• Workenesh Alemayew Sahle

  • Ethiopia - Calgary

Art by Emily Honderich

Workenesh Alemayew Sahle story

Workenesh Alemayew Sahle was born in Ethiopia and came to Canada in 2016. She lives with her husband in their own Calgary home. They are part of a community filled with friends and supportive work.

Cooking as a Friendly Language

As long as I can remember, I carried water on my back from the river and cooked Injera over a fire. I was a child in a small village in Ethiopia, looking after younger children. My mother worked at the market. There was no school for me. I saw people from the big city come in colorful clothes and long hair. Our hair was so short like we had no hair. When I went to Addis Ababa to work as a housekeeper-cook, I finally got to go to school at night, and grow my hair long! But I had to leave Ethiopia because my family was in danger. I met my husband in Nairobi, and we opened our Ethiopian Restaurant, but there are always changes in life. We could not stay in Ethiopia. We became refugees.

In Calgary, twenty people were at the airport to welcome us. I was so excited I cried. First, we lived with a couple, and I loved to cook for them. It is tough when you can only listen and not speak the language. It gives you a headache. I wanted to talk, but I could only cook! At English school, I made new friends and learned to speak to many people from around the world. Every semester, we celebrated with food! All kinds of food. I cooked at the International Kitchen. We like to go camping with friends where everyone brings a meal. I like to ride horses and walk in the mountains.

Then the pandemic shut down everything. I don’t go to school. I don’t work. My husband works long hours in the meat-packing plant. We try to support people here and back in Africa who have a tough time. If I can help even in a little way to make their life better, it is good. We had a business, made money, and it changed. We moved. I learned a new life and language, and it changed again. It is true for everyone in the world. Now I learn new skills on the computer. I plant a garden and try new recipes. My English is better. My cooking is better. We have a dream. But it will change.

"If I can help even in a little way to make their life better, it is good. We had a business, made money, and it changed. We moved. I learned a new life and language, and it changed again. It is true for everyone in the world. Now I learn new skills on the computer. I plant a garden and try new recipes. My English is better. My cooking is better. We have a dream. But it will change."

- Workenesh Alemayew Sahle