My basil plants just won’t die. In Australia I had no difficulty in killing plants. I’d see a fern at Bunnings and think, “This time! This time I’ll be able to grow a fern!” I’d buy it, take it home, lovingly pot it and water it… on occasion. Then the sun would come out and fry the little bugger to a crisp. Or, I’d remember that the sun is hot and place the fern on the verandah, in the shade. It would slowly brown and wither and die anyway. In Toronto this summer I bought tomato seedlings, nasturtium seeds and a few basil seedlings, as well as some small flowering plant. The nasturtiums all seeded, grew, flowered, and are now starting to brown, as are the leaves on a few trees in the vista North. There are yellows and even a red tree already. It’s Oct 1st today. A few weeks ago, for Dîner en Blanc, Daniel massacred my basil plants. He didn’t just pick a few leaves for his basil pesto; he pruned them, like Mum prunes (if past lives exist, she was a lumberjack). I stumbled out onto the balcony this morning, after the worse night’s sleep all week (on call plus sinusitis headaches and postnasal drip), beckoned by the really irritating and incessant hammering and machinery from the several condo developments in nearby blocks. My basil plants have sprouted new leaves from the remains of their stems. The soil is so dry it’s contracted from their terracotta pots. Yet they just won’t die.
Fall. One thing I’ve really struggled with is letting go of my Australian culture. It’s currently autumn. To call the season between summer and winter, “fall”, just sounds ridiculous to me. Except, that’s what everybody here calls it. After careful consideration I conclude that it’s not that ridiculous, as the leaves eventually do, “fall”, so it is technically correct. Besides, it’s culturally appropriate language in Toronto. This week my Facebook feed has been an explosion of reports about Australian Islamophobia: Senator Jacqui Lambie has moved on from rambling about Sharia Law, muslims, and National Security to announcing plans at introducing a private members bill to ban “identity concealing religious garments”. And she doesn’t mean nuns from The Sound of Music. Or the ridiculous dresses and hats that the Catholic Pope wears. Then some newspaper embarrasses the country further in their attempt at trying to publish a perspective piece. There was also a link about Katy Perry and cultural appropriation.
Then somehow The National Security Amendment Bill (No.1) 2014 was passed in the senate. Our government security agencies have the same unaccountable potential for horror that Ali Al Jenabi fled as a refugee to Australia, described in, The People Smuggler. And if you speak out you can get jailed. This got me thinking. And I got a headache. Probably from my sinusitis. I don’t want to have to call “autumn”, “fall”. In conversation with a Canadian I’ll probably use the word “fall” because it will be easier for them to understand me, as my accent is difficulty enough at times (I said BURGER NOT BAGEL). But inside, I’m still going to think, “autumn”. Is my refusal to assimilate my vocabulary to Canadians as offensive as a niqab or hijab is to Australian politicians in Canberra this week? Why haven’t I just learned the language? I have actually learned the language. I just like mine better. How much of a person’s culture should a person moving to another country have to sacrifice or lose to fit in? What other weird outcomes will we see next week rushed through in the name of “security”? Why did I startle when a woman in a niqab blocked the doorway when the lift in my building opened the other day? Was it because she was standing in the fucking doorway and blocking my exit and almost tripped me over? Or is paranoia infectious? Not lift, elevator.
I had a headache from the time I got to work yesterday at noon until about 2 am. I took ibuprofen twice, and two different brands of Cold & Flu tablets. I drank so many cups of water from the cooler that I had to pee every half hour. In the evening, even though it didn’t feel as busy as Monday night, I ended up reporting 15 CT scans. It wasn’t quiet. Despite my crushing headache and miserable mood I didn’t miss any important major findings – pain does increase attention to detail. I had completely forgot to eat my lunch, a fist-smashed cheese and Vegemite sandwich. On white bread. I stuffed it down at 22: 37, when I checked with the resident that she was comfortable reporting the study done at 22:20. It was delicious. For breakfast today I treated myself (all this week is just work, hoping to sleep, not sleeping, finally sleeping, getting up and going back to work) to Vegemite on hot buttered toast for breakfast. Golden. Last night I really missed all the other Aussie fellows. Last year didn’t feel like we were in another country; it felt like I’d just moved hospitals, where there were a lot more people with accents. The impending arrival of family and friends for our wedding, in 28 days, has reminded me that we are on the other side of the planet from home, and it’s never felt so far away.
We started planning our flights home next July. I miss our cat. And all my dead pot plants.