Mamiko Kawano

Written by Canmore Museum

How long have you been in the Bow Valley?

“Almost three decades. I used to live in Whistler as a ski guide for the first eight ski seasons, and I used to be a tour guide in Vancouver and the Rockies for over 20 years. Wow! I came from Japan in 1991 with the working holiday program, and I never thought that I would stay in Canada for almost 30 years.“

What does an average day look like for you right now?

“Luckily, I work from home Monday to Friday. I go outside to enjoy some fresh air on weekends as much as possible. Morning walk before start working has become my new ritual since mid-March. Whenever I can, I do a bit of stretching and yoga by joining online classes. Since I could not go to Japan this spring, I still have a lot of vacation days left, and I am planning to go skiing some weekday mornings to Norquay in December.”

How are you getting along with your close relationships?

“COVID sucks, but because of unusual circumstances, Miki and Luna, my lovely girls, came back from Ontario in March. Since 2017, I have been a happy empty nester, but the pandemic bonded our family again. As we all work and study from home, we upgraded our internet service right away. It was strange that my place suddenly turned into an office, but I thought it was brilliant.”

They have so many online meetings, and the Wi-Fi connection became a critical part of keeping our peaceful mind. Sometimes, we get frustrated with bad internet connections, but we work together to find a solution, and we quickly learned how to not get stress from what we have no control over. It’s great to have excellent team players, and we enhance each other.

Key ingredients for good relationships #1 – Gratitude

“Both Miki and Luna realized that living in Banff is a magical thing after they left Banff for universities. Since then, every time they fly back to Calgary, and they see Canadian Rockies in the distance, they keep admiring the mountains, and they are so proud of their home town Banff. It took them almost two decades to understand how privileged to be born and raised in Banff. Living with the girls with deep gratitude for our Mother Nature is uplifting my soul.”

Key ingredients for good relationships #2 – Sharing good foods

“Our happy times are our mealtime. We enjoy eating dinner and watch Japanese TV programs to offload everything hard from our brains. My girls think that Japanese talk shows are the best, and we laugh our heads off. Good thing that cooking is my meditation and always brings joy. In the past eight months, we keep smiling, talking about struggles, and enjoying eating, sending love and shedding tears together. Good foods connect people. They have their own culture and message, and they are fantastic communication tools as well.  I just started to order the Good Food Box organized by the Town of Banff. We get a good variety of fresh veggies and fruits for 30 dollars. They are delicious, and I look forward to ordering a box for December. It’s a small thing, but I feel great about look forward to something in future. We are what we eat, and fresh foods give us the energy to be more cheerful and crispy!

Has this impacted your financial situation?

“Thanks to the technology! I am so grateful that we can all work from home. My spending on our living costs increased, but spending for socializing became minimum, so I think we are doing ok at this point. This crisis reminded me that we have many supports in the community. Back in March, I started volunteering a couple of times a week at the Banff Food Rescue, one of the financial support in the Bow Valley. Many thanks to Alanna and all volunteers! We have been doing a fantastic job supporting people in need and foods that were in the fate of going to garbage bins.“

What’s been the hardest part of this for you?

“Unknown future is the hardest part. I love planning something with friends, vacations and mini trips, but no one can plan anything social right now. I feel sad that my mom could not come to Banff this year. She is eighty-one years old, and she had been enjoying hiking in the Rockies past five summers after my dad passed away. Last summer, I took my mom to Whistler where my younger sister Yumiko lives and works as a pastry chef. It was a quick weekend trip, but our family bond got tighter, and I felt blessed and happier after that. I’m hopeful that we could spend more time together in future. COVID seized our freedom of travel that we always took for granted, and we must work together to get it back by respecting all safety measures.”

Is there something that turned out to be a secret blessing from this experience?

“I am so fortunate to see Miki and Luna grow closer. Sharing daily life is so simple, but precious. As we must practice social distancing, we enjoy more time together. It’s great learning about many things from fully-grown up girls. No one wanted to have the pandemic, but I appreciate spending unexpected family time with them.

The experience is also giving me time to look back on my past, my history in the Bow Valley. I want to say a big thank you to this beautiful small community as there were so many assistance available, and so many kind and inspiring people supported my family.”

Being a single mom, I was so relieved when I found a bright light for our future. Hopefully, we are sharing all the love of nature with newcomers in the valley, and it would be amazing to hear them say Banff is my home.

Is there anything you are afraid of?

“Banff is working hard to stop spreading COVID. Even though we are following all safety protocols, we might be in close contact with COVID cases. I fear myself being a spreader. I know we need to stop worrying about what is not happening yet and get mentally sick. I believe that the town has the strength to bounce back, but I’m afraid of having a shutdown over the holiday season.“

What do you think you will remember from this time?

“I think 2020 will bring me memories of resilience and kindness of our community, and the bonus family time. I learned how to deal with small annoying things. Before they add up, we need to face them one at a time, talk about them, write them in a notebook so that you can drop the burden from your brain, and do things at the right moment. I relearned to focus on the present moment from this time. The pandemic is giving humans a lesson to respect, be kind and be resilient and unite as a big family on the earth. If you feel lonely in the Bow Valley, remember that we are a big family in the mountains, and someone always cares about you.”

If  you could speak directly to somebody in the past or the future, what would you say to them?

“Dear people in the future, you can learn from the past, so keep learning and don’t waste any of your experiences, don’t worry, be happy, be present, and enjoy your life.

Dear ancestors, I would like to thank you, guys! Because of you, we are here now. Thank you, my dad! You gave us unconditional love, taught us resilience, kindness and respect. They are what we need today and in future.”

Anything else?

I love Banff, and I believe we can get through this together. Sending my deepest gratitude to all health care workers and everyone who’s being kind and respectful. Keep spreading love in the small mountain town!

“I miss hugging my friends a lot. When the pandemic ends, I will give my best hugs to friends and book flights to Japan to see my mom and friends. Thank you so much for the opportunity to express my gratitude to the community! This project rocks! 2020 is a year I will always remember as a precious time, same as when I obtained a permanent resident status in Canada in 1994.”

The Stories of Resilience project offers deeply personal insights into the lives of Bow Valley residents during the COVID-19 pandemic. They each share their unique challenges, fears, hopes, and lessons learnt during this unique time in history. This project was brought to life by a collaboration of local organizations: Bow Valley Immigration Partnership (BVIP), artsPlace Canmore, Kristy Wolfe Photography, Canmore Museum. With special thanks to Community Connections in the Bow Valley.

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