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Friday, September 13, 2013

Hockey in three languages

Pictured above: the boys from Spain and China meet the animals.

We gained another temporary son last week. Martin, who hails from a seaside community on the northern coast of Spain, is living with us for the month of September. Upon arrival, Martin, a slim handsome boy with brown hair, brown eyes and braces on his teeth put his hands lightly on my shoulders and kissed one of my cheeks, then the next. “Nice to meet you,” he said, in the sweetest Spanish accent.
It soon became apparent that Martin’s English was quite advanced. He was here not to study but to experience. Unlike our Chinese boy John who is from the big city, Martin is from a village of “5,000 people in summer, and only a few people in winter.” His father is a pediatrician and his mother an OB-GYN. He has no idea what he wants to do when he grows up. I told him he has time. He is 14 years old, in Grade 9.
The first week was a bit exhausting as school began the day after Martin arrived. Although his English is quite good, when thrown into an English world it is still stressful and tiring to communicate and understand at times.
While our Chinese son John is thoroughly plugged in with his new Canadian SIM card in his beloved i-Phone, so that he can talk on We-Chat (a Chinese version of Skype) at any hour of the day, Martin only uses his phone to play a couple of video games or listen to music. And he doesn’t go near the computer. He spends his time at home in Spain playing basketball, football (soccer) and riding his bicycle. We spent his first evening here looking at his family photos of trips they have taken all over Europe. But it was the photos of his seaside village near Bilboa that most intrigued me. I have my eye on one of those beach houses and would love to visit one day.
On the evening of the first day of school, we packed Martin and his good friend Michal and John with his best friend Jerry in the back of the Explorer and headed off to the Ottawa 67s game. They had never seen a live game of hockey before. Not exactly a frequent spectator myself, I had to call my sister for advice on wardrobe. She confirmed that although it was quite warm outside, we would need long pants and sweaters and maybe a blanket too. I grabbed one small lap blanket for each boy and although they looked at me strangely, they certainly appreciated it when they first walked into the rink and drew a breath of icy air.
“It doesn’t get this cold in Spain,” one of the boys said. I told him I thought it probably did, as they had a light dusting of snow in winter; about the same amount as Vancouver, and Qingdao, for that matter.
From the first few bars of the national anthem to the last slash at the puck in the first period, the boys barely took their eyes off the ice. It was kind of surreal hearing the same sort of exclamation in English, Spanish and Chinese every time someone slammed into the boards.
On the intermission, I turned around to notice John and Jerry had disappeared. Then I heard a bit of a ruckus in the hall going down to the changerooms. They had been stopped by a security guard at the door. I retrieved them and told them to tell me before they go wandering again but when paired with someone who speaks their language I sort of disappear into the mist.
I recognized Coach Brian “Killer” Kilrea and told him I remember going to the 67s games with my father. Dad’s favourite players were the scrappers, of course, and I reminded the retired coach of Lance Galbraith, one of the best. He also remembered the Farmer’s cousin Mark Paterson, who he said was one of the toughest guys on the team in the 80s.
After the game Coach Kilrea made a point of coming right over to our group to ask the boys how they liked their first hockey game. I thought that was pretty nice. It will definitely be an experience they take home with them and remember for years to come.
Now they all want to buy hockey jerseys to hang on their bedroom walls. I’m going to push the Senators brand.

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