O Canada…Posted: October 27, 2012
Last week, I said goodbye to my family and boarded a plane for another country. While it has been exciting, and possibly the best chance for a good life that I’ll ever have, it was also one of the most difficult things I’ve had to do. I guess if I didn’t care about my family, it would have been much easier.
Even before had boarded the plane, I was experiencing what seems to be a pretty widespread Canadian trait. Friendliness, coupled with openness. I got talking to a mother and her son from Vancouver, who ended up sitting one row ahead of me on the flight. Not only did they chat for the entire flight, they gave me headphones when the aircrew would only accept credit cards, not cash. What’s that all about, Air Transat?
Leaving a cold and damp Glasgow behind, we cruised out over the Outer Hebrides for Iceland, where ice-mantled volcanoes reared skywards. I have never had a clearer view, and it was awe-inspiring. The crew were clearly having a great flight, chipping in over intercom to describe what was visible below. Greenland was also clear, with massive fjords filled with glaciers. Icebergs calving into the Atlantic looked like toys.
Northern Canada was shrouded in cloud, with the occasional glimpse of frozen tundra. This is the territory of Ice Road Truckers, without the trucks, or roads. Utter wilderness. Hours later, northern Alberta hove into view. Mile after mile of well ordered fields, running for fifty miles to each side. The scale was quite astonishing.
Calgary from the air was pleasant, bathed in clear sunlight, with the snow-capped Rockies off to the west. Much of the city appears pretty flat from the air, with only the tall buildings of the downtown core showing any sharp relief. As it turns out, those buildings are quite tall, lending the centre of the city a shiny and high-tech air. When I arrived, the sun was shining, hard enough to hurt my eyes, and it was reasonably warm.
One of the first things I’ve noticed about Calgary is the food. I mean, I love food, but there is a wide range of ethnicities here, so it’s easy to pick up something Vietnamese, Cuban or Japanese for lunch. Not to mention the Albertan specialities, triple-A beef, which is as good as it sounds, or the Montreal Smoked Meat Sandwich. Whoever invented that deserves a prize! I’ve eaten two of those since landing, and am approximately twenty five pounds heavier 🙂 For those who like such things, there are loads of vegetables, and fruit too.
People here have been pretty universally friendly. You do encounter the odd person having a bad day, but the general level of friendliness and politeness is an eye-opener. People _do_ talk to you on the train or bus, and don’t treat you like a freak if you strike up a random conversation. I’m talking to you, London! I’ve been welcomed here by almost everyone, including my boss and his family, and it has been a humbling experience. When I raised the issue of politeness and decent behaviour with a government official, she said that she tells her children (they’re all from Kashmir) that this is how you should behave. It is learned behaviour. I’ve even found myself biting back frustration at traffic delays or someone doing something stupid, because that’s what they do here. Nice.
The winter is approaching though. While I arrived in shirtsleeves weather, it rapidly turned to snow showers and dropping temperatures. Thankfully having bought some good winter clothing, the cold is currently merely inconvenient. I’m told that it gets far far colder. That’s OK. Watching spindrift rolling off the roof of the station at Banff Trail, it was almost beautiful, if bitterly cold.
Have sorted out accommodation, and am looking forward to getting my feet properly on the ground here in Canada. Once I move into my own apartment next week, and start accumulating the things that make a home, I’ll feel much more grounded. After all, this is home now.