I wake for the fifth day in a row in my new city, Toronto. I snooze the alarm for another hour, unable to peel myself from the comfort of the duvet. Still on Pacific-time. When I finally wake up I feel something close to good, not missing home, a little less heartbroken. I dig out the almond tea I bought in Seattle, I swear it tastes like drinking purified Digestives. I still can’t decide if this is the greatest thing on Earth or a truly horrific taste sensation – I’m leaning towards horrific today. I manage to find something clean to wear, the rest a dirty pile on a chair in the corner. I’ve been meaning to sort them for days.
I feel like my life has been on hold for the past two weeks. I glance at the list I wrote days ago, not one thing crossed off, admin. I can hear my mum’s voice in my head, her personality, with my voice. Just make a small start, one thing. It’s not that hard. I sigh internally. My family always seem incredibly together, my mum the strong, kind hearted head of the house, my dad the quiet craftsman, but with a strength and wilfulness. I can see where I get it from, the stubbornness.
I answer any last messages I’ve been ignoring, out of character for me. I’ve barely left the apartment since I arrived, a week wasted.
The first time I made it out of the comfort of my Air BnB I sat in the centre of one of Toronto’s malls, I’d been rejected from the bank I’d so carefully researched – seriously banks are complicated here – a cup of coffee in hand, mid huff. He plonked himself down beside me and started talking, it takes me a minute to even realise he’s talking to me, telling me off for drinking Starbucks instead of Tim Hortons. I apologise, explaining I’m not from here, and to be honest it’s almost 6pm and I haven’t had any coffee so frankly I don’t care where it’s coming from. He keeps talking. I’m relieved of the distraction, but reluctant to engage with him.
Unfortunately (or maybe that should be fortunately), this isn’t Hollywood and there’s no fairy-tale ending in store; a sexy Canadian sweeping me off my feet, roll the credits as we head off into the sunset. Funny how the film always ends before reality kicks in. Instead this is the prospect of a friend, and so today I have plans.
We agree to meet up for lunch and head to the festival on the beach later. It’s hot, yes this might be Canada but the summers are insanely hot and humid, too much for my weak Scottish blood. The weather has that look about it, clouds gathering on the horizon.
It’s the first time I take the bus, or try to take the bus. Three pass without stopping, too full to take anyone else, before I give up and start walking. By now it’s been half an hour and I could have walked into the centre in the time it’s taken. Apparently this is normal. I wonder if this is why all Canadians can’t seem to walk at a normal speed, taking it easy while their friends are stuck at bus stops waiting for a bus that won’t ever come.
For anyone who hasn’t heard of Poutine, it’s basically chips drenched in gravy and topped with cheese curds – kind of similar to mozzarella in texture with a mild flavour, but holds its shape when heated. We go to a place called Poutini’s House of Poutine. Even before the food comes the name makes me love this place. I go for the works – chips, cheese curds, gravy, bacon, sour cream, and chives. This is like the Canadian equivalent of a kebab and chips at the end of the night, heavenly filthy food.
Poutini’s House of Poutine – This is the small bowl, and deceptively filling.
Reeling from the poutine – this stuff is deadly – we head to the beach to check out the Jazz Festival. The place is so laid back, the whole city is laid back. There’s beer, sunshine, chilled out music, a Cuban band are on the main stage, a few elderly couples dancing ignoring the crowd.
I have to leave before my phone runs out of battery, but the festival will go on late into the evening. For me, I’m looking forward to being in a hostel again. Ready to face the world and be sociable once more. And so begins my delayed start to life in Toronto, not with a bang, but a stomach full of cheese, potato and beer. Is it sad to admit this is the most fun I’ve had in a fortnight?