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July 1st, 2015 – Canada

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Maybe… procrastination is a good thing? If not we probably wouldn’t be here wishing you a Happy Canada Day.  If we weren’t such skilled procrastinators we would be caught up on blogging about our adventures and our return to Canada, and our blog might be wrapped up.  Instead, we got caught up with life back home and time has slipped away.  However, we are interrupting our quirky life to wish everyone a Happy Canada Day.

Yes, we are back in Canada. I am back to work.  The kids are finished their online school.  We are finding our new routine, one that includes more family time than we had prior to our trip.  We do plan to catch up on our blog, because we have so many wonderful stories to share.

We grew up hearing, “You don’t know how good you have it, until it’s gone”, “Someone else somewhere, is happier with less than what you have” and “Don’t take things for granted because they may not be there tomorrow”. These phrases rang through my head many times over the past year.  After a year of travelling the globe, we have returned home with a much greater appreciation for what we have here at home in Canada.  Some things we took for granted, the things we never thought much about because they were always there.  The things that now make us smile and give thanks.

Why We Love Our Canada

Health Care System – Without a doubt we have a greater appreciation for our health care system.  Over the past year we have had a few incidents where we were reminded of how fortunate we are to have the health care system that we have in Canada.   For example, while in Ecuador, less than a month into our trip, I had the unfortunate opportunity to visit a private emergency room.  Olga, our homestay mom insisted I go see a doctor after 5 days of being sick, with no signs of getting better.  I swear, this was the sickest and worst I’ve ever felt in my life.  Off we went to a private hospital emergency room, because if we had gone to a public hospital, I would have been given an appointment to come back in a few months.  I am sure glad I wasn’t having a heart attack, turns out I had food poisoning.  Now don’t get me wrong, the service I received at the private hospital was great.  The armed guards at the doors did concern me a little, but the cost of the tests, hospital stay, and medication was surprising.  We paid a whopping $175 USD, and they had me diagnosed with a treatment plan in a matter of hours. We later laughed (privately) at the costs, because we were told a number of times that treatment would be very expensive… how many Canadian families would pay that much for a nice evening out?  I read that the average monthly income in Ecuador is about $500, so a trip to the emergency, would be very expensive for an Ecuadorian family.

 

Infrastructure – We have often complained about the bad roads and highways in Canada.  About the terrible tasting water, about the frequency of garbage pickup and how our mail is delivered.  But, now we are just ecstatic to be back in Canada and be able to turn on our kitchen faucet and have an abundance of clean drinking water, and hot water out of the other faucet for washing dishes.  While away most of our drinking water was out of bottles, and many times the kitchen sinks had no hot water.  Back home we are over the moon to have Wi-Fi in every room in our house at any time of the day.  We find ourselves smiling when we flush the toilet and even more so when we sit on the white porcelain toilets instead of a squatting over a hole in the ground, or having to bucket water into the toilet to flush it.  How nice it is to use a public toilet without having to pay for it and receive a few squares of toilet paper.  How enjoyable it is to drive on roads and highways that are wide and safe enough for passing motorists, that have proper signage, that don’t have sheer drop offs and cliffs just inches off the shoulder.  We have been in many towns and cities that do not have paved roads, let alone street signs and traffic lights.  Now try to find your way around in that maze!  Walking in cities that don’t have sidewalks, and if they do, are often narrow, neglected (trip hazards, holes, abandoned trash), unlighted at night.  Wow, how great it is to have some of those basic amenities of infrastructure back, here in Canada.

Canadian Citizenship – Our Canadian passport was like a door to the world.  Not once did we have difficulty entering a country.  Often our Canadian passport was an advantage.  We were given shorter immigration lines; hassle free entrance; and often bigger smiles; some immigration officers even welcomed us to their country.

Education System – We sometimes complained about our education system, the teachers that should be retired or in positions better suited for their temperament.  I recall running into so many road blocks from both the private and public school boards when I was looking for help in planning how best to keep the kids in the education system while we traveled.  Then we contacted SunWest Distance Learning Centre and they made everything so easy for us.  We can’t possibly say enough good things about SunWest for making our children’s education while traveling so workable.  How lucky we are to have free education in Canada with the expectation that all children attend school.  We were so saddened to see kids begging on the streets for money, selling postcards (10 for $1), fridge magnets and books, to pay for their schooling.

We will never forget our time in Cambodia and learning that our neighbor worked at a school as a teacher’s assistant and earned $100/month. The pay she received, paid for her sons to attend school.  How grateful we are in Canada to send our kids off to school each September without a second thought.

Political Freedom – We, like many Canadians, have complained many times about our government and how it operates, and probably (ashamedly) have taken our governments for granted.  Over the year or so we were away we travelled into countries with varied types of government, including democracy, Republics, democratic/monarchist, military rule following overthrow of the government and Communist rule.  It was truly interesting and eye opening to have seen a little of all these kinds of government/rule.  The most moving experience for us was our day and a half at the D-Day beaches in France, primarily Juno Beach, and the Canadian Military Cemeteries.   We have learned all our lives about WWII, but to have been where the allies landed in June 1944, was really a powerful experience for us.  To walk in the sand where the push to win back freedom was begun, at such a stunning cost, was an unforgettable experience.  We certainly are happy to be back in Canada with our democracy and freedoms.  Next time we are about to complain about government here at home, I think we will be much more contemplative and if we really are upset, perhaps instead of complaining we will move to political action instead.  We saw some people who would have loved to have had that option.  We are grateful for Canada as a nation.  We will also always continue to exercise our right to vote in all elections, and encourage you to do the same.  No government is perfect, but we are pretty fortunate to have the political system we have.

Social Safety Net – We don’t want to bore you with all the details of what we saw, so in a nutshell, we saw a lot of poverty, homelessness, lack of basic life necessities. We do have some of this in Canada, but certainly not to the extent that it exists internationally.  We were always told by locals, when we said where we were from, how great a Country, Canada is.  We do have problems here in Canada, but we do for the most part take care of our citizens and our people, and we are grateful for that.

Canadian Specialties – Some other things we really appreciate about being back in Canada:

  • West Jet (we think the world’s best airline), Maple Syrup, poutine, “Smarties”, French’s Mustard, Tim’s, “real coffee” and doughnuts/muffins/bagels– need I say more here?

Today, as we proudly hang our Canadian flag, wear red and white, and enjoy a Canadian beer with our neighbors, we wish you a Happy Canada Day!