Ayodeji Oluwadamilola arrived in Portage la Prairie on October 4, 2019, and was thankful that her mother, who picked her up at the Winnipeg airport, brought a hoodie for her to put on after stepping off the plane. “It was freezing!” exclaimed Oluwadamilola, who had made the long trek from Nigeria with her father and brother to reunite the family. (Her mother had arrived earlier for a job opportunity.)
Little did she know what just one week later, she would experience an unusual event, even for Manitobans – the snowstorm of Thanksgiving weekend, 2019 that knocked out power throughout the region.
For a girl that had no specific concerns moving to Canada, she soon realized nothing had prepared her for what she was about to experience. “There was no light or anything!” she remembers with a laugh. She and her family stuck it out for two days, then went to stay with a family friend in Winnipeg for the remainder of the power outage. “My Mom just said, we’re not staying here until the power comes back on!”
As if that weren’t enough, she soon realized she was woefully unprepared for her first Canadian winter as well. “I didn’t think the snow was going to ever stop.”
She has since learned to embrace the cold weather, as compared to her home country’s climate. “I hate the heat,” she proclaims. “It’s always hot, as high as 40 plus degrees. I think I prefer the cold weather.” When told Manitoba summer temperatures can reach 30 degrees or higher, she describes that as ‘kind of low’ compared to what she’s used to. “I think I’ll be ok.”
Nigeria has a tropical climate, with long hot summers, followed by their ‘winter’ which runs from November to mid-March and is even hotter. It often includes what Nigerians refer to as the Harmattan, a wind that brings dust from the desert and reduces visibility. Monsoon season then takes over between May and October, and yearly amounts of rainfall can be almost 50 inches.
Ayodeji hails from Ibadan, the capital and most populous city of Oyo State. That has meant another big adjustment for the newcomer. “Portage is really, really quiet,” she says. “Where I come from in Nigeria it can get really noisy.”
After finishing high school back home, she worked as a teaching assistant, but has her sights set on university now that she is in Canada. Her goal is to study biology and eventually, medicine either at the University of Manitoba or the University of Toronto.
After that, her plans are wide open. “I’d like to visit Australia,” she notes.
For the time being, though, she is working part-time at the Portage Community Revitalization Corporation (PCRC). And although she may not return to Portage la Prairie to live, she appreciates what our small city has given her during her short time here. “The people I’ve met have been really, really nice,” she says.
Those who have met her would say the same about Ayodeji. “Most of my friends say I’m ‘too nice’,” she says, noting it’s a quality she’s proud of. “But I think it pays off sometimes. I like being nice.”
And she has an important tip for newcomers coming to Canada for the first time – one she learned the hard way. “Make sure you bring a hoodie or a cardigan – it is so cold!”