Where do I even start..Canada was awesome, scenic, beautiful. I loved it there. So different from the US.
Let me start with the Immigration side of things. With a green card I didn’t need a visa with my Kenyan passport. I went through immigration in Houston without incident. As you might know, CBP (Customs and Border Patrol) don’t stamp your passport as you exit the US. On arrival in Canada, I showed my green card and passport, answered a few questions including “Have you been to West Africa recently?” Yes, Ebola questions just in case. You never know 🙂
I used public transport as my pal was working. It was easy to use, got tickets and I was on my way. I followed directions and voila..I was ‘home’. I’m grateful for my traveling years in Africa. Nothing is impossible especially in Canada..until.
I tried to get a SIM card as roaming with my US carrier was going to cost me an arm and a leg. 30 or 60 bucks for 120 or 300MB respectively. Too expensive I thought until I tried Canada carriers. First to find a shop selling SIM cards was next to impossible unless you went to a mall. I managed to get 1GB data plan with $0.15 calling or receiving per minute. At least I could be on Whatsapp with the Missus..and have Google maps on my phone.
I happened to land just in time for the Calgary Stampede. It’s got nothing to do with stampeding of any sort but more like the Houston Rodeo aka Horse carnival aka Kenyan ASK Show for those of you who went for the Nairobi International Show.
My hosts were able to get tickets for a Stampede sneak peek event and it was great. They put up quite the show. The next day they had a parade through downtown Calgary and free pancake breakfast all over town. We managed to see the first but we looked for the pancakes in vain. I guess it was the first day and the pancakes were not ready. Bars open at 8 in the morning and close at 3 in the morning. Let’s just say it’s the biggest event that Calgary sees during the year.
I checked out the military museum. The Canadian military is complicated to say the least and the Queen of England features somewhere in there. Actually Britain features quite a lot in the history of the military. It was great seeing all the military hardware quite close. You all know by now I love anything military.
I checked out the ‘patio’ life in downtown Calgary. People love being on the patio bars all over town. It’s summer and it won’t last too long so they get out when they can. It was a great carnival in town. If you work in downtown, there are company networking parties during the 10 day Stampede week and you get to drink at ‘work’. Canadians man…
I went to the Spruce Meadows which is the local horse derby. It was a family day out and again it reminded me of the British. We have a racecourse in Kenya and there was betting and all the official-ness that comes with horse derbies. It was a race course but a jumping-over-obstacles-kind-of-derby. I don’t know what they call that horse jumping stuff.
I got a rental and drove up the mountains to Jasper National Park. The drive was 3+ hours but the views were breath-taking. There were glaciers all over the place and so many lakes along the way. I don’t know what it is about the glacier water but it does look bluish in color. God’s creation at it’s best.
The funny thing is there were so many Japanese tourists at the glaciers. I guess Canada is a big tourist destination for them. There is a gondola (big ice vehicle) that takes people on the glaciers. I didn’t get to ride in it as there were hundreds of Japanese tourists waiting to get their tickets :). I hiked up to the base of the glaciers although the gondola would have taken me closer.
The drive back was more relaxed, I stopped at nearly all the lakes and took my time being one with nature. Amazing Canada is what it is. I got to stop in Banff and had elk burger.. I know. Random stuff. I was told to try Beaver tail too but I was too full to even look for it.
I had a great trip and will be back sometime to tour some more.
Random thing when I was exiting. US Immigration was at the Calgary Airport. Weird. I went through US Immigration before I even left Canada. CBP were there and even collected the Blue customs card. When I landed back in the US, we went directly into local terminal and just connected.
Next stop. Kenya.