For a change of pace, Chris provides his slant on our Canadian Adventure.
Money: We don’t really think of Canada as a “foreign” country but found out it is. Our first hint was when we were charged “foreign transaction fees” for our campground reservations. Ahh. Better plan for this. We switched credit cards to ones without those fees.
In Waterton we tried to get Canadian dollars from a couple of ATMs without success. “Card Denied.” We had to change US dollars for Canadian dollars at a sports store. The woman told us our problem was not with our card. All six ATMs in town were the same. Nevertheless we were now armed with about $120 in Canadian.
One stroke of luck is that the Canadian dollar is at an 11-year low. The loonie closed at 75.87 cents US during our trip. Finally we catch a break. We had friends that were visiting here a few years ago and the situation was reversed. The Canadian dollar was strong and the US dollar was weak. Right now when we discount Canadian dollars prices are about what they would cost in the US dollars. We’re just glad we aren’t paying 20% more. Sorry Joan and Alex.
The Canadian bills and coins are neat. The bills are different colors and have a clear places. I guess the bill is made of plastic. There are no pennies as they have done away with them. Everything is rounded up or down. They have one and two dollar coins, often called the loonie and the toonie. We’ve read that it would be cheaper for the US to go to metal coins, but for some reason we haven’t. Chalk one up for the Canadians.
The Metric System: When the highway signs say maximum speed 110 your heart beats faster. Until you realize it is only 68 mph. 90 is only 56 mph. Fortunately the truck’s nav system converts to metric. The next problem was the temperature. Tomorrow it will be high of 22 and low of 9. OK, What’s that? Fortunately, I taught high school science for several years and can do the conversion. 10 C is 50 F and 20 C is 68 F. Every 5 degrees C is 9 degrees F. Clear? The biggest problem has turned out to be cooking. We want a ½ pound of ham. How many kilograms is that? 1 kilogram is 2.2 pounds. Does that help? A can of soup is 284 ml. How many ounces is that? We just buy the can that looks the same size as what we buy at home and hope for the best. While hiking, all of the trails are in kilometers. That has proven to be pretty easy. Just multiply by 0.6 and you have miles. 8 km? That is 4.8 miles.
Local Stories: We always like to pick up the local paper. Some things are so alien and yet others could have been written about Terre Haute.
1) A 4 million dollar moose underpass is almost ready. The highways are bad news for all of the wildlife, so there are underpasses and overpasses to help them out.
2) Scat Seekers are set to go. These are volunteers and park staff who hit the trails collecting samples of black and grizzly bear scat. DNA results provide information on numbers and health.
3) Man receives $1,000 fine for feeding a bear in Jasper National Park. Needless to say, this is against the law everywhere. But with the advent of cellphone cameras, the violators are being prosecuted. It can cost you up to $25,000. Ouch.
4) Stranded rafters rescued from Bow River. They had to spend a cold night on an island after losing their paddles.
5) Edith Cavell’s 100th anniversary memorial. She was a nurse who helped people escape from Germany in WWI. She was caught and executed. Several landmarks are named after her.
6) Then there are the controversies that could have come from Terre Haute. The city of Jasper needed a new finance director. They wanted someone with a CPA background to manage their 14 million dollar budget. They received 31 resumes. Who did they hire? The current fitness and aquatic centre manager. Lots of tongue wagging about that one.
Politics: Recently, the conservative government called for new elections. That won’t happen until the end of October. Something like 79 days. This is the longest campaign season in the history of Canada!!! What do we have, 400+ days to go. There are the conservatives (Republicans), the liberals (Democrates), the NPDs, Bloc Québécois and the Greens. Everyone promising everyone everything. Here in Alberta, the Conservatives have been in control for many years and the few people we have discussed it with have been happy with them. They have run a surplus for several years, although that is just about gone because of health care costs. (A couple of people confirmed you may have to wait quite some time for imaging or surgery).
Language: Everything is in both English and French. Everything. Road signs, interpretive signs, printing on the money.
Food containers will have English on one side and French on the other. Even the nutritional labels on food are in both languages.
Yep, it is some law to satisfy the French speakers. Everyone has to take French in school. But most people we run into cannot speak it. You can, however, take total immersion, where all of your classes are in French. Those young people can speak French.
Firewood: In the States you buy a bundle of firewood from the campground host or at a convenience store. The transportation of firewood is prohibited in the States and in Canada. The bundle you buy will cost between 6 and 8 dollars and will include that many pieces of wood—which may or not be good and dry.
But in Canada you pay a fire permit fee of $8.80 Canadian which is a little less than $7.00 US. For that, you go to a huge pile of seasoned wood and help yourself—as many times you want. We had wonderful campfires on many nights while in Canada. Less so in the US.
Restrooms: They are called washrooms here. Otherwise, they’re the same.
But, as much as there are some differences, it has been very much like traveling in the US. All of the Canadians we have met have been super friendly and more than willing to answer our questions about life in Canada. We’ll look forward to our next visit to our Northern neighbor.