Backstory: My family is Canadian; my Mom was born, raised and educated in Toronto from family stock that claimed they were descended from the first female white child born in North America (whose cabin is on the "Ex" grounds) and United Empire Loyalists (the geography of such lineage is but the first of many puzzles); my Dad's folks came thru Ontario long enough on their way in covered wagons (as lore has it) to Iowa and then California (excepting Dad) to have Talbotville and Port Talbot still on Google maps - Talbott and Talbot were 18th century or before orthological variations of village priests, clerks and mapmakers.
I spent my glorious childhood summers in Toronto and the Muskoka Lakes, Erieau/Chatham and surrounds with family who were fisherfolk, farmers, slugs and businessfolk, witnessing Japanese and German prisoners of war toiling the fields each day without guards, later to return as the fourth great wave of immigrants (the French, English and Irish having preceded them). And I spent many a winter night watching the Maple Leafs with my Grandad in the owner's box and the Canadiens in Montreal.
My brother is buried alongside my grandfolk.
So I have some claim to feeling Canadian in my blood.
But, when I was a kid, Toronto was a lily-white small village, where everything closed up at 6 PM and food was Brit killed-twice stuff. Now, it's this bursting 6 million multi-ethnic Metropolis with a Chinatown (that existed even then), Koreatown, Thaitown, etc., giving one the best array of ethnic food opportunities outside San Fran and Vancouver - with an 18 lane highway - beat that California!
We think this is our sister-country, just like us, except nicer, more pacific and less militarily and more humanitarianly interventional - same rootstalk, same DNA, same language, same TV stations - some 70-90% living within reach of the border with the US. But it has puzzling paradoxes that were apparent to me on landing today:
- The low-cost airline flight attendant spoke perfect French,
- The signs are bilingual and have strange words like harbour, lift and lorry,
- The customs/immigration people treat people with Yankee passports you like you're an illegal immigrant, Mafioso or Middle-East terrorist,
- This "Socialist" country has more capitalistic highway signs, bank buildings and highrises than Hong Kong, and the SIM cards are 10 times that in Europe and
- The first time I crossed a street, instead of the polite behaviour of my youth, people honked, jay-walked and ran over curbs.
Hardly the Toronto of my youth.
Paradoxical, puzzling and quite special. Oh Canada! My mother called it "God's country". Maybe it is.