Whenever I unpack, I discover I've brought home a new awareness. That's my favorite souvenir.
I'd just never thought about the people that live in Ottawa before. They ice skate to work down the Rideau Canal in the winter, and lots of them speak French. It's funny to think they've been living there all along, since the 1600's, and they have parents and problems, and lives and loves and I didn't even pay attention.
Ottawa is Canada's capitol city and there are magnificent parliament buildings built right on the river. We stayed in an elegant hotel in the center (or centre) of town, and as we were settling in, we heard bagpipes. From our window we watched a brass band leading a regiment of red-coated, black-hatted soldiers down the street for the changing of the guard. This happens twice a day!
High Tea is served every afternoon in our hotel. We had cranberry scones with Devonshire cream, finger sandwiches with smoked salmon and cucumber, and dainty boysenberry tarts. The hamburgers we ate earlier were bison, and I had brown sugar crepes for breakfast with Canadian maple syrup.
This was a research trip for a book Dee's writing about a family from Ireland. They immigrated to Ontario, Canada, and a few generations later made their way to Michigan. We started in Detroit taking photos of churches, schools, homes, graves, etc., documenting lives from about 1820 through 1970. He needed to put the setting in context with the history of the neighborhoods, so we'd read up on it. I love learning about places by being there. It was thought provoking to see evidence of the race riots of the '60's and do a little research on the impact of the Ford Motor Company. Those aren't topics that would usually interest me, but that's what I love about travel. It opens my eyes to a bigger world.
We drove over 2,000 miles, through Ontario and on to Ottawa looking for evidence of early settlers. I thought Canada would seem just like the US but it was very much a different country. The newspapers didn't mention our presidential hopefuls or their campaigns, or anything else we're used to seeing. It's humbling to realize that people around the world are not focused on the USA, or wishing they lived here, or even thinking we're cool! I love being reminded of that. It puts my life in perspective. (One funny thing: on the news one night the attention getting weather tidbit was about three exotic areas where there was huge flooding-- Bangladesh; Oxford, England; and West Jordan, Utah! We immediately called home to see if the west side of our valley had washed away, and found it still intact. Any rain in a Utah summer is newsworthy, and I guess weather people everywhere are looking for something exciting to report.)
Sitting in the very crowded Chicago airport on our trip home, I looked around at the potpourri of passengers. People from everywhere, going somewhere else. We were all so similar, and yet we live such a variety of lives. I wondered what would happen if I suddenly jumped up on a table, grabbed a microphone and started describing my kids, or impetuously let loose with a list of my fears and passions. What if I told them about snoring in church? That's exactly what I do when I tour the blogosphere! I guess blogging is a little like travel. I connect with people and ideas I didn't know about before, and then I start paying attention. I get a little more awareness.