True North Strong And Free

Happy Canada Day!

canadian mittens

This is the 5th Canada Day in my life that I’ve celebrated outside of our glorious country, but that doesn’t mean I’m feeling the national pride any less. I’m actually celebrating in one of the nations that helped give birth to Canada (France), so I feel slightly closer to home than I would in say, Zimbabwe. 

Here’s something you need to know about me: I’m terribly patriotic. I wrote an initial post entitled  True Patriot Love about the love and pride I feel for my country when I celebrated Canada Day in Italy a couple years ago. And while we all know that Italy holds a special place in my heart, let there be no doubt that this heart of mine is, and will always be, shaped like a maple leaf. 

bar canada

There are a million reasons to be proud to be Canadian, but I’d like to list a few things that come to mind when we talk about what makes me proud to be Canadian when I’m out in the world: 

1. Our reputation. The simple fact that we are Canadian makes us friends wherever we go. Our Canadian passports open more doors for us than, I’d say, almost any other passport in the world. 

canadian passport

2. Imitation. Someone terribly smart once said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. So thank you to all those wannabe Canadians who slap a red maple leaf on their backpacks and luggage and try to pass themselves off as one of us in the world. We know how great our country is, and we’re glad you recognize it too. 

backpack patch

3. Our worldview. I know I’m talking generally here, but Canadians are some of the most open-minded people of the Western world, and in my opinion, it’s a wonderful thing. We’re not too closed in on ourselves, not too judgemental, not too egoistic, and sometimes we’re overly apologetic.  

And although I’ve found that a lot of people I meet abroad don’t really have a clear picture of what it means to be Canadian, and not of other “similar” nationalities, it doesn’t matter. Because when I say I’m Canadian or Canadese or Canadienne, without fail, a smile spreads across their lips. And mine too.  

 This post is dedicated to my Grandpa, a world-traveller-extraordinaire, who, even before it was in vogue, taught me to wear a maple leaf wherever I travel, and to always be proud of my country. Thanks, Gramps. 

That's Gramps and I, in Germany. Notice the Canadian hat he's sporting.

 Gramps and I, in Germany, July 2006. Notice the Canadian hat he’s sporting.

True Patriot Love

Canada Day has come and gone, but that doesn’t mean I can’t write about patriotism on the road. And no, that’s not a contradiction. Just because someone (me) leaves their home country (Canada) doesn’t mean they don’t love it. Let me say it loud and clear: although I’ve chosen to be in Italy, I’m very proud to be Canadian. This picture is proof; I was so happy to find this Maple Tree on Lake Maggiore in Italy last summer… I exclaimed with delight and instantly snatched a leaf to take a picture while my friend snapped a shot of the whole ordeal. Please note the older lady in the background silently racking her brain for the phone number of the nearest mental institute, because she clearly thinks I’m insane….

True Patriot Love

Maple Trees on Lake Maggiore

This year, in honour of my fine country’s birthday, I brought Canadian treats into my office – Ice Wine- filled chocolates. In the shape of a Maple Leaf, no less! My Italian co-workers were all impressed by the flavour, and I’m now thinking of becoming an Ice Wine exporter to Italy, due to the entusiasmo with which they enquired about the chocolates’ gooey filling.

So while I celebrated Canada Day abroad, it got me thinking about how, right before I leave to go to a foreign country, I always like to brush up on my Canadiana. People have a lot of misconceptions about Canada, and I’ve heard some doozies. It’s always snowy! Polar bears walk through the streets! It doesn’t get warm, therefore we must not be used to wearing summer clothes! Ice fishing is a myth, because surely the fish are all frozen in winter! If you throw a bucket of water out it freezes before it hits the ground, even in July! I often find myself talking about Canada, telling people how beautiful it is, how expansive it is, making sure they know I don’t have a pet penguin…

And all this talking about home makes me appreciate it more. Siena is a great city and Italy is a great country, but I find myself missing the fresh water lakes of southern Ontario, late-night Poutine snacks, the sound of our National Anthem, and the beauty of our Maple Leaf flying on a flagpole. Even though someone chooses to temporarily transplant him or herself to another country, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re denying their home country the spot it deserves in their heart. We should all be proud of where we come from (especially if we’re Canadian!) and I find joy in exchanging patriotic tidbits with others I meet on the road, teaching and learning alike.