Things got off to an auspicious start as I prepared to take a shower at Ted’s place. His three year-old daughter knocked on the bathroom door and was absolutely shocked when I opened it. Obviously she was expecting to see her dad so I’m not sure what she thought when an Asian guy opened the door. To her credit, she didn’t cry (although she was about to) and I was able to blurt out “Hi…I’m one of your dad’s friends” before escorting her down the stairs to a smiling Ted.
We made it to the appropriate meeting place on the outskirts of Ottawa’s Macdonald-Cartier International Airport in good time. Upon arriving, it was appropriate that the first person to greet me was my new friend (and bearer of good news) Ian. He asked me how things went in Regina and I thanked him for remembering. I thanked Ted for the ride and made my way into the hangar.
The delegation organizer gave me my credentials while government of Canada officials tagged my luggage. Then, I was invited to the reception area where over the next two hours I met many members of the delegation. I learned that I am one of 14 representatives from throughout the country chosen to go on this special trip. I began chatting with Josh (a campus minister from the University of Toronto) and we quickly hit it off realizing we had a few things in common. I joked to him that it was like Survivor…we had made our alliance in the first hour.
After a quick briefing in which we received our itineraries, we boarded the plane at 9:30am. The plane is one of five 757s that the Government of Canada uses. I found out that the one we were on is the back-up to the VIP plane – the one that the Prime Minister or Governor General usually fly on. Still, this plane was quite nice and I was happy to see that I had a centre row of four seats all to myself. We were given a few documents to read and then I fell asleep pretty much after take-off.
I thankfully awoke just in time for lunch – a delicious (especially by airplane standards) meal of steak, mashed potatoes, fruits, and veggies. After lunch, I was interviewed by CTV National News about my thoughts heading into the trip. I shared with them how I found out the good news about the trip and a few insights on what this crucial time of transition means for the Catholic Church.
In the funniest part of the segment (I hope it makes it to air), the reporter asked me if I’ve ever been to Rome before. I told her that I hadn’t, and that I was thrown off when I realized that all of the Euro bills are different sizes. When we were done, I apologized “if I talked too much.” The cameraman replied without missing a beat, “Don’t worry…it makes for good TV.”
Before returning to my seat, I told the reporter to come find me anytime during the trip if they wanted to speak to a good-looking Asian. As she laughed, I then added that I would help find her one.
On the plane I was able to meet more members of the delegation. I had the honour of meeting His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston – Governor General of Canada – and we actually had a pleasant, albeit quick, conversation. I thanked him for having me and then he thanked me for accepting the invitation and accompanying him. I stopped short of thanking him for thanking me.
I also met Her Excellency (David’s wife Sharon) and many members of parliament including Jason Kenney (Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism). It was a virtual who’s who on the plane: the Governor General and his wife, a Senator, government Ministers, commissioners, presidents, national heads, and one good-looking OYYAM director.
We arrived in Rome at 11:15pm…exactly as our itinerary had stated we would. As we disembarked we were met by many officials and then we were whisked away to our waiting motorcade. It was quite a remarkable experience racing through the streets of Rome while being escorted by local police.
We got to our beautiful hotel at midnite and after a bit of trouble figuring out how to turn on the lights in my room (I needed to insert my room key into another key reader), I started to unpack while trying to FaceTime Gail and the kids. I realized that I needed to obtain the Wi-Fi password from the front desk. As I approached the desk the employee didn’t even bother trying to speak Italian to me, instead asking “How may I help you?” in perfect English. Is my language deficiency that obvious?
A few of us took a quick walk around town and then I ended the night off with a quick drink with my new friend Josh in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day.
It’s now 4am (8pm Vancouver time) as I post this and we have breakfast available to us from 7am to 11am later this morning. Looks like another night of little sleep.
I can’t wait to see what tomorrow will bring!