It's strange how we take things for granted, especially as children. We live for the moment and only realize the significance of some things we have experienced decades later.
Montreal welcomed the world to Expo '67. I was five, so have only a few memories. My "job", the day I attended the wonderful event, was to remember that my family had parked in the camel section: the parking areas were all drawings of animals rather than numbers and letters what wouldn't have been inclusive to ALL languages. I also have a vague memory of riding the monorail with my Mom, who wore a bright yellow dress. One image that has stayed with me, as vibrant today as in 1967, is of a massive statue of a serene Buddha with flowers blooming around him.
While Expo brought the world to Montreal, with pavilions celebrating the best of what each country took pride in, Montreal itself has always honoured its diversity by bringing people together to share their lives every day.
I grew up in the suburbs on a street with bungalows or split level brick houses. While many designs looked the same, when the door opened, the world in its infinite variety of colours and scents would tumble at your feet.
There were amazing smells from various kitchens, which was a glorious introduction to a different heritage. On any given day, visiting school friends, you could sample German schnitzel, Dutch strudel, Hungarian goulash and Greek Baklava. Eyes widened in appreciation of flavours that were new, while greedy fingers reached for more.
The young version of me was thrilled at seeing the colours in the homes. They transformed a typical suburban bungalow into a treasure trove of adventure. A lovely family who had moved to our neighbourhood from Pakistan had a magical home. Pillows with embroidered elephants and gold tassels; carpets in deep reds and oranges; tables with intricate carvings in the wood. I was amazed at the magnificence of their "every day".
Some yards nearby had flat, level ground covered with grass, but others were explosions of colour from flowers that seemed to be constantly in bloom. The gardeners who grew their own food were admired for using every available inch of ground to produce their bounty. Of course, sharing with neighbours, there was always advice imparted as well, such as how to cook unfamiliar vegetables like eggplant.
I took it for granted, growing up surrounded by the world's riches behind every door in my neighbourhood. I look back fondly now, remembering my first taste of REAL coconut, having watched it being cracked open and marveling at the liquid inside. I smile, as I recall bowing to an elderly Japanese lady who had welcomed me into her home, having been instructed by her grandson that to do so was to show respect. I can laugh now, thinking back to when a Greek lady informed me that as a Canadian girl, I had to LEARN how to eat properly: a fork in one hand, a piece of crusty bread in the other.
I haven't travelled from North America in my life. However, driving across this vast country, when I made the decision to move to British Columbia, I discovered that it wasn't only Montreal that welcomed the world. Canada itself is a celebration of everyone who lives here, as we greet each other on the street with a smile. As Canadians, we are known for being polite. Well, of COURSE we're polite: our country welcomes everyone from everywhere! It's like enjoying Expo every day.
Thank you for spending this time with me,