Sunday, February 23, 2014

Sunday, February 23, 2014 - 2 comments

Poutine vs. Pickled Herring: The Shared Olympic Experience

I got up this morning with one thought on my mind:  Gold Medal Game.  The banners are made, the face paint and Red Mittens ready, and Jeff the Hockey Player (my little mascot) is sitting eagerly by the front door.  This is the day we take down the Swedes and defend our title.  (And our national pride!)  

I’m not normally a “check your email first thing” person, but during the Olympics, I play by different rules.  I opened my computer to see what sort of overnight smack-talk had appeared on my Facebook wall, and was greeted by the message:  “You are not connected to the internet.”  A flip of my light switch confirmed my worst fear:  NO ELECTRICITY!!!

I had to laugh at the irony.  A couple of years ago, I played an April Fools joke on an Indian friend here, telling him that I’d seen on the news that on the 1st, the day of a huge India-Sri Lanka cricket match that we all planned to watch together, there was going to be a city-wide power cut.  He laughed once he realized it was a joke, but then much to my horror, there was a massive thunderstorm that day and the power really DID go out where they live!  (Thankfully, we still had power at our house, so we just moved the party over here and my friend didn’t have to hate me forever.)

Were the electricity gods having a go with me?  Was this payback???

A desperate text to the friend at whose house we’re going to watch the game set my heart at ease.  They still have power.  Whew!  We can bake the mint Nanaimo bars.  We can cook the fries for the poutine.  We can watch our guys win the gold.

I’ve lived outside of my “passport country” of Canada for going on half my life now.  Half of that time away was spent in the States, and the other half has been in Turkey, still living mostly with Americans.  So, much as I love my country, it’s easy to feel “North American” in a general sense, or, perhaps more often, like a “citizen of the world.”  But during the Olympics, particularly when watching a hockey game, my red and white blood starts to pump through my veins.  It’s all about the maple leaf. 

My recent trip home gave me the chance to stock up on some “National Pride Snacks”, like these great maple leaf Ritz crackers.  I’d saved all my hockey banners from the 2010 Olympics, on a hunch they might come in handy, and they did.  :)  And with a stack of Canadian t-shirts in my closet, I’ve got my Olympic wardrobe all set.

These last two weeks, I’ve been so incredibly grateful for things like (mostly constant) electricity, the internet, texting, and Facebook.  I’m not normally a “glued to my phone” person (I don’t even have internet on it - gasp!), but during the Olympics, technology has allowed me to be connected with the world - to be a part of something happening hundreds of miles away and share the experience with my countrymen thousands of miles away. 

During the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, we watched everything on Eurosport.  We were the only ones of our friends with a satellite dish, so our house became Olympic Party Central.  This time around, the only station covering it was a local one, and they are happy to drop Sochi the moment there is a football game, so it’s kind of unreliable.  (Besides that, Turks don’t exactly make for the most lively curling commentators!)  But thanks to live coverage on I got to join with the rest of Canada in screaming for joy when Jennifer Jones and the girls guided the last stone to gold and holding our breath in awe as Scott and Tessa danced and glided to their silver.  (And thanks to Google Amca - Uncle Google -   the answer to “What in the world is a ‘twizzle’?” was right at my fingertips!)

Trying to follow the hockey puck on a tiny laptop screen isn’t the easiest thing in the world, so much of our Olympic viewing has taken place at our friends’ house on their big screen TV.  Thanks to having a VPN, we can decide between Canadian and British coverage.  (CBC has annoying commercials, but a British voice doing the play-by-play for hockey is just...unnatural.)  We’ve become big fans of the BBC’s snowboarding commentators.  They’re seriously more entertaining than the events.  (Classic quote when a French snowboarder got some incredible amplitude:  “He had time to serve an inflight meal up there!!!)

Being able to watch things online is great for those days when you have to actually work during events (!) cuz you can catch up on what you missed later.  The tricksy flipside is that everyone else has already seen what you’re watching, and it becomes unsafe to turn on the computer or answer your phone.  Text messages are carefully ignored, hands used to block all portions of the screen that might give something away, and calls started with, “Don’t tell me anything, I haven’t watched the game yet!!”

The night of the intense gold medal women’s hockey game between the States and Canada was a classic example of this. We started watching the first period when the live game had just eight minutes left in the third.  Immediately, my phone began to buzz - harassment from my American friends in other places, no doubt.  I purposely didn’t look, not wanting to burst that delicious bubble of suspense as we watched our girls MIRACULOUSLY bring the game up from 2-0 to a 2-2 tie in the last three minutes of regulation time.  Only when Marie-Philip Poulin scored that incredible goal in sudden death overtime did I look at my phone and revel in my Yankee friends’ glum messages of defeat.  (And, yes, I did a fair bit of gloat-texting myself!)

Hockey, as we all know, BELONGS to Canada.  It’s what we do.  So, obviously, there was a lot riding on the men’s semi-final against our age old rivals, the USA.  One would go to the gold medal game, and one would go home with a bronze, at best.  The night of the game, I was people out from too many Olympic gatherings, so I opted to watch it at home alone.  But the great part about technology is that, while I got to have my “introvert recharge time”, I wasn’t really “alone” at all.  A group of American and Swedish friends were all watching the game together in another city, and all three periods were punctuated by smack-texts back and forth with the Americans and messages of fear and trembling from the Swedes, who quickly realized they would be facing us in the gold medal game.  And then, after we soundly defeated our rivals, the message light on my phone and the little red Facebook notification button were flashing the rest of the night with conversations like these:

Swede:  We’re taking you DOWN on Sunday!
Me:  Just like you took us down in curling?  Oh, wait.....  :)
Swede:  Blah, blah, blah, whatever.
Me:  Abi (big brother), it’s ON!

Today I’ll be watching the game with a Canadian, his half-Canadian kids and his American wife (who becomes an honourary Canadian for the Olympics) as well as a smattering of other Americans and an Indian, who might just decide to spice things up and cheer for the underdog.  It’s Poutine vs. Pickled Herring, and my Swedish friends and I are ready to face off.  The poutine will be hot, the texts flying, the national pride so thick you can taste it.  It's on.

To all of you back home who have set your alarms for 4:00 AM to get up and cheer, I’m proudly waving my flag along with you from over here.  (Though in a slightly less bleary-eyed state, I’m sure!)  

We are the True North Strong and Free.  
We are Winter.  


Nedtryckt i fotsulorna är vi. Gömmer oss bakom fotöljen...
Det är bara att säga grattis och ladda inför revanchen om fyra år. Tills dess kan ni glädja er över våra duktiga stjärnor som kommer och slipar era NHL-spelare.

Google Translate has me finding a compliment in there somewhere....but what could "pressed in the soles" possibly mean?? :) Y'all were worthy opponents. Happily face off against you in four years! :) (And we'll also happily take the Sedin brothers back home to Vancouver!) :)