National Immigration Day?

My parents are immigrants to Canada. My mom and dad came to this country with their families, from the Netherlands, in 1951 and 1952 respectively. They know what it is to adapt to a new culture, to learn a new language, and to start over again making friends and family connections in a foreign country. My parents understand all of this in a way that I likely never will.

9780307359728It is widely understood that Canada is a nation of immigrants. From the first waves of non-aboriginal immigrants (the French and British), to the most recent waves from China, India, and the Philippines (those are the top three countries of origin for 2013), Canada is a nation built by those ‘from away’. This is true even of the earliest aboriginal populations of the continent, who likely arrived on the continent about 30,000 years ago via a land bridge from Asia.

Maybe we need a National Immigration Day in Canada.

Stories of migration and immigration are vital to the literature of Canada. And among the most recent contributions to that literature is Kim Thuy’s book Ru, a work of fiction that takes the form reflections and reminiscences – vignettes offered from the perspective of a Vietnamese refugee to Canada in the 1970’s. For many Canadians of my generation this narrative will resonate since we remember well the arrival of Vietnamese children in our school classrooms – I remember the day that Hoa arrived at my school, a girl whose family was sponsored by the churches in my town. Continue reading

wrestling with God

When I think of wrestling, I think back to my 9th grade, high school gym class – the year that wrestling was part of the phys ed. curriculum. I had never wrestled before in my life – and when I first walking into that wrestling room with padded floor I was more than a little intimidated. But with a bit of an introduction – with a bit of instruction on some basic wrestling moves– it was actually a lot of fun in the end. I was never going to join the wrestling team, but it was fun to learn. One of the nice things about amateur wrestling is that you always wrestle against someone is of a similar weight to you. The thought of wrestling someone twice your size would be intimidating (especially for the scrawny little guy I was), but right from the start in amateur wrestling you are close to being on an equal footing – at least in terms of size. For that I was grateful.

I can’t tell you much about wrestling techniques or wrestling moves – but I can tell you that keeping your body low to the ground as possible matters a great deal. The higher your body is from the mat, the higher your centre of gravity, the more likely that your competitor will be able to get under you and lift you from the legs, or roll you across the mat. For someone of my height, already in grade nine, keeping my body low mattered a lot. The higher your centre of gravity, the more likely your competitor will be able to use his weight and strength to turn you onto your back and perhaps even pin you. Continue reading