Do you believe in fate? Maria Hernandez, part of our Housekeeping team, certainly does, and she credits fate for leading her to Langdon Hall 9 years ago.
Maria is originally from Guadalajara, Mexico and it was in her hometown she met her husband, David. “He moved to my hometown from Canada and was an English teacher for the locals learning a second language,” recalls Maria. “He was friends with someone I knew and apparently the first time he saw me he told his friend he was going to marry me.”
At the time, David planned to spend the rest of his life in Guadalajara, but when his mother fell ill he asked Maria to move back to Canada with him. Without knowing a word of English, Maria made the journey with David and her two children. Although it was hard to leave her hometown, Maria was excited to begin a new chapter with her family.
David and Maria began to build their lives in Canada, where David worked as a lawyer and Maria’s kids settled into school. However, after the passing of his mother, David realized he was no longer happy in Canada. “We had been in Canada for a few years at this point, and I didn’t want to uproot my kids again,” says Maria. “It was a difficult decision, but I chose to stay in Canada with my kids, and he went back to Mexico.”
Maria knew she could make long distance work with her husband. What troubled her, was the sudden realization that she didn’t have an identity in Canada without David. She wanted to find herself, what she was passionate about, and solidify her independence in a country that no longer felt like home without her husband.
Having previously worked as a manager in a hotel in Guadalajara, Maria knew she wanted to pursue a career in hospitality. “I applied to every hotel job in Cambridge I heard about, but no one would even call me because I didn’t know English,” says Maria. Then one day, fate intervened.
“I was taking a bus to Kitchener and when I sat down at the terminal, I noticed a newspaper someone had left on the seat beside me,” recalls Maria. “This one advertisement caught my eye – it said ‘Hiring Housekeeper at Langdon Hall’. Even though I didn’t know much English, I recognized the word ‘housekeeper’ so I took the newspaper home with me.”
Maria’s son helped her email her resume, and Langdon Hall became the first place to call Maria. She was thrilled to have an interview, but remained nervous because of her inability to speak English. “My son told me to just go to the interview and say ‘yes’ to everything, so that’s what I did.” Our Head Housekeeper, Maria Andrade, was the one who interviewed Maria Hernandez, and she quickly caught on that English was not her first language.
“Apparently, she said ‘You don’t know any English, do you?’ and I just said ‘yes’,” Maria laughs. It was then that Maria Andrade sought help from another employee who spoke Spanish, so they could translate and finish the interview.
“Maria Andrade was the only person that gave me a chance,” says Maria. It was that chance that gave Maria Hernandez her first job in Canada and 9 years later, Maria can’t believe how far she’s come. Not only has she learned English through the help of her coworkers, but she’s found a second family who has been with her through some of the toughest times.
About three years ago, after successfully making long distance work, Maria’s husband David returned to Canada. It was a bittersweet moment, as the reason for his return was a battle with cancer. “We wanted him to have the best medical attention, and I didn’t want him to be alone,” says Maria.
Maria was able to take 6 months off to get her footing as David’s caretaker throughout his treatment. Even when she returned to Langdon Hall, the Housekeeping team came together so Maria could work, but also take David to his appointments as needed.
David ultimately lost his battle to cancer last year. “It was devastating,” says Maria. “But you know what? He passed away on a Wednesday, and I still went to work on Thursday. That might seem strange, but the people at Langdon Hall are my family, and I needed them and this place to get me through such a dark time.”
It was with the help of Langdon Hall and her coworkers that Maria began to feel whole again after the passing of her husband.
“I don’t know if Langdon adopted me or if I adopted Langdon, but this is my second home,” says Maria.
Maria is certainly a special part of the Langdon Hall family. Her inviting smile, her excitement, her willingness but most importantly, her courage and resilience is what makes her one-of-a-kind.
Almost a decade later, Maria’s English is impeccable. She speaks of her husband and the memories they created together warmly, and it’s hard not to smile in her presence. On top of taking care of all the Langdon Hall linens in our laundry room, she takes English writing classes and even serves food at a local nursing home in her spare time.
Maria believed in herself and found her independence in a brand new country that now feels more like home than anything. She has loved, she has lost but no matter what, she knows she has a family to come home to everyday here at Langdon Hall. Call it fate, call it dumb luck – Maria was meant to be at Langdon Hall, and we’re better for it.
Maria inspires everyone around her to be bold, pursue their dreams and love fiercely. Thank you for everything, Maria.