The Difference(s) Between Southern Virginia and Ontario

Sometimes, even going “home” to the USA can be confusing. Last week I went to Lynchburg, Virginia to be a bridesmaid in my dear friend Kristina’s wedding. A typical Northerner, I thought to myself, “Virginia. I’ve been there. Arlington, Washington, D.C.*, yup, I can do Virginia, I am American“.

It turns out Virginia is much bigger than I originally thought…

And then I spent the majority of the weekend experiencing culture shock. Because Lynchburg is something like the Deep South for this Pennsylvanian/Ontarian. Two things that kept surprising me the whole weekend were people’s southern accents (so lovable!), and how friendly everyone was–especially strangers, cashiers, etc. Seriously people: culture shock.

For example, on the first morning we headed out to breakfast at Cracker Barrel. If you don’t know about Cracker Barrel, get yourself to the US of A and have a taste of deliciousness. Anyway. I was trying to order apple struesel french toast (YUM!) and a cup of decaf tea.

Waitress: (In a southern accent) Okay, Love, what about you? Coffee?

Me: Actually, do you have decaf tea?

Waitress: Cold or hot, darling?

Me: Uhm. (Did we resolve the decaf issue? Are we talking about tea?)

Kristina’s Mom Who Is From the South: Amelia, do you want iced tea or hot tea?

Me: Oh. Hot tea. Yes. Hot. Can I have decaf?

Waitress: Why of course, darling!

As I sat bewildered by our exchange, Kristina’s Mom explained that the default is iced tea, so you have to specify. (Seriously, it’s morning and I’m ordering decaffeinated beverages, have mercy!)

The next day, at the rehearsal dinner, the groom proudly announced that his sister made the cake for dessert.

Me: What kind of cake did he say?

Bridesmaid from Florida: Cheerwine.

Me: What?

Bridesmaid from Florida: You know, cheerwine.

Me: I have no idea what that is.

Bridesmaid from Florida: You don’t know cheerwine? It’s like a cherry mountain dew.

Me: But it’s a cake?

Apparently, you use pop (soda in Virginia) called Cheerwine, to make a cake.

It must be, because in Canada, we’ve never heard of it…

Although I was skeptical (‘you use pop to make a cake?’) it was actually quite moist, sweet and cherry-y.

Cheerwine cake

In the midst of the large portion sizes and terms of endearment from strangers (‘love’, ‘honey’, ‘dear’, ‘sweetheart’–I almost didn’t notice Varun was absent!), we had an awesome time. The bride and groom were bursting with love, the food was delicious, the weather was perfect.

I was reminded this week how big and diverse the USA is. Who knew that just 12 hours south of Ontario is a land of Chick Fil A, sweet tea and friendly cashiers?

Driving through the hills of Virginia

*I realize D.C. isn’t VA, but it always ends up that my trips to DC include VA and MD…

I Dreamed In Hindi!!!!!!

Every once in a while there comes a moment when something so epic happens that you basically get a Pass for the rest of the year. For me, that was last night.

Buddies, I dreamed in Hindi!! As in, my own brain constructed enough Hindi to speak a FULL sentence in distress while sleeping.

We all know that there are few things less interesting than hearing another person’s dream. But grab your coffee and wake up because I’m going to tell you all about my dream.

I was seated in a room with lots of people, all of whom were chatting casually. It might have been a sporting event. The guy next to me was friendly enough, but after a few minutes, he put his hand on my back. I politely asked him to remove his hand. He didn’t. I repeated more firmly and said if he didn’t, I’d call for my husband. And this is where it gets epic. “Varun!,” I called, continuing in Hindi, “Come over here? This guy has his hand–“. “His hand?!”, Varun asked as walked toward us and saw my predicament. He then beat the guy up. (Which was charming and awesome. But not awesome enough to overshadow the fact that I spoke Hindi while unconscious. BOOYAH.)

When I told Varun this morning, he was minorly impressed with my linguistic genius and highly impressed with his physical prowess. At any rate, I feel pretty pumped because I now have a Pass of Awesomeness for the year.

Perhaps the Indian pillows and blankets inspired me…

Political Correctness Fail

The conversation screeched to a halt and I was met with staring faces: two shocked (my Canadian friends) and one amused and what-have-you-done-now? (Varun).

Me: Um. What?

B: You said ‘Eskimo’.

(Apparently this requires no further explanation)

Me: Yeah. As in, igloos. I don’t get it. Is this a bad word?

A: We do not say Eskimo in Canada!

(Expectant silence. I think my apology would go here)

Varun: Oh! Is it like calling someone [insert racially inappropriate term here]?

Me: Varun!

A and B: (Thoroughly scandalized)

A: Amelia. How can you have lived in Canada for 6 years and not know that? The correct term is Inuit.

[Don’t worry, these girls are my dear friends and have stuck by me through much worse.]

As humorous as this moment was, it was also an intriguing reminder that beneath my poutine-cooking ways and long vowels, I’m not Canadian. Somehow, I missed the Eskimo memo.

As I thought about it, I began to be concerned that maybe this wasn’t an America/Canada thing, maybe this is jut a political correctness fail. Thankfully, my Dad hit up Wikipedia and clarified everything:

The term Eskimo is commonly used by those in the lower 48 and in Alaska to include both Yupik and Inupiat. No universal term other than Eskimo, inclusive of all Inuit and Yupik people, exists for the Inuit and Yupik peoples.[1] In Canada and Greenland, the term Eskimo has fallen out of favour, as it is sometimes considered pejorative and has been replaced by the term Inuit.

My Dad’s email concluded with a typical Dad-line, “Hey, wait a minute, didn’t you have an entire course on this?”

Oh dear. The man never forgets when he shells out cash for me to take a course of circumpolar geography.

For my American amigos (are we allowed to say ‘amigos’?), Nunavut is the northernmost territory in Canada. As you might imagine, Geography of Nunavut was less than jam-packed. The class consisted of our professor leaning against his desk sporting moccasins and drinking coffee out of a worn tin mug while telling stories. For an entire semester he regaled us with his adventures in Nunavut, braving blizzards, researching seal migration and learning Inkutitut (ᐃᓄᒃᑎᑐᑦ)). I don’t remember the banning of the word Eskimo, but I do remember being very hung up on the fact that the capital of Nunavut, Iqaluit, has a population of 6,699. People.


The Inuit, as I’m told they like to be called, are amazingly resilient people. Seriously. Do some googling about northern Canada. And then go outside and embrace the waning days of summer. And please do not say ‘Eskimo’ at a Canadian luncheon.

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