Sam Daniyan brings a special energy to his classes at the recreation centre. Tom Best photo

Beauty and trauma bring Sam Daniyan from Nigeria to Smithers

Lifeguard and aquafit instructor Sam Daniyan says Smithers is full of positive people.

Like all pools in small towns, the Bulkley Valley Regional Pool and Recreation Centre always has an open eye for qualified and experienced staff, especially for the pool deck.

Lifeguards must have specific certifications and they are not always easy to come by. Having one from Africa is a rarity.

Meet Sam Daniyan, originally from Nigeria.

“It’s been my dream all along since the first day I saw snow on the TV. I’ve always wanted to experience what it feels like,” he said.

Daniyan was first in Memorial University of Newfoundland to do his degree in marine biology. After that he went to Campbell River, followed by High River and Fort McMurray to become a fitness instructor.

“Then I went to some other places and now I’m into this beautiful city called Smithers,” he said.

While Smithers may be smaller than some of his other destinations, he says that he has no complaints or worries.

“It is full of positive people. I love swimming and sports,” he said.

How he got into lifeguarding is a lesson for all of us.

“I was studying marine biology and I had an incident that happened by my friend drowned and actually died. They brought him out like two hours later and I was supposed to be there but I wasn’t there. If I was there I could have saved him but I wasn’t there. That kicked something in me and since then I have been just a simple lifeguard and try to help people,” he said.

Like most of the pool staff, he has other responsibilities.

“I am also an aquafit instructor. I love people being fit and being able to activate their core in times of fitness and I try to push people and I try to incorporate so many modifications so even if you can’t do one skill you can do the other one.,” he said.

To date, his classes have become popular and there has been positive feedback from participants.

In Smithers, there are very few people of African descent, but Daniyan manages to do well.

“I find it fun enough. I miss my black culture. To be honest, I still miss some little things that we do … Maybe because I’ve been teaching for a while in Canada I’ve been able to adapt pretty much, pretty well. I don’t feel I’m lacking behind; I’m feel I’m at home in a way,” he said.

If there is one thing that he misses most, it would be the food.

“Pounded yam! It’s bigger and it’s pounded like a mashed potato and then you can have the soup. The soup is going to be filled with snails, goat meat, lamb, fish — titus, mackerel — it’s so nice. And the only way you are going to eat it as an African man is by using your hand, and you don’t chew it. You actually swallow it. It’s so nice,” he said.

Daniyan appreciates Canadian culture.

“The best thing about Canadian culture is that they are so open-minded, because from what I have seen from when I got to Canada is that it is actually diverse. We have different people from different cultures so it’s not like it’s a white man’s land, it is actually diverse so that culture that you bring from every part the world actually makes you be open-minded to different ideas,” he said.

Unlike many Canadians, he does not complain about winter, which he feels is very beautiful.

While in general, Canadians are welcoming, he feels that there are times when they are not.

“The friendliness sometimes could be a problem. We could have more people that are more welcoming. People could say, ‘I want to know more about your culture. I know it’s different from what I am used to,’ especially if they don’t travel around. If they are from a small town and they don’t move around it’s really going to be hard to understand what people are actually going through and you don’t actually appreciate their culture. I think I prefer people trying to get to know people more before you continue whether they actually belong here or not, and I’m talking about generally in Canada not just here,” he said.

Like most of us, Daniyan tries to experience Canadian culture to its maximum.

“Tonight I would like to have on my table a cold smoked salmon. A pacific salmon with cream cheese and bagel,” he said.

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