Banana tree surviving the fall in Ontario

What does your “home” look like through your eyes?

I went home last week.  I have been in Barbados for almost three years now and have a good idea of how Bajans feel about the island.  This past visit I got an insight into what they appreciate about Canada.

For those that can afford it, Barbadians send their children to another country for post-secondary education.  Nick went to Bishops, near Montreal.  His son, Oliver, is in his second year at the University of Guelph.  Barbados is a small place.  To grow by seeing another part of the world is a big deal.

Oliver is loving school in Canada.  I completely understand some of the things that he loves because I miss them as well.  They include amazing grocery stores, which are overwhelming in their choice and always fully stocked with goods that cost much less than at Massy’s in Barbados.  Goods are plentiful in stores of every kind, where you just walk in and find what you need.

Taking advantage of Canada’s abundance, Oliver has gotten into the secondhand market.  He and his roommates took two buses, walked a couple of miles, and then did this in reverse with a very large TV that they bought for $200!  This fall they also hit the yard sales.  Where I used to find household items “deeply discounted,” he has found a guitar, electronics, and various other items of value that people just need to get rid of.  It seems that Oliver shares my love of treasure hunts.

THE KEG to get some Canadian beef - Oliver and girlfriend Hope, Nick, me and Uncle Ken

There are other things that I don’t relate to, like an appreciation for the weather.  Oliver explained, you know when you wake up at 5am in Barbados sweating as the sun pours in? In Canada it stays dark and cool, and you can sleep in.  It is like sleeping in air conditioning every night.  [Oliver grew up in a house without air conditioning.]

What?! Really?!  The number of years that I complained about going to bed with socks on.  The decades that I could never get the temperature quite right so that I didn’t wake up in the middle of the night freezing or sweating under a huge duvet on my bed. Maybe I should have been counting my blessings because it is only getting hotter in Barbados.

Nick and I spent a lot of time on the highways – to Toronto to pick up my new surfboard, to St. Thomas for Anita’s Celebration of Life – 2 hours here, 2 hours there at a time.  Nick observes that the Ontario roads are a testament that taxpayer’s money is doing something.  He says that Barbados endured years of corruption in the blatant form of thievery, more subtle awarding of inflated contracts, or even today the Auditor General found unreconciled accounts worth millions of Barbados dollars!  The roads are crumbling, evidenced by potholes the size that we would sue our Canadian government after hitting.  Barbadians don’t know where their tax money has gone, but it hasn’t been towards the infrastructure.

What both Barbados and small-town Canada have in common is community.  The hall, where Anita’s celebration was held, had capacity for 250 people.  We had to run the celebration four times.  After each celebration, people came to tell me that they could sense that our friendship was very special.  They felt very privileged to have spent time with Anita, even for far less time than she was in my life.  Nick and I stayed at an Airbnb a short walk from the hall, so that we could go back and forth.  The owner said that she knew several people that had attended the ceremonies; that my friend was well-loved in their community.

What struck Nick was the authenticity of these people. No one was putting on airs and everyone was expressing genuine love and appreciation for my friend.  People were not there to be seen, they were there to say goodbye and help the community heal from their loss.  It was a testament to the beauty of the Canadian spirit – friendly, inclusive, and open.

I am back in Barbados.  Yesterday morning I submitted my documentation for a residency permit that should make this my home for another three years.  In the evening, I gathered at Drill Hall beach for Sarah’s birthday and sunset surfing.  I had to drive across one hell of a battered road to get to the beach, but then there was the ocean with its stunning water and the sound of the waves.  My friends gave me a hug and welcomed me back.  The Barbados that I see through Canadian eyes is beautiful and supportive.   I am home.

Conrad photographed this stunning manta ray at Drill Hall behind the surf in the crystal clear waters of Barbados.