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The Distance

Time 0:02:48

Transcript:

This very morning, I was explaining the meaning of the word ‘distance’ to my English Language students. The Chinese & Saudi Arabian students were fascinated by the many different meanings. We discussed how distance can be the number of kilometers between Halifax and their homeland and how it can also be the socially acceptable physical space between two persons, particularly as determined by culture or tradition. Finally, distance can also be understood as a social disconnection between people.

I come from 2 stories: my parents didn’t grow up in the same country. My mother hailed from Italy. It was easy to relate to most of what Dad told us about Malta, I was surrounded by most of it. I didn’t quite have the same connection with the place where my mother grew up. This, coupled with the fact that my mother- a university educated career woman at a time when most women in Malta weren’t, contributed to a sense of distance among my peers. Growing up as the older of three, I remember spending many an hour looking at many distant countries in my favorite school textbook - the Atlas. I later spent many a good year traveling, working and living in other countries: Finland, Libya, Spain and Gabon.

In the end, Canada, in all its diversity, was the place which finally provided me the skills I still needed to tackle my life in both a freer and more settled way. I was already 29 when I landed here but I can truly say that this is where I finally grew up. Work also gave me a golden opportunity to get familiar with more than just one province although I will admit that close to water, so Nova Scotia, is where I’m most comfortable.

As I look back- the semi-retired person that I am today who roughly spends 6 months on either side of the Atlantic- I’m now convinced about a different notion of distance. The once somewhat distant Mediterranean island is today part of the European Union and the country definitely feels less isolated. I sometimes wonder what shape my life would have taken had this turn of events happened during my youth. To an immigrant, negotiating the distance, even many years later is forever a dilemma. You’re no longer the person you once were but you’re neither 100% local. Blood is thicker than water but in my case I feel privileged in managing a balance.

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