The best way to re-experience this beautiful land we call home is to host friends from another country and show them all the people, things and places we hold dear.
Surprisingly, there are many of them, and as you show and explain them, they come alive for you again.
We know this first hand, because for the past two weeks, we have had the privilege of hosting longtime friends from New Zealand.
The friendship started roughly 50 years ago, with my wife’s Saskatchewan family being pen pals with folks in that distant country.
Friendships formed and they were nurtured by my wife, and then one of her sisters as they travelled to New Zealand and met up with their letter-writing partners.
Letters were replaced by emails, and more recently, by Skype, which is a valuable resource when you are trying to stay in touch.
Over the past several years, there have been many conversations, many dealing with the possibility of travelling to meet with each other, which brings us to now.
This morning, we drove them to the airport, resulting in a very emotional farewell. The past two weeks have been a blur of activities, with hearts full of pride in the small portion of Canada we were able to show them.
We walked, biked and drove to many of the sights in our city. McKenzie Trails (my favourite), Bower Ponds to Heritage Ranch, then around the south part of the city to Red Deer College, where we were given a guided tour by the facility manager of the magnificent Gary W. Harris Canada Games Centre.
What a treat.
Then it was off to Stettler to ride the train to Big Valley. A staged robbery by horse-riding crooks, followed by a roast beef dinner, added to the enjoyment of the day.
The RCMP dog training centre south of Innisfail was also impressive, especially for our guests, as they got to speak with the commanding officer (also a New Zealander).
All controversies aside, the RCMP is still a symbol of Canada recognized around the world, which we can be proud of.
All the world recognizes the red serge uniform RCMP wear with pride.
The Ellis Bird Farm was a unique experience, by virtue of the fact it demonstrates business and environmental efforts can work successfully hand-in-hand.
We spent a day in the Drumheller area, then it was a two-day trip to the Rockies, through Rocky Mountain House and Nordegg, where my family first lived, and on to Banff and Canmore, with all the happenings going on there.
Where ever we went, we were treated with courtesy and interest, especially when people found out our guests were from Down Under.
This interest really made for a pleasant experience for our guests, Murray and Pat.
One thing that really impressed them was whenever we wanted to cross the street on foot or bike, traffic would most often stop to let us cross.
Murray’s response to this behaviour was to say “at home, I would have been run over a long time ago.”
Although they are used to mountainous country, the ruggedness of the Rockies left them in awe; even more so after we hiked to Siffleur Falls and then up to Johnston Canyon.
Food was in abundance, whether cooked at home or at restaurants; every morsel consumed with more conversations, laughter and some light bantering.
Some members of my wife’s family joined in just about all of our travels, so reminiscing was a large part of the conversation.
As I said at the beginning, showing off our country, central Alberta and our beautiful city, reinforced our love of our home. Our hope is this came through to our guests.
I’ll fondly remember these two weeks the next time we sing O Canada!
Chris Salomons is a retired Red Deer resident with a concern for the downtrodden.