|No monkey business with David Bickford|
Grade 11 brought major changes to my life. Academically, I had entered the elite in my age group, undertaking International Baccalaureate coursework, a necessary step in assuring I would have a great shot at the university of my choice back home – not to mention a potential scholarship of any kind. The curriculum, as most of my peers will agree, was significantly more demanding than the regular American or Peruvian counterparts offered by our school. My favourite courses were IB - History of the Americas, a continent I have been passionate about from Tuktuyaktuk to Tierra del Fuego and ITGS – Information Technology in a Global Society, my introduction to the complex world of computers. The French Lycée system focussed on training the brain by using it, such as forbidding the use of calculators or computers, and making us memorize everything. Their motto is that if you don’t exercise this muscle, you lose it. Nevertheless, I enjoyed being able to create things on computers, eventually building a website for the High School Softball Team and my own websites that paid homage to my favourite bands. My learning curve even surprised me.
This time had also been a great source of Canadian pride for myself as our Embassy had welcomed our elite security professionals from CSIS and the RCMP. They had come down South to make an educated assessment as to the safety of our SQs (the homes of DFAIT employees and their families abroad), beef up security in our Embassy in Miraflores and the Ambassador’s residence, and train local police that would act as an armed escort to our official vehicles everywhere we went. I knew that if they were involved, we were in good hands. After all, the RCMP attaché at the Embassy was first class, providing not only an excellent example of service as a decorated police officer, but as an outstanding member and contributor to our Canadian expat community. It seemed everyone that met him, liked him, including his counterparts throughout different neighbouring countries and law enforcement services.
A major change to my regular routine however, was the addition of a few bodyguards. My father had to have one at all times, a friendly Peruvian police officer going by the name of Roberto Mendoza. He was always on top of his game and never acted unprofessionally on any occasion. I did joke around with him from time to time as a young teen and was quick to develop a good rapport with him. I was convinced should he be called upon to protect my father, he would not hesitate to react. My father, on a trip to Canada, brought him back an RCMP sweatshirt, which he treasured. I gifted my GI Joe collection to his son. The other bodyguard rode our school bus every single day. Not too many Canadian kids I know could say that. I don’t think any of us, as passengers, felt uncomfortable with this, as we knew it was for our own good. His name was Luis, a wiry fellow with a great sense of humour. I tended to talk about soccer, primarily the Peruvian national soccer team and their quest to qualify for the World Cup. He did not employ his revolver as a display item to show off to the kids or a vehicle of intimidation so we would behave in the school bus. On the contrary, he was a completely, no-nonsense, police officer. He carried himself with pride and purpose, even while protecting foreign kids, a job some seasoned professionals would have trouble complying. We had armed guards 24/7 at the house, and we enjoyed playing basketball together. With their heavy boots, nightsticks, radios and flak jackets, they were at a slight disadvantage.
|Our dear Jean-Yves, Mr. Ambassador and David Bickford|
Perhaps the toughest lifestyle change to adapt to was travelling. Yes I did say travelling. Most people love the idea of travelling to new places and taking a break from the real world, but how long can you really escape from the realities of home? My parents had no choice on this one. Due to the increased risk for Canadian Embassy staff in Peru – for security reasons, when I went out with my friends after school, I had to be careful not to wear anything that identified me as a Canadian. That was tough - our government required families to evacuate should they be off from routine obligations for an extended period of time. This meant that holidays when I could spend quality time with my friends were now gone. Sure it is cool to travel and see the world, but it becomes tough when you know home is not safe and your friends are left behind to cope. Nevertheless, I did manage to make the most of the time I had in Lima afterwards to nurture my friendships on different terms. I had to accept reality and play by the rules to ensure my own safety.