More bike stunts.
Monday, 3 August 2009
More bike stunts.
Toronto is really flat compared to this.
By the way, Québec holds the office for Canada’s geoscience research, and is one of the leading geomatics forestry research centres in Canada. It is basically built on rock.
Québec is, or used to be at least, very believing or religious. You can’t turn a corner without having one or two churches in sight – Québec’s Tim Horton’s? It’s funny what has happened with today’s more-than-yesterday’s secularized society. A lot of churches are there mostly just for masses, at Christmas and Easter, or are there for historical reasons, i.e. tourist sites. Some are even being converted to really expensive residential lofts.
Yesterday I went to Île d’Orléans, an island off of mainland Québec connected by a long bridge. Most city folk go there for the agriculture they produce there, sort of like a farmer’s market on an island. I had a wine and confiture tasting, but before that, I went into a mansion built in the 1700’s. The guide explained the uses of many of the tools and reasons why they had this and that. Everything had its use. It’s amazing, compared to my life. I am so materialistic. I have so much stuff in my room all the time I barely use and I just keep buying more and more. What’s more, a lot of the things are used for the purpose of keeping warm. If I’m cold, nowadays we just put on another sweater or if we’re not minding the energy, we turn up the heat.
For example, the chair frame had a big hole in the back, but the reason for that so that they their backs could be direct against the fireplace.
The candles were made out of animal fat, and they had to place them directly in a tin cans after being made to prevent mice and other creatures from getting to them.
The beds were small because they had to sit up during sleeping. If they lay down completely, they thought that they looked too dead and the Grim Reaper would come looking for them.
The cradle had a knob so that the mother could tie a cord around her wrist and the knob. She would be able to move around and do housework while still rocking the cradle.
Of course, they also ate out of pots that were made of lead so they were sick for most of their lives…
At night, I went to an exhibition called Moulin à Images. There are a set of about 30 silos in the Vieux-Port (Old Port) downtown. For the city’s 400th anniversary last year, Robert LePage was commissioned to create a film showing the city’s history and project it against the silos. They decided to do it again this year. The theme was history through transportation.
Also, I saw the Cirque du Soleil for the first time last week! It was incredible. An entertaining mix of acrobatics, circus fare, gymnastics and just wonder and awe.
Tuesday, 21 July 2009
-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
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
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
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...
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 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.
Saturday, 30 May 2009
Friday, 29 May 2009
The plane was landing and for the longest time we were descending into gray clouds. It was rainy here, and it will be for many more days to come. I flew from a beautiful sunny day into rain.
The miracle, though, is my luggage. Both suitcases weighed almost 23 kg and I had a backpacking bag that was way over the hand luggage weight limit. I also had hiking shoes tied onto the back of it. I was also carrying one winter coat and one spring coat, one laptop, and one other small backpack that was heavier than the laptop (full of chocolates and a book and my purse). It was a miracle that all these things, probably weighing 60 kg in total, I was allowed to bring with me without any extra luggage fees.
And now that I'm here, that I'm back in home territory, nothing much has changed. Or maybe I've just skipped everything. My dog has become older and more ill. The thing is, I keep on hearing Icelandic everywhere. My niece in her 3-year-old English says, "Come sit here," and I mistake it for Hvað segir þu? I say "Takk" automatically, even when I'm supposed to say Thanks or Merci or Dou She or Ng Goi. I go into the grocery store, look down the huge dairy aisle and I see a row of Skyr, but when I look closer it turns out to be plain yogurt. I'm listening to Icelandic music over and over again.
Tuesday, 26 May 2009
I remmeber quite clearly this time last year when I was filling out documents and looking very forward to coming to Iceland, and all of a sudden now it's over. I do want to leave just because I want to go back, yet at the same time I really want more time here. I don't know when, if ever, I will be back. I'm sorry, but that's the reality. I have so many more places to go, so many more travels to experience...why go somewhere I've already been, even if it's to a place I love, if I have the opportunity to see elsewhere?
For some this was the year of ERASMUS. For others, learning Icelandic. For others still, it was the weekend trips and hiking. For others still it was the long weekends. For me it was all of that and, as a cliché, more. Thanks to everyone I met, it's been a blast, and hopefully, even if I'm realistic and I don't get to see everybody again someday, I've learned a lot from everyone and have made memorable memories. Until we meet again, good night whether it be dark or light.
Sunday, 24 May 2009
I had a really good birthday with beautiful weather and people of all nationalities said happy birthday in their own language - I was never expecting that. 75% of the people I knew here have left. Us exchange students have increasingly been replaced by tourists. And now it is my turn to go.
Friday, 22 May 2009
On May 17, I wrote:
I am on my glacial geology field trip in Southern Iceland for 6 days. This will probably be my last excursion out of Reykjavik. It has been a few days of beautiful beautiful weather where people are getting tans and/or sunburns. We have been driving around in the bus and stopping at bus stations to get ice cream for the last few days, but tomorrow we will be working trying to identify glacial landforms in front of Sóheimajökull. Never in my life would I have been imagining I would be doing this. It is weird how life leads you in really unexpected places...
Now I am back in RVK. I celebrated my birthday, I'm finishing my report and I'm packing up, and saying goodbyes also.
Thursday, 14 May 2009
I find I'm just spending most of my days making last appointments with people who are leaving. We meet and then we talk about deep/shallow topics and then they sort of say, "Have a nice life." in more or less words and then we part. I feel like I might see them again, but I guess it won't really hit me until I get back home.
I miss muffins. They don't have them in cafés here at all.
So I moved out to a floor of a house (in the middle of nowhere!) with one other Canadian and two Germans. The Germans then spoke and laughed a lot in German and though sometimes I thought it was cool, I must admit that for the most part it was just annoying.
So then for other reasons for this month I moved downtown to another townhouse-type flat with people who all speak French! It's a great way, I guess, to practice my poor French but when they have guests over I mostly just zone out. I love being placed in awkward situations, but they laugh and then I just smile to be nice and feel really lost.
So to get my humour fix I have to go to Canadians, I have to even be surrounded mostly by Canadians. I find myself laughing so much, so naturally when I am with people. It's not just a language, it's the culture - it's in the way we see things and describe things and even in what exactly we find humourous. Oh, Canada.
Wednesday, 13 May 2009
Monday, 11 May 2009
I will stop talking about Icelandic weather now and say something more solemn:
It really is too bad that I'm meeting so many new people at this time because I have much less than a month here now. I really wish I met all these people before. But this happens in life all the time, I guess. There is no end; people are continuously being meeted. I'm glad to say that Iceland has been a unique meeting place.
Tuesday, 5 May 2009
The days now stretch for a long time here, but they always go so quickly. It is already May 5! I look at the clock and it is already 7 when it feels like 4 in the afternoon. Then after what feels like 30 minutes later I look up and it's 10 o'clock - outside the sun is dusky, what the light would be like at 8 o'clock in the middle of summer in Canada.
And yet it is still cold and it has been raining for almost two weeks straight. But today it was truly like spring/summer time with all the sunlight and I couldn't help but just wander around town even though I had much to study.
People are holding barbecues and the kids here are already on their bikes and skateboards which really clashes with what I am used to. Kids on bikes and skateboards always mean to me that school is out and that it is July or August, while here I still have exams and the kids are meanwhile wearing warm sweaters, but acting as if it is all summery. Now I get why Iceland only has two seasons.
Saturday, 2 May 2009
In true Japanese fashion we rushed to the front and sat in the front row. When DL was introduced and came out, he said, "Okay, first we will start with questions." and in true fashion again, there was complete silence. It was 30 seconds before the first question was asked.
Personally, I think people who are there to advertise some things always have hidden agendas and I was very sceptical. And I fell asleep in some parts because I was very tired. But I have pictures! Of David Lynch! There must've been at least 1,500 there - 1% of the population at least.
Later on, my friend commented that DL kept on saying that TM created happiness, and she said that Icelanders, in her view, were already always happy and optimistic even with the kreppa, so he was 'preaching' to the wrong crowd (she also said that he should go to Japan to give a talk instead). I agreed very much so. But I pointed out that maybe to us they are very happy folks while to them they are just being normal.
Needless to say, I've moved again because I'm running out of $$$ or rather krkrkr. It's okay though because now I'm almost right in downtown and I'm close to the sea and I'm close to so many other things and my shared room looks out to this very European-like courtyard thing.
So yesterday, I went to sleep at around 3:30 (because I was studying so hard) and then because of the stupid sun I woke up at 6:30. Grrr!
One more thing before I hit the books again:
I miss congee, Cheeto's, creamsicles and Reese's Pieces. Most of that list is junk food, yes, but good junk food. Here is a little story to finish off:
Today I woke up and wanted congee. I wanted the pickled vegetables and the salty, oily, fried dough. I wanted all the gunk mixed at the bottom water when there’s no more rice and I wanted it to drip into my mouth as I held the bowl up.
Sunday, 26 April 2009
Tuesday, 21 April 2009
More on that later.
*Update May 11*: Snæfellsnes is a peninsula north of the Reykjanes peninsula. Many people go there for daytrips because purpotedly it is mini-Iceland: most natural features of Iceland can be seen all in here. It is home to Iceland's newest national park. In all a day's time, we drove along the southern part of the peninsula, and then the north and then quickly came back down to RVK.
First, we drove to see some basalt columns. Did you know that the design of the big church in Reykjavik, Hallgrimskirkja, was inspired by these columns?
And then we stopped to see some seals. They are such wonderful creatures because they peer at you from a safe yet close distance, bobbing up and down, only their heads sticking out while you watch. No, we did not see any puffins and I do not care about whether or not I will see puffins because they are little brats!
Next we stopped at a fishing village in the southwest. We walked to the edge of the cliffs and below us were sandy black beaches and huge caves. Another part of it reminded me of the Bay of Fundy.
We drove through the national park. Personally, I wasn't very impressed by it as like most of everything else it was a wasteland. But it contained Snæfellsjökull, the volcano-glacier where, according to Jules Verne, one can enter the center of the earth.
We stopped at another beach area but then it was really windy and raining and I felt like I was going to catch a cold so I didn't pay much attention to where we were or why we stopped there.
The best part, though, was the shark museum. It's located on the northeastern part of the peninsula. As we pulled up into the parking yard, we saw a huge dead shark on a cart. Everyone of course jumped out of the car and crowded around the cart, quickly snapping pictures. People started poking the skin, which I felt repulsed by. It was a 110-year-old shark, caught the night before. They can live until 150 years, but it takes 40 years to ferment before it can be eaten. The owner came out - he's really passionate about his field of expertise and it showed - and after a while talking about the shark, he said, "Why don't we go to the drying shack. It's much more interesting." (in Icelandic he said all this). I loved the fact that what we thought was the most fascinating thing was mundane for him. We headed to the shack where fish was drying. There the owner told us the story of his travel to Italy. He had brought some fermented shark meat to his friend in Italy. The police eventually came knocking at the door and asked where he had put the corpse. Then we headed into the museum where a lot of neat fishing and shark things were displayed.
Monday, 20 April 2009
The following were taking about three weeks ago, when the capital was holding a blues festival. These cars sort of invaded the public square for a while.
Sunday, 19 April 2009
I am still very tired after 8, 9 hours of continuous sleep. My body still craves oatmeal as if it is in the dead of winter, and I am drinking chai tea as if preparing for a nasty cold. This country does this to you.
Even though the sun sets at around 9:30 and comes up around 5 now, the weather is still unforgiving.
The supposedly "sunny" days are laden with clouds. A nice day is rare. Next Thursday, the country will be celebrating the first day of summer (and two days later they will be holding the election). There is no spring. There is no spring!
Thursday, 16 April 2009
The trips there and back were really good - the first day I couldn't stop laughing for some reason.
The Westfjords were really different in the wintertime.
The festival was good. I met some people there who under any other circumstance I wouldn't have said hi to but I did!
On our way out of town, we put on Sígur Rós and the music really set the mood for what I was seeing.
And I got free popcorn compliments of Vodafone.
And a free poster because we were waiting for our bus back to Núpur where we were staying, a town 30 minutes outside of the centre.
Pictures soon, I promise.
My first choice was Université Laval in Québec City, and I got it! I will be going there at the beginning of July for 5 weeks to be "immersed" in French. I've been reading some comments on the Internet and some say it is really good (especially since it's not in mostly bilingual Montreal). Others say that the program is like a camp for kids, complete with counsellors, save the 'lights out' time.
In any case, I will be able to continue this TRAVELS blog after Iceland. Which may or may not be a good thing for me and my very few readers.
Thursday, 9 April 2009
For the Easter break, my German teacher warned that everything shuts down in Reykjavik and nothing and noone is to be seen, so GET OUT AS SOON AS POSSIBLE! I could've gone north, but I chose to go to the Westfjords again for yet another music festival 'Aldrei fór ég suður'.
So I have yet to go north.
Have I ever mentioned (probably) that in 2005, I discovered a Canadian artist on CBC radio 3 called Sabola.
One of the songs I heard and subsequently downloaded was called "The Long Road to Isafjordur". I thought, "Okay, this song is good, it really makes it sounds like a long journey. But this Isafjordur, I wonder what he was thinking about because it sounds like a made-up place."
Of course it sounded made up because it sounded like a place that JRR Tolkien would have penned, which in fact is true: Icelandic was an inspiration for that Elvish language or whatever.
And now I'm going there again! Weird how things come back to you again and again.
Monday, 6 April 2009
I must say I was quite nervous and when the horses started trotting I felt like I could fall off the horse at any moment.
Now my entire core is sore.
Wednesday, 25 March 2009
I bet there will be way more tourists this year than ever before, what with the low krona rate and nothing beats publicity like bad publicity! It was different in the fall, when the tourists were slowly disappearing. No one wants to be here in the dark days (except for Airwaves and New Year's). Now, the sun rises at 7:00 and sets almost at 8:00. It's like summertime except it's only the end of March. Too bad I won't get to experience the whole sunshine.
Anyway, I really should stop drinking coffee. Before this year I drank a cup or two a year. Now I need at least 2 or 3 a week. I don't drink it every day, but...I should stop.
I'm going to begin listing the things I will miss about RVK:
1. The cafes.
2. The dairy products. I went to the city's most famous ice cream shop and it is very good ice cream. Also: milk, cream, Skyr is good. I admit the cheese is nothing to be desired.
3. Umm...I will think of more.
Forget where this is. On the way to Grindavík. The drive here was dangerous as there was a lot of wind and rain and we were very near cliffs.
Hver-something on the way to Vík. Boy, I'm really bad with my geography. A greenhouse growing bananas. According to the guidebooks, Iceland grows the most bananas in Europe.
It is open all year round and what you do especially during winters (it is like the Lake Ontario polar dip), you can go into the sea and then run back into a hot pot/tub/puddle.
When we went some people were celebrating a few birthdays there so the pot was really crowded. But there were free hot dogs! I felt like I had a great cultural experience. The sea water is not so cold now - just like a cold summer's day at the beach in an Ontario lake. And what a beautiful sunset! Un jour parfait.