The name “Vancouver” has stuck to my mind from my days in the secondary school. It has been so because a student of my alma mater, Dennis Memorial Grammar School (DMGS), Onitsha, Emmanuel Ifeajuna, broke the British and Commonwealth high jump record at the Commonwealth Games in Vancouver, Canada, as far back as 1954.
At that time, I imagined how the place looked like and the type of people living there. You can imagine a young boy whose only exposure was his village and the school. At that time, I did not think or imagine that I would one day be in Vancouver. But God had already planned that I would be there at His own appointed time.
I recall my first time of visiting Canada in 1985 for FIP congress in Montreal. That was the time USA and Canada were active members of the FIP. Later, FIP virtually became a “European club.” The second was in 1997 for another FIP congress in Vancouver. The third time was in 2016, during the joint conference of NAPPSA and ANPA (Association of Nigerian Physicians in the Americas), held in Las Vegas, USA. This conference gave me the opportunity to visit our daughter’s family in Calgary, Canada. From there, we went to Las Vegas.
We enjoyed Canada Day, 1 July, 2016 in Calgary, and participated in the celebration with the family. I remember the parade, dances, carnivals, several traditional dresses, foods and spectacular fireworks. It was a great display of various cultural heritages. Canada Day celebrates the birthday of Canada. On 1 July, 1867, Canada became a new federation with its own constitution, by signing the Constitution Act, formerly known as the British North America Act.
Coincidentally, this year, my wife and I landed in Canada on 1 July, the Canada Day, amidst celebrations, but no time to enjoy them again. However, one remarkable thing is that our main purpose for the visit, the process of obtaining the Canadian Permanent Resident Card, was started. Our passports were duly stamped on this national day of 1 July, 2023.
Our family friend, Esther, who picked us up, remarked that she came to Canada on 1 July 1973, and was, therefore, celebrating her 50th anniversary that day. I jokingly told her that I would celebrate my own 50th anniversary in November. “Anniversary for what”? She asked. I told her that I would celebrate my 50th attendance of PSN annual conferences in Nigeria. I told her that, by the grace of God, I hold that record in Nigeria.
From our experience of travelling to USA in September last year, I appreciated the value of airport wheelchair services. Therefore, we booked and enjoyed their services throughout the trip to Vancouver. With the wheelchair, you don’t worry about the airport processes and timing for your connections. We enjoyed their services in Lagos, and the other airports we used.
I was impressed with the in-flight entertainment and services throughout the 10 hour- 45 minutes’ flight to Washington DC. My only problem was cold. Despite my warm dressing and the blankets supplied to passengers, I observed that majority of the passengers made serious efforts to cover up.
Snacks were liberally served. Even while many passengers were sleeping after the dinner, snacks were still served. I saw mine when I woke up. A few hours later, breakfast was served. Those interested in eating and drinking were hanging around with the stewards at the crew rest compartment and entertaining themselves.
I was pleased that the airline patronised locally-made foods. The chin-chin served was manufactured by Pure Flour Mills Ltd., Port Harcourt. The plantain chips were manufactured by Wisekings Ventures, Ketu, Lagos. One other snack was manufactured in Ghana, and even the water in 25cl bottles served was my favourite Lasena water, produced in Ogun State. This is the only bottled water in Nigeria that can boast of pH 7.78. The packaging of all these products was very attractive.
That reminded me of the Suya Spot restaurant, owned and managed by Nigerians, that we visited in Maryland, USA, last year. The environment was truly Nigerian, with mostly Nigerian customers, listening to Nigerian music and enjoying Nigerian decorations and pictures. I know that the original Suya Spot is in Mende, Maryland, Lagos, where I have been living since 1970. The Suya Spot has maintained its popularity since I knew it more than 50 years ago. But I have never entered there because I don’t eat suya.