When you tell a Jamaican you are from Canada what they hear is that you are from Toronto. I try to explain how vast Canada is, that I know nothing about Toronto’s suburbs, that there’s no way I could know their cousin Raymond in Etobicoke. My explanations are generally met with puzzled faces.
I’ve tried specifying that I live on the Pacific coast, but I’ve been asked more than once where that is. If I say straight north from Seattle or California sometimes there’s some twinkling of acknowledgement, though sometimes that comprehension is being faked.
At some point I discovered that if I say that I am closer to Toronto living in Kingston than I am when I’m in Victoria, whomever I am speak with gets some semblance of the scope I’m talking about. I was surprised to find that, according to Google Maps, my claim is not technically true; it is
- 5370 kilometres from Victoria to Kingston,
- 2712 kilometres from Victoria to Toronto, and
- 2863 kilometres from Toronto to Kingston
I can’t explain why it takes almost two hours longer to fly from Victoria to Toronto than to fly from Toronto to Kingston, but I’m sure someone out there will explain it to me.
My bigger point is the distance from here to home feels insurmountable some days. There was one morning when I’d only been here a few weeks when I thought I might have to go back home, and I speculated what those 2,000+ km legs of journey would feel like should that happen in an emergency – interminable. There are other moments, when Skype is working well and the people on both end are relaxed and happy, that it feels no distance at all.
This week in Negril I had the great blessing of face and beach time with a friend from home. Just talking about our shared faces and spaces, chatting about the Jamaican experiences we’ll have in common when I get home, and looking forward to the treat that will be for me was amazing. Climate aside I could as comfortably have been on my back deck as on the beach.
It seems that, like time, distance is elastic. They say it’s a small world. Some days. Some days it is incomprehensibly huge. On those days distance is measured in silence, not in kilometres. I’m grateful for those whose arms and smiles and words circumnavigate it no matter what that day’s relative distance is.