I've been back in Blighty now for what feels like a million years. It's rained. I went to Tesco. I remembered why I hate people. Just kidding, but I did remember why my claustrophobia spikes when forced into giant supermarkets where the non-spatially aware of Didcot flock like a murder of crows. But, I did also get to play with five-month-old babies who sneezed on me and then infected me, and my favourite gathering of people, well, gathered, Chez Lawfull on Tuesday night and it reminded me of why I love people. So, y'know, Jumble Lawfull counter-acts the grocery-requiring pensioners of Oxfordshire's most terrifying ghetto. Anyway, Canada feels like an age ago which is terrifying when I think about it.
Fortunately, thinking is one of the things I do best. As is being awkwardly introspective and engaging in internet over-share. This time last year I was thrilled about the prospect of the third year abroad experience. I was bascially finished with the most horrendous second year imaginable, complete with plenty of uncertainty over whether or not I would even get a place at an international institution for a year. However, one thursday last May, any worries about being forced to go to Waterloo were banished with one email: an email saying I had been accepted to Ottawa. (As an aside, if anyone can tell me where Waterloo is, I'd be very grateful. I did ask the Canadians, but even they weren't sure).
Following a summer horrendous enough to equal my second year of university, my depature to Ottawa could not come soon enough. In fact, I only began to feel nerves one Sunday after church.
"Shall we pray for Hannah?"
At this point, I had asked one person for prayer about my elbow.
"Lord, when Hannah is terrified and lonely and sick with nerves..."
"Father God, we know plane travel is dangerous..."
Cheers, guys, what perfect prayers.
Then there was Thanksgiving with the most generous people you will ever meet, where jelly was served with turkey and it transpired that my tastebuds do enjoy pumpkin pie and the forfeit of sining 'O Canada' in the street in Surburban Ottawa. And who can forget Toronto? Glorious weather and incredible views both out and below from the CN Tower, a favourite diner and meeting with a favourite professor. And managing to then choose the wettest day to visit Niagara Falls, meeting pilots and eluding lecherous tour guides, getting soaking wet from both rain and spray and rocking the blue poncho look. And ice wine and chocolate-covered strawberries and amazing company.
Zak's Diner become the embodiment of #YOHOYA, as did late-night library banter, comedy evenings and dodgy sex therapists with sticky-out ears. Moose-hunting in Parc Omega was full of joy, as was trying to persuade wapitis that you were friendly enough to pet them. Celebrating my 21st birthday in total Ottawa style, hanging out with Cooper, my new best friend and his gorgeous owner, Sam; reminding Yvet about the memo not to be too touristy and having the utter priceless and heart-breaking experience of visiting the Akwesasne First Nations reservation. Then there were lights across Canada and the first snow falls; impromptu sleepovers with Christina and befriending a stuffed hamster. Falling in geeky love with AM Klein, sniffing far too much sweetgrass thanks to my Native Studies class, getting to learn from Harvard's finest graduates and trying, with Christina, to woo a student who doubles up as a trainee soldier.
And not to forget the incredible people I met that first semester: Dee, Grace, Bikram, Christina, Emily, Devon, Lydia, Jon, Gabby, Yvet, Lisanne, Lihan, Mark, Nicola, Beth, Gen, Kat, Tonia, Geog, Kelsey, Sam, Joanna, Vicki, Hazel, Jolene, Julia, Keegan, Mel and a whole host of others whose names I can't recall write now in my still jetlagged state.
As for second semester...piles of snow taller than me; being a part of the Idle No More protests and repping Exeter to uOttawa. Getting to grips with the sheer amount amount of food Christina brings to class and enjoying uOttawa's Snow Festival despite the temperature falling to minus 40; supporting the Sens and living the Canadian dream by hopping on a dog sled and flying into the Quebec sunset. Plus Winterlude with magical ice sculptures and tentative steps onto the frozen Rideau Canal and much much much post-colonial banter with Christina. Going to Boston despite the snow storm warnings, the Canadian War Museum followed by wonderful wine, yet more Idle No More protests and Parliament visits. Leonard Cohen tribute acts ReSSA journal fun, Christina and her obnoxiously large pen, Strathcona's swings and destroyed shoes.
Falling in love with baby goats and survivng bus crashes, meeting beavers, albeit stuffed beavers and watching Jenny try to run away from terrifying dinosaurs. Crossing into Gatineau and being terrified by giant black widow spiders; my creative writing class being the most fantastic creative group of people you will ever meet and getting to learn from truly incredible professors. And as for all the people I met - Jenny, Rebekah,Angie, Larisa, Josh, Selina, Jordan, Simone, Leah, Colin, Mark, Bradley, Adrienne, Bridgette, Emily, Kyle and everyone else I've forgotten - you have all been wonderful.
Maybe I should use this third year abroad concluding post to sum up and speculate how I've changed, which I did quite a lot of with my six-month anniversary post. What I will say is this: this has been the most incredible year of my life, and I say that with total honesty and completely devoid of hyperbole. I know I am braver and more-assertive, more determined to pursue my passions the year of adventure has re-ignited and I have been so supremely blessed by all the people I have met. My heart is so full with joy right now and I am confident that the memories from this year will continue to top-up my joy levels for the rest of my life.
But the adventure didn't end with hopping on the plane in Ottawa. Oh no, it began with hopping on the plane to Ottawa last August and it won't end until the Lord calls me home.
It's all very well to come home and to say how incredible and life-chaning my year in Ottawa was, but it will all have been meaningless if I don't know live my life in light of that change with Canada worked in me. So I was brave in Canada? That means it's time to be brave in Blighty? So I was out-going in Ottawa? Better be out-going in Exeter then.
It's time to grab the phenomenal memories from Canada and add to them; from the third year abroad adventure to the rest of my life adventure. Let's do this thing!