My First Pair of Shoes in Canada

Sharmila Pokharel


I didn’t have great ambitions other than to live in a place that had a window and a balcony. The day we arrived in Canada, my mind wobbled like a pendulum. I was confused and happy at the same time. As we approached Edmonton, after 30 hours of travel from Nepal, the country of  Mount Everest, I looked down through the plane window and saw vast emptiness and barren fields.    But seeing the smiling faces of my uncle and husband’s friend waiting for us at the airport, I shed tears of happiness.


During my first six months in Canada, armed with a civil engineering degree and six years of professional experience, I conducted a vigorous job hunt, but no luck. I started searching for any kind of job. Finally I received a call from Pizza 73. During the interview, the manager said, “You can start work on January first or second—the choice is yours—but keep in mind that January first is a very busy day.” I did not want to run away from my responsibilities, so I agreed to start on New Year’s Day. 


Looking at my height, the manager said, “You’d better buy platform shoes so you can reach the kitchen countertop.”


Finding an appropriate pair of shoes for my short and narrow feet was always a challenge. Luckily, this time, I found a perfect fit. I instantly became two inches taller wearing my brand-new white Reebok walking shoes.


The first day of January turned out to be a dreadful day. Pizzas were being prepared and rolling along the queue in trays as if robots were making them. Nobody had a spare second to explain what I was supposed to do. I ran here and there to help with minor tasks. After eight hours of standing and running without eating or drinking, I was exhausted, dehydrated, and very hungry. When I got home, I took off my shoes and submerged my sweaty, smelly, and swollen feet in warm, salted  water. I felt empathy for all those people who work in restaurants, hospitals, and grocery stores.


I worked at Pizza 73 for a year. In order to reach the pizza toppings, I had to hop like a bunny, even with my thick-soled shoes. I got more tired from hopping than from doing the actual work. Eventually, I completed a two-year diploma at NAIT and got a job at an engineering company where I have been working for the last seven years. I do have a big window and a backyard now—all it took was five years of struggle and hard work.


This year, I enrolled in the graduate course at Humber School for Writers to pursue another dream. I’ve been writing poetry since I was a child. I published my first collection at the age of 19 and the second one at 21.


I would like to share my poem co-translated by Alice Major, a mentor from the    2021 Borderlines Writers Circle program:

My country in a foreign land

My country

came along with me

and sat next to me


on the plane


My country

came with me

in the red Tika and Pote 1

and in the

Nepali I speak



My country

came as the holy Gayatri

Mantra my worshiping room

and as thirty-three million Gods


Who says

I came here

and left my country behind?


My country

always comes with

me as my own



1 Note: Red Tika is a symbol of good luck in Hindu culture. Pote is a kind of necklace worn by Hindu married women.

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