I realize that the more I travel, the harder it is for me to write about a place as simple as home. It’s like taking it for granted and not feeling that it is necessary to write about it because it’s not such a “special” place, when on the contrary, home is the best place in the world. No matter how many exotic cities I’ve been to and how many adventures I’ve indulged myself in, nothing quite beats home.
September has been quite a hectic month. I booked my ticket back to Toronto in January for my friend Florence’s wedding – yes it was planned way ahead of time, but as the maid of honour, not attending was not an option, so I made reservations as soon as I found out the wedding date. Yet, the wedding was not the only reason why September was hectic. I had three events that needed lots of attention – the wedding, my baptism (both occurred in Toronto), and my midterm comprehensive exam in Belgium, which took place at the end of September, after my trip.
Amid all the logistics and planning for these three main events, I set aside some spare time to spend with my friends and family. You can read about the baseball game with Derek, the pre-wedding “retreat” with Florence, and my visit to Waterloo. Or you can read on to find out about other bits and pieces of my precious three-week vacation back home, in good ol’ Toronto.
I’ve wanted to see Toronto high up at night for awhile, and after a downtown dinner with Jay one night, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to head to the top of the CN Tower for a visit. The last time I went up must have been more than 10 years ago…I don’t remember. Jay was a little hesitant, since he claimed that he was afraid of heights, but hey, who isn’t? 😀 So I dragged him along with a little bit of convincing. We only went up to the bottom observation deck where the glass floor was, and didn’t bother with the SkyPod, but the moment I looked out the window I thought, wow, the view was…dazzling, to say the least. I knew Toronto was beautiful at night but seeing it from the CN Tower was a COMPLETELY refreshing and worthwhile experience! (Thank God for manual mode…and my purse which served as a tripod 😉 )
I love pretending to be a tourist in cities where I call “home”, such as Bordeaux and Brussels (close enough to Louvain-la-Neuve). Well, before these places became home, I was a true tourist, but gradually I got familiar enough that carrying a camera around with me and exploring new places feels bizarre. Back in Toronto, I’ve never really been a tourist, so that night Jay and I played the roles of visitors of the city. I mean, even GOING to the CN Tower is something that a local would probably not do very often! Teehee, here’s the official tourist shot of Annie and the model of the CN Tower. I’m almost as tall!
Aside from the amazing view of Toronto, the glass floor was the highlight of the night as Jay and I took turns (trying to) walk on it. I am not exaggerating when I say it took a good 10 minutes before either of us got the guts to step on those panes of glass. Then looking down as if we were hovering in thin air…now THAT’S a view! I don’t understand how people were able to run, jump, or lie down on it…kudos for courage. This is not for the faint-hearted! Ha, at least we conquered our acrophobia 😉
Now we move away from downtown Toronto and go back to Scarborough, the residential area within the Greater Toronto Area where I live. I realized that I haven’t been back to my high school for about two years, so one afternoon, I stopped by the school for a surprise visit. There aren’t many teachers I still keep in touch with. I really just wanted to see a former classmate (and the valedictorian of my class) who is now a teacher at the school, and my grade 12 chemistry teacher, who is now in the special education department. Everything was still the same – the colourful lockers, the dim Market Square (pictured above), the maze-like hallways. They say the high school years are the best days of your life and while I would disagree (university FTW), I have to say this school gave me more than education, friends and memories of a lifetime among them.
My sister and I took a stroll around or neighbourhood one day, and it’s kind of unbelievable that we’ve been living around the same area for 15 years. Well, we did move once, just 5 minute-walking distance from our old apartment building.
Now, about my baptism. It wasn’t planned until April or May this year, when I suddenly had the idea of getting baptised in Canada in September. Baptism had been on my mind for awhile; the only issues were where and when I’d get baptised. The questions seemed to be answered immediately as a light bulb lit up in my head, and I contacted my church in Toronto to see whether it could have been arranged. Praise the Lord, the timing was perfect and I was able to get baptised with 5 other brothers and sisters. Here is my baptismal testimony.
Aside from a general sense of belonging that I feel in the Toronto church compared with Bordeaux, the main reason why I wanted to get baptised in Toronto was so that I could testify in front of my family members, who are all non-Christian. My dad was apathetic, my sister was curious, and it took awhile to convince my mom to even attend the baptism service, but in the end they all went, thanks to the Lord.
A little anecdote of the day: The pastor who was supposed to perform the baptism was expected to show up half an hour before the service started, yet he ended up never showing up, and no one was able to get in touch with him. In a bit of a panic, our missionary asked Pastor Feng, who spoke in the video, to host the ceremony and perform the baptism, which he gladly accepted. In his sermon, he mentioned that he was not planning on attending the ceremony today, as he was too busy in the morning, but his morning service surprisingly ended an hour early. A voice spoke to him in his head, prompting him to attend this special occasion in the afternoon. Even though he wasn’t planning on dressing up too formally for the baptism, the pastor thought that he must present himself in the best way for our God, so he put on his formal attire and headed to church. Who knew that his presence would have been so important?
In addition to my family (dad, mom, and Sherry), I invited 8 friends for the ceremony. They were university good friends and housemates Florence, Derek, Oliver (who couldn’t make it 😦 ), Florence’s then fiancé Darwin, my long-time high school friend Hong, my university engineering buddy Andrew, my cute friend Candy, and baking guru Cindy, who I met in Bordeaux. Pictured above are Darwin, Florence, Annie (me), Derek, and Candy (full picture album here). I was so thankful that each and every one of them made it – some even drove all the way from Mississauga! It meant so much to have their presence and support. Thank God for precious friends like you guys!
And of course, even though my parents are still sceptical and even cynical about my faith, I am glad they attended despite a slight degree of unwillingness. All I could do was to testify about God’s work in my life for them, so that they could hear from the bottom of my heart what Jesus has done for me and why I am hanging onto my faith. I thank God wholeheartedly for blessing me with such a loving family that, even though they’re loud and and annoy me sometimes, supports me and cares for me through each and every circumstance in life. I pray for peace and joy for my family. Only God can open up their hearts for His love to pour into their lives, and I will let God do the rest. (Yes Sherry, I ❤ you too.)
Now, onto the FOOD. To say that I didn't miss the delicious varieties of food in Toronto would be a big, fat lie. I had managed to stay alive in Europe for two years without going hungry, but boy, did I crave the diversity of delicacies in Toronto, especially the Chinese and Japanese food! Let’s take a look at a (small) selection of what I had in Toronto this time around. I’m watering down the food photos in case you blame me for making you hungry, ha!
Left to right, top to bottom: (1) All-you-can-eat sushi at Akina with Florence and Candy! Seriously, AYCE is such a horrible yet irresistible invention. MAX INDULGENCE! (2) Japanese food again, this time at Guu with Jay (yup, dinner before the CN Tower). This dish is called “Ikapiri, deep fried calamari with spicy ketchup and wasabi mayo” and was amazingly delicious! (3) Mom makes the best mapo tofu in the entire world. I gotta say my version is pretty decent, but when I eat what my mom makes, it just like…how the heck do you make something so good??? There’s just SOMETHING about it that makes it one-of-a-kind and one of my favourite home-made foods ever! (4) Indian food with my dear Indian-Canadian nano-homie Chahat. I forgot the name of this dish, but it’s basically a bit of everything with lamb as the main dish. Yum yum and filling! (5) Spicy ramen at Ajisen Ramen with Florence. Slightly expensive but yummy! (6) Finally, Vietnamese pho at Pho 88 with dad. The special beef noodle soup is always my choice. So good!
After everything, it was time to say goodbye again. My dad took me to the airport on the day I left and it hit me hard that three weeks went by THAT quickly. Gah. One thing I felt guilty about was that through all the personal events that I had to be involved in, I didn’t spend as much time as I would have wanted with my family. Maybe that was why after I came back to Europe, I felt a strong sense of homesickness, which is not normal since I rarely ever get homesick. Ah well, I look forward to seeing my dad next year, which, if all goes well, should be in late September as I am inviting him over to France for my thesis defense! Till then, Annie, work hard and do your best. Make your family proud of you!