I live in an area surrounded by forests and thousands of inland islands on 7 acres but most Canadians, even those who live in big cities, live less than an hour or two drive from open country.
I was listening to an interview on the car radio as we drove through farmland and uncultivated stretches into town the other day. Apparently, an enthusiastic British woman devotes an entire blog to her experiences in the wilderness that makes up much of Canada. To her friends in England, Canada is an exotic foreign land.
I laughed, of course, at the idea that I live anywhere that could be possibly called exotic but then I stopped abruptly.
Suddenly I realized how wild and barren Canada actually is. Canada is one of the First World Countries but it remains largely undeveloped. There is a reason that the entire focus of the 2010 Winter Olympics opening ceremonies in Vancouver was the stark beauty of millions of square kilometres of vast tundra, sweeping prairie grasslands, mountain ranges, and forests.
A couple of years ago, I was on a plane, coming into land at the great Ottawa International Airport with its arrival area’s two baggage carousels, when an excited little American boy questioned his mum,
“We are real close now to Ottawa, right mom?”
“This is the capital, right mom?”
“But where are all the buildings?”
“I just see trees.”
“Huh mom, huh?”
“Where are the buildings?”
“I thought you said we were coming to the capital of Canada?”
I had to smile because as we coasted up to the terminal, it looked more like a small, airport for a little town. Of course, Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver are bigger and support bustling airports but there are hundreds of kilometres separating our large urban centres.
In fact navigation across Canada is relatively simple. Take the directions I gave my parents who drove from the West Coast to Eastern Ontario, some 4,000 kilometres.
“Take the Trans Canadian Highway through the Rocky Mountains, across the foothills of Alberta, through the Prairie Provinces, drive 18 hours from Northern Ontario to South-Eastern Ontario, turn left at the hamlet of Antrim and we are 3.1 kilometres on the left.”
My dad drove right up to our door without needing further instructions!