…so what happened was…

martie 8, 2011

no, you’re not getting the break-up story here, sorry. it’s a one-on-one exclusive. i know it’s me – carmen (eyeroll) – so i’m supposed to be blabbing about the sacredest stuff, mais quand même! instead i can tell you about the funny things that happened after.

i am trying to get the things right this time. (and because of this, i’m sometimes remembering all the other times or non-times with rage. so many wasted years because of no closure.) it’s still incredible for me how guilty i feel of my own unhappiness, to the extent where i feel compelled to report it to the entire world. after 2 weeks, it reached facebook status status. so things can only calm down from here on.

but i did the right things, and the cliche things. i talked to friends who are chat/skype/phone-accessible, i asked for and received good advice. that helped, just being fascinated again by how complex relationship things are. i am still acting a bit detached, as if it’s an experiment in recovery.

i drank a bottle of wine alone in the dark one night, ate a whole icecream container another night (ah, while watching ‘american idol’, forgot to mention). the only thing i didn’t feel like doing much was buying stuff. or getting out of the house. which is also not entirely abnormal if you consider my paycheck or the weather lately. so the official version is that i’m…dealing with it.

now about this dealing: i just want to know when it’s going to be over. i want to make a list, a plan of action, to set deadlines. i mean that is what i did. i was so feverish and irritated the first 2-3 days after: waste of time, i kept mumbling to myself. this is what these days/weeks/months are.

they say i have to say hi to the cute guy at the bus stop. butt into someone’s peaceful reading at the library. attend social events. activate my network. yeah, when it feels alright to do that, i will. i don’t think i’m passing up opportunities that were designed for me. i don’t want to be desperate. i want to be ok on my own.

there was a suicide on the metro line last week – i wasn’t on the metro that hit the person, but my roommate was. she was pretty shaken. i was just annoyed about the metro being blocked, although when you hear „un accident sur la ligne orange cause une interruption de service” as opposed to ralentissement du service, you kind of know what it means. but i didn’t let myself think of it until cynthia told me.

and it’s the cold, the too-late cold that gets into the bones to the core.

also, i returned home last night and because it was freezing indoors and sinister i was planning to cook with the radio on. i looked for my headphones to hook up my cellphone and i realized that d. had taken them by mistake and left his own, which i have no use for. i can’t explain better, but the impossibility of playing top40 music and hearing distinct québécois voices RIGHT THAT INSTANT was a pretty big hit to my mood. the silence was so creepy and absurd – then i realized why. cynthia’s perruche was dead, stiff on the bottom of his cage.

we don’t know how he died. sudden heart attack is one version. i panicked a bit and called cyn…then i packed the body and took it out. somehow i fell asleep reading feministe. in the morning the snow was covering a quarter of my tall window, and kept coming down with the blizzard. i sat down at the table with coffee in the birdless livingroom. 7 am. and i had a good cry.

now it`s all going to be better.

christmas things

decembrie 30, 2010

there are the enormous spheres at place des arts. with music around them, no joke. my own photos are a bit better than this one, but far from conveying the joy of it.

there are the lights at berri-uqam, placed in sort-of-buckets in the snow, in rows. you can light them by walking between the buckets, you can light them by pedalling on one of the bixi bikes there. this is the surest funnest way of getting feeling back into your feet after a 15′ walk downtown.

uh, there were the fireworks in the vieux port, which we missed, but i’m going to try to pass by on new year’s, depending on whatever else happens.

and christmas in the park! a small park by st-joseph/st laurent, by the church. there was a fire, mulled wine in a kiosk, a big swing, and there were sheep in a …sheep shelter thing. and hip-hop quebecois. it felt a bit weird, but yes warm and strangely touching. but that’s me: the balance of loneliness and togetherness is totally out of whack for me these days.

icitte au quebec y fait pas froid, y fait frette

decembrie 11, 2010

…not really. i mean it was cold, it was – 16 at one point, but i couldn’t really feel it. all this week i was experimenting with the following important aspects:

– leather coat vs. winter coat. ok, so i switched to the winter coat. advantage, i can wear just one normal sweater under it, instead of having to put on 3 layers. while outside, i walk like a penguin, but who cares.

– nice boots ( suede-y, okay?) that i was wearing every day and with everything, vs. chunky, pretty old boots that i’ve had ever since cluj. i’m still wearing the nice ones, hoping i can wash the salt lines out – and keeping the more serious ones for more serious times.

– leg warmers!!! now this is for real. (do you remember the poor blue things i bought one winter 5 ys ago? that was acknowledged pretence. fingerless gloves to mimic…cuteness, and a bright blue stocking layer to showcase my shins. they were also meant to make me into someone else. i’ve kept believing in magic for very long.) but my current leg warmers were with me in the storm, to help keep knee-high snow out of my jeans. what more could one wish for from a garment?

i’m giving you some music because this is boring:

what was i saying?:)

ah. woolly socks. double socks. everything in bright colours, because – true facts – this helps warm you up. it’s the same trick as nice-lingerie-makes-you-feel-sexy-even-if-no-one-sees-it.

yes, so i was talking about cold and i get to lingerie. c’est comme ca l’hiver dans la ville que j’aime.



noiembrie 28, 2010

me, to new hostess:  these instructions (for making tiramisu) are very specific: „take 20 eggs from the 3rd fridge at the back…” – if you take them from the 2nd fridge, it won’t come out as good”

new hostess: yeah, but they forgot a very important ingredient. it should say at the end: add love. mix carefully.

me: and did you add love, anyway?

new hostess: nah, i just spit in it.


joe, the italian cook: „the chinese, they eat cats, dogs, they eat everything that moves. so if you go to china, don’t move!”


lorraine, our french prof: „savez-vous qu’est-ce qu’on doit faire pour reanimer un ontarien?”

us: „…non…”

lorraine: „c’est pas grave!”


one of my classmates in french missed class for a week. he comes back and everybody’s curious re: why.

y., another classmate: „j’ai essaye’ de t’appeller trois fois, mais tu es comme une fille quebecoise.”


d. has tests coming up and he’s decided to hole up and study, or, as he put it, break away from civilization.

me: „but you’d better keep calling me. i’m not very civilized.”


niveau cinq, here we are

mai 29, 2010

1. i’ve vaguely planned to skip class one night. but i find myself heading there from work, by inertia – even this thursday, when i was running late (one of the cooks had an accident, it was a slightly hectic afternoon even for a thursday, people running around like headless chicken) i got out of the forum after 5.30, and…where was i gonna go? i had obvious answers, less obvious ones, i had a bit of a pressure to write at the back of my mind…could have walked in the park, or got a sorbet/coffee in a cafe and tried to write…but then i went to the metro stop. oblivious. book in hand.

2. things i do/have done during class: writing cards. reading the newspaper/book. rereading a draft. looking up words in the dictionary. drinking coffee – i can’t go through 4 hours without coffee. i can’t go through a thick 4hour wall of ANYTHING without a coffee probably. but mostly, when i come to think of it, in all honesty, i primarily do this: speak french with people. do exercises in french. i think the goals are being met. i’ve been a member of the school system for so long, it’s with relief that i plunge into the slavery – there’s this class to go to. things will add up in time. i’m going.

3. and yes, i am the best in my class, at least technically. one explanation for this might be that i asked to be placed one level below? maybe but who cares. as long as i don’t score 100% on grammar and dictation for this level, and especially speaking-wise, as long as there are people in my class more fluent and more at ease with the language than me, even with erreurs – i am in the right place. of course i have to be aware of, and try to get amusedly detached from, my competitive obsession. it’s… never come in useful, except for massaging my ego for 2,5 seconds and then immediately awakening me to shame. nobody cares that you can spell almost correctly, carmen.

4. on niveau 5 we still have textbooks, and my classmates mostly know eachother already because some have been together through levels 1-4. so it’s a classic ‘new kid in class’ scenario. except they’re not kids. and this is not school-school. it’s the, honestly, hard school of living, etc. people come to classes from work. people work making shoes, making blinds for windows, cooking, making wrappings for presents, driving moving vans. people yell at each other in spanish over desks. people complain, ask and answer basic questions, are kind to each other, help you change your banknote, keep you a spot in the coffee line. offer you popcorn. save handouts for you. i’ve never felt unwelcome or uneasy here – i’ve felt at points overwhelmingly sad.

5. before april ’10, i hadn’t felt an immigrant in canada. go figure, i actually, legally, am not : i’m an immigrant wannabe, at most. but the wannabe part is important.

6. my french school is not everything i’d wanted, not what i’d dreamed. the first two days i was choked with fury against the anglos…for being so blatantly absent. componence of my class: 90% hispanic. one russian girl. one neo-zeelander who came here to be with her quebecois boyfriend. (after one month of classes, and walking home with her because we live close, i’ve still NEVER heard this girl, caro, speak english. in this sense, maybe my french school IS  what i’d dreamed.) somebody suggested that maybe francization is only for non-canadians, but it can’t be true, because my friend sonia z. took these classes 4?5? ys ago. it’s that they can’t be bothered. honestly.

7. we speak french at breaks. and after classes. if i met one of them in the street, hell if i met one of them in calgary, we’d speak french. it’s like swimming and then realizing if you tried to touch the ground now you’d drown. the conversational things i found out about these people, i got them through our mutually imperfect french. some of them don’t even have the english as a possible crutch. THAT is brave. working as a dishwasher when you have a whole load of degrees is not brave. i repeat myself.

8. so, no love and gushing passion, but maybe i am past that age after all. i respect my francization course, admire how it’s helping people, like and admire and respect my classmates, and try to work with it in my way. boring, i know. my prof said in about one year , if i get the pesky equivalences solved, i could teach french in a centre like this. they need teachers – and i can understand why.

niveau six

aprilie 16, 2010

it’s so hard to get back to diarying after a lapse…but here goes. last week i took my placement exam for intensive french courses. they have six levels (plus a writing-only one), two months each. my interviewer wanted to place me level six. i said i needed to speak more, and i could go level five. (i wonder what we do in the writing class: dictation? essays?) so i’ll have homework and stuff. and four days a week, 3.5 to 4 hours a day. i so can’t wait.

what my interviewer asked me, after i told her the story of my life in bad french: why didn’t you stay in vancouver? i feel like i need to make a big poster listing the possible reasons and just flash it at anyone who asks; because they ask – everybody does. [more on this later]. i also feel i haven’t managed to perfect a plausible, acceptable answer, so i’m just waffling. i mean, the short of it is „i wanted to come to montreal. i do everything i want.”

more french: „l’animal est une creature dont la douleur se limite a sa propre souffrance.”

more french. i read a great little book, „le grand cahier” by agota kristof. i loved and enjoyed it. the funny part is that i thought i’d be stepping up my reading-comprehension by ‘actually reading books’, only to discover that the level of french in the book is probably lower that the one i got with the weekly ‘voir’. but now i own about 5 books in french (one of them is ‘stupeur et tremblements’:) ). so i read every available moment on the metro, and look words up in my mini-dictionary (and ppl stare. and i smile and raise an eyebrow. that kind of stuff. i’ve had a couple of interesting conversations too, starting from that.)

favorite small quote from agota kristof: „il faut acheter quelque chose pour pouvoir voler autre chose.” it’s much better in context though, as anyone who reads will be able to tell:)

more french: translation of zadie smith’s ‘white teeth’ title: ‘sourires de loup’. not kidding.

official person to me : „can you speak french?” – i sort of nodded and shrugged at the same time. – „un p’tit peu?” he smiled. and it’s so amazing for me to see myself overtaken by righteous rage in one single instant : „mais non, plus qu’un p’tit peu. tous les anglos qui peuvent dire bonjour et merci parlent un p’tit peu. moi, j’suis mieux.” and there was no need for that, absolutely no need at all. but i had been validated by the „niveau six” label…and these are all things i’ve thought afterwards. right then, on the spot, i glared at the official man who had belittled my french in absentia. he laughed.

funny french

martie 15, 2010

(short parenthetic post for at-least-a-little bilinguals)

– the first joke, back  in vancouver, on what my first translation reflex is when i see the word „pain”. also, how in quebec „bread is pain”. true. and i haven’t even touched the knishes yet!

– carmen on first day in montreal: „why do they have so manny schools for good manners?” (ecole de conduite). seriously!

– carmen reading newspaper: „alcool au volant” = „drinking while flying”; „lever de fonds” = „lifting funds”(instead of collecting). also, i read „biais” as „bias” for a full couple of days.

-most humiliating mistake i made while actually talking to someone. i said „j’entends” instead of „je comprends” le francais. some days really are better than others for this kind of thing.

– funny phrases: „capacite de reseautage”; „coup de gueule”; . ugh there are others, but i don’t understand them…i.e. „sombrer dans la cucul  la praline” – too much french for me

– favourite additions to vocab: „ostie” :); „embauchons”; „allechant”; „epargner”. make sense!?