“I don’t even know what street Canada is on.” — Al Capone ❈
We as Americans have a sense of our own ignorance about other countries, but it never seems to bother us that much. I’ve often felt that my minimal, off-hand knowledge of other countries, being more than most Americans know, was good enough. I’ve heard of Angela Merkel, I know that Venezuela is not a city in Mexico, and I can point out Iraq and Afghanistan on a map. Not bad, right?
I was, however, a bit embarrassed when I realized, on my third day in Canada, that I didn’t know the capital city or the name of the Prime Minister.
I didn’t let these occasional realizations detract from the fun. Saturday, Mary took me for a long walk up and down Commercial Drive. I’d been told that Vancouver has a Portland-esque vibe, but I didn’t see it until we got to this street. Suddenly, I felt like I was right back at home on Hawthorne or Burnside.
The street is lined on both sides with vintage clothing shops and antique stores. One of the shopkeepers was a girl with orange dreamcicle-colored hair, which I loved and couldn’t stop staring at. There were cafes from every country imaginable, coffee shops, and more marijuana dispensaries than seemed economically sustainable. It was lovely.
Sunday we spent the day on the beach at English Bay, which is downtown Vancouver. The weather was idyllic, sunny with a refreshing breeze, and we met up with Mary’s friend and two Americans from Los Angeles for a lazy picnic on the grass.
Shopping for picnic food, I found some chips in ‘All Dressed’ flavor, which were incredibly delicious (the other Americans agreed), but none of the Canadians could explain the flavor to me. The picture on the bag has a bottle of vinegar, a red bell pepper, and an onion. I wanted to buy some to bring home, so Mary and I went to Safeway, where she grabbed a bag from a display.
“Here you go!” she said triumphantly. I looked at the bag disdainfully.
“That’s tiny,” I said. “I’m bringing these back to the US. I need the regular size.”
“This is the regular size,” she said. I refused to accept this, so we traipsed to the chip aisle and found, on the very top shelf, a bag labeled ‘Party Size!’ This bag was the size of a regular, non-party size back in the US. It cost $6. “This is not enough for a party, so I’m just going to call this American Size,” I decided, and bought two bags. The tiny girl from Los Angeles ate almost an entire bag on her own, proving my point.
I also found Kinder Eggs, which are chocolate eggs that have little toys inside them. They’re banned in the US because the FDA doesn’t approve of products that have ‘non-food items’ in them. I have fond memories of eating Kinder Eggs in England growing up, so I brought a couple back for my son. I’ll make sure he’s aware of the ‘non-food items’ before he eats them. Don’t tell the FDA.
Finally, we walked along the Vancouver seawall. It’s a wall with a walking path that goes around the edge of Stanley Park, and it’s stunningly beautiful both in daylight and as the sun sets. We walked for a few hours, and combined with the perfect weather, it was probably my favorite part of the trip.
While it was a lovely four days, I realized that I don’t think I would want to live in Canada. The country felt like a weird parallel universe: just different enough from the States that I felt out of place, and if I stayed long enough, I’m sure I would be homesick. If I’m going to live outside the US, I need to live somewhere completely different that doesn’t remind me of home. Still, it’s a wonderful place to visit and I had a great trip.
I also learned that the capital of Canada is Ottawa, and the Prime Minister is Stephen Harper. Nobody seems to like him very much. 😉