Peanuts or raisins? I sit across from Indira Michele, who is relaxed in the corner of my love seat. The single mother of three has just driven 45 minutes back from work which is in the next town. Though she’s tired from a long day, she wears a bright smile on her youthful brown face. My unusual question throws her off but she goes along with it. “Peanuts”, she answers “because they symbolize obstacles that can be crushed.” She likes how they crumple. This could be because this 31-year old has had to crumple a lot of obstacles in the last four years.
The Great Voyage
In 2006, she came to Canada from the Bahamas with her husband and two children, then ages seven and two, to study accounting at St. Francis Xavier University. “When I left home to come to Canada for university I was ecstatic. I sold my car a month in advance. I walked to work and slept on the floor.” The family found no accommodation upon arrival and had to stay in a hotel for a week –another budget clincher. “I was pinching here, pinching there” Michele says. But eventually they found a place and began their lives in Canada.
Joining a small black population in a small, predominately Caucasian town, Indira was the object of many stares. She overcame it by being friendly: “I was excited to be here so the fact that people didn’t say hi back didn’t bother me.” In class for the first time however, she felt a little out of place. She was a mature black student in an all-white sea of 18- and 19-year-olds. “I sat in the front and never looked back.” I asked her why. “There was no need to” she responded. But there was need to have a tough skin to face the rocky patches ahead.
In 2008 Indira and her husband separated. During the break-down of her relationship, Indira, who was doing an overload of courses at university, discovered she had another child on the way. She resolved not to let the turmoil stop her from reaching her goals. She would finish school. “I shut down all of my emotions. I didn’t feel anything, I didn’t even cry” She tells me. If she gave into any thoughts about her marriage unraveling, she feared her life and goals might as well.
Hard work Pays Off
The new accountant does not hold in her emotions now. She is comfortable and light-spirited as a bird. Her ability to remain upbeat works to her advantage, as does her self-discipline. She says she became “excessively” disciplined once her husband was out of the house and the kids were with her full-time. I became more structured. “They was not gonna burn me out!”She exclaims about her three energetic but well-behaved children. To tackle dinner time, Indira made monthly meal schedules and stuck to her grocery list like glue. When the kids slept at 8pm she studied from then until midnight. Then got up in the morning, sent the kids to school and headed to class. Sometimes she brought the kids to school with her. They sat quietly and other students often entertained them with pieces of gum and computer games.
Sugar and Spice
Indira found joy in baking amidst her busy schedule. “A lot of people don’t realize how domestic I am. It relaxes me.” Cake baking has become her new obsession. She says that new designs come into her head even while driving to work.
But baking didn’t always hold the sweet spot in Indira’s life. Though she enjoyed cooking and baking in high school, she fell in love with accounting in the tenth grade and put her culinary craft aside. She even turned it down acceptance to culinary school in order to be an accountant. Now 12 years later, Indira is baking again. In her free time she surfs the net for cake decorating ideas and tools. “I think about different ways to make money” she says with a laugh. She makes cakes for birthdays, weddings and other special occasions. Among her flavors are vanilla, chocolate, pina coloda, and carrot. The Bahamian native has recently picked up another hobby: ice-skating. For someone from a tropical country who had previously never set foot on ice, she falls sometimes, but she tells me she just laughs, gets up and keeps learning.