Friday, 27 July 2012

A Tourist or a Traveler In Toronto?

Friday 27th July, 2012; 15:37
Location: Sue and Tyrone's Apt (aka my old place), Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Why: It's like I'm still traveling. Sorta.

Well, it's been 3 weeks since I landed back in Canada for a little break from wandering the globe. I spent some time at the rent's house in Brampton catching up. Then settled in Toronto to ease myself back into 'reality' and have been staying with my sister Sue and her BF Tyrone. Their apartment is actually my old place before I moved to Vancouver back in 2006.

A snapshot of The Apartment before I moved to BC:

Wow, time flies and everything's changed. But nothing's changed and yet there are changes. Being back in this city after many years away has left me somewhat bewildered. Excited in some aspects and dismayed at others. It feels like I'm still traveling as I navigate the neighbourhoods that was once the centre of my universe.

One day, I crossed the busy intersection of Lake Shore Blvd West and Bathurst and made my way up to Queen West, the street that shaped my future as a teenager. It was exciting to feel the pace and vibe of this neighbourhood I loved so much. However, as I made my way eastward, it quickly became apparent how much had changed. For the worse.

No longer was boho Queen Street what it once was. I saw many of my favourite shops disappear, replaced by big corporate boxes. The last time I was here, the area was gentrifying itself. But when I saw that the long standing Peach Berserk clothing shop had closed, a little bit of me perished.

For those who know me, Peach Berserk created the possibility of the young adult I would become. It lead me from an artsy pixie co-op student at Mayfield Secondary School into the world of university, fashion and graphic design, and now a nomadic gyspy.

I was happy, however to see that Queen Mother Cafe is still standing strong.

Even better was seeing the sign had stayed the same for decades:

One neighbourhood that I was happy to see still retain it's charm without complete commercialization was Ontario College of Art and Design (OCAD). The college which is adjacent to the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) on Dundas Street has undergone some significant changes over the past few years. I recall the AGO being a dusty mess of a reno in 2005 during the Massive Change for Action exhibition.

But it was dust well spent. The interior is scrumptiously organic in design:

When OCAD got an update, I was opposed to it's design; balking at how "out-of-place" it would look in the neighbourhood. But I have lightened up over the years since living in Vancouver. I came back to this hipster part of town for a gander and actually the college's modern facade lifted my spirit. I must say, I absolutely love British architect Will Alsop's OCAD addition.

It's bright and playfully modern. That's Sue in the picture! 

I wandered through a few more areas I used to haunt. They felt familiar and foreign at the same time, visually stimulating my senses. After a while, I was overwhelmed and emotionally confused. Was I a tourist or a traveler here? Was it still my home? Or is it Vancouver? Or Melaka? Ubud? Suddenly, I felt more displaced than ever. Even more so than when I first stepped on Canadian soil in early July.

A nomadic spirit I have become.

In the days following the initial tour of my previous life, I have started to settle in and adapt to the pulse of Canada's busiest intersections. As I take in everything around me, sometimes it feels like I never left; that I never went abroad.  But then a smell, a colour, a sliver of a taste will bring me right back to Thailand. The imported durian reminds me of it's abundance in Vietnam. A woman in a headscarf whisks me back to Malaysia. And a random backpacker coming out of the Global Villager's Hostel reminds me of all the guesthouses and hostels I laid my head in for so many months.

I look away, fighting back tears to be on the road again. I remind myself that France is only a few weeks away.

Absolutely incurable wanderlust.

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