CANADA DAY: Canada a special place for immigrant

Keri Greenidge will be waving the Canadian flag with zeal at Canada Day festivities in Victoria on Tuesday.

When Keri Greenidge arrived in Victoria on a rainy, cool evening in July 2007, she was a little puzzled by the weather.

The brochures she’d browsed as a curious student from Barbados showed sunny afternoons along the Inner Harbour and at the University of Victoria campus, with lush flowers overflowing from countless hanging baskets.

“It was just a cold week, but the weather was such a shock,” says Greenidge, who laughs when she looks back on her first few months in Canada. “I definitely had to learn how to dress with layers.”

Seven years later, Greenidge is married and studying to become a Canadian citizen. She’s well-suited for the task as a citizenship training program co-ordinator at the Victoria Immigrant and Refugee Centre Society.

Helping newcomers prepare for citizenship, that’s really opened up my eyes to feel more at home. I’m able to connect with the things I see in my day-to-day, and I feel like I understand at the local, provincial and national level. Things don’t feel fuzzy anymore. I feel more of the country because I understand and can connect with the history,” she says.

Greenidge most misses the unreserved nature of Barbados residents, the endless beaches and, most acutely, the food.

“We make macaroni pie. It’s like mac and cheese but a little bit more elaborative,” she says enthusiastically. “And then there’s our national dish, cou-cou and flying fish. The best way is to create it as a sauce. It’s amazing.”

This year, Greenidge will spend Canada Day as she usually does at Government House, where some of her clients and friends will take the oath of citizenship in the company of Lieut.-Gov. Judith Guichon and officials from Citizenship and Immigration Canada.

Later in the evening, she’ll cycle down the Galloping Goose trail to watch the fireworks near the Johnson Street Bridge before heading home with her husband.

“Initially, I was always thinking about home and how beautiful it was, and then I went home once at Christmas, and I missed Victoria and it was very strange to have that dawn on me,” she says. “I kept feeling like it was temporary, but now I want to make it really feel like a home.”