Rob's semi-truck chokingly ascended and timidly descended the lush hills of Vancouver Island's interior. Johnny, Adam, Canadian Sean, and I rode with him. We were happy as heck to be gone from Tofino.
Rob told us that the rivers of Vancouver Island were full of salmon and that only the native-Canadians of the area were allowed to net them. The nation's government allotted the native-Canadians - known in Canada as "First Nations" people - a large amount of salmon each for their traditional survival. Rob said many of these people then went out and peddled their salmon for money. Rob was disgusted by this.
Brash Rob then returned to his normal stories, about female hitchhikers he'd picked up or drunken run-ins with the cops.
We let curly, long-haired Sean out where he could catch a ferry back to Vancouver. We wished him luck in school and thanked him for being a part of cross-Canada 2003.
Rob let us other three out down the road.
We were more than an hour away from Victoria, where we would, relieved, grab a ferry home to the U.S.A. Since there were three of us, we decided to split up and each get rides to Victoria by ourselves.
Johnny and Adam had never caught rides on their own before. Johnny smiled. "We've hitchhiked across Canada all summer. Now, it's time for our training to pay off."
"You've graduated," I said.
And as we split up, under the late summer sun, our Canadian life flashed before my eyes. It had been a fun life. But, what kind of a lousy life would be complete without some critiques and some praise. And, I had those!
Here we go, now. It's time for another unraveling of ... MODERN ODDYSEUS' TOP 5!!!
Seeing as how we were in British Columbia, the province that showed us Canada-trekkers the toughest time, I'll start with: The Top 5 Worst Things About Canada!
1. TOO MANY LUXURIES -
The Canadians have a very high standard of living. Many people drive new cars, big trucks, SUV's, or monstrous RV's. They're able to own many things and spend a lot of money. They're very fond of the things they can achieve and consume, and I believe this makes them need people less and become distached from humanity.
I just think there was too much money floating around.
2. TOFINO -
My backpack-carrying friends and me were called "hippies," derogatorily, by even the kids in Tofino. The town certainly didn't want our kind around. They considered the beautiful nature theirs, and they only shared it if you paid.
3. THE PEOPLE CAN BE SOBER -
There are occasional Canadians who simply don't laugh. Some people we rode with spoke without expressing any emotion as we went from subject to subject. Some people lived to do their business, be responsable, and live predictably. Even the Canadian accent seems to me professional-sounding. I just wanted the Canadians to go wild and do something spontaneous, but they often stuck to a more academic, reserved, composed lifestyle.
4. LOTS OF DRINKING, SMOKING -
You might be saying, "What the heck is going on here!? Modern O. isn't making any sense!" My problem with the lack-of-sobriety here is that it's not independent nor lasting.
When many Canadians did want to act or feel differently, they drank alcohol or smoked marijuana. A lot of the people we rode with smoked, and many had drunken tales. Maybe the cold or the lack of much to do led the country to drinking and smoking so much. But, if they didn't drink and smoke their time away so readily, they'd probably come up with exciting things to do in their free time. They'd probably be more animated normally.
5. SLOW DESTRUCTION OF FRENCH CULTURE -
Immigrants coming to Canada are usually tested in English and don't have to speak French. Many of them go to Montreal, even Quebec City, and these places thus become invaded more and more by English.
HONORABLE MENTION would be, I guess, IT'S COLD.
Okay. That was just one list. Luckily, there's another. We'll move on now to every Canadian's favorite list: The Top 5 Best Things About Canada!
1. FRENCH-CANADIANS -
I became convinced of this # 1 pick while Johnny and I picked fruits briefly in British Columbia. Every year, many French-Canadian youths migrate west to spend the summer picking fruits from farm to farm in the Okanagan Valley. They camp out or live in the modest accomodations they're given. But, they have summers to remember, meeting many people their age and partying or touring when they're not busy. Few English-speaking Canadians do this - possibly, they think the work is below them. It actually can pay quite well.
French-Canadians are more likely to hitchhike, more likely to pick up hitchhikers, and more likely to camp and travel around their country when they're young.
French-Canadians are very, very animated. They remind me of kittens. They're so playful, and they're scatter-brained - they rarely want to hang on to a single thought for long. They just look around for ways to have fun or something to crack up at or get excited for.
The girls (I noticed) have very attractive faces and smiles that sing like symphonies.
2. LAKE SUPERIOR'S NORTHERN SHORE -
This is my favorite of Canada's many beautiful natural areas. It's an empty area, too. It's easy to feel alone here, even while driving the trans-Canada Highway.
3. QUEBEC CITY -
It's beautiful. Though big, it feels like a small town.
4. OPEN SPACES -
So much of beautiful Canada is uninhabited and peaceful.
5. SOCIALIZED HEALTH-CARE -
It would be nice, too, if the U.S. government cared more about helping its people than about keeping the human health field a booming, for-profit operation.
And, to completely unravel the list, the Best-Things HONORABLE MENTION is full of: NOVA SCOTIA'S ATLANTIC COAST, the SMELL OF SPRUCES IN THE ROCKIES, COLD-WATER SWIMMING, PLAYING CATCH AS WE HITCHHIKED, the relative SAFETY, and NEWFOUNDLAND (we never went there, but all who did raved about it).
So, there. She can't be unraveled no more.
A lot of Canadians seem to brag their country has more of a social conscience than, say, the U.S.A. But, I think most Canadians want health-care socialized because it benefits them, personally, and not because of concern for others. And, while Canadian citizens earn more evenly amongst themselves than Americans do, the average Canadian is still filthy-rich and a large consumer when looked at from a world standpoint.
Many Canadians go backpacking in third-world countries. But, they go mainly to party and live cheaply, not to understand.
On the plus side, however, I'd say Canadians are more trusting than Americans. They feel safer and worry less. Canada would probably be a nicer place to live.
Holy cow, I opine a lot!
I snapped back from that long flashback - in list form - to my hitchhiking position along an urban highway on Vancouver Island. My ankle still hurt a lot from when I'd rolled it the other day in Tofino. While Adam and Johnny had split up and hiked on in search of rides, I stayed behind, thumb extended.
A stopped mini-van called me over. A smiling, chubby-bodied, tea-skinned couple let me hop in the middle row of their van. Behind me sat the couple's three young sons.
All five of them were Canadian "First Nations" people. Beside me rested a smelly tub filled with the free, netted salmon the Vancouver Island tribe of native-Canadians are entitled to. My drivers, now, were on their way to sell these salmon to Vietnamese restaurants in Victoria. How ironic.
The driver, Shea, in a college basketball jersey, and his wife, Robin, were nice and smily. They kept saying, "That is too cool," as I told them about me and my friends' summer.
They said I was making their summer sound boring. However, every summer, they went on month-long canoe trips with their tribe around Vancouver Island. These trips sounded awesome. They were meant to promote no-alcohol and no-drugs lifestyles within the tribe, and they cost nothing.
As we talked, I caught sight of Adam standing beside the road. Shea and Robin said they could make us fit. They stopped far down the road. Excited, I ran/limped all the way to Adam - who was joined, too, by Johnny - and all the way back to Shea and Robin's van.
Shea and Robin's little sons were at first scared to have three strangers in their car. But, each soon returned to his day-work: picking on the little brother who followed him closest in age.
Chakota, the fat-potato-faced baby, supposedly liked to dance. Johnny and I tried dancing with him, but he only looked at us like a spud. We kept dancing. We had our last ride in Canada ... together! (Minus Julie - sniff, sniff.)
It was the 123rd ride I had been a part of in Canada. Shea and Robin were the 16th couple in that ride-giving group: 13% of the rides. 59% of the rides had come from lone males. 5% came from two or more males. 3% came from males with kids. And one-fifth, 20%, came from lone females or predominantly-female cars. During our weeks in French-speaking Quebec and New Brunswick, 34% of the rides came from females.
But, Shea and Robin were our last ride. They were happy for this, and we got a photo with them in front of the shining Victoria Harbor. Woohoo! Johnny and Adam and I high-fived.
Disappointed, Johnny told me then how he and Adam had gotten to the spot where Shea and Robin picked them up. A car had passed him on the road and then stopped ahead for Adam. Adam talked the driver into letting Johnny come too.
"I was the only one who didn't get a ride for himself today." Johnny sighed. "I'm gonna have to do Canada over."
Adam, Julie, and I had all hitched rides by ourselves. So, I guess Johnny's going to need some more companions for cross-Canada 2004.
Yeah, Canada! - Modern Oddyseus
with Johnny, Adam, Sean, and Julie (in spirit)
Thanks to Rob; and Shea, Robin, Dorian, Isaiah, & Chakota for the final Canadian lifts!