Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Zimbabwe Election Day 2013

The past few weeks, leading up to today, I can't get Zimbabwe off my mind. This beautiful country, once the bread basket of Africa, is headed to the polls today and it's an incredibly complex time for the country. President Mugabe has been in power for 33 years. Today, he faces (for the third time) his rival, Tsvangirai.

To me, the most incredible images coming out of Zimbabwe right now are the long queues of voters, waiting for their turn to vote. In a country where we would line up overnight for concert tickets or the latest version of the iPhone, but sit apathetically and bemoan how we are "too busy" to vote or that "it won't make a difference anyway"... I am so humbled.

There are many different sides to the story of Zimbabwe and its history as a country. I'm not here to lay that all out. What I am saying, is that if you're watching this unfold...look past the politics and the rhetoric to the absolute beauty that is the hope of the woman with a baby on her back, waiting in the pre-dawn cold for her right to vote.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Rainy Saturday Surprises

It's a rainy, rainy Saturday. I woke at about 3 am this morning, the sky was brightening as it does here in the north, and my dog accompanied me down to the couch. The skies were clear and it almost felt like morning had arrived. Charlie went straight to the love seat and settled in with her usual three spins, a groan and a deep sigh. She figures she just needs to be in close proximity even when sleeping. So, I sat on the couch for a while, looking out at the sky and the line of heavy clouds creeping in slowly.

I woke on the couch around 9 to Jason trying to boil water quietly. I'm not sure how he thought that an electric kettle was going to be shushed or maybe it was a passive aggressive measure to get me up and awake. Either way, I am easily placated by coffee and he made that happen so the morning stayed on a smooth course. One by one, the boys made their way down to us, all bed head and pyjama clad. They have the look of small boys in their sleepy faces, despite their ever growing stature. Mornings like this, when no one has a scheduled game or work, we find ourselves happy to lounge around the couch and puttering around the kitchen.

Jason put some croissants in the oven and boiled some eggs and we all made our way to the island for breakfast. I asked Aidan to pass the milk jug, which he did, after pouring himself a glass. I picked up his glass and drank out of it, reminding him to always serve others first. He told me it wasn't true, you don't always have to serve others first. In airplanes, you put your own oxygen mask on before helping others with theirs. Always the kid to get me on a technicality. Then Easton chimed in, as he always does, with a quote from "Now You See Me"...saying that actually, you help your lawyer first, then your mask, then on to the children. His memory for all things movie related is uncanny as is his lack of ability to remember to brush teeth or turn out lights behind him. The mind of an 11 year old.

We all settled in around the house on various electronics and into reading corners. I was up in my room, dog at my feet, reading some favourite blogs when I heard the house phone ring. It's unusual in itself for anyone but telemarketers to call us on our landline so I listened as Easton made his way up the stairs with the phone and telling whoever was on the other end that he was going to pass them on to his mom. He mouthed to me, "It's someone from Zambia."  I assumed it was our friends that have immigrated here so I took the phone and was surprised to hear a Zambian accent and greetings from my friend, Dorothea, in Mulenga! She explained that she was using her husband's phone and that she wanted to call to say that her family missed me. I was so surprised! We talked for a few minutes about her kids and the new baby, Jesse, that I have yet to meet. Then, she handed the phone to Eva. I couldn't believe it. I was standing at the top of my stairs in Saskatoon, speaking to the little girl I love in her little home in Mulenga. She said "Hello!" and I said, "Hello! How are you?" and she said, in her best English, "I am fine! How are you?" and then giggled. Imagine. A giggle from halfway around the world and then I  started to come undone. Tears started. I asked her how her brothers were and she said they were fine. I told her I loved her. I asked her about Jesse and she said he was a good baby. Then we said goodbye. Dorothea came back on the phone and we talked for just a few minutes, enough for me to know that her family is all well and the kids are well cared for. Then her husband, who I've never met, came on the phone and told me that he was looking forward to meeting me in person. I agreed. I told him I loved his family very much and that I was so happy to hear from them. He told me that he was hopeful we would all be together soon and said goodbye with a blessing.

I sat with the phone in hand for a few minutes. I tried to retrieve their number but even as I dialled the operator, I knew it was a slim chance. I wasn't able to get the number. Even if I had, it would be unlikely that I could call it because for some reason, when phones in Zambia call or text out, the number is scrambled into something else and not the same on the receiving end.

I'm so thankful for a rainy, wet, Saturday that found me home when they called. I'm so thankful for the chance to hear from my little friend and her family and to know that they are well and safe and healthy.

Last night, my friend, Gloria, and I went out for dinner and then sat around the firepit in our backyard. We talked about Eva and her family, as Gloria has sent letters and little gifts to this family since I first told her about them. I showed her the photo of Kristal with baby Jesse from the past few weeks and we talked about the kids, and the family and all that they face. And then today, as if by chance, I find myself on the phone with them.

I never anticipated the possibility that I would hear their voices while I was in Canada. It makes me long to sit with them again, in their home, in a community I love and hear their voices again.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Oh Canada

It's Canada Day. I love where I live. I love that I was fortunate enough to be born in a country with infrastructure like schools and hospitals, roads and rules. I like the structures of my country that allow me freedom of religion, political views and even lack thereof.  When I think of Canada, I think of all the cliches that I absolutely love. A country filled with canoe paddling, sled dog mushing, lumberjacks. Animals like beavers and moose and bear confidently strolling in and out of our yards like domesticated dogs. The scent of maple syrup in the air and an unfailing politeness that marks us as Canadian even overseas. And while some of these may or may not be the case, it is a country that has brought forth the Biebs, Jim Carrey, Pam Anderson, and Mike Myers. But more lovely are those Canadians who have stayed home. Like Rick Mercer. Brett Wilson. Robert Munch. Dan and Jay of Scratch that. Those guys are dead to me.
I love the CFL. The Riders. Don't tell my husband but I do love the Leafs. And the Canadiens. Love Much Music and being a small enough country that when a friend's dear daughter is in the running for VJay, we all rally to try and make her dream come true. I love the sound of a CN train rumbling by on a prairie night. I admire farmers who spend sun up till sundown on a combine harvesting grains that a whole segment of society has now deemed "evil".  I love Tim Horton's coffee and a maple dip donut. I like that our country is too big to have a "national" food  but is more regionally represented by salmon on the west coast, beef from Alberta, prairie grains, Ontario wines, Quebec poutine, and the vast array of lobster and shellfish from the Maritimes. I love that when you ask a Canadian where their family is from, they tell you the country they originated from, not a state on the east coast like our southern neighbours.
I love the beauty and emergence of First Nations people. Their art and their culture in the midst of their struggles. I long to really be known as "Idle No More" in its grassroots movement to protect our environment, particularly our waters. I love the Mennonite cultures that still live communally and weave their lives in and out of ours here on the prairie almost seamlessly. I love the new Canadian families around my city, challenging us to learn about ourselves and others. I love the emergence of African, Iranian, Halal and kosher stores popping up in our city.  I love the culture of diversity as a mosaic, not a melting pot, in which cultures and languages and traditions are accepted and valued, not seen as threatening or exclusive.
I love our national sport in all its forms from Timbits to the NHL. I love the rink and the atmosphere and the sound of skates on ice. I love our national anthem in English and en francais. I love that it still plays in the halls of our schools each morning. I love our athletes and the Olympic games and seeing the unity among our teams. I always think our uniforms are the most beautiful and classic and I am glad there is always at least three to five great options for worthy flag bearers. I especially love to watch our national women's team win hockey gold.
I love Canadian television. The CBC. The way you can pick out a made in Canada movie by the landmarks and the fact that your second cousin twice removed was on set and gave you the whole story over an October Thanksgiving dinner. I loved Mr. Dress Up and especially the "heritage minutes" that taught us our own history and that the smell of burnt toast may be symptomatic of an epileptic seizure.
I love the idea of Canada. I love that most Canadians do our best to live up to the freedoms we've been given by expressing ourselves - for better, for worse.  We'll take the worse for often it shapes us to be better, if only by deterring us from sinking to that level.
I love my country, most of all, because wherever I travel, no matter how beautiful or inviting, I've yet to find a place that compares to the beautiful place I call home.
Happy Canada Day.