Memory of Immigrant

I recently read an article in the paper about some experiences of newcomers in Canada. The article discussed how refugees who stay in a government funded facility for the first two weeks of their arrival all seem to have one common memory - even many years later, and this memory is the smell of Sunlight detergent that their clothes, bedding and towels were initially washed in. Yes, we all know that our sense of smell can trigger memories and elicit emotions of specific events in our lives with incredible power.For instance one of my favourite memories of being new in Canada is the scent I would smell upon entering the Overwaitea grocery store in Prince George and seeing the abundance and choice of food. In fact, to this day, I still feel a great sense of (a rather childish) excitement and awe whenever I walk through the doors into Save On Foods (same company as Overwaitea)and inhale the seemingly regular scent of this grocery store.

Oh yes, the memory of entering that Overwaitea store as a ten year old child still brings back many fond memories of being wide-eyed as I walked through the aisles and saw all these new foods and products I had never seen in my life! The trip to the grocery store was truly an adventure for me in those first few months. It was a hot June day when on one of our family outings to the grocery store, my dad suggested that we buy ourselves some ice cream for the walk back home. Dad had travelled to Western countries for business before and he knew the kinds of goodies that were available in stores! My sisters and I were incredibly excited at this prospect and as we approached the frozen foods section our minds were already racing with the choices of flavour we would choose from, since we could each choose our own individual ice cream! And so Mom, Dad, my sisters and I each chose one small container of ice cream that we would devour on our walk back home. We could hardly wait to pay at the cashier and open our ice cream and see what Canadian ice cream tastes like!!!

And so as we came back outside, Dad helped each of us open the awkward containers and soon we each began licking our treats as we walked down the streets in Prince George. Our excitement however, quickly turned into utter disappointment and disgust!! We couldn’t believe our taste buds...the ice cream was horrible! The fruity flavour of our treats was so intense that our tongues started tingling and our mouths were puckering as though we had just eaten a lemon. None of us wanted to keep eating this unbelievably disappointing treat we had looked forward to eating so much! It was truly disheartening to realize that Canadians didn’t know how to make good ice cream and to realize our tongues were hurting and raw from the intensity of the fruit flavour.

Sadly, we decided to dump out the ice cream on the side of the road and let it melt in the rays of the hot June sun...oh what a sight we must’ve been!! The five of us on the side of the road, each holding a can of Minute Maid frozen juice FROM CONCENTRATE and dumping it out with a disgusted look!!! Yes – it is first experience of eating “ice cream” as a new immigrant in Canada consisted of buying frozen concentrated fruit juice, and nearly devouring it!

All these years later, it is nice to know that great ice cream actually DOES exist in Canada and that just the mere scent I smell upon entering Save On Foods can still jog my memory back to our grocery store adventure in June 1986!

Do you have any memories to share of your arrival in Canada and what you experienced as a new immigrant? I am sure there are plenty of adventures (and misadventures!) that the readers of SLOVO would love to read about! Katarina S.