The Challenges of Change
Change is a constant and inevitable fact of life. I change, you change, we all change. And as we change as people, we also change our surroundings and as our surroundings change, we change to adapt to it. Such is the beauty and the challenge of life. The one thing left under our control is the ability to make wise choices so whatever change we go through will lead us to the life we dream for ourselves.
You and I as expatriates from the Philippines know change so well. Remember when we just arrived? The shocking changes we faced when we just arrived – how could you possibly imagine -30C to -50C temperatures coming from 27C to 40C temperatures in the Philippines? The language (familiar and yet different because of the accent); the food (the giant servings!); the body language (look in the eye and being called with the use of an upward wave of the pointer finger, etc); the way we dress (layered clothing; coats; boots in the winter and shedding off so much in the summer); shopping (we’re no longer swarmed by salespeople who follow our every move); the life style (no more katulong or domestic helper), one has to do everything to make the household run; and many, many more day to day functions that somehow jolted us at first and eventually gave in to because it is what is called for in our particular situation.
There are two changes that stand out to me as very essential and have an impact on our life here in our newly adopted country. First, many of us travel the painful journey of trying to reclaim our identity in relation to our job and position. To be asked if you have Canadian experience during a job interview when you just arrived and continually lower your credential to fit in the job you are applying for is truly devastating. In a short while, we get the message that to survive, one has to immediately adjust one’s expectation, get a job and go on with life. This experience alone will have life changing impact on a person and one’s family life.
For newly arrived immigrants under the Provincial Nominee Program, it is important that one becomes aware of government sponsored programs designed to help in the settlement of newcomers. The help of relatives really go a long way but sometimes they may not be aware of what is available by way of orientation and programs on the system here in Manitoba. One excellent starting point is the Entry Program (944-0133) and the International Centre (943-9158) that will open doors for a newcomer. It is also important to know that at this point in time, it is possible to pursue your career except that one has to know the “how to”. It may mean a little sacrifice at the outset, postponing making big investments, taking courses and taking licensing exams.
Second big change is adjusting one’s parenting style. Parents change and kids change. There are different rules and expectations in the present system (the school and society in general) and stronger influence of peers and media. Support from extended family is not readily available; parents are not as accessible and overworked due to long hours at work (double jobs in most cases). Communication style is different which leaves parents in very difficult situations. However, there are ways of assisting parents cope with this change through Parenting Programs and help from local social service workers and the Coalition of Filipino-Canadians for Stronger Families (c/o 783-7131.)
At the end of this rugged and challenging path we choose to take and with all the changes we have experienced, as we see our children become successful and settle in the country we choose for them, we can smile and say, it was well worth it.
Perla Javate is the President of the Philippine Heritage Council of Manitoba. Fondly referred to by many kababayans in the community as Tita Pearl, she is the Filipino Community Liaison Officer of Winnipeg School Division. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org