I never thought I’d survive living in another country apart from Cameroon (Central Africa), my place of birth, until I lived in China and now Canada.
It has changed my life and my perspectives about culture completely.
As I grew up, I learned so many things that define me as a Cameroonian or an African today.
First, I learned the language. We speak both French and English in Cameroon, but we also have about 250 ethnic languages.
I also learned our culture, which is the most important tool for adaptation in any part of the world.
Part of this culture includes, how we express ourselves and communicate with people, how we greet elders and show respect for the elderly, the love for our food and music, community life and simplicity, our daily schedules and chores at home and at school.
This was the beginning of an identity that would last a lifetime. Cameroon was the first “C” in my life, which stands for chances.
I had an opportunity to live in China as my mother was working in Beijing. This was the second “C” in my life, which I’ve called changes, which someone said is the only thing constant in life.
However, I hated my mom for bringing me to this new place where I could barely communicate with anyone and for separating me from my childhood friends and family back in Cameroon.
Language barriers were my first obstacles in China, as I couldn’t speak or understand Mandarin or Cantonese.
After a while, I challenged myself to learn Mandarin and got a pocket dictionary, which I carried around whenever we went out.
The day I got lost in Beijing was the day I knew that my Mandarin was bad, as I couldn’t pronounce words correctly.
It was very frustrating for me because I knew where I was going, but I failed to give the right pronunciation of Capital Mansion in Mandarin (Jingchéng dasha).
But, by the time we were leaving China for Canada, I’ll say I had become Chinese at heart.
I had learned how to eat jiaozi (Chinese dumplings) with the chopsticks. I loved doing the Tai Chi, which is a slow movement exercise every morning and I climbed The Great Wall.
When we arrived Canada in the fall of 2010, everything was not the same as in Beijing and I found myself complaining about not seeing skyscrapers in Ottawa and missing the packed streets of Beijing.
I missed my China home.
I started school by September 2011 and made new friends at the University of Ottawa. They enjoyed my madness for running through the pedestrian lights because I still thought I was in Beijing where cars don’t respect pedestrians.
Today, I am proudly Canadian. This country gave me the freedom to be the person I want to be, and not according to cultural and family pressures I faced in Cameroon and China.