Jirehl Carlos


To the person who bought my first pair of shoes:

I am writing this letter as I watch the soft snow falling on the glittering white road. I am sipping my favourite marshmallow-topped hot chocolate while I remember how you told me, four years ago, that I needed to get a new pair of shoes.

“Those worn-out sneakers look ugly on you. My dream for you is to wear a beautiful pair of black high-heeled shoes at a job in the country I have always wanted to visit—Canada.”

“What’s wrong with my old pair?” I replied. “They are comfortable and perfectly appropriate for my job, developing advocacy and promotion strategies for the national government, serving my fellow Filipinos.”

But you insisted that it was about time for your accomplished daughter to dream a new dream and take a more significant journey. You believed I could make it. You wanted me to come to Canada for greener pastures. But Mom, Edmonton is actually white for many months: slippery white! I arrived in September 2017. A few months later, I could not use the pair of runners I had brought because they were not safe for walking on icy sidewalks. Coming from a hot, sunny climate, my body struggled to adjust to the endless snow and frigid temperatures. 

It was also a huge challenge for me to be accepted in this country so often acclaimed as immigrant-friendly. You told me Canada would welcome me and provide great career opportunities with high wages. But my degree from the Philippines’ premier university and my work experience didn’t help me get a high-paying job when I first arrived. 

Remember when I called you crying because I couldn’t lift the heavy, black garbage bag at my job at McDonald’s? It was not full of wild Canadian berries or maple syrup or poutine. It was full of leftovers of the same fast food they serve all over the world. How about that time I was gagging when my manager asked me to clean the washroom full of poop? It was on the floor, on the wall, everywhere but in the toilet bowl. Or the customer who got mad at me because his cup of tea was ten cents more than usual.

“Mom, I want to come home. I want to go back to my life in the tropics, working at a reputable government agency. This country does not like me. It does not favour immigrants. It is not how I imagined it would be.” 

You said, “Anak, it’s just a little sacrifice. You will get adjusted soon.” And I did! As always, you were right. All the sacrifices, sleepless nights, hard work and perseverance finally paid off. I am now able to write you this letter in a cozy apartment rented with the money I earn from a great job I never imagined I could get. I work in communications for a college in Edmonton, advocating for post-secondary students. I love my job.

Mom, I want to show you the permanent residency card I finally received after years of Canadian work experience, educational achievements, and a lot of prayers. I want to come home to hug you and thank you for convincing me to dream about a new pair of shoes. But you’re not there anymore.

I hope you’re proud of me. You’ll never see the elegant high heels you dreamt of me wearing and witness the life you wanted me to have. But whenever I wear these shiny shoes, I feel that I am walking with you.

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