By LeRae Haynes –
Living in Canada has been a true gift and a wonderful adventure for two local residents who look forward to celebrating Canada Day as grateful citizens. Lubna Khan and Carmen Mutschele each chose Canada as a destination and a home—a place to make their dreams come true.
Family was the pull for Khan, who moved from Pakistan to Chicago and then to BC. She’s been in Williams Lake for nearly nine years. “I was born in a family with five daughters and one son—it was hard in Pakistan for a family to have so many girls,” she said. “I was extremely lucky my parents were so liberal, unlike many of my classmates. Most of them were quite restricted—had places they couldn’t go and had to cover their heads.”
She was also very fortunate that her parents believed in education for their daughters—she was able to get a university degree and a Masters in geography.
“One of my sisters married and moved to Chicago, and when she had children my mom moved there to look after them. My mom is the centre of the family and one by one the immigrations started and we all began moving to the US.
“I did not have any luck finding work in my profession in Chicago, and eventually decided to immigrate to Canada. Within two years I was approved and got a passport and was on my way. I decided on BC because I had heard all my life how beautiful it is and at that time it had a lower unemployment rate than the rest of Canada.”
She said it was pretty tough when she got here. “I didn’t know a soul in Canada and had always stayed with my family. I stayed a week in a motel in Burnaby, got a temp job and an apartment, and within three months I found a job in my profession in Williams Lake.”
She said she initially had no idea where Williams Lake was. “On my way up here I was convinced I just couldn’t ever live here. Karachi, where I grew up, had 20 million people and Chicago is huge. It felt like there was no one here,” she explained. “The job was only for one year and I decided to bite the bullet and stay.”
Almost nine years later she’s still here, and says it was one of the best decisions she ever made.
“I really liked the job and the people I work with have become my second family,” she said. “In 2011 I became a Canadian citizen; on the day I was sworn in I told my boss I would be late, and the whole office showed up to help celebrate.”
Khan has fallen in love with ice fishing and bird watching with the Scout Island Naturalists.“In Pakistan you drive five or six hours to find open places and here it’s 10 minutes,” she said. “I would never have had these experiences if I hadn’t come here.”
Moving from an urban area in Germany to Horsefly was a culture shock and a huge, wonderful adventure for Carmen Mutschele, who came to Canada for love and has been here more than 20 years. Her dream began in the Stuttgart region of Germany. “I had a fascination from the time I was a child to go to a faraway English-speaking place,” she said. “I read romance books about women moving to work in the bush and suddenly I was living it.
“While I missed having a variety of restaurants and cultural events to go to, after a while I didn’t notice it all that much anymore, as I was busy building a new life.”
Another surprise for Mutschele was seeing clear cuts in the forest. “I was so surprised,” she said “I found the wilderness so beautiful and love the pristine lakes—so calming. I am always delighted to see deer, bear, and loons.
“There is a real freedom here and I was able to create something I could never have in Germany.”
Kahn and Mutschele discussed Independence Day celebrations in their home countries of Pakistan and Germany.
“August 14 is Independence Day in Pakistan; in 1947 we became independent of India,” said Kahn. “People dress up in green and white and carry flags. There are singing ceremonies, special dramas on TV, and presidential speeches at the capital.”
“The Day of German Unity was celebrated even when Germany was divided—hoping that would change and someday it would be united,” Mutschele explained. “They don’t really celebrate national pride, and coming here and seeing people having that was a really big difference.
“I once sang ‘O Canada’ for the Stampede and really identified with the sense of living here,” she said. “I feel very at home and love living in the Cariboo. I really appreciate the First Nations culture here. It teaches me so much about how to slow down, be more mindful, and look for wisdom in the quieter places. There’s a wonderful richness to this country: Canada has so much to offer and I feel so blessed to get glimpses of this.”
“Canada Day signifies freedom to me,” said Kahn.“As a Pakistani woman, even today you can’t do much. Taking a bus to university you get hassled. Over there as a woman you are always conscious of who’s watching you and who’s behind you. Here there is no fear: there is only freedom.”
LeRae Haynes is a freelance writer, song writer, community co-ordinator for Success by 6, member of Perfect Match dance band, and instigator of lots of music with kids.