My Inspiring Slingbacks
A desire for greater opportunities, a secure place to live, and a better life for her children drove Rachel to flee Côte d’Ivoire in the wake of a military coup. She faced many challenges in Canada, including those involving language, career status—and COVID-19. However, her beautiful shoes proved to be an inspiration through it all.
I had a simple and peaceful life as a midwife in Abidjan, the economic capital of Côte d’Ivoire, a country on the southern coast of West Africa. However, my world changed forever in 2010 because of a military coup. Since then, Côte d’Ivoire has been in the grip of a violent post-electoral crisis, resulting in kidnappings, murders and endless unrest. There is no greater frustration than seeing one’s freedom restricted in one’s own country. So in 2015, I decided to immigrate to Canada in order to ensure a better life for my children.
After waiting four long years, I received my visa for travel to Canada in November 2019. Excited and joyful, I ran out to buy food for a celebration dinner. But, on the way to the grocery store, I was distracted from my mission by the sight of an amazing pair of shoes. I immediately fell in love with these elegant, golden-yellow slingbacks. I saw in them the hope of a promising and prosperous future.
Finally, our travel day arrived. I was walking through the airport wearing my beautiful slingbacks, feeling sophisticated, proud and six feet tall—like I was on the red carpet at a glamorous Hollywood premiere. But after twenty-eight hours of flying, endless walking through airports, struggling to keep my six-year-old boy safe, tending to his bloody mouth after a nasty fall, and carrying my fourteen-month-old daughter, I felt as if every step in my precious shoes was like walking on nails. However, those slingbacks did finally carry me to my destination.
On the moonlit night of January 26, 2020, through the windows of the Edmonton airport, I could see the sparkling snow that until now I had only seen in Christmas movies. It was a moment of pure happiness. I was aware that my life was going to be difficult as a single mother with two dependent children, but I was unprepared for the isolation brought about by language, unemployment and Mr. Covid. My midwifery qualifications were not recognized here, so I had to start over. But as we say back home, “When the lion cannot find meat, he eats grass.”
We lived hand-to-mouth in my sister’s guest room for six months before moving to a small apartment in July 2020. Studying to be a nurse, taking care of my children, and working as a housekeeper in practical non-slip shoes—this has been my routine for the past two years. In April 2021, my three-year-old daughter got the virus. This was one of the most traumatic periods of my life so far. I had to listen to the daily reports of pandemic deaths. I felt helpless as I watched my vulnerable little daughter fighting against the disease. Why her and not me? Every night, I held her tightly against my chest in order to feel her heartbeat and share her pain. I lived in constant fear until the day she recovered.
Contrary to what you may think, all of these difficulties have only renewed my strength. Today, I feel stronger than ever, willing to confront even more challenges. I am happy and thankful as each day takes me one step closer to fulfilling my dreams. As for my beautiful shoes, they were damaged when I wore them outside in the snow, but I had them repaired. I don’t have many opportunities to wear them because my days are filled with school, public transportation, and children. But they still inspire and motivate me because they represent “ma joie de vivre”. This alliance between my slingbacks and me will never be broken.
Rachel is from Côte d’Ivoire where her profession as a midwife helped her fulfill a life-long passion for taking care of others. She moved to Canada in 2020. Determined to reach her goal of becoming a nurse here, Rachel is currently a student at Norquest College in Edmonton.