November 25, 2012

Take Off, Eh?

I have quite a few new writer friends on Twitter and Facebook and as we interacted over the past few days it became abundantly clear that, while I was no walking encyclopedia on American culture, that there were quite a few things that my friends south of the border were oblivious to when it came to my home and native land. So, on the day in which the CFL will award the 100th Grey Cup I present to you...

Canadian Stuff! (Eh?)

There are tons of better links for this stuff, but for simplicity I'm pointing to Wikipedia. I've skimmed each article at a minimum for authenticity and it's all more or less right. We're not handing this in to be marked so we'll call it good enough.

National Anthem,
Canada's national anthem is O Canada, from which I pilfered a line for my intro:
O Canada!
Our home and native land!
True patriot love in all thy sons command.
You can hear this anthem played most often at the Winter Olympics (the most gold medals won by any Winter Olympics host country ever) and before just about every sporting event played across the country. It's also played every morning in schools and before other ceremonies and events.

The Grey Cup
This beauty is being handed out for the 100th time today and is the trophy awarded to the championship team of the Canadian Football League (CFL). Along with the Stanley Cup it is made of silver and has engravings of all the teams and player names to whom it has been awarded. At one time there were American teams in the CFL but this lasted only a few years. It was long enough for the Baltimore Stallions to become the only non-Canadian team to every win the trophy. Interestingly enough, the front page of Wikipedia has the Grey Cup as its featured article today.
Wikipedia Main Page on November 25, 2012
Canada is the 2nd largest country in the world as measured by area and is home to the longest shoreline of any country in the world, in addition to accounting for about 20% of the world's fresh water. We do not have states, we have provinces and territories, all together 13 of them. Many are quite large (you can easily drive for more than 20 hours to get from southern Ontario to northern Ontario) and to say you've driven to all of the provinces is certainly quite an accomplishment. 
Canada and Its Provinces & Territories

Terry Fox
Speaking of crossing our country, there was a young man named Terry Fox who lost his leg to cancer and decided that to raise awareness for the disease and raise money that he would run across the country - coast to coast. Just outside of Thunder Bay, Ontario, his run stopped and he succumbed to the disease shortly thereafter. He ran for a total of 143 days and covered 5,373 km (3,339 mi) and the year after his death in 1981 the Terry Fox Run started as an annual event in which children from schools all over the country (and now in 60 other countries) would run in his memory and raise funds to donate to cancer research. 

If you have a few bucks and a few minutes Douglas Coupland wrote an absolutely wonderful coffee table book on Terry Fox. Buy it. Read it yourself then read it to your children. It's an amazing story that everyone must know.
Terry Fox

These are knit or otherwise warm hats to wear on your head, mostly because from November to March many parts of Canada are freaking cold. In what has become an iconic image, Jose Theodore of the Montreal Canadiens donned a tuque during an outdoor NHL game.
Hockey Player Wearing a Tuque During and Outdoor NHL Game

Serviettes & Chesterfields & Verandas
I just like to use these words to screw with my American friends. They are less common now and likely have  British etymology but you can still hear them when you're out and about (oot and aboot) on the mean (i.e. cold) streets of Canada (for the record these things are napkins, couches, and porches).

There's not much to be said about poutine that hasn't already been said. It's a traditional Quebec fast food made with french fries and cheese curds and topped with brown gravy. It's a heart attack on a plate and it's freaking amazing.
A "hoser" is a derogatory term coined by the comedy duo of Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas during their segment "Great White North" on SCTV. Another common stereotypical catch phrase they used was "Take off, eh?" Bob & Doug Mackenzie were the personas on the show and the two made a full length feature film in 1983 called Strange Brew. They have also recorded several songs, most notably "Take Off" featuring Geddy Lee of RUSH and "The 12 Days of Christmas".

So there you have it, some good old fashioned Canadiana to get you ready for the Grey Cup. For some more really interesting tidbits of information our good man Coupland did a couple coffee table books on the subject: Souviner of Canada and Souvineer of Canada 2.

Oh, and speaking of tidbits, that reminds me of Timbits and our (unofficial) national coffee shop Tim Horton's. You can find these scattered all across the country in more than locations than any other food services company, more than doubling McDonald's. A coffee with two sugars and two cream is affectionately referred to as a "Double Double".
Tim Horton's in Stratford, Ontario (home of Justin Bieber)

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to sit on my chesterfield eating poutine and drinking a double double, after which I will wipe my face with my serviette, sweep off my veranda (located in Ontario) while wearing a tuque and singing O Canada, before I watch the Grey Cup with a bunch of hosers I met during the Terry Fox Run, eh?

November 03, 2012

Lydia's Homecoming

On November 1st Lydia Herrle walked the 250 meters from her family market across the parking lot and up the lane way to her home. It had been almost 6 months since the day she was struck by a truck, knocked out of her shoes, and into a coma. Hundreds of people from the community here in Waterloo Region showed up to show their support, and triumphantly waved their worn and tattered green ribbons that they have been displaying on their cars, trees, sign posts, and mailboxes since the day after the accident.

This outpouring of support and amazing display of community solidarity is a testament to the people that live and work in the region. Almost half a million people live within 20 minutes of the Herrle farm, yet in that moment it felt as though we were a small village, where every face is familiar and everyone comes to help when someone is in need.

To have seen so many people of all backgrounds, occupations, and religions in one place showing their support and rejoicing Lydia's amazing recovery, and in admiration of the strength of the Herrle family, was a sight that will forever be in my memory. I fought through the tears and managed to take some photographs of the event, though the images hardly do it justice.

The Herrle family has been chronicling their journey here: Please take a few minutes to read their blog.

Welcome home Lydia. Welcome home.
Cars line Erb Street as hundreds of people converge on the Herrle farm to wave their green ribbons.

Panoramic view of the parking lot and lane way, lined with people 3 or 4 deep on both sides.

CTV News van setup in the parking lot. Excellent coverage by the local affiliate of this national network.

The start of the line at the edge of the parking lot. By the time Lydia came out to see us it had grown by 40 or 50 feet.

Another shot of the lined lane way from the other side of the field.

People patiently wait in the rain on the muddy lane way of the Herrle farm.

A young girl makes her way across the parking lot of the Herrle farm, green ribbon in tow.

Lydia makes her appearance!

The Lydiamobile followed her throughout the 250 meter journey. She did not need to sit down for the entire walk.

Lydia waves to all the people lined up and cheering.

Lydia spots a friend from school, her smile widening and her eyes brightening. The two friends embrace, emotion overcoming Lydia's friend as they hug.