When did you move to Canada? & why did you move to Canada? How was your life like in your country of origin before you moved to Canada?
I first arrived in Ottawa, Ontario in July 2010 to consider the possibility of immigrating to Canada. Through an invitation from the Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program’s Strategic Recruitment Stream, I was invited to make an exploratory visit to Winnipeg. Mr. Markus Chambers, who was at the time an Immigration & Multiculturalism officer, interviewed and recruited me to immigrate to Canada. I eventually relocated to Winnipeg, Manitoba in April 2012.
I was born in Malaysia and grew up in what was once a small and remote fishing village. I didn’t speak English until I was 17 years old, mainly learning it from watching the popular American TV soap “Dallas.” After graduating from secondary school and spending almost 2 years in Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia, I left for the United States in January 1986 to further my higher education in music. Thereafter, I worked as a music/piano teacher at a private college preparatory school in Denton, Texas (North of Dallas) until 2009. Due to the decline of student enrollment during the 2008 financial crisis, the school, unfortunately, went out of business.
Ironically, the father of my piano student, Duncan, is a transplanted Canadian from Winnipeg, Manitoba. As I started to seriously consider immigrating to Canada, Duncan very generously extended an invitation from his sister’s family (who lives in Winnipeg) to host my exploratory visit to Winnipeg.
What was your first impression when you arrived in Canada?
Canada is similar to, yet very different from the United States. For sure, the government-funded universal health care is the envy of most Americans. Canadians’ perspectives tend to be more global. Many Canadians have travelled abroad. I have met many Canadians who have been to Malaysia.
Environmentally speaking, the Canadian air (which we breathe every second) is much crispier, fresher & cleaner. The Canadian sky is vibrantly bluer (due to low emission).
While enjoying all the amenities in Winnipeg, I can always conveniently escape to the tranquillity of many city parks and trails which meander through the meadows, along the creeks and river banks. The lush, glorious and voluptuous blooms at the Assiniboine Park’s English Garden is sure a sanctity of beauty – my favourite place! Due to the distinctive 4 seasons in Canada, most Canadians embrace a variety of activities (both indoor & outdoor) in Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter.
Since settling down in Canada, I’m taking more time to smell the flowers!
What were some of the challenges you faced when you moved here?
My biggest challenge turned out to be my most rewarding blessing! As I was waiting for my Canadian permanent residency status to be finalized (which took about 2 years), I wanted to apply for a work visa. Due to a glitch in the process, I had to fly to Mexico City, Mexico to resubmit my work visa application at the Canadian High Commission there. I left in the midst of brutal Canadian winter. For 5 weeks, I submerged myself in the mysterious and colourful Mexican culture and history. I encountered many adventurous Canadian and American snowbirds. It was delightful to exchange stories and perspectives with them. This divergence has inspired me to learn the Spanish language as a hobby, adding to the other 3 languages I know: English, Mandarin and Malay.
Was there any support from the community to help you integrate? If yes, what were they? If not, how did you survive?
Having studied and worked in the United States, I was quite adaptable and didn’t have many struggles as a newcomer in Canada. After living in Chicago for 7 years as a graduate student, I’m also cognoscente of the Winnipeg winter. To have Duncan’s sister, Susanne and her husband, Richard, providing pointers from time to time is definitely invaluable.
Most Canadians are willing to help when asked politely. This is because Canadians in general appreciate human interaction. Of course, nowadays, most answers can be scouted out on google.
As a fun fact, I’m now an eager participant in the Winnipeg Spanish Conversation Group. Apart from getting together to practice Spanish, it is inspiring to find friends who are carefree, laid-back and embracing the bohemian spirit.
What do you miss most from your country of origin?
I do cherish the simplicity of my childhood years in Malaysia.
As a child, I travelled weekly to the closest city, an hour away, to take piano lessons. My most memorable incident was while riding on my Dad’s scooter to my piano lesson, we saw a gigantic and most beautiful tiger in the wild lazily strolling across a remote portion of the road.
Having fresh seafood, produce and a variety of fruits daily was something I took for granted. Since I grew up in a coastal village, I could bicycle to the beach anytime I wished. I especially enjoyed watching the rumbling of massive waves during the monsoon season.
Since coming to Canada, have you visited your country of origin? What was your first impression of going back? How did it feel?
I did hastily flew back to Kuala Lumpur once to renew my Malaysian passport & returned to Canada within 6 days. Resembling many modern cities in Asia, Kuala Lumpur is now a metropolis of retail and commerce. The hustling and bustling of Kuala Lumpur run for 24 hours, 7 days a week. Unfortunately, at times air pollution from the emission can be quite suffocating.
The fishing village where I grew up is now a small city in its own right!
I do travel to the United States often because I have been managing a portfolio of Real Estate investments in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, Texas for the past 20 years. My sister and her family live in Florida. I visit them every so often. I do see my nephew almost daily as I remotely practice piano with him online. Hence the virtual reality of the Internet has kept us in close contact.
What was your occupation in your country of origin and what is your occupation here in Canada? What have you accomplished so far and aim to in the future?
The first 19 plus years of my existence were spent in Malaysia. My family actually moved the very first piano into the fishing village I grew up. A few parents in the village soon solicited me to give piano lessons to their kids. At the tender age of 10 years old, my entrepreneurial spirit was ignited and I was able to not rely on my parents for a monetary allowance.
About one month shy of turning 20 years old, I left for the United States. Long story short, I completed my Bachelor of Music (Piano Performance & Pedagogy) from the University of Montevallo, Alabama; Master of Music (Piano Performance) from Michigan State University, Michigan; & Doctor of Music (Piano Performance & Pedagogy) from Northwestern University, Illinois.
While living in Texas, I have also expanded my expertise as a Real Estate Transaction specialist. I facilitate private individuals to earn a substantially higher rate of return (than the banks) on their investment portfolios. This is a very secured investment because it is collateralized with real estate holdings.
I have since been making a multitude of personal and professional advancements (locally, regionally & globally) from Winnipeg, the “Heartbeat of Canada!”
I am the founder and director of Sounding Board Academy, an online & onsite piano school. With my 45 years of teaching experience, I have proven methods of advancing my piano students 3 times faster than the norm. Anything sophisticated is nothing more than a combination of many simple components. I effectively help my students break down the process!
Currently, I teach locally in Winnipeg, as well as regionally throughout Canada, United States & Mexico. I am also an online guest lecture for the Piano Pedagogy class at Northwestern University, Illinois. This has given me a high calibre opportunity to interact with university students worldwide. It is exciting that I am recently approached by another university in Asia to present an online seminar.
With a great sense of pride, my piano students in Winnipeg have been regularly invited as featured young artists at the precurtain-call performance for the Royal Winnipeg Ballet. These events take place at the Piano Nobile Gallery, Centennial Concert Hall.
As a goal for the near future, I’m scaling up my online piano teaching service at the international level. The vision of Sounding Board Academy is to elevate human potential through musical training. Its mission is to inspire each student worldwide to reach the pinnacle of their true self, a profound legacy towards humanity!
What steps did you take to achieve the occupation you are currently in or previously held before you retired?
I’m very grateful to maintain a job-optional lifestyle for the past 20 years. My higher education obviously has paved a solid foundation for my career path. As globalization is fluid and inevitable, it is a necessity to continuously expand my knowledge and skills. I am proud to be a member of myneurogym.com, a global business development training organization. I recently attended a 60-day online course with 200 participants from all continents. It has been very inspiring to connect with like-minded entrepreneurs at the pro-level of consciousness.
How has your life changed since moving here?
Canada has granted me the freedom to explore my potential and evaluate my challenges daily. Without shame, blame or justification, I take full responsibility for all the outcomes of my decisions. I have evolved to be a well-focus and highly productive individual. The social-economic environment in Winnipeg has helped me to poise for success. I’m excited about my future!
What advice would you give to newcomers in Canada?
Don’t be shy! Get involved and introduce yourselves to Canadian residents. Contribute to the country that welcomes you. Do not stay in the bubble of familiarity and mediocrity. Have the courage to explore for excellence. Always strive to improve your Inner-self, which ultimately will reflect on your outer self.
What advice would you give to people back in your country?
There’s as much challenge in Canada as anywhere else in the world. But Canada is a peaceful place to live and raise your families. Canada is definitely cold in the winter. But Winnipeg is always sunny and bright during those cold winter months. And I love ice-skating!
What advice would you give to Canadians on how to relate with immigrants?
Get to know us. We enjoy telling our stories and sharing our life journeys. Cheers!