Archive for Monday, August 4, 2014

Learning about our neighbor to the north

August 4, 2014

We recently returned from a bus tour through western Canada and the Canadian Rockies. Both of us were impressed with the beauty of scenery, which might be the most spectacular I’ve ever seen. Certainly it ranks with the Swiss Alps and the U. S. Rocky Mountains. Our trip took us through a diverse landscape ranging from the ocean to glaciers. If you want a scenic tour, this is it!

I really didn’t know a lot about Canada before the trip, but I developed a great respect for the country and its residents. Canada is geographically larger than the continental United States and has a population of only about 36 million residents, which is about one-tenth that of U.S. While I can’t make a blanket statement, those that I met were very friendly and helpful. For example, we were looking for a bus stop in Banff when a total stranger offered to walk a block, check the sign and came back to tell us that was the correct bus stop. I thanked him, and he said there was no reason for me to walk an extra block if it wasn’t necessary. That was just one example of the kindness I saw.

Oh, there are differences between Canadian and American. I noted that they love the letter “U.” They use it like the Brits in spelling, placing it in front of “R” on many words. They also spell center with an “RE.”

They use the metric system, which confuses Americans. For example, road signs list distances in kilometers. Weather temperatures are given is Celsius, which I learned to convert into Fahrenheit. Speed limits are slower, normally about 55 miles per hour. The guide told us that speed limits were increasing this fall. I read several letters to the editor in the local newspapers about the issue. Yes, as was the case here, there is opposition.

Our first stop was in Vancouver, which is the third largest city in Canada. We took a ferry to Victoria, which is the capital of British Columbia. What was striking about both cities is how clean they were and the many spectacular flower displays. In fact, every city or town we visited had beautiful flowers and there was virtually no roadside litter. I was told that litter was an offense punishable by a heavy fine, and it was added that people don’t mind reporting anyone who is littering or not cleaning up after taking the dog for a walk. In fact, the fine for leaving dog droppings is $1,000. Parks even provided plastic bags for pet lovers.

The Canadians changed their currency and no longer have a paper one or two dollar bill. They were replaced with coins. I don’t know why, but the $1 coin is known as the “looney” and the $2 coin is the “twooney.” Paper denomination of bills is a different color, which makes them easy to identify. Pennies have been eliminated.

They refer to the native Indians as “First Nation.” Yes, there still are Royal Canadian Mounted Police, but they only wear the red coats for ceremonial purposes. The “Mounties” are a state police force, which was described as being much like the FBI.

One problem that they were facing was rampant forest fires. We could see the smoke billowing from the mountains, but we never saw flames. Apparently forest fires are an annual problem.

In the area of sports, the Canadian Football League was in full swing and drawing a lot of fan support. I really believe Andrew Wiggins of KU fame had his photo in the sports section daily. The Canadians are hopeful that Wiggins and other young stars will help them be a basketball power in the 2016 Olympics.

Yes, it was a great trip and we had a wonderful time, but as always, it’s good to be back home.


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