Milchtoast

Chronicles of a writer abroad

Catching up

10 Comments

We’re back from our whirlwind trip to Canada. I planned to offer you some highlights today, but that was before I realized that essentially the whole trip was a highlight. I/we got to visit with parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, and some old friends too. Excellent meals were consumed with everyone we met. We spent time by the ocean, in the frenetic downtown cores of Vancouver and Toronto, and in the peaceful oases of Sidney, Orangeville, and Elora.

We also shopped until we dropped. Stelian and I hadn’t done any real clothes shopping since leaving Canada at the beginning of the year, so part of our visit was spent in marathon shoes-jeans-shirts-running-stuff shopping sessions. And we each bought a new laptop computer, so once mine’s fully set up, I can retire this clunky, five-years-old-and-missing-more-than-one-key monstrosity on which I’ve been writing.

I also found time to pop into my favourite Vancouver used bookstore in order to stockpile some English-language fiction:

Going to the grocery store was fun, too — 2 and 4 litre jugs of milk look gigantic to me now. I discovered that I no longer really care for this oatmeal I was pining for in the early days — that’s a happy thing, because it means the version that I’ve learned to make here is superior. But my taste for this had not changed:

That’s 2 oz of bliss right there. Even though we have some pretty good chocolate here in Switzerland, I’m glad I brought a bar of this home to savour — it brings back fond memories of Vancouver. In fact, I was tempted to bring home more epicurean souvenirs, but I’m glad I didn’t, since our bags, emptied of chocolate gifts but newly laden with clothing and books, just squeaked under the weight allowance.

While I expected that being in Canada again after a significant chunk of time away might be strange or difficult, I found that it wasn’t at all — it so easy to fall back into speaking English all the time and to unconsciously operate within the framework of the customs and norms that I grew up with. One novel thing was how much I was scandalized by dirt and garbage — in the TTC, for example, and generally around downtown areas. I forgot how much gum you see everywhere on the ground, and evidently Canada doesn’t polish its garbage cans the way the Swiss do :). Additionally, after a delicious Greek-food birthday dinner on the Danforth in Toronto, I took a stroll towards Yonge St. and was surprised to see that the bridge over the Don Valley near my high school has been suicide-proofed. It’s been years since I crossed this bridge — how long ago did this happen?

Coming back to Zürich also felt familiar and homey. Unlike the other airports and cities we’d visited, it was nice to pick up our baggage quickly, hop on a train and be home in a matter of minutes. Things are smaller-scale and less complicated here, which I appreciate. The unfortunate thing is that we’ve returned in the middle of another relentless and seemingly interminable heat wave, but we made the made the most of it yesterday, joining the masses on the shores of Lake Zürich for a swim, and afterwards, a round of the dangerous-but-addictive card game that we picked up in Ontario. I do hope it will cool down soon, since we need to catch up on sleep, running, and work, all of which become more difficult in this kind of heat.

Also, now that I’m back in Zürich, Canadian news is once again grabbing my attention, with Jack Layton’s obituary headlining every Canuck news outlet this afternoon (morning, I guess, for those of you who are over there). This news came as a fairly big shock to me: though I noted in my last post about this that Jack looked very ill, I didn’t expect him to be gone in under a month. Very sad for his family, and another reminder of how quickly fortunes change; how incredibly fleeting things can be. But of course his last message to Canadians (in the form of a letter released today) was an uplifting one. It seems fitting to end on this:

“My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.”

Amen, Jack.

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10 thoughts on “Catching up

  1. Sounds like a wonderful and refreshing trip. And even more refreshing to come back and know that you are really home.

  2. Interesting dichotomy between squeaky clean Switzerland and ‘dirty’ Toronto. We always thought that To had a reputation of cleanliness; everything is relative, I guess.
    I’m so glad you got to do and see all the things/people you wanted to during your whirlwind visit. Boppy and I are still so pleased that you ‘grands’ like to come see us.
    Keep cool and enjoy your new reading material; great way to beat the heat 🙂

    • Toronto is quite clean compared to many places I’ve been (elsewhere in Europe, for example). But they really do polish the garbage cans to a shine here — it’s hard to compete with that.

  3. A Fine Balance! If I had to name just one book as my very favourite, this could be it. Can’t wait to hear what you think about it. Now back to reading the rest of your post…

  4. I’m glad you two had such a great trip. We so enjoyed the chocolate you brought us:) Thanks again! What is the new card game that you picked up?

  5. It was so wonderful to see the two of you again – we were so pleased to see you looking happy and healthy. In reference to Jack Layton – no matter what your politics are, I think most Canadians share the sorrow in losing him. He is an inspiration to all of us who want to make this world a better place.

    • Great to see you, too! And I agree with your comment about Jack — people of all political stripes seem to be showing nothing but respect and sadness after this loss.

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