The Girl in Red Boots

Tuba Kocaman (+Video)


Once upon a time, in a beautiful country called Turkey, there lived a girl named Tuba. Her father was an educator, and her mother was crazy about reading books. In such an atmosphere, Tuba became passionate about life-long learning. With her father’s encouragement, she was the first child in the family to get a university degree. An inner voice kept telling her to continue learning. Tuba listened and got more degrees: a master’s, a doctorate, another, and another. She was so excited to work as an educator at the university. 

Then one day, there was a military coup attempt in her country. Her dreams were destroyed. Without evidence, the police arrested thousands of people. Doctors, professors, lawyers, engineers, soldiers, teachers, and journalists filled the jails. Some departments in the universities closed because all professors were in prison. 

Tuba’s dreams collapsed before they had even started. In that fearful atmosphere, there was no future. She decided to venture out, seeking a new life. Immigration. She set out alone, wearing her beautiful red boots, and they brought her to Canada. When she landed, she felt free and safe. But where would Tuba live? 

She did not have much money. She had to find roommates or rent a room in a house. In the first room she rented, a roommate stole her Turkish coffee. That little package was the most precious thing that accompanied her on this journey. When Tuba had to leave a second room, the owner did not return the deposit. The third landlord asked her not to use the oven because of the electricity bill. Also, that landlord had fights with her husband at 6:00 a.m. The fourth one blamed Tuba for spilling her son’s shampoo on the bathroom floor.

Moving every couple of months was exhausting. The fifth landlord was sending almost three text messages every day about keeping the house clean, even telling her how to wash the mop after cleaning. One day, Tuba put her feet on the stairs while tying her shoes. A few minutes later, she received a message telling her to clean the stairs. How did he see that? She looked at her red boots and remembered the joy while purchasing them for a new life. The following days were worse. The landlord made a cleaning schedule and commanded everyone who lived in the house to call him after cleaning.

One day, Tuba cleaned the house at 7:30 a.m. Then she went to her language class. Again, she received many harassing messages complaining about how she cleaned and asking why the sink was still wet. There were pictures of the sink. It was so nerve-breaking that Tuba had to leave her class. She felt so bad. She returned to the house. The second she got home and closed the door of her room, her landlord started knocking like crazy. Tuba yelled, “I am not available.” But he did not leave. 

When the knocking finally stopped and she opened the door, Tuba’s landlord appeared out of nowhere. He shouted, “You did not clean behind the oven, and under the sink!” Then he yelled even more loudly, “Get out of my house!” Tuba was scared to death. Was he going to hurt her? She called 911. That night, a friend helped her find a new place that she could move to immediately. Tuba’s heart, already fragile with loneliness, broke into pieces. What to do? Her recovery took almost a year.

At the darkest point of the night, the day dawns. Tuba, me, and my boots witnessed the dark time, but times change. I began meeting great people, especially someone who became a permanent roommate: my husband. Still wearing my red boots, I learned to stand up after many falls, be hopeful but not naive. I am still trying hard to settle in and search for my best self. For me, immigration tastes bittersweet. Happy tears after tough times, disappointment after too much effort. Just like swinging balls, moving back and forth between a doughnut and hot sauce. With all the ups and downs, this is my new life, new country, new me, and I am grateful for all. 

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