Home Sweet Home
Since arriving in Calgary from Seoul in 2017, Chihyun Choe has had difficulty finding just the right house while she and her husband start a business. Wearing an orange bandana from Korea makes her powerful as she sets about renovating a dilapidated old house.
“Honey, we should have done this renovation last year. Even just one coat of white paint makes this house look much better and brighter!” My husband said this as he stood in the middle of the living room, looking at the work we’d done over the last few days.
While listening to my husband’s amazed voice and seeing his relieved face, I wondered if this simple change would Canada our home country.
As for my paint-spotted orange bandana, it has a new role. We often put this bandana on our black cat Bogy so we can find him easily in the dark. Sometimes he climbs and stands on our fence like a lawman in a western movie. It seems he is there to protect us and to say, “This is our territory, and this is our home!”make us feel more attached to this house and Canada. I was wearing a paint-spotted bandana and baggy clothes, and I asked myself what we could do better and differently to settle in Calgary?
Our decision to come to Canada happened after I had yet another late night at my job in Seoul, South Korea. My husband suggested I could quit, and we could move back to his home country, Canada.
Although it was a spontaneous decision to leave Korea, we spent six months researching life and opportunities in Alberta. In December 2017, we moved to Calgary. However, we were not so prepared.
During the first year, we moved four times around Calgary and Brooks, trying to find the right place for ourselves. Finally, last summer, we moved into his old house in Calgary, which seven people had been renting. The old furniture and clutter remained, but we were too busy chasing decent jobs to make the house our home. It was often neglected. Maybe this was why I couldn’t feel we belonged here. I often feared that we would never feel settled in Canada.
Surprisingly, my husband felt the same even though he was a Canadian who had been born and raised here. After over 15 years of living outside Canada, he struggled to adapt to the cultural changes that occurred while he was away. He missed the old stability he had grown up with. And he missed the stability of his life in Korea. The house with its vestiges of strangers did not help him. And his state of mind affected me and made me feel even more of a lack of belonging.
I had to do something to change our situation, to help my husband settle back into his own backyard and to help me settle into Canada. The house renovation was the solution, just like when he renovated our home in Seoul from a single man’s space to a couple’s home for us. So now, I tie my orange bandana on my head, the bandana that he used to wear whenever he was working on our house in Korea. Then clenching both fists firmly, I say to myself, “I CAN DO IT,” just like Rosie the Riveter, the lady with the red and white polka dot bandana in the World War II posters.
I paint the place our favourite colour: blue. I rearrange the old furniture to suit our lifestyle, display our family photos, and even set up playful steps with bookshelves for our cats: Punky, who has gone through our settlement journey from the beginning, and Bogy, who makes our family complete. All of these small and big changes, along with career opportunities that have now come to us, make me think this house could become our sweet home, and we could call
CHIHYUN CHOE is a dreamer and achiever from South Korea who landed in Calgary in the winter of 2017. Recently, she started to establish a family business with her Canadian-born husband while also stepping into her first Canadian workplace.