Archive for August, 2012

And so we’ve come full circle
August 20, 2012

When I was a kid my oldest brother, who’s 6-17 years older than the rest of us, used to take care of my younger siblings and me pretty often. This was generally a good thing, since Dillon’s commitment to adult supervision was slightly more lax than my mother’s. Famished from hours of unsupervised troublemaking, we would eventually make our way into his field of vision for the sole purpose of demanding food, at which point he would gladly serve up Dillon’s Dill Pickle and Egg Sandwich: fried egg, white bread, mayonnaise and sliced dill pickles. It was a masterpiece. Once eaten we would disappear again and revel in all the usual things kids do when lacking in adult supervision (discovering matches, permanent marker, self-serve haircuts…)

Last night Dillon’s twin sons turned 7, which got me worrying that they were leaving the cute days behind and entering the age of annoying kids who play with matches (this is at least partially true, since they greeted me with “where’s my present?” which is not any cuter the second time it’s asked). But they’re still adorable, and innocent, and completely ignorant of the realities of public transportation:

The twins at 6, Cameron and Connor

“Why didn’t you come to my party earlier aunt Emily?”
“Sorry bud, my bus in Montreal was late…”
“So did you take a airplane?”

Here I should note that I travelled 130 kilometers to visit them.

Being so close I get to visit my niece and nephews more often. Running after them is exhausting, so on my last visit my niece offered to make me something to eat.

“How about a fried egg and pickle sandwich?” she offered, and then proceeded to execute the thing perfectly, just like her father had done for me when I was her age. Delicious. Then we went off to play with matches while her dad wasn’t watching.

Big sister

Do Germans like Surprises?
August 10, 2012

When I arrived in Montréal a few months ago I had one friend: Anna. Wonderful as she is, I wanted to meet more people, so I attended a few CouchSurfing Events.* I’ve done some CouchSurfing elsewhere in the world, where you always get a good mix of nationalities, so I was pretty shocked that in Montreal about half the CouchSurfers are from France. Since coming to Québec allows French people to experience the greater world without having to debase themselves by learning some other language (like English, qui n’est que du français mal prononcé), the French are grossly overrepresented  in Montréal. This wasn’t a problem for me, since I adore the French (especially when I get to spread lies about their lack of language skills on the internet), so I was already half-way to friendship heaven.

 Add to this a mélange français a fair number of Mexicans, Spaniards, Germans, Berlgian, I’m-not-Chinese-I’m-Taiwanesian, and a Greko-Canadian etc etc, and you get a veritable petit groupe d’amis.

Jesús’s Surprise

Last week we shocked Mexican Jesús (who is convinced I’m named Amy), by throwing him a surprise party in Parc Lafontaine. Thoroughly pleased with the result and the ensuing happiness, we aimed to recreate the fun this week with yet another surprise for German Carolyn’s birthday, except this time with more nudity and a piñata.

We were all rather excited until Brazilian Antonio pondered whether Germans actually like being shocked, asking if we should “tell her to schedule some time in her agenda for the surprise?”

And so I consulted the ever  useful Xenophobe’s Guide to the Germans to find out if Germans actually like surprises, though the results are rather inconclusive:

“The Germans do not care for public displays of eccentricity,” and also, “In Germany, life is serious. Even humour is no laughing matter, and if you want to tell a joke you may want to submit a written application first. The Germans strongly disapprove of the irrelevant, the flippant, the accidental. Serendipity is not a word in their language.”  

 Unfazed, and having already convinced Simon to undress and enter a giant gift box, we went ahead with our plans last night. And here’s what I learned:

The question isn’t whether German’s like surprises, but whether you can actually surprise one of them.

Upon seeing the gift box, Caro immediately declared: “I bet someone is going to jump out of there,” which I’m sure was a little disappointing for Simon, who was crouched inside wearing nothing but a tie and a smile.

Also, we had planned to surprise Caro at her apartment after a concert at the Olympic Stadium, but before we had even left she began inviting people over to her house anyway, meaning she was already expecting most of us to be there. Then she proceeded to bicycle home like a maniac, beating half of us there. Entreaties to “Slow down Mädchen” were ignored, and I am disappointed to say I’ve never seen a German race through so many red lights in an effort to spoil a week’s worth of her friends’ careful planning.

Do German’s like surprises? I have no idea. A Canadian-Italian-Spanish-Swiss-Belgian-French-Taiwanese group proved incapable of out-organizing one.

Caro was however thrilled by the whole evening (which she insists she didn’t expect). For her birthday I gave her the right to brag that she can bicycle much faster than I can, which is probably true anyway.

Ende gut, alles gut?

*CouchSurfing is a social networking site that allows travellers to get to know locals, either by crashing at their place or simply by meeting up for drinks or sightseeing. It’s totally free and based on reciprocity: I hang out with people in Montreal and they will host me when I, inevitably, end up in Istanbul, Sydney or Caracas one day.

Weird shit Americans say to Canadians: Post 1 of 5000
August 5, 2012

“Canada? Really? I visited a friend in Vermont just last summer. And Bill doesn’t your old college pal live up in Montana? What’s his name again?”

“Tommy. Right, he is up in Montana. Right near Canada.”

So goes many a conversation with an American, who, bless their friendly souls, always go through pains to pretend I, the Canadian, don’t come from some lost-backwater-frozen-skating-rink of a country they can find on a map simply because they know it’s slightly less awful than Alaska, while clearly thinking that I come from some awful frozen wasteland that, were they to give it any consideration at all, might actually be worse than Alaska.

This may not be the case everywhere in the USA, but in the South (my experience being of the Floridian variety), people seemed to go through pains to think of the most northerly place in the US they’ve ever visited, or a friend has visited, or had heard had running water and electricity. Were they afraid we didn’t have anything else in common? Were they afraid that letting a Canadian steer the direction of the conversation would inevitably lead to a rant outlining the endless benefits of state-run health care?

Bill actually turned out to be a pretty nice guy, really. From Indiana. Which is funny, I pointed out to him, because I was on a plane once sitting next to someone from Michigan. And this guy was really worried about getting cut off from his health insurance company…

Shit Americans ask Canadians