lips up in an approximation of a smile and say: sure, pop sounds great.