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Sunday, September 27, 2015

What is Canada?

I just read an online article about how Canada is perceived around the world, as experienced by longer term expats and their opinions didn't really surprise me. I've experienced the same thing. 
I think that Canadians as a whole might have a slightly different skew on what the world thinks of us, as a whole. Sometimes I feel like we sit in a bubble that was built in the last century and are so dazzled by the gleaming arc of it that we haven't realized that it isn't real. Sure, we're still seen, for the most part, as the polite, slightly goofy and definitely unimportant little sibling of the United States, especially those reliant on our tourist dollars.
The fact is that we aren't widely thought about at all, unless some news worthy tragedy happens, such as the attack on parliament hill or our curious absence from the Kyoto agreement. 
When we are thought of it isn't always the polite stereotype that come to mind. Our image is getting tarnished and that's the truth. To others in the know we are, at worst, US lap dogs and at our best still favoured above our neighbours to the south.We're no longer known for keeping the peace or solid ethics; a moral compass for the first world, and that, kids, is sad. We've locked down our borders to new comers, including tourists. Some people actually have to put up a bond to even visit Canada and the amount can be staggering. I've heard it can be over $20,000 per person - to visit. This to me is complete insanity.What has happened to our mosaic? Vancouver doesn't have some of the best food in the world because Canada was xenophobic - no. Where are we in Syria, where there's a humanitarian crisis? Why are we turning away people desperate for the very basics of human existence? Why are we ignoring the aboriginal population, some of whom live in third world style poverty?
This is not my Canada; at least the one that defined me as I grew to adulthood. (Which might explain why I'm currently elsewhere.)
My Canada is a country of opportunity. We're all immigrants to our once great nation (and yes I'm talking to you too, aboriginals...granted you were indisputably the first here, but you still came from somewhere else originally). We are a nation of peace keepers, of rational and compassionate voices; we allow for differences and that allowance is what binds us together and makes us one people. (Ironic, right?) We are the model of how to get along and play nicely. That is how I see us in my heart.
I really believe that we can be that again, but we have to put away the fear that has been carefully and purposefully cultivated in us. We all know that there is bad in the world, but there is much more goodness and that's the side we want to be on. We don't want to be the scary old man barred up in his house that mutters to himself and threatens people who knock on his door. We want to be that sunny neighbour that brings over cookies when someone new moves in next door; that is there, helping shovel the sidewalk or lending a cup of sugar. Those three things requires us to open our doors and be proactive about what is going on around us. Of course it might entail a call to the police because something creepy is going next door with the little kids or about the mysterious digging in the backyard in the middle of the night. My point is that we can choose to do the right thing; not the easy thing or the thing that makes us feel less scared.  
We can be Canadian again.

Monday, September 14, 2015

What do you miss?

This is probably the most frequent question we get asked after the standard ones like "where?", "is it safe?", "don't you miss your family?" and "what made you chose there?" (Side note: why would anyone move somewhere that they thought they might not be safe?) The next question is invariably "what do you miss the most?" Of course we miss people and things, despite the fact that we go about our daily lives mostly content and unobsessed with what we don't have.
Sushi in West Vancouver
Duck breast and yam fries in North Vancouver
We missed it while we were in Freetown, Prince Edward Island as well, but international food wasn't that far away that a weekend getaway or a drive to Charlottetown couldn't quell the desire. With planning and an extra suitcase, we can have a lot of the food we miss, but I have to make it. There is a general shortage of world cuisine in Ecuador that isn't missing in the neighbouring countries. (We can't quite figure that one out, but are tempted to chalking it up to the concept of being happy with what you have.) 
Korean chili chicken downtown

Unquestionably the thing we miss is FOOD. Vancouver enjoys an unending variety of tastes, flavours and dining experiences that is lacking in Cuenca. To be sure, Quito has a wider variety of restaurants, but it still has a long way to go the match that of our home town.
Japadog on Robson
Fish tacos from a food truck
All this and I've been too lazy to take pictures of the Peruvian food we had last night, the classic Triple O burger from White Spot or the Pho we had at a restaurant with some of our kids. Missing too are the cheddar cheese smokies I cooked on the barbecue and the baked trout I had at my sister's house. I never thought to take a shot of the sockeye salmon I made either. And we're only half way through our trip! We haven't hit any Indian restaurants, Thai places, Mongolian, French...I can't even cover it all. But that is what we miss: the food and the memories that come with it.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Can You Really Go Home Again?

As I've said ad nauseum, we move a lot. This creates an interesting perspective on the definition of home. My sisters call the east coast of Canada "back home", even though they've lived for decades on the opposite side of the country. Even I call the East coast "back home" occasionally, though I spent the majority of my life in the west.

We're back in Vancouver and it's the city that I truly think of as "home". When asked where I'm from, it's my answer. It's my home town, despite my birth certificate; it's the place that I know and understand - even after I've been away for a while. No matter the changes or time away, it feels familiar. It's so easy to slip in to old routines...following the same routes on the streets, favourite get where I'm going with this right? It's almost like we never left.

So what do you call home? Is it where you're living currently? Is it where you grew up? Is it where the happiest memories live? I don't know. For me, maybe the world is "home". There may not be one pat place that keeps me forever, but wherever I am usually feels like home. I've used the word for hotel rooms, houses, apartments, residences of my family, and even an entire area can be considered home.

I find myself asking is THIS my home. I don't know. Maybe I have more than one home - maybe I have hundreds. I know that, for many people, this concept seems strange. The thought of leaving a place where they've lived most of their life is unimaginable. But for the wanderers out there, they know the feeling.Whatever I think of as home is ethereal and ever changing, but I know it when I feel it. I hope that your home is comfortable and happy and I welcome your thoughts on what truly makes a house a home.