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An Invitation from Foreign Affairs Canada [-]

Canadian Expatriates, its contributors, and readers have been invited by Foreign Affairs Canada to participate in a series of eDiscussions. The current topic is “Showcasing Canadian Culture and Know-How Abroad”.

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  • What role does Canadian culture and know-how play in our foreign policy?

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    The Expat admin team encourages its readers to join in the eDiscussion at the Canadian International Policy website.

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    Posted by Admin

    Friday, April 15, 2005

    Anyone gotta flag?
    by Bethanie Odd

    Although each of the three stories is 100% accurate according to my memory..
    *The car was blue officer, it was a blue Ford
    *Um Ma’am it looks as though it was a yellow Mazda….
    I am using the most saturated as examples in these stories, otherwise it is hard to put people in boxes and what fun would that be?

    Part One of Three: Canadians in Asia

    I walked down the centre of the dim street. In the Chinese district of Penang, Malaysia, the pre-war store fronts all had second story shuttered windows where I could imagine slender beauties with their long white traditional tops, and pitch black bone straight hair flirtatiously gazing to the streets below. The Chinese calligraphy above each double door added to this otherworld sensation I was having in the darkness that had hushed the hard working people of this street. I could hear the soft hiss of the dark skinned, almost black, Hindi shoe cobbler who spent his day sitting on a plastic box. He blended into the shadows. It was at his hiss that I knew where to turn. I had no idea until much later this almost wheeze omitting from his mouth was a tout, I just thought he had an annoying habit. I feel like I have become much more open, meaning I didn’t kill the guy, over the years to cultural differences between nations and my middle class Canadian upbringing (eg: eating with your mouth open making a smacking sound) so I paid it little heed.

    I turned into the little shop with the red chilli lights illuminating the entry way. There were about 10 people sitting on stools in an area no bigger than my “downstairs” bathroom growing up. Half of them had instruments. A drum with one drum and a cymbal, an old guitar and a kids key board. I ordered a beer and split it with a man I knew from another trip. Traditional Malay love songs were roughly played as a game of football (soccer) was shown on a tv mounted to the peeling plastered wall. I could hear laughter from down the dark alley way and was curious to see who was going to join in the small little pub gathering. Rounding the corner with huge bright smiles was a young couple. He was sporting a Roots t-shirt and a MEC backpack with a Canadian flag taking up the bulk of the base. Originally, though, he had his provincial flag on the smaller upper part of the sac. She was wearing a “Canadian Chicks Kick Ass” shirt with a MEC day pack, with a smaller flag shining vibrantly. “It’s Canada Day” they yelled into the bar. The man walked up to the mic and repeated “ITS CANADA DAY”. The Malays smiled at him and at each other not knowing what that meant.

    I called to them, Where are you from? They answered, Canada. My friend started to laugh. I said, well yes, I figured but where in BC? They turned around grabbed the mic from the man, handed one to the girl and tried to teach the band the basic course of our beloved national anthem and resigned to singing it over the speakers to the tune of a Malay love song.

    They were out exploring the world together. They were taking risks ie: being on this street this late at night, and they were proud of where they came from. They reminded me of when I had first moved out of Canada and would wear Canadian flagged boxer shorts under a kilt, fishnet stockings, Doc Martin boots and a “Spirit of the West” t-shirt almost everywhere I went. Don’t mistake me for an American, I am proud of where I come from, yet I was the only one wearing my flag in 20 different places. Two days later I saw the same couple stumble into the bus heading back to Thailand. Again, “decked out”, he was wearing a Molson Canadian t-shirt and she a little tank top with a flag and a beaver on the chest. She placed her bag in the upper storage bin and her MEC cargo pants shifted on her slight hips exposing her thong and her little Canadian flag tattoo.

    Posted by Bethanie Odd at 9:56 PM


    You always paint such a vibrant picture with your words, capturing all of the sights, sounds, and smells of your travels. One day you will have to write a novel.

    That was such a pleasure to read. I look forward to your next installment. :o)

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