I felt at home in Vancouver. Seeing the water and mountains reminded me of Kathmandu.

After three years apart, my partner and I finally reunited in Canada

Shreeya Shakya
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“I love spending time at the beach with a view of the mountains” (Illustration by Lauren Tamaki)

“I love spending time at the beach with a view of the mountains” (Illustration by Lauren Tamaki)

I was born and raised in Kathmandu, where one of Nepal’s biggest religious festivals, Indra Jātrā, takes place. A chariot carrying the Kumari, the Living Goddess, tours through the streets accompanied by dancing and music. Traditional festivals are some of my fondest childhood memories. I’ve always loved the way holidays bring people together.

In 2001, I went to Kathmandu Engineering College to study computer engineering. Around the same time, I started dating Pukar. We were good friends from middle school, and I realized he could be a good boyfriend, too. We complemented each other—he studied sculpture, and I enjoyed fiction and poetry. We got married in 2012. Two months after the wedding, I moved to Bangkok to do an MBA, while Pukar stayed in Kathmandu to establish his career as an interior designer. In between visits, we’d talk on the phone every evening. Sometimes I would surprise him with a delivery, like a package of doughnuts from our favourite bakery in Kathmandu. I graduated and found work at a fintech company in Bangkok. Pukar eventually joined me there in 2017, but it was hard for him to get a job because he didn’t speak Thai.

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We started thinking about where we could both advance our careers. We had read that Canada was positive, welcoming and safe, so we applied for permanent residency, and Pukar moved to Ottawa in April of 2018. I stayed behind because my mother was suffering from kidney failure and on dialysis. I wanted to be nearby to support her. By this point, Pukar and I had spent much of our relationship apart, so we were used to frequent Skype calls. The time difference made it challenging, but we loved each other and didn’t want to drift. By June of 2020, my mother was really sick, so I quit my job and moved back to Nepal to be with her.

That November, I made the difficult decision to leave my mom and move to Canada. I was reaching the maximum number of months I could stay outside the country after getting permanent residency. Pukar had landed a job as a designer in Haliburton, a small town about three hours’ drive north of Toronto, so I reunited with him there. It was a tough transition—I was used to big cities, and our rental home was in the middle of the woods. I felt isolated. To get groceries, I had to walk for 30 minutes through the snow along a busy highway. I found myself making small talk with cashiers just to feel some connection. Making matters worse, my mother passed away two weeks after I arrived. It was a very sad time.

In 2021, we moved to Vancouver. I instantly felt at home. Seeing the water and mountains reminded me of the valley and hills near Kathmandu. The weather wasn’t as cold as it was in Haliburton, so I could go out and walk along the seawall. I would listen to podcasts about Buddhism and grief.

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Everything was still closed because of the pandemic, and I couldn’t meet new people, so I joined a group called Immigrant Networks. We’d meet online with other newcomers. They made me feel like I wasn’t alone in trying to restart my life. I could do things on my own again, like walk to a café. Recently I discovered a great Nepali restaurant in Surrey, the Kathmandu Bar and Grill, which serves momos—a kind of Nepali dumpling.

I now work as a project manager at a software company. Pukar is an interior designer. We’re renting an apartment in Kitsilano. I love spending time at the beach with a view of the mountains. Through friends of friends back home, we’ve been able to connect with the Nepali community here. We celebrate festivals together. At Dashain, to honour the goddess Durga, we eat savoury fried lentil doughnuts called bara, and at Tihar, the festival of lights, we eat a rice dish called bhoe, with bamboo shoots, potatoes, beans, tomatoes and tofu. We celebrate Canadian holidays, too, like Thanksgiving. Our friends hosted us for a feast with turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie. It’s nice to enjoy holidays with loved ones again. Pukar and I are still establishing our lives in Canada, but we’re glad we moved. This is our new home. I have a purpose here. I know my mom would be happy for us.