I’m on the 400 North, cottage country bound. My in-laws are visiting from South Africa, and we had booked a lake cottage for the week. I have wanted to do this since the day I landed in Canada, but the last two summers have been really busy, and it takes a while to settle into a new place, never mind a foreign country. “Cottaging” is where it’s at, it is the “Canadian way”. This is something every person on the street will tell you, so I am excited, I love the outdoors. How good can it really be though, nature and all that, I am from Africa, after all!
It is great to get away, summer really has kicked off with a bang! One of the latest additions to our programme is the Mississauga Youth League, with six teams at U11, U13 and U15 level competing for the honours. I have said this many times before, in terms of young talent, there is no difference between what we have in Canada, compared to what I have seen in Test playing nations around the world. We now also have wonderful facilities at our home ground, Courtney Park (Mavis), and the two other grounds at Toronto, and Iceland. The real difference is, because of our short summers, our kids play half the amount of matches as those, for example, in India. You can practise all you want, but playing games gives you match awareness and experience, and that is where you really learn your game. This was the motivation behind starting another league, in association with the City of Mississauga. Tina has also launched the Mississauga Women’s League, another first in Canada, and something we are very proud of. Add to this the T&D League, the International Youth Festival, our night festival, exchange programmes, our partnership with Peshawar Zalmi and winter tours abroad, we really are providing more opportunities for match play and development than ever before. I would therefore like to thank all our coaches, management, as well as parents and players, for their continued involvement and support. It really is quite a challenge putting everything together day in and day out, but it is flourishing, and we know the kids will be so much better for it. I would also like to again congratulate the Canadian U19 team for qualifying for next year’s World Cup in New Zealand. It is a wonderful opportunity, and I know you will represent this amazing country with a lot of pride!
But back to my trip up north!
So as we start pushing further away from the city, our surroundings quickly change into the diverse and rugged landscapes Canada is so famous for. It actually reminded me of my childhood, typical South African outdoor living and adventures, how I long for those times. Things were so different back then. A part of me feels kind of guilty, you know, for taking that away from my own children. Christmas caravanning at Potch Dam, water skiing, fishing, sitting around a fire in the bushveld listening to the chilling sounds of lions roaring in the distance. My children will never really experience this, I know that. But I can give them everything else; one of the best educational systems in the world, safety, limitless opportunities, freedom… it was definitely worth the sacrifice.
We arrive at the cottage, just past Parry Sound, a chip and a putt from a little town called Dunchurch. As far as the eye can see, wooden structures hidden by the surrounding forest, hug Shawanaga Lake, each with its own dock, boat and canoe. It is truly spectacular. I start telling my father-in-law of how my dad used to pick us up from the academy on a Friday afternoon, and drop us at the “Bridge”, right at the far end of Potch Dam. We’d put up a tent, armed with sandwiches, snacks, drinks and tons of bait, ready for a night of fishing, cricket-talk and storytelling. Just a bunch of 14 year old boys, living the life. Those were the days I tell you. Again I’m thinking, my kids will never have that, but it’s okay.
Later that evening I’m sitting next to the bonfire, the steaks are big and the beer is cold. It is dead quiet, this is awesome. The “Canadian way”…okay, I get it.
I hear my two girls laughing and shouting exuberantly from down at the water. They must have caught a fish, or there’s a spider, who knows. They come running up the stairs, Lexi shouting something in her new Canadian accent, Lilly holding a largemouth bass against her chest, bursting with pride.
After dinner we are back at the fire pit, roasting marshmallows, talking cricket. A friend recently asked me when I’ll be going home for a visit. I sat at that fire, surrounded by nature, wolves howling in the distance, listening to my girls’ fishing stories, their excitement, the looks on their faces, those exact things I thought they’d never have because I took them out of Africa. Oh how wrong I have been. These kids are in fact living the life, eh.
We won’t need to go home for a visit. We are home.