Two years ago, my husband Paul and I took a water taxi to Norris Point, in Newfoundland, and tried to get a cab to go to the Lobster Cove Head lighthouse, where a rug hooking class was taking place. The taxis were busy, the class was starting, and I asked a man who was walking toward his car if he could give us a lift. “Of course,” he beamed. He had four people in his small vehicle, and they all scrunched and squeezed to make room for us. Then they insisted on taking us to a lookout point before dropping us off at the lighthouse.
An isolated incident of kindness? Hardly. In Nova Scotia locals welcomed us into their houses. On the island of Quirpon, Newfoundland, the owner of the lighthouse handed me a book ten minutes after I mentioned that I was interested in a subject. On Moose Factory island, our Cree guide Phil invited us to his camp and cooked us dinner. In Toronto, our guide added two extra hours to a tour after we showed interest in the booming art scene. In Montreal, we were invited to tea at a woman’s home. In an Inuit community, a woman asked if we wanted to see how she lived and visit her home. In Manitoba, we got caught in a downpour, and two men invited us under their umbrellas. On the Huron-Wendat reserve, the First Nations people eagerly shared their culture with us and then asked us about ours, and really listened.
In Quebec City, when we were intrigued by a parade and photographed it, we were invited to join in.
On every trip to Canada, I marvel about how decent, pleasant and group-minded Canadians are. Although we met a lot of ambitious, goal-oriented people, they weren’t me-first-and-damn-the-rest-of-you. They hurried less than we do. They seemed to have a real sense of community. Hey, folks, what is wrong with us in the USA?
Canadians have social problems, of course, but they aren’t a violent society. They generally send troops to fight the wars the U.S.A. is engaged in, but they don’t start the conflicts. I was told that they don’t advertise pharmaceuticals on T.V. Everyone has access to medical care, even if they carp about it.
They say “please” and “thank you.” Prices were generally affordable, and we were never cheated.
When we asked questions, people took time to answer us. As a woman, I never felt apprehensive about walking around at night. No one was aggressive or hostile. Carrying concealed weapons was not high on anyone’s agenda. Drivers weren’t screaming and giving each other the finger.
When I turned on the T.V. in Canada, I mostly saw shows from the U.S.A. that were pointless, mindless and vaguely embarrassing. Their press and airwaves are full of news from the U.S. They accept our dollars. They seem to know everything going on in our country. But what do we know about them?
Do we know the names of their provinces or their leaders? Do we follow their politics, education, arts?
We share a continent but we hog the limelight. And Canada deserves her day in the sun.
Most people I know sigh and nod politely when I say I am going to Canada. They think of it as someplace beautiful, tranquil and a little boring. Somehow it seems more exciting to go to another continent. I’m saying: think Canada. It’s kinder, gentler, sorta like the l950’s in some parts. But boring? It’s hip and arty and the scenery is killer. There are adventure sports galore, world-class cuisine, culture, festivals, and wines waiting to be discovered. The Vikings went there. The Acadiens came from there. Look north. We have a lot to learn from our neighbors. Like anger management. Being group-minded. Ratcheting back from Type A to type C personality. Not being obsessed with being Number One. Peace. Quiet. Less of a chemical load. Less pollution. The quality of this thing we share called Life.
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Photos by Paul Ross
About Judith Fein: She is an award-wining travel writer who has contributed to more than 100 publications. She is an acclaimed speaker,teacher, and the author of Life is a Trip: The Transformative Magic of Travel. Her website is www.GlobalAdventure.us