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  • When you stand in the U.S. Customs and Immigration line at the Calgary airport, there is a border of large photographs attached to the high high walls, almost touching the ceiling. As you wind your way through the maze with the other travelers, you get a panorama of stock images that represent Americana: the pastoral New England farmscape in autumn, a boy playing baseball, Times Square at night, the Grand Canyon, the Capitol Building, Mt. Rushmore, etc.

    The group of twenty something Edmontonian hipsters in front of me in line were on their way to Chicago. Glancing up, one of the girls entertained herself by challenging the others to identify the icons in the images. She correctly guessed Mt. Rushmore, which gave me pause. If I was presented with a series of iconic images from Canada's natural and/or manmade history, I doubt that I would be able to identify most of them. Especially anything that would potentially involve elaborate carvings of prime ministers in rock faces.

    That realization made me sad.

    I was back visiting Calgary for the first time in six years, which is also exactly how many years I had called that city home. It also happened to be the centennial of the Calgary Stampede, so the streets were teeming with people wearing cowboy hats.

    Visiting with friends, I learned that the city has changed in many ways: new mayor, burgeoning arts and culture, more growth and more public transit to boot. What hasn't changed is how big my heart is for the life I once lived in this town. Gratitude for all the people who became my makeshift family and who still indulge me in my pseudo-canandian-ness. Who am I to get choked up when the national anthem is sung at the start of the rodeo? And moreover, to be so moved that I remember every word by heart.

    if our lives are shaped by our experiences, let it be known that I consider my time in Canada as one of the greatest rides. Up until this visit, I had forgotten how much becoming a Canadian citizen had meant to me. It is only upon leaving that I appreciate what was.
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