Another week has come and gone and I’m still in Turkey. Two weeks ago I dropped my almost full passport at the Canadian consulate in Istanbul and on Tuesday I will return to pick up a new five-year passport. This morning I spent two hours reading online coverage of the Canadian election. After lunch I poked around one of Istanbul’s more Bohemian neighbourhoods where I came across an antique store that was chock full of ‘junque’, including a Shopsy’s sign, several Canadian license plates, and a plaster beaver identical to one I made at Big Doe Camp in 1971.
It’s now mid-afternoon on Saturday #68 and I’m writing from a high table in the open front window of a cafe/bar just off Taksim Square. The bar is called ‘Montreal’. It doesn’t look particularly ‘Canadian’ with a collection of sombreros hanging from the ceiling and a cactus logo on the menu. The only hint that the bar’s name actually refers to Canada comes from a faded mural on one wall depicting some Haida symbols, a gangly brown animal that is likely a young and antler-less moose (but might also be Northern Dancer at age 25), along with a building that is either the House of Parliament, the Chateau Laurier, or Brian Mulroney’s Westmount home. It’s hard to tell what exactly the mural stands for, but in its blandness it does feel stereotypically Canadian.
Under the circumstances, it’s hard not to think about Canada.
Unfortunately I no longer have the ‘Canada’ ball cap that I purchased in Mongolia and lost in a wind storm in Kyrgyzstan. Damn, I miss that thing even if it did have a glaring typo (CANADA: Est. 1967). I still have a Canadian flag on my backpack and of course I always wear a multi-coloured maple leaf — the one tattooed on my right arm. And that brings me to today’s pronouncement from the personal soapbox that is 100Saturdays.com.
Ten years ago I met a celebrity tattoo artist in Las Vegas (Johnny from the A&E show ‘Inked’) and I made a hasty decision to get inked. I chose a brightly coloured maple leaf for my upper right arm. I knew that it would be timeless; it will be recognizable even when it fades, sags and stretches; and most importantly, I knew that it’s the one symbol that I will always be profoundly proud to wear. No matter where I end up, I will always be Canadian and Canada will always be home.
But what does the future hold for Canada? I think about this often now that I am in my second year of travelling abroad. I might even have a somewhat unique view on this from the other side of the world. To be honest, Canada is still seen in a very favourable light by most non-Canadians, but I do get the sense that our stature is slipping and has been for a few years.
Google Analytics tells me that many of the people who read this blog do so from outside Canada. Some are fellow travellers, maybe even Canadians, but many are locals that I’ve met along the way — people who almost always combine “goodbye” with “I’ll follow your blog.” I’ll spare them the political rant or the preaching that I reserve for Facebook where you can simply ignore, unfollow or block me! But come Tuesday I will have a new passport, ready to present to the world — and hopefully fill before it’s five year’s are up — and hopefully Canada will have a fresh, new, forward thinking government-in-waiting.