Wednesday, October 19, 2011

O Canada!

I grew up in a small town in northern New York that my husband not-so-lovingly refers to as the Arctic Circle. He likes to correct me when I say "I'm from the Adirondacks" by chiming in something along the lines of "No, you're not!! You're from a place SO COLD that it's actually ABOVE the Adirondacks. When you drive SOUTH on the highway, you eventually hit the Adirondacks."

OK, technically true. I MAY know exactly what 40 degrees below zero feels like and that when it gets that cold the radio will be filled with warnings about how your eyeballs will literally freeze in under five minutes and you need to stay the hell inside. But I also know that a Geo Prism with 100,000 miles on it, sitting outside a bar, will start in a surprisingly quick fashion despite those temperatures!

I can't tell you what the state of the American and Canadian dollars were in the late 80s / early 90s, nor do I really care, but I CAN tell you this - listening to all of our parents and older cousins complain about the "damn Canadians" who would flood our town every weekend to shop and shop and shop was a major part of growing up.

They didn't turn right on red yet drove aggressively, often didn't speak English, and most egregiously, felt that denim cut-offs falling approximately half an inch below your ass cheek was perfectly acceptable attire for a man.

It was such an understood part of the culture of upstate New York that it kind of didn't occur to me that the rest of Canada existed.  It wasn't until Beverly Hills 90210 hit the scene and I kept hearing about how Jason Priestly was Canadian that my confusion set in. How could he possibly be Canadian?? I mean, he played hockey, but he didn't speak french and seemed to wear normal length shorts of the non-denim variety.

I think I went so far as to actually ask my dad about it, who probably had the grace not to look horrified that his old-enough-to-know-better daughter had forgotten that the REST of Canada wasn't French-Canadian. OOOOOOOOO! Right! Because Quebec is just ONE of ten provinces. Got it. Obviously.

So that was my first relationship with Canada. My second one consisted of the 18 year old drinking age and some seriously eye-opening behavior at the strip clubs. I think it's safe to say it was time to meet Canada as a grown up.

Sometime in the last few years they changed the entry rules and required you to have a passport to go there. Upon hearing the news, and still thinking of them as my strange neighbor a block over, I had a conversation with B that went something like this:

Me: Did you hear that you need a passport to go to Canada now?!!!
B: Yeah
B: Well, it IS another country.
Me: No it's not! It's CAAANNNAADDAA!

But B and I needed new passports anyway and we wanted to have one for Charlotte, so we got the family internationally-ready last summer and finally put them to use last weekend on our trip to Montreal.

We stayed with an old friend of mine and her family who were the most lovely hosts you could ask for. They didn't even look offended when we said "We couldn't afford to go to Paris, so we came to you! Show us some people speaking other languages on a narrow cobblestone street!"

We got a full driving tour, a walking tour of the Old Port, a lesson on the politics of the language debate, and got to escape to a different culture for a while. One where women can't change their name after marriage, where milk comes in bags, and where you have the option to spread congealed pork fat on your bagel in the mornings.

It was a great escape and did nothing but reinforce our plan to take the kids and live in another country for a year at some point in our lives. I want them to know, with a full understanding, that there is more than one way, more than two ways, to approach things - some people live in a world where health care is free, school is longer and harder, the convenience of box stores don't exist, and toilets flush differently.

Because if you can understand that the most basic parts of life, the parts of life that you take for granted and never think about, can be done in a completely different manner, than you can start to realize that everthing can be done in a different manner. You can think more broadly and go beyond what you see and what people expect of you.

On that note, here are some of the shots from the weekend..


Did you know there's a mountain right in the middle of the city? Well there is and it's awesome. So are the castles, with actual lion statues out front, that sit atop of it. 

(You may also notice that Fat Face has started to set in. My stomach seems to be a normal size for 23 weeks, but thankfully my face and my ass are picking up the slack. Those features are going to look downright GORGEOUS by the end of this pregnancy)

Old Montreal. 
Cobblestone, restaurants, hundreds of art galleries, and the most perfect spot for a couples weekend someday.

Notre-Dame Basilica


1 comment:

die Frau said...

Totally with you on the bad-driving, jean-cutoff-short-wearing Canadian. I have that same prejudice with Ontario. Ditto the needing a passport for Canada. It's CANADA! For crying out loud, we used to go across the border for good Chinese food (still do) and half my friends have summer homes there!

Still haven't made it to Montreal, but looks like somewhere we need to go.

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