Muholi’s Travel Log
The past week in Toronto was a fantastic blur. I arrived on Sunday, 15 June 2014 after five 5 years since my last stay there. I went to Ryerson University and it is where I studied MFA: Documentary Media in 2007 – 2009.
Arriving at the airport in the morning without a companion is always challenging, considering exhaustion, fatigue and baggage.
Nobody from the hosting organisation met or picked me up at the airport. Although my dearest friend, Fikile Mazambani offered I thought to myself let me rather explore the morning breeze alone. Anyway it was too early for her to be up at 5h25, which was my landing period.
I travelled aboard Air Canada, from Sao Paulo to Toronto in economy class.
You probably know what I mean. My journey was +10 hours long (with 1-2 hour of bad turbulences flying over water) freaked me out. The meals in economy class had their own classified issues! When we had taken off and it was time to eat, I could not eat their ‘food’, which seemed to be cardboard chicken, tomato stew and some mixed over cooked rice. Not dissing the chef though or those responsible for cooking for passengers on board. I just could not!
I asked the flight attendant for some bread and red wine instead. Just to have the flight attendant bring me the small bread roll – a stale bleached flour white bread roll that could hit you in the face and dent your cheek – was an issue.
The air hostess gave it to me with much attitude.
I swallowed this hard bread layered with my hardship. Bread for me means constipation because my body doesn’t process it easily. I knew what was to follow but I had to live. The bible says, Jesus survived on bread and red wine so I followed suit and slept immediately afterwards. I woke up in time for breakfast which I could not eat either. I did not even look at what they were serving.
Immediately after we landed in Toronto, I went through customs and there were long queues. I was greeted by a nice happy colourful rainbow art – which much reminded me of Odili Odita’s work.
I walked down the stairs avoiding the escalator to access customs. When I got there, there was a long queue and two customs ushers were at the front of the line, showing people which line to get into, i.e. citizens were to go in one line and non-citizens in another. A man got upset because one of the ushers had sent him to a counter that was not manned, after standing for a long time in the initial longer line. He eventually was attended to.
I travelled with a lot of students from Brazil who animatedly spoke in Portuguese. I saw the welcome to Canada signs that were in both English and French (insert picture). Ahead of me was a mother with her three children and one of the children started talking to her mom about me and the mom just listened without turning to look at me. I immediately imagined myself in that child’s shoes and how I could not talk about someone and prompt my mom like that. Maybe it’s because I am from a different era/group.
The family soon branched off and they headed to a different queue and I to another. The customs official was super nice and I was soon on my way to claim my baggage. When I went downstairs I remembered that unlike at the OR Tambo Airport I had to pay $2 for the trolley – a necessity to lug my bags. In my mind, this was just rude, paying R20 for something that I will never own – not a plastic bag – but something that will be left behind at the airport. I had no choice but to get one and proceed.
I stopped at Tim Hortons and bought some doughnuts and coffee. It felt so déjà vu because it reminded me of my broke school days! Tim Hortons makes you have that good angel, bad angel dilemma because you know it’s wrong but you know you cannot resist it. You want the sugar and it brings back many memories. Oh the nostalgia!
I took the escalators and went down to be met by a cool breeze – uncharacteristic of this North American city in June. Usually it is unbearably hot at this point. I pushed the trolley towards the black cabs that look like limos. Two cab drivers greeted me and I greet them back. One of them quickly announced to me that it would cost me $55 to go to Toronto. The subway does not open until 8 over the weekends and my flight had arrived at 5:08am. I had no choice but to take the cab as I had a lot of luggage.
I was immediately reminded of the classism or internalized racism that people in Toronto do not realize (or do they) they are engaging in. The driver had made his assumptions upon seeing me, and had felt it important to ‘warn’ me of the cost. I told him I could afford it and when I told him where I wanted to go his eyes grew wide. I needed to be dropped off at the Double Tree at the Hilton Hotel. The cab was $55 CAD and I handed him $60 CAD and realized he hand offered me my $5 change which is R50….
To be continued…