I returned from checking on my Dad in Canada this morning to torrential rains and a nasty cold. My Father is looking at months of rehab before we can even think about where and how he should be living. Forutnately many of these decisions must be made by his medical staff as my analysis shifts from bleak to dim to cautiously optimistic at the drop of a hat. While I was up north I had a lot of time to reflect on the differences between living near the fourth largest city in the US (Houston) and living in a small city between Toronto and Detroit.
Butter Tarts - Oh how I miss warm butter tarts with raisins and a good strong cup of Tim Horton's coffee. I got to indulge while I was there at least once a day and I may have gained a few butter tart pounds at the same time. Why anyone would put pecans, rather than raisins, in a butter tart is beyond me.
Wool Sweaters - I went to a Value Village while in Kitchener to check out wool sweaters for potential felting projects. I was very surprised at how few there were as the majority of the sweaters were cotton and acrylic. I picked up eight of various weights and styles for about $5.00 each. Even though they were quite bulky I still managed to get them in my suit case without going over the weight limits.
Barbecue - I know Canada is not generally known for its barecue but I had the opportunity to try a few meals of it and have come back with a new appreciation of honey based peppery sauces. Yum Yum!
Diversity - Kitchener is a very small city but I found excellent examples of many different ethic restaurants within a short distance of each other. When I return for more Dad Duty, I have a full list of places I want to try including the Korean Barbecue place downtown and the Indian place in the strip plaza down the road from his apartment. All this diversityin a small area also means there is quite a bit of ethinc tension and there is a debate I heard about about sending everyone back to where they came from, something the members of the first nations might find to be a good thing.
Trees - Large maples, oaks, elms and pines were every where. The shade canopy throughout the city was glorious and I can hardly wait for the leaves to start changing there. With great ecological awareness most grass fertilizers and weed killers are banned so the grass was almost universally brown and not at all attractive. It seemed that most lawns were dying and the parks were given over to mulched play areas and/or flower beds rather than large expanses of green.
Brick Houses - Especially around the hospital there were many large all brick homes with wrap around porches, unusually shaped windows and victorian gingerbread trim. I love being in an area where most of the homes are over 60 years old and, although sligthly expensive, are affordable for most middle class families. One of the joys of living in a smaller city. Heating these places means that the lovely original windows have been replaced by newer triple pained glass or are covered with aluminum storm windows. Yuck!
The War - When Canadian solders who have been killed in Afganistan are brought home for autopsy and burial, they are all returned to the base in Trenton and then driven to Toronto. Canadians line the over passes over Highway 401 to pay their respects to these fallen ones. It is quite moving to see and this stretch of road has been renamed the Highway of Heroes. On the other hand there was a 'support the troops' rally in the city of Calgary, Alberta and only 16 people participated.
Then there is Canadian Tire money, bilingualism, provincial politics, the CBC, TVO, heavy money, 15% sales tax, government run liquor stores, eh! and many, many other things that let you know you are in a foreign country Even with all these differences and similarities we still share the longest unguarded border in the world. Oh Canada indeed!