As I said before, my Ukrainian aunt Natasha is visiting Canada for the first time ever. She’s seen Montreal where she visited the Notre-Dame Cathedral, the Lion King musical, the Biodome, and the Jean-Paul Gautier exhibit at the Fine Arts Museum. She has been to Ottawa and to St. Saveur. Now, she is going to Nova Scotia where her twin sister lives.
“So, Aunt Natasha, what is the most surprising, exciting and unusual thing you have seen in Canada so far?” I ask.
“Oh, everything is so beautiful and amazing here,” she says. “But there is one thing that absolutely stunned me.”
‘What is it?” I inquire.
“When it rains, the roads become clean immediately! There are no puddles and no mud! That is so amazing!” Aunt Natasha enthuses.
I know exactly how she feels. When I first came to Canada, one thing that really stood out to me was that there was no dog shit on the pavements. You could walk around for days without seeing a single pile of dog shit. In Ukraine, you could barely take a step without stepping into it.
People often judge cultural realities by their own frame of reference. When my sister first went to a Canadian CEGEP, she tried telling her new friends about Ukraine. They were mostly unimpressed with her stories because the reality she described was impossible for them to compare to their own.
One day, however, my sister mentioned that students never had lockers at school and had to lug all their stuff with them all day long. This really stunned her Canadian friends.
“Oh my God! That is so horrible!” they exclaimed. “How could you guys live like that? What an atrocity! It’s a total violation of human rights!”
These kids couldn’t relate to bigger issues but the absence of school lockers really appalled them.