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Canadian Connections

Last week, I was out with this German lady I have befriended, watching the first Germany match of Euro 2004.

Football Fever has hit the continent, you see, although I'm actually not a big fan of "soccer", I can't help myself when it comes to championships.

So, I was sitting there, trying to look really passionate about the game when all I could really keep my eyes on were the people in the bar (who were they cheering for? why did she choose that top? I wonder where they're from? did that guy just really spill his pint all over himself? what is the deal with the loud voice? oh right. football) when suddenly, I caught a glimpse of something red and white on a girl's purse.

She was a redhead - quite a full-head-of-hair redhead - and I thought she couldn't be anywhere but from Ireland.

But there it was, glaring up at me, all the points stretching up as high as they could as though to say "see me see me I am distinct"

It was a Canadian flag pin. On her purse. Whizzing past me as she walked to the bathroom.

Every Canadian who travels wears the flag with pride. And, yes, we have it on EVERY article we carry - bags, hats, shirts - if we can find it with a Maple Leaf, we buy it for abroad.

I was overcome with so much excitment! Because the pin was so small, I was unsure whether she was Canadian or whether she had visited and simply liked to have pins on her purse. I noticed 3 other pins but have no idea what they were as I was too entranced by the red and white.

I would ask her when she came back from the washroom - or toilet as they like to call it here.

I sat in such anticipation, I was surprised at even my own heart, racing, simply waiting to ask one simple question:

"Are you Canadian?"

When we lived in Leeds, I had only met one other Canadian girl. I had heard a lot about her through the people I worked with at the bar. She had been going to school in Leeds the year before and worked at the bar part time. I was nervous to meet her too.

But the first day she worked with me, she had a very non-chalant attitude towards the fact that I was also Canadian. She didn't seem like the friendly ones I know back home. And perhaps she was a bit "put out" that I stole her thunder. She was no longer a commodity. I was Canadian too.

It didn't help that I was very excited to meet her. I had been missing home, after being away for the first full two months, and I just wanted to chat with a familiar person. She was not it.

I did not meet any other Canadians after that day.

And besides Fitness Instructor - who actually would have been EXACTLY who I would have liked to have met in Leeds - I have not met any other Canadians in Belfast. I have heard of people how have relatives from Canada and neighbours from Canada but haven't actually "hung out" with any.

The point could be made: Why travel across the world just to hang out with Canadians? The short answer: because of the home-away-from-home feeling.

So when I thought this redhead, who looked about my age, might actually be from Canada, I was so overwhelmed that my heart was racing.

And my stomach kept flipping - waiting for her to come back through the door so I could ask her:

Are you Canadian?

And then, the moment arrived. "Excuse me.." I squeaked over the sound of the game.

But she walked right past, not hearing my request. I suppose "hey you" might have actually got her attention but my Canadian-politness would not let me get away with that.

I sat there annoyed, glancing over to where she was socializing with friends. Now what? Would I miss the opportunity to meet another one of my country-women? How was I supposed to concentrate on the game?

It didn't take long for her to walk past again - beer tends to do that - and so while I waited painstakingly again for her to come out of the bathroom, my jumpy stomach and beatin heart go all pumped up again.

This time, it was just "Excuse me" but also a pointing-come-hither hand jesture that made her first recoil in shock before approaching.

Out it came:

"Are you Canadian?"

A big grin grew on her face and next thing you know, I'm chatting about my small town! As if she would know where it was! What a small world. She's here for a year, her dad being from Belfast, just working and touring before heading back to Canada to do her Masters.

I was so happy when she walked away. I was able to watch the football with a overall feeling of bliss. I am always still shocked at how meeting Canadians can stir such grandiose emotions.

I felt so connected to this girl that awhile later, before we left, she came by our table again and I asked the question that I thought would be on any Canadian's mind this time of year:

"Do you know anything that's going on for Canada Day?"

She gave a bit of a shocked, blank stare.

"Ooooooo, Canada Day. When is that?"

WHAT?? WHAT WHAT WHAT WHAT? No, this can't be happeing. A CANADIAN not knowing when CANADA DAY IS!!!???

My smile now seemed like a goofy grin and my chuffed-ness seemed melodramatic. She was Canadian but she was nothing at all like the Canadians I know.

She attempted to recover by pointing out that it's been so long since she was home - she'd been here since November 2003. Mental note to self to check up on my memory of one of the the most important days in Canadian history - by the sounds of it I'll probably just start calling everyone American by this time next year. Canada? Oh, that sound vaguely familiar. I think I remember Canada...

So, reluctantly, I gave her my number, after she announced to my ute-self that we could have our own Canada Day party.

Needless to say, I'm not holding my breath on a phone call. At least not next Thursday.

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