COLUMN: You can’t put price on this gem

Interesting perspective gained from visitors to White Rock

Sometimes it is helpful to see this corner of the world through the eyes of visitors.

We’ve had occasion to take two visitors from different parts of Africa to White Rock in recent months. White Rock is one of my favourite places, and I never get tired of going to the beach, walking along the promenade and strolling on the pier.

It is timeless, in more ways than one. I’ve been going to White Rock for so many years, from the time I was small, that it just seems like the natural place to go to when seeking quiet, tranquility and relaxation.

Despite my strong feelings for the locale, I was surprised by the reaction of our African friends to White Rock.

Our first visitor came with us in the spring months, before it was too busy.

We were there on a sunny day, but it wasn’t overly warm. Regular visitors would call it an average day.

He was delighted by the sand, the pier, the views and the white rock. In fact, it’s safe to say that the rock may have made the biggest impression.

While this man had been to this part of Canada before, he had never been to White Rock and he was surprised to find such a gem here.

Months later, as he is back in his regular routines in Sierra Leone, he is still talking about his visit to White Rock. It was a highlight of his trip.

A Ghanian woman was visiting at our home this past weekend. We hadn’t thought about going to the beach, but a couple of hours opened up on Sunday afternoon, and off we went.

This woman had never been to Canada and wasn’t sure what to expect here – she thought she might be greeted by snow on arrival in Vancouver. She had been told that Canada was a cold country, which it is, when compared to Ghana.

Since her arrival in September, it’s been dry and warm almost every day and she has been pleasantly surprised. But she was even more surprised at White Rock.

She too couldn’t get over the rock. Why was it there? It  didn’t belong, and yet it has clearly been there for a long time. She wanted to know all about it.

When we arrived back home, I showed her the White Rock history book, Along the Way, by Margaret Lang Hastings, and referred her to the legend of the white rock that is recorded there.

She read that and also read about the Semiahmoo First Nation and their long residency of lands along the bay named after them. She was very impressed with the colourful history of the area, and also with the proximity to the United States.

She made another fascinating point  that most of us likely never think about. She commented on all the buildings along Marine Drive and all the people using the walkway and pier.

She said that Ghana, which is on the Atlantic coast, has beautiful beaches but they are not close to where people live.

Consequently, they can be dangerous places at times, particularly near nightfall. People who wish to go to the beach need to do so in large groups and have to be prepared.

She was very impressed with the peaceful nature of White Rock and how welcoming it was. It is obvious on every trip there that many people who come from all over the world feel the same way, because they too come to check out this tranquility by the bay.

Some of us may take it for granted sometimes, but it is truly a gem — not just in the immediate South Fraser area, but in Canada and the larger and broader world beyond.

That’s good to know, and I will remember it much more clearly now.

Frank Bucholtz writes Thursdays for the Peace Arch News. He is the editor of the Langley Times.