Every newcomer, no matter how savvy, or where
he or she comes from, has a Fresh Off the Plane (FOP) story to share about their early days in Canada.
Ranging from the amusing to the not-so-funny, the experien-ces are milestones on our life jour-neys as immigrants.
I recall landing at Toronto’s Pearson International airport 15 years ago, eight large suitcases (new immigrants come with voluminous baggage – every inch is packed with items that will help us deal with real and imaginary needs) and two kids in tow. My youn-ger son, Tapas, barely three, travelled well, eating and sleeping through the long flight from Dubai. At nine, Tejas had absorbed the excitement (and some anxiety) of his parents and was all keyed up. He read comics and watched mo-vies all through the flight, and with just a few short naps, was exhausted by the time we landed.
There were many new immigrants on our flight and we made slow progess at the immigration counters. As the line inched along, just as we neared the counter, Tejas clutched his mouth, looking distinctly green about the gills. “Are you feeling sick? Do you want to throw up?” I asked. His desperate nod, eyes large in panic, was answer enough.
Leaving my husband to tend to Tapas and our hand baggage, I grabbed his hand and ran.
I hailed the first person who looked like he worked at the airport and asked him where the nearest washroom was. He took one look at us and pointed. We made it just in time. Another ins-tant, and Tejas would have thrown up all over the floor.
Cleaning him up as best as I could with paper towels, I couldn’t help thinking we had made a mess, literally, of our arrival. Visions of being escorted to a flight back home swirled in my head. With a kid retching his insides out, I was so sure Canadian officials would think we had imported some terrible tropical disease into the country. But as we made our way out, we were greeted by re-assuring smiles.
“The poor, wee lad,” said a lady officer. “Give him tea and dry toast when you get home, that will settle his stomach.”
That common sense advice, delivered by a gentle, caring immi-gration officer, almost brought tears to my eyes. It also sealed my belief that we had come to a good place.
I felt at home.