One Reality in Two Different Worlds

Cintya Burgoa (+Video)


I decided to slow down running in my immigrant race, but I keep my running shoes on as a reminder and speak to you about why we are here. 

My son and I moved to Canada in 2010. He thought it was vacation time. I remember wearing my now old-fashioned Nike Impax leather running shoes. I was always a sporty person, and that day was so hectic that I knew I would need them. We carried five suitcases with a bit of everything: a survival utensil set, dry food, a few toys and many illusions of what was to come. 

We came from Bolivia. Welcoming people, delicious food and amazing landscapes characterize my country. Paradoxically, though, if something is different, that difference can be perceived as not normal.

My son was born in 2005. He was born with Treacher Collins Syndrome (a genetic disorder characterized by abnormalities of the head and face). He looked different. I promised myself I would do anything to understand my son’s condition and do the right things for him. I also told myself that no one—not even he, himself—had the right to put limits on his potential. I felt as if God had sent me the best gift ever with a special purpose. Also, I started asking myself if I was happy with all aspects of my life. 

The idea of moving to a more open-minded country was always in my mind, but now it seemed to be the right time. After a few changes in my life, including my job and even a divorce, and with the goal to reset everything, I applied for a PR visa to Canada. I understood that the process would take years. Would it even happen?

In the meantime, to find answers, I tried connecting with doctors in Bolivia, Brazil and the U.S. I consider myself a shy person, and I was unsure that I would get a response, but to my surprise, some doctors were willing to see us and respond to my questions. My comfortable running shoes accompanied me most of the time. My family was always there for me. With a demanding full-time job, I could not have done this all by myself. 

I started to receive guidance in little pieces. There were discoveries, including eyesight issues and hearing loss—and several surgeries over two years. I assumed my son was not the first Treacher Collins case in Bolivia. Some doctors told me there were others, but I did not find anyone else with his syndrome. And so, these children are not integrated into society. Parents hide them, perhaps to avoid bullying or discomfort which we experienced many times. 

I needed to keep wearing my action-sporty shoes, to get back out there, and deal with this bullying. It is not a “kids” thing. It starts with the grown ups at home. I tried ignoring odd stares and comments, but my patience was growing thin. The day I lost my patience was when the school told me that it would be difficult for the kids to adapt to my son and that I should keep him at home until he knows how to use his hearing aids. I began to fear this attitude towards him would become normal and that everywhere would be the same. As I was losing hope, my son passed his medical exam in the PR visa process. Canada accepted us!

Settling in Canada was not as easy as I thought it would be. Several times, I felt I took a couple of steps back, but I think those times were to prepare me to move ten steps forward. A fantastic health care system is directing the journey. My son’s case is relatively mild. So far, he has been able to do anything other kids would do—even becoming a good soccer player.

I miss Bolivia, but I also feel Canada is home now, certainly not perfect but, our home. I found most of the answers I was looking for regarding my son, and I know that here my son’s future just depends on him. As for me and Canada, am I happy? Well, I know I am on my way, and I will continue wearing my action shoes on my immigrant journey.

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