Yves-Marie Exumé

Country of Origin:

Haiti

Themes:

Immigration, Black History/African Heritage, Racism/Discrimination, Francophonie, Identity & Heritage, Multiculturalism & Diversity, Adjusting to Life in Canada

Photos:

    Browse while you listen: images with relate to audio


Bio

Born and raised in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, I immigrated in Canada in 2005 – I also got married that same year, but that’s another story. Before immigrating, I was pursuing studies in law while working full-time as a Financial and Administrative Officer at a small non-governmental organization. I can’t complain much about my life back home; I lead a pretty regular (one could even say privileged) life. Moving to Canada was a challenge and an adventure: I would be living on my own (for the first time). While adapting to the culture and to the weather, I also had to find my way. I chose to work full time – and registered with at least 10 agencies. Having always loved to learn (I’m a real nerd!), going to school was also a priority. I decided to pursue studies in psychology and obtained a B.A. in Social Science in 2013. My love for French and languages in general (I’m fully trilingual: French, English and Haitian Creole) led to study translation – I obtained a certificate in 2013. (Yes. Two university degrees from two different school the same year.)

For the past four years, I’ve worked in the Communications Group of a Crown Corporation. And I’m currently working towards my second B.A. – in translation and writing this time. (Did I mention that I am a nerd?) I’ve volunteered for a year with a sexual assault center and have been participating in the GCWCC for the past four years.

Story

I was born and raised in Port-au-Prince, Haiti – yes, the city that almost got swept away in 2010. I’ve lived there for 25 years. I’ve studied, worked, eaten, loved and slept on that piece of land. I’m Haitian through and through. And this means that my family and friends are at the core of my life. It also means that I express my deepest thoughts and feelings in Creole. It means that I sing and dance whenever I get a chance. It means that I love the sea and that the sun dictates the rhythm of my life.

My family’s roots are in the south, in a small town called Port-Salut. A very quaint and charming little town at that. Right by the sea and surrounded by hills. Only in Haiti, eh! You can actually walk from the hills to the sea and back, and your day would have just started! My mother and my grand-parents have the luxury to call this place home. Everyone is related to a certain degree. And if they’re not, they call each other cousin, aunty or uncle, depending on the depth of their friendship. Everyone looks out for their neighbour’s kids – at least they used to when my mom and grandparents were growing up there.

But as for me, I’m a city girl. And my hometown is Port-au-Prince. Dirty, overcrowded, chaotic and buoyant Port-au-Prince. In other words: paradise. I’ve enjoyed all the city had to offer – well, maybe not all, but certainly most. From street vendors selling food, clothing or CDs to city buses playing loud music. From the quiet streets of Petion-Ville to the busy downtown streets. From the classy restaurant in the nicer parts of town to the food vendors nestled next to the gutters.

When I lived in Port-au-Prince, the population was an estimated 2 million. (That’s twice the population in Ottawa.) I always thought there were just as many cars, because I seemed to always be stuck in traffic. Radios played music from all over the world. Teenagers were dressed in the latest fashion – at least those who could afford it. If they couldn’t, their clothes would still be neatly pressed. Old folks would reminisce the old days: when the skirts were longer and the lines at the bank shorter. Two million people and neighbours would still take the time to check on each other. Two million people and yet you’d have the feeling that everyone knew you by name.

I’m Haitian through and through, but I’m first and foremost a PauP girl. I walk like a queen and talk like royalty. I can fight my way into a bus and haggle with vendors. And when it rains, I put on my bathing suit and go outside…