Written by: Naoreen Kabir – Grade 11
We did this project in Grade 8 where we had a map, and we made this website just about us. For me, it was so hard because [the teacher] was like, “I want to know where you lived.” But I lived in three different continents, I went and lived in seven different cities, I think I’ve been through nine or ten houses.
How would you define yourself?
Apparently, I don’t sound British, I don’t sound Canadian, and I don’t sound African. I sound like a weird mix of the three. In the UK everyone was like, “Faith, you sound a little different, are you African?” They could tell I was Nigerian because of how my voice sounded. Then I moved here and everyone was like, “You’re British!”
Now a few years later, I don’t know. If I had to define myself, I wouldn’t know exactly. I still listen to Nigerian music, I still get into that Nigerian part of my culture, all the traditional stuff. But the British part of me, that was my childhood. I was young, and most things I know now are because of how I was when I lived in the UK. That was a huge part of me, more so than how I was when I was in Nigeria. I was only two. The only connection I have is because I’m surrounded by Nigerian people. I still can’t speak the language even though I’m from there. But I’m surrounded by the music, and the people, and the culture, so that part has been absorbed into me.
And the Canadian culture, when I first came here, I thought, “I’m always going to be British, I’m not going to get absorbed into the Canadian culture.” Then after staying here for four years, you realize how Canadian I am.
Did anything surprise you about Canada when you came here?
We went to Canada before, in 2010, to Toronto. We didn’t know what to eat, so we look inside the pantry [of my family friend’s house] because we can have anything. We’re like, “Okay, I see corn flakes, that’s the only thing I remember, then sugar.” It’s cubed sugar. We were like, “What, why’s the sugar in a cube?” I had never seen [cubed sugar] and I just put one in cold milk. “It’s still hard guys, what are we going to do?” The whole trip you just see us with a bag of cubed sugar, just nibbling on it, and we were like, “Is this what it’s meant for?”
What has it been like making friends?
It was awkward knowing that you made such close friends, but you won’t be able to stay friends with them because you’re not going to be in the school for much longer. So I felt bad when I was like, “Guys, I’m gonna leave” Everybody’s like “We’re gonna be friends forever!” but the whole time, in my head, it’s like, “I’m only going to talk to you, and in December I’m gonna be out of here. I can’t really be that close to you.”
But it made me feel better about making friends, because, when I was younger, I was awkward at making friends. In Year 7 I was more open with myself, and I made so many friends in that school. I was like “Canada isn’t [going to be] that bad.”
I came in Grade 7 to Canada during the point when everybody’s already made friends. Christmas was approaching, you know that time where everybody has their clique and you’re just there? They just knew me as the British girl, and that made me really upset. Everybody made those stereotypes about Britain. And then [they’d say], “There are Black people in the UK?”
In math class every single time [they’d say], “Give me some crumpets.” Or people tried to do the British accent. Now I’m kind of used to people doing the accents. Before, I got really uncomfortable and annoyed. They’d always do it again and again behind my back, and they’d start talking, “Where’s your tea, are you having your afternoon tea?”
How has moving affected who you are?
There are certain things that I would never imagine doing in the UK. Everyone was so conserved, especially because of the uniforms. You don’t really see people as how they would reflect themselves. When I came here, everyone had different styles and expressed themselves. I’m used to having a classroom, having a seating plan, having a uniform. I would be scared to speak out about what I was thinking. Ever since I moved here, I’m more used to expressing myself how I want to express myself, dressing how I want to dress, doing things I want to do. I realize it’s not that bad to actually go out of your comfort zone.
Childhood photos courtesy of Faith