in pajamas and a blanket wrapped around for extra warmth (it is 4įC
tonight), I am looking out from my hotel window at a Canadian sky as I
write this. The moon, tonight
in Vancouver a dramatic globe of dull gold, is a spotlight in a wide
expanse of black. An occasional, lonely roar of a vehicle breaks the
silence that also, if silence had a shape, is wide, huge.
where our perambulations began was muggy, hotter than Trinidad.
The risk of driving on the wrong side of the road was doubled make
that trebled as cyclists jostled for space and my husband made it clear
they were trying to run him over and furthermore, felt it necessary to
drive with one eye on a map (since it universally goes against a
mysterious male honour system to ask for directions).
The children to whom the city was fresh and new perked up at the
sight of Torontoís CN Tower, and despite my attempts to distract my
daughter with the information that it was the highest building in the
world, she spent the rest of the trip asking every tour guide since her
parents were clearly deficient in this knowledge if it was the thinnest.
To her gratification, everybody said it was a good question from an
eight year old, but they still couldnít give her an accurate answer.
endlessly fascinating curiosity in Toronto, as it is for major cities in
North America and Europe, is not its skyline but its amoeba-like mutating
history of immigration. There
is a story behind every face, a collective history, a subculture, the
clash and mesh of world cultures, of older immigrants and their Canadian
offspring, of pop and subculture, of hybrid identities manifested in the
blonde ponytail on an oriental face, or a long queue of the descendants of
European settlers for Sunday Dim Sum in Chinatown.
is impossible for the visitor to guess at the nuances of the lives of
people looking like they could be in any exotic part of the world hurrying
to work, sauntering with strollers, stepping out of a Mercedes, walking
arm in arm, in falling-down pants or smart suits, animated teenagers in
groups. Their lives are
endlessly interesting to speculate over, because there are so few
assumptions you can make about immigrant communities, so much to learn.
isnít an incredibly exciting city, as our Canadian friends told us
self-effacingly over dinner one endless sunset night, where the sun cast
its glow on us till 9 or 10 oíclock and a refreshing chill took over the
days heat, isnít particularly cutting edge, but itís comfortable.
The politics is uneventful (apart from a little hiccup over a prime
minister who recently tussled for and barely won leadership over his own
party) and we were told jokingly - change the names of the premier every
20 years, and the rest remains the same.
economy hasnít suffered terribly from the effects of September 11,
primarily because its major companies are resource based (oil, lumber).
Health care is comprehensive always a key indicator to a successful
country, and a high percentage of their high school graduates go on to
university (another key indicator).
got the impression that although they are friendly laid-back people,
Canadians, living as they do under the shadow of the US, are wary of
control and manipulation by politicians and multi-national companies.
As a result, they have a highly developed sense of social justice,
their power as a people and their rights.
doesnít mean we were spared the human element of error, ignorance and
greed here either, the usual frustrations, booking a car company that
never showed up, blocked international phone lines, over charging
hoteliers, a woman who couldnít believe I learned to speak English in
around allowed us a less myopic glimpse at the city, so we saw not simply
its smart shopping areas, its handsome brick-red colonial buildings, and
museums, parks and squares, club and theaters, but also its dreary,
wide-spread suburbs, wretched and squalid immigrant areas where people
havenít had a chance to catch themselves yet.
walking out late one night in the unending summer twilight to the 7/11
convenience shop for some fruit and water with my children in tow, as
people roller-skated their shopping home and biked by, as I looked up to
see peopleís window boxes filled with colourful summer flowers, I
realized my overwhelming feeling was not excitement of holidaying in
another country, but that of a quiet safety on the streets.
sense of safety alone and that, too, in a city at night, granted me a
moment of beauty, the streetlamps appeared to turn the leaves of tall
trees into halos of gold.