A Short Diary Traveling in Canada
By Gi Yong ho, Tribune Reporter
Before the Journey
Having successfully qualified to study English abroad, I applied last May to one of the international exchange programs sponsored by Main Office of CNU. 2 days before I was scheduled to depart for Canada, I found out that there was something wrong with my flight schedule. Actually, I had thought that my flight was on Sunday July 17 instead it was the day before. On noticing this fact, I was surprised and confused as I had not prepared at all for my trip. I hadn’t time to meet some acquaintances on Saturday night as planned but instead had to rush to board the airplane.
Into the New Culture
After a long and boring 16 hour flight including 3 stop-overs at Inchon, Nagoya and Vancouver airports, I finally arrived at my final destination, Ottawa, the capital city of Canada. I met my home stay mom and one roommate from Japan. Later, one more roommate from Turkey joined the household. My first impression of this strange place was very calm. I could not see any people outside at night. However, I did not know the reason for this at the time.
The next day, I went shopping to a grocery store with my newly met mom. On entering the grocery store, I immediately thought “Wow! What a perfect place to learn English vocabulary related to food.” I had been always wondering about names of fruit and vegetables that you do not see in Korea. However, this problem was solved instantly.
The third day in Canada, I went to Carleton University to take the ESL intensive course. To get there from my home, I had to take a bus and then transfer to a train. While riding the bus, I was surprised to see a disabled man taking the bus because I have never seen any disabled people using public buses in Korea. More surprisingly, the conductor of bus stepped down and helped him to get on the bus. When I heard Canadian people talking of “priority”, I readily understood what it meant, from this situation. The first, in terms of priority in Canada are the disabled and senior citizens. Furthermore, on campus there were lots of facilities to assist the disabled in living life as normally as possible. Push button doors and ringing sound bells at each floor in elevators are two such examples. I felt that although the disabled in Canada may feel aggrieved because of their handicap they could not feel marginalized by the indifference of and segregation from society, like in Korea.
In Carleton University
The six week ESL curriculum was well organized and every teacher was very kind on answering questions. One day, a female student from China came to me and asked, “Do you know Rain?” At that moment, I was a little bit confused because I did not fully understand what she meant. However, she asked, “Do you know Full House?” She said that she was crazy about this Korean soap drama and she liked Rain, especially the scene where Rain sang the song Gom-Se-Ma-Ri (Three Bears) to the main actress, Song Hye-gyo. Therefore, she asked me to write her the lyrics of this song. I was glad to do so and felt the Korean wave fever among Asian people.
A few days before the six weeks curriculum finished one Japanese female student did a class presentation about current events. Her topic caused controversy between Asian students. She said the prime minister of Japan, Koizumi, should visit the Yasukuni shrine for the war heroes more often. I could not believe my ears. Why on earth did she say this? To make things worse, another Japanese girl supported her argument to help classmates understand. I could not sitt there dumbfounded at this point. “Yasukuni shrine is a place brought about by the criminality of the Second World War. Moreover, the behavior of Koizumi while visiting it is not one of apologizing for the war but rather of justifying the bad acts of his ancestors. His actions result in unnecessary emotional fighting between neighboring countries in terms of international relations. So he should not visit it any more.” A strange silent atmosphere lasted for a few seconds. Then the teacher tactfully moved onto the next issue. After this event, I rethought on the Japanese and felt the necessity to inform people all around the world about real aspects of Korea. For example, I have heard and can confirm that 97% of maps existing in the world refer to the East Sea as the Sea of Japan. No matter how angry we are at Japan’s actions, such as the territorial dispute with Dokdo, their distorted history textbooks and so on it does not matter at all because the world does not care about these issues and have no interest in them. The most important thing is to try to inform the international community about them. We should make an effort to allow the world citizen to learn about Korea, objectively and without distortion.
Getting Out of Ottawa
I had a travel-plan to visit well-known sights. I kept to this plan better than anything else I did. I traveled to the Niagara Falls, Toronto, Montreal, Quebec City, Vancouver and the Rocky Mountains every other week. Firstly, I went to Toronto and the Niagara Falls. It took more than 7 hours to get to the Niagara Falls. As soon as I arrived there, I could see fireworks. They are held there every Friday night. The thunderous sound of the falls plus the colorful lighting shining on them was in perfect harmony with the fireworks against the dark night sky. However, a blot on the landscape was to meet Korea politicians inside a casino. 4 politicians belonging in the committee of health & welfare were gambling inside the casino. When I noticed them, they said to us that they were just dropping by here on their way to attend a seminar in the U.S.A. To their faces, I just said “nice to meet you” with a smile but I thought to myself that they enjoyed their trip at the expense of the national taxpayer at home. At that moment, I became displeased.
Two weeks later, I went to Montreal and Quebec City. During this trip, I caught a summer cold. Colds in Canada are similar to those in Korea in terms of symptoms. In spite of the illness, I went traveling because I could not forego this opportunity. However, the fresh air and calming river water helped compose me. My mind was put at ease and my cold went away. Finally, before I returned to my home country, I went to Rocky Mountains for 3 nights and 4 days.
Mixed Feelings about Canada
Before returning to my motherland I was obliged to spend one night at Vancouver Airport. While reading a book to kill the time a Korean family passed by. They were just back from traveling and were awaiting a flight to Toronto where they have lived for 2 years. Owing to a little favor (I covered the children with some of my clothes while sleeping), I had an opportunity to talk with the father. The topic of our talk was Canada. I spoke of the positive side of Canada and mentioned the well-organized social security system, the education system and the liberal social atmosphere. In contrast, he divulged his thoughts on the negative side of Canada. For example, as regards the social security system which I had believed to be the best until then, he told me about its weak points. He specifically mentioned the free medical service. It seemed an enviable system; however you could not avail of it whenever you wanted even if you had enough money. That is because the number of doctors was very for short. I was so confused to hear him say this. I must admit that no place is without its weak points. However, I felt strange but did not know exactly why. Was it because of an outrageous desire on my behalf to know everything about Canada? Thanks to the conversation with this man, I knew on de-boarding the plane, safely back in my motherland that there was so much more about Canada that I still had to learn.