A few observations after 36 hours in Canada

19 Dec

Thirty-six hours after arriving in this country I’m ready to throw together some of my initial observations about coming home. You’ll have to forgive me for not writing an entry earlier because I was suffering from jet lag–it’s not true you don’t get it going east. Excuses aside, here are my initial thoughts:

  • There are fewer people on the street than I remember. I thought Toronto was this huge metropolis when I left, so why does 2.5 million in the city centre now feel so small? My family tell me people are off the streets because it’s cold, but still….there’s so much space.
  • There’s SO much space. The sidewalks are bigger. The houses are bigger. The seats on the subway are a little bit bigger. Everything is bigger.
  • The subway is…dare I say it…pleasant compared to the horrendous tube.I cannot stress this point enough. It’s clean. The trains are bigger. The most shocking is that real air flows through the trains!
  • People are nicer. I’m sorry, but they just are.
  • Canadians know how to do a good coffee and plop a coffee shop on every street corner
  • I don’t actually like Tim Horton’s. I’m just nostalgic for it (this goes for a lot of things)
  • It still doesn’t feel real, being home

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Great Expectations

5 Dec

Many of you have read my endless whining rants about being a Canadian living in Britain. Well soon you will be reading endless wining rants on returning to Canada (albeit temporarily – about two weeks).

Today marks the 12 day mark – 12 days before I finally go home for the first time in one year, three months and 21 days, but of course I’m not counting. I actually don’t count my time here that precisely. I looked that up online because I’m a giant nerd.

I thought I’d blog about my trip home to Canada because writing is the best way for me to think through all my thoughts and feelings, and it might provide some mild entertainment for anyone that happens to read my blog.

After spending the past almost year and a half semi-assimilating into British culture, I’m full of excitement and apprehension about going home.

Because I devote far too much time to fretting, I have conjured up two scenarios:

  1. I fall back in love with the country I had promised to leave for only a year, and can’t bring myself to get on that plane back to London (though of course this is unrealistic because I owe two months’ notice at my publication, have a one-year lease on my flat, and have friends and a boyfriend who would be quite unhappy with me).
  2. I’m disappointed by my trip home because I’ve painted an idyllic birds-chirping-in-the-winter, no-crime, happy land that doesn’t exist outside my imagination. (This is possibly the worst of the two).

Take my poll at the end of this post to help me predict. And, remember, whatever happens, I will provide you with regular updates on my trip to Canada.

A Pronunciation Lesson for Lunch

6 Sep

It’s lunch time and we’re going to press tomorrow, so I figure I don’t have a lot of time. I shoot over to the café across the street and ask for some pasta.

“Which sauce?” asks the burly man, who looks like he’s been dishing out pasta for some twenty years.

“Tomato,” I answer in my Canadian accent (təˈmeɪtoʊ).

“What?”

“Tomato.”

“Oh…you mean tomato (təˈmɑːtoʊ).


Of course, I think. I should be used to the British arrogance by now. This man knew what I was saying all along. He was just re-emphasising that I am in his country and thus should pronounce tomato his way.

I sigh (a typical response from me on such occasions).

I think back to those days when I first came to this country when I was around every corner I was met by evidence of a language barrier—yes, there is a language barrier and no, I had not expected it either.

I remember one time when I was looking for a Wi-Fi connection so I could settle down with my MacBook and hunt for jobs. I must have asked the café waitress three times if there was Wi-Fi before she turned to her co-worker with, “You answer her. I have no idea what she’s saying”.

There were other times where I asked for the washroom and people would pretend they didn’t know what I was saying until I said “loo” or “toilets” (which no matter how many times you tell me it’s not crass, I still can’t say).

When I asked my cousins why people didn’t understand me when I said washroom, they just smiled.

“It’s not that they don’t understand you,” they said. “They will just pretend not to”.

I like to think these days I have a better handle on slang and how best to avoid stan

ding out with my Canadian pronunciations, but it is times like these (when I refuse to say təˈmɑːtoʊ because it sounds pretentious to my ears) that I’m reminded of how maddening the Brits and their British English can be.

Back to the Future

15 Aug

You must do the things you think you cannot do. Eleanor Roosevelt

Today marks one year since I boarded the plane to England. I thought about some cheesy post related to all the things I love here, or an ode to family and friends who’ve made my adjustment easier (both old and new). But in the end, I settled for an honest account of 14 August, 2010, the day I boarded an Air Transat plane in Toronto.

That day my Dad drove me to Pearson. My mind was on two things: I) Do everything possible to distract said father from the fact I am leaving, so he does not get emotional and II) Do everything possible to distract self from fact I am leaving Canada so I do not get emotional or reveal to father that I am scared shitless as he will try to convince me to stay.

Thus, I valiantly (slight exaggeration) battled every surge of emotion with talk of world events—don’t ask me what was going on in the news at the time, as I don’t remember—or logistics about my temporary place of residence (thanks Coen family).

I thought I did quite well to suppress emotions, throughout a two hour strained drive and a tasteless airport meal, but as I neared the security line I saw my father’s eyes well up.

Shit, I thought, as my heart suddenly began to thump in my chest, what am I doing? I wanted to yell at my Dad that this was a whim, an instinct that I stupidly followed. How could he let me do this? My heart thundered louder. I wanted to turn back and run. But I didn’t say anything. I squeezed my Dad goodbye and burst through the barrier onto the other side, where I could be alone with my fears, leaving a teary eyed father in my wake.

Eleven months later, my father would tell me how he couldn’t remember where he parked the car after he’d dropped me off and ended up wandering around the parking lot. He’d also told me he thought he’d held it together pretty well. I had to laugh.

Once through the barriers, I read all the letters and cards my friends had written me before leaving. Some I’d read before. Others, I had not. Honestly, though, Oscar, Esther, Colleen, Meghann, and everyone else who wrote to me, those letters were (and still are) precious to me, as they reminded me that I had friends and family who would support me in my adventures no matter what – whether England turned out to be a failure or success. For that, I owe a lot to you. For those that wrote to me while I was in England (Kaja and Shanice) it meant just as much.

What I remember is boarding that plane one year ago anxious, frightened, and excited for what awaited me. What I also remember is knowing, in my gut, that this was the right decision for me. A year later, I’m still here, and I don’t regret that terrifying journey for a minute.

Arson and looting and smashing! Oh my!

9 Aug

For the last three days, talk has centred around the London riots. I first heard of them Sunday morning when I learned that at 8:00pm on Saturday the violence began with bottles being thrown at patrol cars, vehicles set alight and looting in Tottenham area (northeast).

The situation has escalated and spread as close to me as Camden (12 minutes by tube) and throughout Croydon, Walthamstow, and Dalston to name a few. On Monday and today I received numerous calls, emails and messages from friends and family asking to be reassured of my safety. I’m OK.

The atmosphere here is not one of a threatened community, but of people who are annoyed by these trouble-making youths and an inability of the police and the government to squelch the violence – though some are more sympathetic to police. Today the increasingly disliked PM David Cameron called for a suspension of Blackberry messenger (so far my BBM has not been suspended).

The Blackberry Blog had been hacked this morning; hackers’ message eloquently read: “You Will _NOT_ assist the UK Police because if u do innocent members of the public who were at the wrong place at the wrong time and owned a blackberry will get charged for no reason at all.”

Though the riots have not personally touched me, they have hit close to home, affecting people I know or the area I work.

One friend who lives in Brick lane couldn’t get home last night because parts of Shoreditch were shut down due to the riots.

Another, who works close two blocks from me, was sent home at 1pm – due to potential rioting in Hatton Garden (the road full of jewellery shops) – to her flat in Wimbledon where more rioting was rumoured to occur tonight.

My boss did a run to the nearby Waitrose and came back saying he thought the grocery store was being advised to close early.

And my housemate tells me there are rumours circulating that looters will hit my high street tonight.

Angry Londoners are utilising social media to express their anger, joining Facebook groups like “I’m a Londoner…I want my city back”, calling the rioters “dicks” in their status, or posting outrageous footage.

At the park near my work, a girl rides in on her bicycle telling her sister they have to get home.

“Mum says they’re smashing up cars and stuff, so we’ve got to get back,” she says, making a fist and smashing it into her opposite palm.

On the train home, two female colleagues chatter about the ongoings. One expresses girlish delight that her flat was on TV last night because rioters looted the shops below.

“Oh, that’s what you texted me last night,” laughs the other.

Still, as they say their goodbyes, they end with “stay safe” (a greeting that has become standard in the last couple days) and the woman whose flat was on TV is left holding her book, staring off into space.

Coffee, Sushi and Chat

26 Jul

I’m in a bit of a mushy mood today – probably because of the realisation I booked my ticket home a week ago combined with the family phone rounds yesterday evening – and thus I would like to list for you all the things I’ve missed the most, and can’t wait to do, following hitting that tarmac at Pearson Airport. Please don’t mistake my mushy mood for homesickness, but an ingrained love associated with home that can never be severed. (I did warn you that this post was going to be mushy, so I take no blame if you just threw up your lunch at that last statement).

Okay, here we go:

  1. Gorge on cheap sushi. And, I do mean gorge. Asian food (or, Oriental, as it is not so politically correctly referred to here) is meagre at best in terms of quality, and about five times the price of what I’m used to in Canada. Hence, I plan to re-hook myself up to the sushi intravenous during my two-week stay.
  2. Order a mountain of pancakes for dinner –yes, dinner. For some reason English people find the idea of breakfast for dinner simply abominable. Their loss!
  3. Sit in Chapters and read on those uncomfortable fake wood box benches. How I’ve missed sitting in bookshops surrounded by fellow cheap book lovers.
  4. Take a stroll through one of Toronto’s lovely parks and try to spot the needles junkies have abandoned.
  5. Dip my toes in the polluted Lake Ontario. (I may hold off on this one since it will be December when I visit).
  6. Have a snowball fight! I’m looking forward to going somewhere in December where they don’t think one centimetre of snow is a big deal, or have never heard of ‘snow tires’.
  7. Sit in coffee shops for hours, just chatting with old friends. In London, I suppose you can substitute pubs for coffee shops, but I just don’t have those people who know me in the same way here. Also, it would be nice to sit and chat without worrying about your inhibitions being lowered.
  8. Endure an inane conversation with the boy barista at Bulldog for the sake of an amazing coffee. Seriously, kind of hoping that kid is long gone by now.
  9. Hijack friends’ couches. Okay, this one is not so much what I’m looking forward to, as a warning to you all. I’m coming for you!
  10. Go shopping! My money will be worth 1.6 times as much! YAY!

Mob Mentality

25 Jul

The train halts. We’re told to empty it in an orderly sequence because the destination has changed, due to a signal failure. Four minutes later, I board another train. The driver announces there was a “personal injury” at bank station. Packed in like sardines, we’re not sympathetic.

Some minutes later we’re rolling through the tunnel again. That’s when the emergency sound starts blaring. Someone’s pushed the alarm. A woman has fainted in our car. She’s white as a ghost.

A voice rumbles from behind me: “Oh, here we bloody well go. Another ten minutes.”

People glance at the woman and tut that they’ll be late for work, thanks to this business.

The driver asks train four (that’s us) to evacuate the train.

“You won’t be able to get on this one,” mutters another man to the people waiting in the station. “Someone’s fainted.” He rolls his eyes.

Another announcement blasts: The next train will be arriving on platform three in one minute.

And so the women in skirts and blouses and the men in suits begin to run.