In the last week of August, Terry and I were able to go back to Calgary for five whirlwind days, thanks to my mum and some luck with scheduling. I’ve written in my own “bullet journal” about our time already, but thanks to circumstances in the last thirty days (including two hurricane scares and a friend visiting), I wasn’t able to put up a blog post yet. So here it is, with excerpts from my Leuchtturm.
Arriving back home presented me with two conflicting feelings. First, it felt like I’d never even left Calgary, like our flight out of YYC at three in the morning in March had been just a dream. Second, it felt like I was seeing the city for the first time. Leaving home – not just for a weekend, not for two weeks overseas, but actually living somewhere different for six months gave me an entirely new perspective. Yes, I felt like I belonged in Calgary – more than I belong in Nassau, for sure – but also, like I was a stranger, a traveler, smarter, wiser, more aware of just how much I took for granted. That’s saying something, because Nassau really is a city in the modern age. Just not the modern age I’m used to.
I live on a beach – and it’s paradise. Always hot and humid, no shortage of sun and summer storms, chairs and umbrellas and soft white sand. But that’s not all “paradise” is. As any other expat or retiree could tell you about the Bahamas, paradise is also paying $8.00USD for your milk. Paradise is not being able to deposit cash into your account, even when you’re standing at the till with your debit card. Paradise is waiting three months for a license plate for your car. Paradise is a monthly $150.00 electric bill. Paradise is storing your sugar, cereal, cookies, and chips in your fridge because the ants are relentless. Paradise is hurricane shutters and filling your tubs with water in preparation for a storm that could knock out power for weeks. Paradise is being told you’re getting new windows, but there’s no time frame, because “it’s the Bahamas.” Paradise is being told not to go to certain parts of town. Paradise is trying to explain the northern concept of “island life” to someone who was born and raised here. How awkward.
I’ve lost track of the number of times a sarcastic laugh and the words “this place” have escaped us after a bizarre experience. But in the end, this is an adventure, something Terry and I consider a key part of our relationship. And I didn’t realise the value of that until we landed back in Calgary and actually spent time exploring the city I was born and raised in, the city we spent our first five and a half years together in.
What surprised me the most was how I took it so much less seriously. Part of that might just be growing up, but the change that took place in only half a year really was astounding. Many insecurities that plagued me since junior high seemed to fade away. I threw out my foundation. Stopped shaving my thighs. Stopped having second thoughts about wearing denim shorts and tank tops. I wasn’t white as paper anymore. I had freckles I didn’t know were possible. And then, Calgary surprised me – how it felt to look at the mountains, even though they were bare from snow. Seeing my cat again. Hugging my mum, and dad, and family. Grocery stores that have everything you need in one trip. Liquor stores open past 9pm. Being able to walk around at night without worry. Our favourite food, like Taste of Quebec’s poutine, Hayden Block’s barbeque, and Dragon’s dim sum. From the poplar trees of Midnapore to the outdoor patios on 17th avenue, home, which had become so old and familiar, was a breath of fresh air.
There are things I don’t miss, like asthma (I practically live inside a humidifier now), cold toes, and stress in general, which I never seemed to escape. But now, I’ve realised just how accountable I am to myself. The trip home reminded me that this is real. I’m here! I could waste away on a beach for two years and have nothing to show for it, or I could learn a language or two, elbow my way into the scary world of freelancing, write two novels in two Novembers, learn to cook, do yoga, and take the ultimate advantage of being a 23 to 25 year old on a beach with nothing better to do than learn and grow.
In our excitement to live and visit other countries and cities, I think it’s safe to say that moving to Nassau first was being dropped in the deep end. Great when it’s snorkeling. A little scarier when the boat isn’t nearby and you’re far from the usual friends and support. If you’ll excuse the metaphors, we’re not just floating aimlessly on our backs in the waves – we’ve learned to tread water here at the very least. And if we can do that here, we can do it again, and again, and again. At least, that’s the plan.