The last time I was in Canada was one and a half years ago. This was also the duration of time since I’d last seen my dad (and most other family members), drank tap water and enjoyed the experience of unpolluted inhalation. It was enough time for me to both simultaneously grow homesick and forgetful of what it is that makes home so good. Living in Pakistan, backpacking India and vacationing in Thailand last year was amazing – unparalleled and incomparable but, there is something to be said about coming home and seeing the people that shaped you and the places that raised you, isn’t there?
With some new found perspectives on Canada, specifically Vancouver, I would like to share what makes it so damn amazing to me. I’ve grown accustomed to a world where I fight for traffic space with cart hauling donkeys, wake to the call to prayer, wrestle the smog for oxygen and buy produce from the sides of roads for pennies. I didn’t realize how much these daily experiences had become normal for me, and how much I missed some of the daily experiences of Vancouver. So here they are, 10 reasons to love Canada (if you don’t already) and some things that you may not truly notice until you leave.
1. Drinking from the tap. The simple beauty in turning a knob and having an abundance of cold, clean water is pure exhilaration for someone who lives on plastic bottled water. I didn’t realize that tap water tastes different (and better!) than bottled water! In Lahore, I wash my vegetables in tubs of bottled water, I use bottled water to cook my rice and fill my water bottle and I’m slowly adding massive amounts of plastic to landfills and BPA to my body…bottom line being appreciate your taps people!
3. Mountains and Mother Nature. Vancouver area is pretty special in it’s proximity to beautiful places and spaces. This winter I went to Manning Park with my family, downhill skied, snowshoed along a frozen river, skated on an outdoor pond and walked through dense pine forests. Waking up to this…
doesn’t happen every day!
4. Clean air. On this point, I was a fool. I remember applying for a job in Bangladesh 4 years ago (prior to moving to China) and reading that it had the worst air quality in the world. This evoked no response from me besides from ‘meh’. I didn’t get it but I do now. Breathing in polluted, smoggy air is like trying to breath under water. It’s like trying to move through jello (haven’t tried this but it sounds strenuous…). Something that should happen normally suddenly becomes hard work! Since moving to areas of the world with high air pollution I’ve had the joy of nightly nosebleeds and blackened sneezes…
5. International cuisine. You can walk down a single street in Vancouver and find Japanese, Chinese dim sum, Mexican, Greek, falafel joints, Vietnamese, Italian, Lebanese, Indian, cozy diners, trendy fusion, coffee cafes…need I say more? When I crave anything besides the standard Pakistani fare (which is pretty damn delicious but limited), I make it from scratch with only half the desired ingredients and a whole lot of substitutions, and while this has increased my cooking skill set, it’s not easy. Vancouver, on the other hand, is a cornucopia of deliciousness.
6. Driving rules. I used to be slightly intimidated by downtown Vancouver driving, a fear which is laudably laughable now. Traffic has rules and people follow them. Lahori driving reality includes tuktuks, motorcycles, camels, horse drawn carriages, donkey carts and people who have absolutely no clue what to do behind the wheel. A well put explanation by a friend of mine -“When you get into your car just assume that everyone is out to get you and you’ll do fine”. This is an appropriate Pakistani driving mantra!
7. Functioning public transit. I know public transit is expensive (I heard this from both my sisters and friends upon their purchase of bus passes in the New Year) but it’s available and it works. In India and Pakistan your public transit often includes livestock, tire repairs and butt grabs, if there is any at all!
8. Minimal population – Elbow room. Walking room. Breathing room. Wide open spaces. Enough said?
9. Manners! Oh, how lovely to hear people say ‘pardon’ and ‘sorry’ in public. I bumped into someone in Lahore’s supermarket today, apologized and received a strange look. It’s not that people are rude here, it’s just that apologizing isn’t a common exchange for small incidences. During my short stint in Canada it made me feel so at home to hear people thanking the bus driver as they disembarked and verbalizing a well timed ‘pardon’ for misunderstoon exchanges.
10. Internal heating. You really don’t realize how imperative this one is until you see your breath inside your house! It was 3 degrees last night in Lahore, outside and inside. At an all time low in temperature there is not enough gas to go around…that means no gas heaters, no cooking gas and not enough gas for a warm shower. Everyone here is miserable. And people say, “You’re from Canada! At least you’re used to this weather.”. Yah right! Vancouver can get chilly but I’ve never had to sleep in my toque and mittens! Living in Pakistan opens the door for incredible experiences – but surviving winter cold is not one of them.
So to sum it all up, Canada = damn amazing. Holiday season in Canada = Happy me.