Thursday, December 22, 2005

Home on the Range

I've been back at my parents house here in Coaldale Alberta for a couple days now, and the initial culture shock is wearing off a bit. That being said, I am looking at the drab little town where I grew up in with different eyes.

Inane observations from Canada and the west central plains of Alberta follow:

- Canada is quite cold. Really. It was -15 degrees Celsius when I landed in Calgary, and my rain coat didn't quite cut it. Here in southern Alberta though the Chinook has arrived, and temperature is a balmy 8 degrees. But, though I think that my body has largely acclimatized to the sub-tropical climate of Taiwan, it has not been too uncomfortable here.

- The streets of Canada are HUGE and empty. What's everyone doing, working?

- Canadians really look Canadian. Though I'm mostly referring to fashion, I've also noticed that a lot of people have really round Canadian heads. Ha. Hockey guys belong to a well defined and unique Canadian subculture that, though they would be loath to admit, widely identifies itself through style of dress, and the way they walk and hold themselves. As well, the subculture that I might belong to is most easily identified by the beard, and also by wearing flannel in the winter. I think the first thing that I said to Tom and Kev when they picked me up at Calgary International was "Wow, you guys really look Canadian."

- Although they might deny it, Canadians really do have a Canadian accent. You know when Americans say that Canadians say "a boat" instead of "about"? That one really pisses off some Canadians. But I've got some bad news... Canadians really do say something that sounds like "a boat". Other head snappers for me include every time someone says "there", which comes out as a subtle "der", and "for", which is clearly pronounced "fer" (even in Vancouver). Previously, I remember thinking that the accent was a Maritime thing. The accent is heavier in the Maritimes, but it is defiantly spoken to different degrees in the west as well.

Don't misunderstand me, I'm not dim enough to claim that I don't have an accent, or to claim that an accent is anything but a subtle (though salient) difference in pronounciation observed by two people with different backgrounds. I'm saying that after listening to people from all over the world speak English with all their various accents for years now, two things have occurred. One is that subtleties in annunciation have become very pronounced to my ear. Speaking slow and deliberate English for countless hours in my classes has also contributed to my own accent becoming Internationalized or Americanized to an extent.

- Canadians are really really friendly, but still quite socially aggressive (especially compared to the Taiwanese).

After I landed at Vancouver International I had to go through immigration. There were two lineups, one labeled "Canadian Residents" and one labeled "Visitors". I lined up and eventually handed my passport over to a particularly Canadian looking immigration officer (with a very round head and really short gelled hair spiked up in the front). He asked a couple of questions about the value of the gifts I was bringing into Canada, and as he handed me back my passport, he asked,

"Are you living overseas sir?"

I told him that yes, I was living in Taiwan, to which he told me that I should have lined up in the visitors line.

I said "Really?" because I was honestly surprised and amused.

"Yeah, you should know that by now - you've been home like what, three times now?"


"Actually this is the first time I've been home."

"The first time in three years?"

"Actually the first time in two years and three months..."

Wow, that must have really been bothering him that I lined up in the wrong line.

Later when I finally boarded my flight to Calgary, I put all four of my carry on bags in the overhead compartment and went to sit down in my window seat. Two people had to stand up and let me through, as I was one of the last people to board the jet. To my embarrassment I soon realized I had left my camera in the overhead. Having planned to take some pictures over the Rocky Mountains, I said to the woman beside me in the most polite tone possible, "I'm really sorry, I left something in the overhead that I need to get." She didn't like that, and she felt that she needed to make that clear to me through a series of vocalizations and deliberate movements which would be categorized as "very annoyed". In Taiwan, the reaction to such a request would be something like "no problem, no problem, no problem", peppered with a lot of smiles and an apology to me for my apologizing.

That all being said, I am of course having a great time. I've already met many of my good friends, and I'm excited to meet the rest and hang out. Next week brings Christmas, winter camping, and the wedding. Nice.


WeiYi said...

恭喜恭喜你回到家了!!我看完你寫的東西 覺得很有趣 很有感覺!台灣這幾天天氣還不錯 大家心情似乎也不錯!到時一起過中國年?還是你要去爬山也隨你囉!!


marc said...

post pictures as soon as you can?
I call bull****!

Cindy said...

Hey!!!How was Tom's wedding? any pics?? how is Kev,,,? how is alberta? how is everything??? I missed thoes Wind-power generators!!aaaarrr

Aaron Franz said...

Xinyi right? Yup the wedding was great, and the wind powered generators are still turning as you remember. Now there are hundreds of those windmills!

Everyone in Canada is doing well.

I have many pictures of the wedding, some of which I will post soon.

I will be leaving Taiwan in early March, but I will be driving my motorcycle down to south to Tainan just before then. Maybe we can meet for coffee or something?

Anonymous said...

"Although they might deny it, Canadians really do have a Canadian accent. You know when Americans say that Canadians say "a boat" instead of "about"?"

No doot aboot it!