Our First Canadian Cottage Experience
by Raheel Raza

As Canadians of South Asian heritage, the cottage experience is new to us. But not from lack of trying! Every summer I’ve heard colleagues and friends talk about “the cottage” and I was determined to do this very ‘Canadian’ thing. Scared to take the plunge alone, I convinced a few friends to try cottage country with us. “Nothing too rustic” they whined; “as long as there’s a washroom with a shower, and a restaurant close by, I’m happy” insisted my spouse. So I happily booked the name of someplace somewhere that sounded picturesque (no idea where it was geographically). Our plans never materialized because the location of the first place was a 10 hour drive from Toronto and second time, the friends had just read about bear attacks so the consensus was to stay home, stay safe. My 'Canadianization' to this point was that I began to appreciate what ‘wimp’ means.

As Canadians of South Asian heritage, the cottage experience is new to us. But not from lack of trying! Every summer I’ve heard colleagues and friends talk about “the cottage” and I was determined to do this very ‘Canadian’ thing. Scared to take the plunge alone, I convinced a few friends to try cottage country with us. “Nothing too rustic” they whined; “as long as there’s a washroom with a shower, and a restaurant close by, I’m happy” insisted my spouse. So I happily booked the name of someplace somewhere that sounded picturesque (no idea where it was geographically). Our plans never materialized because the location of the first place was a 10 hour drive from Toronto and second time, the friends had just read about bear attacks so the consensus was to stay home, stay safe. My 'Canadianization' to this point was that I began to appreciate what ‘wimp’ means.

The drive up there was uneventful except losing our way a few times, because ‘real men’ (I am told) don’t stop to ask for directions. Our cottage was on Deer Lake through an unpaved road, quite isolated and stood by itself. The boys were not impressed, more used to the luxuries of concrete hotels. I was thrilled by the rustic atmosphere, hubby unsure. As we opened the car doors, we were greeted by a combined buzz of flies and mosquitoes. The boys immediately ran for cover into a ditch which was full of frogs – not an auspicious start. Major challenge was how to park the car at a slant which had hubby occupied for an hour before he discovered the actual parking spot.

We gingerly explored the terrain and found a canoe. When we figured out what to do with the canoe, our younger son bravely ventured out on the lake while I had visions of the Loch Ness monster. Older son informed us that he was being hungrily pursued by a giant frog, chipmunk and a fly, and would be killed if he stayed outdoors. Hubby paced up and down trying to reach people on his cell phone to complain that we were in the boons. Once the men discovered there was no television, no connection for the laptop and phone calls would cost a lot, they started settling down. It took a while to convince them that running water here was a luxury and they couldn’t take two showers a day. “Absorb the atmosphere, breath deeply, enjoy the lake” I kept saying. “It’s hot, the flies scare us and the lake looks deep and dangerous” was the response.

It took the family one day to bring their mind round the fact that we were in the middle of nowhere, mother was not going to serve three meals on demand, this was not Jurassic Park, bears would not attack us and raccoons are harmless creatures. It took me one cooking session to understand that cottage smoke detectors are not used to curry odours or fried samosas, so after tying to disable 3 detectors, I gave in and opened cans. This part was good. Next day the ambience started settling in until we went for a drive to the only local country store and found they had just installed the internet so we lost the boys for half a day. I guess news travels fast in a small town because the locals were aware that an “ethnic” family was staying at the cottage. My palms decorated with henna (due to the anniversary celebrations) caused a bit of a sensation. It seems the shopkeeper had called Toronto to ask the cottage owner why I had tattoos on the palms and back of my hands!

From here we bravely ventured to explore the South end of Algonquin Park. Peak season had not quite started so it was deserted. The men decided on a walk through the woods while wimpy mother stayed in the car with the AC on and a warning not to let any mosquitoes in. Just as well because they were back in 5 minutes sweaty and unhappy, wielding tree branches like clubs (to kill the flies I suppose!)

Overall it was a great learning experience – seeing a deer and beaver for the first time and stopping for a duck family crossing the road. We also managed to sit outside by the lake and have a meal without everyone paranoid about bugs and beetles, and once we were able to figure that the sound of loons was not wolves, we actually stayed outdoors till late. On our return home we stopped for a country-style breakfast, boys acting like this was their first home-cooked meal in a week.

I’m going again later in Fall but this time I’m dumping the guys and taking some girlfriends along. This is as Canadian as it gets.

 

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