A New Country, an Old Country

Photo with our Citizenship Certificates
2 Brand New Cana­di­ans

You will always remem­ber this day.” said Judge Anne-Marie Kaines. A tall and impres­sive fig­ure of author­i­ty, she talked about the tra­di­tion that Cana­di­ans have of vol­un­teerism, of sac­ri­fice and car­ing for oth­ers, whether we know them or they are strangers. She invoked Ter­ry Fox, whose stat­ue was only a few hun­dred meters away from us in the plaza in front of the entrance to BC Place. “You can’t just expect to ‘plug-in’ to health care and pen­sions and all the oth­er ben­e­fits of Cana­di­an life. That’s sim­ply unsus­tain­able.” Besides pay­ing our tax­es, she made it clear that we need­ed to find some­thing, some cause or char­i­ty to con­tribute to.

In the 7 years that I’ve lived here, I’ve noticed that char­i­ty, such as the almost dai­ly occur­rence of a Walk for Hunger or Walk for Breast Can­cer Sur­vivors or Hos­pi­tal Lot­tery or Telethon, is front and cen­tre in Cana­da. It is telling that per­haps the most uni­ver­sal­ly admired fig­ure in recent Cana­di­an his­to­ry is a boy who died while attempt­ing to tra­verse the coun­try on 1 foot, hav­ing lost his oth­er to the dis­ease he was essen­tial­ly doing fund-rais­ing to cure. Fox, as the Judge also not­ed, had a tremen­dous world­wide impact, and we should look upon his feat as some­thing that any of us should aspire to as well.

I’m glad that in Cana­da, char­i­ty is not the large­ly the province of Reli­gion, as it often is in the US. Yes­ter­day, Ann Rom­ney, when asked why her hus­band Mitt refused to release more than 2 years tax returns as part of the polit­i­cal cam­paign, said “…we’ve giv­en all our peo­ple need to know and under­stand about our finan­cial sit­u­a­tion and about how — you know, how we live our life.” and added that he eager­ly gave 10% of his income to ‘The Church’ as proof that he was a good per­son. Actu­al­ly, for me, that would be proof that he’s mere­ly a church­go­er (which means noth­ing moral­ly and may even be a strike against him, in my opin­ion), and pos­si­bly a homo­phobe, giv­en the Mor­mon Church’s recent activ­i­ties (they fund­ed the sup­port­ers of the noto­ri­ous Cal­i­for­nia Propo­si­tion 8 that took away the rights of gay peo­ple to mar­ry).

I also think that sec­u­lar char­i­ty is also relat­ed to a side of what I’ve often noticed in the Cana­da vs. US dif­fer­ences (which become hard­er to find, the longer I live here): Cana­di­ans are more apt to see them­selves as part of a com­mu­ni­ty than those in the US. We see the bleed­ing over the bor­der of the worst of Amer­i­can ‘cow­boy’ cul­ture (and firearms) and are, with due cause, con­cerned.

A few days before the shoot­ings last night in Auro­ra, CO, there had been a mas­sacre involv­ing gun-play in Toron­to. Our news cov­er­ing that inci­dent was main­ly a seri­ous con­ver­sa­tion about how we could have antic­i­pat­ed such a tragedy or bet­ter yet, stopped it from hap­pen­ing in the first place. Giv­ing teens a rea­son to inte­grate into the com­mu­ni­ty was about the clos­est one could get to a con­sen­sus. Near­ly every com­men­ta­tor ridiculed Toronto’s May­or, Rob Ford, who idi­ot­i­cal­ly insist­ed that stricter penal­ties on gun vio­lence are the answer (since it’s obvi­ous that teenage gang-mem­bers are dri­ven by log­ic and long-range think­ing and would cer­tain­ly change their behav­iour if they knew that if they got caught, tried and con­vict­ed, it would get put them in jail for a longer sen­tence. Yes, that was sar­casm, Mr. May­or.)

The fact that Toron­to­ni­ans (and Cana­di­ans) have done a lot of soul-search­ing and con­sid­er the shoot­ings in that city to be a crime against us all and against our mul­ti­cul­tur­al com­mu­ni­ty, stands in stark con­trast to US spokes­peo­ple and politi­cians (with the notable excep­tion of New York City May­or Michael Bloomberg) resort­ing to emp­ty words about prayers for the vic­tims and their fam­i­lies (Again, the knee-jerk reac­tion of Amer­i­cans to invoke reli­gion galls me). In the cov­er­age of the Auro­ra shoot­ings, I can’t help but see how dif­fer­ent the reac­tion of these two coun­tries are to these some­what sim­i­lar tragedies. It’s worth not­ing, how­ev­er, that even with the tox­ic influx of ille­gal firearms from our south­ern bor­der, there were  200 peo­ple killed by guns in all of Cana­da this past year, where in the US that num­ber is 9,484. (If it were the same ratio to the pop­u­la­tion, the US total would then be clos­er to 2,000.)

I’m deter­mined, now that I’m a vot­ing Cana­di­an, to vote for a can­di­date who is pro gun con­trol, since such a dec­la­ra­tion here is not polit­i­cal sui­cide. I’ll also sup­port any­one who shares that Cana­di­an acknowl­edge­ment of ‘The Com­mon Good’, which is not only what ini­tial­ly attract­ed me to this coun­try, but was called out as a nation­al char­ac­ter­is­tic in my Oath of Cit­i­zen­ship cer­e­mo­ny two days ago.

Canadian Citizenship

Maple Leaf If there was ever some­thing that was going to get me updat­ing this blog again, it would have to be some­thing like this. In less from 24 hours from now, Pam and I will be Cana­di­an cit­i­zens.

We have been request­ed to appear at about 8AM tomor­row morn­ing at the Immi­gra­tion offices in Yale­town where I took the test for cit­i­zen­ship about 2 months ago (I guess this means I passed.) The instruc­tions includ­ed what we need­ed to bring in with us (all pre­vi­ous doc­u­ments used in the cit­i­zen­ship appli­ca­tion we made, any  pass­ports — can­celled or not, our card that shows we are per­ma­nent res­i­dents and a few oth­er doc­u­ments. Option­al­ly, we  can bring a ‘holy book’ of our choos­ing. Not plan­ning on doing that. We can also choose whether we swear or affirm our cit­i­zen­ship. I don’t believe that there is a legal dif­fer­ence as to which one choos­es, but I sup­pose ‘swear­ing’ alle­giance to the Queen of Eng­land is some­thing that some (par­tic­u­lar­ly Amer­i­cans) are not as keen to do as affirm­ing. I haven’t decid­ed whether I’ll be a swear­er or an affirmer, but I’m lean­ing toward affir­ma­tion, all the same. Swear­ing just sounds too reli­gious for my taste. I’ll see if I can post some pho­tos of the cer­e­mo­ny (one of Pam’s friends is com­ing to be a wit­ness, of which I’m glad and thank­ful).

Thoughts that come to mind about this upcom­ing event: relief that our sta­tus will final­ly be set­tled once and for all. There’ll be no more wor­ries about renew­ing Res­i­den­cy Sta­tus doc­u­ments. I also feel excit­ed that I’ll be able to vote, both in the local and fed­er­al elec­tions. In fact, I’m think­ing that I may vol­un­teer some time work­ing on a cam­paign again, which is some­thing I did before we left the US. I guess, you can take the boy out of the Coun­try, but you can’t take Pol­i­tics out of the boy.

Final­ly, I have a sense of clo­sure and a lit­tle pride, that the past 7 years (last week, on the 14th,  it was 7 years to the day that we arrived here with noth­ing but the our lap­tops on our backs) have meant some­thing, and that I’ll now be able, with­out equiv­o­ca­tion, to call myself a Cana­di­an. Ever since the 2000 US elec­tion, I’ve felt embar­rassed and even ashamed to call myself an Amer­i­can, a label that I didn’t achieve, but was born into. To be a born white and Amer­i­can in the last or cur­rent cen­tu­ry, is to be priv­i­leged. Not hav­ing cho­sen or even worked for that priv­i­lege, I’ve late­ly felt more than a lit­tle uncom­fort­able with hav­ing it. Whether it’s White Man’s Guilt or Blame-Amer­i­ca-First or what­ev­er the peo­ple on Fox and Friends call it, I nev­er want to have to cringe again when I see some­one in a for­eign coun­try act like a jerk and just keep my head down, hop­ing that they don’t hold it against the rest of us as well. Nope,  just us Cana­di­ans at this table.

I also like Cana­da, if not Mr. Harper’s Cana­da (and I’ll work hard to help us return to the Cana­da we could be, not his greedy and envi­ron­men­tal­ly malfeasant petro-theoc­ra­cy with noth­ing but mon­ey and pow­er on his mind). I like the Cana­da of Lester Pear­son, Pierre Trudeau, Ter­ry Fox,  Glenn Gould, Frank Gehry, William Shat­ner, Moshe Safdie, Guy Lal­ib­erté,  Nathan Fil­lion, Kiefer (and Don­ald) Suther­land, Dou­glas Cou­p­land, Mar­shall McLuhan, Stephen Pinker, David Suzu­ki, John Kric­falusi, John Byrne, Cory Doc­torow and Mar­garet Atwood…yes, that’s a coun­try I want to be con­sid­ered a cit­i­zen of, even if I wasn’t born there.

Final­ly, I think it is bet­ter to choose one’s coun­try rather than sim­ply wear it, like a red, white and blue birth­mark. Many in my fam­i­ly were immi­grants who became cit­i­zens of a coun­try they weren’t born in,  and now, I’m one as well. Tomor­row, I’ll have the papers to prove it.

Happy Canada Day 2010!

It’s that day of the  year again, when we all wear red and white T-shirts with Cana­da on them, head down to Granville Island to get tem­po­rary maple leaf tat­toos and cel­e­brate Cana­da Day (or as it was orig­i­nal­ly called, Domin­ion Day).

Thanks to Heather for some pho­tos of us in our regalia (well, the T-shirts any­way). The island was jammed, despite less-than-per­fect weath­er. It sprin­kled on and off all day, but that didn’t damp­en the spir­its (and appetite) of peo­ple, who chowed down on all sorts of good­ies: we got some oh-so-tra­di­tion­al bar­be­cued squid and tofu and bub­ble tea; oth­ers had Chow Mein noo­dles and Pork Dumplings, Viet­namese cof­fee, hot dogs, shaved ice and But­ter Chick­en. I’m always thrilled at how so many peo­ple born in Cana­da and  immi­grants like us cel­e­brate and share in the good fel­low­ship of ‘Our Home and (near­ly) Native Land.’
Pam and I show off our Canada Day Tattoos

Pam and I show off our Cana­da Day Tat­toos

Canada Day on Granville Island

Cana­da Day on Granville Island

The Seal pokes up his head

The Seal pokes up his head

Canada Day Cookies

Saw these cook­ies cool­ing off a few days before

Google Nexus Phone Joins the List of Technologies Not Available in Canada

I know, I know, I shouldn’t even be sur­prised, but once again, Google tells Cana­da to wait. Just like they did with the Street-lev­el view in maps and Google Voice (which still isn’t here).  The Kin­dle is now avail­able in Cana­da, but with­out the key fea­ture (for me, at least) of a built-in brows­er. The TiVo is dying because the CRTC is block­ing adop­tion of Cable­Card. Pan­do­ra, Hulu, and Mint aren’t here either. So, Google’s new phone joins the grow­ing list of tech­nolo­gies that are start­ing to pile up due to a com­bi­na­tion of the CRTC and oth­er road­blocks, keep­ing Cana­di­ans back in the pre­vi­ous decade. I hope the Apple Tablet makes it up here, but now I’m begin­ning to won­der. I had to hack my 1st gen. iPhone just to get it work­ing up here.

All the same, it looked pret­ty sad when I saw, the first day it was released, this screen:
The Nexus phone is not available in your country. Suck on it.

Is it just me, or does that phone bear a resem­blance here to a mid­dle fin­ger?

Good-bye to the Oughts

While the past year has been good, I must admit that I’m in com­plete agree­ment with those like Time Mag­a­zine, who dubbed the first 10 years of 2000 as The Decade from Hell. It was a decade that belonged to Bush, whose ascen­dan­cy to the White House I have often said was the worst sin­gle event in US His­to­ry. It was for us, a great leap into the unknown, leav­ing the city of Boston and the coun­try of our births. It was def­i­nite­ly scary in the begin­ning, but we’ve slow­ly climbed back, at least in terms of our finances, to where we were when we left, more or less. We dodged much of the hous­ing bub­ble, and although Pam and I both saw time out of the work force, I sus­pect that would have been just as bad (or worse) if we had stayed.

After the elec­tion of Oba­ma, many peo­ple have asked us if we were con­sid­er­ing return­ing to the US. After all, we were ‘Bush Dodgers’, accord­ing to some. Well, the ridicu­lous debate on Health Care reform had us con­stant­ly shak­ing our heads in bewil­der­ment. The fact that the US still fails to acknowl­edge health care as a human right (like the ones of reli­gion and guns that they extoll so often), is some­thing we’ll nev­er under­stand. The lack of acknowl­edge­ment that the pro­lif­er­a­tion of guns is caus­ing more and more vio­lence and death through­out Amer­i­ca is also baf­fling to us. When­ev­er we see peo­ple being inter­viewed on the US evening news con­stant­ly refer to God, their belief in reli­gion and oth­er mag­i­cal think­ing also seems fur­ther and fur­ther from us. Nope, we’re not going back to all of that.

Good-bye to 2009, Then

Look­ing back on just this year, I do have some events that I’ll remem­ber fond­ly. Here’s a brief list:

  1. The Con­cert of works for and by Dutch com­pos­er Louis Andriessen for his 70th birth­day. Back in April, I got to see and hear him (and one of his works), as he rem­i­nisced about per­for­mances by air­port run­ways and mused that the bass line in Bach Chorale Pre­ludes is “like a cow moo­ing, inter­rupt­ing chirp­ing birds”.
  2. Rid­ing the brand spank­ing new Canada­Line all day on my Birth­day, and play­ing Foursquare (and ‘tourist in my own town’) as I went all the way from the south of Rich­mond to North Van­cou­ver with­out burn­ing any gaso­line (not count­ing the fuel on the Seabus).
  3. Actu­al­ly not one but sev­er­al fun and stim­u­lat­ing Mee­tups for blog­gers, graph­ic design­ers and Social Media folks. Sev­er­al were at Caeli’s Pub, which has become one of the most pop­u­lar social water­ing-holes in town.
  4. An after-hours tour of the new­ly-ren­o­vat­ed Arc­tic Ocean exhib­it of the Van­cou­ver Aquar­i­um as part of the local chap­ter of the Inter­ac­tion Design Asso­ci­a­tion (IXDA)
  5. Excel­lent meals at Provence at Mari­na­side, a tea (thanks to Tiny Bites) at the Fish House in Stan­ley Park and this past week, a warm­ing Hot Pot (Shabu Shabu) at a new Kore­an Restau­rant, Dae Bak Bön Ga, on 4th Avenue in Kit­si­lano.
  6. The Inau­gu­ra­tion of Barack Oba­ma (of course)
  7. Bar­Cam­p­Van­cou­ver, which was a blast this year at Dis­cov­ery Parks.
  8. Help­ing to run and par­tic­i­pate in UXCam­p­Van­cou­ver, the first User Expe­ri­ence ‘uncon­fer­ence’ in the Van­cou­ver area. Many thanks to Karen Park­er for pro­vid­ing the lead­er­ship and guid­ance. Next year, it will be even big­ger and bet­ter. This was, per­haps, the big high­light of the year for me.

And a few sad loss­es:

  1. The loss of Work­space, a mar­velous public/private space that host­ed many great techie get-togeth­ers. It was the clos­est thing to a ‘par­lor’ that the Geek Scene in Van­cou­ver had. I’m hop­ing that anoth­er will come, but some­times these things take time to replace.
  2. The clos­ing of a bunch of restau­rants: Chow (which I reviewed in this blog), O Thai (which was replaced by anoth­er Thai restau­rant in the same spot that is decid­ed­ly poor­er), The Fish Café (on 4th Avenue in Kit­si­lano), and a few oth­ers that I for­get at the moment (maybe for that rea­son, they should have closed).

When I look back on 2009, I know that I will sad­ly have to note that it was the year that Bec­ca Ham­mann died (see pre­vi­ous entry), and it will be some time before I am used to that fact.

I also note the birth of many babies by friends and rel­a­tives, and once again, our orchid is bloom­ing.

My next post, will be about next year. Oh look: the clock says that it’s here already. Well, come in, 2010. Make your­self at home.