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Canada is not just a big, white blob

We were sitting with old friends in their living room in Stratford, Ontario, recently, watching the nightly news. They happened to have a New York TV station on at the time, and we noticed something peculiar. The TV weather map was an outline of New York state with an unidentified white blob north of there. That white blob happened to be Canada.
That sparked a discussion of what Americans know about Canada. Our Canadian hosts and we agreed … little or nothing, and Americans seem in no hurry to learn any more about their neighbors to the north. Too bad, we Americans are missing out on a lot.
While I was not surprised at Americans’ ignorance of their biggest trading partner and the country to which we share our longest common border, it surprised me that Canadians know so much more about the United States and American politics. They actually care what happens south of their border.
My friends also are faithful watchers of Jon Stewart and The Daily Show in order to get a “real” good perspective of their American neighbors. But that’s like Americans’ knowledge of Canada ending with cartoon character Dudley Do-Right of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
My wife and I happened to be in Stratford for a visit with friends we’ve known since the early 1980s in Fort Frances, Ontario. Dave Scott and wife, Susan McNamara, became good friends when Dave, a Ministry of Natural Resources forester, and I collaborated on several newspaper articles together.
While we talked politics, there was a lot more to our recent visit. We went graveyard hopping; took in a play during the world famous Stratford Music Festival; and watched the Scotts’ son, Nic, play T-ball as part of a team of “challenged” adults. Nic has Down Syndrome.
All those activities occurred over a three-day span. It was a blast.
The graveyard hopping occurred because my relatives some 150 years ago, settled, lived and died in that area of southwestern Ontario. I wanted to see their headstones, and after touring a wide swath of the area, we actually ran into a batch in one rural graveyard.
My wife, who has been on these cemetery tours before, warned me that our vacation was not going to be spent traipsing all over Ontario looking for dead people!
So to appease her, we also took in a play, “The Sound of Music,” at Stratford’s largest of five professional theaters.
Now, going to the theater is quite a concession on my part. I have been known to pass on free Chanhassen tickets, much to the chagrin of my wife. I couldn’t pass on this one, or I might end up buried next to my Canadian relatives.
The theater was like nothing I’ve ever seen. It had a capacity for 1,800 patrons, and it was full on a Tuesday … afternoon. There was not a bad seat in the house. We sat in the upper deck on cushy theater seats, and my first thought was: I could get a good nap in here.
But once the lights went down and the play began, the three-hour performance flew by. What a treat! And what a gorgeous setting of manicured yards and flowerbeds next to a beautiful park and river.
The following day was another treat. It was Nic playing T-ball with his friends and teammates. It was pure entertainment watching Nic and his mates hit the ball off the tee, run to first base and promptly hug the first baseman. And then on to second and another hug, with a third hug at third base and finally a high-five at home.
One young man came dressed in a tie, while others wore outfits that might be called unique. But they all were having a blast. Everyone got to bat, even those in wheelchairs, and the smiles on their faces were priceless.
There is no better way to see another country than to live there. But the next best thing is to have hosts who are proud to show off their community. The Scotts were great hosts.
Canada is indeed much more than a big white blob on a New York weather map. Trust me.
Rich Glennie was the editor of The Chronicle for 23 years. He retired Aug. 1, 2014, but still plans to submit an occasional column.