How I fell in love with Canada
In Canadian Literature, a class taught by Dr. McDowell at Burman University in Alberta, Canada we had the chance to go two hours south to Calgary to view an art exhibit known as “Oh, Canada”. It’s safe to say I really enjoyed my self, as you can tell in the above photo. Which came as a surprise to me, not because I thought it would be a terrible trip but because how could I identify with items that are so largely not apart of my culture? Not only because I’m American but also because I am not white. Canadian Lit reiterated for everyone who took the class that it is the content and characters that matter in your text. Just look at Thomas King. Or Margaret Atwood. Better yet look at the Group of Seven, even without words they can show you the content of their character.
The whole day in Calgary was a lot of fun, yet to an outsider of Canadian culture it was like discovering a whole new world. Our class went to four places, ACAD,(Alberta College of Art & Design) University of Calgary, the Glenbow, and the ESKER. Each of these places had a part of the “Oh, Canada” collection. The first, ACAD, had in my opinion the playful side of Canada. There was a bear made of felted flowers, two college students made a song about Canada that involved poutine, hockey, beavers, and igloos. All the stereotypes you could possibly think of. Everything about the installation was funny or whimsical with a seemingly childlike fanfare.
At the library at the University of Calgary they have a gallery adjacent to it. The other half of this installation had art that simply made you uncomfortable. A lighthouse with all its insides out of it, a room the size of a walk in closet had old TV with spooky images projected and to top it all off a woman in white that you could only see out of the corner of your eye. It was certainly something to label as disturbing art yet it spoke to a side of Canada that the world’s stereotype neglects to acknowledge; it is a good example of how Canada is both playful yet knows how to manage chaos. It was this particular location that I really enjoyed despite it being disturbing. Art doesn’t need to aesthetically please you in order for it to be beautiful. The uneasiness is the intention of the artist in these pieces which made it that much more intriguing.
There is a cabin in the ESKER that is this beautiful array of chaos, there are broken skis and dried up and used tea bags, old chairs that could have been made by someone’s grandfather and an ice box that belonged in the thirties. With all of these old things there are new things like new pictures of family and some new ski shoes. It was Canada in one cabin. It is neither one idea or one country, it is both American and English and French? Both Middle Eastern and Western. The identity of Canada does not lie with the past but with the present people it houses. There isn’t a single Canada but a Canada that contains multiplicities. This Canada, our Canada, (mostly) your Canada, is not lost in its identity; in fact it roots itself in its multiculturalism. But what does this have to do with my newfound romance with Canada? Well Calgary.
It is the fact that I fell in love with a place that isn’t home. This isn’t to say that I don’t love home or miss home often. I’d be crazy to not miss palm trees, beaches, LA as a whole, and my family that being the important part but I find myself already missing a city that I have still to explore. I miss the friends that I have not made, the coffee I still need to drink and the snow that I yet to complain about. Yet with the literature that we have covered in both semesters has made me feel at home, to feel at ease with the poets that can be called neighbors or even good friends now. All the novels, the poetry, the discussions, the people I have met in my three years living in Alberta has has shown me a side of Canada that is more than snow, polite manners, Tim Horton, and poutine. It has showed me that being Canadian is about where your roots are, it is this beautiful mosaic of cultures and customs that can be displayed in a place like Canada. Canada runs at a different pace than the rest of the world and the rest of the world could stand to learn a thing or two from it’s Great White North neighbor.