Friday, September 23, 2011

Canada



The ol' car, covered in bug guts from three
provinces, gets ready for yet another boat ride.
This time to Vancouver Island.
Welcome back my friends!

As many of you may know, I've had been out of the country for a while and back in my native Canada.  I didn't blog while I was there, but like any good ex-pat, every now and then I’m compelled to return to my home country to visit relatives, tell stories, and share my experiences. I've finally gotten around to writing something and here we go.

You might wonder how I feel about Canada.  Do I get homesick?  What do I miss?  You might be surprised to hear that I’ve become somewhat of a stranger in my own country.  I now look at things through the eyes of a bewildered visitor.  I wonder what changed in me to create this effect.  Has Canada changed or is it just me… or both? 

Here are some of my observations as an insider who lives on the outside:

Geography: I’m Western Canadian, originally from Saskatchewan (one of the larger provinces).  Canada is made up of 10 provinces, and 3 territories.  6 of the provinces are huge… as in bigger than Texas huge.  My former hometown of Saskatoon is very far from Vancouver and very very far from Toronto.  If these are the only Canadian cities you know… then you will have to consult google maps to find it.

Saskatoon City Hall
People: Saskatonians (those from Saskatoon) are generally a friendly lot.  They suffer -40C temperatures for several months of the year and this requires a great degree of solidarity.  Settled originally by a combination of German, Ukrainian and British immigrants, the city now boasts a far more international population, being somewhat of a ‘starter city’ for Canadian immigrants from around the world.  I feel very sorry for someone from the Middle East or Africa suffering their first day of -40C weather.

Saskatonians enjoy a day at the race track.  Featured here
is Saskatoon's Marquis Downs track... where I have yet to
bet on the right horse.
Business:  When I was growing up in Saskatchewan, it was one of the poorest provinces in Canada and this is certainly no longer the case.  Boasting rich reserves of oil, potash, diamonds and uranium, the province is going through somewhat of a renaissance.  Saskatoon is growing, and becoming the most unlikely of business hubs.

The Porsche dealer in Saskatoon, says he'll sell all these cars and
many times more this year.  Saskatoon business is booming!
Travel:  Canadians like to drive long distances.  The distance from Saskatoon to Vancouver, for example is 1,678 km. Travelling this distance at the posted speed limits would take 19 hours and 39 minutes plus rest stops.  Driving by Porsche, it takes about 10 hours.  :)

Vampires:  Blood sucking in Canada is said to be the exclusive domain of the federal and provincial governments.  Vampires that can somehow survive the cold are lucky to find any blood left in their victims.

Language:  The Western Provinces of (from east to west) Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia are predominantly English speaking.  For various reasons, the French language is actually shunned in some areas, though it is inescapable as it appears on all packaging of any product sold in Canada.  I was recently introduced by a Quebecois friend to new friends here in Paris who described me as HALF Canadian… because I only spoke English.

Mountains:  There is nothing as majestic as the Rocky Mountains.  I’m sorry they don’t have a more majestic name.  For the price of a few gallons of gas, they can be enjoyed at will.  They are a spectacle in any season of the year… and almost too grand to behold.

Enjoying a Starbucks at the commissary area
at the Tsawassen ferry terminal.
Water:  It seems that in life, I am moving to smaller and smaller islands.  I’ve lived on Vancouver Island, Oahu and now the tiny Isle Saint Louis.  Travelling to Vancouver Island and the neighbouring islands is most frequently done by boat.  For a reasonable fee (to some), one can drive their car right onto the boat, and ferry across to the neighbour island while watching the coast drift by.  As a resident I hated the bother of a ferry commute, but as a visitor I love the chance to get out on the water.

A view from one of the many BC Ferries.  This one leaving from Tsawassen
(south of Vancouver) to Duke Point (in Nanaimo). 
Hippies:  My last impression upon leaving Canada was the observation of a species I call the West Coast Hippie.  If you thought you needed a time machine to see a hippie, then you are mistaken.  Tribes of hippies still live in British Columbia and tend to prefer the islands.  They can be spotted by layered clothes of poor quality and often a knitted fabric.  The males wear full and uncombed beards and the females tend to smell of cannabis and eucalyptus oil.  Like their counterparts of 50 years ago, they can be heard quoting Karl Marx, making various references to ‘weed’, and never ever ever will they mention anything job or work related.

This was my ride back to Vancouver.  I sat right next to the pilot.
Thank you for reading my friends, more Paris observations are on the way.

Your humble friend and observer,
Sir Robyn

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