For no particular reason, I woke up today with so much joy, energy and gratitude. And it just so happens to be Canada day. I was compelled to express my sentiments in this rambunctious outpouring. Please excuse me for it.
I’m not a native of this nation, and for a long time even after I became a resident I didn’t feel much about it. But the more I thought about it, the more I loved this country. It’s become abundantly clear.
First, some back story. I was born in Townsville, Queensland in the weather-gifted Australia to a Filipina mother and German father. At the time of my birth they’d only been in Australia for a few years. Both were very much still immersed in their native culture. I was a first generation Australian with blood roots throughout the world.
Dad was a good German. He ate sausages and drank beer every single day of his life. Until his dying day he faithfully attended the Townsville German-Australian club very Sunday where he ate more sausages and drank more beer. I have so many fond memories of that place and of ridding the ferris wheel at Octoberfest festival where every year he was a volunteer beer server.
My mother’s cultural influence was even stronger. My brother and I grew up speaking Tagalog, eating Filipino food, and attending lots of Filipino parties. And unlike my father’s family who was far away in Germany and I’d never met, I grew up with lots of my mother’s family about — Her parents, two of her brothers and scores of cousins of different degrees. My mother has now been in Australia for 35 years – but she still seems “fresh off the boat”. Filipino-ness would figure very heavily in my life — I went on to spend a lot of time in the Philippines and even married one, for a time.
As lovely as Australia is I knew it wasn’t the place for me, for reasons I won’t get into here. I left and started gallivanting about as soon as I could, at 16 years old. I’ve been very fortunate to have travelled to many places. I think I’m rather deserving of the monikers — though faintly douchy — global nomad, citizen of the world and third-culture kid.
Edith, get on with it. I thought this was about Canada.
Ok, in 2006 I found myself attending Mcgill University in Montreal as part of a one year exchange program with my home university in Adelaide, Australia. It was supposed to be for one year. But I never went back. And here I am, 10 years later still in Canada, with a passport that allows me to stay here forever.
Never in my wildest dreams would I ever have thought I’d become Canadian — and proud of it at that. Partly, because “wild” and “Canada” aren’t often utter in the same sentence — unless you’re talking about its wilderness. Canada never figured much in my imagination, and I suppose, it doesn’t feature heavily in many other’s people dreams, either. The idea of Canada isn’t exactly seductive. Everyone dreams of the American one, or even Australia. Still, so often when people find out I’m from down-under they’re super puzzled as to why I gave that up.
But, Oh Canada, you wonderful and under-appreciated beast. Let me count the ways.
It’s not America here. We don’t have guns, obesity isn’t a huge problem (pun!!) and we don’t have Kardashians. Our citizens are quick to clear up any mistaken identity of being from our over-shadowing neighbour. But we’re happy and content basking in these shadows. Leave us be, out of the lime light. Shh! Don’t tell anyone about the secret paradise we’ve built.
Yes, the winters are long and harsh but lend themselves to wonderful introspection, calm and fire-side après ski aperitif. When summer finally hits we’ve earned it and exude the kind of joie de vivre (bordering on crazy) I’ve never encountered elsewhere before. Patios and parks taking the brunt of our enthusiasm. And heaven forbid that global warming hit the fan, but I think we’ll be quite fine up here.
For the most part our politics are boring — which is exactly what you want. I’d rather have my drama and wars in films. And I adore our current Prime Minister. Among his many fine skills and qualities, he’s very easy on the eyes. Talk about fore-shadowing! I already had a crush on him when I was 6 years old.
Ah, the landscape. So vastly different from the red sand and blue waters of Australia but very bit as awe-inspiring. Exactly a year ago I had the good fortune for doing a 10-day hike shooting fitness pictures and videos throughout the Canadian Rocky Mountains. The journey was nothing short of transformative. It fed my soul and I do believe that was the moment I fell in love.
And the people! Yes, it’s a cliché that Canadians are nice. But they really are! And again, that is exactly what you want. People who respect each other, are kind, polite, welcoming and inclusive. Many nations call themselves multi-cultural but I have to say, nobody does it as well as Canada. Perhaps that’s why I fit in so well, the mixed-bag mongrel that I am.
And if I may extend my praise further to my city, Toronto. We’ve only been dating a year now, but I want to marry you. I wasn’t love at first sight, you’re not exactly beautiful. But your energy is intoxicating. This city is really having a moment, and coming into its own right now. It’s like California in the 60’s, New York in the 80s and Berlin in the 90s. Yesterday, in comparing Toronto with New York, someone said the Big Apple is all about glorifying it’s past while The 6 is brimming with enthusiasm about its future. It’s akin to a curmudgeonly, know-it-all 50-year-old who’s been there and done that versus a hormone-driven teen keenly saving up for his first car to impress his first girlfriend.
And, Drake, I love you.
Of course, I haven’t renounced the rest of the world, or my other alliances. I love you all. I will forever belong to the whole world, but today, I celebrate my love for you, oh Canada.
To conclude my little love letter to my country and my city your charms are subtle but deadly attractive to the thinking man. You may not be the most sought-after belle at the ball but you don’t sit out any dances either. Continue on your merry little way, be great, mighty and humble. If you are fortunate enough to live here, too, take a moment, take stock, show gratitude. Happy Canada day.
Please watch this awesome video and song from everyone’s favourite astronaut, Chris Hadfield.