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ReportsTuesday, 1 July 2003
somewhere on Shoal Lake, Ontario --> Winnipeg, Manitoba, Ontario I woke up at the cottage on an island somewhere in Shoal Lake at 7.30 in the morning and it was poring down cats and dogs! No, this wasn't true, I thought, and decided to fall back on my pillow again. Where did that great weather go?
A few hours later I woke up again, clearly slept in, and discovered how the weather had changed for the good again. After a shower I found Grant outside the cottage.
Grant told me with what I could make myself some breakfast and in the mean time he was setting up a ladder against the house. "Got to wash those windows one day," he sighed. On the dock, Claire was reading the second Harry Potter book to Duncan and they both seemed to enjoy it. Inside I had some cereal and toast while I listened to the signal of CBC Radio on the stereo.
Today was the 1st of July, which is Canada Day in this country. This is the day the Canadians have selected to show their appreciation to the country they live in and the people they share it with.
During my breakfast bite I listened to stories that were read out on the radio, live from Pier 21 in Halifax, Nova Scotia. There were intriguing, happy and sometimes emotional stories from those we once were immigrants and eventually became as Canadian as everybody else here. And everybody sounded happy and cheerful. And so proud of Canada, I am jealous of that pride for a country. I am just too critical to be proud of my own home country.
When the Canadian anthem was sung on the radio, Grant said: "Hey that's our anthem" and he started tickling Duncan for fun.
I asked him why Candians all go "Hey that's our anthem" and then do anything else whilst the Americans stand up and hold their hand on their heart as soon as anybody starts to sing the American anthem.
"That's because the Americans, collectively, are too serious and too patriotic. They are so patriotic that they got blind of it." And then the Grant's political view came out, expectedly. "They can only look at themselves and inward and they can't see what's out there and analyse things in a broader perspective. Oh, I have American friends and they are great, but I talk about Americans as a collective."
For Grant and Claire it was like that my question enabled them to launch their rants about Americans, which of course I have heard so many times in Canada. They told me the famous examples of how Americans living 100 km of the Canadian border know nothing about Canada while Canadians know everything about them, about gun control in the US ("if you take away their right of guns, they think their government is taking control of everybody. It's ridiculous!" Grant said.).
I actually had to stop them continuing about this topic, because it is getting very repetitious on my travels.
Almost EVERY CANADIAN is very distressed about the intellectual grade of their southern neighbours (in global!!!).
People on the forum pages of this website tell me I shouldn't be bashing Americans so much all the time. Now you know where it comes from. If I was travelling through India at the moment, I wouldn't care much about it...
Today Grant and I were going to hit the road. Grant had to get to work tomorrow again and therefore he had to be in Winnipeg again today. That was perfect as I could stay another night at their house in Winnipeg and enjoy the Canada Day celebrations there today!
Claire and Duncan were staying on the island, as Grant would be back in the weekend.
I thanked Claire for extending her invitation and got my stuff back on the boat. The boat got back to the shore of the big Shoal Lake where we loaded up the car and settled for a two-hour drive to Winnipeg.
After half an hour of driving we crossed the border from Ontario to Manitoba. I made it to yet another Canadian province again and posed in front of the sign along the road. And another fascinating thing: the prairies started right here! Suddenly the scenery of trees ended and it was flat. Endlessly flat. And this would continue from here for quite a few thousand kilometres!
We could already see the high-rise building of Winnipeg from a far distance, but it took another hour to finally arrive there. And I was amazed. I had always imagined that Winnipeg would be this dusty city in the middle of the dusty prairies, but it was not like that at all!
There where the suburbs began, there were big green trees and this phenomenon just continued until the centre of town! No dust at all!
With 668,000 inhabitants, Winnipeg accounts for nearly two-thirds of the population of the Manitoba province, and lies in the geographic centre of the country, sandwiched between the American frontier in the south and the infertile Canadian Shield to the north and east.
The city has been a gateway to the prairies since 1873, and became the transit point for most of the country's transcontinental traffic when the railroad arrived twelve years later. Winnipeg was known as the city "where the West began".
When the Americans opened up the Panama Channel it was pretty much over with Winnipeg, because most goods ended up at the west coast by boat.
Named after the Cree word for murky water ("win-nipuy"), Winnipeg owes much of its history to the Red and Assiniboine rivers, which meet just south of today's city centre at the meeting point known as The Forks.
The first European to reach the area was Pierre Gaultier, an enterprising explorer who founded Fort Rouge near The Forks in 1738. This settlement was part of a chain of fur-trading posts he built to extend French influence into the west. The history of the actual start of the city of Winnipeg is actually a very interesting read, but I am lacking time to tell you about, so I'll simply link to it.
It was in Wildwood Park where they were just finished filming for the movie named "Shall We Dance", featuring Richard Gere, Jennifer Lopez and Susan Sarandon. Grant told me how most of the streets were blocked off and nobody was allowed to go slow or stop on the roads. I took a pic of the house that was used in the movie and I hope to see it in that movie in the future.
This movie is actually being filmed in Winnipeg as it closely looks like Chicago, next to Toronto. But it was because of the fear of SARS that made Jennifer Lopez so distressed that she said she would pull back from the movie if it was shot in Toronto… Pretty sad, if you ask me.
At my hosts' house in Wildwood Park we dropped of our stuff and headed back into town. Grant gave me quick tour through the city, showing me the legislate buildings, the parks and the small skyscrapers of Winnipeg.
As it was Canada Day there were festivities at various places in town. We first walked around The Forks, where it was very crowded. On this big field entire families had marked their territories with chairs from home, in front of a big stage, awaiting tonight's performances by a few bands that wouldn't start for another few hours. I couldn't believe people were collectively enjoying getting sunburned here, because it was HOT! If you'd spit on the street, your spit would just disappear in seconds!
We moved on to the centre of town, where Osborne Street was blocked off for traffic and where people were walking around many outside stands of stores and musicians of all kinds performed on the streets or on little stages. Everybody just seemed to have dressed up for their great day of the year and showed off their pride for their salad-bowl-cultured country! It was a joy to see everybody wearing something red-white, the colours of the Canadian flag!
Grant took me out for dinner at a restaurant named Fude, where I enjoyed the spicy Indonesian meal named 'Boomerang Goreng' on the outside patio, while looking out over the walking crowd of people on the street.
After dinner we were ready to head back to the house in Parkwood again. Grant and I both agreed it was just too hot to walk around the city. Because it came just so all of a sudden to us, we weren't enjoying this heat that much.
Back home I connected my laptop to Grant's high speed internet connection to report about all the events of earlier last week. I had to catch up, as there was no internet on the island on Shoal Lake - of course.
It was today when I had to decide how I would wrap up my trip through Canada. My flight is leaving for the Netherlands from Vancouver at the end of July at I had to make sure that I would make that date. I had a hard time figuring out which places I would visit, because I am seriously running out of time!
I decided to take the sponsorship offer from the ViaRail train company to take me all the way to Vancouver. I planned to stop over in Saskatoon (in the next province Saskatchewan) and Edmonton and Calgary (in the province Alberta), before ending up in Vancouver after a stop-over in the Canadian Rockies.
This was the route the train goes in these provinces and it would be the best way to get around. Even though I have many invitations from very remote towns in the prairies, I just can't manage them all into my tight schedule.
It was actually a relief to have it all figured out. From today on I would know exactly where I would be on which date in the entire month of July - and I am normally never that far prepared!
I was going to stay another few days in Winnipeg after this day and on coming Friday I would get on the late-evening train to Saskatoon.
Good night Winnipeg!