I’m currently looking at the great white expanse that is now the vast Albertan prairies. A complete sheet of white, only interrupted by mini forests that dot the land. I went down to visit my family in Calgary this weekend (for those not quite familiar with Albertan geography, Calgary is a three hour car ride south of Edmonton where I am currently living). I travel this route more often than I like; in fact, it is my least favourite route to drive. Sometimes during the climbing season, we drive even further to the mountains. Yet I try to see my family at least once a month even though it requires a cumulative financial and time cost. My family tells me that I don’t need to visit as often as I do (not that they object to me visiting), but I do it because I can, because in the foreseeable future, I may not be able to. Although I’ve been in Edmonton for nearly two years now, the desire to work/volunteer abroad has not been quelled. Some day, I will be in another country, another continent for who knows how long with the ability to visit severely limited. My father has explicitly stated that he wanted me to remain in Canada, but he knows that his little girl is looking for experiences beyond the borders of this great country.
If Canada is truly so great, why would I seek to leave it? I don’t need to..or do I? From one viewpoint, I don’t. I have a solid permanent job here, I have citizenship so I can legally stay here, I have a fantastic community here, I have one of the most beautiful natural playgrounds in the world at my finger tips..so why do I need to go? Simply because God calling me to see and experience beyond the comforts I’m so blessed with. That some way somehow, He will be able to use me outside of these borders in situations unknown to myself or anyone else except for Him.
However, being in Edmonton for nearly two years and onward in conjunction with my experiences abroad, has given me a true appreciation of what I have here. With the US, the biggest difference is universal healthcare. Yes I know that our healthcare system is not perfect and requires a certain amount of analysis and overhaul to ensure that it is sustainable, but it does not change that fact that it is utterly fantastic to have it. The first question asked here is what your name is and what your provincial healthcare number is, not whether or not you have health insurance. The number of Americans without health insurance is astounding. I know that some of my american friends may argue against this point but I would have to vehemently disagree (we can of course discuss this in further detail if you so desire, but the point of this post is not the American health system). Brussels, on the other hand, brought about a whole slew of new experiences. Ethnicity matters for one. Some Brussels train stations and random street corners unfortunately always smelled like urine. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed my experiences in both these places and I learnt a lot during my time there.
So what does Canada have? Fresh air. Yep, that’s right. If we could bottle up our fresh mountain and/or ocean air, we’d be rich…in my dreams. It was the first thing I noticed when I came back from Brussels. We have a wondrous natural landscape in all parts of the country. I don’t think that I will be able to do it all justice in my life time. I want to go to the remote parts of northern BC and experience the wild there. I want to visit the western and eastern coasts and relish in their differing beauties. I want to see polar bears play fighting in Churchill. I want to hike in the Yukon in the summer and see the northern lights grace the night sky every night in the winter. I want to see the milky way at least once every season when I’m camping. Just breathe it all in. When I am abroad or hell, even when I’m at home, I like to watch the CBC show Heartland. It’s my guilty pleasure 😀 one of the reasons I love this show is because it embodies many of the great things of Alberta. Furthermore, my fellow Canadians are a great bunch of people. You can smile here at someone walking your way and not have them think that you’re hitting on them. We’re just a friendly lot. We have democracy, freedom of speech, freedom of religion. We have a society built on the belief of multiculturalism. No one stares at you for being white, yellow, black or green…OK maybe if you were green but only out of curiosity. We have fresh water readily available to us; so readily available that some Canadians are worried that our now friendly neighbours won’t be so friendly of they start running out..just joking 🙂 Canada also has one of the strongest economies in the world especially in certain provinces like Alberta and Saskatchewan.
Personally, my family is here. I am so blessed that my parents decided to immigrate to Canada and that I didn’t have to. My work in immigration policy has really shown me that it isn’t that easy to get into Canada and stay here. My friends are here; if they’re not, they too expect to return here and settle down at one point. Also, in the spring, fall and especially the summer, the community I live in in Edmonton is absolutely stunning. Picture big massive trees reaching out to one another over the small residential streets to create a canopy of vibrant green leaves. Imagine cloudless blue skies in 30C or -30C weather. The sun just glitters off the snow. At night, the light reflects off all the snow and lights the sky up in a pale pink colour. You can sometimes see the northern lights; the last time I saw it, it was when my friends and I were hanging out in an outdoor hot tub. It felt like the lights were dancing just for us. I live close to the river valley where it’s truly beautiful year round for biking, cross country skiing or general frolicking. Ponds and lakes freeze over and it gives an opportunity to skate in the sun or moonlight. Then..hot chocolate!
So as often I curse this cold weather and bundle up to the point of looking like a puffed, irate owl with all my layers, I still say without any reservation that this is truly a great country. I understand that each person may have a different opinion as to why their home country is great and I would never contest someone’s preferences. This is just my own personal story and ties to my homeland. I will eventually fulfil my father’s wishes because I cannot imagine another place I would rather be to establish deep roots in. If I leave, I will always return; hopefully wiser, and undoubtedly with a growing appreciation of how beautiful this land is and how blessed we all are to live here.