9700 Jasper Avenue

Canada happened to me this morning at a red light at about 7:46 am on the corner of Jasper Ave. and 101 St. in the rain in Edmonton.

"Do you need help getting somewhere?" I asked.

9700 Jasper Avenue?
She had been standing on the corner while others shuffled by. She was holding a white sheet that had a Google map printed on it, and she was looking down, looking up, stepping, stopping, unsure. I was on my bike, stopped at the curb by the traffic light, waiting to pedal the last two blocks to work.

I had been thinking thoughts that sometimes invade me at red lights. Petty grievances. Imagined conversations with real and imagined adversaries. Things I should have said yesterday. Or 15 years ago. A holiday next week. That oil slick in a puddle on the road. Michael Walters taking his instructions from Lorne Gunter in leading the charge to remove bike lanes. Still the wrong time on the clock outside Starbucks.

"It's 9700 Jasper Avenue," she said, snapping me back, smiling nervously, showing me the map on which the address was written, pointing at it. "That is where I am going."

My first answer was wrong: "That's the Shaw Conference Centre." No, I thought, even address number equals north side of avenue and Shaw is more on the south side. Yes: "You're looking for Canada Place."

"Yes, Canada Place," she said.

"I'll take you there."

We started walking. My pace was longer and faster even with the bike, and she skipped to keep up, laughing with her teeth showing. We talked about the weather and the lashing rain overnight.

"I couldn't sleep last night with the rain storm," I said.

"Me, too. I was very excited."

But not because of the rain, I sensed.

The woman I was walking with was on her way to a second-floor office at Canada Place where she would get the official documents that would make her, finally, a permanent resident in Canada. This dark cloud day was no match for the joy inside her. For four years she had been waiting for this day. It would now be easier to bring her son to this country, a son she hadn't seen in two years. It would now be easier for her to work again as a nurse. It would now be easier.

"Where are you from?"

"The Philippines."

"So, you like Pacquiao?"

She laughed.

"Boxing is very big in the Philippines."

Canada Place hug!
We walked and talked and at 9700 Jasper Ave. I said, here you are.

"My name is Glenn," I said. "What is your name?"

"Geraldine."

She gave me a hug and I said welcome to Canada and she disappeared into a line of people walking into Canada Place, part of the crowd.


I knew it would be the best part of my day, and it was. Surprised by joy.

This morning I met Geraldine, just when I needed to.






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