Monday, January 1, 2007

Vancouver International Foosball Tournament

This year, to ring in the New Year, I watched 8 episodes of "24" in a row, and scarfed down the remaining christmas cookies. Needless to say, it was indulgent. Last year was more worthy of my first post:

With pots and pans, smoking colts, and gin and tonics, we stood on the dim-lit front steps hollering “Happy New Year”. Firecrackers popped, Auld Lang Syne could be heard faintly, and from across the street three revellers were running around the block towing luggage behind them.

“What are you doing?” I asked, more coherently than expected.

“It’s a Venezuelan tradition,” he shouted back in his spirited Spanish accent, then crossed Commercial Street to join us, “Happy New Year!”

Shaking hands and sharing cigars led to an invite inside for an informal foosball game. Their five-crowd party moved into our five-crowd party and soon the “Vancouver International Invitational Foosball Tournament” had begun.

Team Canada took on Team Venezuela with a quick match (in true Canadian form, losing teams had to down a shot of Jack Daniels). Next up, Team Asia. Between the ten of us, there were representatives from Venezuela, Chile, Japan, China, Korea, Germany, Czech Republic and Indonesia. I was the only home grown Vancouverite.

It didn’t take too many shots of J.D. for the tournament of skill to degenerate and turn into a lively discussion around an after-midnight snack of fresh-made salsa and chips, hoisin infused chicken wings and Saltspring Island Blackberry Port.

“I love Vancouver,” exclaimed Juan Paulo passionately, who asks us to call him JP. JP and his new friends were in Canada to learn English.

“What is the best thing you like about it?” probed Antonio from Chile/Canada.

Without hesitation, “safety,” stated Team Venezuela in unison. “You could not run in the streets at home and expect to be safe – you have to always watch around you and know where and when to go.”

“Everyone is open and friendly” adds the quiet goalkeeper from Japan. “In Japan you can not just talk to strangers. You have to meet people through other people.”

“It’s so good,” says JP, “I meet people here and they learn I am into Ultimate. Right away, they invite me to come along and play with them. Immediately, they are friendly. It’s the best. Or when I go to Commercial Drive to watch a soccer match. All the men are friendly and we cheer together.”

With ongoing media reports throughout 2005 of gun fire, crystal meth, political mayhem, Walmart, escalating housing costs, poverty, and auto thefts, it was refreshing to speak to representatives from other parts of the world who came here, the place voted “best city to live” in the world, and reminded us of the positive aspects of Vancouver.

The hardest part of being in Vancouver is learning about cultural differences, they all shared.

“We have to watch our slang,” JP adds. “We don’t want to insult anyone. Just as an example, the hang loose sign means let’s go surfing in Canada, but in South America, when you move it rapidly away from your body, back and forth, it means let’s have sex.”

“And in Indonesia, it means the number six,” Kelly offers.

JP holds his thumb and pointer finger in a circle, with his other fingers fanned out, “In Canada, this means ‘okay’, but at home, when you turn it upside down, it means you are gay.”

With a few quick gestures I invite everyone to go surfing, have sex six times and that is it okay to be gay.

As the evening progressed my energy recharged. I sat back in my smoky-blue couch and absorbed the multiple languages as they wafted about the room. I could taste the passion and salsa induced spirit in the room – spirit for Vancouver. Our Vancouver; how fortunate we are.

Perhaps this year, instead of anxiously booking trips abroad to learn more about this world, we should resolve to be a bit kinder to strangers, open our doors more often, and invite the world to share a bit more of them with us. One foosball game at a time.

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