Why did you move here? Bi-national relationship advice – Chika and Riley’s story.
Happy New Year! I’m so happy to be back at work and can’t wait to bring my new design ideas to live. But until then, I thought it would be nice to share the story of my friends Chika and Riley with you. Chika is originally from Japan and came to Canada to study arts which is also how she met Riley. She definitely knows how to integrate her cultural heritage into her whimsical, funny and sometimes shocking illustrations: Chika Ando Illustrations.
- Tell me a bit about yourself! C: My name is Chika Ando I will turn 30 very soon in November! I live and work as an illustrator in Calgary. I’d say drawing my emotions out is my passion. I find it odd to call drawing a passion because I’ve been drawing like I have to drink water every day since I was little. R: Hello! My name is Riley Grant, I’m 33 years old, and I too live in Calgary. I’ve very recently started up my own business called Hoplite Solutions Ltd. which offers consulting and contracting in application development and graphic design. I find the question of passion a difficult one to answer as I have so many interests in so many things. Computers and design have been a big part of my life for such a long time, but I revel in great film, music, art, literature and travel.
- Have you always lived where you live now? C: I was born and raised in Japan and moved to Calgary as an exchange student back in 2002. Because I was under 18 years old, I needed a custody who is a friend of my aunt’s who lives here in Calgary. I always thought of moving to a different city, but I ended up staying in the same city after finding a college and jobs. I still get the temptation sometimes to move to somewhere else, but I haven’t got guts to take an action to it yet.. R: Short answer – No. Long answer – I grew up in a small town in northern British Columbia until I was about 15. My family moved to a larger town (or small city, depending on how you look at it) further south where I graduated high school and spent some time at a local college. From there I moved to Victoria, BC on my own for a couple years working as a designer and production assistant at a sign shop and finally moved to Calgary, Alberta after I quite that job. Though I would say Calgary is home, I’ve spent a lot of time in many places all over western Canada, southeast Asia, Australia and New Zealand since then, both for work and pleasure.
- How & when did you meet your partner? C: Yea, Riley. How did we meet? R: With my poor memory, I’m surprised you’re leaving it up to me to answer this… unless… it’s a trap! We met as students at the Alberta College of Art and Design sometime in 2004 or 2005. I think the first time we officially met was a field trip to the zoo for a figure drawing class. If my memory hasn’t betrayed me, it was actually in the reptile exhibit where I was poorly attempting to draw a chameleon. I don’t think you could speak english very well at that time and I likely took advantage of that fact to say something silly which you awkwardly laughed at. Who knows what it was but it was enough to break the ice and start a fun friendship that would last many years!
- When and how did you know it was serious? C: I didn’t know for a long time 😛 R: Neither did I. In fact, I don’t think it was for a very long time. It’s one of the many things I really love about our relationship. We spent a long time building and exploring our friendship – to which I attribute the strength of our relationship now. Perhaps a bit cliche but it seems I had to travel the world to find that which was already closest to me. C: I am really grateful for Riley to take the first step. We wouldn’t be together as a couple now without his initiation.
- Did you have to spend time apart? C: Not really.. The longest we were apart was about a week during the holidays. R:Yeah, we really haven’t spent much time apart at all since we’ve ‘officially’ been together. How are you not sick of me yet?!
- How did you decide where to live? C: People sometimes ask me if I’d go back to Japan for school or work. I guess I can and am fortunate to have the option, but I’ve almost never been interested. There are many reasons why. First of all, I’m afraid of losing my English. Even during the visit for a couple of weeks, I felt how fast I could go back to speaking Japanese more comfortably and English harder. I hear it’s really hard to get a job there, but if people have a job, it is standard to work like excessive workaholics. I can’t see myself happy with the lifestyle there. I also feel like I am not a “proper” Japanese to go through with work. I imagine it’d be difficult for Riley to deal with the visa and getting a job there as well. There are always reasons not to do things. It’s a matter of whether I want it or not, and I clearly don’t have enough desire to do so. Besides, it took me way too long and much work to get my permanent resident card in Canada. I wanna stick around here for a while for the reason. R:I love travel and I love culture so I think I would totally feel comfortable living pretty much anywhere. Family and friends certainly draw me close to staying here but if the option were on the table for us to move elsewhere, I would definitely entertain the idea. I think Japan would be an amazing place to live. Getting comfortable with language and culture is only a matter of time so I think the only deterrence would be, as Chika said, the process of getting there and the fact that Chika worked so hard to come here. As it is, Canada is home. And home is a great place to be.
- What’s most challenging about immigrating into another country? Or what’s the hardest part about having your partner come to your country? C:Without a doubt, the paper work is the most annoying and stressful process. I can’t think of any other challenging parts, really. Of course I still find the language is challenging, but a part of me enjoys the frustration. That’s how I come up with illustrations a lot too. I also believe that it’s not about how well one can speak – when it’s a right person, there is no such a thing like a language barrier 🙂 Thanks to Riley and friends to make me feel this way!
- What do you love about your bi-national relationship experience? C: I’ve never thought our relationship as bi-national till this interview. I do feel fortunate about Riley’s accepting nature, genuine interest in different cultures and ability to correct my English with his great sense of humour. Sometimes I hear how the way he talks is affected by me, and I find it adorable! I guess I had experiences to realize our relationship is bi-national externally. I thought it was hilarious that my dad called Riley “Gaijin-san” which means Mr. Foreigner. Also, my mom tries her best to plan trips to take him to sightseeing spots. Not that I felt discriminated or anything, but I have felt that I am his Japanese girlfriend when we were visiting his family. I guess I see other people see us as a bi-national relationship more than from ourselves. R: I love the nuances and cute, peculiarities of our cultural differences. I suppose a lot of it has to do with language or translation in a way, but it’s also the subtle things that Chika does on a day to day basis that tickles me – little things that I’m sure she’s unaware of. But intricacies are the beauty of everyone, regardless of their culture. I don’t know, I guess I’ve never really considered our relationship as a ‘bi-national relationship’ either – it’s really more like a multi-national relationship with the mix of bloodlines anyway. Perhaps the best thing about Chika being Japanese is that it gives me a great reason to travel to Japan on a more regular basis. 😛
- What advice could you give other people in similar situations? C: Not that this applies to only bi-national relationships, but I gotta say healthy communications are crucial. I remember Riley’s said to me he is so amazed how much we connect regardless where I am from right before we decided to be a couple. I have to agree with him on that. I’ve always enjoyed conversations with him the most and still am after about 10 years knowing him. Even though I was comfortable talking to him about anything while we were just friends, it was a bit hard to communicate with him when I got upset. I think I’m getting better and learning how to open up and be able to talk about my frustrations to him without the silent treatment. R: It’s the same advice I’d give to anyone in any relationship – be open to new ideas and different perspectives, be patient, and listen. Communication is key.
- What are your 3 favourite words? C: 1. Poo / poop 2. Pitter-patter 3. Tsukkomi (お笑いのツッコミ）This is one of Japanese words I don’t quite know how to translate for a long time. A direct translation might be ‘penetration’, but I’m using it here more in the sense of someone interjecting into a fools rant in a clever, humorous way. R: 1. Shiawase (しあわせ): Happy 2. Zenbu (ゼんぶ): Together as a whole 3. Eunoia : Beautiful thinking; a well mind.
Thank you so much for sharing your story with us, Chika And Riley!
With love from the Maple And Oak Diaries,