Posted on May 18, 2006


OK. Feel better. Yel3an abo ommo.

Yesterday I swore the oath of Canadian citizenship. I am overjoyed and relieved…and now I can take said bounty and promptly leave Canada. I am frankly surprised it went off without a hitch, given my OUTSTANDING bad luck and the fact that I had lost a critical piece of documentation. But it worked out, and I want to give the Old Man Upstairs props. Also, to M, who woke up at a dumbfounding hour to come with me, and on his day off too. However, I think one of his primary motivations for coming was so he could say he’d been to every subway station. He talked about this prospect with the utmost enthusiasm all the way there (some 20 stops).
We entered a waiting room clogged with immigrants and sat down. M was one of three white people there. We waited until the room filled with the smell of curry (I commented on this to M, who was mortified and told me that even if it’s true I should let such things slide. However, political correctness ends when it parts ways with reality as far as I am concerned). Eventually a guy in a freakishly short tie came out and told us all to file in numerical order. I almost didn’t hear what he said, so mesmerized was I by the tie, which was a full five inches from his belt. Eventually I got up and headed into the courtroom, where I presented the court clerk with my documents. He said, “Why do you look so familiar?” I was unsure how to take this so I just shrugged, and entered into a long explanation about my lack of permanent resident card, which was remarkably accepted. I was also described as a beautiful young lady by another member of the staff. This lack of formality made me unhappy, I was so anxious. After a long, long time the room was full, and I waved to M in the back.
The clerk stood in front of the room and gave us all instructions on what was going to happen. He called in the judge and we all rose. The judge then proceeded to give a sentimental speech, alternating between English and French, about the privileges and duties of citizenship. We stood and raised our right hands and swore the oath of allegiance, which he compelled us to do in both languages. I was not in the least moved – for years I’ve been told that nationhood is meaningless and the state is an artificial construct…I can’t suddenly be expected to take it seriously.
Then he came down from the dais and handed us our citizenship certificates, shaking all our hands. There was a lot of picture posing that held up the line. I saw him bending to whisper to a few people, and more and more I felt like I was in church. It was like receiving communion – all the standing and repeating things after a guy in robes on a raised platform was just profoundly parochial. Thus, I began to settle into my traditional demeanour in church, namely a state of semi-sleep. After the certificates were handed out, he announced that we would sing the national anthem, and informed us that he’d asked a few special people to join him up there and sing it with him. A horde of children rushed up on to the dais behind him -a familiar sight from two decades of frequent churchgoing. But dude, this is a court of law. Federal court is not a place where kids throng on to daises (sp?!) and sing tunelessly into the judge’s microphone.
Worse and worse, we had to sing in alternating languages. Having perused the French version of the national anthem earlier (there were cards with both versions on our seats), I had decided against singing it because I couldn’t figure out how the words fit into the tune. Thus, I bellowed right through the French, “WITH GLOWING HEARTS, WE SEE THEE RISE, THE TROOO NORTH STRAWNG AND FREEEE…” After all, I’ve lived here for five years and not once have I come into contact with stupid bilingualism. All I’ve learned is, we hate the French, and they hate us. I like it when you receive firm messages of recommended hatred like that.
After the singing (for which I, of course, used my church voice) the judge announced that he was going to read out a list of all the countries from which we hailed, and that we should raise our hands if we were missed. He read, and he missed Egypt, although he said Kuwait. Still naturally I couldn’t let that go. Even M, in the back, knew I wouldn’t let it go as soon as he heard the omission. As soon as the judge was done, I raised my hand, but he didn’t see me. He did see, however, an idiot in the back who insisted that he missed Mauritania though he hadn’t.
The judge then suggested that we all turn around and greet a fellow member of our “graduating class” and tell them where we were from. I am an old hand at this greeting of strangers who don’t speak English; I’ve done it at church, of course, many a time. I go to a really touchy-feely church. So I used this opportunity to run up to the dais and say, “Hi. You missed my country-Egypt.” After the greeting he announced Egypt and gestured to me, while I waved to the populace in a decidedly Miss Universe fashion, attention whore that I am. While I was up there, I got the distinct impression that the dude was wearing foundation. I guess if hundreds of people are going to take pictures of you every day, you have to glam it up.
He concluded with a lot of even more bullshit remarks about how we had a duty to volunteer in the community and also how we should fill out our census forms. I of course, tossed mine, but this speech had the deepest impression on M who rushed home and completed his. FINALLY we got to leave, and we went to Wal-Mart and took some passport photos (the sooner to get out).
In celebration, we watched a DVD of El Irhab wil Kabab (could there be any greater homage to Canada than an Egyptian movie?) I had, to my amazment, found this in the Toronto Public Library. M had expressed an interest in watching it ever since he read about it in his Lonely Planet guide to Cairo. He scoffed at the English title: Terrorism and Bar-B-Que (I quote). He contends that kabab is a familiar term, when I am well aware that he had no idea what it was before he met me. But the scoffing speaks volumes for his Egyptianization, no?
So we sat down and I began simultaneous translation. Of course, the DVD fucked up just as we were getting to the good bits, but it didn’t stop me from realizing how apt, and indeed critically pointed that film is. In case you haven’t seen it, Adel Imam, who works two jobs, spends days trying to manoeuvre through the bureaucratic hell and corruption that is the Mogama3. He hears a man on the bus ranting at fellow passengers that they are silent cowards who are afraid to speak up against anything. He reaches boiling point one day while being thwarted by a Mogama3 employee and grabs the rifle of a security guard, finding himself suddenly holding the employees of the Mogama3 at gun point. The downtrodden fellah who sold two acres of land to come and shine shoes in Cairo joins him. And that’s as far as I got. A more succinct picture of the drudgery that is Egypt, the rage and the fear that dwells within each citizen, could not be imagined. It was a neat packaging, without too much obviousness, of What is Wrong; more pertinent today than ever. It really got me down, diminishing my determination to go back…so it ended up being a Canada-appreciation fest after all.
To Canada, then – Thank you.

Note: title is a reference to a Canadian commercial (click on the title link), not just a lack of imagination. Thought I’d point that out for the sake of Wee.