10.06.2012 - 14.07.2012
Well, we’ve been home just over one month now, and from the rainforest of Costa Rica, we plunged head first into our suburban Ottawa life, under a relentless sun that has scorched everyone’s patch of grass yellow. The contrast is striking: the houses feel huge, the stores even more so. The roads are wide, straight, smooth… and so long! Trees and flowers have been planted by man in neat rows and patterns, pretty and civilized, to offset the drab dullness of cement and pavement. And immediately, we fall into the demands of domesticity: buy a car, clean the house, plant the garden, mow the lawn, get groceries, buy clothes for the girls who have outgrown most of their wardrobe, run to appointments, get the boat in the water, manage your stuff. Stuff is everywhere. Despite having thrown out bags of stuff before leaving, we begin unpacking and there is still too much stuff. The garbage bins along our neighborhood streets, on garbage night, are overflowing with stuff, much of it wasted or too easily disposed of. Planned obsolescence is such a money-making, marketing coup, but it seems such an affront to those who have to scrape together a living out of nothing.
My god, was it only a month ago that we were living wild and free, with nothing but what we could carry on our backs? It all seems so far away…
We are happy to be home, but not all to the same degree for the first few weeks… Chloée couldn’t wait to return and slips right back into her life. Her best friends organize a surprise welcome-home party for her and present her with a “treasure box” filled to the brim with mementos of what she missed during the year: birthday parties, Halloween, Christmas. She is delighted to be home. Arianne’s classmates organize a “special day” in class to celebrate her return, complete with welcome home banners and a picnic. However, she struggles for the first few weeks: it’s like she has forgotten how to hang out with kids her own age and it takes a while before she starts feeling comfortable and confident again. She says she misses being “just us”, with nothing else to do than be together, no distractions, no competing obligations. Alain and I are so overwhelmed by all the things that need to get done that we are on auto-pilot…
But then the dust begins to settle, slowly. We reconnect with family and friends, who embrace us with gentle, unconditional love. The house echoes with the laughter of busy play dates and the chorus of Bon Jovi’s “Living on a Prayer”, as the girls let loose playing Rock Band on the Wii. We head for the woods, on a weekend camping trip and after-dinner bike rides, and rediscover the magical aroma of sunbaked pine needles and the invigorating beauty of a swim in the lake. We fill our eyes and hearts with the colours, smells and textures of our Canadian wilderness. The light dances on maple and birch leaves, dappling the forest floor with liquid gold. As a homecoming gift to the girls, we repaint their bedrooms in bright, happy colours. They roll up their sleeves and pick up a paintbrush with us, and suddenly, it is just the four of us again, wrapped in the intimacy of a shared project.
And this is where we remind ourselves that it all really happened. We have learned to BE together on this journey. We have been inspired by the values, culture and ways of life of others. We have broadened our horizons, opened our minds, challenged our assumptions. We have seen and experienced beautiful things.
We hold dear what was and hope that it will shape what will be. We appreciate more fully the bounties of life in this beautiful country: clean air and water, arable land where we can grow enough food to feed the country, equal opportunities, universal health care, justice, peace, an economy that has weathered the crisis better than most… May we as Canadians recognize what we have and protect it before the tides change. Everything we enjoy here is a fragile privilege, and equilibrium that could easily be toppled by political or corporate greed. This has been the story of countless countries who have as much potential – in their resources, in their people, in their cultures and identities – as we do! It is our individual and collective responsibility to care for Canada, to nurture it, to protect it. And we must do this one random act of kindness, one judicious decision, one sacrifice, one vote at a time.
We will miss our nomadic life, but yes, we are happy to be home… until next time!
This may be our last blog entry for a while, and before signing off, I’d also like to note that we wrote this blog first, as a personal record of our adventures (hence the inordinate amount of details at times!), and second, to keep our loved ones abreast of what we were up to. I alternated writing my entries in English and French, in the hopes that this would allow us to reach out to more of you, but beyond that, we never gave much thought to the extent of our readership, nor was that ever really an issue of concern. However, we were quite surprised by the number of people who ultimately did take the time to follow us!
To our families and friends; to the friends, siblings and parents of our friends; to all of you who have joined us on this journey, who have shared our discoveries, and who have offered us your love and support in so many ways: MERCI. THANK YOU.
Nous vous aimons tous beaucoup et comme le dit si bien Saint Exupéry:
FAITES QUE LE RÊVE DÉVORE VOTRE VIE AFIN QUE LA VIE NE DÉVORE PAS VOTRE RÊVE!