There’s a certain magic that one experiences when flying. I feel that magic when I look down at the lights of cities and towns in the dark night sky, almost as if we and the stars switched places. I see that magic when I look down at the fluffy white blanket made of clouds. They envelop the land and the sea, caressing the earth’s mountains. There is something undeniably magical about the flying.
On the flight to Amsterdam, I saw the film “Brooklyn”, about a young Irish woman in the 1950s who immigrates to Brooklyn, New York. It could not have been a more perfect film. Eilish embodies the hopes, dreams and struggles of immigrants. The possibility of a better life with more opportunities for personal growth drew her to America. Along the way, she gets homesick but overcomes these feelings to become a successful book keeper and marries an Italian-American. She was searching for a better life, and she found one. 65 years later, I feel like Eilish on her first journey to America. Chin up, look confident, speak clearly and they’ll let you in.
A lot of people asked me why I was going to the Netherlands to study Anthropology. Aren’t there Anthropology Masters in Canada? Why Amsterdam? Why spend all that money?
The truth is, I deeply admire the courage and strength of all migrants. Having worked in an immigrant and refugee resettlement centre, I’ve learned that migrants are strong and resilient individuals. To leave the comfort and safety of home is a frightening prospect. I understand that even more now after a couple panic attacks and a sobering meeting at the bank. Whether for safety or financial stability, migrants face difficult challenges everyday; from buying bus tickets in another language, or enrolling their children in a local school, or finding a satisfying job that matches your qualifications. These are the people that I want to study. So, I wanted to put myself in their shoes as much as possible.
As I prepared for my departure, it struck me that even taking the concept of time of packing is a privilege. The idea of a box containing an entire year of my life seemed unphathomable at first, especially after moving from Ottawa when I realized all the random stuff I’ve collected over the years. Somehow, I managed to fit what I’ll need for the year into two suitcases, a carry-on, and a backpack. Just think though, it was a privilege to bring 122lbs of clothes, shoes, coats, and electronics with me. Not all immigrants, particularly refugees, get that chance.
So here I am, a second generation Canadian, traveling to the country that my grandparents left behind. I have such deep respect for my grandmother, the oldest of 10, who immigrated to Canada as a young teenager. I’m looking forward to learning her native tongue and seeing the town she grew up in. I wish that I had had the opportunity to ask her more about her life before Canada.
Well, time to find out if we’ve been pronouncing Leunissen correctly all this time. Hopefully the answer is yes.