The Shoe Project

Lucky Bird 

by Wei Tao Bethune



My mother took me to a shoe store before I left China for Canada. She bought me a pair of short boots with the brand of "Lucky Bird." My mother wished that every step I took in the New World would be accompanied by her blessing, and that I would be fortunate forever. So, I put on these boots, boarded the plane to Toronto on a snowy winter day and started my new immigrant life.

My hometown, Shen Yang, is a heavy industrial city in China, known as the “Eastern Ruhr”. At the end of the twentieth century, China reformed its economic system, restructured the state-owned enterprises and laid off a large number of workers. In our town, people had gone through a painful process and felt helpless. To seek new opportunities, many young people had to leave home to go abroad. I was one of them. Not Lucky Bird.

After I landed in Toronto, I went to ESL school to study English. Some of my classmates had been here for a long time. As well as attending English classes, they worked as part-time labourers. Under their influence, I started looking for a job. One day we heard that a chocolate packing factory had a big order, so they had an urgent need of people power. We were temporarily recruited. Every day I finished school and rushed to the factory job. I returned home at midnight and went to school early the next morning. Two weeks later, the order was completed and we were unemployed. Not Lucky Bird.

I sent my resumes to many companies without any response. My landlord told me that the economy in Canada had slowed down after the 911 attack. Thousands of people lost their jobs; it was hard time for everyone.  Not Lucky Bird. My landlord suggested that I apply to go to university to study. I followed her advice. I took a TOEFL course and submitted applications.

My English was good in reading and writing, but very poor in listening and speaking. When I was young, most of our English teachers originally taught Russian. After a short period of training, they were switched to teaching English. They taught us English with pronunciation in Russian and Chinese accents. Not Lucky Bird. My pronunciation was wrong from the very beginning, which also affected my English listening.  

I was very disappointed with my TOEFL scores. In order to improve my English, I registered at a Salvation Army. Sister Dorothy Howley, a Roman Catholic of the Archdiocese of Toronto, volunteered to help me. Lucky Bird.

Sister Dorothy and I met twice a week, and every time I went to her home, I got a warm hug. I carefully read an article, and she corrected my pronunciation word by word. Sometimes, she taught me to sing some English songs to learn the speaking rhythm. Within a few months, my English had a greatly improved. But that was not all. Sister Dorothy suggested that I go to church every Sunday; I did. And I wrote down what I heard in the minister’s sermon.  Sister Dorothy encouraged me to join the Church Bible class and volunteer team to cook for the homeless; I did. In the Presbyterian Church, I met a nice tutor. He taught me the Bible and helped me to practice English. Unconsciously, I understood a lot of truth. My viewpoint and mind were opened. Thus, I made the decision to become a Christian.

After I was baptized, my heart felt more peaceful and happier than ever before. I stepped up my study; I made progress rapidly. Once again, I took a TOEFL test and my scores finally reached the standard. Soon, I received an admission offer from York University. My Bible tutor fell in love with me. Sixteen months later, we got married. Am I a Lucky Bird?


Wei Tao Bethune is from China, She lives in Toronto now and wrote her story Lucky Bird in 2017.


Other Shoe Stories from Our Shoes Our Streets, Toronto, Sept 23 2018:

Jasmine Vases

Lucky Bird

My Mother’s Farmer Shoes

Shoes Tell Their Owner's Stories

Snow Boots 

Tan Lines of My Sandals

My Brown Shoes

The Rhythm of My Safety Shoes


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