Apologies, but there will be no photos in this blog. We didn’t take any. What would we have taken a photo of, the chair?!
Travelling across Canada by train has been up and down, but mostly up. The journeys have been a nice chance to stop and watch shitty TV shows, while talking to people we wouldn’t have otherwise bumped into. For Dan, it’s been his major opportunity to play endless games for however long he’s wanted to. During one particular stretch of us ignoring each other and being glued to our own device screens, Dan shook me and signaled behind him. A 10 year old boy had been watching him play Counter Strike the entire time. He made no noise, didn’t fidget and it became clear very quickly that he didn’t speak English.
After a lot of coaxing from Dan, this boy politely accepted the controls and began playing Mario Kart. The boy’s sisters, who were also angelically behaved, came to watch him play. After a couples of hours, a woman tapped me on the shoulder to let me know that the children were Syrian refugees and if I wanted to, I could talk to their parents a few seats away. This is where my smart phone came up trumps and showed it was capable of a lot more than playing shitty TV shows. I downloaded Arabic onto Google Translate and before long, we were able to ask them yes/no questions by typing them onto the screen and letting the mother and father read. Turns out the mother was past the point in her pregnancy where she would be allowed to fly, so a 2.5 hour plane journey had become a 2 day train journey. They were travelling to a place that had accepted many refugees before, so they said they were lucky to already know people.
The father was an incredibly gifted technician in an international business that had branches in Europe and beyond. As soon as possible, they are going to work, pay taxes and contribute to Canada’s economy. Yes/No answers weren’t enough to establish how they felt about having to move to somewhere they’d never seen before, but they seemed incredibly upbeat about the whole situation, and continued as a family, while some others around them were complaining about how late the train was (45 minutes). It’s definitely no co-incidence that the people who are most likely to vote against immigration are those that live in areas not heavily affected. I know who I’d rather be neighbours with.
Another lady we met on the train was a lady in her 70’s who was travelling across Canada alone. She definitely falls into an uncommon demographic, so I was curious as to what drove her. She told us about how her home in Manchester had been burgled the day before, but she couldn’t find it in herself to care too deeply. It turns out that she was a widow of nearly two years, to a man who’d needed her care increasingly over the last decade. They both had wanderlust in their lives but towards the end, they had to stay at home more often and just talk about where they’d go and what they’d see. He had been registered blind since he was 25 and talked a lot about growing up, when he had full vision. He was a Canadian man who lived in the Prairies, so when he passed away, it felt obvious to her where she should go on her first venture alone.
It was touching to hear her speak with enthusiasm one minute, and with a cracked voice and tear rimmed eyes the next. The emotion was raw for her and she had tried everything to ease her grief. She told us about how she found the widower meetings far too depressing, and felt too restless to join in any OAP activities. She had tried discussing things with a counselor and with her family, but found that her grief only increased with time instead of easing like everyone around her kept assuring. This journey was her last straw to try and come to terms with what she had lost. I hope she manages to make peace with his death one day.