What a week…

I’m sat outside writing this and hoping my battery will last because I’m in short sleeves and almost too hot, and I know I’m not going to be able to do this for much longer so I want to make the most of every available bit of sunshine! I’ve got a half hour before I have to go help at the midnight kitchen, so I’ll keep this short and sweet.

Boy, what a week this has been! And I thought last week was busy! Yesterday I was in the library till almost midnight – madness! An assignment I thought I was closer to finishing than I actually was took a whole lot longer than expected! That’ll teach me for leaving things to the last minute! I don’t think I did a very good job, but I realised that it’s 1 assignment out of many, that in total are worth 20%, so probably it’s only worth about 4 or 5% of my total grade. So now I feel silly for stressing so much over it. Ah well. I know for next time!

So, along with the assignment, I also moved in this week! Hurrah! I spent Monday and Tuesday living in a very naked looking room, and then went with Leo to Ikea to kit it out. It was surprisingly fun, I’m SO glad we went together, by myself I’d probably have lost it! It’s so big and overwhelming and there’s so much choice and when you’ve eventually decided you find out that the product is out of stock, and then you’re shepherded through like sheep and then after all that you have to get the stuff home! But we both survived, and now my room has a wobbly desk (I need to borrow a drill from a housemate, screwing into mdf is hard!) and a chair with a cushion (me and Leo both decided that although not technically necessary, a cushion would be nice) and a bedside table and lamp. And my favourite bit is the curtains. I bought a curtain rail and some nice fabric, but I’m excited for two reasons, partly because they’re nice, but also because it’s a project to work on, sewing up the ends etc. And then I might be able to get some planks of wood from a friend and some cheap brackets and then I’ll have a bookshelf. I’ll get some photos for you all!

I also had my first French class, which was fun. The teacher is another student, and he’s pretty chilled. I’m determined to get this French thing down! I’ve got a while, so if I don’t come back to England talking at least a little bit of French I’ll be very annoyed with myself!
I’m off out with my research group this afternoon – they’re a fun bunch, so that will be good. And then it’s another friends birthday this evening, and Maeve’s birthday tomorrow (I’ve promised her Nigel’s chocolate pudding, SO EXCITED!) and then a big get together and picnic on Sunday. Hopefully there will be time to catch up on sleep and get some work done in amongst everything else at some point this weekend! I think that if nothing else, McGill will teach me good time management!

Now I have to run. Have a lovely weekend guys!

Love to you all!

XxX

Oooofta.

Oooofta. My new favourite expression (it’s Minnesotan, I love it!). And it totally describes this week. It’s Sunday already, how did that happen? I can barely remember writing the last blog post I’ve been so busy.

I’ve made chemistry friends, hurrah!! Well, the beginnings of chemistry friends, fingers crossed guys! The other students in my group (research lab) are lovely, and one of my classes has about 7 people in it, including me and the lecturer, so I have absolutely no excuse not to get to know them! My polymer class (which, incidentally, is SO GOOD) is also really small, and the prof is so lovely, on Thursday he brought in pastries for us all! And then made nylon in a petri dish in front of us. So cool! But with such a small class I think it will be hard not to get to know those guys too. So far, so good! I am in uni a lot. I have early starts every day, and because I’m doing a research project I’m supposed to be in the lab 2 afternoons a week, so it works out that I’ve not really got any free time Monday to Friday during the day. Add a few nights out to the mix and you get one tired Maya!

It’s Pop Montreal this week, a city-wide festival, spread across a whole load of venues. On Thursday a few of us went out to see Fanfare Ciocarlia, a Balkan band. I don’t think I stopped dancing the whole night! And the venue was this amazing theatre, all velvet and gold pillars. AND, they were serving popcorn at the bar. It was awesome! The band just kept playing, towards the end every song sounded like their last, and me and Gina kept looking at each other like “phew, I don’t think I can dance anymore!” and then they’d start up again! It was brilliant! Afterwards, we went and got poutine, so it was a proper night out! And then the others wobbled their way home on bikes, and I got on the bus, which I love late at night because you get such a funny mix of people on it!

I can’t even remember what happened on Friday! And Saturday I spent a whole chunk of the day in the library! What’s happening to me?!? I’ll tell you – the work load is picking up. A weekly assessment our lecturer says, shouldn’t take too long… Famous last words! Lordy, feels like I’ll never finish the darn thing! And then after a stint in the library I went to meet Victor and his friend at this cute little Venezuelan restaurant and had some good food, and then we walked in the rain and got FROZEN YOGURT! I was so excited! (Note: Rocki, it wasn’t as good as (yo)gurt [lab] – I thought of you!) And after that it was on to games night, hosted by the lovely Eileen, who invited me along after only meeting me for a few minutes in a class. There were a group of guys playing settlers of Catan, I watched for a bit, but there were totally immersed, so I joined the other group playing werewolf, which is fun and rowdy and not too serious!

This morning, after another breakfast from Manu and Pascale (scrambled eggs with halloumi cheese – YUM and fruit salad) me and Leo (who is their new housemate, he’s a friend of Manu’s from Brazil) had a chat about travelling and living other places and all sorts. He’s one wise guy “it’s like, you’re split in two, there’s part of you still in Brazil, or in England, or when you go back, in Montreal – but you’re here now, so you have to live it, right?” And it’s so true. Me and Eimear were saying something similar the other day, that although sometimes I think about you guys back home having fun and me not being there, at not one point have I ever wished I wasn’t exactly where I am right now. And actually, there’s so much going on, and life is busy and there are friends to be making and classes to be going to and assignments to be working on and a whole new city to be exploring, that I really haven’t got time to feel homesick or sorry for myself or miss anyone too much (except Barkley, I miss him!) and that’s not to say I don’t think of you all from time to time, and smile to myself, I just don’t miss you. Is that the same thing?

Whatever, I’m happy. And now I’m off to the library to show that assignment who’s boss.

Love to you all!

XxX

A wonderful weekend

At some point last week, Gina tried to persuade me to come on the outdoors club new members weekend “we’ll cycle there and there will be lots of nice new people and a bonfire and it will be fun” and for some reason I was not convinced. “I haven’t got a bike, it’s expensive, I’ve got work to be doing…” There are always excuses. BUT, then we went swimming on Wednesday morning she said she was going to look at a bike later and would I like to come. So along I went, found my beauty of a bike, and was dragged along to the meeting where I was horrible and grumpy, BUT signed up for the weekend. Turned out to be a good choice.

I’d decided to be tactically late to the 8am meeting time in order to stop at the supermarket to pick up snacks. When I got there at about 8.20, there were half the people there who were supposed to be (I’m not always the latest!) and I texted Gina to find out where she was. She rang back in a blind panic saying her alarm hadn’t gone off, and to delay everyone! I didn’t tell her that she wasn’t alone in that situation, so she made it down in about 15 minutes, a rather adrenaline filled morning for her! And everyone else was still late, so we even had time for a bagel from Tim Hortons!

We set off, taking over a whole lane of Saint Laurent, which is less satisfying than in England because the roads are so wide it barely makes a difference! Once out of Montreal we split into groups, although we planned on being in the medium, the group leader of the slow group was so awesome we got chatting and ended up with her. This turned out to have been for the best, as once we got to the house later that day, we found out the other groups hadn’t stopped for lunch, and we all know how upset that would have made me! Also, the rest of the slow group were awesome. We chatted and laughed and stopped for breaks and cycled through fountains in town centres, enjoyed the beautiful day and generally had a good time. Pretty much the entire 44(ish)miles was bike path, mostly flat, and weaving through fields and villages, following a train line at one point and a river at another, it was a gorgeous ride.

Once we got to the house we crashed out for a while – I realised that I’ve not ridden a bike for about 6 weeks, which explains why cycling into uni this morning was so painful! A group of people that had arrived previously headed off on a hike, but we sat around and ate cheesy nachos, before rousing ourselves to change into swimming costumes and walk down to the river. The water was cold, but not as cold as the British sea, so after psyching myself up I just ran in. Once we were in it was brilliant, easing the achy muscles from a day of cycling in the sun, and not THAT cold really… Dirk impressed us all with his butterfly, and Edward had us all swimming in panic as he climbed the bank on the opposite site and caused a mini landslide of rocks and branches to come flying towards us in the water. Walking back to the house was less than pleasant – I realised that I couldn’t feel my feet, and walking over gravel barefoot and not feeling a thing is an odd experience. BUT, upon return to the house we were greeted with the smell of food, and after putting on all the socks I could find ate a plate of rice and two types of dahl and salad and then sat on the sofa with a mug of hot chocolate in a happy full stupor.

The evening consisted of more food, icecream, singing round the campfire, and some MOC (mcgill outdoors club) games. Sock wrestling – two people, each wearing one sock and with their trousers rolled up, aim of the game? Get the other persons sock off. Hilarity ensues. And it’s harder than it sounds! Try it guys. Then, human bouldering – this is for those guys who have the sort of body control I can only dream of. One person is the boulder, they stand still. The other person is a climber, and starts on the boulder’s back, sort of in a piggyback, and has to climb up over the boulder’s shoulders, down their front, through their legs and back up their back, all without touching the ground. Some people were designed for it, others end up in slightly compromising positions, which is of course hilarious for the rest of us. I watched and didn’t even consider trying it! The third game was the box game – with your teeth, you have to pick up a beer box from the floor, while standing on only one foot. Then the box is cut shorter and shorter. Hilarious, and again, harder than it sounds! The evening finished off with a walk back down towards the river to look at the stars. The milky way was out, as were a few of the constellations, and the odd shooting star. It was beautiful.

Sunday was a lovely day. It started with the most amazing breakfast. Chocolate chip pancakes with banana and maple syrup is a match made in heaven! I always find the ride home easier, I think it’s because I know how far I’ve got to go, and it was just beautiful. On Sunday there was no headwind, the sun shone all day, we stopped for lunch by a river and generally took it easy. When I got back to Montreal, Pascale had made banana cake – it was the best thing to come home to! The perfect end for a rather wonderful weekend!

Now it’s raining, here in Montreal, and I feel at home. I had my first proper day in the lab today, I MADE STUFF! (Let’s hope it was the right thing…) and I’m planning Nigel’s amazing chocolate pudding for dessert. Life is good.

Love to you all!

XxX

Dishwashing and bikes

Today has been one of those days for which it is taking a lot of energy (and perhaps an espresso and biscotti as I write) to keep me smiling. And what’s silly is that it has been full with lovely little interactions that should have made it lovely. It’s just that in between those, people have been grumpy, a peddle fell off my bike (I know, I know, you spend nothing, you get a pile of crap – but it could have at least waited until after Sunday, as I’m supposed to be going on a bike trip this weekend!), then the bike shop isn’t open for another hour, it feels like a storm is brewing (which is quite exciting, but it means that right now it’s super humid and sticky), I’m totally stuck with my research project – and didn’t have time to go ask for help, and on and on. But enough of that.

I did my first shift at the midnight kitchen today, which added to my time related stressing, but was fun. The Midnight Kitchen is a volunteer run food collective that provides free or by donation vegan meals Monday to Friday in the students union building. The fresh fruit and veg is donated by various places around the city due to it being not sellable – bruised etc, and they buy the staples, rice, lentils etc with the donation money. My timetable means I’m never available to help with the cooking  BUT, today I did a whole load of washing up and helped serve the food to the cool looking bunch of people who bring along their own tupperwares or plates to eat the food from. I also got chatting to the other volunteers. All women, a mix of first timers (like me) and people that had been volunteering for years, old friends and strangers, and for the most part, very friendly! Today’s coordinator was lovely, although initially I thought she was a little abrupt. It was when she turned around and said to me “I’ve not heard anyone use the word cheeky except my grandma!” I realised she was actually just busy, and not grumpy at all. We got chatting over the HUGE sinks in the kitchen about colonialism, British accents and high school. The other hardcore Midnight Kitcheners appear to be a group of friends, and are a tad intimidating to start with, some more than others! But once there were just three of us clearing up the kitchen with the radio on (and singing along to songs that if you were being judgemental (which I was I guess!) you’d not expect pierced and shaved headed student protestors to be singing along to!) they became less so! It’s hard to be intimidating when singing Say My Name by Destiny’s Child…

I also popped my head into the McGill bike workshop to see if they’d be able to help me fix my bike. The lovely girl in there told me it was shut today to the general public, she was working on her own bike, but we got chatting and she told me I could pop in once my shift was done and she’d help me out. Unfortunately, I’d forgotten that I have possibly the most boring lecture in the world from 3.30 till 4.30 with my professor from my research project (he told me it would be useful to go along to for the first few weeks, he’s covering info he thinks I need) so I didn’t have time to take my bike in. However, the lovely girl had told me there was a place near Concordia university, so I decided to walk my sad looking, peddle-less bike there after class. On the way, it started to rain, and I was torn between feeling like bursting into tears, because I had a broken bike and I was tired and couldn’t do my research project and I’m supposed to be meeting a hopefully soon-to-be friend for a drink later, and now it’s raining and it’s all too much OR smiling and putting a spring in my step because I love the smell of rain on a hot pavement, and I actually quite like the rain. It was decided for me because I ran into the lovely girl from the bike shop who stopped to say hi and pointed me in the right direction for the other bike shop and told me to have a good weekend. And so I told her she was a babe and then I couldn’t help but smile!

The other bike shop was closed when I got there, but a guy who looked suspiciously like a hipster walked past me with a key to go in and told me it was shut till six, I’d have to come back later. I made some joke about the fact that if I’d read the sign on the door I’d have known that, “note to self – read door sign”, and he looked at me like I was stupid. Well, Mr Hipster man, personally, I think it’s important not to take yourself too seriously, hence my own self derogatory joke about reading the sign. Clearly this is not a concept you understand. Hurrumph. Hopefully he’ll have gone when I go back!

So that brings me to now. Sat in a lovely little coffee shop with mediocre coffee but a good biscotti and a rather fine people watching view out the window. I decided to write a blog rather than work, I’ll probably regret this on Sunday when I get back tired from the cycling adventure I’m going on this weekend, but you guys will appreciate the blog more than me working out the exact quantities of various chemicals I need to synthesise isatoic anhydride…

Ok, it’s about time to go brave the hipster and get my bike fixed! Have a lovely weekend!

XxX

An update – I couldn’t figure out the wifi in the cafe, so I had to wait to post anyway. The main guy at the bike shop was SCARY! There were a bunch of people waiting when I got there, so I got chatting to them. He came out and started to take people’s names and the issues with their bike, it’s a workshop so people fix their own bikes, but he’s there to help. Anyway, he shouted at us all to stop talking, which was a bit weird, and then had a go at this guy for giving him a false name. It was totally weird. We were all looking at each other like, what the hell is HIS problem? And it was the guys real name! I talked to him afterwards to see if he was ok. He was, and I got my bike fixed, so we’re all good!

Grumpy bike day

As the winter here is going to stop all cycling/running (not that that occurs much!)and too much walking, my ways to keep fit are much depleted. So I told myself I would take up swimming… I’ve been twice this week already, and as there are three days a week I don’t have a lecture until 9.30, I’ve decided I’m going to swim beforehand. So far so good! But boy, am I unfit! I’m aiming to be not so bad at front crawl, and to be noticeably less red in the face afterwards by Christmas – achievable, if I keep to my schedule!

Amongst various lectures today I met with the professor I’m working with on my research project for the year. It was SO hard to decide which project to do, knowing what I’ll still be interested in tomorrow is hard enough, let alone in 10 months time! Turns out, even if I’m not interested in the strength or quantum structure of the N-N bond, I’ll certainly be amused by the professor. He’s exactly as a chemistry professor should be, lots of unruly facial hair, a particular way of making jokes that he alone finds hilarious, and entirely blasé about everything. He told me that I’m synthesising this molecule and investigating its chemistry. Fine. Then he asks how my German is – ok, ish. “Good! You’re going to need it!” And hands me two research papers telling me how to make the molecule – in German! How am I supposed to make the damn thing if I can’t read the instructions?!? He just chuckles away to himself and sips his coffee. I’ll keep you updated as to how this pans out…

Then, after uni, onto the bike shopping! I went with Gina (an exchange from Australia who I met at the big induction event at the beginning of term) to find bikes, and we tried out what felt like LOADS! But eventually we found the ones for us! Mine is rusty and the chain could probably do with some tlc. I think I need to get some wire wool and oil onto it! But, for the equivalent of £45, what did I expect? It’s got the upright Dutch handlebars (I don’t think that’s actually what they’re called, but you guys know what I mean!) and good brakes and gears and I’m already falling in love with it. The city feels so much smaller with a bike! The half hour bus ride from uni to home took probably 15 minutes cycling, and there’s not much that makes me happier than a good bike ride!

However, after buying the bikes we had to go to a meeting for the outdoor club – they’re holding an event somewhere this weekend, it’s within cycling distance and sounds like fun, but by this time it was 7pm. I’d left the house at 8 that morning, and I could tell I was in need of food, or the grumpiness would set in! BUT, food did not happen – we were running late! So Gina, I am very sorry that you had to deal with my tired, hungry grump. Especially as when we got the meeting I managed to just about hide it (I hope!) to be happy and civil to her friends who were there. Seeing the grumpy Maya is reserved for people who have known me for at least two weeks!

So that was today. And now I’m not hungry but still tired, so I’m off to sleep. Goodnight! Enjoy your Thursday!

XxX

The Loveliest of Days

So, I’m sat at the kitchen table writing this with a big ol’ grin on my face. I’ve not been able to shift it all day! It’s just gone from good to great! And it’s not finished! There’s apple and plum crumble in the oven and ice cream in the freezer! And I’ve already had a dessert and two main courses! Manu started up the barbeque and did corn on the cob while me and Pascale cooked other things. I did the crumble – I love making the top, with the flour and oats all over my hands. And Pascale made buttered tofu – which is probably one of the best things I’ve eaten in a long time! Manu also made more bananas with nutella, which I’ve already raved about! So, today is another day of eating well! AND, we had banana pancakes for breakfast!

So other than the food, today has been good for a number of reasons. I took some stuff over to my new house this morning. I will be living with a rather wonderful friend of Manu and Pascale’s and her lovely housemate in a 1st floor flat (or 2nd floor for the Americans/Canadians), with my own balcony (!!!) and a shared kitchen and a generally nice feel to the place! Plants and nice cushions and nettle tea. Yum. I can’t wait to move in, which won’t be for a few weeks as they are doing a bit of decoration, so that means I have to stay longer with Manu and Pascale – what a drag. NOT! I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, I could not have asked for more lovely, welcoming, generally awesome people to be staying with!

So after dropping the stuff off I just wandered. I came across this beautiful building, ivy and graffiti covered, with a bike path running past it and the trainlines beyond that. I sat and read for a while, helped a cool looking lost person find her way, watched the people cycling, skating, jogging past. Then I wandered on, in search of a coffee shop, as it looked like rain, and because I didn’t want to go home. I found just what I was looking for! An independent place, with good coffee and a chocolate chip cookie that wasn’t too bad either. Mismatched furniture, sofas, books to swap on a bookshelf, a girl reading by herself, folk discussing work in the corner, friendly staff, and the best bit was the guy playing the banjo! I’ve never known live music during the day in a coffee shop in England. It was so nice to sit there and listen to him, and then zone out and read for a bit, and then do some people watching. I’ll be going back! I think I’ll make it my coffee shop office.

Then I went to get fruit for the crumble, and afterwards was leaning against the bus stop waiting, with the sun on my face and my eyes closed because I forgot my sunglasses and had one of those lovely realisations that life is wonderful and good and that I’m so happy that I’m alive! And then I also realised that it was a beautiful evening and I should definitely make the most of the fact that it was 5.30 and I was wearing my dungarees (or romper suit someone called it. It makes me think of kids romping around, but that’s ok! I can romp!) and no jumper and I wasn’t cold (autumn is getting here, the leaves are starting to fall – it’s gunna get cold soon…) and the sun was still shining on my face and I have a pair of legs that work, so I walked home in this blissful happy state.

Now I know you’re all thinking “god, she’s finally lost it – either that or drunk!” But I’m not drunk, and I don’t think I’ve lost it! Although if I have, it’s not such a bad state to live in!

Love and happy days to you all!

XxX

An unintentional post about food…

YES! Things are coming together! I have a place to live! Hurrah! I got conformation from Sheffield that the modules I’ve chosen are ok! (let’s hope the lecturer who said he’d be able to move the class due to a clash actually does, otherwise I’m in trouble!) Classes are good and interesting and it turns out not everyone in class is cliquey and has their own friends and doesn’t want to talk to me!

I’ve also had two barbeques in two nights, which seems to have been good timing, as the weather has taken a turn for the worse! Two days ago Manu organised a barbeque party to celebrate the fact that the steps from her back balcony had been fixed. Unfortunately, it turns out they’re not quite finished, and we couldn’t use them, so we spent the evening passing things up and down to each other over the balcony. It added a certain amount of logistics and at one point a rather fabulous human chain as we cleared up at the end. I think most impressive was getting the kitchen table up and into the house! The food was amazing! Corn on the cob, done on a barbeque before it’s been shucked is amazing, so sweet and juicy! And then potato salad, and garlicy green beans, and homemade veggie burgers (Pascale, you’re amazing!), Brazilian dishes made by another friend of theirs, and a whole host of other equally amazing things. I think the dessert might have been the best though, first off, THE MOST AMAZING FRUIT SALAD EVER! Figs! Mango! Kiwi! And all other good things! SO GOOD! And then, all wrapped up in tin foil, bananas and nutella. Whoever invented this was a genius! Cut open the banana, slice it, fill it with nutella, wrap it in tinfoil, put it on the barbeque so the nutella melts and the banana gets warm, then eat it out of the skin with a spoon. Amazing.

Yesterday evening, I met Eimear (although confusingly she’s called Katie here, it’s all a bit much!) and we went and got lost trying to meet some very vague friends of mine. They’re friends of Ceci’s, Manu’s housemate, but I’ve adopted them as my own! Eventually they came to find us, and we trudged up, up, up to the top of Mont Royal for another barbeque. THE VIEW! Amazing. I tell ya, I do love the straight streets, you can see the traffic lights all the way along and the car headlights and the way they all disappear off into the distance is very pleasing! And in the distance, the water, with the lights reflected and twinkling. And of course, more good food and a bottle of cheap red wine between the two of us made everything just dandy! We also had an unexpected guest – a racoon! Which are very cute, with their little striped faces and tails! But SO tame and we had to keep chasing it away from the food!

So, life is settling down into a routine, and I’m getting to know Montreal better. So now the next level of organisational stuff starts: get a bike (or register for the bixi’s – Boris bikes), find a swimming pool (I’m fairly certain there’s one at McGill, I just don’t know where it is!), get French lessons (see previous blog), join some clubs (to make friends!), go to the library (so I know where it is!), and on and on. There’s always more stuff to be doing! But now, I’m writing this in bed in my pjs, and Manu just told me to get my ass into the kitchen. They’re whipping up a breakfast storm, and I wouldn’t want to miss that!

Have a good weekend!

XxX

Ok, so the breakfast storm consisted of homemade coffee milkshake – coffee icecubes, icecream, milk. SO SO good! And then, Pascale’s families speciality, eggs fried in bagels (or bread with a hole cut in it). I felt like I was out for breakfast!