27 April 2010

Touch down

Today, I will touch down at Montréal airport, to be greeted by a city veiled in a thin layer of snow, covering the fresh green leaves, the tulips and the daffodils. According to the pilot's announcement, Montreal is going through a - hopefully final - cold spell. Having already seen very warm and sunny days over the past few weeks, a few flurries do not scare me at all.

A year ago, this would have been very different. For it was precisely one year ago today that I touched down at Montreal airport full of hope, curiosity and not least anxiety, ready to begin my Canadian adventure. A big, fat immigration stamp on my visa marks April 27, 2009 as the beginning of a new chapter in my life.

When I woke up this morning and realized the date's significance, I was dumbfounded. How could it have been a year already? Hadn't I only just spoken to that immigration officer, made my case and hoped to be admitted? Wasn't it just a few weeks ago that my co-workers had welcomed me to the team with a breakfast buffet, and my sole Montreal friend cooked a festive meal in my honor? It feels like yesterday!

But actually, it doesn't. Because the more I think of it, the more colorful and detailed my memory of the past 12 months grows. All the things that have happened! I discovered new favorite places, tackled new professional challenges, changed old routines. I found a place to live, experienced the multiple facets of life in Montreal through the seasons, learned to navigate the city and establish myself as one of its residents. As dull as it may sound, the creation of an everyday routine can be quite time-consuming.

And then the people! I've got to know new colleagues, made new friends and truly bonded with someone I did not even know way back then, in 2009. The joyful mix of French and Hanglish spoken still enchants me, and by now I actually understand most of it. Considering all this, it feels hard to believe that it has really only been a year.

Last weekend, my dad asked me on the phone if Montreal would feel like home to me by now, and I hesitated to give a clear answer. Today, I am returning from a short business trip to Toronto, reading La Presse in the lounge, flaunting the Québec drivers license as my ID, and going through my mental grocery list as we approach Montreal. I look out of the window as we descend into the city, imagining where exactly, in this labyrinth of streets and lights, the people I care about are buzzing around right now. I blindly navigate my way from the plane to the taxi stand, and chit-chat with the cabby about le Canadien before giving him directions to my flat.

Now, as I open the door, toss my bag into the corner, make hot chocolate and kick back on the couch, there is no more doubt: I've just arrived home.

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