Thursday, July 1, 2010

Happy Canada Day!

Looking out towards Christchurch from the Port Hills

Living overseas is an interesting experience. It makes you realize what you took for granted back home, the things that defined what home is. For over a year and a half, Stephen and I have been living in Christchurch, New Zealand. Going to school, working, making new friends and most importantly, learning about who we are and where we want to go.

Stephen and I spent our Canada Day quietly. Still having to go to work and school, we made red and white cookies to share around with students, teachers and peers. This was our effort at spreading our pride in the country we call home. A small one, but made none the less. At home, we listened to a couple of pod casts of Definitely Not the Opera from CBC and read some Stuart McLean stories. These were our own personal connections and reminders of tiny aspects of Canadian culture that remind us of home. Not just the country, but the weekly rituals like tuning into a favorite radio show. It's these tiny rituals that we notice most in our daily lives overseas. Things like the radio, the difficulty of finding cranberries in the grocery store, the knowledge of what crokinole is, having everything is english and french, being able to buy rubbing alcohol without being thought of as a drug addict, the fact that Canada Day is hot, sunny and very summery (not Christmas).

Most Canada Days for me involved watching the parade (sometimes taking part) down Main Street in Whitehorse. One year, a couple of friends and I decided to busk on Main Street just before and after the parade. It was a lovely warm, Yukon day, and the streets were packed with people waiting. We were maybe in our mid-teens, so well out of our cute stage meaning we really had to earn our money. But that day, in just 2 hours we took in some $250. I can still remember the high we were all on for the rest of the day. It was great.

When I was older, Canada Day meant BBQ and dinner parties. Friends gathered on the deck, beer or wine in hand. One year we even tried to fire off some fireworks from the deck (despite the light conditions in the Yukon at this time of year). After only one or two we got a visit from a neighbour who also happened to be a fireman who politely informed us that firing fireworks off above the boreal forest at this time of year was perhaps not the best idea.

And then there's Canada Day in Dawson City. The first year Stephen and I did the Yukon River Quest we arrived in Dawson the night before and crashed into bed. The next day, I remember standing on King Street, hand in hand with Stephen, watching the bike parade roll by (of which I had been a part in years gone by). When we went to separate our hands we found we were stuck as our fingers were still swollen like sausages.

Where we come from is an integral part of who we are. It shapes our views and ideas, it influences how we look at the world, and it is a place we return to, if not in body, than in spirit, throughout our lives. With our Canadian cook books up in our kitchen, our maple syrup (quickly disappearing) stashed in our cupboard, our Canadian literature stacked proudly in our shelves and our playlist of Canadian artists on iTunes, we have made sure to surround ourselves in as much Canadiana as possible. Not only to share with any visitors who walk into our home, but to act as touchstones to who we are, where we come from and where we want to go.

Looking South across Lake Laberge


  1. Unfortunately, Canada Day was rainy. Almost the whole day. At least where I live (about 30 minutes outside of Whitehorse).

    Nevertheless, there was a parade down mainstreet, and flags a-plenty all over the city.

    I'm still jealous of your life in New Zealand, however. It's one of the places I want to visit most before I die (which hopefully won't be for another 50 years or so).


  2. Great to hear of your celebrations of Canada Day. We woke up at Bare Loon Lake, finished off our load of oatmeal, drank the last of the instant coffee and packed up our wet tents. Worn out, but exhilarated by our successful passage over the Chilkoot Trail, we trudged through the sand, firm and solid after a rain soaking, to Bennett and the train. We paused to look up the Homan River valley towards the sun kissed mountains above Primrose Lake. Soon we too felt its warmth.

    At the end of the slow ride along the shores of Bennett Lake (I watched a butterfly through the train window zoom past us) we arrived to the smiling faces and open arms of waiting family and friends at the Carcross railway station. A great way to end the trip and to celebrate Canada.