Monday, April 26, 2010

Tam Tams

Every Sunday in the summertime, the Mont Royal mountain is completely taken over by the most wondrous figures. There are jugglers…


… belly dancers…


… tightrope walkers …


… drummers …


… and even pirates and warriors!




The whole event is called Tam Tams, after the drums that are played in unison throughout the afternoon, and celebrates more than anything the joie de vivre of lounging under a blue sky, soaking up the sunshine and having a good laugh with your friends. Just studying for finals there is maybe not the best plan…

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Good bye Party!

Before finals hit and everybody left town, I wanted to say goodbye properly and in style – with a French-themed goodbye party.

Party 2

We were dressed up à la Parisienne, made some delicious ratatouille,

Party 1

… and celebrated a new adventure. It was a great night for me, and I hope my friends had as much fun as I had.

Party 3

In the meanwhile, the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajokull (yahoo tells me it’s pronounced ay-yah-FYAH-lah-yer-kuhl) apparently decided to rebel against its name, erupt, spew ashes all over Europe and bog down European air traffic for 5 whole days. People had been stranded worldwide, trying to get any means of transportation back to the continent, apparently even including cargo ships… Hopefully, air traffic will be again fully on schedule in 23 days, but this only shows how even the most detailed travel plan can be annihilated … by a simple act of Mother Nature.

And in the category of my favorite things in Montreal, how about the ubiquitous conferences, talks and meetings? Amy Goodman from Democracy Now is coming to the McGill campus on Saturday, and for tomorrow, I was lucky enough to get a $50 ticket to the Montreal Millennium Summit for free! My friend Emma had connections to a club that gave away tickets, and we are going to the public session tomorrow of “a prestigious international conference that brings together leaders in development from government, civil society and academia”, to quote their website. They concentrate on the UN Millennium Development Goals and highlight successful development projects. Speakers tomorrow include Al Gore (!!!), the grandson of Jacques-Yves Costeau, actress Kristen Davis and Duchess Sarah Ferguson. I’m sooo excited!

Millennium Summit

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Wanderlust and Wehmut

First things first before I start to ramble… I got my passport back this morning with a Russian visa in it! I still cannot believe that this actually happened just like that; I was prepared for a lot more red tape and bureaucratic obstacles. Now, however, I can legally enter Russia for my language studies and go to our group’s info meeting tomorrow in the knowledge that this will actually happen!

With a month to go, though, before leaving Montreal for at minimum a year, more likely nearly a year and a half, I am reflecting more and more on my decision. I am extremely happy to go, to explore something new, enhance my language skills, take awesome courses on Europe and of course make new acquaintances and hopefully many friends. It’s funny how German words are often integrated into the English language because they are more precise in describing feelings – Wanderlust completely epitomizes this. And I am sure that, were I not travelling this summer, I would have even stronger Wanderlust and would be bored by staying another summer in the same city.

At the same time, Wehmut grips my heart from time to time. This could be translated as a mixture of melancholy and heart ache (wow, that sounds worse than it is, actually). I guess it’s just that in preparing to leave a place, you appreciate even more how beautiful it is and how fulfilled your life is there. I mean, I’m coming back, but it won’t be the same Montreal I’m leaving. The places you live in are, in my opinion, strongly shaped by the people you are living with there, and unfortunately, many of my friends will be leaving after their last year at McGill next year. On the other hand, this summer I’ll finally be able to visit my Swiss friends again! I guess it’s just this realization that life is constantly changing and moving that makes you want to hold on to every good moment and make it last – but once you accept to move with life instead of opposing change, you’ll just gain more experiences, make more friends and have an even richer and more fulfilling life than you started out with. Especially because in changing and moving you often win more than you lose, particularly with good friends. I just hope I can keep in touch with as many as I want to!

P.S. In the spirit of loving life in Montreal as long as I’m still here, me and my roommate splurged and got tickets for the new Cirque de Soleil show… Exciting!!!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Aller guten Dinge sind drei!

... three is the charm apparently. Funny how that translates into other languages... la tercera es la vencida in Spanish too... Anyway, I'm getting off topic. After coming to the Russian Consulate three times in a row, I succeeded today in getting my passport in and will hopefully be able to pick it up next week! I still can't believe that this is happening so fast, there were a many bureaucratic regulations that are suddenly less important than they were - but I'm not complaining. In fact, I got an e-mail last Tuesday from my prof with a copy of the invitation letter I've been anticipating so much as jpg attachment. I think she talked to the Vice-Dean of Petersburg State and he worked his magic with the administration gals. Well, so of course I make all my copies, fill out the right document, get a mail order from the Canadian Post and turn up to the Consulate. (#1) However, the public servant (such a word - he certainly wasn't that servile, rather pretty haughty and unhelpful) insisted that a copy of the letter was insufficient and that I needed the original (which needs to be sent over from St. Petersburg). Oh, and also I needed another photocopy. Okay. Once I made the other photocopies, I e-mailed my prof and asked her to please put pressure on the ladies in Russia so that they send it as soon as possible. No answer for a week. However, on Tuesday I hear back that apparently another prof talked to the Consulate and we do only need the photocopy (he has connections.). Random - but again, not complaining. So this morning I went to the Consulate again (#2). The clerk was very aware once I mentioned that I was going with McGill and didn't ask for the original again, which was great. However, he filled me in that the study visa was more expensive than a tourist visa and the amount that I had gotten the money order for (the price indicated on the internet) was $17 too little. Oh, great. I'm sure he couldn't have told me that the last time. Then I speedwalked down to the post office again (at the train station) and up again within 25 minutes so that I could catch them again before they closed at noon. And at attempt #3 he finally accepted all my docs, took my passport and said 'Eet vil take tree days. Come back on Monday.' So... I'm guessing I'll come back there on Monday or Tuesday and see whether that was actually that easy. The nice thing is that even if there is more administrative paperwork to do, I have plenty of time to do it.
Also, my books from Amazon finally arrived yesterday after I played tag with the UPS guy. Well, more like - I go out to school - he comes by. I come back - he left a funny sticker saying he'll drop by tomorrow when I'm in school. The next day he came by when I was in school and left a funny sticker saying that the last attempt would be the next day when I am in school again and after that it would be sent back to the sender. Like, what? Do they expect people to be at home all day? Why can't they just initiate an evening service? I called the automatic-voice hotline and made the UPS guy come around on Tuesday when I am at home (normally) all morning and afternoon until 3:30. When did Mr. UPS come? 3:36. So I was late for class, but at least now I have an awesome small phrasebook, large travel guide, and innumerable tips for living in Paris.
In other news - my Russian and Soviet Politics roleplay happened tonight. It was great. Although I believe that Putin and Medvedev didn't seem too keen on my coalition's proposal to take over the Crimea...