Thursday, 12 September 2013

Salut Rimouski!

First hints of fall foliage!

I feel as if there is a lot of pressure on this first post from Rimouski, so I thought I would break the ice with a nice picture.

The few days I've spent here have been pretty packed, it's hard to communicate just how much of a jump it's been. I've finally got a place to live. It's in a basement, which might sound strange but is pretty common here. It ticks all the boxes, but it was difficult to make a decision as I also visited a really nice room in a very North American clapboard house with a staircase leading up to the door, which I would have been sharing with local students. It was really cheap with everything included, and theoretically it would be a good way to speak French all the time, but in the end I didn't want to risk potential housemate stresses. Also, it was quite far away from my mentor's house; he will be giving me lifts to school, which is actually in another town just up the road. It's the first time I'm living completely on my own, which I love so far! It's such a novelty to have my very own fridge and bathroom. I still don't feel completely settled yet, but I hope that will happen in the next couple of weeks.

I now have a phone, but it's already let me down with this different pay-as-you-go system. I got my bank and social insurance stuff sorted out this afternoon so that I can get paid, which involved a lot of walking and took a lot out of me. Yep, I'm finding out firsthand why everyone has a car round here. I have also visited Walmart for the first time in my life which was very exciting. I mean, we have ASDA back home, but it's got nothing on Walmart. In the freezer section I saw huge boxed steaks, as if they were pizzas. Just looking at the sweets aisle made my teeth hurt. I observed that they do have Cadbury Buttons/Boutons, but I heard they taste different.

All in all, people have been super friendly and welcoming, and I hope they don't doubt my interest in their culture for a second. The accent is, of course, taking some getting used to but as long as I concentrate it's okay. I've already learnt some new Québécois phrases. "C'est correct" means "it's alright/good". Also, some words here have different meanings to what I had learnt. For example, it turns out that here, a boisson is generally assumed to be an alcoholic drink; a breuvage, rather, is a drink like water or juice. Actually, I'm going to try to make a section dedicated to new phrases each time I post.

At the orientation, we were told that we should get out of the habit of comparing things here to how they're done back home. It's something that you do naturally even if you don't mean it in a malicious way (which I highly doubt anyone would). I am still getting to grips with taxes 'n' tips - the latter especially stresses me out. This is partly because I'm finding it hard to navigate my way around Canadian coins in high-pressure situations. It doesn't help that the 10¢ pieces look exactly like 5p pieces, and 25¢ pieces look like 10p pieces. I wish there was a way to explain to locals that it's a totally foreign concept in the UK without fearing that they think you're saying "my way is better". Quite on the contrary, I'm not thinking about home much at all; I'm still in the honeymoon stage, which we were also informed will be over sooner or later.

Anyway, a bit about Rimouski. Its name sounds somewhat Slavic, but is actually thought to originate from the Mi'gmaq language, to mean "land of the moose". It has a population of around 50,000 and is the largest settlement in eastern Quebec. There is a CÉGEP (kind of like a sixth form) and a university here, so there's a lot of young people. Rimouski is located in the Bas St-Laurent (Lower St. Lawrence) region of Quebec, due to its proximity to the St. Lawrence river. I am told that there is a different sunset over it every night and that it is always beautiful. I have yet to find evidence to the contrary.

Tomorrow I will be visiting my school for the first time. I have to admit that I'm a bit nervous about it; as well as the information we received in Montreal, what I've heard from the school board indicates that things are going to be quite different from my ELA experience in Austria. In some ways it seems more laid-back, in others it seems like there are more opportunities to put a foot wrong. I guess as long as I remain self-aware, I should be fine. As I keep saying, the reason I applied to come to Quebec was to expand my horizons and develop as a person!

Also, I bumped into some Germans in town! I asked them for directions and they replied to me (in German) that they weren't from round here and that they didn't speak French, not realising that I understood them perfectly. I was too astonished to reply...

I have set out five goals that I hope to achieve by the time the year is out:

1. Become more outdoorsy (definition negotiable)
2. Be a lot more confident when speaking French, regardless of whether I develop a particular accent
3. Find the perfect veggie poutine
4. Travel to the United States
5. See Cœur de Pirate, my very favourite francophone musician from Quebec, in concert