Unlike the last time I flew in an aeroplane, I made it home with no real issues, except perhaps, the lack of leg-room in my seat. This means that I am back in England, where dollars are pounds, and cents are pence…
I do not like it.
I decided to squeeze one last blog post onto my page, hoping that clinging onto Canada for a little while longer might make me feel better. I really cannot believe that I am home already…
* * *
My last few days in Canada were fairly low-key. On Saturday, I packed up all of my belongings, realising with each passing minute that I had collected so much trash during my time in Canada. I had to let go of a fair number of t-shirts, as well as a bunch of knick knacks I thought I wanted at the time of purchase. Olivia brought her suitcase out, and I took up half of the space for her England trip with the things I could not fit into my own. It was a bit of a clutch, but I just about managed to squeeze in the essentials of my return trip. The violin I had purchased was destined to hang out of my backpack and brave the hand-luggage compartment with me. I figured this was safer than the odds of popping it into my hold-luggage. I quite like Sir Strings-a-lot, and I did not want him to die in transportation.
* * *
On my last full day in Canada, Olivia and I got up early, and we went antiquing with her mother. This might sound largely unglamorous, but it was actually a lot of fun wandering around between rows of old things that once meant something to somebody. We only visited a coupe of stores – most of the ones we planned to visit had closed down since Olivia and her mother last went.
We made up for this by hitting the Avondale Dairy Bar. Olivia could not eat there, but she shared a couple of memories about it having the most delicious ice-cream! She also told us a story about a school trip she once took there, only to drop her ice-cream on the floor and sit crying on the swings outside.
Anyway, tragedies aside, I got myself a Brownies & Fudge ice-cream on a waffle cone and gorged on it in the sunshine outside with the shop-cat, Stan. He was super cute, though he had a bit of a cold and was sneezing all over the place. Someone had left him some cat food in a little ice-cream pot, and we sat together on a bench until my cone had been consumed – it did not take long to scoff it down!
* * *
The next day – leaving day – Olivia and I got up early and ran some errands. We printed off some photos of me with each of the cats, grabbed some snacks for the plane, and finished with a trip to the French-fry truck near Shoppers Drug Mart. We sat in the car and I chowed down on my last meal in Canada, before heading home and awaiting the turn of three o’clock.
Once Filomena returned form work, we loaded up her car with my belongings, and we were on our way to Pearson International Airport in Mississauga within twenty minutes. I hopped into the car – but wait! I was wearing my Crocs! I ran back inside to exchange them for my Birkenstocks, and then the journey began!
The journey was fairly smooth to begin with, and the GPS seemed convinced that we would arrive by five o’clock, but we hit bad traffic outside Toronto. It only added half-an-hour to our journey, though, and we arrived at terminal three by five-thirty. I was not allowed to check-in before quarter-past-six, so we waited around in the airport. Thankfully, we killed time by getting lost on our way to the Air Transat desk, and before we knew it, the queue to baggage drop started to make its way forwards.
I cannot remember exactly how much my allowance was, but the 23.9kgs that I lifted onto the conveyor was definitely over my limit. The woman at the desk seemed not to notice, though, or she simply did not care, and I watched my case disappear from view. I guess that was it – there was no going back now.
We wandered over to security, and I had to say my final goodbyes to Olivia and her mother. I knew Olivia would follow behind me in a week or so, but our emotional farewell was a bit of a killer. I tried really hard not to cry, but Olivia welled up and her face started leaking onto my shoulder. I gave Fil a hug, and then Olivia went in for one more, laughing at herself for crying so much. It took everything I had not to burst into tears myself. I really did not want to leave…
I slipped through the gate towards security, turning back for one final glance, and then they were gone. I was on my own again, just as I had been the moment I stepped foot in London Gatwick airport back on September 2nd, 2017. I unpacked my laptop, iPad, phone, and violin, storing it in the plastic trays and watching them shuffle through the observation machine.
So, I was through security within about five minutes, which left me with three hours before boarding started, and four hours before we were scheduled to take-off. I went to the airport Tim Horton’s and got myself on final Steeped-Tea with One Milk. I sat on a high-table and started to binge on YouTube videos to kill time. Surprisingly, the three hours passed by fairly quickly and before I knew it, I was queuing up at gate B37 and stretching in preparation for the seven hours of cramped seating that was coming.
* * *
It was dark outside when we boarded, and the sky was turning from deep-blue to black. I shuffled down the isles to the back of the plane and took my seat next to John, a delightfully cheery man from Sheffield – he had come to Canada to visit his daughter who lived just across the border. We talked a little, while the other passengers settled in their seats and the cabin-crew bustled around doing their thing.
Eventually, we hit the runway and lifted off into the Ontarian sky. I watched as Toronto’s lights lit up the land beneath us, with CN Tower blinking patriotic red and white lights. I felt myself starting to well-up, and hot tears dripped from my eyes, smearing the city lights in the window. I hid my face from John, hoping he would not notice.
* * *
Canada was my home for almost ten months, and as I sat and watched it slip from beneath me, I could not help but feel immensely sad about the fact I was leaving it all behind. I started to think about last September, and the person I had become since then. I made friends for life, most of whom I will not see for a long time, if ever again. While I will undoubtedly stay in contact with them, sadly Facebook will be our only means of communicating for a while.
* * *
I would like to take a bit of time – since writing about the six hours of empty plane-journeying will not be very interesting – to say thank you to some of the people who have made my life in Canada that extra bit special.
Firstly, to my British friends, who I met way back in September. While things might not have worked out for us, we shared a load of amazing memories, and I am grateful that I had some friends to experience my first few weeks in Canada with. Fiddler’s Pour House was our weekend home, and CJ’s in DeCew saw many a terrible ping-pong game, and failed attempts to play board games. We experienced Montréal together, and I will never forget exactly how long six-hours can feel when sat in a non-reclining Megabus seat. Thanks for some really fun times, and I am sorry they had to come to an end so quickly.
To my Canadian mother, Julie! Thank you for everything you did for me over the past year. Your countless food parcels have kept me alive (and away from McDonalds). Thanks for every car-ride you have given me, and for taking Meera, Eisha, and I out to dinner so many times. I will miss having somebody to vent my academic concerns to when the going gets tough next year! You have become one of my closest friends, and I owe many of my favourite experiences to you – including that time when we went bowling, and both of us were terrible at it!
To one of my best Canadian friends, Emma! You really understood what it feels like to love Classical Greek, but hate it in equal measure at the same time. We suffered through Adam’s Greek Tragedy class, and it brought us – and everyone else in that course – together. I will never forget the look on your face when we had to walk around the room in a circle for literally no reason. We went on a couple of drives together, drank tea like true Brits, and talked about our mutual love for writing. I hope that one day, we can both become successful authors, and joint-win the writing competitions we have entered. It will likely never happen but I can 100% hope, eh? Sorry, I 100% could not resist, eh?
To the other Greek Tragedy veterans, Sydney and Alex. I am so glad we met, and had loads of fun once we got over the tragedy that was Adam’s Tragedy. I owe a lot to you guys, one of those things being my introduction to Olivia when we went to the Queen Charlotte Tea Room before Christmas. I also met Tom, and since then, the five of us have done so much together – getting drunk in the States, wandering around Niagara Falls, and sitting through one too many conferences that none of us had an interest in. It has been a blast, and I hope all of you guys have an amazing time whatever you end up doing, and wherever you are.
To my favourite group of Canadians, the Holcombe family. Thank you so much for taking me in and letting me live under your roof for over a month. You always treated me like family, and you made sure I had everything I needed. I will never forget the time I spent at Portage Road, with Mark, Filomena, and Victoria, and all of the fantastic trips we went on. Make sure you give Melvin, Max, and Mallie lots of love from me until I return!
P.S. Fil, do not forget Tortellini for my next visit!
Finally, to my girlfriend, and my favourite human-being in the world, Olivia. You have made my life in Canada so much more exciting, and I cannot imagine what it would have been like if I had not met you. Thank you for looking after me, and sharing in my time across the pond. You have driven me to so many places, and introduced me a whole host of unhealthy Canadian delicacies that I would not have otherwise tried. I am so lucky to have you, and I cannot wait to show you as much of England as I can over the coming weeks – and, of course, wherever life takes us from there. I am so excited to find out where we will end up together!
* * *
At some point during the flight, I woke up from a cramped sleep, and spent ten minutes trying to lift my neck from its position. My Birkenstocks had slipped off my socked feet, and I rooted around on the floor for them. Checking the screen in front of me, I realised that we had passed over Nova Scotia, and there was less than half of my journey to go. I pulled out my book and stuck some Coldplay on – only their old material, I should add.
The remaining hours went by fairly quickly – far faster for John, though, who was sleeping soundly next to me. I envied him, having only slept for about an hour or so. The Tylenol PM that Filomena had given me seemed to have only worked in getting me to fall asleep – now I was wide awake.
Anyway, at about quarter-to-ten British time, the plane started its descent, and I felt myself starting to well-up again, realising that I was no longer in Canada, and I was instead landing on a small island, ten-percent the size of Ontario. I cannot accurately describe how gutted I am that the next year of my life will be limited to an unexciting existence in Stretford or Selly Oak. I feel like I am coming down from the best high in my life, and nothing I can take will ever match the exceptional time I have had in Canada.
* * *
I know that a lot of people (myself included) did not think I would actually go ahead with my year abroad. People doubted me, and I doubted myself – but I did it. I travelled half-way across the world to a place I had never been before. I studied at a University I had never visited, and I graduated with a 92% average for the year. I worked hard, and I played hard. I hated revising and working hard, but made up for it with exciting expeditions around Ontario and into Québec. My ten months in Canada were my making, and the person who stepped off the plane in Manchester, UK at 10 o’clock last Tuesday has changed in more ways that I can count – most notable, perhaps, is the fourteen pounds I seem to have gained since I was away. Oh well, I had to make the most of all the poutine, Beaver Tails, and funnel cakes – not to mention Filomena’s Italian cuisine – I could go on!
All that is left to say is Thank You, Canada, for everything. I have had a ball, and I cannot wait to return to you one day – hopefully, for good!