This Vietnamese Calgarian professor feels enriched by connecting with people from diverse cultures

Calgary (CBC): Living through the pandemic has been a broadening experience. Like many Canadians, I have taken the time to (re)connect with my loved ones. We have reassured each other in dealing with uncertainties, and reclaimed our time for family dinners, stories, and conversations.

As an educator, I have felt the honour of accompanying learners in life school. The virtual classroom has connected me with aspiring social workers across the country. We have comforted each other through loss and grief while locating the lessons in our lived experiences. We have sought answers to the existential question of life’s meaning and purpose, and explored our roles as humanity builders.

I have also found solace in nature. Since last summer, a red squirrel has frequently visited my backyard. Our unexpected connection has progressed to the point that this timid friend feels safe sitting close to me. Trust indeed bridges the distance.

Hieu Ngo says he has found solace in nature through the COVID-19 pandemic. (Rod Sanchez Photography)
The pandemic has exposed inequities in families and communities. While I can maintain my work online in a safe home, my siblings have continued to work in their factories with some modified arrangements and reduced hours. My favourite local restaurants have been struggling. I have helped many community members to apply for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit. Access to vaccines is not on the horizon for people I am connected with in many parts of the world.

Canada, as a country, embraces extending identities. Our identities add, not subtract, our expressions of humanities. My experience as a Vietnamese Canadian has prepared me to negotiate through diverse worldview, ideas, and practices. While I am proud of my heritage, my life has also been enriched by connecting with people from diverse cultures and walks of life.

My mentor, Mohamed Nadhir (Ned) Dean passed away on the cusp of the pandemic. Among his parting words were: “Every 10 minutes, try to make a better version of yourself.” I feel that many people across the globe have tried to live his reminder. I am hopeful that our shared life experiences through the pandemic will make us appreciate all things in life — people, nature, life necessities and social safety nets.

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