Sunday, 15 May 2011

Vendredi le 13 mai 2011

It is almost the end of my first week in Trois-Pistoles.  This week has been packed with fun.  We went on a tour of the town, we took a tour of the country (compagne) surrounding the town and we went to a forest with a beautiful waterfall.  We went on a hike around the wooded area for about an hour and I took lots of photos.  It was cold and a bit misty because of the waterfall, but I enjoyed every minute.  It’s nice to be outdoors, even if it is cold and windy.  This is a small, beautiful area so I want to see everything. 
That evening, we played volleyball in the gym (la gymnase) with the coach Jean-Phillipe (J.P.).  I am not very athletic, but again I just wanted to have fun so I tried my hardest.  I’m actually really good at serving, but not so good at volleying.  I bent my thumb back on my first try and it’s still sore (it happened Wednesday night).  We played for about 2 hours and afterwards a bunch of us went to La Cantine d’Amour for poutine.  The first and only time I had poutine was years ago at Burger King and it was disgusting.  I have never had it since.  I ordered fries, but Martin offered to let me try some of his poutine and I actually liked it. 
Yesterday, we went bowling after class.  I am not a good bowler either but I did pretty well the first round.  I came in second the first time and I had a lot of points.  The second time I bombed and came in last, but I had a good time.  That evening we went to the local café “Café au grains du foilles” and we sat in groups of about 4 people and Marie-Eve and Marjoline gave us all questions in French that we had to ask each other and respond to in French, like what countries have we been to, what did we dream last night, the last concert or show we saw, etc.  It was a good way of getting to know the other students here and to practise French a lot.  Last night we went back to La Cantine d’Amour for some more poutine and then went home to bed.
There is one girl living with me right now.  Her name is Elyse, and she’s very nice but she isn’t as good at French as I am.  That’s fine, except that she always asks me questions in English and talks to me in English.  I didn’t mind at first, but she’s using me as a crutch instead of learning on her own because I have to repeat everything everyone says in English.  It becomes a bit annoying when she constantly asks me instead of looking up words in a dictionary or really listening to what Yvette and Roger are saying.  I know she’s trying hard, but I’m sure if she was with someone at her level she would learn more because she couldn’t rely on someone else as much.  As of Sunday, she won’t be able to speak ANY English, so she better start getting used to listening to French and speaking it more often. 

Mardi le 10 mai 2011

I am really loving it here!  Roger and Yvette are very nice.  Roger is quiet and unfortunately he mumbles when he speaks so I am having some difficulty understanding him, but Yvette is very clear and she really make an effort to talk with me and Elyse.  One of the activities we did at school today was a race (le rallye).  We made teams of two people and Marie-Eve and Marjoline made up a sheet with 15 questions on it about the high school we were studying at in Trois-Pistoles and we had to go around and ask the staff questions.  It also helped us to get to know our way around the school better.
We watched a movie that night called “L’auberge espagnol” about a group of student living in an apartment in Spain and they all come from different countries.  I didn’t understand every word, because it was in France French and there weren’t any subtitles, but I got the gist of it.  I heard a lot of words I recognized so I could piece together the story and coupled with the body language of the actors I pretty much understood what was going on.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Mon premier jour en Trois-Pistoles!

My Trip to Trois-Pistoles / Mon Voyage a Trois-Pistoles
Yesterday, I woke up at 6 am for my trip to Trois-Pistoles.  The train departed London at 7:44 am.  I wasn’t expecting to see anyone I knew that morning but I ended up seeing several people: Jonathan Boulter, Sarah from Q1 Hamlet, Andrew Cannon, and Mitch Hammerstedt.  I sat with Cannon on the train until we got to Toronto where we parted ways.
I have travelled on trains before, but this was my first EPIC train ride.  By epic, I mean I rode three trains and it took a total of 17 hours to get from London to Trois-Pistoles.  The only thing that worried me was that I would miss my next train or I would get on the wrong one.  I had no reason to worry really because the VIA Rail employees were all very friendly and helpful.
I’ve discovered I really like travelling alone.  The hours between departing Toronto and arriving in Montreal were really relaxing.  I had my netbook with me, and VIA has wireless (sans chords?) Internet, so I could surf the web, go on Facebook, Twitter, and create my own blog (bloggue?).  Even though VIA blocked sites like Youtube and Grooveshark, they didn’t block others like CBC, CTV, etc., so I watched most of an episode of The Tudors.  I started reading Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass as well, but too late into the journey.  Once I began reading, I wished I had spent less time on the Internet because from the first page I was really enjoying it.
When I got to Montreal, I had an hour to kill before my next train.  I had checked my baggage in Toronto, but didn’t realise that it was being sent to Trois-Pistoles right away; I spent about 20 minutes waiting for my luggage in Montreal and when it wasn’t there, I realised that it probably was already on the train.  I asked a VIA employee and she confirmed it.  Next time, I’ll know!
I went to line up for the train, and I saw a group of people my age talking together.  I stood within earshot so I could listen for any indication that they were headed to Trois-Pistoles.  Sure enough, they were!  I went over to join them.  I met John, Sean, Erika, and Christina, then later came Erik, Mustafa, Jessica, and Elyse.  We quickly became friends and all sat together on the train.
Part way through the train ride, we decided to go up to the “Observation Deck,” which is basically a seating area a little bit higher than the rest of the train and the ceiling of the car is glass.  We had a panorama view of the countryside.  The sunset was absolutely beautiful.  On the Observation Deck, we also met Laura and Dan.  We all talked for hours about everything: films, T.V., school, family, how much French we did(n’t) know, our favourite foods, our favourite sports.  We pretty much talked about everything.
The train attendant for our area’s name was Dave.  Dave is hilarious!  He’s in his late 20’s, a native Quebecer, spoke English incredibly well, and had a great sense of humour.  He took a liking to us (probably because he was really bored and we were having so much fun) and he made us a quiz en francais about different facts about Quebec and the French language.  He was so nice and funny and gave us some really good advice for Trois-Pistoles, such as interesting places to visit.  He also came up later and gave us all free mousse cake and “shots” of milk.  It was a joke because we were asking him if we could win free shots for answering his questions correctly.  We all pitched in and gave him a tip, about $17-20, I think. 
By about 10 pm, we were all getting sleepy, especially me and Erik because we had been up so early to catch the train in London.  I ended up falling asleep in the Observation Deck.  It was cold because there was a fan circulating the air at a pretty high speed.  I began to regret leaving my mum’s lined spring jacket at home (and I have continued to regret it since, because, despite the warm temperatures in Trois-Pistoles, it is situated right on the St. Lawrence River, and I did not take into account the cold front coming off the water).  I fell asleep for a little bit, then Erik (I think) woke me up when we got into Trois-Pistoles.  I was really tired.
We got off the train and were met at the station by the co-ordinators and the host families.  I was paired with Stephanie and Benoit Dumont, a very nice couple, probably in there late 30’s.  I was also to room with Usha (?) at the Dumont’s.  Their house is beautiful!  It is very modern looking, inside and out, but also very comfortable and cozy.  The Dumont’s have 4 children.  The eldest is 14, there is a 6 year old daughter, and the other children (les autres enfants) I did not meet and cannot remember their ages.  I was looking forward to staying with the Dumont’s.  Then I saw cat toys.  Not good.  I am extremely allergic to cats; the Dumont’s have TWO (deux)!
I told them I was allergic and I would have to leave.  I felt really bad about it, but I would not be able to survive in that house.  The Dumont’s were very understanding and Stephanie called the co-ordinator to explain the problem.  I had filled out my allergies on the registration form, but these things happen.  The co-ordinator (Rachelle?) drove out to the Dumont’s house to pick me up and took me to Roger and Yvette Tremblay’s house.
The Tremblay’s have a very small dog called “PomPom.”  I’m not sure what breed she is but she’s very tiny and has puffy black hair.  So far, I have not had any allergic reactions to PomPom (knock wood).  She doesn’t shed at all, unlike Phoebe.  She is a very nice, quiet dog.  The Tremblay’s are very nice and quiet, too!  They are an older couple, retired, and moved to Trois-Pistoles some years ago to become host families for the students (les etudiants) who take part in the immersion program.  I am also living with Elyse.  We are the only students with the Tremblay’s this week, but next week (la semain prochaine) more students will arrive.
Well, I’m tired now; it’s 12:24 am and I have to be up at 7:30, so I’ll sign off now.  Hope you stayed awake for this post.  It’s long, but so much happens here and I might as well record as much of it as I can for posterity.
I’m going to bed now (je me coucher).  More tomorrow.  Bonne nuit! 

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Things I Should Know By Now About Travelling

I am a procrastinator by nature.  There are always just so many things I would rather do than what I should be doing at any given moment.  I am not a seasoned traveller compared to some: I have been on a few road trips to the U.S., I've been to England 3 times, but I don't travel very often.  However, I have enough experience to know that packing is something one should not leave to the last minute.  But do I always do what I know I should do?  No, not always. 

Last night is an example of this.  I began the day with good intentions: I had put a load of laundry in the washing machine the night before, and was intent on doing all my laundry during the day so I wouldn't get stressed out.  It started off well.  I did 3 loads of laundry.  While one of them was gettin' sudsy, I went to Shopper's Drug Mart to buy a new camera.  My old, faithful Kodak digital camera I have had since I was 17 was slightly broken ... still working, but the dial that selects photo/video settings broke off when I dropped it at the Brickenden Awards (I never even took any pictures that night, so the breakage could have been avoided.  Alas, I digress ...).  I purchased an Olympus FE-47 camera: it was light, portable, and small.  Just what I wanted.  Until I got home and read a few reviews of the product; most turned out to be average to poor.  So I decided to return it.

When I brought the camera back to Shopper's, I was told that electronics were non-returnable items.  Note: the sales associate (although friendly and helpful when I purchased it) did not tell me that I could not return the item, there were no signs indicating it was non-returnable, and the receipt did not specify this either.  (Apparently you have to go on the website to see the exceptions for returns.)  I was frustrated and not at all impressed.  After coming home, angrily calling head office (and getting a machine) and leaving an angry review about the customer service, calling the store and speaking to the manager, then speaking to the owner, I was asssured that the owner would call Olympus on Monday to see what could be done about a return.  Only thing that sucks is ... I am in Quebec as of Monday for 6 weeks!  I returned to Shoppers, for the third time that day, to speak directly with the owner and explain the Quebec situation.  My dad is going to be sorting it out with them instead of me as I will not be in the province.

So then I returned home, more than a little miffed and kind of tired.  So I hung out with my sister and bro-in-law until dinner.  Then waited for my extended family to arrive for cake for Mother's Day.  By then, it was late and I didn't get to the laundry until 10:30 pm.  I was officially packed by midnight, and (to my knowledge at this moment) I haven't forgotten anything.  Except(!) I couldn't find my Diva Cup!  I had it wrapped up in tissues because I had forgotten the little cotton bag at my condo.  It's possible that I misplaced it.  Or that my mum mistook it for a used Kleenex and chucked it :( .  Another reason to pack in advance: if I had, I would have known it was missing and could have searched for it/bought a new one.  Oh, boo-urns ...

I have learned some lessons from this experience:
- always do your laundry at least two days before you leave
- ALWAYS ask about a store's return policy when you purchase something.  Even better, if it's a more costly item, such as a digital camera, spend some time looking at reviews of products BEFORE you buy.
- don't leave everything to the last minute*

*Indicates I probably will not follow this advice in future.