Living in Lenox
One cannot really be a lover of history and Canada, and not take the time to connect with the French history of the nation. As French is not my first language, it has really helped me to set up camp in Lenoxville, an English speaking "burrough" of the Eastern Townships. And from my initial intuition, it almost feels like I'm in the Bible belt of the 10-40 window (how Quebec has been referred to in North America). With it's strong Loyalist roots, one could say that I'm in an interesting convergence of French, English and American culture? What happened to all those British loyalists after the revolutionary war of 1776? They moved north!
Being Canadian has it's benefits, and for the first time in my life I have access to provincial healthcare! Socialized healthcare was actually started by one of Canada's great Christian leaders, a baptist preacher, Tommy Douglas. With a deep passion for social justice, amidst strikes and controversy, he introduced health insurance legislation in Saskatchewan, pioneering the way for the rest of Canada. Several decades later, after being a resident in Quebec for three months, I was legible for my first ever non-private healthcare card. Family doctors seem few and far between, but I'm thankful that I haven't had to use my card yet?
So what does my healthcare cover? Anything from emergency surgery to full pregnancy coverage (but not dentistry work). Healthcare is also subject to your home province legislation and so it is still advisable to have private healthcare (a minimal cost) if you're traveling out of province.
Another truly Canadian experience was getting my drivers license in early winter amidst snowbanks and on icy roads. I really tried hard to exchange my expired US license for a Canadian one (as you can exchange a US license and licenses from a few other countries, if the license is still valid or recently expired). Sadly, my US license expired when my US visa did and so it hadn't been valid for about 3 years. A Zimbabwean license didn't count! Thankfully, I got some tips from a Chinese student who had just got her written license, and a few practice drives with a Kenyan, who had obtained his license the week before me.
I don't think I would have passed without his helpful tips! In Canada, you drive near the middle of the road to avoid hitting car doors; pull out passed a snowbank to insure visibility of traffic and reverse park (not parallel). Thankfully, I remembered enough French from high school to read the road signs, and surprised myself by passing with flying colours! Phew... As expected, I lost all my points in the reverse parking, and was thankful I hadn't had to do this test in a major city in rush hour traffic!
Now I could legally drive, as one is allowed only six months on a foreign license, and mine had almost come to an end.
This meant cross border co-driving on a 24 hour trip from Sherbrooke to Florida for the new year. I had gotten so close to America in the summer, while still remaining legal. I could literally touch the shore if I had swam across the lake, but instead I joined two English Quebecers on an adventure in search of a beaver dam in the light of dusk. It's not often you think of Canadians spying on the Russians, but as our canoe excursion came to a close, we were intrigued by the accent and language coming out of a nearby summer camp. We finished singing our hearty canoe song, and watched their bonfire excursion under a starlit sky. Memories of summer days...
A few months later, with a momentary lapse of snowbird fever, we left the snow for the sunshine, driving 2485kms southwards, nonstop between three drivers. And oh, the drive was worth it! "Hello America! I've missed you."