|Photo by Public Domain Photos, on Flickr|
I never quite know what to say next. The fact is that this last bit of information has given us absolutely nothing further to talk about. I’ve been to Toronto once in my whole life, when I was nine years old. I have almost no memory of the trip except that my parents took me to the movies to see Crocodile Dundee 2. So unless cousin Gary was the usher, I never met him. Which is a shame, because the person I was talking to will undoubtedly have been under the illusion that our conversation can now progress smoothly from one fascinating coincidence to the next, until we discover, to our mutual delight and amazement, that his cousin/uncle/grandmother/sister is not only my parents’ neighbourhood , but possibly also my own long lost cousin/uncle/grandmother/sister.
Because that’s how people think of Canada, isn’t it? Intellectually you might know that it’s the second biggest country in the world, but emotionally you can’t help feeling it’s just one long street of log cabins. Like America, but with more fur. Or like Russia, but without all the pesky mafia.
The other thing people think of when they think of Canada is nature – trees and bears and waterfalls and the like. And a lot of people seem to think that because of all this nature, we Canadians must be very good at doing all manner of outdoorsy things. So people are understandably disappointed when they find out I can’t actually catch live salmon using only my teeth. I explain that yes, I grew up in Canada, but my family was pretty privileged. We even lived in large- permanent dwellings all year long, and although we did have to travel for our food to the hunting ground we liked to call the Atlantic Superstore, we were hardly ever threatened by neighbouring tribes.
Now I live in the Netherlands, which, to any native English speaker sounds like the exact name you would apply to the back end of nowhere. Or a country populated solely by magical elves. Which is ironic because the Netherlands is a country of giants. More tall people live in the Netherlands than anywhere else in the world. I’m not one of these people, but luckily my husband is, and he sometimes lets me sit on his shoulders, where I have a good view of all the wooden shoes and cheese.