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Byzantine monastery

 
 


 

 
 


 


Street scene in Nicosia

 
 


 

 
 


 



Street scene in Nicosia

Post of the Month:

Ottawa
Northern Exposure

Click on any of the pictures to see a larger size with captions.



By Bernard F. "Buck" Shinkman
The author is the press spokesman in Ottawa.


"I'll take 'WHA [Western Hemispheric Affairs] Geography' for 100, Alex."

"The answer is: this country has seven posts and stretches across six time zones."

"Uh, what is Russia?"

"Oh, noooo. Russia's not in WHA. The answer is CANADA!"

"OK, 'WHA Geography' for 200."

"The answer is: if you serve in this foreign capital, you're closer to Washington, D.C., than you would be in Detroit or Chicago."

"Uh, wait, wait, I know it. What is Nassau, Bahamas?"

"Nope, sorry. Once again, it's CANADA!"

"'WHA Geography' for 300, Alex."

"The answer is: this country is the largest supplier of energy to the United States."

"That's tricky. The question is: What is Venezuela?"

"Nope, wrong again [quiet, supercilious chuckle]--
for the third time in a row. It's CANADA."

"OK, 'WHA Geography' for 400, Alex."

"A posting to this country makes the phrase 'overseas assignment' an oxymoron."

"Got it! American Samoa."

"Nope [look of quiet disbelief], it's CANADA."

"OK, Alex, last try. I'll take 'WHA Geography' for 500."

"In 1814, the British burned the White House in retaliation for the U.S. burning of this Ontario city."

"Got it: What is New Orleans?"

Americans may be excused--but not forgiven--for not knowing the details of our extraordinary relationship with our neighbor to the north. The statistics are quite staggering. There are about 200 million annual border crossings--northbound and toward the south--across our joint 5,000-plus-mile border. Bi-lateral trade last year amounted to more than $1 billion a day. Not only is Canada far and away our largest trading partner, until recently our second largest trading partner was the province of Ontario. Only after that come Mexico, China and Japan. We trade more with Canada than with the entire European Union.

Yet trade is not what we Americans think of when we think of Canada. Handsome, trustworthy Mounties in red serge uniforms on horseback. Lots--that's LOTS--of snow. And friendly people. Canada routinely comes out at the top of the list when Americans are queried as to what country they feel has the nicest people.

Yes, Ottawa is the second coldest capital in the world (after Ulan Bato) and all of the above is true, but that is so much less than the entirety of our relationship. Canada is wider than the contiguous United States and carries every bit of the variety which that geography connotes.

The United States now has six Consulates General in Canada (Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Montreal, Quebec City and Halifax). Consul General Mike Bellows at the Embassy in Ottawa says his staff estimates that up to 20 percent of Canadian citizens may have some claim to American citizenship. Ten-to-one is the ratio most often used when comparing the U.S. and Canada: the Canadian economy is about one-tenth the size of ours. The population of Canada is about 30 million--about one-tenth of the U.S. population. Ninety percent of those Canadians live within 100 miles of the U.S. border.

It also has the wonderful richness of Francophone culture and history. Drive through Montreal or Quebec City. Everyone's in a Ford or Chevy or Mazda or Honda, just like in comparably sized U.S. cities, but the shop signs are all in French or French and English, the shopkeepers all speak French, and the restaurants don't advertise their "French cuisine" or "French style." They are French restaurants. In fact, just off the eastern coast of Canada is the island grouping of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon. It's not a colony of France, it's not a protectorate--it IS France.

Canada's political culture stems from entirely different roots than does ours. We fought a revolution to separate from England. The Canadians moved peacefully to develop their own style of relationship with the mother country. The Queen is still their head of state. Canada's Commonwealth ties enable it to move through diplomatic hot spots around the world with an ease not always available to the sole remaining superpower. Canada's global peacekeeping role in recent decades has won it universal acclaim. And, although Canada's defense bud-get has suffered in recent years, the reputation of its armed forces remains high.

While many countries have substantial lists of bilateral issues of importance, none have the degree of overlap shared by Canada and the United States. But, among the broad panoply of areas of cooperation, there are thorns--some of them quite sharp. The challenge to deal with these few, high-impact conflicts is a constant in embassy life.

Embassy staff now occupy a new state-of-the-art, steel and stone building (see related story on page 12). It is the talk of Ottawa and of the international architectural community. Few embassy staff have worked in such dramatic surroundings. Moving is never easy--Foreign Service employees know that--but even the dislocations involved in this move are overwhelmed by the stunning new surroundings.


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Embassy community reviews an excated Sphinx

 
 


 

 
 


 


Ambassador Kenneth Brill and Family.