Our Great American Neighbours
By Cam Mather
I miss my new American friends! Michelle and I had three amazing American couples visit us at Sunflower Farm this summer, and I miss them!
This is weird for me because I pride myself in being a bit of a “hermit.” When you move to a place where your nearest neighbors are 3 miles to the east and 5 to the west, it should be a bit of a sign to others that you aren’t desperate for human companionship. And I’m not. Well at least I didn’t think I was.
Having people come up this summer was a bit of a stretch for Michelle and me. We are set in our ways, in our own little groove, and aren’t that into regular meals and keeping an immaculately clean home. So we were kind of apprehensive about the whole process of having “strangers” here. We were excited about the new source of income from the renewable energy and independence retreat, and the extra work we could accomplish with the WWOOFers/HelpXers though, and so we were willing to give it a shot.
I have to admit that I was concerned about having Americans come to Sunflower Farm. I know. Scary stuff! What to expect? Would they be big, loud, handgun toting, cowboy boot wearing, world dominating, win at all costs, greatest country in the world Americans?
Please remember that we’re Canadians. Quiet. Humble. Reserved… Canadians. We’re often rated near the top of the list of countries that the U.N. suggests are good countries to live in, but that makes us uncomfortable. We don’t like the publicity. We’d rather just live quietly in the background, knowing that if we cut off several of our fingers with the chainsaw, our universal healthcare system will sew them both back on.
It’s hard to really get a feel for people when you are making arrangements via email. Luckily none of their emails were in ALL UPPER CASE LIKE THEY WERE YELLING! So we weren’t quite sure what to expect.
As it turned out we were pleasantly, no, delightfully surprised! All of our American visitors were charming. They were polite, interesting, obviously hard working, articulate, worldly, fun, …. Just tell me when you want me to stop.
Now I know what you’re thinking. Why would I have expected anything less? I know. It’s a loaded question. But there are some stereotypes out there about Americans that paint them with a less than flattering brush. You know, the loud, ugly American. The gaudy plaid shorts and camera while on vacation. The meddling police officer of the world, putting their noses in other country’s affairs where they’re not welcome.
I don’t agree with a lot of American politics. But I don’t agree with a lot of Canadian politics either. And part of the reasons Canadians enjoy such a great standard of living is that we haven’t had to spend as much of our GDP on the military. Our American cousins do that. Heck, they’ve got 11 aircraft carriers. The most any other country has is just one. So why would we need one? Our big brother to the south will make sure no one picks on us.
What I do know is that Americans are great people and I had a great summer getting to know a few of them much better. From our blogs you know about Mike and Melissa from Philadelphia and Gwen and Dave from Syracuse who came to help in the garden and learn about renewable energy here. They are hard working, well adjusted young adults who were great to have around. We talked for hours about everything you can imagine and we laughed a lot. As I’ve learned as a frustrated comedian, you don’t need to change your material; you just need to change your audience. Michelle doesn’t even roll her eyes at my stuff anymore, but my new American friends knew how to laugh (mostly at me, but maybe some of the time with me.)
This weekend we watched the movie “The Blind Side” again. The first time I watched it I wasn’t really aware of where the story had taken place, but after we had visitors from Tennessee come up for a renewable energy retreat, I made the link right away that the movie takes place in Memphis, Tennessee. So it was like, wow, now I love Tennessee! And the woman Sandra Bullock plays in the movie, Leigh Anne Tuohy, well, I love her! She’s totally awesome! I thought people from Tennessee were awesome before, now I think they’re really awesome.
Our Tennessee guests were here for two days, but the day after they left I said to Michelle, “You know what’s weird, I really miss them.” That’s so unlike me. I like the solitude. I like only seeing one other person for days on end. But there I was, missing people I’d only just met and only spent two days with.
I guess this is representative of how sometimes you get a different perspective from the big picture and little picture. While you may not be enamored by another country’s foreign policy, that doesn’t mean that you can apply that same view to all of the people who live in that country. This certainly was my experience this summer.
I think Americans are great.
I hope we get more Americans visiting here in the future. It’s great to have such awesome neighbors to the south! Someday, maybe, I’ll get up the courage to get my passport updated so I can visit the U.S. and get to meet the whole darn country!