It’s still cold in Ottawa. But you already knew that. In other news, Suzy is using a Swiffer wet jet behind me. That guy got rich. I wish I’d been in the room to see the circumstances surrounding the moment of revelation when Mr. Swiffer realized that floors could be cleaned with a squirt and a sanitary napkin.

The cold was mitigated muchly yesterday by my friend Mohammad’s birthday party. He’s now 33, just back from two weeks of touring Europe alone, and on his way next month to Cuba to visit a girlfriend he met there in December. He’s happy. You may recall that Suzy and I met Mohammad on a VIA train in 2001 (before 9/11) when he was new to Canada from Baghdad and had all of his earthly belongings with him on the train. Now he’s got a great job, a house, freedom to travel, and Canadian citizenship in the spring. I just know I’m gonna cry at that ceremony. As I said to Suzy last night, “When Mohammad becomes Canadian, that makes the country a teensy bit proportionately less red-neck.” You know what I mean. We have yet to have our chat about the evils of the Conservative party, but it’s coming.

Mohammad and his friends Fouad and Khalid (also from Iraq by way of Tripoli), added to the birthday party by sharing the feast of Eid-al-Adha with us. It’s the Festival of the Sacrifice – one of the most important holidays in the Muslim calendar. It marks Abraham’s (almost) sacrifice of his son Isaac to God. Anyone would be happy to not have to knife your own kid for God, right?

So instead of a human sacrifice, the festival includes the sacrifice of a lamb for a feast. Khalid did the deed the day before our party, at a farm just outside of Ottawa (it is his first Canadian winter, so the 6-hour process was an ordeal of a new and different kind). The meal was superb — rich with spices, complemented by fragrant rice and roasted vegetables. I couldn’t help but think of all the sacrifices these new friends have made in the hope of becoming Canadian. They don’t mind the cold so much, because they consider a future here to be warm and bright.

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