Friday, September 28, 2007

So, I've had a cruel induction to city life: my bike was stolen this week. It was a nice red mountain bike (i've since been told that they are the most attractive to theives). Along with it i lost my saddle bags (in the below photo of the trip to the market), a really great bell, and the lock which was cut. i'm pretty sad about it. its been my main from of transit for 3 years now, i was a good, solid bike. plus, being on a tight budget makes unexpected loses a bit stressful.

Not investing in a good quality U lock was my first mistake, because my cable lock was easily cut. my second mistake was leaving it overnight in the parking lot of my building rather than carrying it 2 flights up the fire escape.

after calling my mom and wailing when i found my bike missing in the morning. i walked to my french class. during the break i was chatting with some classmates and told them about my bike. two of them turned out to be avid bikers and were really helpful giving me lots of advice about what to look for in a new bike and how not to have it stolen.

yesterday i started and completed my search for a replacement. i scouted out a couple of bike shops, then turned to craigs list. on craigs i found a couple of listings from this shop called Disco Velo (velo means bike in french).
i gave them a call to get directions and then ventured out to find the place. their "shop" is loced in a shady industrial building between the plateau and mile end. i really nice elevator repair man helped me find their place, which was on the 10th floor. basically its a room that a couple of young guys rent as a bike shop. the go to dumps and sales and buy vintage bikes and parts and then reassemble them. as far as i know, the only way to know about the place is through craigs list or word of mouth. they have about 10 bikes ready to go and for sale at a time. the shop is quite memorable- at the back they've got huge piles of records and a couple of turn tables and being on the 10th floor, there's an awesome view of the city. the two guys that were there working were equally memorable. they were both incredibly nerdy, but in this hip, 80s, mechanical way. one was wearing an 80s teal and purple shirt and sunglasses that matched. they were supper nice and helpful, and even give me a little lesson to how bike gears work.
I ended up buying this bike.

i'm pretty happy with it so far. i need to get the seat raised a bit more, but other than that, the brakes are good, the gears are good, its light enough to carry up to my fire escape and ugly enough that i don't think it will get stolen too quick. i also invested in a good german U lock. i know this sounds cliché, but even frustrating, difficult experience you can find places to learn, grow and explore (and meeting groovy people).

tomorrow, if its not raining, i'll take my new ride to the market to get some summer squash to make Erin's Puréed Butternut Squash Soup for our thanksgiving dinner sunday (it delicious- look for the recipe in my October 2006 archives on this blog).

Monday, September 24, 2007

On the weekends I really enjoy biking to Marché Jean-Tallon. Its a huge market about 20 minutes ride from my place full of fresh local produce.

Bike packed full for the ride home!

Almost home


Sunday, September 23, 2007

Dear Carole L. Crumley (author of Historical Ecology, required article for my Enviroment and Culture course at Mcgill),
Why do you use so many ridiculous words?


are these scholarly-smollerly works really necessary or are you just trying to make your writting unaccessible to undergradlings like myself?
Disgruntled anthropology student

Saturday, September 22, 2007

I live in the top floor of a community centre, Maison de l’Amitié, run by the Mennonite church. As a resident here we are expected to give 3 hours a week in service back to the centre. There are plenty of volunteer opportunities: teaching English classes, working at the reception, helping to organize peace events and working at the Globetrotter Evenings.
Soirées Globetrotter are monthly evenings that features different countries. Representatives of that country, usually immigrants living in Montreal, prepare a meal and teach participants about the culture(s) of their country.
This month was Sénégal so I was excited to volunteer. I found the the event coordinator on Wednesday, told him I’d lived in Sénégal, and I would love to get involved. He replied, “You’ve lived in Sénégal? Do you know how to cook a Sénégalese meal?” “Ummmm…yeah, maybe”, I hesitated. Apparently the Sénégalese woman who had volunteered to cook for the event was ill and wasn’t going to be able to cook anymore and they were looking for someone.
So, I ended up planning the menu, getting recipes, shopping with the coordinator, and helping to cook for 30 people!
The few hours before the meal, I was completely stressed out. It was my first time helping with this sort of event so I was uncertain what to expect, we seemed short on volunteers and 2 hours before the meal we hadn’t figured out where to get the mangos we wanted to serve for desert. Finally I realized, however, that I was the only one stressed out. Despite not having enough volunteers to get everything set up “properly,” two guests who had arrived a bit early for the dinner (and who were regular attendees of the Soirées), jumped right in and ended up helping us serve the meal. And when the volunteer dishwasher didn’t show, up half of the guests came into the kitchen to help clean up.
After the meal, a young Sénégalese woman came and led some Sénégalese dancing- and almost every guest got up and danced! I couldn’t believe it. People just hopped right up without any coaxing. Ever other event I’ve ever been to that includes teaching dancing has always required a tremendous deal of arm pulling to get anyone up and dancing.
After everything was cleaned up, about 2/3 the guests were still lingering around chatting and we started an informal discussion circle. The group was made up of a bunch of Canadians, many of whom had traveled/lived in West Africa, a Sénégalese woman who has been in Montréal for 8 years now, and had completed 2 masters degrees in Sénégal, and a Cameroonian woman, also highly educated. The discussion was tremendously engaging. We covered topics from Sénégalese culture to corruption in African governments to neo-colonialism. When the discussion finally wound down around 10:30 p.m., I was mentally exhausted from all the complex French discussion, but I also felt an intense sense of fulfillment.
Throughout the evening, I learned and began to appreciate so much. I learned that my expectations for having everything planned, running on schedule and served to perfection are often unnecessary. Throughout the evening I was able to let go of these expectations completely. Having everything planned in advance isn’t always conductive to community. Community was built that evening by spontaneity: by guests becoming servers, by eating with our hands out of the same big dish, by dancing together and by an impromptu yet informed and respectful discussion.
The evening ended with exchanging of emails and phone numbers, plans to see one another at the next Globetrotter event and many bisou bisous.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Fall has decended upon montreal this week. the leaves are turning and today i took out my jacket (and found $20 in the pocket! i love it when that happens!!)
friday afternoon-saturday evening i had a residence retreat up in the laurentines. we stayed in a beautiful cabin at a mennonite bretheren camp. the camp was situated right above a stream and beyond that a ways i looked out over the lake. it was complete with a rap-around porch, a glorious wood stove, and a slightly frightening amount of posters of mountains and sheep with bible verses in french. we ate good food, played games, did some "community conflict prevention", hiked, and napped by the fire. it was wonderful to be in some wide open space with no cement and honking horns for a while.

today i had training at a yoga centre yoga centre where i'm volunteering 3 hours a week in exchange for unlimited classes. i am a receptionist. i think i'll really enjoy it and greatly benefit from all the classes! yoga makes such a difference in my calmness and contentness. i'm really thankful to have found this opportunity. i also hope that it will be a good place to meet potential friends, as i have been finding that a bit challenging in this big city.

tonight i needed a warm supper, so i found this fabulously yummy recipe in one of my favorite cookbooks, La Dolce Vegan, by sarah kramer Sarah Kramer-
Coconut Curry Red Lentil Soup
(makes 4 large, or 4 small servings)
1 small onion, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 small yam/sweet potato, cubed
1 regular potato, cubed
2 C veg stock
1/2 C dried red lentils
1 tbsp curry paste, or 2 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground pepper
1 (14 oz) can coconut milk
1/4 fresh cilantro, minced

in soup pot, cook onion in oil until they are translucent. add the garlic and celery and saute for 5 more minutes. add the yams, potato, spices, veg stock, and lentils. bring to boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes. taste lentil to make sure they are cooked. then turn off heat, add coconut milk and cilantro. blend (a hand blender works great) until the soup is smooth.... and serve with love.
absolutely delicious on it's own, or good with some toast, rice or salad!

bon semain mes amis, i love you and miss you all!

Friday, September 07, 2007

Well its has be a heck of a long hiatus, not that i ever blogged very frequently in the first place... but at the insistence of you dear family members and now that i'm somewhere "nouvelle" and "dynamique" i'll try and start blogging a bit.

I started off the summer with a 6-week French immersion program in Trois-Pistoles, in north eastern Quebec along the St. Laurence. Next, I moved to south, to Canada’s southern most inhabited point, Pelee Island, where I worked for two and a half months at a winery as a tour guide/tasting-giver/salesperson/cook/dishwasher/ etc-doer.
I’ve just completed my of 3rd and last migration for the year. This time I’m defying nature, heading opposite the flock, north. (God help me in the winter months). I’ve landed in Montreal (drove into actually) where I will spend the next 8-12 months. This year, when I could be heading back for my third year of university, I’ve decided to take a bit of a sabbatical from U of Waterloo. I’ve got several alternative-university plans for the year. In the fall I’m taking french language classes through a gov-sponsored program (20 hours a week for 2 months for a whopping $62!). These classes are every morning. Then in the afternoons I’m taking one course, Ecological Anthropology, at McGill University and volunteering at the Urban Ecology Centre. In the new year, I’ll be taking more classes at McGill and hopefully find a way to pay the bills. So far the classes look good, haven’t started the volunteering yet.
I’ll try and post from Mtl once a week…or maybe 2x a month. With any luck I’ll have some interesting stories, reflections and, at the very least, photos to share from the cosmopolitan life.