Wednesday, January 23


The sun's back, on my back. I've spent the morning fielding phone calls either for jobs or social events. And I have marmite. Ok, so it's not vegemite, but it's a decent substitute, and I have found a supermarket that sells it, for a reasonable price.
And just to balance all this positivity stuff that there is way too much of around here lately, here's something negative. For some reason Auld Lang Syne is playing on my ipod, and I can't be bothered getting up to change it...

Monday, January 21

I like it here.

So, if you hadn't noticed from the last few posts, I'm rather enjoying Montreal. I was walking home from interviewing another school this afternoon (that's not a typo - my serious blog explains) and it was -11 or so, but with such a clear sunny blue sky, just on dusk, with a nearly-full moon rising over the lovely Montreal architecture of Rue Laurier and the snow-covered park, in the pale blue and faintly pink-streaked sky. I had spent the early afternoon doing my cat-impression in the sun in my flat again, and was now just as warm outside in my wonderful yellow coat and winter boots, I was listening to my music, I had just had a whole job interview in French - and been offered the job on the spot, and will reject it by email this evening.
Tonight I have the all-girl bluegrass jam again, tomorrow I work a whole two hours, then plan to visit a friend and then go to choir rehearsal in the evening. Wednesday I might have people over to dinner. Sometime this week I've got an interview for a possible ESL management job. On the weekend, I become homeless for a few days, but I already have enough friends here that I can stay at a different person's place for each of the 4 nights if I want (yes, I know at least 4 people!) and then I move into a lovely flat right next to a metro stop.

My life isn't all perfect, of course. I'll still be short on cash for a month or so until my work builds up and I get paid, but I can live extraordinarily cheaply here, if I try. And there's a little matter with my previous sublet person I need to sort out. And a few other things I'm trying to ignore, but overall, I'm pretty content at the moment!

Sunday, January 20

A Kat and a Cat in the Sun on a lazy Sunday

So it`s -13 degrees outside, with windchill it`s -22, but wonderfully sunny, and I`ve just spent the last 3 hours sitting stretched out decadently in the sun in the comfort of my own flat.I`m supposed to be at Food not Bombs, helping cook for a velo-rutionaires something-or-other, but the sun was too seductive.It`s beginning to disappear now, though so I might manage to go to FnB soon. Maybe I`ll make it to the serving. I`ve helped cook or serve several weeks here now. It`s a bit chilly, but fun, serving soup to the homeless outside a metro station in town (they don`t usually let us inside).
The other reason I`m being lazy is because I worked most of this last week - my first week of work since October, so I`m not allowed to complain. It was almost interesting to be back in the rat-race.But it`did serious disrupt my sleeping pattern, so I needed to catch up. The reason I didn`t catch up on sleep on Friday night was a potluck at L`Appart Laurier on Friday night. Despite being `only` a potluck, it was wilder and better-attended than the actual party I went to there last month. It was great to realise that despite being here only 6 weeks now, there were only about 5 people there that I had never seen before. And I`m beginning to be known and recognised in this cosy little community. I love it! AND the food was fantastic, as always.And the reason I didn`t catch up on sleep on Saturday morning (afternoon) is because I went to see Sweeney Todd with Rosie. The first half was much better than the second half, but overall it was a great movie. Tim Burton`s imagery is, as always, utterly brilliant, and the beach-fantasy scene was just genius. And you`ve gotta love a musical with a body count! (I could post a pic of this, but I`d just have to steal it from google images, and I think you can all do that for yourself if you want).

But yesterday evening I had nothing on (in a different sense to this morning, when I also had nothing on), and just enjoyed hanging out with Basho the Cat, absorbing internet time and listening to music on the wonderful speakers here in this warm, cosy and elegant flat. I`m only here another week, and I will be sorry to leave. But the next flat is going to be just as good!

Tuesday, January 15

Musical Outlets

I just spent the evening at the first jam/rehearsal of an all-girl bluegrass jam band that I seem to have joined. It was so much fun. I haven't sung with only women for years and years, and forgot how much I enjoy singing the bass line! And making it up as you go along is always good. AND I got to play a Baglama, which was also fun. Next time I might even work out how. I also tinkered on the recorder, but of course, you can't do that so well while singing, and I'm rarely willing to not-sing. For this reason, I'm wishing I had more aptitude for string instruments. But I'm such a crap string-instrument player that I tend to have to concentrate on the playing, which also means I forget to sing. Maybe I'm just incapable of doing two things at once. I will have to work on it.

I get more singing tomorrow - I've auditioned for and joined Choeur Maha, which is, by coincidence, also an all-girl choir. I didn't mean to exclude men from my singing outlets. It just happened that way!

Thursday, January 10

Statcounter Stats

So I just clicked on my Statcounter link for the first time in months, and discovered that my numbers have gone up in the last few months. While a lot of my hits seem to be dedicated readers (Hi Mum!), I also have a lot of people wandering in either from google searches, or from this Digihitch website, where I seem to have got myself listed as an interesting sort of blog. It's a pity it's not really relevant now that The Beast has bitten the dust (I miss my Beastie!) and I'm a leading a slightly more sedentary life for a few months. I'm still toying with the idea of buying another van when it gets warmer and spending another month or so travelling north and west. I was very happy living in my Beast-of-a-Van. And, of course, I've made it most of the way across canada - it would be nice to make it to New Brunswick or even Nova Scotia and be able to say I went coast to coast. And after that there's all that wonderful nothingness of northern Canada to explore...
But that's months off yet, or possibly years. I do have to stop travelling sometimes. And I have to earn money sometimes. And if I never did anything but travel, this blog would be entirely inappropriately named.
And just for those people who have come from the digihitch site and are looking for the living-in-a-campervan stories, start here - a few entries down the page - and work your way through the archives! Or try the 'campervan' label.

Getting into Flickr

So I've had a flickr account for almost 6 months now. I have rather a lot of photos uploaded to it, I've made slideshows and sets and links and generally used it as a personal photo album and backup of my photos. But I hadn't explored the flickr 'community' and the possibilities it brings until this evening. And I hadn't really understood tags until now, either.
I've been thinking for a while now that some of my photos might be worth a wider audience. I have a huge collection of photos from my travels, and have quite a few really good shots among them. I've been saying for a while that I need someone to 'curate' my collection - I'm too close to it to make unbiased opinions and, as a look at my photostream attests, like photos that document my life about as much as those that have artistic value. So I think I can use the flickr community as my 'curators'. Tagging photos in detail (and tagging what's in the photo, rather than when it was or anything else) and 'geotagging' them - pinpointing on a map where they were taken, I think will attract more of the general public to see them, and hopefully either comment on them or make them a 'fave' which would tell me which pics others find are worth seeing.
I've also discovered photo pools that you can add your photos to. For example, I could join the Travel Photography Group, one of the many Montreal groups, a group just for pictures of the sky, or something more thought-provoking, like this 'Beyond Stereotypes' group. I realise it's basically all in the name of self-promotion, but it would be nice for some of my photos to have a slightly wider audience than you lot!
And ok, so I fancy myself as a bit of a photographer on occasion, and want the praise and ego-rubs!
So I've started putting more work into my flickr collection. Starting with organising the photos properly into collections and sets. And I've picked pretty thumbnails for all the sets, so even if you don't look at any other photos, have a look at my collection of set-icons here!

I have also declared 'finished' the collections on West Coast America (left) and my Trans-Canada Adventures (click on the picture mosaics to go to the photos).

Yay for for the wonders of technology in the digital age!

Sunday, January 6

Diary of a Really Crap Ice Skater, Part 1

Hours spent on ice: about 2.5 in 2 separate sessions.
Number of falls: 1
Time spent crossing the 10m of treacherous trampled lumpy icy snow from locker room door to ice: 10 minutes (not kidding - I had a 10min podcast on that finished before I got there - my knees wouldn't stop shaking, so I had to keep stopping for them!)
Progress Made: questionable.
Phrase of the day: You see, it's all about muscles and balance, and I have neither.
New Jargon Learnt: Patinoire Decoratif' = the pond/puddle/fountain froze, so you can skate on it. Don't mind the holes, lumps, trees etc in it... Patinoire Sportif = we put a wall up around our other pond so children of all sizes can attempt to kill beginner skaters who venture onto the slightly better ice with their pucks and hockey sticks.

Took my new skates out for a spin today. Or rather, for a shuffle. I went to the park just one block from here first, and discovered the 'decorative' skate rink there should remain just that. I wasn't the only one complaining about the quality of the ice. And it really did appear to just be a largish frozen puddle, with several trees in the middle. Which at least are something to hold on to occasionally. A kind lady took pity on me and held my hand to get to the 'sportif' rink, which was at that moment only half-full of children brandishing lethal weapons. I shuffled up and down one end of the rink, soon learning to stop or turn when a puck crossed my path, as it would be very quickly followed by a child who, despite being able to literally skate rings around me, always seemed to want instead to skate through me.
Once I got a little more used to the ice, I was able to upgrade my shuffle to the next level - a technique that seems uniquely my own, and which I am calling 'skateboarding'. You see, my right leg seems to have a really difficult time believing my left leg is capable of anything beyond a support role - or rather, a non-supporting role. I think there are trust issues between them. Right leg is extremely reluctant to leave the ice, and prefers instead to stay firmly planted while Lefty pushes me along. After a while like this, the next half-step is to actually transfer at least my weight to my left leg on each 'step', even though Righty still refuses to leave the ice. I'm sure I look like I'm limping or something.
I only fell once - and was picked up by the nice lady, who also pointed out that I needed to have a tooth removed from the toe of my skate, which is what caught on the ice and caused me to fall. She was surprised to see I had 6 teeth there, where there should only be 4 or 5. I promised to get the de-burred and sharpened at the earliest opportunity.
Now, having recognised the same progression of techniques occurring as the last time I skated - on Christmas Day, I was hoping to get up to the same level I did then, which was Right leg actually able to leave the ice at least half the time, as well as beginning to get over the constant feeling that I'm .02 of a second away from having my tail bone hit the ice with extreme prejudice. Unfortunately, today my toes began to freeze before I got to this point. You see, my feet get very very tense when I skate, and break into a cold sweat. Possibly at the thought of what Right leg would actually do to Left leg if Lefty was ever given the chance to lead and failed...
So I inched back over the horrible patch of ice to the locker room (I think it only took me about 5 minutes to cross the 10m this time) and put my boots back on to come home and thaw my feet. I was so incredibly tense that I decided to go to the pool for a relaxing swim. Before I left the house again, I called my friends Romain, Leyla and Rosie who live just near the pool, and got invited to... guess what... go skating. With Romain. So I went for a half hour swim, then walked the one block from the pool to Parc La Fontaine - where we had gone at Christmas. They've opened up the rest of a lake since then, so there is a huge area for skating - a long narrow squiggle of ice that currently has small pine trees (Christmas leftovers, I think) and park benches arranged in little islands periodically down the middle. I got my skates sharpened and 'de-burred', as I was told I needed, and which did seem to help, as did the slightly better ice and the lower density of hockey sticks. It only took a few minutes to get from locker room to ice, thanks to a very helpful passer-by who offered a hand, and then I was on the ice again, and apparently back to square one. I shuffled. I wobbled. I was half way around the lake before I got up to skateboarding. And I didn't really manage to get to the next step before I got back to the stairs, and, as I hadn't found Romain ( it was really crowded, and everyone looks the same in their dark coats and winter hats) I decided I had done enough for one day, and clawed my way back to the locker room. Once inside, the first person I saw was, of course, Romain, now quite recognisable without his hat on, who had also just come off the ice. He introduced me to his friends (more comprehensible people from France!) and we all walked back to his place for hot chocolate and toast, which is a fantastic thing to do after skating.

I will continue this diary of my skating progress - and I do hope to make progress, really I do. Now that I have sharp, de-burred skates that are beginning to realise my feet aren't as narrow and pointy as they want them to be, I plan to get out on the ice whenever I work up the courage. You see, skating utterly terrifies me. It's something to do with my deep-seated fear of slipping on ice, I think, which, given my lack of balance, is not entirely unfounded. And of course, at 6 feet tall, I have a long way to fall. While I rarely do fall over, that probably has more to do with the extreme care I take (and my slowing to a snail's pace) on any slippery surface than with my balance skills. But I have all winter here to get over this, and learn to skate as well as those irritating kids with their hockey sticks. Or at least, to get from the locker room to the ice unassisted in under half an hour...

Friday, January 4

I *heart* Thrift Stores

Guess what I bought today! Ice skates! Now there is something I never thought I'd ever own in my life. But the rinks (ponds in parks) are free here, and the dirt-cheap thrift store skates I bought, plus sharpening (who knew skates needed sharpening?) cost about the same as two skate hires. And as there is a rink (a real rink! with a wall to clutch on to!) about 300m from this house, I think I should manage to go more than once...
I was also in the Salvo's shop to hunt for a coat, as my $5 one from the last Salvation Army store I went to (in Medicine Hat, Saskatchewan) has served me well, but it's not really suited to the depths of winter. And I think it makes me look like a homeless person. So I tried on about half the coats on the rack, and found a beautiful green one that would have been perfect if it were about 2 cm bigger around the middle. Once I'd ruled out every coat on all the racks, and given up, I spent another hour in the shop trying on skates and boots and hats and looking at the books and generally poking around. And then on my way back to the register, I had one last look, thinking I might have missed something. And I found this:I can't imagine I missed a yellow coat, so I can only assume that it was put on the shelves after my first look. Now, yes, it is oh-so-very yellow. And this caused some hesitation on my part. Not least cos I'm going to have to make an effort to keep it clean. But it's made of down and wonderfully soft micro-fibre type fabric, so it feels great. And it doesn't leave down on everything like my other down jacket. And it has an excellent hood. And in general, should get me through the worst of winter!

I also bought a pair of winter boots - slightly too large and rather ugly, but the brand is 'Dry Ice', which sounds promising. My wonderful Bulgarian Boots are good, and will probably do most of the time, especially now that I've dubbined them again and added some thermal innersoles that resemble car windshield shades. But the new ones should be better when I want to walk or stand about in the snow for any length of time on those -20 days. Clear days like this, which are the coldest: I also upgraded my 'toque' while I was there. My $2 black beanie that I bought in NYC a while back is fine, but nowhere near warm enough (although when I think about it, now that I have the hooded coat it will probably do! Ah well). But I got this, which should help:And finally, I bought a crappy backpack that will help me move to my new sublet on Sunday. The idea is that I use it in place of my old backpack (the landing module of my mother-ship pack) and thus prevent the latter from getting even older and crappier than it already is.

And all of these purchases I got for the princely sum of $35. Which was mostly due to the fact that I got talking to the lady, and she was really nice to me, and she's the one who decided the prices! And she may have not noticed the backpack... But anyway. Just another reason why I *heart* thrift stores!