30 June 2018

What you leave behind

I have just arrived in Zurich from Montréal. For the second time, that is, since I left the city on a rainy April night after nine years of residence.

Now it was just a vacation trip back - the "new normal" for my encounters with the Great White North. In the past nine years, I had established a tradition of returning home for my birthday, using the occasion to throw a little party and catch up with many friends. The concept has worked so well that I have decided to keep it going, just now the other way round: Hence forth, I will endeavor to be in Montréal for the day, which falls conveniently close to the province's own fête nationale.

The first iteration of the new birthday ritual went swimmingly, and much to my delight, there were even attendants that had previously been regulars at the Swiss event. A reassuring sign that oceans don't necessarily keep people apart. Even if it means turning yet another year older, I am already looking forward to next year.

Over the course of the evening, and of the few days I got to enjoy in Québec again, what struck me most was how much the "new normal" felt like the "old normal", i.e. the life described in these pages since 2009. It's not just because my situation in Switzerland remains a mess filled with all sorts of temporary fixes that I have been aching for familiar grounds, but because I realize more than ever just how much Montréal has become an integral part of me.

There were Bixi rides around orange cones on the way to Adonis. There were reassuringly boring visits to the bank, where I discovered new fees introduced in the two months since I left. There were sunny afternoon swims in Parc Jean Drapeau. There were brunches and new ethnic eats. Not to mention juicy strawberries and blueberries from Québec's fields. There would have even been free musical performances - although a summer rain put paid to that.

Despite my frequent griping about poor politics, high taxes and an overwhelmed health system, this is a place that I have come to love, and to miss. After nine years, Montréal, too, is filled with memories on every street. And with people near and dear to my heart.

So is this the last chapter? Probably, hopefully, not. For it is in returning to Switzerland that I have come to understand what I leave behind: Home.

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