27 November 2008

Canadian Factoids from a Foreigner

Due to the fact that school is not in session today, my friend from Taiwan and I decided to head up to Canada and visit Toronto for a day. The thing is, Buffalo is closer to Toronto than to New York City. So I suppose I didn't have an excuse not to visit. So in order to do this, I went downtown to the Canadian Consulate General in Buffalo a couple of weeks ago, and got myself a visa. Therefore, I now have the ability to cross the border for the next 6 months for an unlimited number of times.

So, we decided to do the two-hour drive up north. I had my passport, and after driving all the way from the I-290 and the I-190, my friend and I were at the Queenston-Lewiston border. We got our passports stamped. Yippee!

Somehow, I find it weird that I can drive to a different country. The fact of the matter is, I come from the Philippines, which is an archipelago. In order to go the nearest country, one takes a flight. So I find it bizarre that one can drive to another country and have one's passport stamped.

Anyway, so miles are thrown out, and kilometers are in. Signs are both in English and Francais. I saw signs on the road saying "Zone de Construction: Fin." Okay then. Exit signs on the Queen Elizabeth Way was marked "Exit/Sortie."

Canadians are daredevils in driving. In the United States, common practice dictates that one adds 10 miles to the speed limit and nothing more, or else risk being pulled over for speeding. So if the speed limit is 65 miles, one drives around 75 miles. In Canada, oh my goodness, people drive fast on the highway. There is a 100 kilometer speed limit, and we were driving the speed limit, yet people were still zooming past by. It felt like they were 50 kilometers above the speed limit.

Canadians strike me as well-mannered and polite. From the visa officer in the consulate, to the border official, to people in the city, I didn't bump into an undesirable person. Unlike in New York City, Torontonians obey the pedestrian traffic light. If it is red, even if nobody is coming, people wait for the green light to cross the road. When we visited the Old City Hall and had to go through security, the guard even apologized when I asked if I can take pictures inside the historic building and he answered that I cannot.

The face of Toronto is diverse, and proud of it. Canadians seem to love the variation in the human race, while here in the United States, I suppose people want assimilation instead.

Toronto has real Chinese food. I followed the suggestion of Lonely Planet for lunch. I had a craving for dimsum, and Buffalo doesn't really have good dimsum places. I suppose I wanted something similar to the Chinatown food in the backstreets of Kobe, where one can just buy on the street and walk along with a skewer of chicken. Anyway, so we found Chinatown, and went into this nondescript dimsum place. They had amazing dimsum, and I was soon busy tucking them in with my chopsticks after dunking them in soy sauce and vinegar.

I suppose I would love to live in Toronto, if I can. I was walking the streets of Chinatown and the fruit looked so fresh. They had dragon fruit, durian, sweetsop, longan, Asian pears, among other things. Too bad I didn't look into whether we could carry fresh fruit or not across the border, I was afraid it was not allowed, or else I would have gotten some.

Oh well, my Canadian visa still has a long way to go, so if I am allowed to take back fruit, then I'll probably get some the next time.

(Graveyard Mansion, from my Arlington Cemetery Series)


  1. Going to another country is an adventure by itself, how much more for driving to another country? Exciting. The most that I have done was to drive from NY to Washington DC and back. It was an experience I wouldn't forget. :)

  2. Hey, glad you came to visit Canada!

    Canadians are surprisingly polite, even in big cities. That always amazes me. I think most people drive okay though... the speed never bothered me. That said, the speed limit is much higher in France (120km/hr!) so it might be because of that.

  3. Abaniko,

    I know. I had another of those moments when I was in Hungary, and I simply crossed a bridge by walking, and I was in Slovakia after arriving at the other side!


    I am glad I went! And guess what? I have plans to visit again!

    Whoa. 120 kilometers per hour in France? Wow. It makes driving on the I-90 very slow.

  4. 65mph = 105kmph, 75mph = 121kmph. Ofcourse people were driving faster! 15-20 above official speed limit is normal. It's nice to know your impression of Toronto. This was in the pre-puku era, right?

  5. Priyank,

    Yes, I believe so. This was in the virtual Puku era; I think I only knew you online by this time.