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Wednesday, November 30, 2005
PSA: How to Vote from Abroad by Expat
So you have moved away from the beloved Motherland but you still wear the free toque that you got from your last two-four of Molson Canadian with pride, eh? You can still recite "The Rant" from memory and do it gladly anytime that somebody asks you if you know Suzie from Canada. In fact, you still catch "The National" every night from the comfort of your computer room, have friends and family send you Canadian food stuffs from home, and frequently peruse eBay for new Tim Hortons memorabilia to decorate your rumpus room.1
Just because you live abroad, it does not mean that you have severed your ties or your love for Canada, right? No doubt, many an expatriate is wondering how to cast their vote in the upcoming election.
Here is the low down.
Canadians who live abroad and intend to return to living in Canada at some point retain the right to vote by special ballot under the following conditions:
1. You must have set foot on Canadian soil at some point with in the last five years.
2. If you have not been in Canada during the past five years, you can still vote if you or someone that you live with is a member of the Armed Forces and working overseas, works for a federal or provincial government department or agency overseas, or works for an international organization of which Canada is a member.
If you fall into one of the above categories, you can have your name placed on a list with Elections Canada which will grant you the ability to vote by mail. Just be sure that you send the Application for Registration and Special Ballot (PDF) to them quickly as your ballot will need to be sent to you and then arrive back in Canada in time for election day. The riding that you will be voting in will be the riding in which you last resided.
One upon a time, in a far away land, a beautiful Princess was asleep.
"Hey, wake up!"
"Do you recognize that voice?"
"Yeah. It is you waking me up from a dead sleep."
"No. On TV. Do you know that voice?"
"It sounds like the soothing journalistic stylings of Peter Mansbridge."
"Check this out. There are Canadian flags EVERYwhere."
And so the Prince and Princess spent the wee hours of the morning watching CBC's coverage of the demise of Canada's 38th parliament on a magical American news network that actually carried Canadian events.
The Dude-To-Which-I-Am-Married requested that I blog the following story as he thinks that he is quite the comedian. :P
Saturday morning, the in-laws decided that they wanted to party it up in another town and left my husband and I to our own devices. We decided to go and get breakfast at a Mom and Pop type restaurant in town.
After we ate breakfast, I briefly retired to the ladies room in preparation for the morning of shopping that we had planned. When I came back to our table, my husband stood up, grabbed my arm, and rushed me out of the restaurant.
"Shhhh," he said. "Just keep moving. Quickly."
"What the heck is going on?"
"C'mon. Move faster."
"Just hurry before we get caught!"
By this time we had exited the building.
"Oh my gosh! Don't tell me that we didn't pay."
I tried to turn around, but he had me by the arm.
"Shhhh! Less talk; more running."
At that point, he couldn't keep up with the charade anymore and started laughing. He then showed me the receipt for breakfast.
It has been said many times that we, as human beings, do not really appreciate what we have until it is gone. Since moving to the United States, I have found this sentiment to be quite true, especially in the snacking department.
While in Canada, I did not really appreciate the abundant variety of potato chips that graced the grocery store shelves. Certainly some popular flavours, such as Salt & Vinegar, Sour Cream & Onion, and Ripple can be found in the US, but there are many notable exceptions. Dill pickle, for example, is only made by Lays and is quite different from the Old Dutch variety that is popular in the western provinces. Ketchup, All Dressed, Bacon, Chili, Buffalo Wings, and Fries & Gravy are impossible to find south of the border.
It has become a game for my husband and I to cruise down the chip aisle of the grocery store on the lookout for the familiar flavours of Canada. Most of our excursions are met with bitter disappointment, but every once in awhile Lady Luck finds us. Last night was one such occasion.
Making a late night run to Walmart to buy some additional Christmas lights for the tree (we want that baby to be able to light up the whole neighbourhood by golly!), we decided to meander down the chip aisle just for kicks. At that moment, the clouds parted, a choir of angels appeared, and a beam of sunlight illuminated the Ruffles section. There, we saw two varieties of chips that were previously not there - Loaded Baked Potato and Sour Cream & Cheddar. Next to the Ruffles, we even found Taco flavoured Doritos.
Watching a TiVoed version of the Grey Cup just got a whole lot sweeter.
One of the more difficult aspects of living abroad is that it becomes challenging to keep up with the distinctly Canadian aspects of home such as news, politics, the arts, and sports.
Yesterday, as friends and family across Canada got together for Grey Cup parties, there were Canucks the world over who missed out on the festivities, the game, and the remarkable overtime ending. Fortunately, CBC Sports has provided coverage of the event online, including a log of the game.
Thank heavens for the marvel of the internet making life abroad feel a little closer to home and congratulations to the Edmonton Eskimos on their Grey Cup win!
Faced with the much dreaded blue screen of death last night and plagued by "Hurry up and create a backup before this thing blows!" messages today, I am slowly coming to terms with the fact that my laptop's hard drive is mere seconds away from self-destruction.
Our office has been converted into a guestroom for the next week, so I no longer have access to that computer either. As such, until we replace the hard drive on the laptop or reclaim the office, this will likely be the last post for a few days.
In the meantime, I would like to wish my fellow Stateside expats and our American friends, both in Canada and in the United States, a very Happy Thanksgiving.
Enjoy the long weekend and good luck with your Black Friday shopping!
Last week, we were faced with some unseasonably warm weather, a day of tornadoes, and then bitter cold. I was surprised when my husband came home wearing a toque on the first cold day of the season. Prior to that day, I had never seen my Southern raised husband wearing such a hat. Since then, he has been wearing it everywhere - even in the house.
Last night, he turned to me and said, "I finally understand the rules when it comes to the word 'toque'."
"Anyone north of I-80 can say 'toque'."
I tried not to laugh.
"I was listening to the radio the other day, and Roe Conn was saying toque. I think that I can say it now too."
I breathed a sigh of relief that he was finally able to come to terms with the word. It was only three years ago that he asked me if I wore a "toboggan" on my head in the winter.
A few weeks ago, the husband got a bee in his bonnet about getting an upside down Christmas tree. I had never heard of such a thing, but sure enough, they have become quite the craze here in Illinois and are quickly spreading across the country.
"The monopoly on the bricks is over and Mega Bloks and Lego bricks may be interchangeable in the bins of the playrooms of the nation, the Supreme Court said in its unanimous decision.
Dragons, castles and knights may be designed with them (toy blocks) without any distinction.
The ruling, which only applies in Canada, means Mega Bloks can continue to produce and sell its products.
Personally, I have always been more of a fan of Lego for the simple fact that their pieces were much smaller than Mega Bloks and, as such, posed much more of a choking hazard.
Who doesn't have fond childhood memories of playing Truth or Dare to see who would stuff a small yellow Lego up their nose or to see who would swallow the pointy block? How we would laugh at the resulting emergency room visit for a Lego-ectomy.
Thanks for the memories, Lego!
I got a phone call from my mother.
"I didn't know that you used to play that game with the Lego."
"Mom, it is called poetic license."
"I never allowed you to have Lego because it is a choking hazard."
"I know Mom. I was very underprivileged in that regard."
"I can't believe that you did that."
"Mom, it was a story. Fiction. I made it up."
"Oh. Well you shouldn't say things that aren't true."
Yesterday, Canadian sweetheart Shania Twain made a guest appearance on Martha Stewart's daytime television show. The music diva taught the domestic diva the intricacies of making fine Canadian cuisine: Shania Shows Martha the Art of Poutine.
I have never made poutine, something called poutine, and actually I've never even eaten poutine," confessed Stewart.
"Oh, it's heartbreaking," lamented Twain when Stewart insisted the Internet described the snack as a Canadian junk food.
When asked if poutine means "mess" in French, Twain confessed she didn't know.
"This actually smells good," added a surprised Stewart as the recipe came together, but neither celebrity sampled it on camera.
I once made poutine for my mother-in-law. It was met with the same degree of enthusiasm that Martha displayed for the traditional Canadian dish. The husband, on the other hand, has become a good Canadian convert in this regard. ;)
Any 'Nuks south of the 49th know where to catch the Grey Cup?
I know this is probably a fairly obvious connection. But I didn't make it until this week.
Back home, a good chuck of the population amongst my peer group claims loudly and proudly to be of Scottish descent. They are Proud Scots, who will wear tartans or talk about their clan history, even if no one in their family for four generations has ever stepped foot on that 'far away isle'.
I started a new job this week, and the standard "Where are you from?" "Oh, at least you're not American!" has started up. This time, it has a twist.
It seems nearly everyone here is quite proud to tell me that they have relatives that left Scotland to move to Canada. "I think they're out in Winnipeg!" they tell me.
At this point I'm quite convinced the entire population of Winter Winnipeg is Scottish....
Growing up, I called it Cotton Candy. When I bought it here in Scotland, the person selling it was calling out "Candy Floss! Get your Candy Floss!" When I asked Phil, who grew up in Australia, he called it "Fairy Floss".
So, just like there are vast conversations about whether or not a can of coke is called pop, soda, coke, or juice (or something else), I pose the question:
What do you call the pink stuff made of spun sugar where you're from, or where you're living, or both?
As a note, my friends call it "Oh god, not again." Then, they try to avoid me until the sugar runs out.
For years, Toronto-based Roots kept Canadian athletes looking snazzy as they represented their country at the Olympic games. It became tradition to see the red and white varsity jackets and red berets on the Canadian team members. In the winter of 1998, there may have been a flap over snowboarder Ross Rebagliati's use of marijuana, but all that most Canadian girls remember is how cute he looked in his red and white "O Cannabis" inspired gear. Americans also thought that the Canucks were looking hip and contracted Roots to design their Olympic team clothing for the summer Olympics of 2004.
A few months ago, Canadian Olympic officials awarded the contract for 2006's Olympic wear to Canada's oldest retailer, the Hudson's Bay Company. Yesterday, the new "Olympic leisure wear line" was unveiled. You can catch a sneak peak of the winter gear here, HBC Unveils Olympic Fashions.
What do you think?
Will the Canadian athletes be starting another Olympic trend?
Will Americans soon be clamouring for earflap toques?
Saturday night, we returned from a Canadian chocolate shopping extravaganza to find that we were under a tornado watch. As the sun set, the wind kicked up, the rain and hail began, and the thunder rolled. The tornado watch soon turned into a warning and the sirens sounded. We quickly grabbed the birds, some candles, the radio, and the pups, and sought refuge in the safety of the basement. It was the first time that we faced the threat of a tornado in the black of night.
Although there were a few dicey moments, there was not much damage. The 60 mph winds tore the roof off of a nearby school and mangled the school's fence and baseball diamond, but overall damage was slight. Students from the school are being bussed into other communities for some of their classes while the roof and water damage are being repaired.
As the storm left central Illinois and headed for southern Indiana and northern Kentucky, we emerged from the basement. We moved the birds back to their room, put the candles back where they belonged, and returned the radio to its place in the kitchen. Before we turned in for the night, we took one last look at the weather radar. A line of storm cells would be passing us later in the night, but it looked to be much weaker than the line that had just passed us. We decided to take our chances and go to bed.
Later that night, tornados spawning from that first line of storm cells tore through Indiana and Kentucky, killing at least 22 people as they slept in their beds.
Our thoughts and prayers are with those who have lost their homes and their loved ones.
If you read my main blog, you may have read that I'm going to Glastonbury this weekend. In an excited daze of bliss and happiness, I've been telling everyone about this, giggling and jumping up and down. I'm going to Glastonbury! I'm going to see a Tor! I'm gonna find the grail and be the next Queen of England, only to be betrayed by my lover and my best friend. Yay!
Others, however, are not as impressed with this as I am.
When I mentioned it to a girl at work, she blinked at me rather confusedly. "Why, is there another rock concert there?"
"Rock concert? No, I'm going for the Tor and stuff!"
"Tor? What's that?"
This woman is from England. I figured she was pulling my leg. All English and Scottish and Welsh and Irish people must grow up hearing the Arthurian legends. Aren't they all waiting with baited breath for their Once and Future King? Don't they all make pilgrimages to Stonehenge?
"You know," I said, "with the Arthurian legends, and the Isle of Avalon, and the Grail legends and stuff."
She gave me a strange look. "I've never heard of any of that stuff. I suppose you're going out to Stonehenge, too." She shrugged. "Only Americans... and I guess Canadians... get all worked up about Arthurian legends. We don't really care here."
Another myth, shattered.
Oh well. As I said, I'm going to Glastonbury. If you'd like a postcard, drop me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org), and I will mail one to you.
O Canada! Our home and native land! True patriot love in all thy sons command. With glowing hearts we see thee rise, The True North strong and free! From far and wide, O Canada, we stand on guard for thee. God keep our land glorious and free! O Canada, we stand on guard for thee. O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
Our national anthem is very offensive to everyone. It must be changed!
We have identified 13 separate offenses in the national anthem, as follows:
1. "Our home and native land" - Some people are not originally from here; therefore, not native. Also some people, such as servicemen and Canadian foreign diplomats, do not have their home here either. They should be very offended.
2. "Thy sons" - We know all about the ire these words raise with our "daughters"!
3. "Glowing hearts" - This is offensive to the many Canadians with non-glowing organs.
4. "We see thee rise" - This is obviously an attack on those who live closer to sea level. The phrase was originally included because of demand from the leaders of Upper Canada. Their distaste was directed to those in Lower Canada - Quebec. Therefore, the Quebecois should feel especially alienated by this phrase.
5. "The true north" - This offends scientists and navigators who rely more heavily on "magnetic" north.
6. "Strong" - Now, talk about a jibe directed toward the most helpless of society. This is a malicious attack on the sick, children, and other Canadians who otherwise don't get off the couch enough to become "strong".
7. "Free" - This phrase is very offensive to Canadian prisoners.
8. "And wide" - Persons of substantial girth should unite against the use of this word.
9. "God keep our land" - This is offensive to atheists, spiritualists, and those who follow religions which are not monotheistic. I am certain they are not ready to give the land to "God" and certainly not to "keep"!
10. "Glorious" - People from less glorious cities and regions might prefer "economically competitive" or "industrialized".
11. "And free" - There it is again!
12. "We stand" - Many Canadians are physically unable to stand. They should not be made to feel less Canadian because of this.
13. "On guard for thee" - Those not working in the military or other security-oriented positions (such as mall cops) are made to feel second class citizens because they are not actively fulfilling their duty of protecting Canada. Just to add insult to injury, we sing this line twice.
The proposed alternative:
Given that the national anthem is so offensive to so many, we should formulate a national anthem without lyrics, perhaps replacing words with whistling or hand actions. Before this is done, hand-free Canadians who cannot whistle should be thoroughly consulted about their sensitivities (perhaps an alternative "eye-blinking" or "breathing" sequence could be introduced in place of hand actions).
Alternately, we could translate the National Anthem into a language that nobody speaks (perhaps Latin or Esperanto). Is it possible to offend someone when they don't understand what they are saying? To satisfy the Latin scholars and those of the Bahai faith, an alternative might be developing a distinctly Canadian language. Some of the adjectives introduced by the Teletubbies children's television show could be just what we need to inspire the nation. What could Tinky-winky ever do to offend?
Finally, a more cost-effective solution would be to sing the words "O Canada" over and over again to the same music. It might be a bit choppy though:
O Canada! O Ca-na-na-na-da! O Ca-nada O Ca-na-na-na-da. O Canada O Canada, O Ca-na-na-na-da! O Canada, O Canada, O Ca-na-na-na-da. O Ca-nada, O Ca-nada! O Canada, O Ca-na-na-na-da. O Canada, O Ca-na-na-na-da.
The former South Carolina House speaker may have shocked his former colleagues when he greeted them in French, but he later went on to explain the language barrier also applies to English-speaking people in Canada who may not understand some Southern ways of saying things.
"There's no Canadian equivalent of 'y'all,'" Wilkins said. "So I have to explain to my Canadian friends that the plural of y'all is 'all y'all.'"
Wilkins also said he once spent 15 minutes explaining about a campaign event called a "peanut boil."
Things got a little clearer when the Canadian reporters he was talking to realized he wasn't saying "bowl."
Take heart, Mr.Wilkins. This Canuck south of the 49th can relate.
I have no idea what my husband is talking about two-thirds of the time.
A very good friend of mine is getting married this weekend. I am, of course, in Scotland, and she's getting married in Edmonton, so I won't be there in anything but spirit. I've sent them a Welsh Lovespoon for their wedding gift, because what's the point of travelling if you can't send friends nifty foreign gifts?
But, I regret. I regret being here, when I could be there to share her big day. I can only imagine, or experience through pictures, what her wedding will be like. She sent me their vows for me to read through, to make sure they weren't 'too sappy', and I caught myself having to hold back tears. They're so perfect for this couple, and I can't believe I'm going to be here when I could be there, helping them celebrate this day they've been planning for months.
It's an interesting story, though. Mel left the US to come to Canada a few years ago, and Cody came just a few months ago to join her. They met through the internet, and then in person a few times before he made the leap to join her in Edmonton, leaving behind a town he hated and a family he has little in common with. She did the same thing - I don't doubt Mel loves her family, but they're not invited to the wedding. I'm not even positive they know about it.
So, here I am, a million miles away, thinking about what I gave up to be here, and there she is, pondering the complicated twists and turns that led her to finding the man of her dreams, a million miles from home for both of them.
I've been contemplating giving up my Canadian citizenship while Mel's been writing her test to become one. She's found her home, to some extent, while I'm still searching for mine.
Sure, hot dogs were mentioned in Homer's Odyssey back in the 9th century BC. Sure, they are often attributed to having their origins in Germany. Sure, a skinny Japanese man holds the Coney Island hot dog eating title and the world record for hot dog consumption, but seriously, what is more American than the hot dog?
Here in the Chicago area, we are quite fond of our dogs. In fact, there is an art to creating them. The first point of order is not to spoil the dog with ketchup. The folks of the Windy City are very vehement about this, so write that down. NO ketchup.
Next, compile the following ingredients:
All-beef hot dogs Yellow onions, diced Yellow mustard Sweet pickle relish Kosher dill pickle spear Tomatoes, diced Serrano sport peppers Celery salt Poppy seed buns
Now we can get down to business.
First you will need to heat the hot dog. You can do this by any method of your choosing - boil 'em, roast 'em, blow torch 'em, grill 'em. Just don't nuke 'em. That is gross. While you are cooking your dogs, you can fire up the coffee maker to brew yourself some beer. It will take five to seven days for the beer to ferment so don't expect to enjoy a cold one with your dogs. Then again, you are Canadian. What good Canadian doesn't have a cold two-four in the fridge? Go ahead and grab a beer. Grilling is thirsty work.
While the dogs are finishing cooking, steam your poppy seed bun. The dog goes directly into the naked bun and the toppings all pile on top. (How risquée!) You will want to pile on the toppings in this exact order: mustard, relish, onions, pickle, tomatoes, peppers, and celery salt. Don't stray from this magical ordering and keep in mind that Chicago is synonymous with Gangsterville (well, in the twenties anyway). We don't want to tick anyone off by messing up these dogs.
I was expecting to feel uncomfortable and out of place when I got to China.
I mean, why wouldn't I? I'm a tall white girl. I don't speak Mandarin. I think Chinese characters are pretty. Of course I would be out of place.
I didn't expect it in Scotland.
Like a lot of Canadians, my family background is from the UK. My mother's travelled here to visit relatives, and I got birthday cards with my name misspelled for years from Wales and England. I look like a good Scottish lass, when you squint right.
So, being completely confused over here? Not so much prepared for.
It's little things, like the vast cornacopia of choices in supermarkets. It's big things, like the fact that there are so many different types of money (did you know that each bank here issues their own money? I didn't.). It's randomly having people from Glasgow start talking to me, in English, and I have no idea what they're saying.
I feel far more lost than I ever did in China, where at least I looked like a lost little foriegner all the time. Here, no one knows until I open my mouth.
I don't mind, of course. The whole point is to experience life in a different culture, to break away from those deep Canadian roots, to explore a city where the street I'm living on is older than Confederation.
But lately it's gotten just a bit more strange than I expected. Halloween was no big deal here (although if you'd like, I can tell you about the turnip jack-o-lantern sitting next to my computer), but there have been fireworks all week. I didn't really think about why, until someone mentioned it to me:
Remember, Remember, the Fifth of November...
We all need our rituals, but Bonfire Night being so close to Halloween just struck me as being almost, but not entirely, like home.
So close to finding that way of relating to people.
Ah well. There's no snow here, not yet, so I guess we couldn't have bonded over stories of costumes over thick winter jackets anyway.
The next day the devil stops in to check on them and sees them dressed in parkas, mittens, and toques, warming themselves around the fire. The devil asks them, "What are you doing? Isn't it hot enough for you?"
The two guys reply, "Well, you know, we're from Canada, the land of snow and ice and cold. We're just happy for a chance to warm up a little bit, eh."
The devil decides that these two aren't miserable enough and turns up the heat.
The next morning he stops in again and there they are, still dressed in parkas, toques, and mittens. The devil asks them again, "It's awfully hot down here, can't you guys feel it?"
Again the two guys reply, "Well, like we told ya yesterday, we're from Canada, the land of snow and ice and cold. We're just happy for a chance to warm up a little bit, eh."
This gets the devil a little steamed up and he decides to fix these two guys. He cranks the heat up as high as it will go. The people are wailing and screaming everywhere. He stops by the room with the two guys from Canada and finds them in light jackets and bucket hats, grilling sausage and drinking beer.
The devil is astonished, "Everyone down here is in abject misery, and you two seem to be enjoying yourselves."
The two Canadians reply, "Well, ya know, we don't get too much warm weather up there in Toronto so we've just got to have a cook-out when the weather's THIS nice."
The devil is absolutely furious, he can hardly see straight. Finally he comes up with the answer. The two guys love the heat because they have been cold all their lives. The devil decides to turn all the heat off in hell.
The next morning, the temperature is below zero, icicles are hanging everywhere; people are shivering so bad that they are unable to do anything but wail, moan and gnash their teeth.
The devil smiles and heads for the room with the two Canadians.
He gets there and finds them back in their parkas, toques, and mittens. NOW they are jumping up and down, cheering, yelling, and screaming like mad men!!!
The devil is dumbfounded, "I don't understand. When I turn up the heat you're happy. Now it's freezing cold and you're still happy. What is wrong with you two???"
The Torontonians look at the devil in surprise, "Well, don't you know? If Hell freezes over, it must mean the Leafs have won the Stanley Cup."