| purpose

I love studying in the common room. I like the floor-to-ceiling
windows facing the courtyard. I like the sun-drenched white walls and
the gently rippling water. I love the opportunity to encounter all
these interesting people in Graduate House.

Alejandro is one of the maintenance staff here. I first encountered
him and his co-worker when I was practicing billiards. They joked
about not wanting to play against me because I looked so serious, and
thereafter I smiled at them whenever I ran into them.

Today we chatted a bit more. He asked me what I was taking and where I
was from. Upon learning that I'm from the Philippines, he said a few
words in Tagalog. (Aww!) He also asked if I was planning to return or
stay in Canada, and I told him that I wasn't sure yet. A PhD is
tempting, and so is work, but I miss my country.

He asked me what I was doing, and I told him about the reading paper
that I'm working on. “You should be outside,” he said. “It's a
beautiful day. You can study until fwop,” and he mimed a clock's
hands, “and then you can go dancing.” He proceeded to demo salsa,
merengue, and other Latin dances. And he knew how to dance really

A Spanish teacher in his native Chile, he found upon arriving in
Canada that few of his university credits would be honored and that
he'd have to start all over again. He said, “Forget it,” and started a
pizzeria. He worked hard for six years, but it folded and he was left
with a huge debt. Now he works at Graduate House to pay the bills.

I told him how even PhDs from developing coutries are often forced to
give up what they had trained to do, and how many people from the
Philippines go to other countries to find better opportunities but
don't get further than being a domestic helper or a construction
worker, much less open a pizzeria. I said, “Well, at least you have
salsa…” He laughed.

Canada has its own little sorrows.

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