SOLD ON SASKA­TOON

Saskatoon StarPhoenix - - FRONT PAGE - JENN SHARP Twit­ter.com/jennksharp

This photo, posted on In­sta­gram by Tourism Saska­toon in 2016, in­spired Jolomi Ga­gar to pack up her life in the chaotic Nige­rian me­trop­o­lis of La­gos and move here. She ar­rived in -40 weather but says she is lov­ing her new home in this ‘mag­i­cal’ city.

A photo on In­sta­gram con­vinced Jolomi Ga­gar to leave Nige­ria and move to Saska­toon.

The photo, posted by Tourism Saska­toon in June 2016, is a typ­i­cal sum­mer scene in the Bridge City: A sweep­ing river view with the sand­bar beach near Broad­way Av­enue fram­ing one cor­ner, the Bess­bor­ough ho­tel flank­ing the other, and a white, fluffy-clouded sky over­head.

For Ga­gar, who was liv­ing in the chaotic, noisy city of La­gos, Saska­toon looked like pure bliss.

Orig­i­nally from south­ern Nige­ria, Ga­gar at­tended a master’s pro­gram in in­ter­na­tional mar­ket­ing at the Robert Gor­don Univer­sity in Aberdeen, Scot­land (she also holds a law de­gree).

After univer­sity, she moved to Cardiff, Wales, where she made friends with a woman from Van­cou­ver.

The woman was trav­el­ling around the world and writ­ing a book about her ad­ven­tures.

“To me, that was so fas­ci­nat­ing be­cause I had never done any­thing like it in my whole life — just move some­where else … and ba­si­cally live life with­out (many) re­straints,” re­calls Ga­gar.

Her friend’s tales of Canada’s epic beauty and warm peo­ple piqued Ga­gar’s in­ter­est. She moved to La­gos for work, but kept Canada in the back of her mind.

After five years at a stress­ful job, Ga­gar had a re­al­iza­tion.

“I woke up one morn­ing and said, ‘I can’t imag­ine the rest of my life be­ing like this. I should be do­ing stuff with my life – not just work­ing.’ “

She knew Canada was the place for her, but says she didn’t want to move to the “usual places.”

An In­sta­gram search led her to Tourism Saska­toon’s pic­ture. She searched the @vis­it­saska­toon ac­count and fell in love with the city, she said.

“I’ve al­ways lived in large cities with the hus­tle and bus­tle. I wanted to ex­pe­ri­ence some­thing more sub­dued that’s still cos­mopoli­tan. I think that de­scribes Saska­toon per­fectly.”

After fur­ther re­search, she was de­cided. When she told her par­ents, they thought she was mak­ing it up. Her dad still can’t pro­nounce the city’s name, she said.

That was in 2016. It would be a year be­fore she re­ceived her im­mi­gra­tion pa­pers. She ar­rived in Saska­toon on Nov. 6. She had read on­line that tem­per­a­tures fall to -40 C, but thought it must have been a mis­take.

“It didn’t oc­cur to me that it could pos­si­bly be that cold,” she laughs.

De­spite the air­line los­ing her lug­gage en route, and ar­riv­ing at the be­gin­ning of win­ter, she’s in­cred­i­bly happy to be here, she said.

“There’s some­thing dif­fer­ent about this place. I think the word is ‘mag­i­cal.’ It’s cold, but it’s so pretty, you al­most for­get the cold.”

Ga­gar was shocked at how friendly peo­ple are in Saska­toon. She re­calls walk­ing past a jog­ger who waved and smiled at her. The first time she rode a city bus, the driver pa­tiently an­swered all her ques­tions.

“He was so pa­tient and nice … every­one has just been so help­ful.”

Ga­gar found a room­mate on Ki­jiji; that woman’s fam­ily has helped her get set­tled in her new city, driv­ing her around to find a car and of­fer­ing ad­vice on her job hunt (she’s look­ing for a mar­ket­ing po­si­tion).

Aviva Ko­hen, di­rec­tor of me­dia at Tourism Saska­toon, says Ga­gar’s ex­pe­ri­ence is a touch­ing ex­am­ple of Saska­toon’s ap­peal.

“Work­ing in tourism, we get to hear many heart­warm­ing sto­ries of how wel­com­ing our com­mu­nity is when peo­ple visit Saska­toon. It isn’t of­ten that we get to hear such a great story of some­one ac­tu­ally mov­ing half­way around the globe based on a photo we shared on so­cial me­dia.”

Ga­gar has joined the ten­nis club at Lake­wood, plays rec vol­ley­ball at the Shaw Cen­tre and is tak­ing bal­let lessons.

She looks for­ward to the sum­mer and has been mak­ing plans to go camp­ing with friends for the first time.

“It’s giv­ing me a new lease on life. Ev­ery­thing I al­ways wanted to do, I de­cided to do it now. I’m en­joy­ing my­self so much,” she said.

Her fam­ily has been sup­port­ive of the move and will visit in the future — although her dad in­sists he will not come dur­ing the win­ter.

KEN­DALL BALON

MICHELLE BERG

Jolomi Ga­gar is lov­ing her new home in Saska­toon after mov­ing from La­gos, Nige­ria. A Tourism Saska­toon photo show­ing a river view in­spired her de­ci­sion to choose the city. And while she is sur­prised by the tem­per­a­tures, she says the city is ‘so pretty’ she al­most for­gets the cold.

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