When I got home to Canada I brought along with me a suitcase brimming over with gifts. Matryoshka (aka: nesting) dolls for my cousins, sisters, mother, and niece; vodka, Red Army hats from Volgograd, a Red Army field manual that was actually a drinking flask for my brother, traditional hand-made shawls for my sisters and little colourful Orthodox church christmas tree ornaments with brightly-painted onion domes. An illustrated book of Russian fairy tales. A calendar featuring traditional Russian recipes. Somehow I fit it all in my bag.
Going back to Russia in a couple of weeks will be no different, but this time I will have a bunch of Canadian crap. T-shirts with "Canada, eh?" logos, a warm white Team Canada Olympic hoody for Katya, a dream catcher for her mother, maple syrup in a bottle shaped like a maple leaf, a Canadian flag umbrella. A box of Red Rose tea.
This is a problem that Canada has. We don't have anything really unique to claim as our own aside from, maybe , a hockey puck. Instead we take any cheap product produced by child labour in Indonesia and slap a big ugly red maple leaf on it and pawn it off to tourists for $20 a pop.
Russia is also filled with gawdy touristy trinkets, but they come from history and culture and a sense of being a unique place in the world. What the hell does Canada have? Maple syrup? We've gone over-kill on that one and most of the rest of the world has maple syrup, too.
I need to find something really meaningful to bring back to Russia. It has to be something that will automatically make a Russian think of Canada, and it would be wonderful if it didn't have a blaring red-and-white maple leaf symbol on it.
A Mountie hat? Too big and without the red uniform and the horse it means nothing. A hockey stick? A case of Molson? A painting from the Group of Seven? A moose? Pierre Trudeau's shrunken head? A box of poutine?
There's something incredibly bothering about trying to look for meaningful trinkets that sum-up Canada. There are plenty of magnets that say "Canada". Oh look, a baseball hat that says "Canada". Over there a rack of t-shirts that say "Canada". Wait! There's something different! It's a spoon that says nothing! Never mind. It has a big Canadian flag on it. Oh, and it does say "Canada" in case you couldn't figure out what the flag meant.
I needed to find Katya one meaningful gift that can summarize everything there is to know about Canada. Something that conjures up the way I feel about the true north, strong and free. One gift that conveys the place Canada holds in the world. Running out of ideas I settled on something for Katya. Something that will remind her of Canada everytime she sees it. A white pair of sexy little boy-short underwear. With a big Canadian flag across the ass.