This is a continuation of my last blog post of my adventures in Toronto, Canada. I left off when I was about to meet my friend from study abroad in England, who I hadn’t seen in six years. I had no idea what to expect, but it went better than could have been anticipated.
I showed up a little bit early at the Ethiopian restaurant that we were meeting at- and sat at a table by myself while I watched the snow and ice coming down hard outside. The woman at the table next to me was also sitting alone, reading a book while she ate her injera and berbere spiced foods. The waiter was walking around either slightly drunk on alcohol, or life. He made some joke about both of us taking up a whole table to ourselves, and I laughed awkwardly. She laughed louder, and said she is here every week. Is he trying to kick her out again?
Sam, my friend from England who is from Toronto showed up a few minutes late- and we hugged like we had just saw one another yesterday. I think we both probably looked quite the same, but we had definitely grown as human beings. We had a great time getting to know one another again, and as I recounted my past five years- I could tell the lady reading the book next to me was listening in. Especially when I got to the parts about “hippie commune in Northern California” and “anarchist collective in upstate New York.” Sam loved all those stories, and she told me hers. About how she is currently doing her phd in neuroscience, and working to understand and find a cure for schizophrenia.
At one point during dinner, the restaurant filled up with smoke as someone in the cafe ordered a traditional Ethiopian coffee (they roast the beans right in front of you). We headed out at that point, and made our way through the ice and snow to a nearby bar that Sam thought I would like. It was called the Queen and the Beaver, and was an English styled bar in Canada. Perfect for a reunion of two people who spent a year together trying to be Britons. The bar was even complete with a picture of the queen right next to us. The monarchy is weird shit, you know? And Canada is part of the Commonwealth, so it made it even weirder to see her again.
It was a race to the finish the morning that I left Toronto. I woke up in time to realize that I really needed to buy some tampons. It was Sunday, however, and when I went out walking I was finding everything closed. Luckily, I asked at the front desk at the hostel and they directed me to a local pharmacy to pick up supplies. After that I grabbed a coffee, and charged my phone so that I could have it to look up directions to the bus station to catch my ride. The phone was taking its time charging, and then I rigged a way that I could charge it in my backpack while I walked. The innovation and risks of travel are beautiful things.
The Oddities of Travel
A sobering part of my weekend in Toronto was noticing all the people sleeping on sewer grates in the middle of the hail/ice storm that weekend. They had their faces on the grates, lying in the middle of the sidewalk without an cover over their bodies. The hail was just coming down, and they were asleep, or at least trying to sleep, through it all. How many people die up here from being homeless, I wondered. So much different than being homeless in California. It seems literally inhuman to just let people die out here. I didn’t know what to do.
One of my roomies at the hostel was a flight attendant, and I spoke to her about my fear of flying immediately. Because, when you’re traveling, this is the time to work out your shit. And I do (which is exactly why I need to remember to travel more often).
On the ride into Canada, I found a complete zen once lights on the bus went out and it was dark outside. It’s part of my life goals to find this strange zen in the middle of a room/bus full of people more regularly.
On the ride out of Canada, there were so many people hugging and kissing goodbye to important people in their lives at all the stops that we made. Also there are always interesting dynamics going on in the seats around you:
“This is the first time you’ve been on a bus, Mama? We’re going to drive you all over U.S…” a woman yells back to her partner, nodding at her mother in law. She’s sitting next to her partner’s mother who has just arrived from Germany. The mother doesn’t speak any English, and the woman next to her doesn’t have much German at all. But they are making it work. Suddenly, the girl sitting in front of them turns around, and starts speaking German to the little grandmother. The girl is from Bavaria, and so is the elderly mother. They bond over this, while everyone else is lost with the Deutsche.
“Mama said she’d bungi jump off a cliff with me!” the partner of the woman’s mother continues to make plans.
Later on the bus ride turns a little rough for me, as the girl behind me is hung over and having a rough time as well. I catch the little old German mother looking at me with a half smile while the panic occupies my face, and I am comforted a little bit. She knew. That Germanic anxiety.
Beer travel coffee writing solitude people running reading and making shit up on the fly. It.
Crossing the border into Canada turned out to be much more difficult for me than getting back over the border. Both ways, all 40 of us had to file out of the greyhound bus and go individually through immigration, along with all of our luggage. It was kind of a logistical nightmare. But on the way into Canada, we were greeted with the drug dog. It’s amazing, because a lot of people have a legitimate phobia of dogs, but they never give you a choice if you’re comfortable with a dog sniffing your body and your bag and running around in circles. They just do it.
They brought out the dog and the dog’s cop, and he had the dog go over each and every one of us at least 4 times. It took about 20 minutes, and I was the only one that let out a little laugh whenever the border patrol dude directed the dog to go over us for a third and fourth time. I realized that the laughter came from privilege, as I looked around and saw that almost all of my bus compatriots were people of color, and I was one of the few white people (apart from all the white border patrol people). I was however, very conscious of the guns and tasers in the border patrol guy’s belt, and when he bent over the dog by me asking him to sniff my bag just a little bit more, I felt threatened being so close to that gun. Also, they all wear Kevlar, which I find hilarious. They take themselves so seriously. Like, fuck borders, you know? Get your stick out of your ass.
On the way out of Canada, it was a little more relaxed, but I also got to hear everyone explaining why they were in Canada, and now leaving Canada. The US immigration officials really wanted to know our souls. The best story I heard was a young Canadian boy explaining why he was going to visit a girl Philly. The guard kept pressing him and pressing him on how they met. Finally the boy came out with it, and explained that they met on video game. Beautiful millennials.
After a few weekends in a row of crossing the border, you kind of get what they are trying to do. They ask you a lot of questions rapid fire, and their goal is to get you to spill your guts if you have anything to hide. They are always so off-putting. Like they’re trying to catch you in a lie, which they are
Jump off the bus
I ended my travels in a Buffalo bar where I got beer and pretzels in honor of all the Bavarians on the bus with me. I also shared with Carpenter because he picked me up and spared me from the last two hours of the bus ride.
I had already had a few drinks, but I also bought Carp one Hayburner– a beer that is named after what they called the mules on the Eerie canal (because they ate a lot of hay).
On the ride back from Buffalo we stopped in Rochester to say hello to France the noble.
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