Disembarking at Ontario: First Impressions

Welcome to my blog! Disembarking at Ontario is a series of short accounts that chronicle my experiences in Canada from my arrival to the present day; everything written about it is true.

“Canada is a dream and a nightmare. I float through my days half-asleep.”

Previous Post: Arrival


I’d love to be a rock, or a smooth bit of pavement, or a slice of the moon. This is nothing extraordinary. I think everyone wants to be something other than themselves.

If life was a book, I’d skip all the way to the end. I’d check out who I’ll marry, what kind of career I’ll have, how many children I’ll raise, to see if I’m the fun grandma instead of that old bag on the other side. Today, though, I am 17 and nowhere near close to being done.

Canada is a dream and a nightmare. I float through my days half-asleep.

There are mornings I wake up before my eyes open. If I stay very still and hold my breath, I can pretend that I’m back home on the top of my bunk bed, the air-con blowing gently at 23 degrees around the room. I strain to hear my father’s quiet step outside my door as he leaves for work. It’s a self-indulgence, my one truly childish thing. There is a whole world outside my door, after all. It would be a disservice not to reach out with both hands to grab it.

These are the things that are new:

The world is on fire; the leaves turn red and orange and crisp in the cooling air. I was never a child here; my mother never told me to layer up, my father never shoveled our sidewalk, I never made angels in the snow. I wear shorts all through November and into December because nobody taught me to be warm. I see snow for the first time, frost on my friend’s car window. I trace out ‘hello’ on the windshield and laugh.

When the snow finally sticks to the ground, I bend down and marvel at the crunch of it in my fist. When nobody is looking I press my numb fingers to my lips to taste the sky. After this is ice skating, and tubing, and snowmen — a hundred different things to do outside my door. Canada is so beautiful my eyes sting to look upon my new country.

Ice hockey is also a strange thing. It is violent and furious and boring. It makes me feel like I’m a part of something bigger than myself when I scream for the Canadian Olympic team. In my own country, it was badminton, squash, the kind of football you play with your feet. I learn Maple Leafs, and Canadian Montreals, and Vancouver Canucks.  I learn face-offs, and icings, and offsides.

And then, the food. I can see why my side of the globe was colonized so many years ago just for the promise of the taste of something other than salt. For the first month I hate everything I put in my mouth, and then for the next seven, I consume everything. There are cheeses and milk and chocolates and potatoes — I gain twenty pounds in my first year.

I miss rice, and soups, and noodles, and curry, and naan. I miss my mother’s cooking, and my dad’s lamb, and getting 5-dollar meals with my friends at 3am on a Wednesday. But it’s nice to always have chocolate milk if I want it; there are seven-layer salads, and hashbrown casseroles, and I’d never had a turkey before but I love it. There is something wonderful about always having a chocolate letter at Christmas, to gnaw at for a week after.

Canada is a dream and a nightmare, I

am glad of the public transport system. I adore the friendly bus drivers, the random conversations with veterans at my bus stop, the ease of which I flash my student card and get out.

I like how polite people are on the road, drivers who actually look out for the pedestrians, who stop at stop signs till I cross the road even if I’m yards away.

I like the clean air, devoid of the smell of gasoline and cigarette smoke and

I

am still 17 and trying to make sense of

everything is lovely, everything is so lovely. I pick up the lingo: no worries, nice weather eh, I’ll have a double-double, I’ll have the maple-glaze, I want a Canada dry and a poutine and a beaver tail,  I

(am held together by spit and glue, I don’t know how long I)

sorry.

I just need to catch my breath.

On my 18th birthday, two days before Christmas, I weep in someone else’s bathroom for four hours.

Canada is a dream and a nightmare, a never-ending sleep, I just need to wake up wake up wa

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