I’m a Canadian citizen, and I’ve spent a lot of time traveling through thatbeautiful expansive country. From the cobbled streets in Montreal to the icy shores of Vancouver Island. From the South to the North, from the East to the West… Canada is stunning and diverse.
In 2007 I spent 9 months traveling through this country exploring the sites and working various different jobs to pay my way.
I started in Toronto, where I gave myself a crash course in Canadian culture, I went to the opera, to the ballet and to the theatre, over and over again. I saw Ibsen and Pinter and Luise Miller. I spent time watching directors in rehearsals and soaking up the art that was on offer.
I spent St Patricks day waiting in the sleet and cold to drink green beer in an icy tent and pee in a portable toilet that had no lighting and where my bum stuck to the cold seat. We ate street meat drunk and silly on the way home. Hot sausage burning my tongue with spicy mustard and onions. I got sick. I saved myself with Tim Hortons Donuts, there is one on every corner. Hot chocolate and a chocolate dipped original. SO DELICOUS. Nothing could be better on a snowy day. As the slush seeps through my converse sneakers and my toes turned blue, my mouth filled with chocolate and soft doughy goodness. Mmmmm…
I drank in college bars where I shot tequila, and cinnamon Goldschlager which burns your throat and warms your stomach at the same time. I visited little towns, I went to Cambridge, Oakville and North to Baysville. I ate burgers at a famous roadside cafe and tried Poutine. I did easter egg hunts, I visited the home where my mother grew up, I went to the native museum and art gallery. I ate colored corn and saw fields of pumpkins. Once I’d had my fill I got on a plane and flew to Calgary, to get some work and see a moose. Five weeks in Alberta – I saw grizzly bears in the wild, a mum and her cubs playing in a field between the tall mountain trees. I saw a moose, I spent tim on a cattle farm… I loved it.
Spring in Alberta was snowstorms which soured the locals and pleased me to no end. I adopted ‘eh’ into my vocabulary. I started working in a bar in the little town of Airdrie, right near the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. A cowboy town. I worked for $7 an hour… working for tips. Working all night, sleeping all day. Singing songs, laughing, going to keg parties, jumping on trampolines while the snow iced my lashes and my socks soaked and my feet turned blue and walking home in a mini skirt a snow storm.
I visited Drumheller – the bad lands. In the prairies of Alberta a crater opens up in the middle of the earth. It is the strangest town I’ve ever visited in my years of traveling. It looks like a living breathing set of a totally bizarre horror film. Little suburbs of caravan parks, with large plastic fluro colored dinosaurs on every corner. I just wanted to shoot a film there. I went to the dinosaur museum there… so I could see fossils that were found in the actual canyon.
The Columbian ice fields are three hours into the mountains between Banff and Jasper. You drive high up onto the glacier in a massive snow truck. The air is so crisp you can taste it. Up on the glacier your feet slide around on the solid ice… it’s like being in the artic, a few feet of snow. The sun went behind a cloud and the temperature dropped 20 degrees in an instant. cold, icy and beautiful. For a moment the world was silent. The cool air licks yoru face and the snow began to fall. It was perfect.
I ate poutine and almost had a heart attack, I had many a wing night whilst watching the hockey in the sports bar. I saw them deep fry escargot that they get out of a can and I thought – the french canadians are certainly a breed all of their own.
The bar I worked in was a little different to the bars back home in Australia. It was stronly encouraged that you drink while you work, and not a casual beer either, but shooters. When customers want to buy you a drink, you do a shooter or two with them. Having a strong stomach was vital to the job. My accent got me lots of tips, I made $200 in one night. Some gross come ons… a guy rubbed lime on my arm and then ate the lime. People loved my accent, and they just wanted to talk to me. Which was fun, a good way to make friends – and tips.
I worked at Camp. I went to workshops. I laughed, I loved, I cried.
I love Canada.
I am a citizen.
It is my second home.
I went on canoe trips that last for weeks. I loved it. I sweat. I cried. I pulled a muscle. I carried a canoe. I smelt bad. I worked hard. I laughed until I felt like I was going to pee. I jumped naked into the river from a second story building. I drank beer from a jug. I made new friends. I wanted to stay. I wanted to leave.
I love Canada.
But I’m always glad to come back to the heat of the southern hemisphere, to defrost, to see the sun, to feel the light burn on my skin and drink a cold beer without fearing the security of my fingers staying attached to my hands.
Canada eh? Yes please.