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A Mainer Abroad: Bird’s Eye View

Study Abroad Column

It has rained or slushed here in Ottawa for a week or so, not that I’ve been here to see it the entire time. I got back from Norfolk, Va. on Monday afternoon. It was Canadian Thanksgiving. My flight to Virginia had been one of the most beautiful flights of my life; flying over upstate New York whilst the sun sets is an almost spiritual experience. The red foliage on the maple trees was bathed in an orange glow and by the end when the sun was far in the west the leaves contrasted the purple-green sky.

The flight home from Norfolk to Ottawa was the most beautiful flight I’ve ever taken in my life. I was glued to my porthole window as we took off. On the ground I could see the geometric patterns of the fields and the rivers that split them. I was horrified at the jade green runoff coming from several of the oil refineries outside the airport in Pennsylvania, but the man I was sitting next to on the plane explained that the runoff was completely normal. He and I talked life for a bit, and he told me about growing up in New Jersey, and I told him about growing up in Maine.

It was stranger than fiction to have a stranger tell a story of a place hundreds of miles from my home, a place that sounded a lot like my hometown. The plane landed on the tarmac in Philadelphia with a high-pitched squeal of the tires. My new friend and I parted ways forever, and I walked to my gate: F35. The gate directly adjacent to mine was a flight to Bangor, Maine and I’ve never missed home as bad as seeing people I knew get on a plane to my birthplace. My heart ached, and I stepped toward the plane to Ottawa after an hour-and-a-half of sitting and staring at the people on the flight to Bangor International Airport.

The flight from Philadelphia took a route that I wasn’t expecting at all. We flew so close to Manhattan and the other four boroughs of New York City that it felt unlawful. One World Trade Center was the most visible amongst the other steel and glass structures. It took me back to second grade when school was cancelled on 9/11, and on that airplane high above New York I remembered walking its streets and Central Park. My plane landed at MacDonald-Cartier Ottawa International Airport an hour later. I walked from the airport to my apartment about a half mile away because the bus service was running late, and when I got back to my bungalow in the sleepiest of neighborhoods: Hunt Club.

My roommates asked me to eat Thanksgiving with them. I am a stranger to them, simply a man who answered a classified advertisement, but even this far from Maine I am thankful for the people who treat me like family. The week since I’ve come back is a blur, but that’s mostly from the campaigning by all the politicians. Election Day is Monday, Oct. 19. Canadians have had the longest campaign season in the history of their country: 78 days. The 10-year-itch is a tangible electoral process here, and their Prime Minister has been in office that long. Most Canadians think it’s a time for change. The brevity of their election seems laughable by the standards we have in the United States, but it is just another subtle difference between the two countries.

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