From October 2003 to March 2004 I lived in Mali, West Africa. When I came back to cold Canada in the dreary last days of winter, I wasn’t really sure what my next steps were going to be.
After spending a few weeks sleeping on couches in friends’ apartments, I found a little place in Hull just over the river from Ottawa.
Like many places on the Quebec side, this one was part of a house that had been divided into individual apartments. It was even one of those places with the ½ on the address. It was sort of like a half apartment, an afterthought.
The entrance was on the side of the building and led right into a narrow kitchen not much wider than a hallway. There was a flight of stairs to the right, leading up to a much nicer 2nd floor – two rooms (living and bedroom) and a little balcony. The previous tenants had been kicked out because they let their little dog out on the balcony to pee. The pee would drip down and, of course, the family living below with the 2 year-old daughter complained.
I moved my paltry belongings in, painted the living room sage green and hung up art from Mali. I got a contract putting together an arts directory, but I don’t think I had a desk since I remember a lot of time being spent crouched over my laptop on the floor.
A lot of time was also spent figuring out what to do next. Since this accounting of homes is backwards in time, you already know what I did – which was to pick up and head off to Europe to be a pilgrim and a writer.
Amazingly the landlord let me out of the lease even though I only had the place for 2 months. I think he figured with the new paint job he could up the rent. I actually kind of lied to him and told him that I had been accepted into the translation program at McGill in Montreal and had to move there. I had been accepted into the program, but had already decided to do the pilgrimage/writer thing instead.