I live approximately 12,920 kilometres (8028 miles) from my home town in Canada. That is the equivalent of about 308 marathons. Basically, I’m pretty far away.
And I’m not sure when I will return to the great white north.
I love living in Cape Town. Something truly awe inspiring occurs when mountains and ocean meet. The cultural diversity I live amongst is beautiful. I have wonderful family and friends here.
However, there are days when I miss my homeland. Here are five things (besides my family and friends) that I miss about Canada.
1. The Food
I recently watched a film called “the Hundred Foot Journey”. To put it roughly, the movie was about food, emotion, family, memories and culture. I was reminded that food is powerful. Flavours powerfully evoke memories, emotions and feelings. Food is a product and a reminder of culture and history.
We as Canadians may not think we have much to offer the world of cuisine, but I for one have begun to appreciate our unique contribution since being across the world.
In South Africa, maple syrup (shipped from Canada) comes in small, expensive bottles. My parent’s seemingly endless supply (from years of making the stuff for themselves) is sadly no longer in my life. (Although I should say that after I wrote that line, my parents sent me some!)
Poutine (chips/fries covered in curd cheese and gravy/poutine sauce) is sadly missing from restaurant menus. Although I didn’t have this heart stopping treat too often in Canada, I miss seeing it on menus and enjoying it with friends on a nice summer day.
Butter tarts. When I go to a dessert potluck I no longer see these precious creations on the table. All dressed chips are also no longer in my life. There is no more peameal (Canadian) bacon for breakfast. And perhaps most noticeable, there is no Tim Horton’s on every corner or after every 50 km of highway.
2. The Weather
This may seem silly to those experiencing snow in April. I realize living in months of cold, snow and ice is not ideal. Road and car maintenance, ploughing/shovelling/snow blowing the driveway and not feeling your face all have their drawbacks.
But snow. It is wildly beautiful. Ice can also be fun. I miss seeing my breath on a nice cold night whilst looking up at the stars. I miss skiing, (ice) skating, and other winter activities.
I love the sun and the heat. It has been amazing to live in a place that has generally nice weather for a good part of the year (although winter is coming and I’m sure I’ll experience some chills in the non-insulated buildings here). But a part of me misses the distinct seasonal change. In Canada (or at least Ontario where I hail from) I always know what season it is because all four are so drastically different. And I like that. The distinct four seasons make the year seem more complete and the cycle of life is breathtakingly evident.
That’s ice hockey to you foreigners. Although, for the record field hockey is a very exciting game to watch (I watched the South African men’s national team defeat the Canadian team last year here in Cape Town). I still loosely follow my Ottawa Senators on the internet, but I sometimes miss the small talk (“did you see the game last night?”) strangers can have about the sport and the palpable excitement people feel come NHL playoff time or during a major international tournament.
Last year at the airport in Qatar I met a man from Vancouver. As we chatted, our conversation turned to hockey. Although he confessed he wasn’t a big fan, I saw tears in his eyes as he told me about the incredible atmosphere in Vancouver in 2010, after Canada’s national men’s team won the Olympic gold medal. Looking back it was a strange moment. Two grown men who had few things in common except for their nationality and an impactful memory of a six year old sporting event. But then again, it wasn’t that strange. Because we were Canadians talking about hockey.
4. The Accents
I live and work amongst Americans, a German, a Zimbabwean and the diverse people of South Africa. On the street and in my broader community I hear voices from those who come from around Southern Africa, South America, Europe, and many other places. Accents are beautiful things. For 18 years I didn’t really think Canadians (or at least my family and anyone outside of Newfoundland) had accents. But we sure do! My accent shows where I come from. My heritage. The past two times I’ve been in Canada I’ve especially noticed and appreciated the different pronunciations I’ve heard from my fellow Canadians. When I meet a Canadian I can usually pick up a slightly different accent than most Americans which always reminds me of home.
Seriously. If you are a Canadian and reading this, thank God for the healthcare system right now. Although there is wonderful, quality and professional healthcare available in South Africa, you will pay for it. This was a concept that was (and often still is) completely foreign to me. Yes, Canadian healthcare is not perfect. You may become more familiar with your hospital’s waiting room. Your taxes may be higher. But I for one am incredibly grateful for it, especially now that I no longer have access.
If you are reading this in Canada, please watch some hockey, have some poutine and play in the snow. Enjoy my homeland for me. And if you’ve never been, you’re overdue for a visit.