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Obama, One Degree of Separation in Ottawa, Canada


Evelyn Hannon

This intergenerational VIARAIL travel experience was planned long before I knew about Obama's visit to Canada. My true goal was to have some quality time with my little granddaughter, Lotus, while enjoying Ottawa's annual Winterlude celebrations. Luckily for us we received an added bonus -- one degree of separation from U.S. President Barack Obama. I know this event is something that Lotus will not easily forget.

On a Thursday in February, U.S. President Obama came to Ottawa on his first head of state visit. One day later I took my young granddaughter Lotus to Ottawa to celebrate her 7th birthday. Our itinerary included a visit to The Children's Museum, Princess Afternoon Tea at Zoé's Lounge in the Fairmount Chateau Laurier, and outdoor frolicking at the Winterlude celebrations. All very exciting kid-friendly stuff that any little girl would love to do. She was thrilled.

Then I told Lotus that Obama had been in Ottawa just one day before us.

'You know, Grandma, Obama is very good; he wants to stop all fighting,' she confided.

Huh? From a just barely turned seven year old? I can only attribute her political knowledge to the power of television and possibly the conversations between her mom and dad that she was privy to.

That morning all the Ottawa papers were full of stories about Obama, singing his praises and outlining in detail everything he had done in the city. My granddaughter suggested that once we had done all the fun Ottawa activities on our itinerary, we could also check out the places that her 'American idol' had been. I didn't argue. To myself I thought -- after running around all day this kid will be too pooped to follow her 'Obama Trail.'

We bundled up and enjoyed our non-stop, whirlwind sightseeing time from 9:00 in the morning till 4:00 in the afternoon. By then Grandma was just about ready to crawl back to our hotel.

Not Lotus.

'You promised we could go to see where Obama bought the moose key chain for his daughter,' she reminded me.

So we went to OXXO, the gift shop in the ByWard Market we had read about. Mr. Ustun, the man who runs the store was absolutely wonderful. He told Lotus all about Obama -- how tall he is, how nicely he smiles, how strong his handshake is and, (most important of all) he kindly showed my granddaughter the sample moose keychain, and the five dollar bill wrapped in plastic that the President had paid for the keychain. Then Mr. Ustan shook hands with Lotus and Grandma captured the moment for posterity.

Oh my goodness. That was the icing on the cake. Now Lotus is telling her teacher (and anybody else who'll listen), ''I shook hands with the man that shook hands with Obama!'

Our birthday trip to Ottawa was an all round fabulous success.


Dressed warm and enjoying Winterlude



Shaking hands with the man who shook hands with Obama



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