Thursday, October 01, 2009

Peace, order and customs tariffs

I always wondered what Canada would seem like in comparison to the rest of the world. When I came back at Christmas after five months away, I remember being struck by how clean both Pearson Airport and Toronto were. I also don't remember the streets of downtown Toronto being as neat and orderly before I left as they were last winter.

My first impression of Canada was that we do speak with accents. I was usually able to tell apart American tourists when I worked in retail, but I never realized how different we sounded until I boarded an Air Transat flight on Monday and concluded that everybody was Canadian. The other first impression was that whereas East Asian countries are preoccupied with the germs you bring in, Europe with your immigration status, Americans with the fact that my contact lens solution could blow up the VFW building in Biloxi, Canadians are obsessed with taxing any liquor or cigarettes you might have.

At any rate, my impressions of this country are that it's big, cold and clean. And quiet, really quiet. Nobody drives down the street with a truck blaring "컴퓨터...냉장고...고장너..." ad nauseam. In fact, it's silent, or at least it seems silent after a year in the Seoul area and a week across the street from St. Pancras station in London. Those were my impressions before I left as well, but they are at the forefront of my thoughts now. Every single room in this house is bigger than my apartment in Korea, and sometimes I get lost in the space. Even the suburbs of Malton and Rexdale seem a lot nicer because of the space and the stillness.

Canada is also really cold. Ten degrees at the end of September is nothing remarkable, but when I went to Hong Kong in July, my perceptions of temperatures changed after just a week there. Seoul was at something like 27 degrees when we returned at midnight, but I found it cold, and nothing has ever really been warm enough since, except the mid-afternoons in Istanbul, where it was 32 or 34 degrees. The memories I have of running on six inches of squeaky, hard-packed snow in -20 weather are about as foreign as the time it got up to 50 degrees when I was in Pakistan.

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