My Slippers are My Best Friend
Ivy Caine’s modest slippers protect her feet as she harvests rice, when she stands all day decorating cakes, and when she goes to college on a scholarship in the Phillippines. She moves to Taiwan. Her friend emigrates to Canada, leaving a pair of multicoloured slippers. A note inside says, “see you in Canada soon.” Those slippers are with her when she arrives in Leduc, Alberta.
I was born in the Philippines. I grew up without electricity or clean water and did not live comfortably. Typhoons, floods, lightning and thunderstorms were our enemies, especially for my parents and relatives who farm by hand. Our life revolved around the rice harvest.
These slippers are the kind worn by the people in our town. They comforted me when I walked in the mud. They marked my footprints in my territory. They warmed my feet when my heart was cold.
My parents got married and did not have higher education. When my siblings and I began to go to school, money was a problem. As the eldest, I looked after my siblings. My mother treated me differently from the others, and I did not have a good relationship with them.
One day, wearing my slippers, I was helping my father harvest rice. I saw the worry in his eyes.
I felt like he wanted to give up on his life and our future. I vowed I would not give up.
In April 2002, when I was sixteen, my aunt offered me a job as a cake decorator in her bakery. I was on my feet all day wearing my slippers, decorating more than 100 cakes per day. I designed each birthday cake and wedding cake with rainbow colours. It made me feel that everyone’s life was special.
After two years at the bakery, I decided to go to college full time because I had received a full scholarship. I worked from 4 a.m. to noon and went to school from 1 to 9 p.m.
One day, my aunt was upset and made some insulting comments about my family. I just listened and cried. That was the last time I cried. I told myself nobody can humiliate me anymore. I decided to leave the country.
On March 6, 2007, I moved to Taiwan and worked as an electronics inspector. The night I arrived, I unpacked my bag and saw my worn-out slippers—that symbol of poverty. I felt bitter, but I also felt strong. Despite the circumstances, I would do everything I could for my family.
I began earning more money and became close friends with a woman named Maricar. We often talked about our life back home, places we wanted to travel to, fashion and shoes. We created wonderful memories.
Two years later, Taiwan suffered a recession, and all the foreign workers had to leave when their contracts were up. I begged my manager to extend my contract for three months so I could join Maricar in applying for jobs in Canada.
Maricar flew to Canada in January 2009, leaving me in Taiwan. One day she sent me a message saying, “Go to my room tomorrow. I left something for you.” I hurried to her room, and I saw a pair of multicoloured slippers with a little globe on the insole. There was a note saying, “See you in Canada soon.”
On April 17, 2009, I flew to Canada. I was sent to Leduc, Alberta, to work for Booster Juice as a counter attendant on a two-year work visa. The agent rented a one-bedroom apartment for me, dropped me off there, and I never saw her again. The location was too far. I had to walk an hour to get to work, but I didn’t complain because I was there to work. Leduc was like my old township. I began the next, great part of my journey in that small town, with its 19,000 people.
Maricar ended up living in Slave Lake, Alberta. On June 13, 2010, we were reunited in Edmonton, along with our worn-out slippers. We had long miles together, and we had arrived in Canada.
IVY CAINE is from the Philippines. She’s been in Canada for eight years, works for the Alberta Government as an administrative assistant, and is a marathon runner.