These Boots Are Made for Walking in the Snow

Yannis Lobaina


Love is what makes Yannis Lobaina leave Cuba. Her husband plans her arrival in Canada carefully, with bags of warm clothes ready for her and their baby to put on when they land. She is appalled by the big grey boots. They are so clumsy and heavy she wonders if this snowy land can ever be home.


On the morning of March 25, 2014, I woke up with my entire body trembling. Very sweaty hands. The day of embarking on a new journey had come. I had waited almost until the expiration month of my visa to decide to move to Canada.

Why would I leave Cuba? With this man from such a faraway land? Many questions and a single answer: love. After more than a year of a long-distance relationship, we decided to get married, and happily, our girl was born. We understood why our paths had crossed. A few months later, I said yes to the adventure and to becoming an immigrant. Im-mi-grant: a word that—from the first time I saw it stamped on my passport—always made me cry. 

I left behind my mother, the work I loved, my friends, family, my library, and many diaries full of unfinished stories, my colourful homeland and a large part of myself, which stayed on the island, enclosed in a dark room in Havana.  

Despite my fears, I was full of happiness and dreams of starting a new life with my husband and our first daughter. My arrival at Halifax Airport was very strange to me. The airport was smaller than I had imagined. The red tape of immigration incredibly fast. A part of it was processed by new machines.

Without any human contact, until the end, when smiling officers who stamped my passport welcomed me.

My husband Chris had planned every detail of our arrival carefully. He left our old Volvo parked at the airport with two large bags of winter clothes before going to Havana for us. The three of us would enter the country together, as we had dreamed. 

While my husband got the clothes from the car, I looked out at the metres of snow. I wondered how that white and grey landscape would convince me to live in it. A few minutes later, I walked to the washroom with my daughter in my arms to change. The cubicle was so small that we could barely move. It made me think of those of my Cuba, but it was cleaner. I opened the bag. My eyes could not escape the big, grey boots and huge coat. When he saw my upset face, my husband whispered, “Mon amour, these boots are made for walking in the snow.” He said it over and over again until he left us at the bathroom door. And I just nodded and remembered Nancy Sinatra’s famous song.

I stood half-naked under the bright white light. I took off my fine, white cotton dress and put on a grey cashmere sweater, black thermal leggings, two pairs of black pants and a big, black coat. I could barely breathe. I began to sweat, a different sweat. I felt like chilling lightning was running through my body.

I still had to change my shoes. I took off my beautiful sandals and put on the big grey boots. I hated them.

They seemed ugly and very heavy, heavier than my two suitcases full of books. A big sigh escaped me when I tied the last lace.

Finally, almost levitating, I left the airport washroom. I felt as if I were in another person’s body while walking to the exit. My husband welcomed ​and kissed my left glove. I can never forget that I took my first steps in this beautiful land with those big ugly grey boots that I now call home.                

Yannis Lobaina is a Cuban author, filmmaker, and artist based in Toronto. Lobaina has more than 30 short stories published in different countries, and her work explores themes of immigration, diaspora and motherhood. She received twice the RBC Arts Access Award from the Toronto Arts Foundation and Neighbourhood Arts Network. She also received the Toronto Arts Council Newcomer and Refugee Artist Mentorship grant for her current picture book. She collaborates with literary magazines such as Paralelo Sur and Revista Quimera (Barcelona). Recently, she published Juana of Leon. That’s Me. In an anthology, The Oval Portrait. By Wings Press.

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