Now and then my memory for one reason or another goes back to something that happened to me a couple of decades ago as I was spending seven months backpacking overland and water through India.
The previous day I had booked myself on a slow moving four day boat trip through Kerala’s backwaters from Cochin to Quilon. and at eight AM I was picked up at my hotel by a mini van half full of European travelers. As was most always the case in my time traveling through India, the other foreigners were all very friendly, open, and welcoming to one another. We introduced ourselves as we continued onwards to pick up more travelers.
I find that the harder to travel a country is, the closer fellow adventurers seem to get with one another, maybe it is some sort of survival mechanism, and this part of India was indeed a very hard place to travel in.
As the van continued to pick people up, each new member was happily greeted. At one part during the trip as the van was getting full of people and bags, a couple of us had to move into the back area of the van, behind the last seat on the floor, and the bags were piled up in front of us. Everything was going routinely on schedule until the next pickup at another hotel.
For some reason this middle aged couple who we came to pick up, found the task of giving the bags to the driver and sitting down in their eagerly awaiting seats, too difficult for them. They were very upset about something, I am not sure if they expected a limousine, or helicopter for the price they paid, but they did not seem to be satisfied with the van. They were busy arguing about the money they paid, and that the van was late, not just with the driver but one of the hotel employees as well. I would assume they had the same ticket we all had, with the price of about forty dollars, for the entire four day trip including a place to sleep and the boat, stamped right on the ticket.
They were arguing in English in a North American accent of some sort, and as a good five minutes went by, a small group of locals started to gather around to see what all this noise was about, the couple seemed to be having some sort of meltdown, perhaps traveling in India was too much for them, it is too much for many. This rude couple was even stooping so low as to point out the flaws in the English the people who were trying to serve them were using. In this part of India, English was their third language after Karnatakan and Hindi.
I am amazed at how patient the Indians can be most of the time, in a lot of countries I visited, individuals would have gotten aggressive back at the rude, loud and aggressive foreigners after such an extended period of time, it would have even escalated to violence in most places, but here it was treated with continued patience.
After what I would assume was ten minutes a Danish girl on our bus was the first to lose patience and shouted to them, “Why don’t you just get a refund, and let the rest of us go?!”
I doubt at this point any one of us wanted to spend four days on the boat with these Idiots. The couple quieted down, gave the bags to the driver, and finally got in the van. The bags were taken by the driver to the back of the van, and placed right in front of me…I was shocked…because on these two backpacks, sewn into them, similar to the way I had done myself, were Canadian flags. What embarrassment I felt, how ashamed I was of this.
I kept in mind that they may not be Canadians at all, what I found traveling around Asia in the mid 90s was that most people that claim they are Canadian, once you get to know them are actually Americans draping themselves in our flag thinking they will be more welcomed as they travel, this was the norm at this time, and may still be. Normally this false identity did not bother me because the majority of Americans I was meeting doing this were acting politely enough at the time that I would have welcome them to use our identity.
I shouted to the front of the van “Where in Canada are you guys from?”
The man replied “Vancouver” (this just happens to be my hometown.)
“Oh yeah, where in Vancouver are you from?” I asked them.
They paused for a bit and said “The main part”. “The main part” is not an answer any true Vancouverite would give, we separate Vancouver into either North Van, East Van, The West End, Kits or many other specific parts, and of course most people that say they are from Vancouver are actually from the surrounding suburbs…none of us are from “The Main Part”, highly suspicious. Maybe they could be from Vancouver, I mean Canada is not completely devoid of assholes after all.
It is not just our southern neighbors who occasionally piggyback on our “honorable” nationality, sometimes posing as us as they traveled, sometimes pushing a Canadian puppet forward into the international media as an attempt bring trust to an agenda so shady they can not simply promote it themselves, but people of other nationalities also try to benefit from our perceived honor, many internet scammers also pretend they are Canadians, for instance most “Canadian Online Pharmacies” are not actually owned by Canadians, nor are they selling Canadian made pharmaceuticals, again they just drape themselves in our flag and pretend to be Canadian. Some international criminals also tend to hire Canadian lawyers to represent them at things such as human rights tribunals hoping that it might help their case. Quite often on internet forums, some people also pretend they are Canadian for some strange reason, particularly during debates on the US medical system, telling either false horror stories of how the Canadian medical system works, or over emphasizing the rare occasions where things do go wrong. Canada’s honorability on the international stage has diminished greatly over the last couple of decades, not just because of the many false Canadians, but also sadly because some of our recent Canadian politicians have not exactly been the best people…we have some real things to be ashamed of already without all the fake Canadians to bring us down further.
Now back to my story:
To the shock of the German guy who was sitting beside me on the van floor in the back, I reached into my pocket and pulled out a knife, I then moved it over to the flag on the bag, and as I began to pick out the stitches he smiled and nodded at me, so for the next few minutes as we drove I picked out every last stitch that held that flags on, then took the flags and put them safely in my pocket for later disposal. I didn’t know if they were Canadians or not, but I sure as hell wasn’t going to let them travel the world representing where I come from. They are nothing like the types of people I like to be associated with.
I would assume the rude couple had felt our ill feelings towards them, because after our twenty minute drive to the docks was over, there was relief in the air, as the couple decided not to take the boat trip with us after all, and instead took a taxi off to go spread their misery elsewhere.
People who travel are not only guests in a foreign country, but also representatives of where they come from. Not only were these two spreading to the people of India the idea that Canadians are assholes, but also to all the other foreigners they met. If you do not have any sort of respect for others, as these two did not, please just stay in your own damn country rather than spreading your assholery around the planet, and if they were Canadian after all, which they may have been, then on behave of Canada, I apologize for the assholes we sometimes produce. I just could not let them continue their travels wrapped in my national flag.