At about 8am the bus stopped in the middle of the 170th Street in Edmonton. It looks like we are stuck on a freeway. We joked that it looks like the 10 freeway in Los Angeles. The Canadian driver understands our feelings. He used to lead tours to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena and experienced the crazy traffic of the city of Angels. This morning I had an extended chat with him and he says he does not like Halloween. He found out that people spend more money in costumes at this time of the year than on Christmas. He laments that. My friend Cynthia also disapproves the idea, but I know disapprovals don’t promote change, unless...well, that’s another story.
The Red Arrow bus is carrying eighteen of us, luggages with costumes, instruments plus our mascot, baby Keyan who turned six months in April. Taurus is his astrological sign, and that triggers a conversation about how stubborn the “Taurus personality” can be. We laughed while the bus now moves freely surrounded by early morning workers driving their Kias, Fords, Jeeps, and other types of cars.
I heard Alberta has a 65% immigrant population. There are Sri Lankan, Vietnamese, Chinese, Polish, Japanese, East African, Italian (of course) restaurants around here. Oh, did I mention the Ukrainian farm? A Lebanese man speaking Portuguese approached me at the hotel in McMurray one morning. He lived in Rio and I could see by his smile how happy he was to exchange few words. A group of Brazilians came to the show that night. They are working at the oil rig about two hours from Keyano Theatre and were thrilled to see us. The standing ovation was probably ignited by them.
On our way to the next stop we met a smiling Nova Scotia woman called Linda. Her brightest face made an impression on me. She has been working for a year as a General Supervisor of two lodges located an hour and a half from Fort McMurray (est.1795 and the fastest growing city in Canada). The lodges house people working for the oil refineries. Linda told my friend Cynthia that one day she went to a used bookstore in the middle of “nowhere prairie land” trying to find something to comfort her soul. She found a book about Buddhism that led her to more trips to the same bookstore. Every time she bought a book donated by the same person. This reminds me of the used book about philosopher Boethius I just bought at Amazon.com. I kept imagining what made the previous owner to underline certain passages.
We finally get to the Whitemud freeway going towards the airport. The driver asked us if we went to the West Edmonton Mall, but we didn’t have time for any sightseeing. To be honest, the only place I’d love to visit is the Jasper National Park that is about 4 hours northwest from here. The young girl who assisted me in the hotel gave me a brochure with gorgeous pictures of it and I gasped. Besides fishing, hiking, “Looking-for-moose-seeing,” and the usual attractions, there is a lake cruise to an island called Spirit. A perfect place to feed my soul. “Next time,” I say to myself.
Through the speakers we hear the driver tells us that the freeway 2 is now called Queen Elizabeth. I hear someone says: “So colonial.” We giggled. I wonder which politician had the idea to change the name. Talking about names, try to pronounce this word: Saskatchewan. I wonder if it is a Cree Indian nation name.
Overall, I feel like I’m still in the US. KFC, Pizzahut, Firestone, Starbucks, Sears. They are all here. Wendy’s was next door to another restaurant called Swiss Chalet that serves barbecued chicken. Their female waiters are all Chinese/Vietnamese. Go figure.
The crew at the Arden Theatre was sweet and they made us sound great. The piano at the rehearsal room was a little out of tune but helped me to warm up. I’m glad I brought the Throat Coat tea with me. In the middle of the previous show at Keyano Theatre, Vania, myself and the dancers found out we couldn’t produce saliva anymore. Water!
Eileen, our lighting designer, fell sick but did a great job regardless of feeling crappy most of the time during the trip.
I heard this was the first time the producer was bringing world dance to this theatre. He said we exceeded his expectations and by the way the audience responded, he will continue to introduce different cultures to his community in the future. Voila! I think this is called Success.
I know it’s hard to please everyone and the subject “food” is always challenging. My friend Laila didn’t like the food provided by the healthy Prairie Bistro, but I was very grateful for it. Talking about prairie, that’s pretty much what you see in Alberta’s province. I look at the dictionary. “Planície, pradaria, campina.” In the south of Brasil you call them “pampas.”
Finally I’m at the airport sitting beside a Buddhist nun. While I write my account of the trip she plays solitaire on her Notebook. I smile. We are all One. I truly believe it now.
Photo by Beto Gonzalez
Photo by Beto Gonzalez