Americans underestimate northern neighbor By Bob Karolevitz If you're ever going to travel in Quebec, you'd better brush up on your French.
Waitresses, motel clerks, gas stations attendants and the man on the street don't speak English � or at least they don't admit that they do.
I know that sud is south, nord is north and arretz means to stop. After that I have to resort to pointing, arm-waving and other devices to make myself understood.
For instance, ordering an egg sunny-side up in Monte Joli is an exercise bordering on fultility when all you can say is oui and non. I thought about cackling like a hen, but that seemed a little juvenile.
Frankly, the weakness is mine. I admire folks who can speak two, three and even more languages. I simply don't have an ear for foreign tongues. I can say arigato in Japanese, auf wiedersehen in German and adios in Spanish, but other than that I'm pretty much mute except in English.
Oh, as a kid I was reasonably conversant in Pig Latin, but I understand it's not being used in diplomatic circles these days.
When we traveled through Canada recently, I had enough trouble with liters and kilometers before I met up with the Quebecians, or whatever they are called. They're really serious about seceding, although I think that would cause more trouble than ordering an egg sunny-side up.
Another of the things which struck me about Canadians is the number of them who smoke. They seemed to be lighting up their Players everywhere, and it was an awakening to me to learn that southern Ontario rivals Kentucky and Virginia as a tobacco-growing region.
In Delhi we toured the Ontario Tobacco Museum & Heritage Centre where we learned more about flue-cured leafs than we ever wanted to know. Phyllis asked the young man who was showing us the exhibits if he smoked. Very sheepishly he answered that he didn't.
It reminded me of the time I was hired as a student representative to promote Chesterfields back in my college days. I didn't smoke either.
Also in Ontario we attended a formal changing of the guard at the national capital in Ottawa. We were part of a huge crowd which gathered around the extensive greensward to watch the historic English-type pageantry, not unlike that which we had once seen at Buckingham Palace in London.
From there we went to the Canadian War Museum, also as Au Mus�e Canadian de la Guerre for the French-speaking visitors from Quebec. Three floors of exhibits traced the involvement of Canadians in conflicts going back to the French and Indian Wars of the eighteenth century. Equally honored were those who partiicpated in the victory at Vimy Ridge in World War I and the ill-fated invasion at Dieppe some two decades later.
In our meandering homeward from Nova Scotia, it seemed obvious to us that we underestimate Canada here in the United States. Our northern neighbor has a lot going for it, even if its currency is some 45 percent cheaper than ours.
We decry its socialized health-care system and the hogs which they foist upon us. We go there to fish, and we hope they'll be on our side in international controversies. Except for that, we tend to overlook Canada, even to the point of considering it some sort of inferior nation.
It takes an extended visit there to realize that we may be wrong.
© 1999 Robert F. Karolevitz