Never Cry, Wolf. A Red Wolves Guide to Canada.

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Being a Canadian in Arkansas doesn’t often come in handy. It doesn’t snow enough to teach my kids how to build a snow fort or steer a toboggan around trees. No one ever needs me to supply the French word for a color or body part. At dinner parties, my “Can-dar” – the inborn ability of Canadians to identify expatriate Canadian celebrities – never elicits the astonishment I think it should.

When Sporting Life asked if I had any insider tips for ASU basketball fans following the Red Wolves to Calgary, Alberta for an exhibition tour this month, I wasn’t about to be held back by the fact that I grew up in eastern Canada, or that the closest I’ve ever come to Calgary is Milwaukee. Proximity is relative. And I feel reasonably secure that no one in western Canada will read this and correct me.

First, let me congratulate you on having a team mascot that Canadians can understand. Though Canis rufus doesn’t roam the Great White North, we are familiar with his grey cousins, lupus. Other animals—say, for example, tufted swine—might not command the same respect in the hinterland. You’ve had Canadian bacon, right? You know pork is not our thing.

Also, nice job on the color red. Good thinking.

To help get your head in le jeu, I’ve anticipated all your burning questions and prepared this Red Wolves Guide to Canada.

Red Wolves Guide to Canada

What is this “Canada” you keep mentioning?

I’m glad you asked. Canada is an actual sovereign nation situated somewhere “up there” beyond the margins of the classroom maps in school. Like the land beyond the wall in Game of Thrones, but without armies of frozen zombies poised to take over the world. As far as you know.

The thing that confuses most Americans about Canada is that it isn’t America, and –most puzzling– doesn’t seem to mind not being America. Think of it as an alternate reality wherein the revolution never happened. Canadians asked nicely for independence, and eventually they got it. Really, you guys might have thought of that first, instead of wasting all that lovely tea.

What should we pack?

A passport. See above. Also, bring grits. Canadians are fascinated by the American south, especially southern food. Whenever I travel home, people want to know what grits tastes like. You can probably trade them for Timbits.

What’s a Timbit?

Timbits are doughnut holes from Tim Horton’s, a coffee franchise. Take the density of Starbucks locations across the U.S. and triple it. It’s in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms that no Canadian shall reside more than one kilometer away from a Tim Horton’s.

What’s a kilometer?

First you explain to me how it is the U.S. threw off the tyranny of the British crown, but remains enslaved to Imperial measurements.

Will we understand the language? Do we need to speak French?

Yes, and non. Unless you are travelling in Quebec, you probably won’t have occasion to fire up Google Translate. Canada’s official bilingual status exists mostly to let us show off.

Canadian English is a little different. Don’t bother looking for the bathroom or restroom when you need to go. You’ll want the nearest washroom. A napkin is a serviette. If you ask for tea, you will be given hot tea. If you ask for ice tea, you will get an amber liquid that is undrinkable. Ask for coke instead. If you want more than a couple of ice cubes forlornly floating in your drink, you will need to say exactly how much ice. It will still not be enough, and we will complain behind your backs about rude American tourists.

Say y’all often. Canadians love it. Try not to laugh every time you hear oot and aboot. But feel free to make a drinking game of it.

Is the poutine good? Is it legal to pay for it?

Yes and oui. But protect yourself and wear a serviette.

Bon voyage, Red Wolves fans, and bonne chance. Give my love to my home and native land, and make all of us in Arkansas proud.

Kyran Pittman is the author of Planting Dandelions: Field Notes from a Semi-Domesticated Life. She is a frequent contributor to Good Housekeeping magazine, and continues to chronicle her semi-domesticated life at Planting

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