Sunday, November 20, 2005

Oh Canada

Canada continues to creep up on me in the oddest of places. While recently wandering through the Bangkok airport, killing time in that sluggish, aimless way that only airports allow, I checked out one of the myriad mini-bookshops that that seem to sprout, whole and complete, every forty feet, in between the Internet cafes and just beside the Duty Free shops, bursting with chocolate. One of the books on display was a collection of Canadian writer Mordecai Richler's essays on sports. Having not been in a Canadian bookstore in well over a year, it had been, logically, a great little while since I'd seen any book about anything remotely Canadian gracing the shelves anywhere in Asia. I bought the book (paid in baht), and spent the better part of the hour flight between Bangkok and Phnom Penh reading about Edmonton hockey and Montreal baseball, written in that droll, sardonic style that was Richler's grumpy trademark.

Oh, but there's more Canadiana drifting through the air than one would at first think. Here, in the Philippines, in Baguio City, at the mall. (Of all places.) While waiting for the afternoon matinee of the latest Harry Potter flick with a ten-year old boy and a twelve-year old girl in tow I noticed the familiar voices of SCTV's Bob and Doug Mackenzie (aka Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas, the latter having been born in my hometown) floating from the loudspeakers, their classic, if irreverent, version of 'The 12 Days of Christmas' lighting up the drizzly, mallish afternoon. (Malls are malls, everywhere.)

So what am I to make of these disconnected examples of Canadian culture intruding themselves into my present-day, Asian experience? (And hey you, yeah, you in the back, Canada does, too, have a 'culture'. Are you trying to tell me that Alan Thicke just, like, emerged from nowhere? Hell, no.)

Probably not too much to make of it, I suppose. Canada is a G-8 country, after all; it's people are literate, and talented, and, periodically, worldly. Word gets around. Why shouldn't I find Canadian books in Thai airports, or comedy parodies in Filipino malls?

Ah, but there is no inferiority complex quite like the Canadian kind, growing up with our neighbour to the south ignoring us and unaware of its own, endless shadow; there is no experience quite like that of being Superman's slightly spastic kid brother.

And there is also the personal part, the comfortable part, Living abroad, the alien abstract inevitably becomes the routine necessity. Even from my present vantage point of the Philippines, itself not exactly the most prosperous of countries, I am able to gaze at Cambodia anew, and think: "Shit, that place is poor", as if it is only now, aay, taht I can truly understand what 'Cambodia' means.

Away, we lose touch with what we know, and we are sometimes -- if we're lucky, if we're listening hard enough, close enough -- reminded in the most mundane and unexpected ways of our roots and our depths.


Jim said...

You might think this strange Scott
but I miss the Canadian mindset
and I've never been there.My son
has traveled north of the border
and it was just an endless panorama
of natural majesty and beauty.Now
if I could just figure a way to
trade winter temperatures with the
U.S. south I'd probably move in a minute.

Muktuk said...

I like the self-depricating "spastic kid brother" comment.

Reminders are good. Sort of remind us of how far we've come. How much we didn't know before that we know now. Why we're where we are now, that sort of thing.

Le Will said...

We are slowly, quietly, stealthily taking over the world... :)

Scott said...

Jim -- Actually, if you come up here in the summer months and stay down there in the winter months all would work out fine. Canada can be really hot in the summer.

Jenn -- Reminders ARE good. They jolt us and make us reconsider who we were, are, and where we're going. They're also kind of spooky, sometimes.

Le Will -- I think we are taking over the world. It's my secret theory that Canadians actually control everything, everywhere, at all times, but we're so damn innocuous and low-key that nobody suspects are nefarious master plan...

DC Cookie said...

I can't wait until Swiss Chalet goes international...