Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Won't You Let Your Red Heart Show

So it's all over. In just over two weeks, the world came and saw the best of what Vancouver and Canada has to offer. It's strange being back to the usual schedule of things, without the constant buzz on the streets just outside my office. No more random high fives, stranger hugs, and serendipitous choruses of the national anthem on public transit. The Olympics are over.

Over the past 2 weeks, I've thought a lot about what it means to be Canadian. What does being Canadian mean to someone like me, a first-generation immigrant who has lived in 3 countries? As much as I've loved growing up here, I have conflicting feelings about this place. In some sense, I'm as Canadian as you can get - I am a hockey nut, I love the outdoors, and god do I love poutine. I grew up playing roller hockey with my friends, freezing our butts off in soccer shorts until the sun went down. On the other hand, I have roots in another culture, language and place. I love bitching about Canadian taxation, the bureaucracy, and unions. It's easy sometimes for me to pick Canada apart, just because I've lived and traveled to so many places. I know first-hand the struggle for those new to a foreign land, and I understand how hard one has to battle for every inch when you have no connections, friends, or history behind you.

Last week, I headed to Chinatown to visit my childhood doctor. Chinatown is not a place I frequent usually. It's a bit on the seedy side, although in recent months hipsters have been arriving in droves as new lounges and trendy eateries open. After the doctor visit, I went for soup noodles in the Cambodian restaurant next door (Phnom Penh, a favourite of Anthony Bourdain's). It was a family ritual when we first arrived. Whenever someone was sick, we would go in tow to the doctor's office, and thereafter, to Phnom Penh. We might complain about the "cold" Canadian weather, or argue over whether to get char siu or roast duck for dinner after.
The ability to recreate some semblance of our former lives was a way of coping with our new ones. The memories of life as a new Canadian flooded back to me.

And there, in that never ending bowl of comfort, I understood what it all meant. I realized my Canadian experience is very much a part of me. My experience as an immigrant is also uniquely Canadian. We are a country mostly made up of immigrants, and every family other than the First Nations People, can trace their roots to ancestors that first arrived here from another shore. I hold a high value on hard work and perseverance, and these same values are those that helped our Canadian athletes achieve a record high 14 gold medals at the Games. When Joannie Rochette went out there and skated her heart out for her mother, I could relate. I know how important family bonds are when you are put through the hardest of times, and sometimes, that is all you really have.

So as much as I like to search for greener pastures, Canada will always have a place in my heart. As my home even. What the Games have reminded me is to appreciate how lucky I am to have this Canadian experience. To live in this beautiful city. To know so many wonderful fellow Canadians whom I call my friends. And for that, I will proudly let my red heart show.


Teresa said...

There was actually a time that I didn't want to associate myself as 'Chinese' and all the discrimination and stereotypes that go with it. But now I'm proud to be a myriad of things..Chinese, Canadian, hipster, yuppie, geek, foodie, etc.

We don't have to be pigeon-holed into one definition of being Canadian. I think this country's different religion, ethnicities, and cultures make up the singular notion of a true Canadian identity.

Raul (hummingbird604) said...

An amazing post, and very much from the heart, Liv! I loved it.

I, too, feel very much like an immigrant who is Canadian. I'm as Canadian as they come :)

Paint our hearts red!

Jenn said...

Great post! Most, if not all people in Canada came from families of immigrants at one point or another. Even though I am a second generation Canadian (my parents were both born here themselves), I love how people from all backgrounds were still cheering hard for Canada. You don't have to be born in Canada to feel Canadian :)

Chic 'n Cheap Living said...

So sweet and I can totally identify as a 2nd generation American. Living abroad has also opened my eyes. It's both a small and large world.

quelle said...

this is so beautifully written.

what does it mean to be canadian? all of our answers would be different because every one of our experiences of being or becoming a canadian is unique. as others have said, it's these differences that make this country what it is.

the olympics have been amazing in bringing the country together and i am so glad to have experienced it. i was afraid i would regret having voted for it way back in 2002, but i'm so happy that i've been proven wrong.

i look forward to this year's canada day - i think it'll be one of the most special yet. :)