As a little boy in Buenos Aires my grandmother would tell me the story on how they left Manila in the early 20s on their way to NY City. She told me about being on a Japanese ship (I can only remember the last part of the name which was Maru) and that they landed at a place with mountains and trees called Vancouver. She told me of a cavernous train station and that she and her three children (my mother, uncle and aunt) boarded a train to Montreal and from there to New York City. They settled in the Bronx.
That was all I knew of Canada except that by 1966 when I returned to Buenos Aires (from Mexico City) to do my two-year military service in the Argentine Navy I spotted a curious structure near the Retiro train station. Canada had given a totem pole to Argentina in 1961.
In 1967 I returned to Mexico in an Argentine merchant marine ship called the Río Aguapey. It was a Victory Ship and I was not to know until about 10 years ago that the ship had been built in the Burrard Shipyards here in my Vancouver.
In 1967 I met my Rosemary in Mexico City and we were married in 1968. She told me about Canada and about man she liked lots, called Pierre Trudeau. She saw her first totem in Chapultepec Park in the early 70s.
In 1975 she told me that we were moving to Canada. I obtained a visa and with the family (daughters Alexandra and Hilary) we drove our Arctic gray bochito (VW Beatle) to Vancouver.
We have been in Canada since and every day I give thanks to whatever higher existence may watch over us (and me now that I am alone) that Rosemary was inspired to bring us to this land.
Today I had the visit of daughter Hilary and granddaughters Rebecca and Lauren. I served them Argentine medias lunas (croissants) made in the brand new bakery and café Livni (2213 West Broadway – 604-730-5494) run by an Argentine baker and her assistant a Chilean woman. The secret of Argentine medias lunas is that they are coated with a mixture of egg white and sugar so they are ever so slightly sweet and perfect if dunked in café con leche.
And because we Argentines (well, former Argentine as I am a Canadian) have a sweet tooth we like to eat our medias lunas with butter and dulce de leche. One of the best is the San Ignacio brand. I buy it in my neighbourhood Fresh is Best (2908 West Broadway - 778-737-2442 – closed on Mondays) that stocks all kinds of Latin American products (although they specialize in Mexico and sell corn tortillas made in Coquitlam and Burnaby).
After they left I walked three blocks to the St. James Community Centre to do my pre-voting. I was in and out in less than 15 minutes. The staff was courteous and completely un-bureaucratic. Anywhere else in my Latin America there would have been soldiers with machine guns outside. I wonder what Canadians or Americans might think that voting in my Argentina is compulsory and that you are subject to a fine if you do not vote.
I walked home, missing my Rosemary and thanking her for her intelligence and foresight, that a day like today could be lazy, boring and wonderful.