We were asked to a multicultural supper, with folks from Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Ghana, Nigeria, the Philippines and Japan. This colourful gathering is not in the big city of Edmonton, but in the very small rural Alberta town of Plamondon, at least two hours north in the nowhere of northern Alberta. We have a good Nigerian friend up there, Seyi Etim, who helps organize these suppers with his global friends from the area. I’m very sorry we won’t be there – we’ll be enjoying a Swiss Canadian Christmas in Fort St. John, B.C.
Diana and Thomas celebrated their 20th wedding anniversary, and the four of us went out for supper last night in what I like to call our little red neck town of Westlock, Alberta. The special was roast beef dinner, which Diana and I promptly ordered. Our waiter was courteous and friendly and we chatted a little. Somehow Robert told him he was from Switzerland. “Where are you from?” I asked him, detecting an accent. “From India,” he answered.
“Our friends here (I’m pointing to Diana and Thomas) are from Argentina, you’re from India and we’re from Switzerland! None of us are from Canada!” And we laughed together. (Robert and I are also Canadians, by the way – I grew up in this wonderful country.)
Our waiter has been in Westlock for two years now. He said small rural Canadian towns are good to foreigners, offering jobs and a chance to come to Canada. He also said he saved a lot more money in Westlock than if he was living in Calgary, enabling him to go back and visit India.
Two days before I’d been at the post office and noticed a very dark young man waiting around while the clerk was finishing his business. I wanted to ask him where he was from but was afraid of seeming rude. I’ve seen a few Africans around, and know from Seyi that there are nine Nigerian Catholic priests serving in this area. (Isn’t that funny, really? We grew up thinking that Africa was the place missionaries went to. Now they come from there…)
When I go to the Westlock A&W for the occasional coffee or Mozzaburger, the personal behind the counter are very friendly Mexicans. We have Chinese operating a restaurant. A Tanzanian has long owned and operated a local hardware store. Then there are all the Dutch, Germans, Scandinavians and other Europeans like my Italian friend Les Properzi.
So I’ve changed my opinion of our small town from redneck to multicultural. I guess I should have known it all along, but it didn’t really hit home until last night.