Recently, my girlfriend and I spent a week in the lovely Caribbean country of Curacao. This small little island nation is part of the Netherland Antilles and is located in between the two islands of Aruba and Bonaire off the coast of Venezuela.
Diving in Curacao on the Tugboat dive site
We decided to visit this location because of the opportunities for scuba diving, hiking and the mixed bag culture of Spanish, Latin American, Dutch and English that makes itself visible across the country.
However, this isn’t really a story about Curacao. This is the story of the man we met from Barrie, Ontario while we were setting up our gear for a morning scuba dive. This is my open letter to him.
Dear Mr. Barrie,
It was great to meet you the other week during what was a perfect morning for scuba diving in Curacao. It was already well above 30C by 9:30 a.m. as a group of strangers were busily assembling their gear for what promised to be a great dive. As people made their introductions, which included couples from Montreal, the Netherlands and the United States, you made it a point to say you were from Toronto.
Well, not really from Toronto you were from Barrie but you assumed those around you didn’t know where you are from.
Barrie, Ontario. Looks like a nice place to visit.
Both the couple from Montreal and us did in fact know where your home is located but we felt like we shouldn’t call you out from not actually being from Toronto. We both agreed that Barrie is a nice place and commented on the fact that it is on the shores of a lake and that it would be a lovely place to see.
When the time came for us to introduce ourselves we said we were from Canada, but since there were a few Canadians at the table we mentioned we were from Saskatchewan. Your immediate response of “Why would you live there?” wasn’t exactly what I was expecting to hear but sometimes people have momentary lapses in judgement, so I gave you the benefit of the doubt.
Your follow up response of, “I feel sorry for you that you have to live there,” was all I needed to know that in fact that you possibly had some issues with social interactions. You failed to notice how uncomfortable the rest of the people became as you began your tirade about the place we call home.
Your next statement was so outlandish that I thought I was on Just for Laugh’s Gags.
“My sister is from Yorkton, we visited it once. That’s where people go to hell when they die.”
Your possible interpretation of the map
I grew up not too far from Yorkton and have spent some time there. If that is the definition of hell, well then I think we are pretty okay in the afterlife. The lovely people, the sense of community and the access to the Qu’Appelle Valley, Duck Mountain Provincial Park and Good Spirit Lake sound like a pretty good place to spend an entirety paying for my many sins if you ask me. That is if I were a religious person.
I sure wouldn't want to spend any time here.
I had hoped you were done with your verbal lashing of Saskatchewan and would have picked up on the social cues of everyone around us that were now quietly setting up their gear. Let me tell you no one looks that hard at their depth gauge unless they are trying to think of excuse to leave. I was half expecting the American gentleman to say that his tank was out of air just so he could go and pretend to get another.
Now at this point, I really feel like you were expecting me to join in bashing the place I call home by the way you half smiled at me. You know you almost had me convinced that I should join in the ribbing, I could have even said that joke people like you love to say, “Yeah, and I can see my dog run away for three days!” Then you and I would laugh as we cheered a can of Pilsner.
It might be hard to see my dog through these trees
The astonishing thing is you weren’t done yet as you tried to pull others into your assault.
“There are only two seasons in Sask-at-chew-one,” your Ontarian accent was butchering the way the name is pronounced but this was the least of your offences at this point, “They are called winter and mosquito.” That punchline fell harder than the Ontario manufacturing industry on the ears of the group.
Isn't winter just the worst?
Satisfied with the point you had made about the place where 1.1 million people are suffering, as you so eloquently put it, you went back to setting up your gear with a satisfied smirk on your face.
I stood there in stunned silence, I had heard rumours of the “Ontario is the center of the universe mentality” but I figured with all things they were greatly exaggerated. You, Mr. Barrie may be the poster child for that stereotype.
I know several people from Ontario and have many family members that live there and I have never come across someone so brazen in my entire life.
It wasn’t until later that evening when my girlfriend and I were reflecting about the days activities over a cold beer that I began to develop a sense of pity for you.
Pop question is this Saskatchewan or Ontario?
It is a shame that you decided you needed to feed into that easterner stereotype and truly believe that this place is not worth visiting. I imagine you standing on a soapbox in Dundas Square in Toronto (where you aren’t even from) yelling at those who pass by about the evils of Saskatchewan.
Of the 7 billion people in the world only 1.1 million are lucky enough to call Saskatchewan home. Now while our province has its problems – like every where else in the world – your interpretation of the diverse ecosystems, the people and the reasoning for why we would live here are such a narrow world view that all I can do is pity you.
I really hate when you can see the unspoiled northern lights.
Our province is home to the great plains, the breadbasket of the world. Those who stand on the prairies and open themselves up to the beauty of truly being alone in a vast landscape under a sky that feels like someone has placed a bowl over your head will get why we live here. Those who look up at the unspoiled night sky and see stars that they never knew existed will understand why we live here. Those who quietly paddle the 100,000 lakes and rivers and bathe in the untouched waters will understand why we live here.
Do you have to stand so close to me!
Those who leave their egos and preconceived notions at the border will be surprised by just what they can experience.
This will take courage on your part Mr. Barrie because you will have to be willing to admit your mistakes when you return home.
I hope you visit Saskatchewan again soon with a bit more of an open mind. I would love to show you around the place.