Life and the City

A bustling street in downtown Addis Ababa

A bustling street in downtown Addis Ababa

Jane Baldwin, YCI’s CIDA Intern in Ethiopia, has just returned to Toronto from Addis Ababa.  Read about her first impressions of the city she calls home…





January 2009. Upon arrival in the wondrous city that is Toronto, the first impression is bleak, gray and cold. Literally and physically cold. In the winter, Toronto, on street level, is a quiet place, seemingly dead to the world.


I love Toronto. Toronto is my home. I have talked up the virtues of Toronto to many a foreigner, defended it zealously to many an Ottawan and I have supported the Toronto Argonauts, the Toronto Blue Jays, the Toronto Raptors, the Toronto Rock and the Toronto Maple Leafs.


During my travels, I have missed perusing Queen West with a big cup of coffee and good friends in tow, I have missed big, greasy spoon breakfasts, I have missed proximity to New York City and I have missed Street meat.


Yet, now that I’m home, in my beloved city, I feel disconnected. The city is missing something; the liveliness of people chattering in the streets, the noise, the hustle and bustle of a big city. What happened to the city I love? Do I really feel more at home in cities of squalor, that continually bombard the senses, without the luxuries of modern plumbing, consistent electricity or water than in a clean, sterile, aloof first-world city? The TTC is full of lifeless faces, resigned to inaction unless a chance encounter with an acquaintance or friend sparks the seeming rag-doll of a passenger into a life-filled being with thoughts, opinions and a smile. This transformation takes mere seconds, the catalyst only a familiar face. Perhaps harking back to an animal instinct, the people of Toronto tend to hibernate in the winter. I’m not use to this. I’d forgotten this defence mechanism existed.


Then, this weekend, something wonderful happened: temperatures soared to above zero. And the sun came out. Suddenly, the grey, bleak quiet dissipated and there was chatter, and there were people, and it was busy. The Toronto I knew, and the Toronto I love, is still here, just hidden, retreated into a big fur-hooded parka and a pair of sorrels. It took over a month to find it, but with a little sun and the remembrance that spring will come, and the city will come back to life.


– Jane Baldwin


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