Tuesday, 1 July 2014

O Canada - How I love thee, let me count the ways

Let me start by saying... I am not a Canadian, I'm a fairdinkum Aussie, born and bred. If you asked me what my favourite country was, I would have to say it's Australia... but Of Course!

Having said that though, after living for the last 6 1/2 years in Canada, I can't help but appreciate this fine land and what it offers. So today being the 1st of July, CANADA DAY, I thought would compile a list of things I love about this country.




The Snow

The first time I ever saw snow was in Australia (yes, it can and does snow there, in a few places). It was early in the morning and I woke to my mum running into my room screaming 'It's snowing! It's snowing!' I got out of bed and dressed (in very inappropriate snow attire of pants and a long sleeve skivvy) and ran outside attempting to enjoy what little snow there was covering the ground. I made a very miniature snowman and held a snowball in my hands. My hands were bare (I didn't even own gloves) and my lips were a nice shade of blue as I shivered through a few photos.
Since then I have really come to appreciate the snow. Not that all over Canada it snows big time but in the two places we have lived it snows a ridiculous amount, several feet in a matter of hours is not unheard of.
I was quickly introduced to clearing the driveway, brushing snow off the car windows and driving in the snow all within a matter of weeks after landing in Montreal. The novelty soon wore off and getting up early in the morning to clear snow from the car and drive to get children to school on time became a loathed chore. Having said that, I never stopped appreciating the beauty of watching its slow plummet to the ground.
After moving to Northern British Columbia (B.C) I learned to snowboard and found myself another way to appreciate the snow. Having Skateboarded and surfed as a teen, I quickly picked up the art of balancing on the board but I won't profess to being all that good. I do enjoy the thrill of the ride and the serene snowy beauty that surrounds me.




Canadians

I absolutely love Canadians...  Okay so I have to say that, some of my best friends are Canadian, but it's true. I've discovered that most Canadians are much like most Australians... easy going, laid back, work so that they can live not the other way around, appreciate their recreation time, can laugh at themselves and have a good sense of humour. It may sound simple but they are perfectly happy just sitting around the barbie (bbq) with mates on a summers day. Just add eh?! to the end of your sentence and you're in. 'You're a Canadian eh?'
Add to this their very warm welcoming nature, they open themselves up to other nationalities of people having an interest in the world outside their own backyard. This is evidenced by the amount they travel, if they haven't travelled the world, it's on their bucket list. Most have at least travelled into the States  numerous times... well why wouldn't you when you have another country just beyond your border? See Proximity



Four Seasons

While most cities in Australia see some form of four seasons during the year, I must say that I haven't quite experienced it like in North America... a real four seasons. In the far North of B.C winters can be very white and seem to last a long, long time. While it is pretty (and as I always say, if it must be cold, it might as well be white), it can lack a bit of colour... the washed out look of winter. Then along comes the spring and as the ground begins to warm, gardens burst alive with a myriad of colour... first the daffodils and tulips and then the many other varieties of plant life open their blooms as a salute to the warm sun. Yes spring happens in Australia too but it is not such a contrast to the winter. It's not white and it's not freezing cold so there's not the same appreciation for the warmth and colour when the spring rocks around. In Quebec where the winters are bitter cold people tend to go into their 'caves' for the majority of it... when the sun comes out and the cold passes, people come out and everybody is walking, running, skating, riding... you name it, they're doing it outside. The summer can be absolutely amazing, in Montreal the summers are hot and glorious... most houses have a pool so everyone is swimming, forgetting that only a month or so prior the pool was a block of solid ice. In Northern B.C it's not as hot but the days are long, with the sun not going down completely until close to midnight. This is my fave part, after the short dark days during the winter, the long warm days are a godsend. Autumn comes in a myriad of fall colours as all the deciduous trees change colour and drop their leaves. Driving through wooded areas in Autumn is just magical as the colours line the roadways. Sure we have Autumn in Oz but our Australian bush does not contain deciduous trees as they are not natural to our country. So you may see the colourful fall in special parks or peoples backyards but not driving along a highway. There it is either green if we've had a lot of rain, brown if we haven't or black if we have suffered a number of bushfires.


Releasing a salmon back into the river

Rivers

Where Australia might be short on water in most states, Canada is abounding in it. Rivers and lakes make up a good portion of it's beauty and they are everywhere! When living in Montreal, a couple of times we rented a house on a lake complete with paddle boats and canoes. Certainly a relaxing holiday that we could even take the dog. Where we now live, there is amazing salmon fishing (a reason my husband doesn't want to leave) that we are just fortunate to have a five minute drive away. Keen fisherman come here for the summer fishing and we are in the thick of it. While rivers tend to stay icy cold the lakes can be beautiful and warm (at least in spots). It's beautiful and serene and you don't have to go very far to access one.


Bear in our backyard... I called him Barry

The Animals

Okay so if you're from North America you may tend to think the animals I am excited about here are boring and you may instead get excited over kangaroos and koalas, animals that I have seen all my life (and sadly roos I have hit with my car)... don't worry there are more kangaroos in Australia than people.
I am LOVING the animals here that I had only ever seen in books or movies or perhaps a zoo but never on my own street! In Montreal we had a family of groundhogs living under our front porch, seriously a groundhog I had never heard of until I watched that movie Groundhog Day. Our neighbours called them rodents but we just thought they were gorgeous. I think they thought we were crazy. Every now and then I saw a skunk wandering down the street when the rubbish bins (trash cans) were out for collection. I would watch with excitement, hoping it would come a bit closer so I could get a better look (maybe I am crazy). We travelled to Saguenay in the north of Quebec just so I could see a moose at the St Felicien zoo, however I have since seen a number in the wild, two were on our street but I have also seen a couple on the road while driving... and that is absolutely frightening because their coat is dull and doesn't reflect headlights... you don't see them until the last minute. Fortunately we have never hit one... touch wood. I have seen wolves, coyotes, porcupines and deer but my favourite animal to see are bears. Where we live you can see them in our backyard from time to time. While some Aussies would happily live with the spiders and snakes in Australia over having bears in your backyard, I will gladly take the bears instead.



Proximity

Could Australia be further away from everything? I think not. Australia is kind of out on its own with New Zealand to one side, Indonesia in the north and nothing else other than islands nearby. To get to any other continent, it is far and it is expensive. A lot of Australians only ever get to Bali in their lifetime and that's if they make it overseas at all. As a kid I always dreamed of going to Disneyland but in all honestly thought that I would never ever get there after all I didn't know a single person who had been. When I went the first time, I thought it was a dream come true.
Since living in Canada we have crossed the border to the US a number of times. It was especially easy to do from Montreal as we were only an hour from the border. From that side of the country it was also easy to fly to Europe which we did a couple of times. Okay so Canada is not close to everything but we have been able to do a whole lot more travelling since being here and neigbouring the US is super convenient.


Two Languages

In Australia we pretty much only speak one language. While we have alot of nationalities there, our nations language is english and as a visitor you would have no need for any other, unless you don't speak it. Having a second language was a foreign concept to me. Sure there are plenty of families from other countries that speak another language in the home but most of my friends were either born in Australia or Britain so I didn't know very many people who could speak another language fluently. Then we move to Quebec of all places. In Quebec the first language is french and all road signage and information is in french. Needless to say, I needed to learn quick smart. I had a tutor for a year and my children went to an all french school, where even communication home to parents was in french. It was a little difficult to get used to but I found it even harder to learn properly because the closer you are to Montreal the more people who could speak english as well as french. I would try to speak to people but when they would see I was struggling for words they would speak in english to help me out... which it did help me communicate but not learn the language.  My kids can all speak french and my older two are fluent. I am constantly amazed by this. Even now that we are in B.C we make sure they attend a french immersion school so that they can retain the language they have learnt.



Maple Syrup

I couldn't talk about all the things I love about Canada and not add in something about maple syrup. Before I came here I had only ever had the fake stuff at home (the real stuff was far too expensive for our meager budget) but since being here I have learnt there is only one sort to have and that's the pure and natural syrup from the tree. Delish!
In Quebec just after the winter when the maple starts to pour they open up these places called sugar shacks and oh my what a sweet experience you can have.
Sitting at long communal tables you are fed a meal of bacon, eggs and pancakes with which you pour a whole lot of maple syrup to everything, just like gravy. Then you get yourself a Maple lollipop which is made from pouring hot maple on snow and then rolled up on a paddlepop or icecream stick as it quickly cools. It is sticky and delicious.
While I only went there once I have come to love maple syrup and use it as a sweetener instead of sugar or honey on occasion... and no more fake stuff for me, only the real macoy will do. Hang the expense.



While I truly love living in Canada and appreciate the different places, animals and feel it has, there is something very special about the place you come from and for me a big part of that is the sun and the surf. So I will have to take a leaf out of famous Australian, Peter Allen's book (song actually) when I say 'I still call Australia... home.'
HAPPY CANADA DAY!

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