Skype – Bridging Gaps, Connecting Continents

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I often think about the tales of the pioneers who came to Canada in search of a new land and a better future. How hard it must have been for them to leave family behind, and bet everything on one chance. How difficult it must have been to not be able to share their joys and hardships with their families. Any letters they did write may or may not have reached their destinations. Circumstances often changed completely between the time a letter was written and the time it was read. Whenever I picture myself, in my first year of Canada, it is commuting to and from work. I had a fifty-minute drive and enough time to put my thoughts in order. I didn’t enjoy the work that I was doing, but I loved that drive. I used to imagine that my mom was sitting next to me, in the passenger’s seat, and I would tell her everything that was going on in my life, from feelings to minor events. To challenge myself I was telling her everything in English, so I could practice the new language.

My mom would, of course, listen to everything, even though, in reality, my mother didn’t know the language. It was a hard time for both of us. We were best friends and my decision to move to Canada affected us deeply. I still remember the day we were at the airport, and our last goodbyes. We were both laughing and pretending that we were having fun, and that nothing drastic was going on. But we were both aware that this was a sham. Only when I was in the airplane did I let myself cry, as Mom did in her car on her way back home.

My first Christmas and New Year in Canada were spent thinking of ways I would have celebrated, if I had still been home. But my immediate goal was to buy a computer so I could talk to my parents. I would tell my mom everything I was telling her now while driving, but it would be different, because this time she would respond.

When my mother first tried Skype, she was in an internet café. My brother had decided to bring her there. She immediately started crying; it was too much for her. “Is this how it’s going to be now?” I can still hear her question. I assured her that once she bought a computer and installed Skype, we could see each other every day in the comfort of her home. It was hard to see her crying, so I went back to the topics I’d imagined sharing with her, to make her smile again.

After that, Mom bought a computer, and Skype became our intimate friend. It would hear everything and never comment. It was there to help us communicate, and we felt blessed to have it around. We depended on it.

Feeling lonely, and in need of the company of people who were experiencing the same things I was going through, I decided to connect with other newcomers by starting a Skype group. I wanted to create a space where we could gather and share everything without being judged, without hiding our culture, without pretending to be what we were not.

I placed an ad in the paper, and shortly I was being emailed by newcomers who wanted to meet me and join the group. We were twenty-five people with different backgrounds, willing to meet once a week in order to connect. And we all had a common friend, and that was Skype.

Over the years I’ve shared many things over Skype: my achievements at college, my reactions to different books I’ve read, my successes at work, my integration into Canadian society, my passion for volunteering, and my love and understanding of people from different backgrounds. Because of Skype, we as newcomers can fully share two worlds, and can sometimes bridge two continents, to make the transition easier and less painful.

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