Thursday, June 30, 2011


If tgif lets us embrace the end of the week, (as well as a good cheeseburger), then I think tgfw should become our new saying every time we encounter wifi - especially when it's free - as it is right now on Canada's ViaRail line from Montreal to Quebec City. How convenient that I can actually be posting in real time, and not just typing out my random thoughts to be shared at a later date. And while I'm on the subject of convenience, let me say that I had a first last night on my Air Canada flight - a power source and USB port in the back of the seat in front of me, right on either side of the screen! Now, maybe I'm behind the times and everyone has witnessed this, but I've flown at least four times in the past year, and this was the first I had seen that setup. My first taste of on-board wifi just came in March with a flight to Tucson, and although I didn't use it, I have to admit I was happy to see it. Now that I'm constantly online thanks to my MLIS program, it is nice to have convenience at every turn. And as I'm sitting on the train, exhausted but not wanting to sleep because I'd miss the scenery (and that was the whole purpose of taking the train instead of flying), I really appreciate it. So, speaking of scenery, here are some quick observations - lush, green, flat farmland just outside of Montreal, with a few quaint towns so far. It's a weird mix of Seattle lushness and Indiana flatness, with French in the background. Too bad I don't know how to say more than "petit soya vanill latte" because my middle-aged seatmate doesn't know English and seemed to be disappointed at not having any conversation on this three-hour ride. I took out my phrasebook and muddled through "I'm a school librarian traveling from Idaho," which brought a polite smile, followed by a nap. :) Despite the lack of communication, I'm so glad I'm here. Just having a different language in the background is enough to satisfy my desire to experience something new and different, even if it is "just Canada" and just for a few days.


Finally! After 12 hours sitting in the Pheonix airport, then going to LAX for a red eye in order to get here one day late - I feel like I just stepped off a trans-Atlantic flight! I'm exhausted, but so anxious to get out and explore. After a short train ride to Quebec City, I'm looking forward to getting out and stretching my legs on cobblestone streets. It's definitely cooler here than in Pheonix yesterday - it's raining a bit and I had to dig out my jacket while I waiting for the bus from the airport. It's funny how after only two years I had forgotten all the funny little things I learned about Canada the last time I was here - like which coin is referred to a loonie and that Tim Horton's (Timmy's) is on every corner, and that pancakes are referred to in many places as "American" pancakes. It reminds me of the couple we met while in Montana who said they come down every once in a while in order to savor pancakes. Imagine what Grandpa Merritt's sourdough recipe could do to revolutionize the Canadian breakfast industry! ha ha. My eggs and bacon order came with a crepe, but instead of being handed jam as I expected, maple syrup came with it. I was a bit disgruntled until I remembered that I am in the maple capitol of the world. If only the Tosh kids could have seen the enormous maple rolls and donuts in the patisserie here in the train station - they'd leave Texas for good! My few words of garbled French (or the attempt thereof) are pointless, really, as everyone speaks English. I knew that, but I still want(ed) to try. I successfully ordered a soy latte in French, but was still given a look of disdain. Ah . . . to be an ignorant, unilingual American. . . but then I made up for it in a gift shop with a Chinese owner. I didn't think about it - when she handed me the change for my purchase of a Quebec flag, I instinctively said, "shieh shieh." She grinned so big and we had a conversation about why I knew Chinese. Doing so took no effort, felt natural, and makes me want to go back to Chinese. There's just something about that first foreign language (I don't know if German counts for me) that feels so natural and makes me homesick for Taiwan. Maybe that's next summer's adventure. For now, I'm off to catch the train to QC...

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

New Adventure

While heading to Canada for 10 days certainly does not feel like the adventure that a month in Morocco brought last summer, I still feel energized (even with only two hours of sleep last night and 12 hours stuck in the Pheonix airport). I can't wait to get into Montreal tomorrow morning and hop a train to Quebec City - reportedly the most romantic city in North America (it's a shame I'm all alone for such a trip). After a few days on my own in Montreal and QC, I'll meet up with the Study Canada teacher group in Ottawa, where we'll explore Parliament, the US Embassy, and as many sights as we can in five days. In the meantime, I'm excited to be on my own for a few days and to try and use as many French phrases as I can remember from last summer's French mini-immersion in Morocco, with the help, of course, of a trusty phrasebook. I know English is spoken in the touristy areas of these two cities, but I really want to try . . .

I splurged on a quaint, old hotel within the old walls of QC, and plan to explore every cobblestone street and as much cafe culture as possible. The only exception will be Montreal's La Couscouserie on Saturday night - sure to be a Moroccan treat! I expect to eat my weight in delicious tagine and drink mint tea until I'm buzzing. It'll take me back to a year ago, traveling in Maroc, only without the melon stop in the middle of the Sahara when it was at least 120 degrees!

Salon Marocain

Salon Marocain
In the village of Tinghir

Jess and I on our camels

Jess and I on our camels
Giddy up, Booshtran!