In Toronto the streets are empty. This city that once felt like a bustling swarm now contains so much negative space. Everybody repels. Nobody attracts. Life is not lived outside. Everyone is in transit to their next safe isolation. Few look up as they pass. Less smile. Nobody says “Good afternoon.”
Manicured parks aren’t fenced.
We take a cab from the airport. We don’t haggle for a price. The cab seats are leather. I forget to buckle up. There are no cracks in the windshield. The driver has a GPS. He doesn’t beep or hand signal. We don’t meet any police barricades. I pay with a credit card. I question whether I accidentally hired a limousine.
The buildings are all finished.
Everything is inside. The store doors aren’t open. Houses are airtight. In Chinatown we walk past a lone store selling fruits and vegetables from open air tables. People mill about, pick produce and chat. I smile, but then we pass by and the sidewalks are bare again.
I don’t recognise pop songs on the radio.
I am overwhelmed by structure. My time is meticulously scheduled. I resent Canada’s dependence on haste.
I go to my doctor and it’s free.
My professor writes on the chalkboard during my first lecture this term. I contemplate checking my phone and suddenly feel physically ill. Why do I get to sit in this beautiful classroom and learn? Is this really something that money can buy? Who decided that wealth is a fair gatekeeper for education? Why do we keep disguising privilege as merit? The professor goes on. I don’t check my phone. I try not to cry.
The air doesn’t smell like anything.
I don’t know what to say when people ask about Ghana. Any answer feels like a lie. Often I am reserved. Occasionally I am a waterfall, desperately crashing down upon the listener and pleading for understanding. I fear leaving the wrong impression. I want to leave a complete impression. I can’t.
My skin colour blends in.
A few moments so far where I’ve experienced reverse culture shock. I’m fully back in Newfoundland now. I’m unsure where my blog will go from here – guess we’ll have to wait and see! Thanks for reading 🙂