I was in Addis the other day and dropped in on the Canadian Embassy. My official purpose was
to make an appeal for money for computers. But I could have done that with a letter. My real
reason for my visit was to take a break from Ethiopia - enjoy a bit of transplanted Canada.
As I approached the gate, my embassy fantasy got more and more elaborate. Perhaps the ambassador
would greet me at the gate with a hug? We could visit their in-house Tim Hortonís for a
double-double and a toasted bagel. Play with their well-fed puppies and toss a few snowballs? A
fountain bubbling with maple syrup?
As you might guess, it did not turn out that way. On my first visit, I got as far as the
reception room and was told to come back the next day-OK, OK, I didnít have an appointment but
gee-whiz, this is Africa - no one makes appointments! But of course, Iím in a little piece of
Canada and should have known better.
The embassy building is a modest 2-storey building with lots of windows. The building is
centred on a grassy compound, probably 3-4 acres in size. As I walked through the gardens and
approached the building, I was struck by a wave of nostalgia. Was it the large Canadian flag
flapping in the wind that was reminding me of home? Nope-it was a blaring lawn mower. What??? With
probably a billion goats living in Ethiopia, this is the first lawn mower I have seen in over six
The reception room was very clean and very empty - no hubbub whatsoever. All the chairs worked. A
large map of Canada on the wall. Photos of the Queen, Jean Cretien and Adrienne Clarkson. A
large bookshelf full of pamphlets in both official languages. Beside the pamphlets, a door to
a pristine sit-down toilet. They have thought of everything - even providing reading material
while you spend some quality time on a Canuck crapper.
I returned the next day and met with the First Secretary, Jacynthe Rivard. Ms. Rivard has
spent several years in Ethiopia and was quite interesting to chat with. Her response to my
donation request, however, was a whole lot of, "...not our area of focus..." with a
sprinkling of, "...no budget..." and "...perhaps the Japanese can help you". Canada, it would
appear, has at least one thing in common with Ethiopia - a government with plenty of reasons on
why they canít help you.
But my visit was not entirely in vain. On my way out the door, Ms. Rivard gave me a roll of
glossy posters for Vancouverís 2010 winter olympic bid. The "Sea-to-Sky" games now have the
staunch support of all our new friends in snowless Awassa.