Two months ago, Natalia Parra, 25, and her parents, Julio and Nelly, left Bogota in the Republic of Colombia for perhaps the final time.
Merengue and Candonga were allowed to stay longer in the South American country of 50 million. They arrived last week.
Merengue is yellow; Candonga is black and white. They are the family cats.
Natalia is a student in the CultureWorks ESL program in London, Ont., soon to enter Level 6. She is determined, charming, intelligent, but really not certain where her life is headed.
“Right now, I am not sure if I will return to Colombia,” Natalia said in a recent discussion. “I am not sure. Maybe in the future, but right now my home is here. I am with my parents, so it’s easier, the new life.”
Choosing to move to Canada
Unlike a traditional family move, Natalia acknowledged the decision was connected with some personal challenges in Colombia and had little to do with the work status of her 48-year-old mother, Nelly, and 53-year-old father, Julio.
Natalia has a business degree in the not-always-peaceful country she and her parents — and cats — are leaving behind.
While Natalia is attending CultureWorks, her parents are looking for work in their new country. Her mother is a nurse; her father a pet nutritionist for cats and dogs. They are also working on their English.
“Here, they are improving their level of English because it is necessary if they want to find something to work at in their fields,” Natalia said.
Natalia talks about what it’s like to study English in Canada
Meanwhile, Natalia is also taking on the challenge of learning English as a second language. She is winning, her CultureWorks teachers tell her, but she is not always certain.
“Here in Canada, the first days were terrible. The weather was different, the language was different, everything was different. So it was difficult, but with time, I am improving my English. I improve my ability to be here, so I think that I am good, but I am trying to do better things here.
“I hope that I can improve my level in English, especially in grammar and pronunciation, because, it is very difficult for me.”
She will survive the English battle.
“Oh my God, actually last night, I was thinking about how I am not sure who I am because here I am a different person. For example, in Colombia, I have a degree, so for me in Spanish it is very easy to write an essay.
“Here, it is like I am learning to speak again, so I feel like a baby, a kid that says only blah, blah, blah. I feel like that here in Canada. Everything has changed. Everything.
Natalia has a somewhat different best friend in London and Canada.
“For me, here in Canada, my best friend is Google Maps. It is my best friend. It is my favourite tool in life.”
Natalia discusses her love of Colombia and Canada
She plans to attend either University of Toronto or Western when she completes her CultureWorks English for university study program and moves to a Masters degree.
Natalia has also every intention of helping Colombia improve its status.
“I am very sad, because it is my country, because I study political science, because I want to help build a better country, but I cannot. But I can’t, I can’t,” she said.
Natalia has not lost the love of her country, in fact, far from it.
“I want to say that Colombia is more than drugs. People think that Colombia is only drugs and no, Colombia is a beautiful place with beautiful people,” she said.
“We have many, many beautiful places, delicious food … we are a people that every day wakes up for work to make the world a better place.”
And thoughts about Canada?
“I am happy. I am so happy. Canada is a beautiful country. It’s very friendly. I love Canada. I am very happy to be here, very happy.
“I have a challenge, but I am OK. I hope that I am OK …
Her teachers vote yes.
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