Yesterday was Canada day.
[Church bells chime in the distance. Insert tumbleweed.] No, I’m kidding. 🙂
I’ve lived in this country for ten years this year, and though I may have the occasional moan about disliking Winnipeg, Canada Day always kicks my arse into gear with fireworks, flags, performances and MORE cake, since it also happens to fall on Sweet’s birthday. You all know I’m pretty patriotic when it comes to England. I post videos all over the place, burst into tears of pride at Britain’s Got Talent, have BBC radio accompanying me a good 12 hours out of every day, and am on an ongoing mission to convert all my friends to Dr. Who loving Anglophiles. I’m probably going to be rocking Union Jack socks at my own wedding. National pride is something I think the Brits do really well – they still flock together to support things their nation does brilliantly. And not so brilliantly, if you count their last World Cup game. It really makes me proud! But this week, on Canada Day? I wanted to take a second to forget all the things I dislike about where I live, join in with the rest of the nation and really appreciate the great things about this country to make it a day worth celebrating.
I love Canada for the education it’s given me, both scholarly and socially. I arrived fresh from a school of tucked in shirts and scoldings for more than one pair of earrings, where everyone was part of a sea of conformity. I was blown away on my first day in a real high school, where there were people of every clique or style imaginable. Sure, I spent my lunch hours in the physics room with the other IB nerds making science jokes and eating pizza with a knife and fork. But it doesn’t mean I wasn’t introduced to an enormous variety of people. I got to geek out in a program designed for kids who loved learning. I got to take classes with people who did improv and wore blue Mohawks and let me join their punk band. I got to experience a culture so drastically different from everything I’d grown up with, and I loved it.
Nobody hates Canada. I’m living in the friendliest country in the world! In France, the natives will turn their noses up at you. In America, they’ll tell you to go back home and throw things at your baseball supporting, Canadian flag-bearing classmates. (Yes, I can vouch for this first-hand.) In England, you’ll walk cobblestone streets – covered in gob, pigeon poo and old chewing gum. But in Canada? Even the homeless tell you to have a nice day!
Living here, I get to experience a real white Christmas. Nothing can top spending Christmas eve huddled up inside with a warm mug of Baileys and hot chocolate, or popping out to grab some milk in deserted, twilit streets, freshly covered with the softest, sparkliest, most ABUNDANT snow I’ve ever seen. Sure, it sucks that we spend 8 months a year below zero. But there’s something magical about December in Canada, when the world almost transforms into the forests of Narnia.
It’s cheap to live here. Like, beyond ridiculously cheap. Allow me to demonstrate my living expenses for all my international readers. I live in a two-storey, pretty new house with hardwood floors, two big bedrooms, ten minutes away from downtown on a beautiful little street facing the river, with the downtown skyline in the distance. There’s no crime in my area, it’s close to everything, and the view is gorgeous. There’s a riverside path leading anywhere you want to go, and you can walk for miles under canopies of trees. Sure, there’s about a bazillion mosquitoes. But that’s small peanuts. (Ask me this again in a month.) My rent? $950 per month. Split between two. That’s $910 US. Six hundred quid. People are astonished when they hear how cheap it is to live here. Every time I want to move back home, I stop in my tracks and remind myself I’d have to work three jobs just to be able to afford a tiny little flat.
Summers here are beautiful. The skies are forever blue, the streets filled with festivals celebrating the arts, theatre, music, diversity and culture. I’m so excited there’s still another two months of it. And maybe best of all? It’s DRY. (No frizz!) But most importantly, Canada has brought me everything that’s shaped the last ten years of my life. It’s brought me culture. It’s where I learned I had a passion for design, for learning, and for writing. It has made me realise how much I love England, which, maybe I’d never have appreciated had I remained there. It’s dragged me through hellish situations which have given rise to a huge desire to grow. It’s where I shaped my friendships, grew closer with family, and learned of the kind of person I want to be. It brought me pain and passion, highs and lows, longings and gratitude, all the while giving me a landscape of natural beauty and extreme seasons. This country does battle together. Anyone who lives in Arctic conditions for two thirds of their lives are pretty tough cookies. But they’re also the friendliest, nicest people I’ve ever met.
Lastly – Arcade Fire anyone? Most of you know I’m passionate about great music, and though I am guilty of favouring British bands, Canada has produced one of the most amazing bands in a very long time. This is the band that was formed by a husband and wife team, went on to add tonnes more members, along with harps, accordions and string sections, and became nominated for 5 Brit Awards, 3 Grammys and 6 Junos, and more. They recorded their stunning second album in a defunct church, including the haunting Intervention, full of church organs, choirs, and lyrics that continue to wrench at the heartstrings half a decade on.Way to go Canada, for producing something this brilliant.
I may have been waving my England flag strong and proud during this World Cup, but this Canada Day? Here’s to you, Canada, for everything you’ve taught me, shown me, and been to me. I know I’ll whinge when the mosquitoes hit hard, and I know I’ll whinge harder when I’m stuck at a bus shack next February picking icicles off my eyelashes. But today, I’ll celebrate with the rest of the nation, for all the great things this country really is. It’s important to count our blessings every once in a while, after all, right? Happy birthday Canada – and happy birthday Sweet!