Advice From a 17-Year-Old

While many of you were enjoying a long weekend or shopping Cyber Monday sales or recovering/celebrating from the Grey Cup, I celebrated my birthday and turned twenty-seven.

It was Monday and, well, I’m twenty-seven now, so it was pretty low key. The highlight was my incredibly husband who got up at 3:30 in the morning to make me waffles before I went to work. We’ve been eating good food all weekend in the name of my birthday!

I have a little birthday tradition that I do. Every year I write a letter to myself, ten years in the future. I started this when I was 14. (If you’ve ever read Emily of New Moon you might know where I got the idea!) So on my 14th birthday I wrote a letter to myself to be read on my 24th birthday and so on through the years. Since my 24th birthday I’ve had a letter to read as well as one to write. This week I got to read a letter from my 17-year-old self.

This letter takes me back to Fall 2002. I was a couple months into my last year of high school. I was finished with my university applications but it was too early to have heard back yet. I had no idea where I would be celebrating my 18th birthday. I wrote that letter seated in the school library on my study block.

It’s strange how those emotions can come back to you so suddenly. All the fear and excitement of being seventeen. All the plans I had, the way I thought my life would turn out. Needless to say, there is very little of my life now that I foresaw in that library on that day.

And I find that very comforting. My life has not been what I thought it would or should be. I’m not where I thought I would be at 27. I’m somewhere entirely different and it’s good. I can look over the past ten years (or the past 27 years) and it’s good. God has orchestrated my paths in far better ways than I ever could have imagined.

So when I sat down to write my letter to myself at 37, it was with more excitement than fear. Of course I have things that I hope to accomplish in the next ten years. I have an idea of the person I want to be at 37. But I can also trust that 37 might be even better than I can comprehend now. And whether it looks the way I think it should or not, I’m pretty sure it will be amazing.

Book Review – The Jesus I Never Knew by Philip Yancey

I can distinctly recall the picture on the front of the Vancouver Sun. It was a computer-generated idea of what Jesus might have looked like. The man was neither greatly attractive or unattractive. He was an ordinary, Arab-looking man. He had dark skin, dark hair, and dark brown eyes. He looked nothing like the pale, blue-eyed Jesus of my children’s Bible.

The Jesus on the cover of my Bible (I was probably around ten years old), looked a little like this:

He kind of looks like my friend’s dad. Who is Mennonite.

I remember looking at that picture in the paper and thinking, “This totally makes sense! Jesus was a Jew living in Israel! Of course he wasn’t blond!” I wasn’t a dumb kid but I’d literally never thought about the very simple fact that Jesus, as a Jew, would look Jewish.

I’d also already seen The Jesus Film countless times and in multiple languages, which stars this guy:

Philip Yancey’s book, The Jesus I Never Knew, was published in 1995, right around the time when I saw that picture on the paper.

My point is, many of us have a flawed idea of who Jesus is. Personally, I don’t think it much matters what Jesus looked like. If it did, the Bible would have included pictures. It matters more what Jesus did and what He said and that’s what Yancey explores in this book.

One of the things I appreciate most about Philip Yancey is that he isn’t afraid to be honest. He never seems to back off from talking about his own doubts or fears or frustrations with God. His book titles alone will tell you that, like a book of his I read last fall, Disappointment with God. And so Yancey dives head first into discussing Jesus as we know him from the New Testament. A man who made uncomfortable statements and alienated a lot of people around him. He said weird things about eating his flesh. He told people he would cause divisions in family. He let his friend die so he could resurrect him. We read these passages in church and we’ve heard them so often that they become commonplace but they’re not.

Yancey devotes a portion of his book to dissecting one of Jesus’ primary speeches, the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5 – 8). It’s the one that starts with all the “Blessed bes”. Yancey points out that this is a sermon that should really bother us.

“Jesus did not proclaim the Sermon on the Mount so that we would, Tolstoy-like, furrow our brows in despair over our failure to achieve perfection. He gave it to impart to us God’s Ideal toward which we should never stop striving, but also to show us that none of us will ever reach that Ideal. The Sermon on the Mount forces us to recognize the great distance between God and us, and any attempt to reduce that distance by somehow moderating its demands misses the point altogether.”

While Yancey does draw from varied theological sources (from Lewis to Tolstoy), he focuses primarily on the four gospel books and what they show us about Jesus. It’s surprising how surprising some of it is, when it’s taken from books many of us have read or heard read over and over again.

This is the heart of Christianity. Without Jesus, Christianity is meaningless. So if you’re interested in learning more about who this guy from Nazareth was, I recommend Yancey’s book.

“God is not mute: the Word spoke, not out of a whirlwind, but out of the human larynx of a Palestinian Jew.”

The Bachelor Canada Finale

Well, it’s been a whirlwind romance, but true love has prevailed. So far. I think.

Our Canadian finale opens in Hudson, Quebec, Bachelor Brad Smith’s hometown. In a change from the American version, Brad will bring his two final ladies home to meet his parents.

  • Whitney seems to have made a complete about face from her “I’m not sure I’m ready to get engaged” Rose Ceremony interruption last week. Now she tells us she’s ready to get married and that she loves Brad.
  • Brad and Whitney meet at a golf course and Brad apologizes to Whitney for forcing her to be emotional, something she’s not. I’m not sure he really owed her an apology here but, okay, he’s trying to make it work.
  • Brad has a favourite golf course. Who doesn’t, right? Apparently he spent his childhood summer there. To me, a golf course seems like the worst place ever to spend summers as a kid but I guess Brad liked it. He notes that “my family has a house near here”. A house. As in, they have more than one.
  • Whitney does not enjoy golf. I’m with you there, Whit.
  • They drive from the golf course to his parents’ house. That seems weird. I don’t golf but I’m pretty sure you’re not allowed to drive away in the golf cart.
  • They arrive still wearing their matching, plaid golf outfits and Whitney has to meet Brad’s family and then change. A minor issue really, but I felt bad for her. I know that if I were meeting a boyfriend’s parents I would want to look my best right away, not a few minutes later.
  • Short version: The dinner does not go well. It’s hard to say how much is editing but they really made it look like Whitney sat in silence as Brad’s family asked her questions. Brad jumps in to answer for her and his sister, Ashley, demands to know why Whitney can’t speak for herself. Brad gets into an argument with his friend, Mike (who is there for some reason) and says Whitney needs a lot of time to think her answers through.
  • Brad’s mom and sister then take Whitney into the kitchen and demand, “Do we make you nervous?” Let me tell you, as a somewhat shy person, I have been asked this question before. It’s the worst. There is no right answer here. Say yes and then you seem to be telling the person there’s something wrong with them. Say no and you’re lying. The thing is, it’s okay to be nervous. It’s not okay to clam up entirely. Either way though, I feel bad for Whitney at this point.
  • Brad tells us that it’s hard work with Whitney.

Next up is Bianka!

  • Brad picks Bianka up in a car that probably isn’t his and takes her on a tour of his hometown. Peter gleefully points out that this date is “indicative of getting married”. Bianka gets a date where Brad takes her to places that are special to him. Whitney gets a tourist date.
  • They go and eat hot dogs at Brad’s favourite place. Bianka is excited because Brad has told her a lot about these hot dogs and also because she’s “a food conneisseur”. Uh, those things are not compatible, my dear. Then they kiss while they’re eating hot dogs which is kind of gross.
  • They arrive at Brad’s family’s house. Bianka is dressed much more casually than Whitney was and she also brings beer. Great way to endear yourself with the in-laws!
  • Brad’s sister, Ashley, shows us that she’s simply hard to please when she declares that Bianka’s answers seem too polished and perfect. Again, Brad’s lady is lured into the kitchen by Ashley and Leesa. This time, though, it goes much better and ends with hugs all around.
  • Things do get weird though when Ashley talks about how much she cares for her brother. She seems to be saying that the only thing keeping her from going after him herself is that they’re siblings.
  • When Brad gathers his family together later, they unequivocally give Bianka their stamp of approval.

The next stop on this journey of love is Barbados.

  • Brad describes Barbados as “a second home”. Ok, Brad, we get it, you’re rich!
  • To drive this point home, Brad and Bianka play polo. A sport which looks both ridiculous and pretty fun. Brad says that he needs to see how Bianka does in a sport because kayaking didn’t go so well and he’s a pretty active guy. That actually makes sense to me considering he’s a former professional athlete and sports are likely still a big part of his life. Also, they keep referring to their experience as “sea kayaking” which was funny to me because we kayak a fair bit here and it’s always in the sea and we just call it “kayaking”.
  • Then Brad and Whitney hang out on a yacht. The background music playing while they look out at the water makes me feel like one of them is going to drown.
  • But nobody drowns. Instead they have a confusing argument about communication, which, ironically, is very unclear. What is clear is that they’re pretty unhappy together. Which you definitely shouldn’t be after 2 months and days before getting engaged.
  • From here on out, it’s clear. So it isn’t surprising when we next see Brad showing up at Whitney’s door and telling her they need to talk.
  • Whitney says she has something to say too but Brad insists on going first, which may have been a mistake. He tells her she’s amazing but they aren’t right for each other. Classic break-up stuff. Whitney promptly shuts the door in his face. When she re-opens it, she tells him that he isn’t allowed to be disrespectful to her and she walks away. Brad chases her briefly and then realizes he doesn’t want to chase a girl down just to break up with her and so that’s kind of it.
  • My take: Whitney say the good-bye speech coming and wanted to be the one to give it. She likes to maintain the power position and her version of “disrespect” was Brad taking that from her. Either way, she doesn’t seem too upset in her taxi ride out.
  • Now Brad tells us there was never really a choice and it’s been Bianka all along. Which might be true but really isn’t the concept of the show.
  • A ring dealer who isn’t Neil Lane (Tacori, I think) shows up with 6 rings for Brad to choose from. All 3 of us watching thought 6 rings was a pretty small amount to choose from.

This made me nervous. What if he dropped the ring in the pool?

  • Then follows…a whole lot of man tears. Brad Smith’s a weeper. He weeps with joy over his ring selection and he weeps with joy as Bianka makes her way down a catwalk to an awkwardly set stage. She seems to have been pretty confident about the proposal because she chose to wear a white, very wedding-like dress.
  • Our happy ending plays out over (no joke) a Bryan Adam’s song and a montage of the newly-engaged couple. God Bless Canada, I guess.

Bachelor Canada – Episode 7 – Women Tell All

I’ve delayed with this episode’s recap because, well, I just really don’t care. The best thing about Wednesday night’s episode was that it was short. Generally, the Women Tell All (WTA) episode is hyped as being super dramatic and the women leave nothing unsaid and then it’s pretty disappointing and not much new is brought up. That was generally the case with this Canadian version too. I was glad though that they didn’t spend tons of time recapping the episodes, like the American version does.

We also got to see some crucial differences between the hosting styles of Tyler Harcott and Chris Harrison.

The main problem though is that this season has been so rushed and so many women were cut in the beginning weeks that I couldn’t even remember the names of many of the women at the WTA.

Here’s some of what happened:

  • Melissa Marie (the single mom/Playboy model) says that the other women weren’t supportive of her being a single mom.
  • She also says, “I thought the bachelor would be different”. I think this was the first time in Bachelor history that anyone has dared to say that the bachelor is not entirely dreamy. Even in Ben’s season (the least dreamy bachelor ever) every lady acted like he was amazing. (He wasn’t.)
  • Then, even more shocking, Tia (remember her? me neither) chimes in and says that she didn’t feel a connection with Brad either and even told him so. Of course, Ana chimes in, calls Tia two-faced and says if that was the case she should have left.
  • Gabrielle is first in the “hot seat” with Host Tyler. She says, “I speak my mind and not everybody’s OK with it.” This kind of defense from people who are rude drives me crazy. Maybe you are speaking your mind but is it necessary? You don’t actually have to say all of your thoughts out loud, you know.
  • Britany seems to agree with me and tells Gabrielle, These are just your opinions, not always truth.
  • Kara says that at least Gabrielle always owned up to the things she said and never tried to deny them. Uh, I guess that’s good. But why say rude things in the first place.
  • Kara thinks Brad will choose Bianka.
  • Then we get into a conversation about fake breasts and Host Tyler actually asks the women who has fake breasts! And they answer! Is it just me or would Chris Harrison never, ever have asked such a question?
  • Chantelle tells us her dad drove her to her audition and that it was “a fun adventure”. Apparently she also started prayer groups in the house? They didn’t expand on that but I’m quite curious…
  • The general consensus seems to be that Chantelle was well-loved and admired in the house.
  • Laura is next up in the hot seat. She’s the brunette who got dumped in Paris. She was insecure and that’s really all I remember.
  • Next, Whitney joins the group! This might have been surprising if it wasn’t in last week’s promo. Her appearance makes me think Brad may choose her in the finale. Normally, the final two ladies are not present at the WTA. The only time I know of this happening was on Ben’s season when Courtney appeared. She was there because Ben chose her and nobody like her so they were trying to soften up her image. I wonder if something similar is happening now. Or if they just knew the WTA would be super boring and hoped Whitney would provide more drama.
  • Ana refuses to clap when Whitney comes out. Whatever, your choice. You’re the one that ends up looking childish though.
  • Whitney says some things are hard to watch but doesn’t really seem to mean it. She says that if you want something, you go get it. She also says that she wasn’t the only person who said mean things. (See: Gabrielle) Then she pretends to wipe away tears.
  • Kara comes up the hot seat. Tyler makes several really terrible baseball puns. Poor Kara.
  • Kara makes an attempt to re-write her own Bachelor history and says that she only loved Brad as a friend. Um, Kara, it’s only been a week since we heard you say you were 100% in love with Brad and hoped to marry him. Are you really trying to convince us that you meant 100% friend love and that you wanted to marry a guy you thought of as only a friend?
  • Brad Smith comes out and backs Kara up, saying that they had a common understanding at the end and knew they were both friends. Sure, whatever. If that’s what you guys have agreed on.
  • If there is a Bachelorette Canada in the works, I think Kara has a pretty good shot of being the star.
  • Brad calls Tia out and says that she never told him she felt no connection and that if that were the truth, she should have gone home. They argue for a little longer than is comfortable to watch. This is really an instance where Tyler should have interrupted and redirected. In the end, we don’t know who’s telling the truth. Brad says he has no reason to lie but Tia doesn’t seem to either.
  • Brad tells Chantelle that he would have given her a rose but it probably wouldn’t have gone much further. He understood that kissing her without choosing her in the end would have been wrong. I agree with him there.
  • Brad tells Laura that she’s amazing and needs to value herself more and he tears up while talking about how great she is which is kind of weird and kind of sweet. Has any Bachelor ever cried as much as this one?

Next week: We meet Brad’s family, including his (apparently) crazy and opinionated sister!

Book Review – Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

Ender’s Game is a science fiction novel that takes place in Earth’s future, after humans have fought two wars against a mysterious alien enemy known as “buggers”. Science fiction isn’t a section I normally wander into in bookstores but Ender’s Game, published in 1985, is as old as I am and still hugely popular and my curiosity was piqued.

We meet Ender Wiggin on the day he is chosen to attend Battle School at the age of six. It’s clear early on that Ender is exceptional and that a lot of pressure will be placed on him to succeed and win a third war for Earth. We get to eavesdrop on brief conversations between the officers deciding Ender’s life. Ender, of course, knows none of this and so is continually frustrated and confused by what happens around him. Which is exactly what childhood is like.

Though you might argue that Ender is not the average child (and he’s not because he’s a genius), Card seems to slowly and steadily suggest that if you don’t treat children like children, they won’t be children. In that sense, Ender’s Game reminded me of The Lord of the Flies. Children will often rise to the circumstances presented to them, whether good or bad. I don’t believe that children are intrinsically good or innocent and Ender certainly is neither. We see him develop in many ways, particularly in his skills and his understanding of his place in his world. I would have liked to see more mental development and change in Ender – the story primarily focuses on his life between the ages of 6 and 11 but his mental faculties don’t seem to change much. Granted, he starts out so advanced maybe there isn’t much space to grow, but I think it was an oversight.

I thought for much of the novel that I knew how it was going to end but there were definitely a few surprises and an unexpected turn of direction and I applaud Card for that. I’m curious to read the sequel, Speaker for the Dead, but expect that it will be quite different in tone from Ender’s Game.

Like I said, I don’t read much science fiction but two authors that I do appreciate in that genre are Ray Bradbury and Isaac Asimov. Card’s ability to simply and deftly create an imaginary world that makes sense reminded me of Asimov’s fantastic short stories in I, Robot. Card pays his readers the compliment of assuming they are intelligent enough to figure out this future world from a few deftly-dropped hints and I greatly appreciate that from an author. We learn as much as we need to know about Ender’s home planet (and maybe even more than Ender himself knows) and the story is better for it. There’s also something of a side plot involving Ender’s brother and sister that I thought was given just the right amount of space within the larger story. If you want to know more, Card has written many novels within  the “Enderverse”. But if you’re a one-novel kinda reader, you’ll be satisfied with Ender’s Game.

Updated to add: Read my review of Speaker for the Dead here.

A Skookum Hike

The weather around here has been bright, sunny, and cold. The air is crisp, the leaves are falling. Yesterday seemed like the perfect day to do a hike we’d long wanted to do – Skookumchuck Narrows. Peter and I and our friend, Kyle. This is one of the few hikes around here that I’ve actually done already. Years ago, when camping here as a kid, we hiked to the Skookumchuck. It rained and the walk seemed to last forever. More than ten years later I realized that it’s really not a strenuous hike. There’s not much up or down hill and the trail is rocky but mostly clear. And yesterday we had perfect weather. Cold as we started but just right as we began to warm up.

The Skookumchuck Narrows are a unique point on the Sechelt Inlet where two tides meet. If you time your hike right (which we didn’t) you can see these two forces push against each other. But even on a calm day like yesterday there are rapids, whirlpools, and whitecaps.

It can be a dangerous place for a boat.

But mostly it was a calm and beautiful day.

Starfish under water!

As we were preparing to turn around and head back, we saw something happening in the distance. A movement in the water that we watched closely to see if it was more whitecaps or something different. But the movement was not quite regular and, yes, something was surfacing. As we strained our eyes and Kyle switched to a zoom lens on his camera to see if we were looking at seals or dolphins, we heard a “huff” and watched a sea lion surface and then slip back underwater nearby. We watched the raft of sea lions (I just looked it up – that’s what a group of sea lions is called) slip easily through the waves as they swam against the tide. There were probably about six or seven of them. As they came closer we tried to get a few pictures.

I don’t have a fancy zoom on my camera so you’ll have to take my word for it. Those little heads you see at the bottom left of the above photo belong to sea lions. They’re actually huge creatures. Long and slippery looking. We watched them until they swam out of sight.

I am unbelievably fortunate to live where I live and to be able to see such amazing sights.

Bachelor Canada – Episode 6

We have (very quickly) reached the ickiest episode of The Bachelor – the fantasy dates. The Bachelor Canada departed from its American predecessor by locating these three dates in Canada, rather than a tropical location.

Brad and our three remaining ladies (Bianka, Kara, and Whitney) head east to the Canadian Maritimes. Somewhere I hope to visit one day. It definitely looked beautiful.

Date #1: Bianka

  • We begin in Ferryland, Newfoundland. It looks a little chilly.
  • Brad and Bianka go sea kayaking out to an iceberg. Bianka most definitely did not enjoy herself. Personally, I thought her complaining was a little annoying. As someone who went kayaking just last week in the rain, I didn’t have a ton of sympathy for Bianka’s fear of waves. (She is from Mississauga so her sea experience is likely minimal.) Yes, you can flip a kayak and the water is hypothermia-cold but, really, you are not going to die on The Bachelor. It just isn’t going to happen.

  • That said, I appreciate that Bianka didn’t pretend to have a good time. Too often women pretend they’re enjoying themselves just to impress a guy.
  • Bianka calls Brad “babe” a lot, which suggests to me that she thinks of him as her boyfriend.
  • Brad presents Bianka with the invitation to spend the night together in “the fantasy suite”. Bianka is reluctant because there are still 2 other ladies. Seems reasonable to me. She tells Brad that any woman in her position would feel the same way. Brad tells her that he’s talked to Kara and Whitney and they don’t mind. Ooh, Brad, big mistake. Not the time to bring them up. Eventually Bianka does agree and we look away uncomfortably as they head to their B&B.

Date #2: Kara

  • Brad picks Kara up in a private jet and they head to Nova Scotia. Brad’s purple outfit reminded me of Willy Wonka.

  • They go skeet shooting. From the way Brad talks about Kara, we can guess that he won’t pick her. He keeps referring to “how similar” they are, as if that’s a bad thing. The thing is, he doesn’t want to be with Kara and that’s fine; you don’t have to have a bunch of specific reasons to date someone, you either do or don’t. But it feels like Brad thinks he has to provide a made-up reason.
  • Kara does not hesitate over the fantasy suite invitation.

Date #3: Whitney

  • This date takes place in P.E.I. Brad shows up wearing a woman’s sweater. Seriously.

  • I mean, that’s a woman’s crocheted sweater, right? I would wear that. Is this a joke someone played on Brad?
  • Brad and Whitney go lobster-fishing. Which apparently means making out on a lobster boat while the fishermen do the work.
  • Brad refers to Whitney as “emotionally-repressed”. That’s romantic.
  • Whitney says yes to the fantasy suite.

Rose Ceremony

  • As everyone prepares for a rose ceremony in Dalvay, P.E.I. we see Whitney having an emotional moment. At least, I’m sure it would be emotional if her face were capable of expressing emotion.
  • Whitney tells the camera/her sister over the phone that she isn’t sure if this is what she wants or if she should be there.
  • My thoughts: Whitney likes to win. She’s been playing a game and now that she’s close to potentially winning, she’s realizing she might not actually want the prize.
  • The rose ceremony takes place. Bianka, and then Whitney receive roses. As Brad steps forward to say good-bye to Kara, Whitney darts in, interrupting to tell Brad she has to talk to him right away.
  • Brad correctly says, “This is awkward.” He pretty clearly doesn’t want to talk to Whitney.
  • Whitney awkwardly attempts to tell him…something. It’s unclear what she really wants to say to Brad. Brad is too annoyed to pay much attention and simply tells her to apologize to Kara before he walks his latest dumpee out.
  • Peter and I had a longer-than-this-show-warrants conversation about The Bachelor this morning and agreed that Whitney should have pulled Brad aside before the Rose Ceremony and told Brad how she felt. Waiting until after he gave her a rose…not cool.

Next week: The Women Tell All

Book Review – The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck

It’s a bold move to write a novel about the life of a Chinese man when you are an American woman. And even though Pearl Buck spent most of her life previous to writing The Good Earth in China, I’m not sure whether or not she got this story right.

The Good Earth follows approximately fifty years in the life of a man named Wang Lung – from the day of his wedding to the last days of his life. It isn’t a book about China or Chinese history, although these are important factors, but it’s about one man and those around him. The book is at its best when we take it as a story of Wang Lung, rather than a story about China in general.

The novel itself is well-written, for the most part. Buck does well with injecting a sense of urgency and discomfort throughout the novel. Although the action of the story is minimal there is always a sense of disaster lurking around the corner and it made me want to keep reading. We never know whether things will really turn out well for Wang Lung and although Buck never idealizes him, he has enough admirable qualities that the reader keeps rooting for him.

I felt that, overall, Buck did a fine job at capturing the syntax and rhythm of Chinese dialogue. The book wasn’t written in Chinese and there are never any Chinese words or terms used. But there is a formality to the speech that seemed uniquely Chinese to me. At the same time, this does sound foreign and occasionally awkward to an English reader. In my review of Denise Chong’s Egg on Mao I mentioned this same problem. Except here we aren’t dealing with a translation issue. It seems to be a stylistic choice that Buck made but I’m torn over whether or not it was the best one.

There is something very American about the message of The Good Earth. Wang Lung works hard, saves his money, and is devoted to his land. He prospers and becomes a rich man, changing the lives of his children and grandchildren after him. In short, he achieves the American Dream. But this definitely is not the Chinese Dream. It was odd to me, knowing what I do about China, that this wasn’t a greater source of conflict within the novel. We are shown how the upbringing of Wang Lung’s children, particularly his sons, is vastly different from his own and how they share little of his attitude towards the land or his frugality and work ethic. But throughout the novel I was waiting for some sort of cultural backlash against Wang Lung and his increasing riches. Early on in the story there are rumours of war and revolt around Wang Lung and his neighbours tell him there are things that happen when the rich get too rich. So as the novel progresses and we see Wang Lung grow wealthier and prouder, I expected those earlier scenes to return like Chekhov’s proverbial gun. The fact that they don’t, even when Wang Lung’s own son leaves to join a whispered “revolution”, tells me that this is an American story, not a Chinese one, and left me feeling like the story was incomplete.

In the book’s defense, I am reading it from a 21st century perspective. My knowledge of China is shaped by its history following the publication of The Good Earth in 1931. A history Buck couldn’t possibly have known. It didn’t surprise me to learn that this novel had been banned in China. It simply reminded me, yet again, that perhaps only the Chinese can really know the Chinese.

Dear Americans

Dear Americans,

Tomorrow is your election day. Tomorrow you’ll be voting with your confusing electoral system that I don’t really understand and deciding who leads your country for the next four years.

It’s weird being a Canadian during the U.S. election season (which always seems to last so bloody long!) I can’t imagine it’s the same when we’re voting in a new Prime Minister. We see your election ads on TV. We watch your presidential and vice-presidential debates. Weird things your congressmen say are reported in our newspapers. And we wait, a little nervously, to see how you as a country will vote.

Because, and I kind of hate to admit this but it’s true, how you vote really, really affects us. Who leads your country for the next four years has a lot to say on how our country is run. Your economic and military decisions become our economic and military decisions, just as your television, movies, and music have become ours too.

I can’t help but follow your elections because they’re plastered all over my TV and computer. And we laugh at it a little, up here in the not-so-freezing North, because you take yourselves so seriously and never seem to doubt that the rest of the world is interested too. I get enraged, sometimes, about the things that are being said, particularly about women’s health and the ignorant statements coming from the mouths of men who should know better. And then I feel thankful that I live in a country where I don’t have to worry about my access to healthcare being taken away or restricted. I wonder why I get so caught up in it when it doesn’t affect me.

Here’s the thing, America, we like you. Not all the time and none of us ever like everything about you, but we care about what happens to you. You’re like our aggravating older brother, who picks on us and pulls our hair and doesn’t always stick up for us on the playground. We know that your decisions, like an older brother’s, often become our decisions.We know that we’ll have to keep standing up to you and keep reminding others that we’re different and unique countries but we know that our paths, for better or for worse, are intertwined.

So, Americans, vote well tomorrow. Vote from your heart but, more importantly, your head. Above all, do not let ignorance or evil or hate triumph. You can decide for yourself which political party best represents those things. We trust you. Kind of.

Love,

A Canadian Friend

My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.    – Jack Layton