The year, 1990. The setting, the Audio Visual Department at North York Central Library where, a few nervous months after arriving in Canada, I had begun working in a temporary position. I might have been the first South African librarian they had worked with. It is certain that I was probably one of the most confused and also one of the luckiest they had met.
As any newcomer to Canada or any other country soon finds out, being the "new kid on the block" involves so much more than learning a new language or which side of the road to drive on. Once, I listened to a programme on CBC in the 1990's about newcomers to Canada. Of the many people who were interviewed for the show, the vast majority stated that it was much harder trying to integrate into the new culture than the actually learning of English as a Second Language. It is such a good thing that today there are so many wonderful resources for newcomers such as LIP and settlement.org .
Anyway, returning to my early, angst-drenched days here - would my previous experience be enough to keep the job? Would I fit in with the work group? Would my accent prevent me being understood? How would I ever manage to learn the intricate booking sytem? And who on earth was Stompin' Tom? What did he do? And why was he so important to one of my colleagues in particular?
Soon I was enlightened. Somewhere between the "voluntary" viewing of an old 16mm film, Across This Land with Stompin' Tom Connors and the gleeful, unabashed joy of those watching me watch the film, Stompin Tom got to me. Seeing him in all his everyman glory, stamping away in his famous style, sharing the love he had for all things CA-NA-DA. From that unlikely moment on, the Stompin' Tom bond grew between myself and my colleagues. From the annual Stompin Tom parties held at the end of each crazy year,to any mention of Bud the Spud, by any of us, warm chuckles would soon erupt and often an extra snippet of info about him would emerge.
In this bizarrely unexpected way, my first feeling of community in Canada slowly developed. Slowly but surely, my knowledge of Canadiana grew and so did my confidence. It wasn't too long before I realised that I need not feel bad that Tim Horton hadn't invited me personally for a coffee, because "he" was a chain. And I soon stopped bumping into people when I realised that one walked on the right down supermarket aisles.
So, thanks to all of you from AV - you know who you are! - and thanks to Stompin' Tom, I found out all about Canada and how goofy it was to be a Newbie. I mean Newfy.