On December 19, 2011, I was leaving Canada with my heart broken and with tears in my eyes. It was one of the saddest days I have ever lived in my whole life.
I remember that day like it was yesterday. I woke up and had my coffee and went shopping and had lunch out like in any other day. I kept faking I am not going anywhere throughout the entire day. I started packing two hours before I had to leave with only one purpose in mind: to freak out I am gonna miss the plane if I don’t hurry up instead of bursting into tears.
While packing, I thought several times of not leaving, I admit. I was trying to convince myself there are other illegal people in Canada and nothing happens to them. But then the voice of reason was waking me up. I was young and educated, I actually had something to offer to this country but I could have never done it as an illegal. Then what kind of life I would have had? Not having the right to study and to have medical insurance, always fearing I might get caught, not being able to make a police complaint if something was happening to me? If staying illegal my only option to become legal eventually would have been a marriage with a Canadian. Which rushed in other thoughts: “What if I don’t fall in love? Would I be able to trick a man for the sake of legal papers? Or to accept a man I don’t love out of need? Am I that kind of person?”
I guess I wasn’t because, I left to the airport eventually. I didn’t pack all my stuff. I left many things behind, because in my mind, when saying, “my gray boots are in Toronto” it’s like I have a different life going on there. I mean, I exist in people’s mind there, I have clothing and shoes and books there, in someone’s closet, so I have a life there. I know I am just fooling myself, but somehow, it makes it easier.
The last things that happened to me in Toronto were nice and warm, just like my entire year there.
The taxi driver told me the story of his life and how grateful he was to this country because even if he was just a taxi driver he was respected and he was able to offer a decent life to his children. He was formerly a doctor in a country I haven’t heard of, somewhere around Bangladesh but it was in Canada he felt he had rights and purpose and a chance to live a good life.
On this note, I entered the airport with tears in my eyes. The first thing I saw were these funny posters saying: “You could look at something more interesting than this, while you are waiting for your flight. Free wifi everywhere. Enjoy. ” It was so nice and welcoming, like Canada itself.
I had my last Tim Hortons coffee then I checked in. My hand luggage was beyond any limit. I knew I went a little bit too far, but I didn’t expect them to weigh it. The lady said she would have to put that luggage inside the plane for me and that would be 50$. I kind of got sad, I really didn’t have that kind of money. Then she said she will do that for free, on behalf of the company, but she cannot guarantee the same will happen in London, where my stop was. Nice and sweet, like my entire year there.
And this was my last contact with a Canadian person on Canadian land.
This was it. Canada was a beautiful experience beginning to end. December 30 2010 – December 19 2011. I watched the lights of what I assume it was the city, while waiting to get on the plane. It could have been Mississauga or any other suburb, it wasn’t very clear to me where the airport was exactly located on the map.
Either way, those lights for me meant life: people sitting in their living rooms watching the news, mothers reading to kids bedtime stories, people walking the streets in a hurry, maybe doing Christmas shopping or grabbing food or going to the movies.
My life was somehow on hold for the moment, I had no idea what would happen to me. I had no other plan but to come back to Canada for good and to finally live my life as myself, no more pretending anymore, no matter what the consequences would be. I was thinking how my Canadian experience was ending there, right then, for the moment at least, while for the thousands of people landing at that very moment, it was just getting started.
I would have liked to hear their thoughts, their dreams, to ask them if they are afraid, and if they are afraid, of what, to try to kill their fears away, to give them advice and tips, to help them make it there.
I would have wanted to tell them where the cheap sushi is and what the best places for brunch are, that on Tuesdays is half price at the movies and Winners has great discounts and now Marshall, the American Winners is coming to town, that food is cheaper at No Frills and there are so many festivals in the summer and Tim Hortons has good coffee and donuts but they shouldn’t eat too many.
I would have wanted to tell them there is free wifi at Starbucks and Second Cup and you can stay all day long and they won’t get mad if you only drink a coffee or two, that you can buy books with 1 $ from the public libraries and that the drivers say hi and bye and one of them even took me home when I missed the stop where I was supposed to catch the last train and because he had a break, he didn’t mind a detour.
I would have wanted to tell them that people smile at you, that the fancy parties are on King Street West and the language exchange is at Rivoli, on Queen Street West and that they can actually learn a foreign language at this exchange, like I had learned Spanish, for example, that Joe Fresh has very good nail polish and that they can buy second hand things from Value Village, from clothing to furniture, even books, until they start making a living and even afterwards, as they can always find really nice stuff there and the Value Village shops are all over the city and very well organized.
I would have wanted to tell them that the island has blue flag beaches and they should totally go to Wassaga and that there is a very nice view of the city on top of London Tap House where they can sit and have drinks at summer nights, that winters are really cold but there is the Path that allows you to get from point to another around downtown, without freezing.
I would have liked to tell the new comers all that, to spare them of asking around and losing hope. I loved discovering the city for an year, for me it was like a treasure hunt. I wasn’t looking for anything yet I found so many things. I was so lucky.
I left Toronto with the thought that life can be overwhelming in a positive way. I left Toronto grateful for every second I spent there, for all the people I have met, either they were nice or not so nice to me, they would always be part of this amazing experience. I left Toronto grateful for all the brand new sensations I had felt, for all the lessons I had learned. I was even grateful that a certain Romanian boy broke up with me in 2009 which made me run to Canada in the first place.
I didn’t know if I was going to be happy for the rest of my life, but I knew for sure I have the skills to be happy, entirely happy. What I brought with me from Canada were answers, many answers but I had to figure out to what questions they were answering to.
Yes, I left Toronto broken hearted but grateful for all the things I have lived and for all the things I have learned about myself. I left Toronto with my heart filled with amazing people, sweet memories and great stories.