Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Canada, see you later

As I sit here now in Cleveland airport with an 8 hour wait ahead of me, I figured it'd be a good time to write and recap on my last few days in Canada. Sorry, limited pictures this time...too much effort via the free airport wifi.

I finally left Big Bay early on Monday morning and not without many tears. Leaving was just as hard as I expected it would be and for most of Monday I moped about. Then Monday night I had dinner with my lovely friend Amberley and I started to feel a little better. I'm sure the few glasses of wine helped too.

It's funny though, many things have struck me over the last few days. I expected that I would hate being back in the city, but I actually didn't feel like that at all, quite the opposite. I decided that rather than stay with friends I'd head back to the hostel I began my adventure at. Partly for the convenience of not having to wait around anywhere for hours with my backpack and partly because I was in need of some conversations with random travellers to try and reignite my enthusiasm for moving on. I also needed a little time on my own to think about some things without feeling an obligation to be sociable. It was there that I realised how perfectly orchestrated the end to my time in Canada has eventually turned out.

Last night I went to see Amberley's school classes' christmas concert. It was cold, snowing big flakes, every bit Canadian wintertime, and it made me think back to when I arrived and the change in the seasons I've seen here - torrential rain, followed by extreme heat, followed by fall and now winter. After the concert we stopped in for a quick drink at The Communist's Daughter, a bar I've many times meant to visit but that every time I've been in the area has been packed to overflowing. Not last night. So we stopped for quick beer and then headed on to Java cafe to meet Lisa for some food before moving on to see some bands at the Horseshoe, most of them bands I'd seen at some other time during my stay here. Highlight for me was probably Hollerado playing a cover of Holland, 1945...seemed so fitting after being at The Communist's Daughter earlier and it made me smile.

As I was standing waiting for the Spadina streetcar just after midnight with the snowflakes still falling, I realised that my time in Toronto had come full circle. I spent my last couple of days in the city just as I had spent my first...same places, same TTC rides, same lovely people to share that time with...and it made me smile. At that point  it felt right somehow that I should be leaving.

Today I woke up feeling far more positive about things. I disposed of my unneeded and some jumpers to the hostels free clothing shelf...and set off somewhat lighter in every sense. I'm still sad to be leaving...I'll miss pancakes, bacon and maple syrup, supermarket shopping trolleys with fixed back wheels, butter tarts and being able to turn right on a red light. There are more than a few people that I'll miss a hundred times more. But I know I'll be back. I was only mildly irritated on the subway this morning looking at the people on there with an envy that they'd still be in this beautiful country tomorrow while I wouldn't be, rather than outright hating them for it.

And so now I lay here on my bench at Cleveland airport contemplating life and listening to looped Christmas music. Alongside me Sharen is busy writing to a friend about the amazing hand driers in the restrooms and tapping her feet in time to the music. We finally managed to navigate the chaos that is Pearson airport...2 full hours required to get through security and US immigration once we'd found the right terminal....and then less than an hour after take off we arrived in Cleveland. It immediately became clear this was going to be a quiet night, with only a half a dozen or so people staying overnight it seems. A conversation with a very friendly and helpful Peruvian airport cleaner called Fidel resulted in us finding a great place to sleep...comfy benches, tv and all night dunkin donuts nearby. He also gave us a full history of what Cleveland is famous for, something we'd just been contemplating a few minutes before and drawing a blank. In fact as I was writing this he came back to find us at the end of his shift to give us some factor 50 sun cream, because 'we'd need it in Mexico' and to wish us well on our adventures. It's encounters like this that I travel for, what makes things more than just a trip from A to B.

As I started to write this I was reminded for some reason of something a wonderful hostel owner, Jasmin, in Sarajevo once told me. He said that he often received postcards from people who had stayed at his home and that he held a special affection for one particular guest who had come for a few days and ended up staying for a few months and had become almost one of the family. When this guy left, he wrote Jasmin a note thanking him for his hospitality and he ended it with 'see you later' rather than 'goodbye'. His reason, he said, was that 'goodbye' was too final and implied that he wouldn't return, whereas 'see you later' showed his absence would be temporary and that he'd soon be back.

Canada, see you later x

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