Oh, Canada. We Americans have a curious relationship with Canada. Our biggest trading partner and largest neighbor is the butt of many of our jokes. There’s the humorous t-shirt that depicts the continental US wearing a baseball cap and declaring, “Canada, America’s hat.” and the countless snickers that Canada “Might as well join the United States!” Canada responds to accusations that, “You don’t even have a real army!” good-naturedly by pointing out, “Sure we do! It’s in the US!”
Being from Maine, I have an even more peculiar relationship with Canada than most Americans. Maine has a large population of French-Canadians and their descendants. Up north, it’s not uncommon for Mainers to speak French with their parents or grandparents. In elementary school we had a whole unit on Canadian history and culture. I bet they don’t do that in Virginia or New Mexico! In sixth grade I made a brochure about Alberta Canada. This wasn’t French Class, it was Social Studies—typically the period reserved for geography and US history. I learned that Banff national Park is in Alberta, as is the world’s largest shopping mall.
In Music class we learned the Canadian national anthem (although whenever I try to recall it now I can only manage half f the first line before the melody shifts to “God Bless America” in what is surely one of the most successful subliminal examples of nationalistic subterfuge that I have experienced!) and in high school we even took a long-weekend field trip to Quebec City. Quebec and Montreal are both a good deal closer than my extended family in Maryland or North Carolina. As such, we took family trips north of the border with some regularity.
After my parents divorced (shortly after we moved to Maine), the Myles-Hunkin branch of the Nuzzi Family inaugurated a curious family tradition. Though my father loves Thanksgiving (he’s an excellent chef and roasting a Turkey is probably his favorite holiday past-time [although the Nuzzi Men’s Christmas Night viewing of A Hard Day’s Night with cocoa, slippers, and a fire might overtake it in the next few years]), my mom doesn’t really like Turkey. She cooks very well, but doesn’t always want to. Don’t take this the wrong way—she’s not lazy or anything, she just doesn’t like the process as much as my dad. What’s more, Mom speaks fluent French. These factors combined to create the perfect storm of Reasons-to-spend-Thanksgiving-in-Canada.
You know what’s great about Thanksgiving weekend in Canada? It’s a non-event. Restaurants are open, stores are normal, decorations are absent. There’s no holiday traffic and no Black Friday. Everything is just nice and Franco-English. We went to Quebec several years in a row for Thanksgiving, taking a break to visit McGill in Montreal one Thanksgiving with my dad. It was great! Mom would chatter away in French to all the waiters and shopkeeps, Myles would cry until he got his damned stuffed monkey (thus began the rule that, “If you want a souvenir you have to get something related to the place we’re going!!”), Rebecca avoided death at the hands of an enticing trap in the form of a colorful, puppet-y window display and several pounds of falling icicles. Just a typical, lovely holiday en français!
I haven’t been to Canada since…April 2005. My 12thgrade French Class took a four-day weekend to Quebec City. My mom was a chaperone. It was great! It was back in the days before you needed a passport to cross from the US to Canada. Ahh, what a blissful, innocent time it was.
A week ago, the TLG upper management called me in to Maia’s office. There was a problem that I could help solve. Without going into too many details, the woman we had chosen to represent us at a pair of Job Fairs in Toronto and Montreal could no longer attend. “Raughley,” Maia asked me, “when we hired you we gave you the flexibility speech, right?”
“Yes….” a trio of grins looked back at me.
“Great. We need you to go to Canada. We’re changing the name on the ticket and you’ll leave tonight.”
Two hours of frantic bustling and shuffling and I was spared the chaos of leaving for Toronto at 4 that morning. The original plan had been to fly me to Toronto for the expo there, then keep me idling in Canada for five days until the next expo in Montreal the following weekend. I was excited but nervous at the prospect of leaving that night for Toronto. I’ve never been to Toronto! I’ve only seen it in the movies (that take place in New York)! We rejiggered the whole trip so that our marketing rep (who is scouring US Job Fairs) would attend Toronto’s solo while I would pull my weight in Montreal.
And so, yesterday, after 26 hours of travel (Including ten hours in Munich where I had breakfast with Pauli!!!!!),
I found myself in Montreal.
Now, I am sitting here, booth set up, drinking an early-morning Dr. Pepper (No, the sweet, sweet ambrosia couldn’t wait until noon [my self-imposed soda-drinking time limit]!!) and waiting for the Expo-goers to arrive. Most of the other booths are also being set up by now. Tourism Malaysia is next to me and boy do they have fancy stand-up displays. Kitty Corner to me, Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada has ten million brochures and a bowl of maple candy. Ingle International insurance is a few booths down and they brought a flat-screen monitor. It’s a mildly intimidating scenario for a first-timer like myself. I’m a little nervous to see what Expérience Internationale Canada brings to the (literal) table across the aisle from me!
My clock reads 6:25 PM. A simple 8 hour subtraction and I see that I’ve still got an hour and a half before the Expo opens to the visitors. EIC only has another 34 minutes to get here and get set-up! I, on the other hand, am sitting comfortably reading my book behind my tidy, inviting (I hope!) table and occasionally chatting with other tablers or Go Global hosts.
I’m not sure if I’ll post this as a one-parter or a two-parter, so I’ll sign off for now. I need to get my slide-show and music going soon! Sure, I have an hour and a half, but doesn’t hurt to be prepared! Maybe I can practice my spiel on a few more booth hosts before the we get this show on the road!
Not sure if I’ll pick up this story, but if I do, it’ll definitely be a two-parter!