2. Canada – The Awe of a Child

Do you remember the first time you rode the public bus? I was in Winnipeg, Canada. My eyes grew wide as I pulled the cord for every person who’s stop we approached. All those sharing the brief city drive had been quick to see my star-struck look. Humoring my innocence, each rider motioned to me with a smile on their face and a finger in the air. Another pluck of the coated wire string made the light go on and the bus bell ting. This experience, among many others, allowed me to cling to the wonder of a child and be respected for it. To those strangers I am grateful.

Canada. Country two. My grandma “Gucca” was from Manitoba. I was eleven when my grandparents took me, my sister, and two cousins on the five hour drive north from the family farm in Minnesota to Winnipeg. If the officers asked why we were taking so many boxes of cigarettes across the border, I was to pretend both Papa and Gucca smoked. In reality, they were trying to save a couple bucks for our relatives. Such a classy gift for our hosts. Oh, the nineties. Our mission, in addition to visiting family, was to attend the 1999 Pan American games…

The entire city seemed to celebrate its honor of hosting some 5,000 international athletes in their respective 35 competing sports. Volleyball our main interest, we filed into the newly constructed stadium and eagerly leaned into the energy of the court and crowd. My sister and I still reminisce on the chants between Cuba and Brazil. It was the first time we heard them pronounced in their native tongues… “Coo-Ba!” “Brra-Siwl!”

Besides the thrill of sitting in a stadium with passionate sports fanatics from around the world, one daytrip we made was to the renowned Forks Market for some perusing.

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Forks Market – Photo: Boris Minkevich/Winnipeg Free Press

Walking into this historic gem was polar opposite to any shopping mall I’d ever entered at my preteen state. Vendors reached across booths with flying hands to give out samples, wave onlookers over, receive payments. Vibrant flowers, eye catching trinkets, and the sultry smell of fresh breads and spices delighted the senses. Colorful world flags hung from above, another display of the pride of the sports spectacle at hand. This photo above displays a quiet day at The Forks – the community enjoying the simplicity of its significant presence in their town. On that summer day in 1999, we sauntered through bustling businesses, bumping into shoppers right and left, simply wowed by such a vivacious and beautiful centre. It was okay to just stop and stand and be in awe… when really, creativity and passion should do that to a soul.

Why is it so hard to be stilled by wonderment as we age and “grow up?”

Since that vacation in Canada, I have certainly succumbed at various points to the hustle and bustle of the beckoning adult world. But in 2009, I made a deliberate choice to attempt to see the world through the eyes of a child again.

Some of the most memorable things done by uninhibited children even make it on a list:

  1. Children often stop walking alongside their parent mid-sentence for ten paces only to sprint with concentration to catch up.
  2. They stand legs spread, belly out, and mouth open – observing the world around them, completely unaware (and unconcerned) that anyone is paying attention to their stance.
  3. Kids resort to swinging their zip up around in circles over their head when they tire of wearing it.
  4. They pick their nose when something is in the way – (same goes for wedgies).
  5. Eating means putting an entire handful into your face and gnawing at whatever gets close to your mouth; hunger knows no vanity.
  6. They tell strangers they like their necklace… or their puppy… or their wheelchair… just to say something positive and hopeful and kind. [They say a lot of awkward things, too, but today let’s just throw on those rose colored glasses].

Trying to maintain this fresh and inquisitive outlook on life is no easy task, but it helps me laugh freely, love generously, and dare greatly. Sparkling leftovers of the child within who gazed at an open space shopping centre in Winnipeg is what makes me look up at the circus tent like ceiling of the Denver International Airport and giggle to myself as I imagine courageous flying trapeze artists and extravagantly dressed performers walking their tightropes. I have to go through the security line like everyone else – and I’d rather be entertained than angry. Memories of carefree days become real again when I dance in the rain or lay in the grass and watch clouds become illustrations of the storybook called Sky. When you consider yourself to be in awe, where does that inspiration come from for you?

Ten years and a lifetime later, still very much a child, I found myself on the second international adventure of my journey.. country number three; this time on the opposite side of the globe.

Read more about Thirty by Thirty here


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