Well, it’s finally here.
…Okay, it was here 12 days ago, but I’ve been busy…
The idea of this month has been barrelling down the metaphorical Tunnel of Life behind me for a little while. I knew this month, in this year would be difficult. Now I find myself hesitantly reaching for the bottom corner of my calendar, slowly flipping the page from August to September, as though scared of what I’ll find on the other side.
I’m so consciously aware that I’m nowhere near Ottawa and nowhere near the people or places where I’ve found comfort for the past four years.
I wish I could properly articulate the way I feel right now. But it’s difficult, since it changes by the minute and mood. Most of the time I face some embattled sense of self, half of me willing my body and mind to go forward in an independent, blind flight, the other half pulling me back from the edge, coaxing me with the memories and thoughts of my university life.
The first weekend in September signified the unspoken close of a major part of my life.
Topping it off was the saying of a final Canadian farewell to one of my best friends, Ariel, who is off to pursue her master’s degree in London, England.
Like many of my best university friends, Ariel and I first met because we lived on the same floor in residence. She, room 504. Me, room 514. There were countless slipper-padded, sweatpant-wearing strolls between our two rooms. Plenty of trips dragging a toaster oven behind us like a puppy dog, in preparation for chicken nugget gorging.
I knew Ariel was going to be one of my best friends when she helped me carry my heavy Schwinn bicycle up a spiral staircase during one of the first weeks of September 2008. You know the stairs – those steep, more-architectural-than-practical ones that lead up to the Mackenzie King Bridge by the Rideau Centre. If I remember correctly, we almost died/dropped my bike over the rail as a result of laughing so hard.
I met Ariel in Toronto two weekends ago, and we had a wonderful time. We dined on crêpes, relaxed in parks, explored Kensington Market, indulged in afternoon Distillery beers, and avoided jumping on roadside mattresses in the Annex that may or may not have been infested with bed bugs.
Most my weekend visit was spent in Oshawa, where Ariel is staying at her aunt’s house before jetting off at the end of the month. Here I met her two cousins, six-year-old Zane and five-year-old Kian. Like many children, they were quick to love and the first name of adults were irrelevant, so long as you gave them piggy backs (I did) and allowed them to climb on you like a jungle gym (ouch).
Ariel and I also did a few of the things that have come to define our friendship. We harshly critiqued outfits on Project Runway. I held my breath and crossed my heart as she drove her grandpa’s 200-year-old (only a slight exaggeration) Volkswagen Jetta. We goofed off with water guns. I acted my real age (seven-and-a-half) and bounced about on the water bed as Ariel tried to get to sleep, giggling as I pretended we were at sea.
Ariel’s aunt also made a delicious meal one night – Moroccan chicken inspired by an old family recipe. It was unbelievable, and I promptly copied it at home to accompany this blog post.
Oh right, and speaking of home…did I mention that I moved out of my high school house?! Big news, and a big change.
Ah yes, so change. It’s happening very quickly. I have no idea where I’ll be a month from now, and that simultaneously terrifies and thrills me. Minor existential life crisis aside, I think I’ll be okay.
But still, four years of university was a long time, and I don’t think you can say goodbye to that phase of life without crying a few tears.
I look forward to what comes next and am happy to know that I’m charging (or at least moving) forward with the same support system as before – friends and family (heck, even this blog in some way or another).
So while I’m sad to leave the past four years behind, it’s with great anticipation that I pursue the next few.
Recipe: Moroccan chicken with couscous
Adapted from Ariel’s family recipe
- 2 tbsp butter
- 2 onions, chopped
- 2 red peppers, thinly sliced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 6 (a little more than 1 lb) chicken drumsticks, with skin
- 1 cup medium salsa
- 3/4 can orange juice concentrate, slightly defrosted
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon, cumin, pepper and salt
- Sprigs of fresh parsley
- 1 cup couscous (dry)
Heat 1 tablespoon of the butter over medium heat in a large, non-stick skillet. Fry the onion, red pepper and garlic until clear and glossy, about 10 minutes. Set aside in a large bowl. Mix in spices, salt and pepper.
In the same skillet, heat the remaining butter. Add the chicken and cook until each side is browned. Do not fully cook it, since that’s what the barbeque is for.
Find yourself a medium sized casserole dish that can be heated on the barbeque or in the oven.
Arrange the chicken in the bottom. Cover with the onion/red pepper mixture. Spread the salsa over top and end by covering that with the orange juice concentrate.
Cook on the barbeque with no lid on the casserole dish (but a lid on the barbeque) for 35 minutes at medium-high heat. Alternatively, you could cook this in the oven for the same time at about 400 degrees, I imagine.
While the chicken is cooking, cook the couscous.
Serve with the chicken and couscous covered in the onion/red pepper/salsa sauce. Garnish with fresh parsley.
Makes three servings.