A recap

I’m reverting to Calvin and Hobbes to describe my year abroad. I love this strip. A full day in 19 images. And within it, moments of reflection, conflict, amusement. As Calvin says, in reference to summer days, (I’m talking about 9 months), it’s supposed to be a long time, but now I’m back it feels like it passed by in a blur. And similar to calvin, it felt like a very full few months.



If I had to pick a few defining moments/experiences/feelings there are a few that leap to mind. Grief was certainly one of them. But alongside the grief, and perhaps to a certain extent because of it, a huge amount of support and love. And of course there was lots of laughter, and good food, and cycling, and outdoorsy adventures, and dancing to good music, and nights spent in coffee shops working on deadlines, and occasional moments of missing home, and stupidly long bus rides (40 hours? Never again), and swimming, and climbing, and exploring, and late night poutine, and singing around campfires, and running, breakfasts out, a HUGE amount of frozen yoghurt (although you can never have too much), yoga, road trips, camping, baking, sledding, too much coffee and on and on.

Probably the thing that played the biggest part in this year being so amazing was the people. I found myself plopped down into multiple communities of people unlike any other group I know. So much love and laughter and thoughtfulness. I felt challenged (lovingly) and have come away thinking more; about how everything is a chance to learn and grow, about who I want to be and HOW I want to be in the world. And, somewhat amazingly, they were in every part of my life there – my housemates, friends unconnected to McGill, chemists, MOCers, people from midnight kitchen. I feel truly lucky to have met them all.

I’ve also come away thinking I want to go back.

There’s more – of course. But I’m in danger of getting a bit ranty and gushy, and as this is my sixth attempt at trying to write a recap of my year abroad, and it’s only 2 months late, I’m going to leave it as is. 


Why I Hate Clubbing

We went out yesterday to a motown night at a club. At the beginning, there were 5 of us, dancing and having a good time. However, as the evening wore on, this is a sample of my internal monologue:

To the guy dancing slightly too close: Fuck off out of my personal space with your awful dancing. Yes, you. I mean it. Turning my back on you is a fairly good indication I don’t want to dance. Maybe not. Fuck off. My back is still turned. Leave me alone. Jesus. What the hell is wrong with you?

And on and on.

Later, a guy came up and asked me to dance so his friend could dance/make out with my friend. I knew that was why he’d asked, his friend had made it pretty obvious. So I told him – because I was drunk/tied/pissed off by the sleazy guys in the club – I’d not hold hands, and I’d not make out, and I’d only dance if he proved he was a good dancer. He accepted with good grace, so we had a bit of a dance off, and then we danced, and talked and danced some more. At the end, a friend of his came up and the guy I’d been dancing with explained my rules. I said that I hadn’t come out to make out with some random stranger, to which the guys friend replied “then why would you come out?” And THAT is why I hate clubbing. The fact that I go out to dance is irrelevant, because the guys in the club think I’m there to make out with them.

It’s so tiresome. I don’t want to spend my nights having my personal space invaded my drunk guys with a sense of entitlement. I want to dance. In my own space. If you would like to dance with me, than dance – don’t be a sleaze-ball all over the place – it is SO unappealing. And it shouldn’t have to take me spelling it out to some guy for him to understand that.

…Perhaps I should laminate a set of rules and stick it to my forehead, saves me having the same inane conversation multiple times…


Gah. Rant over.

May in Montreal

This could end up being a super long rambling post, but I’m fairly certain you guys would lose interest after a while, so I’m going to keep it short.

Exams are done – schools out! The weather is SO good, every day has been consistently above 20 for the past week I think = tans/sunburn! Montrealers have come out with summer clothes and smiles on their faces. Mont Royal is always covered with groups of people drinking and laughing and having a good time. We’ve had our share of that too, but we also left the city! Here’s a little breakdown:

Late to leave Montreal. Big backpacks, squeaky bikes, BIG smiles.

25 degrees, and 11 people = slow going! Water breaks, suncream breaks, food breaks.

Arrival. Food, tents, beach. COLD water, Frisbee, slacklines, yoga.

Food. Cooked over/in the fire – potatoes with butter and salt (I don’t think they can possibly taste better than when roasted in an open fire!), corn on the cob, chilli and couscous, pineapple, marshmallows, brownies (they didn’t go in the fire…). General consensus: food cooked and eaten outside communally is the best kind of food.

Up for the sunrise for some, leisurely breakfast, back to the beach. Swimming, bananagrams, more Frisbee, more sunburn.

Then off. Foiled plans (next time, we need to check when the ferry starts running in the summer…), more squeaky bikes, fewer breaks this time, except for icecream. Back to the city as the sun is setting.

Kim-Ly used the word euphoric to describe it. I am speaking for all of us here, but I think it’s pretty accurate!


And since then? Goodbyes (booo. I hate goodbyes), packing, sleepovers, wine, frozen yoghurt, poutine, boring errands and sorting of stuff. Talking of which, I need to go! That laundry isn’t going to do itself.

And So We Ran…

A full recap of the Run for Ella – the Montreal Contingent can be found on Jo’s blog. It’s my rather rambling explanation of events, along with some photos.

Rather than repeating it word for word, I thought I’d do another list of things that leapt to mind.

Time management: Living with Judith has taught me many things. One of which is to be CLEAR ABOUT TIME. So, saying we’re meeting at the station at 9 to get the 9.30 bus is good, because then people aim for 9, rather than rushing up at 9.28 and missing it. Also, ALWAYS overestimate how long it will take to get groups moving. I thought we’d start running at 11(ish), we set off at 11.30. In my mind, considering that starting running involved getting around 30 people to move, half an hour late is pretty darn good!

Never underestimate Canadians: So, Friday night the weather was awful. I texted Yolanda at one point saying that I hoped it wouldn’t put people off, her response was perfect:

“Love, we’re Canadian”

And it was so true. I don’t think anyone was put off by the fact that the weather was hovering around zero, and that on the bus up, it started snowing. It was beautiful when we set off, but then the wind picked up and it started snowing and hailing part way along. And people were STILL in a good mood!

Never underestimate Canadians (2): Amandine’s car got stuck in the mud. Well and truly dug in. I’ve never seen wheels in trenches so deep. We tried everything: pushing, rocking, digging out the wheels, jacking the car up to lift the wheels out of the mud and put something with grip under them – no use. The car was pretty adamant it was staying there. Then someone suggested Lifting the car to which the response wasn’t “are you crazy?” it was “Oh yea – why didn’t we think of that before?” So a bunch of us stood at the bonnet, and on the count of three lifted, while people stood at the door posts and pushed once we’d lifted. Amazingly, it worked, and we lifted it out of the ruts and then pushed it all the way down the drive (it kept sinking back in) onto the road. So, not only did we run 15km, we lifted a car up too.

People who have run 15km will be hungry: there is not much better than getting in from a 15km run, tired, achy, cooling down, to the smell of food and someone saying “grab a bowl, it’s ready” In total, we got through: 6 bags of tortilla chips, 2 blocks of cheese, 3 large jars of salsa, 10 tins of beans, 4 tins of sweetcorn, 4 tins of chopped tomatoes, a bag of onions, a bag of carrots, lots of peppers, 3 tubes of tomato paste, 2 bags of rice, 40 granola bars, a LOT of oranges and 8 litres of icecream. Wow. (Perhaps this should go under never underestimate Canadians (3))

I don’t think like running: I’m sad to admit it, but it’s true. I always like the idea of running. You get to be outside, you get fit, you feel wonderful afterwards. But the reality of it is that although I like being outdoors, usually I’m paying too much attention to remembering to breath, not to fall over, the pain in my ankles, a conversation I had with someone, how hungry I am etc that when I get home, I realise I didn’t really take anything in. I’d rather be walking, then at least you can maintain a conversation, get to where you’re going, AND appreciate the scenery. Or go by bike, which doesn’t make my ankles hurt, and has all the perks of walking, except faster. And if I want some exercise, I’d rather go swimming, or play badminton, or something that doesn’t feel like exercise.

People are so generous: with money, with their time, their skills, their love and support. I was so overwhelmed yesterday, and in fact continue to be, by the fact that people who didn’t even know me, let along Ella, were running. It may just have been because they wanted to run 15km, but I’m not very cynical, and even when I am, it was still amazing to be part of such an amazing group of people. I feel very lucky and honoured to have had their company and support yesterday.

The last is, I think, the most important thing I took away from the whole day. I’ve been struggling to articulate quite why it meant so much to me to have so many people run and get involved, so I’m going to stop trying. It meant a lot. Thank you.


Frazzled Day: Frazzled Thoughts

Man hunt (boy hunt perhaps, the kid is 19): sensationalised by the media. It’s like what we see in films – therefore easier to distance ourselves from the fact this is an actual person. A suspect it’s important to remember – although we seem to go by guilty until proven innocent in these times.

Run for Ella: the fund is over £10,000, mostly in donations of around £10. Pretty amazing really. And we’re not done yet. It blows my mind a little.

Run for Ella (2): The run I’ve organised is tomorrow. The number of people here who are running/biking/helping or joining in somehow is amazing. The world is full of wonderful people.

Dare I say it – SPRING: I think spring has FINALLY sprung. The beautiful people of Montreal have come out in short sleeves, skirts, bare legs. Skateboarders and rollerbladers have risked the (bloody awful) roads to grace us all with their effortless coolness (Skateboarders are always cool, not sure why). Also, the bixis are back.

Organisation: not my forte – too scatterbrained, although I enjoy it (most of the time!). Perhaps I’ll have more to say on that after tomorrow…

Exams: Blerg. I want this exam season done and dusted. Although that means time in Montreal is drawing to a close. Let’s just not think about that. Or the exams. Brilliant coping technique Maya…

Saying bye: Laura is off home tomorrow. The fact that I’m going to visit her in Nova Scotia and will be seeing her again is irrelevant. I hate saying bye.

Ok, with those brief thoughts, it’s back to revision. And more organisation. Braving Walmart later – lord help us. (Grocery shopping – not my fave)

Enjoy the rest of Friday!

Food for Thought

Know what’s interesting? Today in Iraq, it’s estimated that 31 people have been killed and 200 wounded. In Bahrain, in the months of March and April, 35 people have been killed. Yesterday in Syria, the latest news says that at least 25 people have been killed, many of them children. Any one of these is more than the number of people injured in the Boston marathon. 

Despite this, I don’t find myself checking back on the news to see updates about Syria. I don’t get the initial chill I got when reading about the Boston bombings. Facebook isn’t awash with people wishing the people of Iraq love and support, thinking of the families of Syrians whose children were killed in the government bombing yesterday. The BBC doesn’t consider four car bombings in Iraq “breaking news”, it isn’t full of news, insights, personal recounts, photos, tweets, messages from Obama, about all of the other death and destruction in the world.

And I wonder why. I wonder why the coverage is so different for each place. I wonder why we seem to feel so much more strongly about the deaths in the US. Possibly because they’re people like us, we may have known someone running in the Boston Marathon, or who did last year. Even if we’ve never been to Boston we have been to cities similar. But why does this make such a difference? The people in Syria are still people. They’re mourning their dead just as we are.

And then I wonder what affect this difference in the way we view the deaths of different people has on us. Particularly subconsciously. Which messages are being reinforced here? What do we learn from the difference in coverage? About the value we place on life?

I don’t know the answer to these questions. And I am sending love to the people of Boston. But also to the people of Baghdad, Kirkuk, Nasariyah, Tuz Khyrmatu, Damascus, Hasaka province, Manama, and all of the other areas of the world that are torn apart with violence. 

Happy Birthdays and the end of a long week

Thursday and Friday were Judith and Nigel’s birthday’s. HAPPY BIRTHDAY JUDITH AND NIGEL! I had planned to do an appreciative post for them, but it’s been a long week and I can’t quite find the words. Often I plan what I’m going to write in my head before I put pen-to-paper (figuratively – it’s more like fingers-to-keyboard) but the words for the appreciative post weren’t there. They’ll come to me at some point, and then Judith and Nigel will get a surprise post of appreciation.

In the meantime, here is a little post for you all. It’s not quite as upbeat as usual – it really has been a long week!

So, it’s the end of another week. This has been a long one. Deadlines, presentations, windy bike-rides home, wildly fluctuating temperatures, things not working quite right in the lab, and on and on and on. All interspersed with truly lovely times: HUGE mugs of tea, free wine and funny photos, good food, and others. BUT, today has been one of those days that’s just a little bit of a struggle. Where your brain is lagging about 3 feet behind what your body is doing, making life a little difficult.

It was one of those days where I appreciate the bike ride home, just straight up St Laurent, with a bit of a headwind and slightly uphill so I can push myself hard and it’s windy so I can curse the fact that it’s windy and I’ve got a half hour ride and I’m TIRED and COLD and cry tears of frustration and grief (Ella has been floating around my brain a lot this week) and don’t care if people give me funny looks because I’m cycling past and they’re never going to see me again.

And then what I appreciate more than that is looking up and the sky being that beautiful fading blue of the twilight, and locking up my bike and looking up and seeing the stars (clear skies being one of the major perks of -8 degree weather), and of past Maya cooking pasties and putting them in the freezer so I can come home and put them in the oven and put on my slippers (thanks Amy!) and curl up and watch Dr Who.