My avatar across the web: a photo of my feet in grey-white socks and brown sandals.

Ben Babcock

I read, write, code, and knit.

Home for the summer

Well, I’m not home yet. As I write this, I sit in the basement of my grandparents’ home in Waterloo, Ontario. They are a nice stepping stone between England and Thunder Bay, and I elected to spend a few days with them before flying the second (and considerably shorter) leg back home.

But I am in the process of going home, which they say you can never do, but I’m a rebel that way. It has been a long schoolyear in many ways. In other ways, it feels like the year has gone by exceedingly fast. I am somewhat in awe that I have finished my first schoolyear as a teacher.

Travelling home begins with a two-part bus journey from Bury St Edmunds to Gatwick Airport. This takes about four and a half hours. I was excited about returning home for the summer, but as the bus pulled out of Bury, I had a slight feeling of melancholy. I’m attributing this to anxiety around travelling itself. This attests to how comfortable I’ve become in England, that leaving it for home evokes both anxiety and relief rather than simply the latter.

I’m not a fan of the entire process involved in getting home, even though, having done it a few times now, I’m starting to feel unusually familiar with it. This time, the ride to Gatwick was improved by running into an LSA who works at the school. She and her boyfriend were going to Gatwick to catch a flight to Rome to kick off the school holiday. I would have happily spent the bus ride reading and listening to music, but this was an equally pleasant way to pass the time that provided a modicum of social interaction without making me feel overwhelmed.

As the bus entered London, the impressive towers of condominiums and businesses confronted me, reminding me how unsuited I am to life in the big city. The prospect of such tall buildings so close together daunt me. (We have very few tall buildings in Thunder Bay and fewer still, if any, that can be called “skyscrapers”. Having never been in any of them, my first experience with a building on the order of 25–50 floors was when I went to Eaton Tower for my visa application appointment.) The city is so paved, so full of people and vehicles and buildings, in a way that smaller towns are not. I can understand why people are attracted to such a busy atmosphere, but I prefer the quieter life of a town that has achieved a more modest homeostasis.

At Gatwick, I checked into Yotel, a minimalist sleeping experience. It’s located within the airport itself, and it delivers exactly what I need: a clean place with a bed and a bathroom where I can sleep for eight hours and get washed up before leaving in the morning. Since it takes so long to get to the airport from where I live, I prefer taking this route rather than travelling early in the morning to catch a morning flight. I slept very well, and then I had a nice breakfast in the airport, at Giraffe. (I have always been disappointed that Giraffe does not serve actually giraffe. I had bacon, sausage, eggs, and toast instead—and two cups of Earl Grey tea.)

The flight to Toronto was uneventful, which is just the way I like it. I met up with another Canadian teacher from my school just prior to boarding the plane—we had checked in online together and managed to secure seats across the aisle from each other. I’m glad I did the online check-in, because it meant I got to walk past a rather long line of people, directly to the baggage drop-off line. My checked suitcase weighed 22.6 kg, just under the 23 kg limit!

Our plane had the individual entertainment units set into the back of each seat, and the movie and TV shows on offer were decent. I watched Argo and Admission during the eight-hour flight. I considered watching Life of Pi or Les Miserables; however, I think I’d prefer to watch the former with someone else, and I suspect I would enjoy the latter more on a larger TV screen. Also, the earphone jack was loose in such a way that I was only getting sound to the right speaker, which probably would have detracted from my experience of a musical…. I enjoyed Argo a great deal, and Admission was fun but not quite as good as some of Fey’s other work.

I’ve had a chance to meet with some of my friends from university who live in this area. I’m here until Sunday, when I will fly back to Thunder Bay and enjoy the rest of my summer.