In some areas of Canada there live more moose than men. There are plains so huge and flat that they bend in the horizon and villages whose residents still live off hunting and fishing. These are the images which formed my vision of Canada before I left Germany – images produced by documentaries and nature magazines, images of dreams in my childhood.
But, of course, Canada is much more. I live here now and I’ll delve in this country, its culture, society and nature. I keep these impressions in my blog for my friends, my family and my former coworkers in Nuremberg because I want to share my experiences with them.
During the first weeks some topics took shape already: There’s Toronto, the biggest and in my opinion most vivid city in Canada, the city in which I now live. Toronto is a bridgehead of the country: Here arrive immigrants, adventuresome tourists and work-seekers from around the world. Many of them have been laying down roots and they shape the city with their food, celebrations and traditions.
Toronto’s face is shaped by cultures from around the world
In the beginning it was a bit strange for me to be constantly surrounded by people of different skin colours and nationalities – even if I have lived in several big european cities. After just a few weeks it is now normal for me to have supper in a Mexican or Ethiopian restaurant, to slurp a pho in Chinatown or to sip an espresso in Little Italy. The variety of food in Toronto alone offers inspirations to write a series of books.
If you arrive in Toronto, you first notice the huge office towers and living hives. In this place Toronto appears to be busy, plain and grey. The money rules here. But someone who delves more deeply into districts and nightlife quickly realizes: Toronto, in its diversity, is barely penetrable. The city is a huge, colourful, pulsing organism.
Germans dream of wild Canada
Canada has been a dreamland since my youth. We spread out a map of North America in front of us and envisioned where we want to built our log house – it was thought to be deep in the wilderness, with moose as our neighbours.
If somebody in Germany thinks about Canada, they visualize romantic wilderness, impenetrable forests, crystal clear streams and bears fishing for salmon. For many Germans who are tired of the fast-paced modern life and have dreams of going off-grid, Canada is a canvas for projections of their yearnings.
Of course reality is much more complex: In many places the Canadian wilderness still exists, with all it’s amazing diversity of plants and animals. And nature is consequently conserved in national and provincial parks, such as the Algonquin Park in Ontario. In other places there isn’t much left of the country’s primordial beauty. There, nature serves as a seemingly inexhaustible supplier of resources.
The oil monster is Canada’s cash cow
In comparison to Germany, Canada is unbelievably rich in natural resources. Beneath the wood and croplands, the country provides metals, uranium, gas and oil. The mining industry is shaping swaths of land. Not everybody likes that. Highly controversial is the mining of tar sands in Alberta. Aerial images show large mine dumps and, in the the sunlight dazzle colourful lakes, in which oil is washed out with toxic solvents.
I am a German with a very strong sense of nature and such images raise my hackles. But, i also recognize that the oil industry is extremely important for the Canadian economy. It creates thousands of jobs and it provides wealth in regions which would be economically weak without these resources. If you want to work in places with names like “Fire Bag” and if you want to live there in mobile containers, then it’s a good opportunity to make a killing.
Where Winnetou still scuffles with the grizzly
In this blog I am going to talk about the European image of aborigines as well. It’s a very sensitive topic here: Just the expression “Indian” – that is still used in Germany for North American natives – could cost me my head. In Canada it is considered a racist and contemptuous expression. At least 1.5 millions aborigines live in Canadian cities and on 860 reserves. They talk in 65 different languages and dialects.
In contrast to the USA, aborigines have a special status in Canada, receiving economical, political and intellectual support. Canadian writers, such as Joseph Boyden, bring native history, traditions and spirituality back to mind. Canadian aborigines continue to be discriminated and exploited, even until today they must fight for acceptance.
Of course I will also report about issues I meet in daily life and I will examine current events – for example incidents like the terrible train accident in Lac Megantic and the floods in Toronto in July.