Jenny Ti An Giang Le
One cold winter day in Edmonton, I went to a grocery store with my two daughters. When we ran across the street to catch the bus for the trip home, one of our bags broke. The groceries spilled everywhere on the icy crosswalk. It felt like one more failure. The first year in Canada had been a roller coaster: exciting, motivating, but also depressing. There were many lonely, sleepless nights. I avoided checking my Facebook account because seeing my friends’ posts just made me cry. They seemed so happy compared to me.
“Yay!! We’re moving to Edmonton!” I had shouted one afternoon in August 2017. Our study visa application had been approved after a three-month process. I jumped up and ran around the house to share the good news with my family. I told my husband we had to book flights immediately because my class at NAIT (the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology) had already started. My daughters and I needed to leave Ho Chi Minh City in two days—without my husband. After much discussion, we had agreed that he would stay in Vietnam to earn a stable income while I focused on studying and taking care of the children.
Everyone who knew me wondered why I would put aside my successful career to go back to school at the age of forty. Of course, I wanted a better future for my two daughters. But that wasn’t the whole story. In Vietnamese culture, the expectation is that the eldest son will take care of the parents, as the belief is that only sons can take on the responsibility of worshipping the ancestors. Because my husband and I had only daughters, there was a lot of pressure on us to keep reproducing until we had a son. This toxic tradition of favouring boy babies over girl babies was the most powerful force pushing me to immigrate. I definitely did not want my daughters’ fate to be like mine.
As I hurried to prepare for the journey, I wondered if I should pack my grey, high-heeled shoes. They were a part of my business attire and went well with any colour of suit. They had been my companions during the golden time of my career in the hospitality industry. I wore them every day, attending meetings in luxurious hotels and resorts, or walking long distances to clients’ offices. For me, this pair of shoes symbolized the journey of a girl from the countryside in the Mekong Delta to success in Ho Chi Minh City. I didn’t know if I would have a chance to wear them again in Canada, but I brought them anyway. I also bought new, pink running shoes to start my life in Edmonton. With no friends, no job and no husband, I knew this pair of shoes would be my new companions as I ran to bus stops and between buildings on campus.
The achievements of graduating with honours from the Business Administration-Management program, winning a scholarship, and finding a stable job in the legal field were the rewards for my great effort. But the greatest joy was becoming permanent residents in November 2021, ending a two-year separation from my husband. My family is now reunited.
There is a still a long way to go before I fulfill all my dreams. My grey high heels are gathering dust on my shoe rack. But I always look at my old friends with a smile on my face. One day, I will put them on again and walk confidently, grateful for the brave decision that I made four years ago.