Saturday, January 10, 2015

Charged Up

5:16 AM

Share it Please

September 12, 2014.

Disclaimer: This is a very rough timeline of what went on that night. I wasn’t drunk!

Around 9:00 PM - 10:00 PM:

It was a Friday night, and more than anything, we wanted to have fun.

Living in a Canadian university dormitory on a floor with thirty other girls was something I was getting used to. Two weeks into school, everyone was still in that getting-to-know-each-other stage, but by this time we’ve all become comfortable with each other.

I walked into the floor lounge and heard people talk about the Northern Lights. I learned it was rather unusual to view them from Vancouver, but there were news reports saying they would be visible that evening. One of the girls brought two other friends over. All in all, we were a group of nine, so we made a little count-off scheme to make sure we didn’t lose anyone. Thirsting for a little adventure, we decided to hop on a bus to Kitsilano, where a friend of one of the two girls lived.

10:30 PM:
The plan was to crash said friend’s apartment and go down to Kitsilano beach before 1AM, the time we expected to see the lights. After reaching the apartment, some of us chose to grab some coffee from the nearest coffee shop that was still open at 10 p.m., which turned out to be about 15 to 20 minutes away. We ended up at Tim Hortons, something you might have heard about in How I Met Your Mother. You could say it’s the Starbucks of Canada, but more affordable.

Almost everyone I was with that night was Canadian or had grown up in Canada. One other person had spent a few years in Canada. Aside from me, only one girl was new to Canada, hailing from Seattle. We were told that the Iced Cappucino (more popularly known as an “Iced Capp”) was a very popular product of the store that was probably more sugar than it was coffee.

That was the night we had our first Iced Capps, and we found them weird. I could barely taste the coffee because it was really, really sweet. I actually felt like I was drinking my way to diabetes! Okay, I’m stretching things a bit.

On the way to and from Tim Hortons, we talked about ourselves, past experiences and how we felt about studying in a university full of people intimidatingly smarter than us. We mostly talked about our high school experiences (and in my case, being a St. Scho and UP Diliman student), and the things we missed back at home.

11:15 PM:
We were back at the apartment by around 11:15 p.m. Three more girls were there. We spent some time chilling around until we decided to head down to the beach at midnight.

September 13, 2014.
12:15 AM:
(I’m not sure how long it took us to get to the beach, but let’s say it took 15 minutes. It didn’t take very long.)

We found a nice spot for everyone to sit and eat the chocolate bars we were passing around. There were a lot of random lights around, so we feared we wouldn’t be able to see the Northern Lights at all. At this point, all we could do was wait until we saw them.

It was there on that beach where I have come to realize and accept the changes I was experiencing as a result of migrating to Canada.

Because I brought my camera, I decided to torture my friends—er, test my camera’s flash. After that, four of us formed a small group. We still talked about our past experiences and our feelings of excitement and anxiety about university life, but our options for the near and distant future were among our favorite topics. We had different interests, yet we shared the same feelings about how we would get through university life. One of us wanted to transfer from Arts to Sciences. Someone else planned to go to med school after graduation. Another one, an Engineering student, was still thinking about what kind of Engineering she wanted to get into. I told them I wanted to spend the rest of my life with Physics, and about career options with a Physics degree (trust me, there are tons, though some may seem unusual. Case in point: Atom Araullo).

My friends and I worried about how we would fare compared to our classmates. An unhealthy habit of mine is comparing myself to others: I can find out about all of a person’s achievements and talents only to end up hoping I could be the same way. I was so busy occupying myself in other people’s lights that I couldn’t see my own. I realized my friends were sharing the same worry, which managed to ease my anxiety a little.

Another thing constantly on our minds was money. Student loans are a thing here, because most kids are expected to pay for university on their own, or at least depend less on their parents when it comes to money matters. Being in a family of new immigrants, applying for student loans caused me to roll in a debt faster than Adele could sing. In university, my friends and I were left to wonder how we were going to pay off our loans, and if we were to get part-time jobs during the school year.

I learned to believe things weren’t very different from things in the Philippines. Just like my friends in my home country, my friends here in Canada are also asking the same questions about the future, and fear the uncertainty it shoves down our throats. They also worry about their GPAs, the competition of the job market, and the opportunities they were hoping would come up. More importantly, in the same way I missed Manila, they all missed their homes and the family and friends they had there.

Another thing we had in common was that we all looked forward to spending time together for the rest of the school year. We looked forward to all the wild, funny and crazy things we would be doing, and to everything waiting for us outside of residence life (about three months later, a group of possibly drunk people left a lamp post inside our house building!).

I was afraid I wouldn’t find a group of friends similar to the ones I’ve had in the past, fearing I wouldn’t relate to them as much, and that coming from a different culture would hinder my communication skills. I was happy to be wrong.

1:00 AM – 1:40 AM
The Northern lights haven’t shown up at all (*tears*).  It suddenly got chilly (that’s because we’re in Canada, eh), so we decided to find a bus and head back home.

2:00 AM
We saw a bus in the distance and ran to the bus stop. Some adults standing outside yelled (in a friendly manner, because he was Canadian), “Isn’t it past your bedtime?” I would have told him it would be impossible to go to bed at 2 a.m. if you were in university, but I was too busy chasing a bus early in the morning.

We didn’t see the Northern lights that night. I don’t know if my friends realized it, but they made me see things in another light: My new life in Canada won’t be completely different from my old life in the Philippines after all, and life was going to be more difficult than we imagined it to be, but the future looked bright.

Article by Andie
Art by Trianne

Science has been Andie’s thing since she was four (she once thought the Milky Way was the gateway to heaven). She doesn’t mind being called a geek—because it’s obviously true—and is now a physicist in the making. She believes her puns, jokes and pick-up lines are amazing, even if everyone else around her doesn’t. Andie constantly thirsts for adventure, and is ready to give almost anything a try.

Trianne is a girl who enjoys meeting new people but tries not to be socially-awkward. She has never ending thoughts about everything and daydreams of lying on a bed of fries. Most of the time you'll hear her passionately singing the wrong line to a song.


  1. I am deeply moved by this article. There is nothing more I can say.