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THE VIEW FROM HERE: Excerpts from my Manitoba travel diary


This great country has many interesting places to explore.
This great country has many interesting places to explore. - 123RF Stock Photo

I recently had the occasion to spend four days in Manitoba on business.

While I had been through the province by train in 1980, this was the first time I had spent any time there and I’m happy to say that I had a wonderful time, did some work, met some great people and ate some interesting food, but I’ll get to that in a bit.

When I travel, I like to make note of the special, strange, unique or unusual things that stand out to me so this week I’m going to share with you some of my observations from my trip. Let’s get started, shall we?

To begin with, let’s talk about those entertainment centres that you find on modern planes. You know, they’re the ones with the screens in the back of the seat in front of you where they offer a variety of entertainment options such as movies, television shows, games and music. I don’t go for any of that. Instead, I like to watch the map that provides real-time updates on the current trip including the distance we’ve travelled, the air speed we’re travelling, the height at which we’ll be travelling, that sort of thing.

There was just one thing I noticed during this trip — I’m travelling on an Air Canada plane and I’m travelling within Canada, yet the distance on the screen is relayed in miles. Now, isn’t that odd? … I find it odd.

You do meet some of the most interesting people when you’re travelling. On this trip, I sat next to a nice young man who was going from Halifax to Vancouver for business. This guy was the real deal, polite and a credit to his demographic. How do I know that? Well, during the trip he pulled a granola bar from his backpack but before he opened the package he turned to me and asked, “You aren’t allergic to peanuts, are you?”

I assured him I wasn’t and thanked him for being so thoughtful, while at the same time wondering how many people on this plane (or how many people in general) would bother to do that. I wonder. What do you think?

Speaking of interesting people I met during this trip, I ran into an elderly woman and her husband at the Toronto airport where I was waiting to catch my connector plane to Winnipeg. They were heading back home after spending eight weeks in Brazil (I know, lucky them). When I allowed them to board the plane ahead of me, the woman replied, “Now isn’t that just the Canadian way.”

I answered, “It sure is.” And when I added that I was from Nova Scotia she replied with enthusiasm, “Now that’s the real Canadian way.”

I guess Nova Scotians have a reputation. Good for us.

When you’re on a plane you just never know who you’ll have the pleasure (if you’re fortunate) of sitting beside and during my return trip from Winnipeg to Toronto, I sat beside a woman based in Toronto who told me she travels a lot for her job. Lucky her, I promptly replied, but added I don’t think I’d like to be away from home that often.

“It’s not so bad,” she told me, adding that on several occasions a year she gets to come to the east coast, which she considers one of the best places in Canada. Naturally, I agreed. Then she added, she especially loves coming to Halifax where the people are always friendly and the experience is always positive.

That’s good to hear, I told her, to which she added, when she first started her job more than a decade ago, her supervisor (who is now long retired) wouldn’t allow her to come to Halifax because he said it was too luxurious. Halifax too luxurious? Interesting, I thought. I mean, Halifax is a nice city and all, but I never thought of it as being luxurious. I guess when it comes to the world, it is all a matter of perspective.

Specking of taking a different perspective, whenever I travel to any place I have not previously visited, I always try to sample the local cuisine as nothing speaks to a people’s culture than the food they eat. In southern Manitoba, that food would be a traditional Mennonite menu.

I was raised in a pretty basic Nova Scotian home with hearty, home cooked meals so when it came to sampling the traditional Mennonite foods, I was up for it. I was not disappointed. Steeped in a history of German immigrants, the Mennonites were hardworking farmers who survived off of the land and their recipes reflected that heritage. Their staples included potatoes, wheat, dairy and meat raised on the farms.

I will say the dishes were unique but if I had to pick one word to describe the food I had the pleasure of sampling, I would have to say it was delicious. Clearly, the quickest way to be educated about another culture is through your stomach.

During my visit to Winnipeg I had the pleasure of touring the Canadian Museum of Human Rights. Officially opened on September 19, 2014, the purpose of the museum is to explore the subject of human rights with a special but not exclusive reference to Canada, to enhance the public’s understanding of human rights, to promote respect for others and to encourage reflection and dialogue.

If you ever have the occasion to be in Winnipeg, I would highly recommend a visit to the museum. Not only is the structure a marvel of modern architecture, but it’s also an excellent learning experience. Learning of the oppression suffered by people and of the struggles they went through and of the consequences they endured in fighting for their rights, left me in awe and sometimes emotionally drained.

This was especially true of the level dealing with the Holocaust, a black stain on the collective human story. That so many people could have suffered such unimaginable cruelty shook me to the core, but the vivid history that is so tastefully exhibited in the museum speaks to the importance of never forgetting that such atrocities did — and still do — exist in our world. We must never forget.

I find it interesting that when we talk about travelling to other parts of the world to enjoy a different culture and to become educated on history, most of us here in Nova Scotia would never think about travelling to Manitoba, or many other places in Canada.

However, if I learned one thing after my four days in Manitoba, it’s that this great country has many interesting places to explore, or least that’s the view from here (Manitoba) this week.

Vernon Oickle was born and raised in Liverpool where he continues to reside with his family. He has worked for more than 30 years in community newspapers on the South Shore and is the author of 28 books.

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