A third-culture kid (TCK / 3CK) or trans-culture kid is "someone who, as a child, has spent a significant period of time in one or more cultures other than his or her own, thus integrating elements of those cultures and their own birth culture, into a third culture."


Sunday, August 7, 2011

To The East... And Beyond!

Our major expedition for the Bickford four was eastward to Atlantic Canada, during the summer of 1993. The Plymouth Voyager saw one of its inner rows of seats retired to our garage waiting to be called upon after our return. We needed all the space we could get for our suitcases, our cooler, canned goods, water and other useful provisions, such as PC Cola. My Dad was already rallying the troops early in the morning of our departure, making the van’s motor purr like some kind of house pet requiring attention from its masters. Our bearing was to Quebec City, heading through beautiful but traffic congested Montreal on the way. There were no quick alternatives in order to avoid Montreal, as the 460 km drive would be even longer on slower country roads. In my father’s mind, we could not afford losing much time anywhere along the system of checkpoints he had devised on his road map. In case we did fall behind, this would further limit the time allocated to new sights and areas of interest.

The Welsh Battle Goat and the Royal 22 Regiment

Captain David was once again at the helm, leading us fearlessly into Quebec City (a significantly anti-Anglophone region of our beloved Belle Province) and Brian was the second in command, returning to his familiar position of navigator from our South America adventures. Our first stop: the Quebec City Zoo. The gardens in this zoo were so properly maintained, full of colourful flowers and freshly trimmed grass, we were almost under the illusion of being in a storybook. The only thing missing now were the talking animals. The closest communicative creatures were the lively apes (whether they be orangutans, chimps, monkeys, all are always loveable animals). I am not interested in sparking a debate on evolution – although my father kept mentioned an orangutan who was a carbon copy of his Uncle George who I had never had the pleasure of meeting - but there is something about a monkey’s expressions and habitat that make you look back on better days. Their sense of community, simplicity and the all-you-can-eat flea buffet show that perhaps as evolved Cro-Magnon Man, we have failed down the road. What a lesson we can learn from our ape brothers, who do not have any barriers of language, tradition or culture impeding their way of life, leaping about and making funny noises.

We moved on to the Montmorency Falls Park, slightly outside Quebec City, where we boarded a small cable car to visit the summit of the hill. The British had built fortifications on the very top, during the lengthy battles with the French for their prized city in 1756. The following morning, we were among the first to enter the Citadelle to observe the changing of the guard. The construction of the fort, as my Dad explained, was all British as the French had very basic defences in comparison, and the Canadian Forces now occupied this as a regiment base for the Royal 22 Regiment. Our boys were out on peacekeeping operations in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Meanwhile, I suppose we had the more junior soldiers and officers parading for us, with the company of their trusty battle goat. Many British regiments adopted a Welsh breed of goat as their mascot. Who would not give absolutely everything in their power for their country and their goat? This was our secret motivational weapon in the war of 1812 against the Americans. Why were they unsuccessful in invading British North America? Because of the special and unique bond soldiers possess with Welsh goats and their powerful aura.

Further down the holiday road, we made our way to the Gulf of Saint Lawrence in the region of Gaspésie, Quebec. This was nature in its purest form. There were no enchanted oaks or utterly exotic wildlife, but it was an ideal place for a Griswold-like occurrence. We had arrived late evening on this part of the coast and as some of you may imagine, there is not much in terms of civilization around there. There were very few houses, farms, bed and breakfasts or motels. Each neon sign, on every location previously mentioned (including farms and private homes) seemed to challenge us with the most dreaded response: “No Vacancy.” Awesome! It was now way too late to head back to Quebec City or further down the road to New Brunswick. My Dad was insistent on staying in the region as the Percé Rock was close by and we could not miss it. We finally ended up finding a campground where we paid something like a $5 access fee, parked the car, rolled down the windows and tried to get as comfy as possible in our van. We used some beach towels for privacy, so people could not see us inside the van and begged for the night to go by quickly. Dad and I got the front seats (which thankfully reclined), Maman got the middle bench seat and Brian the corrugated rear floor along with the cooler. Not much of a night for any of us. The next morning dawned clear and bright, but who cared. All four of us groggy, got to the port and on a motorboat to tour the waters around the Percé rock and the bird sanctuary on Bonaventure Island. We took a good look at everything but could not wait to get to New Brunswick for a good night sleep.

Aerial view of the Percé Rock in beautiful Quebec

Our next stop, Bouctouche, New Brunswick had even more highlights. We had trouble finding our hotel as this was before the GPS era, and my Dad stopped to ask this pirate-looking individual for directions. My Dad asked in English, the man answered in French so my father switched to French and the man concluded the conversation in English. Weird couple of minutes. We followed his directions and found historic Bouctouche Inn, only to discover it had been a monastery and there were “no vacancies”. We then went to the Presbytère de Bouctouche, a lovely old home converted to a hotel. For once the Griswolds had some good luck! As we settled into our room, I looked out the window and saw a quite large cemetery. Perfect setting to film a Tales From The Crypt episode. Toward Saint John – a town dear to my father due to having spent his teenage years there but smelled of pulp and paper - and Saint Andrews-By-The-Sea, where we saw the change of tides in the Bay of Fundy and were completely awe-struck. There are some places along the coast where you can clearly observe the tidal changes from high to low and on average, there can be about 17 meters (55 feet) difference between the two. We capped off our tour of Atlantic Canada sleeping in the upper level of someone’s house (supposedly a hotel) where if you had a tendency of rolling around in bed, you could have fallen out the window and woken up the next day on the roof of the car. We were all four crammed in to a small room, where Maman and Dad shared the bed; I slept at the foot of the bed and Brian on the smallest fold out bed in history – perhaps a coffee table with wheels. 

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