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A Mainer Abroad: When homesickness sets in

The holiday cheer in Ottawa is nonexistent. There hasn’t been a federal holiday since Canadian Thanksgiving — more than a month ago now — and before that I had already begun to see fake plastic pine trees right alongside pumpkins.

My roommates had never drank eggnog until I brought home a half-gallon carton. Holiday spirit? None. They laughed when the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) played footage of people protesting outside Starbucks because of their red cups. They adamantly chastised Black Friday, even though it’s not the day after Thanksgiving here. While these actions may not be representative of the entire Canadian population, they are representative of the reality I’m living in. Christmas trees on the curb adjacent to bins of Halloween pumpkins just don’t sit so well. I feel a little out of place wanting to watch cartoon classics such as “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” There has always been something about the Grinch that I’ve identified with. Perhaps it’s the fact that I normally hate Christmas. I hate Christmas. Whether there are gifts or not, whether I visit family or not, whether I go to mass or not, or whether I volunteer at the Manna Ministries soup kitchen or not, I cannot think of many redeeming moments that happen on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. I am excited for Christmas this year. I’m excited to go home after a little more than 110 days here.

Homesickness struck me earlier last week, but now it nags callously at me. My way of life has changed, and there are innumerable things that I miss. I no longer haunt the Louis C. Oakes Room Cafe in Fogler Library. I don’t drive myself anywhere. I haven’t seen a gas station in months. I rarely have a clue what street I’m on, just which bus lines take me from point A to point B. I do not go outside of the city. Transportation has never played such a visible role in my life. Riding the bus would have saved me hundreds of dollars if I didn’t already have a car payment. My ears perk up whenever I hear a motorcyclist twist the throttle wide open. I think that I already would have rebuilt my motorcycle’s engine if I was still in Maine, and I would be riding. Imagine a bearded man grinning fiendishly, sporting a leather jacket over a work jacket over a Carhartt hoodie, not to mention the four pairs of wool socks and three pairs of jeans. I rode on Christmas Day last year.

I know that homesickness isn’t a visible affliction, but that doesn’t make it any less real. This is the season it strikes. We’re all sprinting to the finish — finals and then winter break. This is also the time of the year that people start to lose touch with one another. I highly encourage everyone I know to go out for coffee, throw an ugly sweater party and make plans for both before and after finals. Freshmen especially, you need to be around other human beings. Do not hide in your dorm rooms. Just because winter is coming doesn’t mean it’s time to hibernate.


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