Archive | October 2012

Reflection

Let us be grateful to people who make us happy, they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom. ~ Marcel Proust

Welcome back!

Both my computer and I have been out of commission for this past week.  Although it was inconvenient for most of the part, it gave me time to reflect on some of the things that I will truly miss about Montreal.

I’ve spent my entire life moving around from one city to another, from one country to another and if there’s one thing that I’ve learnt, it is that real genuine friends are few and far between.  I’m not talking about acquaintances; I’m speaking of people that you connect to on a cellular level.  I’ve had the great fortune to meet at least five such people here.  Funnily enough, the common thread has been language.

When I came to Montreal I couldn’t speak French.  Sure, I was taught some basic stuff in school, like how to conjugate a verb, but I never spoke it.  For the first year here I struggled to learn.  I took some classes and I worked in a store so I could really get into it.  And on that journey I answered an ad to participate in a language exchange; French for English.  I thought, “How perfect!”.   My first partner benefited from this exchange.  He spoke very well while I could barely put a sentence together.  Um, let’s just say his resume got translated.

I thought that I’d approach my second attempt differently.  Maybe I would feel more comfortable and, or, confident if the exchange was with a woman.  I read her ad and thought it was perfect.  She claimed her accent was terrible and that although she’d studied English in the past she really needed to practice.  I thought, “Great, we’re on par.  I suck and she could really use my help”.

When we finally met, I discovered that she lied!!!!  She was practically bilingual and I came to the quick realization that I had a lot of work to do.  I didn’t speak well.  Our meetings were a comedy of errors.  We always chose cafes where the cappuccino makers were too loud, the service was terrible or the hot chocolate didn’t meet our standards (our standards are high).

At one point we thought we could read aloud; you know, to help each other out with our pronunciation. Her accent, by the way, was not as terrible as she claimed (another lie). I chose Harry Potter because I read all the books in English and I thought I could follow the story better.  This was a wise choice! I think she chose Truman Capote.  Whoever it was, it was far too literary.  So the following week she brought in a book of Candace Bushnell, of the “Sex and the City” fame.   Every time she read “penis” out loud the cappuccino maker died down and poor Cécile was practically yelling penis to all the patrons.  I, of course, laughed until I had tears streaming down my cheeks.

I guess she was a sucker for punishment because she came back the following week and that was the beginning of a remarkably funny, sarcastic, chocolate induced friendship.  We’ll be celebrating our belated second anniversary next week.

Stay tuned for friend number two.

Where a friendship blossomed.

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Crepes, Anyone?

Food is our common ground, a universal experience.                          ~ James Beard

For the last year or so I’ve been complaining to my friend Cécile (my partner in crime in all things chocolate) that I can’t make good crepes. Now this isn’t from lack of trying.  I’ve gone through dozens of eggs, bags of flour, and too many recipes, secrets and techniques to count: use a stainless steel bowl, put the bowl in the freezer, blend the mixture, don’t blend the mixture, wait until the bubbles have settled, refrigerate, don’t use a non-stick pan and butter , use a non-stick pan, etc. etc. etc.  I just couldn’t figure out what my problem was.

So every now and again I’d give Cécile a play by play account of my failure as I was eating a mockingly paper-thin crepe.  And then there were other times I’d just give her a “subtle hint” like, Hey, you’re from France; teach me how to make the real thing.  Cécile, being Cécile, suggested that we have a “crepe tutorial” not conducted by her, but by her boyfriend Fabian. After all, he’s the master. After months of anticipation we had a crepe tutorial slash party, not just for us, but for their friends as well.  No pressure, just a bunch of French and Spanish people eating my experiment. Let’s just say they were good sports, each offering up family tips.

So last weekend, armed with my new found confidence, I decided to make crepes.  It didn’t go exactly as planned.  In fact, it was kind of disastrous.  I followed Fabian’s “recipe” which consisted of very loose measurements and approximations.  Keeping in mind that the French say “the first one is for the dog”, I kept my expectations low. The first crepe was pale, but it was thinner than any other I had ever made. Prematurely, I thought I succeeded.  Wrong.  It went from not bad to worse.  All of my crepes went to the dog pound, never mind to the dog!  But as I was making one bad crepe after another, I kept thinking of language; a far jump, right?

Well, it hasn’t escaped my attention that in roughly 6 weeks I’ll throw myself into a totally Spanish speaking world.  My first foray into learning a second language wasn’t exactly the best experience.  I was confused, frustrated and often discouraged.  I couldn’t really grasp the “why” of it.  I over-thought things all of the time.  In short, it was incredibly uncomfortable.  I was hard on myself and thought that I failed on so many levels.  By the way, all of those struggles actually led me on a journey to become an ESL teacher, but that’s another story for another time.

What I realized was my crepe disaster wasn’t a disaster after all , but a reminder (one that I always give to my students) to have the courage to make mistakes, to keep a sense of humor  and most of all, never give up.  And as Juan ate my overly brown crepe/pancake I just thought, “It’s ok, he’s not going to die and somewhere in there is the essence of a crepe”.  And just like my awkward Spanish won’t be perfect, there will be the essence of communication.  I will be misunderstood and people will misunderstand me, but hey, I’ll be trying and hopefully I’ll be laughing along the way.

Buen provecho!

The secrets to success.

One Thing Off My List……

Change in all things is sweet. ~ Aristotle

As our departure date comes into focus I’m finding a need/desire to do/eat the things I just never bothered to do before now.  Perhaps it’s because I figure it’ll be a long time before I ever return to this part of Canada.  I’ve lived in Quebec for 3 years now and my friend France was shocked, and or appalled, that I’ve never tried Sugar pie or a Beaver’s tail, although she tells me that Beaver tails aren’t really a French thing.

Anyway, France and her hubby invited us for Thanksgiving dinner last night. It’s strange because none of us really celebrate this holiday, but it was the perfect opportunity to have turkey with all the fixings, and, you guessed it, SUGAR PIE!!

How can I describe Sugar pie? It’s kind of like a cross between a butter tart and pecan pie without the raisins or nuts. France’s pie met three criteria: a golden pie crust, caramelized sugary goodness on top, and the sweet factor.

This pie lived up to the hype.  It was delicious, but I have to say, once a year would be sufficient for me.  Thanks France, for checking one thing off of my list.

France’s Sugar Pie

HAPPY Thanks Day

Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions. ~ Dalai Lama

I have a pretty skewed vision of “Thanksgiving”. So I thought I would by-pass all of the “nostalgia” and get to my list of happy-thankfulness.

  • Family (mine and his)
  • Friends (the old and the new)
  • Freedom (to choose what I want)
  • Experiences
  • Memories
  • Dandelions: to make wishes from
Make a wish!

Make a wish!

  • Laughter & Humor (the sound of and the ability to laugh at myself  and others)
  • Good food (this bears repeating twice, as do other things on my list)
  • Chocolate (this should be higher on the list, but it would make me look like an addict
Absolutely divine truffles from Leondas in Montreal.

Absolutely divine truffles from Leonidas in Montreal.

 

Now in no particular order:

  • Wine
  • Books
  • Music (the unique soundtrack of my life)
  • Stimulating conversation
  • The beach & the sun (obviously)
Los Roques, Venezuela.  Aka, paradise!

Los Roques, Venezuela. Aka, paradise!

  • HUGS
  • Art (I’m not picky, as long as it makes me think)
  • The moon (cue all songs with moon in them, except for Moon River)
  • My students (there are days when I learn more than they do)
Killing birds with one stone by having a chocolate outing with a few students!

Killing two birds with one stone by having a chocolate outing with a few students!

  • Sarcasm (Skippy, you’re one of my favorite sparring partners)
  • Pumpkin spiced lattes
  • Nature (including the creepy insects)
Some funky caterpillar in Rio Caribe, Venezuela.

Some funky caterpillar in Rio Caribe, Venezuela.

  • Hot chocolate with cardamom (we’re talking real cocoa here)
  • Great movies (future blog idea noted)
  • Dragonflies
Dragonfly at Ile St. Helene.

Dragonfly at Ile St. Helene.

In all seriousness, I’m a very grateful person who is thankful for all that I have and for all those I get to share with.

My love, Juan.

My love, Juan.

What are you thankful for?

It’s all about perspective.

Patience is the ability to countdown before you blast off.  ~ Anon

I’m not a patient person no matter what the horoscopes say about my sign.  They all lie.  I’m an instant gratification kind of gal.  I know there is something to be said about savoring the moment, blah, blah, blah.

Autumn has arrived!

Autumn has arrived!

Today is October 1st, exactly 2 months from our fly date.  Now I know that two months can seem far away or very close depending on the perspective that one takes.  I need to find a balance in order to keep my perspective straight.  We have 8 weeks or 60 days left in Montreal.  That’s not a lot of time considering what needs to be done: people to see, food to eat, and favorite dessert places to go to, etc, etc.  Time is going to fly!

Downtown Montreal

Downtown Montreal

Now although October is generally a beautiful month, with the change of colors, it’s also a cold, wet, damp month.  Have I told you how much I hate being cold?!  Actually, hate isn’t a strong enough word. So as I begrudgingly put on heavier sweaters and woolen socks I keep telling myself that I only have just 2 months left.  One month is the equivalent to 43 200 minutes.  So in essence, the next time I’ll be really warm will be 86 400 minutes from today.

The view from our apartment.

The view from our apartment.

 

My only consolation is to drink some really good hot chocolate.  And it just so happens I know the perfect place.  Juliette and Chocolate, anyone?

On a trail in Mont Tremblant