Chloé Charron – Supplied Photo
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The 2023 Canadian Forces Newspaper Youth Reporter Competition has ended and the four finalists have been selected. The finalists had the opportunity to work with professional journalists and editors on their submissions and have them published in a number of Canadian Forces newspapers. They will also receive a $1000 scholarship. The following is one of the selected submissions.
ACROSS THE OCEAN AND BACK AGAIN
Sunlight seeped through the blinds and into our dining room in which I sat with my parents. Distracted by the dancing shapes of light on the floor, I didn’t pay much attention to my mother in front me. Much less to the news I had just heard. Germany? I thought to myself, I don’t know anything about Germany other than that it’s across the ocean. What about my friend here? And my grandparents in Ottawa? They seemed far now, but how far would they seem once I’d get to Germany? My mother and father had told me that once again, we’d be moving, and it wasn’t just in Canada this time but to Germany. The news ignited a spark of excitement inside me, however the fear and disappointment of moving so far extinguished it within seconds. Ottawa was where I was born, but since then, we’d also lived in Edmonton, Alberta. My little legs dangled from the wooden chair on which I sat, dented from our last move. One particular thought surged above the rest: If we were moving to Germany, wouldn’t I have to learn German!?
Little did I know, my future school wouldn’t even be German speaking at all. It was on a British military base, along with all the serving officer’s kids. My father, being one of the only Canadian officers there. English is my second language and although I was fluent, it still made me uneasy to learn it at school. Despite this, I still managed to adapt.
My little heart ached for home, for my two Canadian friends, and for the summers spent with my grandparents. It also ached because no matter what happened, I knew that one day I’d have to go back home and leave behind all the progress I’d made for myself here. Write letters to new people. My longing for home and constant torment of thoughts about leaving ceased when I was at school, with others like me who were used to moving.
“How come you speak French if you come from Canada?” A classmate had asked. “Because, I’m franco-ontarienne…” I had hesitated to give that answer, even if it’s what I’d been taught to identify as at my francophone school in Toronto. There was no way my new friend could’ve known what that meant. In the end, I had simply settled for “I’m french-canadian.” Surprisingly, one of my teachers in Herford taught me that term.
For two years, I put on my burgundy school uniform with Lister School Herford’s horse emblem. My year three and four classes remained a tight knit and welcoming group, always playing together in the backyard of the officer’s mess when our parents would attend dinners. For the first time in my eight years of life, I was friends with all of my classmates. Inevitably, after having spent so much time with my British friends, I too developed a British accent.
Our time in Germany was short lived, as our military base was due to close during the summer of 2015, having been opened since 1947. Upon hearing this news for the first time, the students of Lister wouldn’t stop talking about going back home to England, others talked about moving to places far away like Cyprus. I had hopes of going back to Ottawa, even if that meant I’d be an ocean apart from my British friends. However, my family and I unexpectedly got posted to my classmate’s home country, England.
On the summer of my 9th birthday, my family and I moved into a newly built home. It was a bit out of place compared to the quaint little English townhouses surrounding us. The burgundy of Lister’s uniform was replaced with the navy and green of Yearsley Grove Primary school’s attire. Even if I thought I’d known everything about getting accustomed to somewhere new, I was proven wrong. Friends hadn’t come as easily as in Germany.
I needed to find a way to fit in, people to miss when I’d leave or this would be one dreadful year.
It was on the evening of a bitter October night that things changed for me, during the annual year five camping sleepover. Both year five classes were invited to camp out in industrially sized tipis set up in the school’s yard. I sat inside my classroom along with my “friend group”, eating our hot dog supper in a jovial manner, bracing ourselves for the cold awaiting us outside.
“Can you pass the mustard please?” I asked our table. I was answered with giggles accompanied by little “eww” sounds from the girls surrounding me. An awkward silence settled in. To a nine year old trying to fit in, this had been a little hurtful. I brushed it off. “I’ll have mustard too.” A girl called Amelia had said. Turns out I’m not that weird, I’d thought. “What’s your name?” The girl asked me.
Amelia was in the other year 5 class. Having been inseparable since we met, she’d introduced me to her childhood friend, Freya, who was in my class. The three of us went on to become close friends, surely some of the best childhood friends I’d ever had.
Before I was ready, my years abroad were drawn to an end. All the longing for home and many letters sent in my years away from Ottawa were over – but that wasn’t to say I was still missing somebody. Six years following my return, I’d used the money from my part time job to buy a plane ticket to England. I revisited Amelia and Freya, as well as other places I had missed with my mom. And currently, I find myself considering exchange programs abroad for university in hopes to discover new places, as I had when I was growing up and moving around.