If you are all about being politically correct, no matter what, please stop reading this post. Equally, if you are fiercely nationalistic, showing an excessive, undiscriminating devotion for your country Canada, please also refrain from reading further.
But this post is about Canuckistan, the country through which I’ve been perambulating for the last four months, so you should be okay.
More than once I have been told that all citizens – every one of them – of this People’s Republic of Canuckistan are super-friendly. In fact, their friendliness, soft-hearted nature and
apoplectic apologetic nature is often the butt of their neighbour’s jokes. Like the one about how you get a Canucki to apologise. You step on his or her foot. And then you apologise for having made him or her apologise. And so it goes in a never-ending, sickening loop until you (or he or she) collapse in an exhausted heap of apologies.
But that’s exactly it, I have found Canuckis to be polite, rather than friendly. I’m not saying I haven’t met friendly Canuckis – I most definitely have. But most are simply polite.
Until you do something to take them out of their well-manicured comfort zones, make them suspicious, don’t agree with them on a moral issue, or, horror of horrors, pull out a camera in public. At that, the air of friendliness and civility both disappear quicker than a skinny minute! I think some people would be less fazed if I walked down the main street wearing a psychedelic tutu, singing Yankee doodle went to town, while blowing bubbles out of my nose, than if I whipped out my camera.
One Saturday I was at the local farmers’ market shooting fruit, vegetables and home-made goodies when a self-important mama, her knickers in a knot, waddled up to me and growled, “Who are you and what are you doing?”
To be honest, she looked reasonably intelligent. She had managed a full sentence, wasn’t drooling, and didn’t show any signs of dementia. So why could she not see how obvious it was?
I have a fruit and vegetable fetish.
Another day I had been invited to take photos at a true Canucki event – a pow wow. Again, several people asked me who I was and what I was doing there. The two large cameras slung around my neck should have served as a clue. Perhaps they were confused because I was one of only a handful of white people in the arena. But the obvious answer:
I have a thing for feathers (and brass bells).
It’s a sure thing that I will be questioned in a coffee shop! But I really do have a thing for coffee. And sometimes I bring my camera along.
At one stage it got so bad that I began wondering whether the town was the centre of the country’s witness protection programme. What other explanation could there be for people’s reactions to my cameras in public? Walking down the road, I would be asked the same questions about my nefarious intentions over and over again, or people would simply glare from the dark of a doorway. Which makes sense – it’s not particularly pretty downtown. Who would choose to take photos there unless they were up to no good?
There is an attractive, accurate clock that chimes every 15 minutes on the corner of St. Laurent Avenue and Reid Street. It can’t hide, is worth shooting and it didn’t question my intentions.
I was shot suspicious looks at the rodeo and the art gallery and given the third degree by a burly lumberjack-type at the local hockey arena too. I told him, being from Africa, that I’d never seen ice, or people skating, and that hockey where I came from was played with a white ball on green grass or Astroturf. And that no one at home would believe hockey could be played on ice! That was why I needed the photos. To prove to all the Africans back home that I hadn’t lost my mind in Canuckistan.
And that, perfectly plausible, explanation was all he needed!
The last straw though, was when I was taking photos of a little family at a little pond downtown and a beaver, the country’s national animal, got angry with me.
But it wasn’t all bad, and I was determined not to let a few unpleasant incidents stop me from exploring my base-town. Tomorrow I’ll try to share about some of my favourite shots, and some genuinely friendly Canuckis…