Asking for help

So, something I’ve learned on this rollercoaster of a year abroad so far – asking for help is SO HARD! And everyone I talk to says the same. And you don’t notice until shit hits the fan, and then at the same time as dealing with shit hitting the fan, you’re dealing with the conundrum of asking people for help – which people/what do I say/are they going to think I’m needy/do I know them well enough/and on and on. Doubt sets in. “They don’t want to hear about shit hitting the fan”. And after a few weeks, when you’re still feeling it, “they’ll think I’m just going on about the same old stuff I should be over by now”. And of course, that’s not what they think at all. Most of the time people are just glad, and sometimes even honoured, that you’ve asked them. It’s a fairly good display of trust on the askers part.

For me, sometimes just knowing there’s someone at the other end of the phone is enough. I was in a funk at the beginning of last week – I just couldn’t seem to shake it. And on Monday evening Amandine was out having fun, and I was in a funk at home. Tired and not feeling like socialising, but not socialising was contributing to the funk, it was a bit of a fix. And I didn’t want to text Amandine because she was out having fun. I was writing Elspeth an email – it’s something we’ve both said about ourselves before, we don’t like asking for help, we like being the ones who do the helping (underlying issues there I’m sure – therapists out there?) and I was saying about how I was in a funk and didn’t want to ask for help, and writing it to her it sounded so silly, there are plenty of people here, I just need to get over this not-wanting-to-ask-for-help thing and do it. So I texted Tara, who replied immediately, and straight away I felt better. So easy. One text. Mood improved. *doh*

I think it’s one of those things that will never be easy. But just knowing that, as Carly quoted on Sunday (in an unrelated context, but applicable non-the-less) “ask and thou shalt receive”. If you don’t ask for help, you won’t get it, and that’s when you run into problems.

OR, as Nigel puts it, this is all an AFGO – another fucking growth opportunity. *sigh* (He’s starting to sound like Calvin’s dad…)



A commute I won’t forget!

So, I had a slightly more interesting journey home than usual today. Try googling Montreal news…

At about 4.30 I went to meet Amandine in the library and buy some stationary. McTavish, one of the streets through campus, had a river running down it. This is not hyperbole. It even sounded like a river, rushing and gurgling, splashing over the pavements, and flowing FAST. I headed to the library and called Amandine over to the window. From there we watched, in a fascinated amusement, the corner of Sherbrooke and McTavish, where the water was flooding the street, the bank, side streets, everywhere. People were stranded on the corners, other brave souls tried to cross, I think more fell in the process than didn’t. Bikes tied up on McTavish were half submerged, cars struggled to get through.

When Amandine and I ventured out, her to go swimming, me to go home, we were faced with an issue. McTavish was flooded, University was flooded, Sherbrooke was flooded. We were trapped on Campus. This called for M & Ms to deal with this worrying development. At Snax, all the food had been bought by worried students, thinking they would be stuck on campus for the night (lots of jokes ensue – McGill wants us to work so hard they trap us on campus… etc). Water was dripping from the ceiling, being caught in wheelie bins, where the upper levels had been flooded (McGill is on a hill, the buildings all have entrances on many levels). We decided to try our luck on Sherbrooke, thinking we’d go south for a block or two and then back across. The water was deep and flowing fast, but due to the unevenness of the road, was in fairly narrow stretches, and we were both wearing snowboots, so we managed to make it across to the centre of the road, where there was a thin layer of water flowing. It was now that we realised why people had been falling over. Due to the cold temperatures, the roads were (still are in fact) below freezing, so ice was forming underneath the flowing water. Somehow we made it across to the other side without slipping over, success!

A few blocks down, we ventured off the dry route. Finding our way blocked by water flowing down the next street, we crossed over, and made it another block. Then we found ourselves trapped on a corner, the water was flowing so fast that we couldn’t cross, and the only way was back the way we’d come. Now comes our stroke of genius. The other side of the street was relatively dry, and if we got across we’d be fine. But how? We were pinned right against the wall by at least a 6ft wide stretch of flowing water that curved round the corner and down the next street. Then it occurred to us, there were cars emerging from the car parks on our side of the street… So, we got a lift across the street by a very lovely (if slightly confused) lady!

From there it was fine. Somewhat amazingly the metro was still running, so I made it home, and without wet feet – an achievement I feel!


Another interesting journey home!

This was written before the previous post, but due to internet issues is being posted today!

Connections with people you know and love are wonderful, they make life worth living. However, I truly believe that momentary connections with complete strangers add something else. A shared moment with someone you don’t, and will never, know is special.

Yesterday, on the metro home, I was sat opposite a guy of about my age (he was gorgeous – but that’s an aside). We made eye contact, but then had that awkward thing of not really being able to go anywhere from there – we couldn’t talk, and I didn’t want to just stare at him. Then, the woman next to me got out a roll of sellotape and started wrapping it around her fingers. It was completely bizarre, and I smiled to myself. And then I saw that the guy was smiling too, and that made me smile more, and then he saw me smiling and then we couldn’t look at each other for fear of bursting out laughing.

And then I got off the metro, leaving him smiling and her with her sellotape and walked home with a spring in my step and a smile on my face.

Oh, and a full moon overhead.


Words of Wisdom

Here’s a little Sunday afternoon anecdote for you all.

I was in the lab on Friday afternoon and my prof wanders in, “Maya! I hear you have some crystals to show me!” So we went to the microscope, and he sorts the focus out and adjusts the polarisation and gets excited, “Wow, you’ve got lots here! These aren’t bad! Nice one! We can run an x-ray on these!” (It’s a way to determine the structure of the molecule that I’m looking at). So I have a look, and they look kinda like cross-hatched steel, except clustered together in little groups, and he’s altered the polarisation so they’re reflecting the light and look kinda like oil on a wet road. They were beautiful. And I said “I know I’m supposed to be sciency about this, but aren’t they just beautiful?” And he turned to me and said “Maya, when you lose your wonder at the beauty of these things, it’s time to consider why you’re here”.

Which I think is probably applicable to most things in life.

Anyway, it is a beautiful day here, and I’m sat in the library after a rather wonderful breakfast with some rather lovely people (yes you, Carly, Laura, Zoe) and feeling good about life.

Love to you all!


Here is another Calvin and Hobbes – not quite spot on, but not far off!Image


So, this is going to be my last public post about the weather – no more statuses or blog mentions, but I thought that for those of you that aren’t here, I’d give you a little tutorial about how to dress, and then what to expect when stepping out into -30 degree weather. Here goes….

First, after underwear (obviously) thermal tights go on. Then jeans, on top of that you put normal socks, and then thick wooly ones, and then leg warmers over the jeans. Bottom half done. Top half, normal top, then a thin jumper or cardigan, then a proper jumper. Ok. So far, we’re doing ok. Then on with the fleece lined boots and goose down jacket (YES YES, it’s not veggie – SORRY!). Then hat, down over ears and the best ones pretty much come to your eyebrows. Scarf, the longer the better, wrap it around neck and face so it covers the mouth and you can tuck your nose down into it. Gloves, hood up, out the door, hands in pockets.

So you’ve made it out. Now you notice that the hairs in your nose that you didn’t know existed are frozen. Yup, that’s right. And then you become aware that the exposed bits of your cheeks are hurting from the cold. And then the water in your eyes feels weird so you blink and your eyelashes almost stick to each other. And the cold is seeping through to your thighs, and ears, and hands. And your breath is freezing on your scarf covering your mouth. And then you make it to the metro station and have to peel everything off for fear of melting into a little pool of the person you used to be because the temperature change is so extreme.

Being outside = needing all the layers. Going between buildings at uni, maybe 2 minutes, at most 5, requires everything. Taking gloves off to text/change a song on your ipod whilst out is foolish!

So there you have it, my cold experience. I’ve almost certainly forgotten about things, but you will not know, because I am determined not to keep going on about it!

OH, one last thing. When it’s this cold, the light seems to be brighter and more crisp, first thing in the morning it’s beautiful, and at night, it seems to be too cold for clouds, so the moon is just stunning. When inside, or wrapped up ridiculously, this weather isn’t so bad!

Of course, there is a Calvin and Hobbes for every situation (I really do think that is the case!) so here is this one:Image


This is why I love Amandine…

This is her response to my blog post this morning:

“This morning when I stumbled out of Solin to go buy some cereal in order to happily crawl back into my bed with a nice feast, I ran out so fast the snow completely surprised me! And that urge of happiness came up, I wanted to scream, or squeak like little babies do when they’re super happy, you know? My little cousin that I saw in Paris does it all the time and it’s probably the greatest sound of joy I’ve ever heard…”


It’s the little things

I love those moments where you’re filled with happiness, and it almost bubbles over as a laugh. Or the moments that make you smile for the rest of the day. Or even the moments that just make you smile for a minute.

This week has been full of those moments. Yesterday we went to Igloofest – an outdoor festival in the old port of Montreal (outdoors I hear you cry! It was -20 yesterday! YES, that’s why people were wearing snowsuits!) for Laura’s birthday. Laura is a grad student in my lab, she’s a Brit – although she’s lived everywhere – and she’s taken me under her wing, shows me how to do stuff, takes me for coffee if I get stressed when my experiments aren’t going well, and tells me to buck up if I’m feeling too sorry for myself! But back to Igloofest, it was awesome, all these people in big puffy coats, crowded 

in together so we didn’t get cold, and just being jostled around, and then me and Laura grabbed hands and we just dancing and dancing and laughing, and it was wonderful.

On Thursday I went to midnight kitchen. Esmond is another Brit who goes, Gina used to say that when the two of us talked to each other it was a British overload, which of course makes us both laugh, so we act up to it! So me and him were being British and silly. And then me and Kim-Ly had a lovely conversation and got up to wash our dishes and were stretching and doing silly walks like John Cleese, and generally goofing around and laughing, and I walked around for the rest of the day with a big grin on my face.

And then this morning, waking up to more snow, and it still falling outside my window, makes me smile every time I catch sight of it!

And what I like about having all of these little good things is that the little bad things don’t seem so bad. The fact that I’ve lost my voice and would much rather be in bed than doing uni work is still there, but seems less of a big deal.

Have a lovely weekend guys – now, back to work…