One of the biggest factors of living in Eeyou Istchee is the incredible long distances we have to travel just to meet each other. Sometimes, when we arrive to new southern destinations, local people gasp with amazement when we tell them that we travelled 2000 kilometres just to eat at a particular restaurant or to shop in a particular Walmart. In fact, the parking lot at any given Walmart within eastern Canada holds at least one vehicle from Eeyou Istchee, guaranteed. You can also find many more Cree vehicles near any large mall, but, given the recent downfall in the economy, chances are that more are at Walmart.
Why bother talking about travel when we can communicate instantly with Internet, email, Facebook and all that new communication stuff. In reality, communicating by Internet for many Cree communities is hard to do, waiting for downloads, uploading and all that stuff. Many people I meet on my travels often complain about the existing service, if there are any to begin with. All have stories to tell about how long a beard stubble can grow, while waiting for a HD movie to download on iTunes. Most people who do communicate are on Facebook, and that’s the only place you can find someone these days. They may not be home, but, floating around on some cloud somewhere in cyberspace, that’s where they are today.
In many ways, even with the instant communication revolution coming to Eeyou Istchee through fibre optic cable, people will only be found online more so than today. That’s because it is now becoming more and more apparent that shopping online is just about the best deal anyone can get today. Just think, you can shop for everything and anything for the best possible price while sipping coffee in your jammies. It’s the best of both, let me rephrase that, all worlds, when you can let your fingers do the walking, talking and shopping. Wow… no more lugging tons of goodies around miles of malls, no more cursing at taxi drivers who won’t get out and help you on a cold pre-Christmas day, no more need for malls…
But like every other thing in life, it’s the human interaction you need. Like travelling that extra distance to eat that special something at that special restaurant, like I did a few weeks back. It just so happened I had a meeting in the nation’s capital and went to a very special eatery in the old section of Ottawa. The area was obviously renovated and had that neat trendy style and appealing shopping neighbourhood, which makes you feel like going inside and spending some moolah.
But this restaurant is unique simply because it’s Cree, historically and culturally correct and haute cuisine at the same time, making the place a home-away-from-home. My order arrived with bone marrow, dumplings, smoked fish and a massive buffalo burger washed back with a nice shiraz and homemade iced tea (which everyone raved about). My meal was especially satisfying, knowing that somewhere, there’s a goose in the oven in Ottawa and it’s slowly and nicely cooked to perfection at the Sweetgrass Aboriginal Bistro on Murray Street.
In the end, there are some things in life that you just can’t get on the Internet cloud, and social networking just doesn’t do justice when you tweet with someone who is actually there instead of you sitting at your computer. But remember, some things are worth getting on the Internet too. So the best of all worlds maybe, but up-close-and-personal is really the way to go if you can.