Where were you born and raised? What do you miss the most about your home country?
I was born in Zimbabwe, which is in Southern Africa. I moved to Canada in 2010. I was an expedition leader and safari guide across Africa for over a decade, so I definitely miss the wildlife, long bumpy roads, year-round great weather, and camping under big starry night skies. I also find that I sometimes miss the sights and sounds of people going about their day - working, chatting, laughing, children playing, music in the background, dogs barking etc. You were constantly surrounded by people and life-in-action. I also think of family often.
How did you come to live in Brockville (Leeds and Grenville)?
I met and married a beautiful girl from the Brockville area and one day woke up to find myself on the other side of the world, in Brockville, knee-deep in snow when I moved to Canada in 2010!
What had you heard about Canada before you came? What stereotypes/expectations did you have? Were your initial expectations accurate? Can you give us an example?
Yes, I suppose like many people around the globe I carried an impression of Canada as having polite people, cold winters and a love for hockey. It turns out all three are true! And actually now that I’ve lived here for some years, I would add one other Canadian stereotype to the list, that is not very well-known overseas – Tim Hortons!
On a more serious note, I’ll add that the most important impression that people around the world have of Canada is that, even though it is still a work in progress like every other country - it is still arguably one of the most free, fair and equal societies in existence. It’s a country traditionally known for doing the right thing for its people as well as on the world stage. Traditionally, other countries wait to see where Canada stands on critical issues before adopting a platform because they respect the Canadian tradition of being fair and having the good of the world-at-large, at heart. What many Canadians do not know is that Canada belongs to the world. This is because as long as a country like Canada exists and has its ideals and positive traditions intact, other societies have an example to esteem to and emulate. We are a country that gives others hope. Are we perfect? No. But we are a work in constant progress and we have done many good things for ourselves and for others. And even though these are very testing times, I believe it is imperative for both new Canadians and those born here, to fiercely safeguard the virtues and traditions that made this country great and have always been passed down from generation to generation of Canadians.
Foremost, that of just being good to one another - being generous, kind, fair, welcoming, helpful and yes – polite! That was my impression of Canada and it is my impression still.
What advice would you give to a newcomer moving to Canada or Leeds Grenville more specifically?
Bring a warm coat! More seriously, when I first arrived it soon became clear to me that I had to relearn most of the things and knowledge that we take for granted as adults. You have to be open to this process in order to succeed as a newcomer. It’s almost like being a child again or learning a new language. You have to relearn how to dress because the elements and weather are different. You have to relearn social skills because how people interact with each other in Canada is often different to what you’re accustomed to. You have to relearn how to navigate the workplace because often the rules of engagement are different and how you interact with your colleagues and managers is different.
The biggest challenge can be realizing that the skills and knowledge you have accumulated through your life that were very valuable and valued in your old country can sometimes be almost completely irrelevant as a newcomer to Canada and you have to be prepared to start again and rebuild your knowledge and skills base. So my advice to a newcomer is to be prepared for a possible dark period, but by keeping your focus on your long-term goals and dreams, and doing what you need to do to rebuild your foundation, sooner or later the sun will shine again.
How do you like to spend your free time?
I grew up around sports and so I enjoy following a variety sports. I am yet to adjust to more traditional North American sports like ice hockey, baseball and football – I’m still trying to understand the rules! So I’m still following the sports I grew up with like rugby, soccer and cricket. I’m also yet to learn how to skate. I attempted it once and was stumbling, crashing and wiping out all over the pad while all around me, children below the age of 10 were gliding around effortlessly. A humiliating experience that I’m still recovering from! Ha-ha!
As I mentioned, I was an expedition leader across Africa for many years so I still have the occasional itch to explore. These days I do it by sometimes just taking long drives on roads I haven’t been on before and just seeing where they go. I enjoy that. In recent years I’ve also developed an interest in cooking and enjoy exploring new recipes. But most of all I like to read and I like to learn. Self-development is a key element to life and fulfillment. I think there is great satisfaction in learning new skills and learning how to be creative beyond what you previously thought was possible for you. The human spirit is limitless.