Fiona Bramble chats with Kindy Carter at the Greater Victoria Public Library in downtown Victoria B.C. on a wintry morning in November 2016.
Kindy, where are you from originally? l grew up in St. Philip Parish, Barbados. My family is from a place called Bathsheba; it’s basically a fishing community, a surfing and fishing community. So you surf and you fish. We’ve moved around the island a bit, but I grew up in St. Philip. That’s where I spent my childhood—playing in the cane fields.
What is your educational or professional background? I studied Intercultural and International Communication at Royal Roads University. I was very interested in studying diplomacy, so really wanted to find a program that catered along those lines. The program teaches you the skills to communicate effectively across different cultures. It’s convenient that I don’t have to limit myself to a particular field because everything involves communication. I started grad school in 2014; it was intense, but when you truly enjoy what you study, it’s a very engaging process—I loved every moment of it.
You mentioned you were downtown networking today. Is that for work purposes? Currently, I am looking for employment and it hasn’t been easy. I go to a lot of networking events and a lot of seminars. And everyone says the same thing: Victoria is a “who-you-know” city. Understandable. I can truly appreciate that. However, in this day and age with globalization and immigration, new people are arriving all the time and this attitude seems a bit exclusive. But it doesn’t stop me from trying. I’m always going to keep trying. Not only do I apply online, but sometimes, I just print off a bunch of résumés, put my boots on, walk to places, and introduce myself. Boots on the ground! People often need to be able to put a face to a name. Volunteering is another way I try to engage in the community. I like being helpful. My parents are firm believers in giving back and those are the principles that were instilled in me and my brother from a very young age.
What kind of work you are looking for? Basically anything that involves communications but I am very open! I’m not saying I’m giving up on what I want to do but sometimes you just need to make a start. I’ve been looking at administrative jobs, credit unions—my family has been involved with credit unions for over twenty years! I’ve looked all over, wherever I see a vacancy. I’ve checked every field because everything involves some level of communications. Yes, I am very educated, but it doesn’t mean I’m opposed to starting at an entry level position—I’ll work my way up! I gave up my job to come here and fell in love with the city. Yes, there may be more opportunities elsewhere, but I’m a Caribbean girl and I love a small town.
Can I ask how many face-to-face interviews you’ve been given? One. I get responses by email: “thank you for your interest”, always “thank you for your interest.” Sometimes it gets a bit depressing. But I can’t let my spirits fall to the point where I want to give up because I don’t want to give up. I can’t imagine giving up. I don’t believe in failure.
You say you have family in Montreal? Yes, my mother’s family immigrated there in the 70’s, but my mother had already met my dad in Barbados, so she stayed there. When I decided to come here to graduate school, my family was disappointed and said, “Why did you choose the west coast? We all live in the east. You are the only person out there. You’ll be all alone. Who’s going to be your support network?” I said, “Well, I’ll build my own!” And here I am!
What are some cultural differences between Barbados and Canada you have observed? Everyone asks if it was difficult transitioning. Not really. Barbados has a lot of Western influence. We watch the same t.v., listen to the same music. Of course we have our own unique Calypso, our Soca music, which comes from our West African ancestry and our European ancestry. All those different cultural elements in the Caribbean makes us very unique. One difference between here and there of course is the weather. It’s very hot in Barbados.
What do you miss most from home? I miss the food! Adjusting to eating the food here wasn’t agreeing with my body at first. I miss the flavour of my own culture. The hot sauce! Places like Fairway [Market] have their “ethnic food” sections and I see foods from Jamaica and Trinidad, but I’m a Barbadian! I can appreciate foods from around the world, but if I’m craving a taste of home, I want something that’s uniquely Bajan. So I get my mom to send hot sauce and seasonings. And I miss Carnival. Actually we call it “Crop Over” in Barbados. Historically, after the sugar cane was cut, you would celebrate. People come from all over the island to dance, to laugh, to drink. We also have “AgroFest”, an agricultural festival. You bring your meat, your ground provisions, whatever is agricultural-based, or anything you made like arts and crafts, hats, shoes, whatever is handmade and 100% Bajan, 100% local. You set up your stall on the street and for two days, everyone walks up and down the street and shops and eats. You can get your “Rasta sandals” made. There’s also a farm area with livestock and a petting zoo for the kids. I miss the Crop Over season.
How do you stay connected to Bajan culture? I assume there aren’t many Barbadians in Victoria. Well, I’m a bit blessed in that regard! When I first moved here, my neighbour asked if I was Bajan and told me she knew other Bajans. She introduced us and now we all live in Sooke together! I play with their kids and we spend all our time together. Hearing an accent just like yours makes you feel more at ease. And we have a shared background. I think meeting them went a long way in making my transition here a lot easier.
I love picturing this fun group of Bajans living in Sooke! I love it there! I recently moved there to be closer to my friends. I just love island life. I was on Sooke Road the other day and I looked up and the sky was deep blue and the trees were so green and the snow had just fallen. It was so beautiful, I had to take a photograph. Such peace of mind. I’m so happy there. I feel at home.
What is something that people might be surprised to learn about you? I love car rallying! I love fast cars. People here think it’s unusual, but in Barbados, that’s what we do. On the weekends, you get in your truck and meet friends at the gas station. You go backroading and park in a cane field for a few hours until the fast cars start coming!
What advice would you give to other newcomers to Canada? Don’t feel like you have to change who you are to fit in. Engage with everyone, and get involved in a community you can immerse yourself in. Just be yourself.