Tom McEvoy describes the game of poker as “Hours of boredom followed by moments of sheer terror.” While that description could well apply to any number of activities, it fit quite well for those of us working on the G8 advance team. There was actually a fair bit going on behind the scenes in and around Huntsville, Ontario, leading up to the G8 meeting. I had the honor/privilege/burden of wearing several different hats for the Embassy’s support team: site officer, thank you officer, gifts officer, and control officer for two Under Secretaries.
It was a kick to spend a couple of weeks in new surroundings. For two weeks, we lived out of rustic cabins just down the road from Algonquin Park, 7500 square kilometers of amazing hiking and canoeing, about 4 hours west of Ottawa and 3 hours north of Toronto. We shared the environment with chipmunks, fish, ducks, lots of bugs, moose, and a bear. During my daily commute from our cabin to the control room, I came perilously close to hitting a deer. Twice.
Without going into any detail, however, supporting a POTUS visit was a great assignment. The Embassy Ottawa team is a very experienced crew so I learned a lot from people who had been through the drill dozens of times around the world. Some days were pretty quiet, interacting with the White House advance teams and getting things set up. Other days had more than their share of sheer terror moments, juggling resources and making sure everything was covered.
In the end, everything went off as planned. The President arrived. The meetings took place. Many bilateral meetings took place. The President left. My Under Secretaries arrived, met their counterparts, received seamless support, and left.
Upon return to Ottawa, we (E and G are joining me for the summer) had the pleasure of seeing our first Canada Day up close. July 1st was the 143rd anniversary of Canadian Confederation. Nationalism here seems to be at an all-time high after the Vancouver Olympics. In addition, Queen Elizaveth and Prince Philip were in town. There were free concerts and activities set up all over town and hundreds of thousands descended on downtown Ottawa. Where else can you find a free double-bill of Bare Naked Ladies and the Queen?
After dark, we headed over to the Embassy and staked out a great spot on the roof to catch the fireworks. Promptly at 10:00pm, they started. We were so close, we could feel the explosions and feel the ash falling from the sky. I took advantage of the great spot by trying my hand at some fireworks photography. Here are a few:
For those who can’t get enough of fireworks pics, you can find the full set here: Happy Birthday, Canada!