Oh, Canada

Americans have many beliefs about Canada. Some say that Canada is America’s hat. Some believe that the Canadians ride moose as their primary mode of transportation or use refrigerators to keep things warm. I don’t have much to say about these particular beliefs, but since entering Canada, I have formed a few of my own.

First, I believe that the border patrol guards think that they are just a bit craftier than they really are. After parking our vehicle, I grabbed my backpack and headed inside the building to get our passports stamped. After asking us many tricky psychological questions, we began to walk away. But then the agent had a thought. “Excuse me,” he called to me and I turned around. “Is there a reason that you would carry your backpack in with you when it’s such a short distance from your car to here?”

I imagine that this is the kind of thing that a border patrol agent lives for. Later, after busting me for carrying pounds of illegal drugs across the border, he would tell the story over and over of how he noticed that “something just wasn’t right” about carrying a backpack for such a short distance. Unfortunately, I had to ruin his day and let him know that everything valuable that we owned was in my backpack and it was a quirky habit that I had picked up not to leave things like passports, wallets, and data from every computer that we own just laying around for people to pick through. Of course, this is just the kind of reasonable answer that a skilled criminal would give, so he had to make sure by searching my pack.

Secondly, I believe that what is a crime is the amount of money that Canadians charge for alcohol. The bulk of the cost of alcohol in Canada is excise tax and Canadians have one of the highest taxes on alcohol in the world. This is why when Adam and I walked into a liquor store for the first time, we almost fell over. We just stood there gaping at the prices and looking at each other in disbelief. If you want a three liter box of Franzia, pretty much the cheapest wine you can buy in the US, you are going to pay around $25. And if you would like a 1.4 liter bottle of mid-quality vodka, let’s say Smirnoff (in a plastic bottle), you’re going to have to shell out $55-$60. This is outrageous. And I’m not just outraged on my behalf. Think of the children. How in the world can they afford to get drunk?

One belief that I have been dispossessed of is this: wildlife is not really as easy to come by as I thought. I was of the opinion that we would be greeted at the border by a bear and perhaps a moose with a clipboard would take down our information at the campsites. Expecting bison and caribou to be sitting in lawn chairs waiting for us to arrive, I was a little disappointed when, a week into our time in Canada, I hadn’t seen much of anything. However, we had a good run in northwest BC in which we saw several black bears, moose, caribou, stone sheep, a red fox, a gray owl, a porcupine (unfortunately dead), and best of all numerous bison with their enormous shaggy heads and shy eyes.

Only having been here two weeks, I’m not yet ready to make a judgment on Canada, but for the most part Canada is, although wet and cold, also gigantically gorgeous. Even if at times it has been a bit warmer in the refrigerator than outside.


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