Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Culture Shock!

Some things about Québec city that surprise me:

-the pedestrian lights. In any other city, when one presses the button to signal pedestrian crossing, one waits for the light that one is walking parallel to turn green. Not here. Here, all cars go, and then the auto lights all turn red and then all the pedestrians heading northsoutheastwest walk at the same time. And then all pedestrians must stop after that and some cars go again. What is up with that?

-some, not all, of the doorknobs need to be turned to the left to be opened. or the opposite of whatever way is normal.

-I didn't realize before how hilly this city is. of course, people from BC say it's nothing, but the city itself is not flat. It stands on top of a cliff.

Saturday, 18 July 2009

This is why I live in cold climates

Early Saturday dawn and there's a thunderstorm outside my window. What wakes me up is a continuous tapping against the window in my room that reminds me of my time in second year university when I woke up to a bird stuck between the two layers of windows. I turn on the light, sit up and look around. No bird or beast anywhere. Must be something outside. But it continues, and for the rest of the night I am sleepless.

Morning. I read a bit in bed before going upstairs to breakfast (my room is in the basement). I finish eating then come back down and grab my toothbrush from my room, go to the bathroom and brush my teeth. My light is still on in the room, the door is half-closed. I come back and push open the door and surprise! There's a huge worm wriggling it's way around at the very door of my bedroom. How the heck did it get there? And was it in here all night long? Was that the noise I heard? How did I not see it until now? I sort of screamed quietly and stared at it, thinking about what to do with it, thinking: Great. This must be a test to see whether I'm brave and good and I'm NEITHER! I'm a coward because I'm afraid to pick it up and I'm evil because it's right there in front of me and I'm just waiting for it to die! I sit there for about 15 minutes until my roommate comes down to tell me she's leaving and she just picks it up and puts it outside.

Just within the last few years I have managed to be able to walk around on a rainy day without constantly looking down at the ground and leaping and jumping to avoid the worms. But having a worm in your room? That's another phobia altogether.

Monday, 13 July 2009

Je ne veux pas travailler

I wish I had brought my camera. Then again, some things aren't meant to be recorded and that's part of life.

The "Festival d'été de Québec" is on right now. I was sort of angry that I was coming to Québec in May because I saw that lots of musicians I wanted to hear were going to play in Toronto at that time. But now, they are coming to Québec!Anyway, I bought a pass to the festival and today I saw this Brazilian act. Get this - it was a cloudy afternoon with light rain on the loom. The sky was grey and then the artist started singing a song along the lines of "I love the sunshine". During the interlude, the sun came out. Everybody clapped and cheered. When the interlude ended, the sky went back to being cloudy again. Amazing.

After that, on a pedestrian-only street called St. Jean full of restaurants and shops, I was in a CD store (where else?) and I started to hear live music playing outside. I thought it was the festival, but I was too far away from any stage to be able to hear it. I looked outside and saw a semi-impromptu marching band playing while a huge crowd following behind. I went out and joined the crowd. I felt as if I was in a François Truffaut film. People sitting on the patios of the many restaurants were all watching us and them go by.

All the streets and architecture in Québec is marvelous. The street-lined trees are old and beautiful. All the houses where I live are older, at least 40 years old, and have this permanence. All of them have wooden porches. The streets are wide and there are pedestrian places.
I live in the middle of the city, the university to the west and Vieux-Québec to the east. Right next to the university are a series of three huge malls, all in a row. It's a shopaholic's paradise and nightmare at the same time.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Je suis une touriste perpétuelle

Bien sûr, on commence avec the quintessential Québec scenery!

This was near dusk walking back from the university.

Of course, the city feels European...more romantically so after a light rainfall. The problem is, the rainfall never ends!

Church front without a church. Hmm...

4 juillet 2009

Je dois écrire en français de garder la langue. Ce message sera tellement ungrammaticale mais laissez les corrections dans la classe! Maintenant, je blahblah.

Tous les endroits que j'arrive, il pluit. En août 28, 2008 je suis arrivée au Reykjavik et il pluit. En mai je suis retournée à Toronto et il pluit. Maintenat je suis arrivée à Québec et...guess what...il pluit.

Alors, je suis arrivée à Québec.
Le personne qui me hôte est une mignon mais une peu eccentrique.
Elle parle beaucoup de n'importe quoi. Elle me montre les photos de sa famille. Je rien de dire, comme d'habitude.
Quelque fois, j'admis, je "tune out" parce que je juste prends un train pour 8 heures et je suis fatiguée et j'ai pas d'énergie d'écoutes le français. Encore. Et encore. Et encore.

Je fais une pledge a moi-même de parles (et pense) seulement en français et même si les autres étudiants d'échange parlent en français, je resterais away eux parce que je veux le contact avec les "vrais Québecoises".

En Islande, j'ai parlé anglais tout le temps parce que le point était de recontre les gens de l'autre pays, pas seulement les islandaises. Mais ici, j'ai déja savoir au moins de la langue et je dois l'utilise pour "get around town".

J'ai fait quelques "inroads" dans le train ce matin. J'ai parlé un peu avec un kid à côté de moi. Il est trés mignon, mais malhereusement, parce que j'étais tellement shy, j'ai pas la courage de parler avec lui jusqu'au je dois abandonne le train =(.

Monday, 6 July 2009

I hate languages.

No, I hate studying languages but I can't help it; it's such an addictive activity for me. This year I think I have studied too many and now I am going crazy. First Icelandic then German then this…French.
I hate sitting in a classroom and memorizing grammar rules and always thinking I'm so incompetent and barely staying afloat of what I am studying.
Like geography, language is not learned inside the classroom but OUT THERE.
That is why I am Québec, duh, but unfortunately it is tourist season, I feel like a tourist, and I am in my own enclosed little world speaking with other non-native speakers and I am really feeling the limitations of this program. Even if I am experiencing a family homestay (which is to my advantage-my 'mêre' doesn’t know much English but really really likes to talk. And has good home-cooked food), I do not get to talk to people my age and ask them questions about relevant things etc.

I now remember why I promised to myself to never again take language courses. It made language so dry and dead. It wasn't until I took a bus in Ottawa going to Gatineau that I felt I had spoken any real French. And in Iceland, the French and other languages I heard was une française vivante...one that expressed emotions and needs and certainties. It was not pretend. It was not sitting in a classroom with other semi-competent speakers spending half the time cancelling out in our heads what was not to be said.
Then I reason that if I had not spent all those years studying French, I would not get to experience the vibrancy that surrounds me when I go out into the real world. I would just sit there, sounds passing in one ear and out the other. I can't express myself and I do not get others' expressions.
So no pain, no gain…I guess.
But still, I still think the best way to learn languages is not in the classroom, not even with a native-speaking teacher, but outside in every domain of life surrounded by native speakers.

There is my linguistic rant for the day.

More about my first days in Québec next time.