When people find out I moved to Toronto from Vancouver, they often ask me what I miss about home.
I know what they're expecting me to say: the beach, the mountains, the amazing hiking trails, blah blah blah. And while my real answer is: sushi and easy access to good, cheap drugs, sometimes I feel obliged to tell them what they want to hear, because to admit the truth—that I don't and never really have cared all that much for the outdoors—seems distinctly un-Canadian.
The pressure to be outdoorsy is strong, especially in Vancouver. This is the place where a man repeatedly climbed up a gruelling mountainside staircase known as the Grouse Grind for 19 hours straight last week. For the unfamiliar, The Grind, located on Grouse Mountain just outside of the city, is so crowded that climbing it is basically the equivalent of taking a Saturday afternoon run on Queen Street in Toronto. We all hate those peacocking pricks.
In part, I blame my lack of nature appreciation on being brown. In Bollywood movies, you always see Indian couples prancing around in meadows and hilltops, but note what they're wearing in what appears to be 30-degree heat—head-to-toe saris and tunics and heavy gold jewellry. That impracticality translates into real life, except brown folks who immigrate here seem to think jeans are the solution to everything. Jeans in a boat; jeans in gym class; jeans while attempting to ski down a goddamn mountain.
My parents, who moved to Canada from Fiji about a decade before I was born, tried to take us camping but (sorry mom and dad) they just weren't that good at it. Like, they gave my brother a fishing rod without instruction and he whipped it behind him and pierced another kid's ear with the hook. While I can't recall for sure, I'm fairly certain they tried to make us eat curry out in the wild, which probably tastes better than hot dogs on a stick but as a kid you feel like you're missing out. Also, my dad was OCD about cleanliness and basically believed you should take a shower every time you used the bathroom, condemning me to to a lifelong phobia of public restrooms (and dry skin).
In December, the Toronto Star penned a letter addressed to Syrian refugees that said, "You'll need those parkas, mittens and boots before very long. And the kids will need skis, snowboards, ice skates and toboggans, too. We don't endure winter. We throw ourselves into it."
I found myself rolling my eyes. Aside from the fact that a lot of Syrian refugees are probably more concerned about finding housing than sourcing out a new toboggan, I think there's a misconception that the Canadian identity is intrinsically tied to knowing how to build your own fire or ride a canoe (do people ride canoes?). Some of us are more into fashion, and the arts, and being surrounded by cell service.
I moved to Toronto in the dead of winter three-and-a-half years ago and I immediately loved it. Why? Because most of the things I enjoy—namely drinking and eating—take place indoors. (Smoking still requires me to go outside, but at least there are more like-minded people in Toronto.)
None of this is to say that I hate being outside. I like hanging out at the beach or in a park as much as the next person and the times I've been away on cottage weekends have been chill af, but anything longer than a couple of days and I get cabin fever.
Sometimes, on a super hot day, all I want to do is stay in bed with the air conditioning on and watch Netflix. As another Canada Day approaches, I just wanted to point out that there's nothing wrong with that.
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