Sunday, December 11, 2011

The final instalement of the 101 things we are going to miss about Canada

.In no particular order, except saving the most missed till last, the continuing saga of what we will miss about Canada.   

76) Basements – Australian men have their sheds – Canadians have their basements. What an eminently good idea to double the size of a house by digging into the ground. An entertainment space bonanza – no wonder the Beatles were so successful having started in their basement!

77) Museums – Hamlet, village, town, city – you are not on the map in Canada unless you have a museum. And what an Aladdin’s cave inside. Everyday history brought to life; lovingly preserved by volunteers, most of whom are older than and just as fascinating as the exhibits.

78) Park wash-room hand cleaning – You can be hundreds of miles from the nearest hint of contemporary civilisation; a million fir trees for company; the obligatory aqua blue lake and snow capped peak; you have trekked for hours and finally stumble on a much anticipated wash-room. And would you believe it? Not only does Parks Canada provide toilet paper but there is a full container of alcohol hand sanitiser for when you have finished. You just have to love this country.

79) Colloquial conversation/vernacular values/exceptional expletives - Whilst Canadians are not adverse to venting the spleen with some colourful language, it is the exception rather than the rule. Using curses, oaths and swear words appeared unnecessary; perhaps because the spirited conversations we were engaged in did not involve politics, religion or sex. Stephen Harper, giving out cigars to female interns at Christmas, didn’t bear thinking aboot.

80) Canadian Geese in flight – In addition to the sheer beauty of watching their ambient flight, the V formation could be indicatively Canadian – the shape enables the geese to support one another, each taking turns in the front while others benefit from the wind resistance; the shape also makes it easier to keep track of every bird in the pack. 

81) Smokin’ Stampede (Beer & Chipotle BBQ sauce)  – We are amazed this culinary delight is not gracing every BBQ event around the world. It ranks along side pure maple syrup as an export to cure Canada of her overseas debt.

82) Bear cubs – One look at a bear cub and we understand why the teddy bear is such a popular cuddly toy. Koala’s may look cute, but they only sit in trees all day and wee on you if you get too close. Bear cubs behave just like puppies and kittens and evoke a tidal wave of protective affection – despite being shadowed by 300 pounds of hairy belligerence. 

83) CBC’s Michael Enright – I will miss his insight into Canadian political and social life. Never afraid to confront difficult issues, always appearing open minded and as Australians like to say “gives everyone a fair go”.

84) Pot Luck – Nothing to do with Cannabis; everything to do with eating yourself silly with a myriad of dishes provided by a group of people that bring enough food to feed a small African country for a week. 

85) Curling – No wonder Canadian homes are so clean. So many men, women and children with brooms. We are going to miss the enthusiastic, animated shouting of “harder” and almost chess like strategies to get rocks in the house. We know it is infinitely harder than it looks. Unfortunately the only curlers we will be mixing with in Australian are those you twist you hair around.

86) Caribou – Is it an antler thing? Why do moose and caribou look so goofy but so imposing? We only saw Alaskan  caribou but the thrill of seeing the endangered animals in the distance will be revisited with every Rudolf we see this Christmas. 

87) Toque (Tuque) – French for knitted hat of every style, shape and colour. Eminently suited to the Canadian climate. Don’t be a sook, if you took a toque you just might be a crook. 

88) Snow shoeing – Takes a little getting use to, but we will miss the great fun of strapping tennis rackets to our feet and trying to run up hills and down valleys. We have a feeling Sasquatch foot prints might just be fashion statement.

89)  Autumn leaves – Not in our backyard but anywhere else the crunch, colour and cavalier movement in the wind makes fall a magic time to be outside.

90) Beavers (Castors)-  If we built our houses like the beaver our homes would be the size of the West Edmonton mall. The sheer energy and productive capacity of these amazing semi-aquatic rodents justifies its status as an emblem of Canada.

91) Recycling – Whilst recycling is common in most towns and cities around the world – it is the sheer number of things we were able to recycle and the ease of collection that we will miss. In fact if we are in Canada when I am close to meeting my maker, I am sure I will be suitably re-cycled. 

92) Nearly Bug free days – We must have picked a particularly good year for the lack of annoying flying bugs. We were warned that the mosquitoes up north are so prolific they can carry off some of the smaller RV’s. We only went through one repellent bottle, although sometimes we did have  to resort to a shovel on our windscreen, rather than the ineffective scraper.

93) Chuck Wagon racing – Trotting on crack – we will certainly miss the helter skelter action of wagons, hooves and reins hurtling round a dust track at break neck speed. It certainly didn’t need any additional adrenalin, in the form of betting, to add to the excitement. 

94) Visiting the World’s/Canada’s Largest things – Only limited by imagination and the occasional engineering impossibility; we witnessed  a ‘gigantesque’ (plural for heaps of big things!) array of BIG things. Pyrogy, Pysanka, Starship or Sausage, you name it and the world’s biggest version is in Canada somewhere. We are certainly going to miss scanning the map and the list to see how many of these icons we could cross off on each trip. Check out :

95) Yellow School Buses – If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. The adage of the North American school bus colour and design. The glossy yellow transport carrier looks the same today as it must have done when Adam caught the bus to school. The easy to see colour and distinctive design sub-consciously tell all motorists to take extra care; just like the buzz of a bee heightens our awareness.

96) Regular  Public Holidays – How sensible are the Canadians – name a month and there is likely to be a public holiday in there somewhere. June looks a little bare, but 1st July is Canada day so not too long to wait for the next long weekend. January = New Years Day, February = Family  Day, March/April = Easter, May = Victoria Day, July = Canada Day, August = Civic holiday/August long weekend, September = Labour Day, October = Thanksgiving, November = Remembrance Day, December = Christmas.

97) Garage Sale Season – Spring sees the willing buds break through the hardened soil, flowers start their journey towards the light, buds spring forth from naked twigs and garage sale signs magically appear on strategic corners. As the days get longer and warmer, so the number of signs multiply until a carpet of cardboard messages tell the locals of bargains to be had, pre-loved treasures to be purchased and junk to be swapped from one garage to the next.  Tis a shame when the first signs of winter close the garage doors and the hues of haggling and banter of bartering fall silent for another season.

98) Christmas card scenery – Santa in a thick red suit , warm toque and sleigh seems more comfortable in a snow covered scene than battling sand, dust and scorching temperatures.  Songs about a white Christmas, I think, refer to the gentle covering of snow flakes more than the white shimmering heat of the southern hemisphere. Whilst it is not the true meaning of Christmas in future years we will miss the Christmas lights shining amidst the darkening, freezing  afternoon suggesting the excitement of the festive season.   

99) Decent size roads and parking spaces – Thankfully Canadian civil engineers had the foresight to design roads and car parks to match the titanic vehicles driven on Canadian roads. Apart from the West Edmonton Mall, that thinks we all drive Fiat Panda’s, I managed to park our Jeep without incident. I also felt comfortable not side swiping anyone on most roads. Unfortunately a little snow and three lanes suddenly become one, car parks become war zones and no matter how wide the roads the ditches are always too close for the sliding car.   

100)  Canadian accent – Not quiet lyrical but certainly a hint of melodious overtones, we will miss the now familiar pitch of the prairie tongue. Only occasionally did we require sub-titles but we sometimes even need those for the all too familiar, but vaguely forgotten, Australian drawl.

And saving until last the thing we are going to miss the most:

101) Canadians – We are going to miss being treated like Australian royalty. Always welcoming, warm, friendly and interested. Never is anything too much of a bother. If Nations are measured by the quality of their citizens, Canada would be competing for top spot. And the good news for us – the mountains, lakes, rivers, prairies, wildlife have to stay in Canada – our Canadian friends can come and visit us in Australia. 

Au Revoir Canada –
Thank you for such a memorable year.

Even more 101 things we are going to miss about Canada.

51) Fund raising – Helping others in need is part of a Canadian’s DNA. Well organised and effective charity events were ongoing in Lloyd and this was emulated through the schools. We attended a range of fun activities, run by volunteers, with proceeds going to a range of worthy local and overseas causes. And then Canadians dug even deeper into their pockets when a tragedy occurred somewhere in the world.

52) Unique road signs – Collin and Becky on their blog (  humorously shared a range of unique Australian signs. We also found Canada isn’t exempt from some unique signage – where else would you be warned about Moose on the road, Deer dancing or skidoos crossing?

53) Outside Hot Tubs – Having English ancestry  the prospect of a bath doesn’t  normally fill me with  eagerness – but sitting outside in minus lots of centigrade, slowly boiling away, with a bottle of Sleemans, snow and steam all around – heaven. 

54) The Rocky Mountains – One of the few places we have visited where photos can not do justice to the beauty. Seeing the majestic ancient splendour of these eternally snow capped peaks was worth the admission price to Canada alone. 

55) Cutting – Oh, what fun it was to ride a two horse open sleigh. It really was wonderful to be in the bracing air being transported through the snow by a team of study Percheron. Brought back the good old days and we didn’t even have to clear up the left overs.

56) Real Maple syrup – Nectar sent by the Gods. The lucid liquid poured over hot waffles, dobbed with ice cream – it will never taste the same anywhere else in the world.

57) Yukon camp grounds – Spotlessly clean, well equipped, conveniently located, breathtaking outlook and all for $12.00 per night. The lack of 24 hour tent service and valet parking didn’t detract form these wonderful holiday sites.

58) Garbage free roads – We travelled nearly 45 000 kilometres during the year, it was a real pleasure to be able to enjoy the stunning views without cans, wrappers, newspapers, cigarette buts, nappies marring the landscape. The vast majority of Canadians demonstrate their great  pride in their country by not trashing it.

59) RV’s – Talk about take everything and the kitchen sink. Some of the RV’s that passed us had a triple sink with built in garbage disposal unit made from Italian marble. Most were bigger than our house in Australia. Spotting the largest RV with the most imaginative name kept us amused on the road for hours.  

60) First Nation Culture – Amidst the Aboriginal angst that appears as an intractable Canadian problem; there is the wonderful First Nation culture. We were fortunate to witness a small illustration of the complexity of some First Nation Dance, Dress and Design. 

61)  6 day school cycle – When I was first made aware of the 6 day timetable cycle I nearly cancelled the teacher exchange; I thought Canadian teachers only received one day off a week! Thankfully that was not the case, although the weekend car park at Bishop Lloyd is always busy.  I am now converted to this infinitely sensible and workable means of sharing the dreaded Friday afternoon teaching slot.

62) Canadian landscape and wildlife TV shows – We would sit agog and amazed at the variety and amount of wildlife and landscapes in Canada. We are now auditioning to be David Attenborough’s clone based in Canada.

63)  Compliments on our accent – “You’ve got a cool accent” , “Love your accent” – We thought about charging some people who wanted to listen to our accent – would have almost paid for our holiday. We are practicing our Canada lilt so we can start charging Australian’s for the privilege of hearing a respectable North American tone.  

64)  Cooking Range – It wasn’t noticeable until we placed two family sized pizzas, garlic bread and a tray full of chips that Canadian ovens are that much bigger. No worry about how to cook the thanksgiving turkey – just have to put on a miners lamp and climb in the oven to find which corner it was placed.

65)  Provincial Parks – With such large distances to travel, provincial parks were a great way to break up the journey. Always well-appointed – most with hot showers, power, tables, shelter and flushing washrooms. A number we ventured into were worth staying for weeks; located on beautiful lakes with an abundance of activities for everyone. Park your RV and happy holidays.

66) Student inside voices – Australian school students spend a deal of time outside; consequently they are more physical and less conscious of echoing walls inside than their Canadian counterpart. My sensitive eardrums will miss the dulcet tones of the young Canadian accent.  

67)  Gophers and prairie dogs – These ADHD rodents may be a pest to the farmers but we have enjoyed watching their antics, especially their upright ‘look-out’ stance.

68) Weather reports – We realised we were in Canada when we listened to the radio weather and the low was a higher figure than the high for the day – it sounded oxymoronic having a high of minus 22c.

69) Numbered Streets and Avenues – We thought the Canadians lacked imagination and couldn’t be bothered to name their streets. However, the system of numbering roads and having east/west streets and north/south avenues in Lloyd has helped a nearly lost Aussie on a number of occasions. 

70)  Moose spotting – There are not many things that will get us out of bed before the sun is up but the news of a moose sightings around Lloyd stole a few hours of dreams. Unlike bear spotting, at least we could drive around locally searching for the imposing, ungainly, gentle deer.  

71)  Saskatoon – We only had the opportunity to visit this very European style city on three occasions. Each time however, it felt more like visiting a favourite exotic Aunt , who is always so welcoming and has special, unusual treats, than a commercial centre with over ¼ of a million people.

72)  The distinctive RCMP red uniform – How can Canadian women resist these strong, sturdy, reassuringly masculine law enforcers, resplendently dressed in red serge? Obviously some Australian women can’t. Canadian women in these uniforms look equally alluring, I just wasn’t allowed anywhere near them.

73)  CFL passion – Nations around the world have a passion for one sport or another. However, few places in the world turn a beautiful golden prairie landscape  into a sea of green. The Saskatchewan Roughriders, Canadian Football’s most avid (or rabid!) fans turn a province in the grip of fall, green again with their hoodies, jackets, tea shirts, headwear (including watermelons!!)  - you name it; it is green with a roughrider logo.  The whole province’s collective aura revolves around the result of third down and inches.  

74) Canadian wine (Coopermoon)Unassuming, reliable, warm, full bodied, ages well, with a hint of cheeky character (much like Canadians themselves really) also cheap, drinkable and available (definitely not like any Canadian we have met). If Wayne Gretsky can handle a grape the way he handled a puck I’m importing his vintage to Australia. 

75)  Squirrels/chipmunks – The closest thing to perpetual motion, especially in the fall when nut collecting becomes obsessive. It seemed we were being stalked by these cute, wide eyed rodents as they were everywhere.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

More 101 things we will miss about Canada

In no particular order -

26) Beer variety packs – I was concerned 12 months was not enough time to try the large variety of beers available in Canada. Intelligently, the major brewers provide variety packs so the connoisseur can try Red, White, Blonde, Dark beer all in one night.

27) The Northern Lights – We did not see the spectacular light show locals told us about, but we were fortunate enough to see the wide ribbons of translucent green light waving in the atmosphere. 
28) Smores – What a culinary way to end a BBQ. We never quite mastered the trick of having the marshmallow hot enough (it usually caught fire) to melt the chocolate – but we enjoyed trying.

29) The Maple Leaf – The Maple leaf is to Canada as the Kangaroo is to Australia.  A symbol that is recognised and respected world wide, a ‘brand’ we will miss seeing everywhere.
30) Turning right on a red light – We felt like real rebels turning on a red light; a sensible idea that will cost us a hefty fine if we try it in Australia.

31) BLMS staff – What an outstanding group of dedicated professionals. I was made to feel part of a very special team by everyone at Bishop Lloyd Middle School. It was worth braving the brutal cold temperatures in the morning to feel the warm welcome at Lancer headquarters.

32) Tobogganing down Jaycee Hill – Sometimes we were glad we didn’t have our children with us; we would have had to fight them for the toboggan. What great fun, for two almost pensioners, flying down a snowy hill in a plastic container. 

33)  Four lane highways – That extra lane sure came in handy a few times – not only for us as we slide gently across two lanes, thankfully not into oncoming traffic – but to the electric chairs, mopeds and tractors that had room to overtake the somewhat snail pace of my Canadian driving.

34)  Salmon Run – It was simply amazing to see the end of the journey for the Sockeye and Chinook salmon.   We may never again see so many fish in one place; all trying to line up for the privilege of becoming parents.  Then quickly dying before their progeny start nagging them for treats.  

35) ‘Our Canada’ magazine – A snapshot of Canadian life in every issue. Wonderful pictures, life affirming stories and hours of trying to find the loonie. Thanks Dawn for introducing us to reading material that kept me entertained in the bathroom for hours.

36) Deciduous Trees – We will certainly miss seeing the life cycle, in technicolour, of the numerous willows, birth and crab-apples around the neighbourhood. The pleasure of seeing the trees turn from lifeless skeletons to full bodied and blossomed bird attractors, made up for the pain of sweeping up the mountain of dead leaves.

37) Western Canadians’ view of the other siders – Newfies, Qu├ębecois, Bluenosers, - anyone from further east than Manitoba, we noticed, were considered too cosmopolitan or too ‘hick’. Thankfully Australia was considered to be in the west. 

38) Poutine – Cheese, Gravy, Chips – the delicious comfort food. We have reserved the ultimate gourmet poutines (Italian, Braised Beef, Sweet potato) for our next visit.  
39) Cabins by the Lake – Wow - did we feel  Canadian when we were sitting on the deck, Molson in hand, smell of AAA Canadian beef on the BBQ and admiring the expanse of water before us. We so appreciated our hosts who provided litres of mosquito repellent, blankets for the ‘cooling breeze’ and tactfully ignored my fish less fishing bucket.

40Ice Skating outside – Winter had its annoyances but the opportunity for Hanneke to gracefully glide around on  the open ice, amidst frost dusted trees and snow blanketed grass, as if she was born with blades, will long be a cherished memory. 

41) West Edmonton Mall – How can any Australian shopping Mall compete with Pirate ships,  Disney world like rides and a ‘tropical’ beach? 

42) Opportunities to go Ice Fishing – I missed out on sitting in a small tent, in the middle of a frozen lake, holding a stick over a small hole in the ice, bracing big minus temperatures.  It’s what Canadian blokes love in winter; where the only stress to this meditative pastime is how to stop the beer from freezing.

43)  The Prairies – One of the few places in the world, it is said, you can watch your stolen car being driven away for three days. We will simply miss the awesomeness of endless horizons, oceanic skies, beautiful, peaceful landscapes and farms as big as  small European countries.

44) Coleslaw – The southern hemisphere does have coleslaw but not in the same gargantuan volume as North America. In fact, I think we have had a variety of tasty coleslaw with every conceivable meal. We will not miss it as an accompaniment to our corn flakes though.

45) Relatively cheap petrol – The average price in the South West of Western Australia appears to be about $1.40 a litre – the last time we filled up in Lloyd we paid $1.02. 

46)  Returning to a warm and cozy house – That re-assuring flood of warm air as the frozen door is frantically prized open. The ultra relaxing warmth and pleasure of reading an engrossing book, in a comfy chair next to the fire – an air conditioner just doesn’t quite produce the same ‘morphine’ like effect! 

47) Long, long summer daysA great way to help insomnia – only having two or three hours of ‘night’. We found we could do so much outside without the need for artificial light during summer. The only problem was once we finished our night cap it was almost daylight again.

48) Lloydminster A city with everything we needed (except North America’s biggest Mall) and we were only ever 5 minutes from Canada’s wonderful wide open space.

49) Camp coffee – The best tasting coffee we have ever had. No need for milk, cream, sugar. Wrapping our cold hands around that delicious cup of liquid made us forget the grounds had been in the base of the kettle for the past ten years. 

50) "EH" - Where would the Canadian language be without this ubiquitous expression. We are still not sure what it means but we are going to miss the reassuring interjection, eh!

101 things we will miss about Canada

We have just had the privilege of spending  twelve glorious months in this amazing country. 
What are we going to miss?
(In no particular order)

1.    Wonderful Neighbours – How valuable it was to have neighbours that treated us like honoured guests. Always looking after the novice Canadians. Our wonderful year would not have been the same without the Oleksyn and Germann families.

2.    4 Seasons – Looking out of the back window we could always tell what season it was: White = winter; buds and infant green = spring; full, lush green = summer; a profusion of red, orange and yellow = fall. And when we couldn’t see anything -  it was window cleaning season!

3.    Canadian humour - Low key, understated, often self deprecating always funny; Corner Gas, Vinyl Cafe, This is That, Little Mosque on the Prairie and all those comedy festivals; Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg, Edmonton. The bar tender asked the fur seal what he wanted to drink; the fur seal replied, “anything but a Canadian Club!”

4.    Tim Horton’s Value: Being able to treat a family and friends for a decent lunch and still have change from a $10.00 note.

5.    “You’re Welcome” – A genuine, warm and affable response from some of the friendliest people on earth.

Grain Elevators – Bittersweet view as we drove through the Prairies. Nostalgia for a simpler, bygone era but optimism that the past is still present. How long before they become fashionable Prairie apartments? 

7.    Hockey Night in Canada – I ‘m not sure what is more flamboyant Don Cherry’s suits or his mouth. Either way, watching the skill, pace and artistry of the men on the ice was a delight.

8.    Fat Fridays -  (and Thick Thursdays, Wide Wednesdays, Texas Toast Tuesdays). At least twice a week (sometimes more) scrumptious goodies would appear on the staff room table or in the classroom. This regular tradition of making sure we have enough ‘internal insulation’ for the cold weather is delicious but I think I now have too much insulation.

9.    Prairie communities – the backbone of Canada. Some hamlets and villages may only have a few hundred people, but each community is clean, neat and tidy; has a variety of churches, a curling rink, baseball diamond and hockey arena and a strong sense of determined pride. Maybe the occasional all weather public washroom would come in handy!
10. Stunning sunrises and sunsets – Blood red skies of sunset and the thin translucent blue turning to burning orange of sunrise. Most days were eye-catching and late fall to early spring the shows were put on at a convenient time.

11. Sensible Shopping Hours – For us the convenience of many shops being open 7am – 11 pm 7 days a week was very welcome. Some of the stores are so big we needed all that time to find our way around. 

12. Cross country skiing – Crisp, sunny, clear days; fresh air; the chance to see Canada’s wonderful landscape and wildlife; all on two thin planks of wood. 

13. Canadian Hospitality – Rumour has it, the Canadians won a gold medal for hospitality at the last winter games – we certainly experienced the truth of that rumour.

14. Smokies – What a sensible idea – pre-cooked sausages with a smoky flavour. Who cares if the gas runs out or it is too cold to light the barbecue, just get a cigarette lighter out, burn the skins and your hot dog is ready. 

15. Caesar  - Who would have thought a cocktail with clam juice, tomatoes, celery and hot sauce  would be worth drinking – believe Hanneke, this aperitif will soon be introduced to Australia.

16. 24/7 Sport – NHL, WWE, NFL, NCAAF, NASCAR, NBA, CFL, even AFL - if it has an acronym it will be turned into a sport and shown on North American TV. 

17. Kids colourful winter clothing – Gee we are glad we didn’t have young children to wrap up warm - winter would be almost over by the time thermals, gloves, toques, coats, scarves, ear muffs are all in place. But seeing the beautiful little toddlers in all their colourful puffed up glory makes the effort worthwhile.

18. Pedestrian priority – Why did the Canadian chicken cross the road – because all the cars stop for her every time she goes near the road. This politeness extends towards pedestrians  as well – we have been caught several times chatting on the side of the road with a mile long tail back of traffic waiting for us to cross.

19.  Satellite Radio – Worth every penny of our subscription. Eclectic range of music, news, comedy and sport everywhere we went. We were even treated to Radio Australia, along with Romanian Radio, Latvian Listening, Polish Pondering and Chinese chatter.

20. Competitive pricing – It is a little ironic really; retail businesses cut down half the Canadian boreal forest to inform customers of their weekly specials. It worked for us though; we had something to light the BBQ with and we could afford to cook something on it.

21. Canadian flag – The ubiquitous red on white. Canadians may be standing and respecting a dead leaf, but at least they not have to display the remnants of a long dead Empire. 

22. Bear spotting – Certainly more exciting for us than train, car, bus or aircraft spotting. Maybe a tad more grizzly! (sorry)

23. Student interest – I will miss being asked how many crocodiles I have wrestled or kangaroos I have boxed. Students demonstrated a genuine interest in the land down. Naturally my answers were embellished with tall tales of snake fighting and spider grappling.

24. 4 way stop signs – When we first came across this traffic phenomenon we envisaged four frozen motorists at each of the stop signs – victims of Canadian politeness. It actually works; everyone stops, patiently waits their turn and confidently negotiates the ice, snow and other road users. If only the same mentality existed at the bar during the Hockey.  

25. Birds feeding in winter – It is just an amazing feat of nature that these little finches and sparrows can flit about in minus something temperatures. They eagerly and appreciatively peck at the wild bird seeds in the feeder; just as well the local cats don’t share the same enthusiasm.