This short piece was written for the Ampersand Journal (McGill University) Summer Issue 2011.
It was a summer of blurs. Six cities, five addresses, four countries, three jobs, two suitcases, one girl. A student summer – when it’s not spent wasting away in front of the TV in that new-found post-finals freedom – generally consists of one or more of the following: job, internship, travel. This summer, my last in Europe before coming to Montreal as an exchange student, I decided to try my hand at all three.
First on my list was Edinburgh. I’ve lived there for two years, and yet in my post-exams freedom, it struck me anew just how beautiful a city it is – domes and steeples, bathed in light, tripping over history in the streets. A short flight later and it’s on to Oslo, in all its artistic grunge and glory, set against the clear and pristine glass surface of the fjords. When we heard about the shootings there two months later, the memory became inexplicably more sombre – the peacefulness we remembered was so distant, as if underwater.
By that point, I was back in England, having braved the five hour drive from Edinburgh to Birmingham. By British standards, that’s something of a long journey. A few weeks later, I had spent a few days in Nottingham and was living in London, reminded daily to mind the gap as I left the tube. The London life was everything I could have imagined – a magazine internship, dinner on the South Bank of the Thames, underground cocktails – and the photocopying, book-logging and coffee-runs at the office. I remember struggling down the street with six cups of coffee in hand (I say in hand – I mean cradled precariously in my ungainly arms) prompting a passer-by to yell “Intern?” with a look of simultaneous amusement and pity.
Regardless, interning in London was more glamorous than the jobs which followed it in my attempts to save for the year ahead of me. Having received job rejections almost everywhere from Selfridges to Starbucks (and Starbucks in Selfridges, come to think of it), I found work as a cleaner for a little old woman in Staffordshire who took rather too keen an interest in my love life. Many, many hours of vacuuming and many cups of coffee later, I left to work in Edinburgh for the Festival. The atmosphere was astonishing. Each day, when I left my job as a kindergarten worker, let my hair down and changed out of my uniform, I was struck anew at the vibrancy and life of the city around me. People swarmed in masses of colour as singers, dancers and mimes performed in the streets, offices, pubs, parks, and alleyways.
And all too soon, it was the last week of August. Several trains, two flights and a few minor immigration issues later, my two suitcases and I find ourselves in Montreal for my exchange year. And so begins another blurry adventure.