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Reports

Wednesday, 9 April 2003
Ottawa --> Ontario, Canada (day 3)

At 7 o’clock this morning I got up and immediately dressed myself in my sporting suits and jogging shoes. Then in the living room I joined the family who were getting ready for a very traditional thing in the family: the early morning birthday celebration.
It was Anita’s turn today, as she became 17-years-old. It was interesting to see this family all cheered up at 7.30 in the morning, Anita blowing candles and cutting red velvet cake. I couldn’t stop rubbing my eyes…

But there are more traditions in this family: the morning sport! After I had to say goodbye to Kern, who was off to his work, Mary and Anita took me along to the Soloway Community Centre in town. This Jewish centre has a big sporting centre and that is the place to be early in the morning for both of my hostess. The SCC is a big complex where they facilitate a wide bunch of things: there is an aquatic centre, sporting centre, pre-school, café, library, athletic centre, and etcetera.

I had to sign myself in as a visitor before I could join in with Mary and Anita at the fitness centre. It has been a long while since I have been doing any fitness like this. Five minutes on that step-machine already gets me out of breath, but then again I should be doing much more running in Canada.

It was interested to see other people run on those treadmills machines and while they were working on their health and life they were watching CNN who showed in four different screens how Baghdad was being overpowered by the American army.

Today was the day that the statue of Saddam Hussein was toppled over in the centre of Baghdad, Iraq.

One lady was listing to the sound through her headphones (the sound of the tv was turned off, people can listen through a fm-frequency) and she kept saying “Oh my God, oh my God,” while covering her heart. I almost thought I would have to remind her that she should either stop running or stop watching TV to stay alive!

But then again, lots of people of the Jewish community have relatives living in the Middle-East and they will sense any news from there, differently than any North American or European would do.

Meanwhile Mary was really pumping iron, going from one fitness equipment thingy to another. Anita and I kept a bit more slower on this all. Her line actually is: “I don’t want to look too strong.” I actually have to remember that one!

At 10.30am Anita was dropped off at school. Mary wanted to take a photograph of me giving a hug to Anita, but instead I pulled her up with my new strength and took her all the way to the doorstep of the school. Seemingly blushing Anita said goodbye.

Now, it felt as I had already lived an entire day, it was time to meet up with my next host. Back home I packed my bags and Mary was happy to bring me to the meeting point in town.

This was actually the highly secured CBC building in town! Remember that video reporter that filmed us yesterday? Well, Paul Morisset had invited me to stay for a day a long time ago, too!

And it was of course very understandable that he would love to run a report about my travels while I hit Ottawa. I met up with him right as he was editing the report about my days with Mary Doerksen for tonight’s local edition of the current affair show “Canada Now”.

It was fun to walk around there at the news desk, where they acknowledged that history was written today. And of course I had to hang around on the studio set and sit on the places where the news anchors sit every night.

Paul has been a video journalist aka video producer for the CBC all his life, and he’s been around quite a long time. He once heard me on the CBC Radio, when I was interviewed while I was travelling through South Africa. I can conclude that many Canadians have heard that interview!

Paul can hardly see the reports he makes as they are broadcast on television, because at that time there is new news to be filmed. Let’s say, Paul is a hardcore man. We were not able to see the broadcast of that report about Mary Doerksen on television, but he would get me a copy anyway.

During this broadcast we were already on the way to a new filming assignment in Kanata, which is kind of a suburb south of Ottawa. In the car he tells me about his own hitchhiking odysseys around Europe, the USA and Canada.

“That was way back in the 60s. I had shoulder long hair back then,” he laughs.

He tells me the story of hitchhiking just out of Amsterdam. “At that time, it was in the summer of ’69, everybody hitchhiked to get around. But there I was standing along the highway with some forty others and they all looked a bit strange at me. I discovered it was quite unique to have a sign saying ‘München’ (Munich, Germany – in English) while everybody else just had to go to the next town from Amsterdam.”

And soon we were sharing all kinds of stories about being on the road. “Like this time in Knoxville, Tennessee (USA), where a driver took me along, but he only had a few stops to make on the road. It ended up that I got a lift from a drug dealer! As it was during the hippie time, I of course enjoyed that ride very much, haha.”

In Kanata Paul had to report on this quite unique performance by the Kanata Children's Chorus. This coming weekend they would perform for a church full of people and the news fact was that they weren’t just going to sing ordinary songs.

The composer Dr. James Wright of Ottawa has encouraged young children to write a poem on the paintings by the famous Canadian painters known under the name The Group of Seven. Dr. Wright than composed music to this poetry and made it all into a song for the chorus to sing. Quite unique huh?

So there I joined Paul on his mission at the Bridlewood Community Church of the Nazarene in Kanata. It might have looked that I was Paul’s assistant. From journalism school I know my portion about cameras and I think I did a good job as the light- and cable boy too.

Paul interviewed some of the poetry writing children and spoke with the composer and the director of the chorus.

While the choral group would start practicing around 8pm themselves, Paul and I were invited with Dr. Wright and (I presume) his wife Barbara to join dinner at their place in Kanata. We drove through suburban streets with them, had lasagne and a good salad and pretty soon got back to the church again.

It was very enthralling to see a choir of young children in the age of 8 to 14 on that stage, also being directed very professionally by their choral director. I was very impressed with the entire production of the paintings, portrait on the background, the poetry kids had written and the song that finally came out of it.

Around 9.30pm Paul had enough material. Even though he spoke with many people, made lots of shots of the choir, he knew he had to edit this all down to a report of barely two minutes for tomorrow’s show.

In the car to his house in Ottawa we both concluded that he was basically living a similar life as I was doing. Every day is a report, and every next day you have to edit this report. Paul edits movie material and I edit brain material and it both ends in a report. And you know what, that same day your get new material to report about tomorrow. And that just goes on and on…

At his house I met up with his wife Joyce. We drunk coffee and ate coconut macaroons, warm from the oven, at their kitchen table. Joyce is immigration lawyer on disability leave. So pretty soon we were talking about immigrants. She used to work a lot with refugees from Somalia and she thinks that every person from Somalia should be able to get asylum in another country, because that country is just so messed up. “There is no real government, they have clans. And the clans are fighting together for centuries.” And pretty soon we got involved into heavy political discussions about the current situation of the world.

That was pretty interesting. To get an idea on how that was going, you can take the discussions on the letmestay-forum about ‘the US versus the UN versus the rest of the world’ as a good example.

I had my bed in their computer room where I got online on their dialup account through the CBC to update my reports. Tomorrow I am leaving Ottawa again…

Good night Ottawa!

Ramon.