Red and white flags, stickers and balloons filled my apartment, with over a hundred people also dressed in red and white.
I hosted my first ever Canada Day party yesterday. It just so happened to be in Portugal.
It was yet another bright and sunny day in beautiful Lisbon when I woke up and all I could hear were the sounds of birds chirping. The hustle and bustle of the city was gone, as it was now a weekend. I sat quietly on my balcony, ahead of the chaos that was about to happen in my space, and took in the sun. Summer is here.
It nudged a journey of nostalgia, making me walk down memory lane, retracing the steps of my Canadian upbringing.
My personal identity has been defined by the Canadian values of diversity, respect, and compassion. My sister and I loved to make hearty pancakes and drench them in maple syrup. I grew up obsessed with ice hockey. Watching, not playing. And of course, I only realised once I had moved to New York that I put “eh” at the end of every other sentence.
The Canadian spirit encompasses a warm embrace for everyone, regardless of their origin or identity, and that's exactly what shaped my outlook. Canada’s population recently hit 40 million. It has grown from 30 million during the course of my lifetime, evidence of the openness that Canada has to the world.
In the cocoon of a Canadian upbringing, dignity and rights were acknowledged and respected far more than I have witnessed in other cultures. These quintessential Canadian values turned into life lessons that stayed with me. They didn't just fill up the textbooks of my school curriculum, but they also filled my heart, carving my character and conscience.
No matter how far I travelled, the essence of being Canadian has stayed with me. It was the secret ingredient that defined me, like the unmistakable hint of Canadian maple syrup in a world full of diverse flavours.
Fast forward to now, as the setting sun paints the skies of Portugal, I am nestled amidst a mix of cultures, languages, and traditions. Each day here unravels a different story, a new learning, and an opportunity to explore the unknown. Yet, among the myriad hues of world culture, the unmistakable red and white of the Canadian spirit remains unfaded within me.
The Canadian spirit is a strong, silent current that runs through my actions and decisions. Being Canadian doesn't come with a badge to flaunt or a trophy to showcase. It is the quiet pride that echoes in my principles and the values that I stand for.
In my experiences across different cultures, I realise that being Canadian is like the invisible ink that silently weaves through the fabric of my life and of the world. It's the thread that binds my identity, the lens through which I view the world, and the heartbeat that echoes in my interactions. It's a part of me, a silent companion that accompanies me wherever I go.
A confession seems appropriate now. There's an underappreciation that lingers in the back of my mind. The privilege of being Canadian, of being raised amidst the nation's deep-rooted values, I take for granted. It was only after stepping out of Canadian territory, getting soaked in various cultures, and interacting with hundreds of expatriates in Southern Europe, that the real essence of being Canadian sunk in.
Living amidst the cultural potpourri of Southern Europe, I realised that the identity I was carrying was a precious one. Each conversation with my expatriate friends illuminated how the values absorbed from the place of upbringing significantly influence an individual. It dawned on me that being Canadian wasn't just about where I was born or where I lived; it was about how those values, traditions, and experiences had moulded me.
The values that I absorbed growing up were not just Canadian values, they were universal values of kindness, respect, and acceptance. And that's when it hit me - being Canadian wasn't just about owning a passport or living within its geographical boundaries. It was about embodying these values, about letting them guide my journey, and about carrying the spirit of Canada within me, wherever I go.
Being Canadian is a feeling, a silent commitment to universal values, and a quiet pride that needs no validation. It's a spirit that lives on, regardless of the geographical coordinates, lighting the way and guiding the steps on the path of life.
In the end, being Canadian isn't about where I am. It's about who I am.