We first met Muhammed in September of 2012. Since that time, his has become a welcome and familiar face at Global Gathering Place. He has been attending ESL classes, the weekend Family, Fun, and Fit program, and Thursday afternoon Coffee & Conversation classes. In addition to this, he has been lending his time and talents—giving back to our organization in many ways. He has become GGP’s unofficial photographer—photographing our late-evening soccer matches, and taking photos at cooking classes and weekend activities. He also delivered a very well-received session on how to choose a cell phone, and has been volunteering his technical expertise by repairing some very lucky clients’ laptops.
Muhammed’s is a bit of a unique situation. Although he was born in Canada and is a Canadian citizen, he grew up in Egypt, and is therefore very much a newcomer here. Even so, he said what a beautiful moment it was for him when, at Canadian customs, the customs agent said to him “Welcome back!” Muhammed hadn’t been in Canada since he was two years old; it was a lovely and heartwarming feeling.
Muhammed expressed gratitude for all the help he has received from Global Gathering Place. He says that his English is improving as a result of attending ESL classes and various social activities; he has made connections with many really good people. Before he came to Canada, he imagined it to be a very beautiful country filled with kind and helpful people. He said that while this has been the case, he never expected that finding employment would be so difficult.
Muhammed has a degree in Computer Engineering and had hoped finding a job in his field would be quick and easy. He applied to companies throughout Canada but soon found that employers are looking for Canadian certification and Canadian experience. For this reason, Muhammed decided to return to university, but the strict language requirements and the fact that the university has not given equal recognition to his Egyptian credentials have so far shut him out. Like so many newcomers, he finds himself in a catch-22, increasingly frustrated.
The bitter cold, something that one might expect to be a difficult adjustment for those coming from a hot country, has not slowed Muhammed down. Even when the wind-chill drops the temperature to -48°C, Muhammed manages to complete his errands with only the bus and his own legs for transportation. He dresses for the weather and keeps up a brisk pace while walking. The winter has provided an opportunity to try out winter sports. He chuckled when he remembered his first attempt at skating. He says that when he’s a famous hockey player he’ll look back on that first time—falling down and breaking the skating frame—and laugh.
Muhammed stays in close contact with his family in Egypt. Cellphones and internet and the wonder of Skype help to maintain strong connections. At Eid, Muhammed enlisted help from his Mom to prepare fata—a traditional Egyptian meal of lamb, bread, and rice. Over several hours on Skype, he prepared this special dish alongside his Mom back in Egypt.
Egypt and the protests there have been filling our news outlets with terrifying images of angry mobs and doom and gloom prophesies. Muhammed isn’t happy with the political situation in Egypt right now, but he says that it is not quite as dangerous there as our media would have us believe. He said that it’s life as usual; people are still going to work, going to school, going shopping, celebrating. In other words, he isn’t worried for the safety of his family back in Egypt. At the same time, Muhammed very much appreciates Canada. Here, he says, people are free to say hello to anyone and everyone and to take photos. He said that in Egypt, he would risk arrest for taking photos so openly on the street. He was also very pleased to discover how much Canadians know, understand, and respect his religion. He’s been invited out for supper to Canadians’ homes on a few occasions, and he’s always received a call first asking him for more details about what he could and could not eat. He said this made him feel respected, and he was very pleasantly surprised.
Muhammed plans to stay in Canada, but he really doesn’t know what his future will hold. He desperately wants to begin working, but until that happens, he’s simply not sure. He dreams of owning a software company and of having his become a household name. Meet the next Mark Zuckerberg!