Loneliness – the immigrants experience

Guillermo Gómez-Peña, The Loneliness of the Immigrant, 1979/2011

Guillermo Gómez-Peña, The Loneliness of the Immigrant, 1979/2011

After making a mad dash to the bus stop, I was relieved I hadn’t missed the darn thing. A few minutes later, a lady strolled over with her baby carriage. Instantly, I could tell she was African. Our eyes met, we smiled at each other. She asked me when the bus was coming, I told her ‘in a few minutes’ and offered her a seat. She opened the top cover of the stroller and baby-talked gently to her child. She sat down…and then we got talking.

What I learned:

  • she is a Cameroonian
  • she has been in Canada for 9 months
  • her child is 4 months old
  • she has no family or friends in Canada
  • her husband is still in Cameroon but will join her soon
  • her church has been very helpful and supportive
  • she likes it here. ‘It’s better than in Cameroon.’

How I felt after talking to the lady

  • Sad
  • Pity
  • Happy – I was happy because first of all, the lady had such a smile that it could light up a whole room, and she spoke happily despite her situation. Secondly, I was happy just because the lady looked happy. She seemed utterly in-love with her child as if no matter where in the world she was living, everything would be alright as long as she had her child.
  • Curious – I wondered if the lady felt lonely or any sense of disconnect in the new country. I wondered how she coped with loneliness, experiencing a new life without her husband, or missing her family and friends.

Meeting her made me think about loneliness and Nigerians abroad – immigrants in general.

I know how hard it was for me when I first moved to Canada. It can be quite lonely when you move to a new country. As if language barrier wasn’t enough, immigrants have to fight loneliness. Inevitably, those are things that all immigrants go through. It’s ironic that most people suggest that you ‘make friends’ but how can one make friends if they cannot fully express themselves or communicate with others in the spoken language? Sometimes too, it doesn’t really matter how many people you meet because at the end of the day, you still feel lonely – like you don’t belong or because your heart is elsewhere.

It doesn’t matter if your immigration process was smooth-sailing or packed with trenching headaches, soon or later you’ll start missing the familiar things you took for granted in your home country that you don’t have access to in your new world. This is especially worse during the holidays when everyone you probably know has a plan with his or her family.

As exciting as it might be to start a new life – a ‘better life’ – in a new country, eventually everyone wets their pillow with tears of loneliness. Feeling lonely in this way is normal. And how you cope with it is the important part.

“You always know where you’re born. You never know where you’ll end up.”

Immigrants tell stories of adjustment, loneliness – The Messenger

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~ by omonaij on May 6, 2012.

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