Sunday, 2 August 2015

Those lucky, lucky bears.

Holidays always make me feel a bit strange. There is something disturbing in how fast you can transfer from one completely different environment into another, get settled and used to it; and then come back to your home, where everything suddenly looks new and unfamiliar- for just the first few minutes after arrival. And then, it feels as if nothing actually even happened. Have I just been to Canada and back?

And speaking of Canada… what can I say? 

It was not love at first sight. 

But, I don't even believe in love at first sight, anyhow. A proper attraction demands time to develop. 

I think my very first impression was that it was unexpectedly different. Different from anything I had been to or seen before. Okay, Middle East was different, when we first came to Qatar. But I expected it to be different.

Canada, and Calgary in particular, however, took me by surprise. I could sense those little subtle differences in everything around; and at first, I could not quite understand whether they were good or bad different? Like Calgary airport, with a huge statue of horses and golden framed photographs at the baggage carousel. 

Or the Bas Pro shop. It is like a miniature planet of its own. Pluto on Earth. 
(the front entrance of Bas pro shop)                                                
So, what is that country like? Well, it would be safe to assume that they adore their bears. Bears are everywhere you look. Stuffed bears, painted bears, hand-carved and watercoloured, in all possible poses and sizes and combinations you can imagine. 

It is all about bears, moose and cowboys. 
  (inside Bas Pro shop)


Canadians are very friendly. Every sales assistant or a waiter I met, in a shop or a cafe, wanted to know where I was from, and once heard something unusual like Azerbaijan or Qatar, they seemed genuinely interested to find out where that was, how I ended up there and where is next. (Like I even know?) Thus, every purchase took approximately fifteen minutes. After two weeks, I was prepared to fake the accent just to get away faster. 

They are also incredibly law-obedient. It was particularly noticeable to someone like me, Azeri AND ex-Soviet. I come from the people who say the rules exist only while police are watching. We are genetically predisposed to bend the rules at any opportunity. Not only that, but I also live in Qatar, where laws seem to be very strict, yet a little flexible.

Let me give you an example. We drove to a beautiful spot on a lake. I noticed a sign with a list of rules of using the camping areas. You were to come in a group no bigger than X, in a car convoy of no larger than Y…and you were to pay a certain amount per night. I looked around but could see no one in sight. Not a booth with a security guard collecting fees, not a fence to stop you driving in…nobody. How do they control it all then, I asked. Well, I was told, you just drive in and follow the rules, and put the money in that box provided. 

Really? And everyone just does that? Everyone

Lastly, it is a very dangerous country. I am not talking about their bears. I am talking about their carbs.

Like your dream escort, they are beautiful, perverted and sophisticated at the same time. Imagine that, but also easily affordable and available anywhere you go?

You see, there are carbs in other countries I have lived in that are so obviously bad for you, and so OTT sugary that you find it quite easy to say ‘no’ to those.

However, in Canada? They don't just have a few varieties of crispy breads. They get you with some gentle hint of lime and herb, or a dried fig and rosemary combination…stuff that a normal person cannot even imagine existed. And then they have a shop like Bulk Barn. ‘You might want to leave the kids to wait outside…’ my friend suggested. Oh. My. God. And three more words: Chocolate covered pretzels. Would you prefer dark or milk chocolate? What about s'mores popcorn? Coffee beans covered in chocolate, I guess I know about those…But no, that was not quite imaginative enough, what about chocolate covered coffee bean blend? Or perhaps madam would fancy chocolate covered sponge toffee? 

The Carb Heaven

Get me out of here, I thought. Now, now! Before it is too late.

Also, the technology. Not just compared to Qatar, but England too (no offence meant to either) these Canadians, they live very comfortably. Everything is there to help you. The tools and equipment they use at home on the day-to-day basis are beyond anything I ever experienced. I am (proudly) not the type who would get excited about a drying machine. However, my friends’ drier that quickly determines how long it has to dry something for… And the speed and the size of it? I have to say I never enjoyed doing laundry so much in my whole life. And don’t even get me started on that super intelligent floor mop.

And then, there is the nature.

I am a complete convert. British Columbia, with its magical ( and there simply is no other word for it) beauty did something to me that I never thought was possible. When I was given a choice of either staying at the lake house or returning to Calgary to shop for a few days without the children, I shocked myself by my decision to stay at the lake. Me? Really? Someone who always chose a city break in any online questionnaire about a dream holiday? To say ‘no, thanks’ to a few childless days of shopping, in favour of a quiet time at the lake, just sitting there gazing at the mountains, paddle boarding on that glass-like water, and going on nature walks? Me?

The beauty of the nature all around that area is stunning. Indescribable. Bewitching. 

And that’s how I, step by step, with my brain intoxicated with carbs, Caesars and the lingering smell of pine trees, surrendered to the love for Canada. Yes, I thought. Good different. So beautiful, so natural.  In a very relaxed and laid back way.

Those lucky, lucky bears.