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The 7th Circle of Hell

Government! Three fourths parasitic and the other fourth stupid fumbling. ~ Robert A. Heinlein

I needed to renew my ID and the prospect of this filled me with a profound sense of dread, 100 times more dread than filling my taxes.

Bureaucracy

Bureaucracy, no explanation needed.

Whenever we have anything to do at the start of the day I have to mentally prepare myself.  I repeat a mantra that goes goes something like, everything will be fine, be patient, try to remain calm, and limit your swearing.  But when we have to go downtown I need a little something extra, like donning a super hero type invisible shield.

I’ve written before about the parking lot effect of commuting in Caracas.  I can not clearly express the insanity of it all, so when we have to go downtown we usually opt for public transit.  I wouldn’t say that it’s the better option, but it’s less stressful for Juan to have to concentrate so hard while listening to my colorful commentary while trying to take over the horn.

Rush hour.  Can you see the organization with traffic going in three directions at the same time?

Rush hour. Can you see the organization with traffic going in three directions at the same time?

After hopping a mini bus (I think I need to write about these soon) and riding the subway we arrive in the center of the city.  Downtown is a world of its own.  Juan’s mom tells me that it used to be beautiful and people would go out of their way to walk in the plazas, shop and have coffee on the terraces. Now, it’s skid row.  People are loud, shifty, untrustworthy, and always trying to hustle their wares. The threat of violence is always present and palpable.  I’m quickly learning to look without watching. The grime is thick and the smell of piss is sharp. It’s a very poor area of the city. People wear years of sorrow and struggle on their faces and show their pride of Chavismo on their shirts. The irony of this is not lost on me. This is where the government office is. I call it the 7th Circle of Hell after Dante’s 7th Circle.

Dante's Inferno

Dante’s Inferno

I would really like to say that government offices here are organized chaos, but sadly I cannot.  They are absolute chaos.  The process went something like this:

Join the already super long line outside of the building. Listen to the people on both sides of us complain.

Wait around an hour to get to the front of the line, only to be told which line I need to go through once inside.

Argue with the “doorman/bouncer” to allow Juan to escort me and be my translator. His answer, no! Juan explains I don’t have a bank account to pay my fees and that he needs to pay on my behalf.

Doorman tells Juan he cannot pay for my fees and I that need a voucher that can only be paid for at a bank. Juan heads to the bank to purchase said voucher.

I go inside and try and find the line that I’m supposed to be in. It’s beyond confusing because there are 3 separate lines that occupy almost all available floor space. My line is making a perimeter around 100 sitting people.  The line is almost a complete rectangle, reaching back to the entrance.

Chaos

Chaos

I don’t want to generalize about all Latinos, but my experience with Venezuelans is that they’re a very loud bunch. The cacophony of raised voices was deafening.

I ask (yell at) the woman in front of me if the seated people are the people ahead of us. Yes, was her response.  I let out a low sigh and mumble dios mio (my god) knowing the day was going to be a long one.

Juan apparently demands to be let through the door (to give me my voucher) and finds me in the immobile queue. Once we start moving we discover that my line is actually two, one for foreigners and the other for Venezuelans. Another hour later, I have my ticket.

My paperwork is whisked away (being checked for something) and returned. I get to keep my ticket. I only had to wait for 35 more people to take their turns before mine.  I was slightly hopeful that time would pass quickly, but my hopes weren’t high.

The queue moves slowly rotating between foreigners and Venezuelans. By 11:30 we noticed that the foreigner’s numbers are no longer being called. So for an hour we waited while a skeleton staff dealt with the Venezuelans. Don’t misunderstand me, there was staff milling about, texting on their phones, talking to each other in small groups, but not working. For some unknown reason, I wasn’t the least bit fazed.  I totally expected this. Ha!  Maybe my mantra worked.

Juan took the opportunity to go out and find a snack.  Work “resumes” and I have about 15 numbers ahead of me. At 1:45 my number is called and I go to the assigned booth.  I sit down and say good afternoon and the guy looks at me like I have 3 heads.  I think he was offended.  Whatever, I maintained my smile. The guy spoke so fast that I understood about 3 words. Thankfully Juan translated.  That done, I get shuffled to another line.

This department was called Supervision. I laughed out loud. Juan says it’s a make shift job.  She essentially printed out a slip telling me the date I was to pick up my ID.  The last guy could have done this. Anyway, the date?  The following day!  I couldn’t believe it.  I thought, wow, it’s all worth the wait if I can have it tomorrow. We leave a little after 2pm.  Not bad, almost 6 hours.

Yes!!!

Yes!!!

The following morning we decided to drive downtown. We know that picking up my ID should take less than an hour.  Traffic?  Beyond horrible.  We have no idea what happened, but whatever it was affected the entire city.  Gridlock like you wouldn’t believe. Sigh. We got close enough that I could walk to the building while Juan  searched for parking. We met, I pushed my way past the “bouncer” (I knew from the previous day that I could get away with it if I asserted myself), entered a new lineup, and waited. While waiting all I could think about was, if it’s too good to be true, then it probably is.  Not 10 minutes later I leave empty-handed.  No ID.

disappointment

Sigh

The bottom line is that I have to return in 20 days.  I guess the woman at the “Supervision” desk had it all wrong.  Not surprising.  We chalked it up to another day of trying to get stuff done in this city of madness.

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Compassion

Compassion is a verb  ~ Thich Nhat Hanh

The past few weeks have been terribly difficult on my family and me.  I was confronted with a lot of raw emotions and feelings.  Seeing my mother hooked up to machines, mumbling incoherently, being unconscious, and having no awareness of her surroundings did that for me.

My emotions were high and low.  I was angry, relieved, hopeful, confused, elated, frustrated and thankful. When something changed in her, something also changed in me. My feelings were aligned with her progress or little setbacks.

I spent many hours by her bedside and got to know the hospital staff (the doctors, nurses, nurses’ aides etc) quite well.  The one thing they all had in common was compassion.  Day after day, night after night they gave my mother dignity even when she felt she never had any.  They were never condescending and always had a kind word to say to her.

I wholeheartedly agree with Thich Nhat Hanh. Compassion is action, action of the heart.

I thought sometimes that I was being tested.  I know, how self centered, right?  There were two particularly difficult days where she was driving me crazy.  She was stronger at this point, but wasn’t of her own mind and was suffering from so many things, including days of nausea and vomiting. Incredibly uncomfortable, she became combative and argumentative and I became bossy.  There was a point where I started to cry.  I was overwhelmed, tired and at a loss as to what to do with her.  As I was trying to pull myself together, the word compassion kept floating in front of my eyes.  I took several deep breaths and told myself that was what she needed.  I, on the other hand, really needed a stiff drink and a good night’s sleep.  All joking aside, I gave her a big kiss and a hug and said good night.  I’d like to tell you that everything was great after that, but I’d be lying.  I felt so guilty that I cried myself to sleep.

The next day I armed myself with the memory of the “floating compassion” and vowed to try and keep everything in perspective.  I offered her a heartfelt apology and she gracefully accepted it, even though she said she had no memory of the previous day, or maybe she did and was just being compassionate.

greg-sil

My nephew visiting my mom.

Sisterly Love

There is no other relationship in the world quite like the one shared by sisters. ~ Unknown

Sisters, where does one begin to describe the relationship with them?  My sisters and I are all very different from each other. We’re as different as the directions on a compass. From a young age we had strong, and mostly opposing, opinions on boys (and later husbands), make up, religion, music, and lifestyle choices.  There wasn’t always harmony in our house growing up.  There were lots of heated arguments about bathroom sharing,  “borrowing” of clothes, disclosing teenage secrets to our parents, and even how to do the dishes properly (we never had a dishwasher growing up!).

When I wrote to a friend saying that my mother was a spirited, feisty woman who would have the strength to pull through this crisis, he teasingly wrote back saying that there was “no resemblance there”.  I was flattered by the compliment.  I certainly didn’t feel strong at the time I wrote him, in fact, I felt the contrary.  After some time (there always seems to be a lot of that when you’re sitting in a hospital room), I started to reflect on what my friend had said; not how it applied to me, but how it applied to my three sisters.  As much as we are different, we’re the same and we owe that to our mother.

When this crisis happened our bond was strengthened.  The support we have given each other has been so heart-felt, warm and sincerely genuine.  We literally live thousands of miles and a few time zones apart, but I never felt that distance.  It has felt like they have been by my side the entire time.

Spiders rely on the intricate weave of their webs for communication (ok, so it’s really to signal that dinner has arrived) and our communication reminds me of that (sans victims).  And although the gossamer thread appears delicate and fragile, it’s is amazingly strong which can withstand all types of storms Mother Nature throws its way, just like our little storm here.

Technology has played a huge part in this web of ours.  The ability to send voice messages, videos and pictures of the grandchildren via cell phone has lifted my Mom’s spirits considerably and, of course, my sisters seeing my mom’s progress has helped reduce their stress immensely.  I am thankful for all of it; more importantly, I am thankful for my sisters.  I’d hate to be facing this alone and I’m not.

Thanks Sisters, I love you each dearly. xo

sisters-1

Sisterly Love

Inconspicuous Angels

“You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.”  ~John Bunyan

When I was thinking about writing about my journey to Venezuela I wanted it to be light, funny and full of wit and humor   I never really wanted to talk about the little things that get on my nerves, the negativity or the sad bits.

One would think that a week before moving half way across the world, I would have been excited, but I wasn’t   There was a heavy feeling, a non-excitement if you will.  I don’t know if it was because the trip itself was going to talk a long time, or I was working up until the end and I was tired.  I’m not sure, but even as I was saying my last “see ya laters” all of my friends said the same thing, “I thought you’d be ecstatic”.  My mood was anti-climatic even though I really WANTED to be overjoyed. It was strange. I spent a lot of time questioning myself about all of the reasons why, but never came up with anything substantial.

On Thursday afternoon I knew the reason.  It was my last day of work and I had some time to visit a friend and get my last haircut.  On my way into my appointment I received a text message from my sister in Ontario that my mom was rushed to the hospital.  She was also on her way into an appointment and didn’t really have any further information. I sent a message to my sister in Germany and we all tried getting a hold of my sister who lives outside of Calgary.  Now, my Dad, god bless him, tries hard to be connected to the world of technology, but doesn’t really understand how text messaging works. With his phone on silent, without vibration (I changed that today) or off, I’m not sure which, made the wait to get any information on the status of my mom excruciating. Angela, my sister from Ontario, called around Calgary and discovered which hospital they were in. Jenny, my sister from Alberta was making her way into the city early Friday morning.  She essentially became a lifeline for my sisters and me.

Friday was a weird day.  Juan and I were relaxing at our friend’s house, preparing and rearranging things in our suitcases etc.  My sister’s updates were worrying and as the day progressed, they became frightening.  There were messages like, mom is not making any sense, and she’s gurgling.  My nerves were frayed.  It was so difficult for me to imagine what she was going through.  We got up early to get ready for our flight on Saturday morning.  While eating breakfast I received a text saying “The hospital told Dad, Mom took a turn for the worst.  She’s unresponsive. I’ll let you know more when we get there!” I crumbled into a heap of tears.   This isn’t the kind of thing anyone wants to hear, ever.

For a few minutes I was in a state of flux.  What was I to do?  Our travel day to Venezuela was a few hours away.  My Dad, not wanting to worry or inconvenience me, thought it would be ok if I continued on my journey, but the thought of being so far away doing nothing for anyone made me feel sick. Even if I could be home to feed the dogs made me feel better.  I knew that I needed to head to Calgary to be with my family, but I wasn’t thinking straight as how to work out all the details.  Thank God for Juan and my friend France.  I had brain freeze. I was trying to process so much at the same time that all I could do was sit.  The drive to the airport is now a blur.  I remember getting into and out of the car.  The drive there doesn’t exist in my memory.

Paulo Coelho that says when you want something the universe conspires with you to achieve it. I was reminded of that every step of my way here.  I wanted to be with my family and the universe made sure that would happen.  Strangers were helping us without even knowing they were.  We were passed straight through to an Air Canada ticket agent when we asked to be on stand by for our flight to Toronto.  We didn’t have to wait in the long line.  We even passed through one of the shortest security lines.  Once we got inside we started planning.  I called the airline and they were gracious enough to put my flight to Venezuela on hold.  Juan kept checking flights into Calgary.  We were trying to see if there was a direct flight. There weren’t any, so we started looking into hotel options. I, of course, just wanted to book the first thing that I saw.  But Juan certainly had a clearer head and knew to be patient (one of his virtues, not mine).  We would book my ticket in Toronto.

At the baggage carousel, Juan flipped open his laptop and bought my direct flight (he’s smart and patient!). We had less than an hour to find the terminal and check in.  Juan and I said our goodbyes at my gate.  I was sad; this wasn’t the way we had planned our trip, departing on different planes, not knowing when we’ll see each other next, but we both knew that this was the right and only thing to do.

My seat must have been one of the last ones because the plane was packed.  I had the good fortune to sit with an off duty flight attendant named Patricia and a really down to earth business man.  I was ok at first and then started to silently sob.  Both of these strangers were angels.  Patricia ensured that I had everything that I needed and at one point came back with a box of Kleenex.   The man was incredibly empathetic and shared a similar story to mine. I was being taken care of by people I had just met.  The universe was conspiring to make this journey less painful.  As much as I thanked them, they will never know how much their kindness means to me.  I will never be able to repay them.

I am happy to be here, happy to help out, and happy to give my Dad some rest and peace of mind.  To say that I am relieved that my mom is stable is indescribable.  To be able to recognize the good things mixed in with the bad is a blessing for me. I need to trust that the universe is till conspiring with me.   So for now, this is my journey, my little detour along the way.

Trusting that everything will work out.

Trusting that everything will work out.

Can You Keep a Secret?

The duty of happiness becomes clearer when we see how it affects others. It is the merry heart that makes the cheerful countenance, and it is the cheerful countenance that spreads cheer to make other hearts merry.   Hugh Black

Can you keep a secret?  Can you keep a secret that is also a surprise?

I know most people would answer “Yes, of course, I can!”, but could you really be trusted with it?

Someone once told me something so obvious that it seemed absurd at that time.  They said if you really want to keep a secret “secret” don’t tell anyone. It’s sage advice. I admit that when I’m the one who is imparting it I really weigh my options.  I mean, who can you trust?  There are risks and they can be high.  It might just “slip out” and then you’re screwed. Your secret is exposed and, in my case, the surprised is spoiled; then who are you angry or disappointed with, yourself or the betrayer?

This past week I had a dilemma and had to weigh a lot of options.  You see, I have a secret that is a surprise.  My secret is that I’m heading to Calgary to visit my parents before moving to South America.  Now my Dad knows because I need a lift back from the airport and I had to ensure that he wouldn’t be working.  The surprise is for my Mom. I haven’t seen my parents for about 3.5 years and when I phoned home lamenting that I wouldn’t be able to visit due to work contracts and flight prices she kept telling me that I was going on a great adventure and that I had nothing to be sad about. I felt that she was being brave; you know, trying to hide her disappointment.  An opportunity arose, and with the tiniest push from my boyfriend, friends and my boss, I decided to seize the moment.  I have no idea the next time I will visit, so to say that I’m excited to see them and her reaction is truly a gross understatement.

So what’s the dilemma?  Well I have three sisters and nine nieces and nephews and I really wanted them to share and be part of my excitement, but telling one might have lead  them telling one of their kids and their kids talk to my parents almost daily.  I couldn’t risk it.  What to do, what to do?  I told all of my students and friends who have absolutely no connection with my family whatsoever!!  I couldn’t help myself.  I needed to tell someone before I burst and then, after a fierce internal struggle, I relented and thought it was only fair to tell the sister who lives close to my parents (she would have needed time to arrange her work schedule, too).  I made her swear 1000 times not to say anything.  I somehow felt like that wasn’t enough; I needed something more, so I resorted to blackmail.  No, I’m not ashamed to admit it.  I consider it my insurance.  This is sisterly love.

When you have sisters it’s difficult to tell a secret to one and not feel guilty about not telling the others.  Ah, guilt is powerful.  Damn. I don’t want to hurt anyone, so while waiting forever at the airport (my flight was delayed an hour and half due to snow in Calgary, *sigh*) I texted my sister in Northern Ontario and went through the whole secret screening process, again.  Sadly, I have nothing that I can use as blackmail.  I had to risk it; I had to trust.  I made the right decision. Her reaction was more than I could have hoped for.  Pure, unadulterated joy radiated through the characters of her text.  It was infectious.  I got an extra boost of “Yipee!!!”  Man, I love surprises.

I will have to text my sister living in Europe once I land.  And yes, I will still go through the whole process.  What can I say, I’m paranoid.  That cat hasn’t been let out of the bag and I’d like to keep it that way.  I’m sure that she’ll be just as ecstatic.  For the time being I’ll just revel in the fact that I’ve pulled it off.  As for my mom, well, I’ll let you know how my feels about all of this.

Update: My reunion with my Dad at the airport was incredible.  I practically ran down the escalator when the automatic doors revealed he was standing in front.  I was greeted with a huge grin and a  large bear hug.  We got in the car, each of us acknowledging that we were co-conspirators in a grand scheme.  He had it all planned out, all the way down to the excuse as to why he was late coming home.

We had a half hour drive planning my entrance.  He’d pull up into the driveway and I’d go in first and surprise her.  That went without a hitch.  Now let me first say that people react differently to surprise; in my head my mom and I would embrace and cry and laugh.  It hadn’t occurred to me that anything different would happen.  I opened the door and danced, yes danced, my way over to my Mom and she stood like a statue.  She was in shock, she literally stayed in the middle of the living room looking from me back to my Dad.  I was an apparition.  It wasn’t until a half an hour later that she said, “This is the best surprise of my life.”

Welcome home.

My Dad and Mom

Serendipity

“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: “What! You too? I thought I was the only one.”                    ~ C.S Lewis

The dictionary definition of serendipity is this: the faculty of making fortunate discoveries by accident.  That is exactly how I would describe my friendship with Hayley.

Hayley and I were in the same French beginner night class.  This class is usually reserved for newly arrived immigrants in Quebec.  Although I wasn’t an immigrant, I needed to speak French in order to work.  Through the basics of French, I quickly discovered that even though Hayley originally hailed from Australia she wasn’t an immigrant either.  She’s been married to a Canadian for over 10 years.

I was drawn to her like a moth to a flame.  So cliché, I know, but she had an energy that I cannot describe.  I’d like to say that it was innocent, but that wouldn’t capture the essence of it. She radiated light from the inside out.  She had an ease about her, a sureness. I knew I wanted to know more about her, but how? Believe it or not, I can be shy especially if it’s with people I don’t know.  I needed to figure out a way to talk to her after class. I eventually found my “in”.  Her husband is Latino!!  I knew we’d have something in common. I mean how couldn’t we?  Latino families, like most, come with a set of unwritten rules.  I knew that we’d have similar stories to share about sailing those uncharted waters.

Our friendship was effortless.  It was based on our love and respect of Nature (she is currently living in Banff doing every imaginable outdoorsy thing with her beautiful family), yoga (which she still practices and I rarely do), chocolate, which we both consume on quite a regular basis, language (both Spanish and French) and the love of travel.

Hayley has a tremendous a gift for sharing and encouraging people to be their best, whatever that may be.  It was her that planted the seed of me becoming an ESL teacher.  It was her insight and constant advocacy.  She saw it, the spark I have when I teach and it all happened by accident.

I think we were in our second level of French and we had the most uninterested teacher.  She was there only to collect a pay check at the end of the month.  She was disengaged.  She showed up and handed out the relevant worksheets; that was it.  One night I was so frustrated by her lack of teaching that I left the class and vowed that I’d learn it on my own.  I went home, figured it out, drew a diagram so I could remember it and returned the following night just so I could explain it to Hayley.  I figured that if I could understand it then anyone could.  I ended up teaching the concept to the entire class, albeit in English, but teaching nonetheless.  I was able to change a difficult language concept into something simpler, something tangible, something people understood. It was then that Hayley said that this is what I should pursue.

After months of debating, she convinced me.  I completed my teaching certificate and got a job teaching and another volunteering.  It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.  Hayley inadvertently gave me a wonderful gift, joy.  It is because of her persistence that I get to experience that every day I teach.  I am indebted her.

Hayley -the giver of joy- on the far left and me on the top right.

Little Reminders

My therapist told me the way to achieve true inner peace is to finish what I start. So far today, I have finished 2 bags of M&M’s and a chocolate cake. I feel better already.  ~ Dave Berry

While celebrating our very belated anniversary, Cécile was kind enough to remind me that I have a responsibility to those who read my blog to update regularly. I think Cécile’s bored and just wants to be a stalker, but that’s a different story.  I must say that I do feel a twinge of guilt but, in saying that, I am preparing to move to another country.  Ok, I know, this is what the blog is about, so that excuse doesn’t really count.

Here’s the truth of it; I consider what I write.  I don’t want this to be like some people’s facebook statuses where they’re updating every 10 minutes.  I’m a thinker.  I think a lot and I’m sure my boyfriend would attest that when it comes to certain things I think too much.  That’s ok, it means I care.

So here’s my pledge to you: I will complete part two of my previous post this weekend.  I will finish what I started with a little companion by my side, chocolate!

One of the best food combinations ever: chocolate and raspberry. My crepe from Cacao 70.

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.

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