I am thoroughly convinced of two things: Life is a joke. And life is sacred.
Because of this, I love-love-love my education. But also because of this, I have a habit of taking courses because they sound funny.
Just funny. Not relevant to my interests (though, usually, they also fall into that category). Certainly not relevant to my degree. While sifting through possible electives, I eagerly dropkick away any chance at learning “something important” in favour of being able to chuckle inside my head.
Life is sacred; Life is a joke.
Last year, I took a class called “Jesus of Nazareth.” I could have taken something in my program. Or, if I felt so inclined, checked out comparative religion, the history of Christianity as a whole, or really anything with a more convenient time slot.
Instead, I chose instead to sit in a windowless lecture hall from 4-7 pm every Wednesday, tracking the historical Jesus and wishing I could read Coptic.
Why? Because I wanted to be able to yell “I’m going to Jesus class!” to my roommate as I sprinted out the door at 3:30.
She laughed. I laughed.
Tuition well spent.
This summer, I decided to take a class called “Canadian Society” for this same reason. It’s not as funny-sounding as Jesus class, I know, but between “Canada class” and “Cold War class,” I am getting a few of the raised eyebrows and “*snort* what?!” that I so crave.
Of course, my incessant need to bring out the sacred/funny in everything isn’t the only motivator. Canada Class is also supposed to prepare me for my trip across the country in August. Not because I expect travel advice from a jeans-‘n-teeshirt wielding sociology prof, but because it relates to the whole point of my trip: to crack the code of the “Canadian experience.” I want to understand what it means wear my Maple Leaf with so much pride. I want to come home with a nuanced, complicated, amusing, and (hopefully) optimistic view of the country. Somewhere in there, I hope my jokes about Canadian-isms will improve.
A little bit of funny. A little bit of sacred. A whole lot of time on the train.
I pulled out the term Canadian identity while discussing my plans with Michelle last week. “Our Grade 12 English teachers would be so proud,” she grinned, tossing me a friendly eyeroll.
This is the price I pay for hanging out with people I knew as a teenager. Michelle can pinpoint the exact childhood influence which planted the words in my mouth. In this case, my summer plans are the victim of too much Rick Mercer, a Grade 12 English unit, and hundreds of hours spent standing for the national anthem in public school.
I’m sure studying Canadian history for several years helped, too.
So did living in the United States, answering questions on behalf of “Canada” and “Canadians.” I leapt eagerly to represent my country, but I often fell flat. I filled my friends in on Ontario 101, disguising it as Canada 101. Sure, I had studied other areas using geography textbooks and google searches, but who am I kidding? I haven’t seen this country. I love it, it’s a part of me, I talk about it all-the-freakin-time, but…I haven’t seen it. My insights are incomplete.
I want to get it right next time.
So here I am. Taking Canada class. Taking a train across the country. Sociology is new to me, and I find it frustrating at times–I like patterns, but my brain tends to reject most large-scale generalizations. I’m much better at finding the exception to the rule. So I sit in fifth row, silently Wikipedia-ing counter-arguments to what the professor says (I don’t bring them up, not in a 100 person classroom, but I like to know that they exist). I wince every time someone makes a massive blanket statement or misconstrues a historical event.
But I’m learning about Canada. I think I am, anyways. At the very least, I’m learning how to think about Canada. I’m learning that approaching the collective identity of a MASSIVE nation won’t be easy. Especially not in a single month.
This is all to say that, yes, there is a reason behind my crazy plan to take a month off and backpack across the country. Yes, I am doing the prep work to make it happen–and that prep work includes “Canada class.” I guess we will see how that goes.
The prep work also includes booking train rides. This I have been able to (finally, finally) figure out.
Currently, my August looks like this:
Halifax –> PEI –> Moncton –> Quebec –> Montreal –> Toronto –> Winnepeg –> Saskatoon –> Edmonton –> Vancouver/Victoria –> Calgary
…And home in time for dinner.
Whew. Ready, set, go.