Home Away From Home

Name: Emmanuel Uweru Okoh
Country of Origin: Nigeria
Current City: Winnipeg

Emmanuel Uweru Okoh is a poet and author of Gardens and Caves. He was born in Nigeria. His works have been published in NEXT, Saraba magazine, and Sentinel Nigeria. A few others are ITCH Magazine of South Africa and Mad Hatters’ Review of Iceland. Emmanuel finds time for fishing and loves to cook, alongside his huge interest in wine.

What does it mean to set out on a journey away from home?

Away from the warm smiles of close friends and family, away from the very environment that has built you into adulthood. Was it sane to leave the thrills of Lagos; The corporate hustle and fast paced mix of what Nigeria is? The Nigerian food that dwells in the height of everything organic (even at a time the rest of the world strive hard to eat organic)

What does it mean to get an air ticket to Canada without a return date? What does it mean to leave Home?

Well, I will say making the decision to move from one’s own country is a big junction for most people; a difficult one. And depending on how you utilize the new opportunities, it might be a move that sets you apart-ahead or otherwise. Moving to Canada (for me) was leaving my comfort zone and soothing culture into a clime that presented its own form of comfort and niceties. My first experiences were dotted with newer ways of doing things amidst a month or so of adjusting to the Canadian way. And Weather!  Oh Boy, it is no new knowledge that Canada has a main feature of extreme weather conditions. Let’s not get into the story of how I arrived in the minus 40 degrees Celsius. And yes, I had to run back into the Winnipeg airport due to the freezing conditions. Well, here I am today. I’m not the king of winter yet, but I get by much easily. And when my fellow coffee drinkers start a conversation with “It’s cold eh?”, I sure do know what they mean. I feel what they mean because it is cold here and we are in Manitoba. Ask google about Manitoba winter.

So how was it going for me back in Lagos before my move to Canada? In addition, what was the move about?

You know we have to take that uncertain leap at some point in life. That time of chance and doing something with a positive mindset and a big chunk of hope for the best. That was my launchpad for Canada move; to see what the other side has and to make use of the complementary culture and opportunities. Life in Lagos was good however. As a writer and media person, Lagos city opens you up creatively. The rich culture and hustle becomes your constant muse. You keep going. You are a hustler in Lagos. The can do and must do spirit drives you after waking you up. You have no choice in Lagos Nigeria other than surviving. I believe that is what we are doing anyway; surviving. The paperwork for moving to Canada was something I dealt with first. You know, not many countries have the luxury of jumping on a plane and taking off to Canada or the US. Yes, the Canada visa process took time and I got my study visa in preparation for my trip to get a Master’s Degree in Rural Development. In starting out a new lifestyle in Canada (of course with my “Nigerianness” still embeded in me), I experienced a mix and a rather softer side to approaching life’s issues. Things became too calm around me. People became too polite.

Did I begin to lose my Lagos spirit?

Naa. I simply preserved the Lagos in me for situations when I needed it; situations that I have to push myself to do more.

This leads me to an important advice to new immigrants – Do not forget your roots.

Where you are coming from is very important to your success in life. A huge source of inspiration is found in where you call home. I learnt (and I am still learning) to love Canada for what the country means to me. A country that presented a social structure that works and an environment where you can aspire and become successful. Back home, in Nigeria, we have a lot of hardworking people and sometimes I think these hardworkers only need to have the complementary socio-economic environment of Canada to be successful. Canada rewards hardwork. So as an immigrant, you have to tap into the opportunity Canada gives you and put in your best. Nigerians are super go getters striving to go beyond results. While this is our common hope,

I would advise new immigrants in Canada to be open to new ideas as a way of climbing up. Having respect for your newfound country and its values are paramount while integrating. Sharing information is also key, as never is any man an island.

Having a study visa, I made my studies a top priority and fought hard to make sure I achieved my goal of getting my Master’s degree. Now the education system over here in Canada requires your one hundred percent and more, and as an immigrant, you must put in extra effort to breakthrough. In a scenario like this, a new immigrant that is versed in the art of laziness would naturally fall out of line. I would say, steadfastness and eyes on the finish line while doing the required will make the journey smooth. A last one for the folks back home. If your home hustle is tight and the dots are connecting as expected, then, you only need to take vacations abroad. Yes, maybe a course or program for advancement in your career will also be a main reason for your journey down here. It’s always good to travel and see the other side but sincerely, we all miss home regardless of where we find ourselves. And Nigeria is Home.

– Emmnauel Uweru Okoh