A person can learn a lot from three days in the nation’s capitol. I’m doing some interesting but unusual work for Natural Resources Canada, and it will take me to Ottawa fairly regularly for the next while. 2 mornings of running along the canal and 3 days of meetings generated a lot of learning opportunities for me. I’ve distilled them below, for your reading and learning pleasure. Enjoy!
Cab drivers can be amazing! Rory asked me if being in Ottawa improved my sense of nationalism. I told him it did, all because of a conversation I had with a cab driver. My driver was originally from Lebanon, hadn’t been home in years and missed it terribly. But his son is going to graduate from med school this summer, and his daughter is already a lawyer. He told me that coming to Canada gave his children a future, and he is so proud to live here. Chatting with him made me proud to be Canadian.
Eating alone in a fancy restaurant can be fun. Too often those of us who travel a lot spend our time ordering room service and working while we eat. This visit, I ended up going out alone to a wonderful Italian restaurant, Mama Theresa’s. It was busy with couples and groups, and as I sat at my table, people looked at me with curiosity and a perhaps a dash of pity. That is, until the waiter brought me a free glass of chianti, and waited on me as if I was the most important patron in the entire place. And as I sat sipping my wine, I couldn’t help but listen to the woman sitting behind me talk to her dining companion about her parents. They had moved from Budapest to Belleville in the 1950s, and she was so proud of their brave decision to leave home. It put tears in my eyes. I might have missed that had I been with other company.
Civil service working conditions are not glamorous. I spent one day moving from meeting to meeting, bouncing between cubicle to small, windowless boardrooms. The next day, I was in a government building that was built in the 1700s (I am only speculating here) and was filled with dust, darkness and mildew. The folks I am working with are vibrant, interesting and motivated people who have to do their work under these challenging conditions. If you work for private industry, you’d never have to work in conditions like that. These folks believe strongly in what they do to put up with those conditions.
Runners in Ottawa are TANKS! Either that, or I am one serious wimp. Each morning, I ran out to the canal and danced over the icy trails, wearing my IceBugs (http://icebugcanada.com/). I wore winter running tights, jacket, a wool cap and mitts. The Ottawa runners wore ¾ length spring tights, little ball caps and had bare hands! Perhaps living in the nation’s capital forces you to toughen up more than the rest of us. I was duly impressed.
Smiles are infectious. Running along the canal, most runners keep their faces turned inward. Not me. My experiment involved smiling, no, beaming at everyone who dared make eye contact with me. Each and every runner I saw smiled back. Then the guards who work security in the government buildings? I grinned at all of them. Most of them now think I am certifiable. But by the end of my second day, I had a new friend behind the security desk who loved Stompin’ Tom and offered to be my escort in the building. Smiles are a valuable commodity. Use them well and use them often.
So when in Ottawa, listen to your cab drivers, eat alone, be vibrant, respect the toughness of runners and above all, smile!!!