Wednesday, December 26

Christmas in Montreal!

So, after having no idea what to do for Christmas as late as Friday, the offers just poured in over the weekend, and I ended up with too many options! So here's what I ended up doing:

Around 5ish, I went to a place called the Co-op sur Genereux to help cook for an orphans' christmas that I wish I could have stayed for - it was great to see the place, as I'd heard a lot about it, and to meet more interesting people.

About 7pm, I went to Leyla's new place (she the person I'm currently subletting from) to meet her flatmates at her new place: Romain, an ever-so-cute-Parisien, and Rosie, an entertaining American who hasn't been here much longer than I. An hour or so later, and we set of to the 'loser's christmas party' at Romain's old host-family's house, which turned out to be full of architects and their teenage kids. Enjoyable, but definitely different to the sort of company I've been keeping for the last few months! And the food was delicious, but entirely meat-based, which unfortunately rather disagreed with my mostly vegetarian stomach, which made me a little antisocial for the last hour I was there.

So around 11 I took my upset stomach away from that party, taking Rosie's keys with the plan of napping on their couch for a while. On my way back, I passed a church that was ringing bells, so I stopped in for the last 15 minutes of their mass (which had been going over an hour already, I gather - glad I just caught the end!). But that nicely satisfied my vague traditionalist's desire for a little bit of church at Christmas. And I had a revelation about the purpose of organs in churches. I don't know the name of the piece the organist played for the recessional, but played on that massive organ, it sure put the fear of something or other in me!

When I got back to the apartment to find Rosie already back there much earlier than planned, Leyla just arrived home from her other party thing, and everyone wondering if I had dropped dead while walking home. I really thought no one would miss me when I dropped into the church!

As I was soon feeling better, Rosie and I went upstairs to our next party - one that we could already hear most of anyway, in the form of elephants on the ceiling. Their upstairs neighbour Marco was also having a late-night orphans' christmas party, and we arrived just in time for the massive turkey, which had been planned to serve at midnight. Despite not knowing anyone there, managed to find so many interesting people to talk to, that it was 4am before we went back downstairs to bed!

So that was Christmas Eve, which is the more important day here (because of the French tradition, I think). While I enjoyed the parties very much, they were interesting parties, didn't really feel christmassy enough. Christmas day solved that:

I stayed at the apartment for the night, and this morning (by which I mean, at about 12.30pm) we opened the few little presents from under their little tree (well, they did) while listening to Christmas music (the one day a year it doesn't grate), and ate french toast (which is apparently pain-perdu, en francais) and fudge and cookies.And then we set of to got ice-skating. Outside. On a bit of frozen water! In a park! About 5 minutes walk from their house. AND I didn't fall over and break a leg. (That's me on the bench in the background - I swear I was skating for all but this 5 minutes!)

And then we came home (to their house) and had tea and more fudge and cookies, and toast with pesto and olives and cheese, and more tea, and I spent about 3 hours explaining my entire life's travels (well, they did ask!) and then we invited Marco from upstairs down for more tea and a tarte au citron that Romain had whipped up while Leyla was making the french toast earlier.Finally, I came back to my little flat, so that I could feed the cat and sleep in what is currently my own bed. Which I should do about now, as I see it is now nearly 5am!

Thursday, December 20

An Archbishop's view...

Here's an interesting take on the christmas legend - at least, interesting coming from the Archbishop of Canterbury! I've always mostly liked Anglican dogma...

Thursday, December 13

More on living in Montreal (so far)

Right now I'm sitting in a cafe a few blocks from my apartment. I've eaten the baguettine and cafe (must turn on french keyboard...) required to purchase my table and net access for a while. I'm sitting by the window, looking out at Avenue Mont Royal, with its christmas lights and after-work traffic and pedestrians in mittens, scarves and furry hoods, rugged up against the -12 degree temperature. Some them are dragging coloured plastic sleds with small children in them. Not to mention the snow that is now only falling lightly, making no apparent difference to the already-dusted pavements and the walls of ploughed snow that line them. It's all feeling rather european, especially as the cafe would not be out of place anywhere in France (except on no other continent would they have a range of 12 different flavoured filter coffees...), and I'm surrounded by french chatter - some of which I can understand, which makes me think there might be actual French people here, as well as Quebecois.

And as to why I'm in a cafe at all, well. I made something of a mistake when I took this apartment for the month. The flat is lovely and cosy, the cat is apparently neurotic, but will no doubt get used to me. I will learn how to navigate the buses eventually, or just learn to appreciate the 30min walk to the metro regularly. But I won't get used to *dial-up* internet. I realise it's something I should have asked, but I didn't really think dialup still existed, so it never crossed my mind that the included internet wouldn't be broadband. And for some reason the dial-up seems to disconnect itself about every 10 minutes, which gets extremely boring. So I surf between 3 rather weak unsecured wifi signals, and toy with the idea of either spending a large portion of my time and cash in wifi-equipped cafes this month, or putting a notice up for the owners of the secured networks available offering cash in exchange for their passwords. We'll see. Other than that, I'm very happy in my little nest for the month!

Meanwhile, I'm looking for flats for January, and I know what to ask this time!

Last Word on the Election

The SMH reports that Howard finally conceded Bennelong yesterday. Officially. He's like a bulldog isn't he - refusing to let go of anything until the last bit of life has been shaken out. Incredible. Anyway, I find the picture that goes with the article rather interesting as well! Well done to the photographer for capturing those expressions.

And here's some more election reading from friends' blogs that I meant to post ages ago: Nick's entertaining account of Election Night, Nathaniel's take on the new state of Australian Politics.

And finally, something completely non-election related. Terry Pratchett has Alzheimer's! Argh! It's the end of the Discworld! Well, not yet, apparently, but it would seem to be the beginning of the end. And, in His words, an Embuggerance. Here I was thinking that he, his brain, and the Disc were immortal, and he would churn out books at a rate of 1.5 per annum for the rest of eternity! (Thanks to Amanda & James for the news - I think)

Wednesday, December 12


So I realise I've barely posted anything about Montreal yet. The truth is, I've been too busy doing things to blog about them, and now that I have time and my own apartment for a month, I seem to prefer to spend my time sleeping. I have about 6 months to catch up on, so I'm not too surprised. I thought I'd give you a taste though:

Here I am, sitting in my tiny flat, drinking my breakfast hot cocoa (I left my coffee pot at Steph's place!) french-style from a bowl and eating fresh baguette with butter and raspberry jam and a glass of grapefruit juice with a splash of fizzy water. Outside the weather is alternating between sunny blue sky and big fluffy white snowflakes. The fluffy white cat I now live with spends his time either curled up somewhere near by, or demanding food.

And now I think I'll return to bed for a little bit and watch the snow out the window!

Saturday, December 8


From the beginning -
My birth. I've just discovered that I share a birthplace with Australia's new prime minister. I'm not sure if that makes it more or less embarrassing, though. I comfort myself with the fact that I never lived there. Rudd apparently did, however.

To two days ago -
On arrival in Montreal, I had an odd experience. I knew I was going to be staying with Steph, in her student residence. My rideshare dropped me off about a block from where we believed I needed to be, and pointed me in the right direction. I was carrying my ridiculous amounts of luggage and the snow was about a foot thick.
Wheeled suitcases do not like snow. But I managed to head in the right direction, found what I assumed was the street, and walked the half block to the right numbered building. The first thing I noticed was a padlock on the outside of the door. Not a good sign. Then I looked up and saw the windows were boarded up and had big black burn marks above them. This was freaky. It appeared the place had recently been on fire. I began to worry - first about the safety of the inhabitants, and then about what on earth I was going to do with too much luggage and no idea where to stay. I also had no phone number to call. I dragged my stuff the long block to the nearest metro and decided I had to find internet to find out if there was an email explaining had happened. I got to the metro, and saw a local area map, which I thought might be helpful in pointing me in the right direction for internet access. On studying it, I realised that the street I had been in was the wrong street! I had gone one block too far! I dragged all my stuff back through the snow again, fond the right place, and was very very grateful that there was someone home, AND that I was expected! It had been disconcerting to think that the place I had lined up to stay in had burnt down just before I got there. I'm very glad it hadn't!

To yesterday -
I saw two places to possibly sublet yesterday - one that would be sharing with a cool and interesting person and is cheap, but is an unfurnished room, and I'm a little sick of camping on the floor. But maybe I can stay in touch with the person living there!
The second place is about a half hour walk from the metro, which is less than good, but has a decent bus system surrounding it, is lovely and cosy, and comes with everything I want, plus a pretty white cat for company and is being let by a nice and interesting person, so it's all good.

To today -
So I finally heard back, and it seems I'm not going to Morocco. The email said that I could ask for more feedback as to why my application was rejected, so I have, but I have a feeling it will be lack of business teaching experience. And, to be honest, the fat that it was business teaching was the least-attractive part of the job.
So I've spent the afternoon trying to work out what to do with the next 6 months of my life. I've decided to just apply for a bunch of jobs, both here and abroad, and see where I end up. It's like a sort of lottery! Let fate decide! Almost as random as sticking a pin in a map with your eyes closed, but not quite. If I don't have any prospects by the end of January, I'll go live in Paris with Sean. It's nice to have a backup plan!

To tomorrow -
I've accepted the second place I saw yesterday, and get to move in tomorrow lunchtime. I'll have an address! For the first time in about 6 months...

Friday, December 7

I'M HERE!!!!

Ok, you can all start throwing those parties now...
About a year ago, I hit on this mad idea to come to Canada for Queeruption in Vancouver, then have this wild cross-country experience in a possible van, and then live in Montreal for a while. It's taken a year to get here, only about 3 months later than I had planned. Minus one van, but plus months and months of amazingly wonderful (and occasionally sucky) adventures.
Realising that I was about to achieve my goal was scaring me enough that yesterday I nearly accepted a job to drive a U-Haul truck to Vancouver. I realised it would be silly (and the woman wasn't willing to pay what I thought it would cost me). But it would be a sort of overview of my last 2 or 3 months, only in reverse, and much faster.
I'm glad I didn't agree to it, because now I'm in Montreal. I'm staying with Steph, who came to my workshop in Vancouver. She lives in a student residence - luckily an apartment style one. But tomorrow, I have no less than *2* appointments to see flats - one for a shared place with a really interesting-sounding person, and one for a place all to myself, but in a less than perfect location (i.e. more than 5 minutes walk from the metro station, although close to buses. Waiting for buses above ground is less than perfect in a Montreal winter).
And in between, I get to explore the city! Which is covered in more snow than I've ever seen in an urban environment before. And I'm told this is only the beginning. But I sort of like it, so far!

(Meanwhile, I've just uploaded my pics of Crossing Northern Ontario, Toronto and Niagara Falls, which was both more and less impressive than I expected, all at the same time, oh, and has about a hundred pictures of rushing water, so you might want to think about going to the bathroom while they're loading)

Another reason to refuse to join Facebook...

This just confirms my desire to stay far, far away...

Sunday, December 2

Finally in Toronto

So i've made it to Toronto. After the Soo, we drove to Sudbury. The weather was good for the drive, mostly but there was still plenty of snow about. It was just getting dark as we pulled up to our couchsurfer hosts' house. They turned out to be lovely people, of course, and I was invited to go to a yoga with Michelle that evening. I've been missing yoga a lot in the 5 months since my last class, so I jumped at the chance, especially as she had a half-price coupon for me, and it was her first class with this school as well. It wasn't until we got there that we discovered it was the school's most advanced class. Hmm. I survived - there were a few new poses, and a few things I sat out, but overall it was great. And I felt great. And sore. And I can still feel a few of those muscles. But gee I can't wait to find a class in Montreal! And, given that it will be about -20 outside, maybe I'll try 'hot' yoga...

The next day, we sat around far too long because we knew it was 'only' 4 hours drive to toronto. By the time we left, it was pouring with snow. And when we finally thought to look up the weather it gave the visibility on the highway as 'poor to nil'. So we turned around and begged another night at Michelle and Gerald's place. But this time, I cooked dinner, which was nice, and solved my tofu cravings for another few days.

Today we left earlyish - after Gerald cooked us a wonderful pancake and bacon breakfast! I love couchsurfing :) The ride to Toronto was sunny, clear and easy. After a Whole Week of travelling together, Edmond and I finally parted company when he dropped me off at my latest couchsurfing place in downtown Toronto.

I have absolutely no idea what the next few days will bring, as I'm now in contact with about 4 toronto locals (none of whom I have ever met, but that's half the fun!). I'm hoping to see niagara falls in the next day or two, and leave for Montreal on Tuesday or Wednesday.

Yes, that's right - I'm only ONE rideshare away from ACTUALLY BEING IN MONTREAL! At which point everyone who reads this blog will probably throw a party.