August 2013

Through Sun-Tinted Glasses

My first day in this country and I already know how they felt; all those Scots who came before me, the thousands of Celtic immigrants looking for a new life.

This is home. Only better.

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The sporadic nestles of water, greenery and parks gives me Scottish scenery flashbacks. The trees are familiar and the animals look like ours. But here, everyone can take advantage of the beautiful surroundings because of the weather. As I sit on a bench over looking a canal, which could be easily confused for a Scottish lake, families cycle past smiling and awing at the scene. Across the water a group of school children excitedly clamber on board a pirate ship, one that my hamster Captain would surely be proud of.
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Joggers trade joyful remarks and kids play in the heat of the day. Exercise is going on all around me: kayaking, volleyball, cycling, rollerblading, running, hiking… the list is endless. My housemate, Shannon, has invited me to join her for full moon yoga at Mooney’s Bay where hundreds of people meet up after dark and stretch to their hearts content. It’s safe to say I’m excited by this strange activity. Exercising outside, let alone surrounded by lanterns and strangers, seems like a curious phenomenon to a Scot who is used to wistfully looking outside at the rain and the clouds and wishing for a chance to stretch her legs.

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I hear a loud bell from the bridge behind me and the cars stop as the bridge opens to give way for one man and his dog on a boat. Once he is through, the man parks his boat and goes for a walk with his dog. No one seems to mind that this single person’s leisure activity has made them sit in traffic and possibly cost them valuable time. Come to think of it, I haven’t seen one angry Canadian since I arrived in Ottawa.

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The accents are different but the people are friendly in a way that no other nation can compare. Their attitudes are good natured, like the Scots, but far less dower and self-deprecating. This is a liberal country where same-sex marriage was legalised years ago, a place where racial hatred seems like a distant memory from a past life. And they are VERY into saving the environment. Eco hours encourage users to wash their clothes at night by offering cheaper energy bills. Recycling is BIG, littering is almost unheard of and their cars are hybrids. It makes our yearly trips to the recycling centre and occasionally remembering to switch the TV off look almost pathetic.

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However, there is still a taste of America in the True North. The big cars, apparent obesity, huge supermarkets, the weird insects and the twang in the accents. But American culture has had one noticeably positive influence on Canadian life and that is the unwavering dedication to sports. On a quick drive through my university’s campus it became apparent that almost a quarter of the buildings were sports related; indoor arenas, gyms, courts etc. It was like something straight out of a North American movie; large training fields with bleachers and teams out practicing various sports with their over-enthusiastic coaches.
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And one of the most notable improvements of this second-Scotland is that their seagulls don’t look like evil-hormone fueled dogs with the desire to eat your children. Not once have I seen a Canadian seagull dive-bomb a greasy McDonalds burger out of a person’s hands, in fact today I watched this little guy feast on cherries only after they had fallen from the tree.

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Interesting yet inaccurate Canadian fact of the day: the seagulls here are fruitarians.

Love Jill

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