Springtime in the Maritimes looks an awful lot like winter. I’ve been to Canada before, a night in Toronto, and a few nights in Montreal. But this immersion into the Provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and the next couple of days in Prince Edward Island will have given me a true understanding of Canada.
To all those people who say it’s the “51st state” and take lightly the similarities between Canada and the US, I’m here to tell you you’re wrong.
This is why I love my company. If you travel through Canada with any other company, you might learn that the government is different, the health care is different, but mostly otherwise Canada and the US are the same- you may feel that you’ve seen some beautiful sights, and been to some interesting places, but for what it’s worth, you are in a benign extension of the US.
Wrong, wrong wrong. Because of our interest in scratching the surface, and getting to the very root of a place and its people, I have learned about the history and present struggles and challenges of the people.
One thing you always hear about Canadians is how nice they are. I have learned some things that discard that stereotype (even if it’s nice, it’s still a stereotype) and exposed me to a divided reality. I’ve learned that calling Canada a bilingual country might be a misnomer. I’ve learned the struggles of the minority French speaking people and their challenges in retaining their language and culture. I’ve been faced with challenging questions that Canadians are facing and been stumped at finding the right answer. For instance, in the economically depressed Atlantic provinces of Canada like New Brunswick, the young are leaving in masses to find jobs in the west. Fracking is an option they are being forced to look at, despite its environmental consequences. People are willing to consider it for the sake of the regional economy.
The Quebec Referendum and the potential division of a country, Tim Horton’s and the history of a small chain of coffee shops, becoming a part of the patriotic fabric of a nation. These things have changed how I view Canada and made me ever so curious about the future of these issues and how they affect the people. Especially with a looming threat of Trump in the white house, I’m ever more eager to understand the country that I jokingly refer to as my refuge.
I visited Georgetown, Prince Edward Island and have seen with my own eyes a town in decline. A once thriving Fishing community, reduced to a few Lobster, and Scallop boats. I met a local who comes from a family of fisherman, forced to diversify into tourism. On one hand the town is as yet, untainted by the tourists and cruise ship needs. But one can plainly see the benefits of having the tourists visit this picturesque village. I found out today that the small school (currently serving 60 students) is slated to close because there aren’t enough students. It’s the second school in the area that will close, forcing the few remaining young families to go further for simple needs as education.
And then we saw the sights, the Bay of Fundy covered in Heavy smog, the reversing rapids and Hopewell Rocks. I saw the statue of Evangeline and visited the historical site of Grand Pre. I stood at the lighthouse at Peggy’s cove and was taken away by the small fishing villages like Halls Harbour, Lunenburg and even saw the pride of Canadian sailing, the Bluenose wrapped up in shrink wrap. I walked along the Halifax waterfront, and looked down over the city from the Citadel. I located the narrows where the Halifax explosion took place. I visited the cemetery where the Titanic dead are buried, and even visited the grave of J. Dawson (who in reality was a waiter/server on the ship and not a romantic stowaway.) I drove through the glorious rolling hills of Prince Edward Island, and stood on the dramatic shores and beaches of the Maritime coast.
Canada is a complicated and interesting and wonderful place. A place worth many more visits in the future. If there is one thing I impart on the wandering soul, those looking to travel and to find their next destination, while Canada has not in the past, conjured image of adventure and exploration, let me set you straight; a Canadian adventure may yet surprise you!