Friday, 20 December 2013

Wintry walk at Parc du Bic

Life has been a bit of a whirlwind lately. First of all, I have news: I'm going to be working in a different school next term. I did have a few good times and learnt some valuable lessons in the other school, but I had to finally accept that overall, I just wasn't happy. I am extremely grateful that I was able to transfer rather than have to quit the programme altogether, which would have been upsetting. To new beginnings!

Also, it got cold. Like, really effing cold. Let me introduce you to the concept of wind chill: even if the thermometer says it's "only" -18, say, it can feel like around -30 because of the wind. It truly is hellish trying to walk to places. Needless to say, I have taken out my puffy winter coat and I don't think there's any going back until about March now. It's also snowing nearly every day, and there's a lot of it. It's not so much the snow itself that stops you from getting around, as there's an efficient déneigement (snow-clearing) system; it's more the whole package that makes you want to hibernate.

Last weekend, I went for a walk at the Parc du Bic just outside Rimouski with another assistant and a new Québécois friend. I wrapped up, but I was still really cold! The trail was "hikier" than I'd expected, but I really enjoyed it. It was the loveliest winter wonderland adventure I could have asked for. My hat and scarf froze, as well as my hair and eyelashes... I don't think I'm going to bother wearing mascara for the next few months! And my snot froze too, which was quite a peculiar sensation. I took so many pictures of the extraordinary winter scenery, but I'll just put a few here.

This walk, followed by a lovely warm meal at Le Bercail - a restaurant/café/venue in Rimouski - really reminded me why I applied to come here.

Winter break begins tomorrow! First I'm off to Mont-Tremblant, one of the most famous ski resorts in Canada. I'll be spending Christmas there with 15 other British assistants. It'll be my first Christmas away from home and I am looking forward to the experience immensely! However, right now this has been taken over by worrying about the logistics of getting to the chalet, as it seems a bit in the middle of nowhere.
After that, I'm visiting friends in both Chicago and Minneapolis over New Year. How exciting is all this? The thought of it is truly what's been keeping me going over the past month in particular.

To finish off, here are some phrases to help you survive winter in Quebec:

  • It's freezing: "Ça caille!"
  • A standard greeting: "Fait pas chaud, hein?" 
  • When asked if it's cold where you come from: "Le plus froid que j'aie ressenti en Angleterre était -10. Il neige une fois par année. C'est comme ça -" [make gap of about two inches between your index finger and thumb] "- pis les écoles sont toutes fermées."

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Best books I read in 2013

This is not in any sort of order. Treat it as a list of recommendations from me to you.
  • Kim Thúy - Ru
  • Maria Semple - Where'd You Go, Bernadette
  • Leonard Cohen - The Favourite Game
  • Angela Carter - The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories
  • Etgar Keret - The Girl on the Fridge and Other Stories
  • Alison Bechdel - Fun Home
  • Nicolas Dickner - Nikolski
  • Percival Everett - Erasure
  • Art Spiegelman - The Complete Maus
  • Dorothy Allison - Skin: Talking About Sex, Class and Literature
  • James Baldwin - Giovanni's Room
  • Sherman Alexie - The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian
  • Haruki Murakami - 1Q84
  • Chad Harbach - The Art of Fielding

Albums of 2013

This is going to be a short post in comparison to last year's. It is nice to keep a record of which albums/films/etc. you liked best over the past 12 months, but I find that these lists sometimes go overboard and become more like something to prove how cool and up to date you are.
I suppose I still did make an effort to listen to a lot of albums this year - especially from January until August, when I had access to Spotify - but my meagre list this year has made me realise something: I don't take music as seriously as I once did.
I don't know if that's something that has developed since I moved here. Up here, seven hours' drive from the next major city, I don't get to go to a lot of concerts. For example, I had been really hoping I would get to see The Dismemberment Plan last month in Boston, but being car-less, the tiny amount of time I would have spent down there wouldn't have justified the cost and time of transportation. I also haven't actually checked out their new album yet. I've just had other priorities over the past few months, and so I've mainly been listening to things I already liked. 
And then there's the fact that some people would find it impossible that I could listen to a "serious" or "cool" band, then listen to One Direction an hour later. They think there is an actual argument in that. I'm so over it.

Anyway, here is my little list. It's all stuff from artists I really liked already.

1. Vampire Weekend - Modern Vampires of the City
2. Tegan and Sara - Heartthrob
3. Justin Timberlake - The 20/20 Experience
4. Owen - L'Ami du Peuple
5. Los Campesinos! - No Blues
6. The National - Trouble Will Find Me
7. Jagwar Ma - Howlin’
8. Laura Marling - Once I Was An Eagle
9. Waxahatchee - Cerulean Salt
10. A Great Big Pile of Leaves - You're Always On My Mind

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Snow in Quebec City

German Christmas Market. You weren't allowed to take your cup of Glühwein outside the premises because that constitutes public drinking! Note piles of snow.

I ate a yummy tofu burger at a restaurant called Le Hobbit and was served by, well, a hobbit.

Snow depth

My first polymer $5 note! I only recently saw my first $10 one, too. $20 and $50 ones are pretty common.

My ride didn't show up, so I ended up getting the train back to Rimouski last minute. Around here, that's absurd. In fact, it wasn't even from Quebec to Rimouski; it was from Charny, which is on the other side of the river, and two other passengers and I had to get a taxibus there. The station at Charny was cute. There was one person working there, who offered free tea and coffee. While waiting for the train, I watched Occupation double with the other passengers. Getting the train was really strange. I'd already done it last year from Montreal to Quebec, but this time was a bit different; it felt more antiquated. I had a lot of shopping with me so I wasn't that comfortable in my seat, but somehow I did get to sleep. The train kept stopping to let freight trains pass, and it went pretty slowly too. Still, it was an interesting experience and in the end I appreciated it as a sort of adventure. I arrived in Rimouski at 2am and walked home in the snow. Despite the price and the speed, I would travel with the train here again if it was planned in advance and I wanted to make a real trip out of it!

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

NaNoWriMo 2013 afterthoughts

For the past five or six years, I've wanted to take part in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo for short). The aim is to write a 50,000-word novel draft within the 30 days of the month of November. That's an average of 1,667 words a day. The emphasis is on quantity, not quality; there's plenty of time for editing during the rest of the year. The aim is just to get you into the daily habit of writing.
However, those past few years encompassed my A-Levels and university - a period of my life where my eyes were already stinging from having to be in front a computer screen for most of the day - so I always put it off. As this is my first year where I'm not a student, I thought it would be an ideal time to do it.

My main reason for participating this year was just to prove something to myself and get something done. My parents will affirm that I've been writing stories ever since I could hold a pencil. I always scrapped them along the way, frustrated because I could never find a way to fashion my ideas into something cohesive. I did have phases where I would really get into writing, spilling over with inspiration and wholly convinced that this was it, this would be my novel. I was most content during these times. Before long, though, something big would always come up in my life and I would soon have to abandon it.

Come inside for exclusive NaNoWriMo secrets! For easier reading, I'm going to do it in the extremely self-congratulatory format of an "interview" with myself.