Having spent the entirety of my life surrounded by woods, fields, golden rod, and camouflage and/or plaid shirts, the jump from rural Nova Scotia to Halifax has been a bit of a culture shock. Where are the barns? Where are the farmers? And what are these “crosswalks” you speak of? Thai food? You can get that here?
There are so many people.
(Shut up, I know Halifax is a small city.)
It’s different here.
I’ve interacted with more strangers in a month than I have in my entire life. I’ve met a bajillion people, some of them on the bus (s/o to the lady who bid me good day), some of them on campus (day students represent), and some of them around the city as I walk from bus stop to bus stop (s/o to the Newfoundland couple who waited forever with me).
Everyone is busy, walking fast with purpose behind their smartphones and really cool sunglasses. There are so many young people. I’ve never seen so many people between the ages of 18 and 26. Everyone is attractive and hip and apparently we’re heading back to the late 1990s/early 2000s in fashion (I’m not sure how I feel about that). All hail grungy band t-shirts.
No one here wears camouflage. No one. It’s bizarre. The ratio of camo-to-plaid-to regular clothing in my hometown is something along the lines of 23:15:2.
Kids in the city walk to their bus stops by themselves without fear of being mugged or stolen (country students like me are scared of walking by ourselves in daylight because someone is obviously going to steal a fully-grown adult in a street with 100 witnesses).
The houses are extremely close together. People don’t have yards. (Growing up in the literal woods, this is weird for me to grasp.) The air smells like fast food, car exhaust, and butted out cigarettes.
I miss the smell of golden rod and asters and the earth exposed when corn crops are harvested. I miss the smell of fresh lumber and the woodstove.
(If you follow me on Twitter you’ve no doubt been made aware of this).
Until I moved to Halifax, I have only been on a public bus once, when I was little and my cousins took me to the Discovery Centre. Let me describe to you what it’s like to take the bus from the perspective of someone who grew up isolated from civilization.
It’s a giant metal tube full of suspiciously oozy smells that may or may not be wafting from the dozens of people crammed into it. You have to sit next to people (touch them) who in the worse cases, smell like they’ve never showered and sing to themselves, and in the best cases smell nice, leave you alone, and don’t make shifty eye contact (also sometimes the gods are nice and you sit next to an attractive guy with a beard and a lunch box and he gets off at the same stop as you). If you’re terribly unlucky, you sit in a wet seat (sometimes on a day when it hasn’t rained in a week) or have to stand and hold onto those sticky yellow poles for dear life.
Some bus drivers are cranky. Some are hopelessly friendly and I want their energy. At least one of them looks like Stanley Tucci.
You also have to pay attention to where you are, because you’re brand-spanking new to the city and you know nothing, Jon Snow. Google Maps is your lifeline. You sweat (partly from being in a nerve-wracking tuna can, but also because what if you end up in New Brunswick by accident???). You have to decide how early to pull the slimy string-thing — too early or late and you’ll be walking. Then you have to figure out how the doors open. Some of them open for you, others you have to wave idiotically at, and others you have to push like the little brother you never had.
Buses are always either super late so you have to allow an extra 45 minutes before class just to ensure you’re there on time, or they are super early, so you miss it and have to wait for the next one. Goddammit guys, make up your mind.
Also, traffic. In the country traffic consists of two cars, three trucks, and a tractor (sometimes with a manure spreader).
Don’t get me wrong. Halifax is pretty cool. Walking downtown makes me crave to see it as it was 100, 150, 200 years ago when everyone wore top hats and the harbour was full of tall ships and you could buy candy for like a penny.
I love the contrast between 100-year-old buildings with stone Grecian-esque pillars and the blue-glass office towers next to them, and the old townhouses with chipped pink shingles like a ruined manicure next to that. There’s so much history and culture, both old and modern.
Art is a thing here. It’s everywhere. Festivals and random sales on the sides of the roads and poetry readings.
I can walk two minutes and buy a coffee, something I could never do before. The fact that there’s so many shops, businesses, and general PLACES is still overwhelming.
I’m going to university with people who share my interests and love of learning. My professors are amazing and so deeply intelligent I just kind of sit through lecture with my jaw on the floor, drooling on the notes I should be taking. My mind is in a perpetual state of blown-ness.
To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, “The country is cool, but you can’t spontaneously buy $8.00 cheesecake there.”
Have any of you made the leap from rural to city life?