I jumped at the chance to do something novel on the weekend and to wear the red and white outfit I hadn’t worn since Canada Day. I had become complacent in my adventure to experience all that Barbados has to offer. Surfing is exciting and spending time with friends is wonderful, yet I haven’t left the South coast for several weeks. I can brush it off and say that I have been busy with work. But I had also lost my curiosity, something that I had been mindful to foster here.
The opportunity to see polo presented itself. Not any match – Barbados vs. Canada. I have never been to a polo match. The closest connection I can make to the sport is the Ralph Lauren jerseys that I wore as a fashion statement in the early 90s. I can tell you that it was fascinating to watch. I have traditionally played sports that involve me and one other object, namely a ball. Like hockey and lacrosse, polo adds a stick, a mallet. Unlike any other team sport that I have seen, it adds a live animal to the equation. The grace and speed to which the players rode the horses was incredible.
I couldn’t convince anyone to go with me and was apprehensive. I figured, if I am planning to fly all the way to Bali next month by myself, I can surely go solo to a sporting event. [As it played out, I met people there I knew and had a wonderful afternoon and evening.]
There was something drawing me there. Besides having a new experience, I wanted to hear the Canadian national anthem. I never paid attention to it before I lived overseas. The first time I went to a baseball game in Toronto, after returning from England, I cried when they played “Oh Canada.” A complete shock to me, I got chocked up and had to stop singing, as the tears escaped down my cheeks. It said to me, you are proud to be Canadian and you are home.
I am the Canadian that sews the flag on her backpack. I like being identified as a Canadian. This morning, as I sat on the water surfing, I spoke to a guy while we waited for the next set of waves. He is Canadian, from “outside of Toronto,” which is what you say to someone that is not from Ontario. Milton, he said. I visited my aunt and uncle and cousins there for decades. I told him that I was from London; turns out his wife is from there, in fact Byron, just around the corner from where I grew up in Lambeth. I explained to him that I didn’t go to high school there, but in Goderich. He has a cottage just down the road in Bayfield. How is it that I am half-way around the world and this man knows all the places that were my home. He is Canadian.
Before I went to the polo match, Kate said to me, “It’s win-win for you today! As an honorary Bajan, you can celebrate either way.” So, it is after a year and a half in Barbados. I am aching to leave but also anxious to depart from the place that has brought me so much joy and peace. I will be returning to both Canada and Barbados this summer, and I am excited about that.
I travel on one of the most coveted passports in the world. Canadians are regarded all over as friendly, humble, and kind. Maybe the Canadian flag reminds me that I will be looked after as a traverse the globe, just as the national anthem reminds me that I will cherish my home when I come back.
What are the things that tell you that you are proud of where you are from, or the country that you associate most deeply?
Speaking of being proud to be a Canadian, my friend Vanessa (another Canadian I met in Barbados), dropped her new single. One Pill by Goodnight Sunrise. Rockstar!!