Thursday, October 27, 2011

Banff: the land of moose, deer, beavers and... wait for it... Australians!

Dear Barbara with deer

Barbara and I just came back from a lovely time in Banff, Alberta. Banff lies about an hour west of Calgary in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. We were blessed with some $ to spend to celebrate our 10th Anniversary and Banff was how we decided to spend it. We made a great choice.

And besides the romance, the roaming around, the shop browsing, and the eating and drinking of delicious food and beverages, there was a lot more to Banff. I could talk about how we walked down Banff Ave. past Beaver Street to get to where we were going on Caribou Ave. I could also mention the serene sounds of nature, like the calling of a hawk that flew overhead while we were waiting to cross an intersection; nature meets urban in a glorious burst of Canadian stereotypicalism. I could almost hear the hawk call out my name, "Welcome, Brett! Welcome to Banff! Caw!" If you listen carefully you might be able to hear it too. Shhhh. Listen. Can you hear it?

But the weird thing about Banff is that there are a freaking lot of Australians. Don't label me a hater, I love Australians. At first I figured that there were just a lot of tourists from Down Under. But then when I was ordering my coffee from an Australian and shopping in stores filled with workers from Australia I started to think that it must be pretty easy for these blokes to get a work visa in Canada. Well, it turns out that it is even easier than we thought.

Barbara asked an Australian barista why there are so many of them living in Banff. The girl said that the skiing is better there and that it's easy to get a work visa. Once again, how easy?

"I applied for my work visa online and I got it within a week."

It must be a Commonwealth thing. At least 40% of the workers we encountered in Banff were Australian. There are swarms of them. I think it's pretty cool that they can come up here and work and ski. The question I have is where are all of the Canadian ski bums? I figured that there would be more home grown hosers and ladies that would want to work and ski in the National Park.

Then I wondered, does it work the other way? Can Canadians find work in Australia so easily? What about the other Commonwealth Nations? Can I get a job in Delhi? If I can keep a straight face am I allowed to work as a guard outside of Buckingham Palace? Could I, Brett Gitzel, drive William and Kate around like one of their own?

Australians in Banff. Online visa application. Tell all of your Pakistani friends that they can serve coffee in Banff and snowboard Norquay all winter.

I would compare the process of, as a Canadian, attaining a Chinese visa with an Australian stumbling over a Canadian one, but that would be a little silly and frustrating and heart breaking.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

My Hometown and the town where I live

I was born in Edmonton, where this photo was taken last week, but I grew up 15 minutes west of it in the 'I never use this word but I'll use it now' quaint town of Stony Plain. We spent the summers riding bikes and slurping slurpees. In the winter we would go play shiny hockey at Forest Green until it got dark at around 430pm. Even though the town has spread out a little and changed a lot it is still full of all of those memories.

Being back from China for a few weeks here I have had the chance to visit Stony a few times already. As I turned left at the McDonald's and past Safeway what do you think I would see? Well, of course, the first thing I see is a group of about 6 or 7 Chinese young people J-walking across the street towards the Petro-Canada. I laughed and looked back to tell Miles about it but he was fast asleep in the car seat. I can never get away from China, no matter how hard I try.

Being back has been nice. The air is crisp and fresh. Out at my parent's acreage the silence drifts in and out of the trees. Their dog barks at an animal in the forest. I look up to see that it's just the neighbours cattle nestling up on the other side of the fence. I can actually hear them chewing on their cud and kicking at the grass.

The city of Edmonton is what seems like a stark contrast to our city in China. The downtown dab of towers and skyscrapers are surrounded by countless houses, trees, grassy parks and the like. I cannot believe how much grass there is. You can sit on it and walk on it, and if your dog craps on it you need to pick it up.

Driving back and forth from my parents place to the city I have had a lot of time to think about what this trip home means to me. The truth is that I really needed a break from China. And despite the J-walkers it has been a nice break. I've been reminded of why I love Canada so much. I knew that I would feel this way and I look forward to someday making Canada our home again.

At the same time, I am a little surprised with how much I miss China. I didn't think that I would really miss it at all, besides the friends that we have there. But I think that this break from China has been great to help me hit some sort of refresh button and I think that I'll be able to go back there and be a better person because of it.

I'm not sure how much longer we'll be in China, and I'm not really sure what kinds of things we would get down to if we ever move back here. One thing I do know is that we have a lot of great things happening for us in China right now and we're determined to see them through.

Stony Plain is where I'm from, but I don't think that I'll ever live there again. If we ever came back I am sure that we would want to live in Edmonton. So, in a way, my Stony days are over, and have been for quite some time. I tend to get overly melancholy when I think of what I great childhood I've had. It's always good for me to challenge myself to move on in life; to not get stuck thinking about how good yesterday was compared to today. In reality, it's more than likely just my mind tricking me into thinking that the past was greater than it was and today is lamer than it actually is.

4 more weeks in Canada for the family and I. We'll enjoy it the best that we can, we'll say goodbye with some tears and the like, and we'll go back to China for a while. I'm pretty happy that I can say that, not only am I looking forward to the next month, but I'm also looking forward to what lies beyond that flight back over Siberia.