An anglophone from the west. A francophone town. Hoo boy.

Friday, December 19, 2008

the end of terms

Thank goodness, the school year is over. No more commuting, no more studying, no more exams, no more students, no more teachers. Yesterday was the last day of work for both of us. We celebrated by kicking back with a beer and watching some hockey in our pajamas. And going to bed early. Yes, we are old people now it seems. I'm sure there will be more than enough excitement in a few days...

I'm keeping an eye on the weather in the hopes that the big storm hitting Ontario won't interfere with our Tuesday flight to Alberta. Things look good so far. It's funny though -- I was doing some prep on Thursday for next year's activities, and was scanning headlines across the country. Everyone is complaining about snow, bad weather and poor road conditions. Even Vancouver and their "extreme" weather conditions*. One of the English monitors from Vancouver Island stayed at our place on her way home for Christmas and we all got a good laugh out of the advice that she'd recieved from her parents to "bundle up" because it was below zero there. It was almost as good as the laugh we got out of her observation that scarves were actually really useful, and not just good accessories.

With school of both the secondary and university variety being over, things are much more relaxed. We've got some last minute preparation to do -- mostly cleaning up the appartment** and posting instructions for the cat-sitter that will be staying here while we're away. And packing. I think I'll leave that for later...

* I understand that those west coast people don't see any snow ever, and have no infrastructure to deal with it. It's still funny to see photos of the minimal snow there causing such problems.

** It took three tries to spell that correctly -- stupid cognates!

Friday, November 28, 2008

marshmallow world

The winter has arrived in Québec. The white stuff arrived Tuesday morning -- a big dollop that would have been beautiful if I didn't have to drive to Shawinigan. Slowly. Verrrrry slowly. For the first snow of the season the snowplows weren't too quick to get moving. Worse was the drive home. Even with snow tires, it's pretty slick out there.

I choose to blame certain members of my family for winter. They came out for a visit last weekend, ostensibly to watch the Grey Cup final. And to visit us as an added bonus. Convenient, that.* It was a fun weekend, even if it was extremely windy and cold, and we all seemed to have issues with dropping things. And with hotels. Mom, Dad and Nick were staying out by the airport. Conveniently located for getting to the airport, but not for much else. We had a bed and breakfast close to downtown. Lovely home, nice location, but terrible service. There was nobody there on Sunday morning so we left without breakfast and without paying. **

Long story short, they brought the cold with them and left it here, where it turned into snow and winter.

I suppose I'll have to forgive them though, because it was so good to see them! And now I'm extra looking forward to being in Alberta for Christmas. Not to alarm anyone, but that's less than a month away. And coming sooner than you think... At least with the snow on the ground, things feel a little more Christmas-y.

* I wonder how much more often they would come to visit if Montréal still had a professional baseball team?

** The excuse offered? It's a private home. Yes, like just about every other bed and breakfast I've stayed at. Usually though, there's an understanding that the private home has also decided to function as a business and to accept your money for the service. Implying that there will be some service offered.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

memories of an ALT

This week is the end of term at school.

The students and teachers are all busy with end of term exams -- sorry, "learning evaluation situations" as they're called now. If nothing else, the educational reform in Québec seems to have come up with some interesting new terminology (management-ese) to describe otherwise easily understood concepts. And in two languages!

But I digress. As the English monitor, I have very little to do this week. I had 6 out of 11 classes canceled outright, and one rescheduled. I don't mind so much -- I have exams and an oral presentation to prepare for -- but it does remind me of working in Japan. The difference being, that I'm allowed to go home when I don't have a class.

Not that it's not depressing when you realize that you've spent more time in your car than you have in the classroom... the joys of fake teaching.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Howl - o- ween

So this year, for the first time in a long time, I had my favorite kind of Halloween. Oh sure, I dressed up (and someday soon I'll even post pictures -- although if you saw me as a singing, dancing stripper in northern Japan, it's old news) and whatnot. But this year, I sat at home in the dark watching scary movies, eating bad Chinese takeout and scarfing miniature chocolates. And not even by myself. I had a girlfriend over. Isn't that what everyone likes to do for Halloween?

I didn't carve my pumpkin though. It became a delicious pumpkin pie, and tubs of frozen pumpkin to be used at a later date. Mmmm... citrouille...

Well, there's always next year.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Did you know I rock?

My first round of midterms is already over. I have a few more exams to go, some projects and a presentation but the results are so far so good. An A+ in chemistry, and an A in botany. Not bad for studying in a second language and holding down a full time job... then again, I'd be pretty disappointed with myself if I wasn't getting straight A's.

Case in point: we were given a third of the questions to the botany exam in advance, and the chemistry exam had such difficult questions as: what is the chemical process that occurs in plants and involves chlorophyll?

First person to answer, gets a prize!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Friday night rumble

Last Friday was opening night for the Montreal Canadiens. We stayed in to watch the match, because we're boring old people it seems. Sadly, the Habs lost to Buffalo in a shootout. The shootout was boring, but the match was pretty intense. This being the 100th anniversary of the team, people are already buzzing about their chances for the cup. I always kid with my students that the Flames will take the cup this year, but everyone knows that won't happen...

After the game, we were crying into our beers and looking for televised entertainment to cheer us up. All of a sudden, there was a loud crashing sound, and the whole building shook. We thought a truck must have rammed into the side of the building. And being downtown, that isn't entirely out of the realm of possibility. So we checked outside -- nothing. We went downstairs to see if the building (it is 100 years old this year after all) had suffered any damages. Nothing. The neighbors were all outside too -- they had felt the same thing. The local consensus was that since there was no truck sticking out of the side of any of the buildings on the street, it must have been an underground explosion. Nothing. No smell of gas (thankfully), no accidents (ditto), nothing. There were calls to 911, the gas company, everywhere. Nobody knew what was going on. It was, incidentally, a great way to meet the neighbors.

It turned out that it was not such a localized phenomenon. People all over town had heard a crash and felt the earth move. And in fact, it was just that! Yep, right here in 3R, we had a mini tremor! It was something wussy like 2.3 on the Richter scale -- just enough to freak people out, not enough to do any damage.

And I thought that by no longer living on the west coast or in Japan, I was safe from earthquakes!

Friday, October 10, 2008

journée pédagogique

Today is a professional development day at my school, which means I get a day off. No students = no monitor. I love my contract. I have so little responsibility.

And finally, I have some time to do something non-productive, like update the blogging hole. It's been a supremely busy month or so. What with starting a new job, starting back at school, and still trying to focus on getting my as into graduate school next fall, I have had very little time to sit back and relax.

First, the job. It doesn't pay as much as JET, but the conditions are better. If there are no students, I don't have to be at school. If I have no classes, I don't have to be at school. If I need to take a day off, I can shuffle my classes around no problems. The students are always happy to see me because I do fun activities with them and zero grammar. If anything, I get annoyed by the lack of responsibility. Much like in Japan, I kind of get ignored most of the time. But then again, I haven't done a lot to get to know teachers and staff outside of school. I've been too busy.

Two nights a week I'm going to three hour lectures at the University. I decided that because my job is the opposite of challenging, I would do a certificate in environmental sciences. Half of my courses I've got credit for, so I only have to do five to get a certificate. This term, I've got two classes. It's interesting and keeps me out of the house. Unfortunately, it does mean I have to study and do exams. Well, it's good for my French. And it forces me to write. And boy, does my writing need help!

I've been doing lots of English writing -- I've put in two big applications for big grant money for next year. I'm hopeful that they'll give me funding, but they're extremely competitive grants. To me, my proposals look worthy of funding, but I guess that's what everyone thinks of their research. I've been working on them in all of my free time so hopefully they pay off. Now that they're done, I should have more breathing room.

It hasn't been all work all the time though. I've been able to go and do some sightseeing in the area. There are a few other language monitors in my area, and we've been able to go to the Western Festival in St. Tite -- a huge rodeo and festival in the area. We've also gone to visit the local national park. I'm slowly getting around to posting pictures on my flickr site.

What else? Francis and I were at a friend's wedding in August. He's a guy we know from Japan (we actually met at a party he threw), so we got to hang out with a bunch of people from the JET program and go out for a karaoke night. The wedding was fun too.

My good friend was in town for a few days, so I got to enjoy hanging out with her. I don't think we stopped talking to whole time -- it was great. But too short. Isn't that always the way?

And now I guess I have to go and be productive with my day off. The apartment is disgusting because neither of us is ever home long enough to clean up, and I want to invite the in-laws over for dinner on the weekend. I should get some studying in too seeing as I have an exam on Tuesday I have to study for. Yay botany!

Have a lovely long weekend!

Thursday, October 2, 2008


Things have been busy out here.

I've been at my new job as an English language monitor up in Shawinigan for about a month, I've started classes part time at the university, I'm in the midst of major grant applications (fingers and toes crossed, not to mention the t's!), working with a few private students and joined a choir to round things out. Phew.

In my free time, I enjoy sleeping. And studying biology jargon in French.

More detailed updates to come. No really. I promise.


I did an activity with my students called "Rodeo Role Play". Where I live, there are people who have never heard of the greatest outdoor show on earth, the Calgary Stampede. It gets trumped by the Festival Western in St-Tite. A teeny, tiny town very close to the middle of nowhere. In honour of this shared cultural heritage, namely cowboys, I taught francophone students such useful terms as "howdy", "y'all", "yahoo" and verbs like "mosey" and "vamoose". All of which I'm sure will prove useful if they ever meet John Wayne.

The goal was to get the students to speak, even if they were using silly words. After some tweaking, the activity was successful.

Now to teach them all to talk like pirates!

Sunday, August 17, 2008


Well, it seems the summer is just zooming by. Appropriate, seeing as this weekend is the big GP3R -- Grand Prix Trois-Rivières... there's been plenty of zooming, a fair bit of vrooming, and even more "vroum"ing.

Last night, besides a beautiful full moon, there were fabulous fireworks just outside our door. Apparently, they weren't organized to celebrate my one-year anniversary of living in Trois-Rivières, but that's what I've decided to think. Why *wouldn't* the city put on fireworks just for me?

And of course, with everyone gearing up to go back to school (myself included), the weather has decided to actually be nice for a change. Just to rub it in that summer is winding down.


We fled the city for a few days to wander (very quicky) through the nation's capital. It was my first visit ever -- shocking, I know. More shocking that it was only the second visit for my conjoint, his first having been last fall. Well, at least that saved us from having to worry about who had seen what, and what was worth a second viewing.

Well worth a second viewing (even after he had spent a full day there the last time) was the Canadian War Museum. A good mix of artifacts, points of view, interpretation, and tanks. A whole giant room full of the latter. Okay, so maybe that last one is more for the boys. I enjoyed it more for artsy photo opportunities.

And what rounds out a day at a museum better than a day at the pub?

We did much the same thing for the rest of the trip. Just change the museum and the pub, and you pretty much have the whole trip.

My favorite part, and something I hadn't considered was the confusion factor that a bilingual couple can present to people who work in bilingual facilities in an officially bilingual city. We have the very bad habit of switching between French and English. With the occasional smattering of Japanese, just to throw others off the scent. Asking a relatively simple question becomes more complex the more languages you throw in, especially if you unwittingly change in mid-phrase. On the upside, the person you're talking to is free to pick the language they're more comfortable with. On the downside, they may be extremely confused for the first little bit. I much prefer some confusion to the automatic switch to English I always run into in Montreal. If I address you in French (or English), why change? Even if you detect an accent, if I've made the commitment to starting the transaction in one language, why switch to another? But that is a long and complex topic, best suited to another post. This is supposed to be about Ottawa!

A very pretty city, that reminded me strangely of Victoria. I blame the hordes of tourists, plentiful pubs, and gorgeous gardens. And the overwhelming British-ness of it all.

That must have been it...

Friday, August 1, 2008

and we played records

This week, I'm in the process of discovering music. The boy's parents were getting rid of their old turntable, and we, packrats that we are, have given it a home here. It came complete with their record collection -- mostly French-Canadian folk singers. The collection also includes fine 80's specimens of Miami Vice (not one, but two different soundtracks!).

So I've been enjoying the snap, crackle, pop, and occasional skip of old records. It's a sound that goes well with the falling rain and thunderstorms, at least until the power goes out.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

aaahhh... Gérard Depardieu...

I heard this song not once, but twice today on the local campus radio station, CFOU -- it's number two on their anglophone charts.

No, I can't get it out of my head. And yes, the French word for fish is Jacques Cousteau.

Friday, July 18, 2008

once upon a time in the east

So it seems I've been a bit lax on the updates. Well, it's not entirely my fault. My computer is being naughty, so I've been taking it easy on that front. And trying to use the internets only for the forces of productivity. I've been pretty good on that front, but I miss writing on "ye olde blogge". So lets catch up on the last month or so, shall we?

Lets see... there was my birthday. A generally quiet affair. I had to work, which was dumb.

We took a mini-vacation at the end of June and holed up in a cabin in the woods way up north. The cat came along for the fun. He was surprisingly relaxed at the cabin, likely because he was relieved not to be in the car... no, he is not very good with being in the car. We had a really nice time, despite unending rain and a lack of lake access. We got in some nice hikes, and got to read lots and lots. Okay, I read a grand total of one book (in French) that drove me nuts because it took me so bloody long to get through it. On the plus side, because it rained so much, we had a good excuse to go and have a massage. It was really a nice treat to get out of town for the week.

Canada Day was a relaxed supper with some friends to make up for missing out on St-Jean Baptiste celebrations while we were on holiday. And the Bluenose II was in port for the day, maybe because Three Rivers has just been named the Cultural Capital of Canada 2009. Must be all the festivals.

We recently spent a lovely day in Québec City with the boy's family -- his sister lives there, so we carpooled with his parents and spent the day museum-ing and wandering around. Very fun. It is such a beautiful city.


Seeing as it's summer, I haven't been working much. Just enough to remind me how few hours I'm working. For some reason, people just aren't interested in doing English classes while the weather is nice. Things should pick up in the fall, but all the same I accepted a job offer as an assistant English teacher. Those of you reading from Japan, I'll be an ALT at a French school. From some people I know here doing that job it sounds very much like ALT-ing, but without having to stay at the office if you don't have classes. I'm glad to have somthing stable, but at the same time, disappointed it's not more interesting. Or more biological. On the upside, it wil give me excellent material for a book... For those of you reading between the lines, that does mean that my grand Panamanian plans fell through. For the standard monetary reasons. Definitely a let down.

The job searching is still bleak, mostly because I have way more experience teaching than anything else, and because (according to me) any companies that are hiring are looking for fluent French speakers with English skills and not the other way around. But it's a tight job market all around. I'm still looking (and applying and waiting and... you get the idea), and I'm planning to pick up a few courses at the local university. It'll give me a bigger push as far as the language stuff goes, and ideally put me in contact with more people in the know here. As with everywhere, the hiring market here is very dependent on who you know.

So that's that. Now that we have a car, we've been getting out more -- going to Montreal to see movies (WallE - super good, Hulk - fun times, Iron Man - yay Robert Downey Jr., Indiana Jones - aliens? All this time for frikking aliens?) and fun stuff like that. We've booked a mini-holiday to go and visit Ottawa for a few days, and I'm looking forward to a visit next month from a friend from the Yukon.

I'll keep you posted.

Monday, June 9, 2008

trying to stay positive

The malaise is setting in. The weather may be gorgeous here, but I feel like crap. I'm underemployed and unhappy about it. I read somewhere that most people are satisfied with their work, be it clearing drains or waiting tables, as long as they were working more than a certain number of hours. And I fall shy of reaching that magic number of hours. Which leaves me with plenty of time to sulk around the house -- I can't afford to go out -- and obsess over the lack of communication from a certain university.

So, I'm expanding my options.

I've decided two things. One: that I'd like to be working in biology -- that field I trained in that I enjoy. Not that I don't enjoy teaching English, it's just not what I want to do when I grow up. Two: if I want to get a real job in my field, I'm going to really have to work hard to improve my second language skills. Those real jobs are about having writing and speaking skills, both of which are still difficult for me. I've been lazy about my French. I don't speak it enough at home and I haven't done much to improve my writing skills. Improving those skills means getting out more, be it volunteering or working at a less-than-exciting job (as long as it's all in French), means doing some actual writing, means studying and looking things up in dictionaries, means being an active learner. Just like in Japan, learning a new language doesn't happen by osmosis. Unfortunately.

Here's to making things happen!

*new kount added because I got locked out of the old one :(

Sunday, June 8, 2008

everyone loves a prime

This geek moment brought to you by PBS.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

pimp mon char

With gas prices around here averaging 139.4 per litre, and looking to go up, we thought there was no better time to buy a car. Yar. But it's good. Now we don't have to time grocery shopping with the bus schedule, I don't have to wait around for an hour after work if I want to take the bus home, and best of all we can get out of town with minimal effort. Like this weekend, we drove out to see the waterfalls at St.Ursule. I'd forgotten how nice it was to be able to leave the city and go somewhere where you can almost hear the plants photosynthesizing. Here's some video of the falls, photosynthesis not included.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

damn hippies! get off my lawn!

Living downtown is fabulous*. At least until the weather gets nice and everyone else decides to head down to enjoy the fabulous-ness.

Especially the hippies that live in Trois-Rivières. All three of them. They've decided to take up residence in the small park across the street from our appartment. So on any given sunny afternoon, they're out there drumming. I don't have any inherent problems with drumming, but come on. Who really enjoys listening to drumming circles? Especially when they're trying to listen to the radio? Or trying to do work? Or trying to enjoy the sunshine? Or a beer on the balcony?

I think I might have to invest in a pellet gun to convince them that they should go elsewhere...

Damn hippies.

*Even a tiny downtown like we have here. What it lacks in class it makes up for with proximity to waterfront. And lots of ice cream parlours. I likes me some ice cream.

Friday, May 9, 2008


I've taken to dreaming in French these days. It's a bit of a strange experience, particularly when I realize while I'm dreaming that I and everyone else is conversing in perfectly fluent French. My next thoughts are of course that I'm creating all of this in my head. And inevitably, everyone loses fluency and I wake up.

But it's neat while it lasts.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

not just giant, it's colossal

Just stumbled across this on the BBC News website. A museum in New Zealand is in the process of dissecting a Colossal Squid -- this thing is even bigger than a Giant Squid, a creature near and dear to my heart.

You can watch a live stream here.

It's pretty cool.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

fur-based technology

I am not what you would call a "morning person". Once upon a time, I used no less than four alarm clocks to get me out of bed in the morning. I had them all: the loud obnoxious alarm clock, the quiet obnoxious alarm clock, the radio alarm clock, the alarm clock on the other side of the room -- all going off at staggered times for optimal waking power. They never really worked. I just got better at sleeping through noise. Which is something that has come in handy.

These days, I still don't like to get up early, and I've pretty much reduced my alarm clock needs to one. Or two.

But I've unwittingly introduced a new form of alarm -- the fur-based alarm.

When I was teaching full time, I would get up at 6am, feed the cat, make the coffee and get to work. The cat, understandably, got used to this pattern. He started "helping" me wake up in the mornings. He's a big boy, and currently on a diet. So feeding time is a serious business. He's very punctual. At the time, it was nice. I didn't have to worry about sleeping through my alarm because the cat is very persistent.

And then my schedule changed, and I realized that I wasn't so keen on being awoken at 6am every day. Especially weekends.

So his feeding time has shifted to the evenings. The only problem is that the cat still likes to wake me up at 6am. But only on weekends.

Friday, April 18, 2008

public service announcement

Friends of mine have started a super cool awesome website called kountr.

The basic premise is simple: count stuff.

So please, go visit their website and make up a "kount" or two or three or four or... you get the idea. Although the site doesn't automatically provide authentic "The Count"* laughter, you can easily do like I do and add your own.

Ah, ah, ah, ah!

*uhhh, ever heard of Sesame Street?

Thursday, April 17, 2008

vocabularily challenged

(presented in French for extra humour and practice for me)

Ring-ring! Ring-ring!

"Oui, allo?"
"Allo, c'est moi. J'ai juste appellé pour te dire que je vais revenir tantôt avec les amis."
"Bon. Je suis en train de faire un peu de ménage. J'ai passé la souffleuse --"
"La souffleuse?"
"Oui... l'appartement était plein des poils du chat, et j'en ai eu assez."
"Mais, il n'y a pas beaucoup de neige dans l'appartement, et en plus, on n'a pas une souffleuse."
"Je pense que tu veut dire l'aspirateur ou comme on dit, la balayeuse."
"Et qu'est-ce que j'ai dit?"
"La souffleuse. A snowblower."
"Shit. Ce n'est pas ma faute. Ils parlent toujours des souffleuses à la radio, jamias aux balayeuses. Même pas les aspirateurs. T'as raison. J'ai passé la balayeuse."

Effective language learning in action. On the phone last week with the boy I told him I'd done some cleaning around the appartment. And done the snowblowing. I will never mistake a vacuum cleaner for a snowblower ever again. To be fair, all anyone ever talks about are snowblowers, not vacuums. No wonder I got the wrong word. And then there's the fact that balayeuse is a québecois word. Crazy province. Making up their own language as they go along!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

I have seen the light.

I'd just like to point out that the real maple syrup, straight from the tree to your mouth (via a kettle for a little boiling) is the most amazing thing on earth.

That crap from the bottle you got at the store?

It sucks.

I will try to make this the last maple sugar themed post of the season.

We can move on to hockey or something equally awesome....

Sunday, April 13, 2008

first balcony day of the season!

first balcony day of the season!, originally uploaded by anyram.

Well, that was last week. We opened one of the balconies to take advantage of a day of warm weather and sunshine. Nothing says nice like a beer on a private patio. We only opened one though, figuring that there would be more cold days to come. And we were right. This weekend, winter is back. With snow and everything. Stupid winter.

But the snow is starting to melt, and outdoor tables are starting to take over the streets.

In related news, the cat who is afraid of everything is also afraid of the outdoors. We tried tempting him out with treats, but he thinks we're nuts. There's all those wierd smells out there! I'm sure he'll change his mind eventually...

Friday, April 11, 2008

les pouvoirs extrordinaire

Last night, I discovered my maple sugar powers.

I have this theory. People here consume so much maple syrup (in all forms) that it has to give some kind of advantage. Special powers, if you will. I've never quite decided what those powers are, and I never expected to have them myself. As an Albertan, my special powers either come from putting Tabasco on my eggs or drinking crude oil as a nightcap. Maybe not.

We went out to a local bar in town where they brew excellent beer and make a pretty good burger. You may have heard that there was also a hockey game on. Which, incedentally, has been the lead news story everywhere today. They had a special spring beer on tap -- erabière. Get it? Erable for maple and bière for beer. A little on the sweet side, but tasty.

We drink our beers, the game starts, and when they drop the first puck I jokingly say, "et le but!", better know to non-French speakers as, "he shoots, he scores!". You get to use the same over-excited hockey announcer voice and everything. Thirty-four seconds into the game, there's a goal. The next face off, I say it again and laugh. Until the Canadians score again within the next minute.

I did't try agin. You know how it is. You don't want to jinx things. And I'd already finished my erabière.

But now I know. In beer form, maple syrup gives me special powers.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

You want me to stay how long?

Yesterday was the end of my three weeks teaching math. And just as expected, I was asked to stay on. Until May 9th. Another 5 weeks. 25 days of teaching.

I said no.

Things have definitely gotten better. I know the students better, both their names and their needs, which allows me to deal with them in the classroom. I've got a better idea of their skill level (or lack thereof -- I had to explain exponents to a Grade 9 student this week, during the exam no less). The students have become more comfortable with me and my teaching style. It's not great, but I don't feel the same dread about going in to work as I did at the beginning.

However, I am not prepared or qualified to teach this class until the end of the year. And despite the reassurances of the principal, I'm pretty sure that the teacher I'm replacing won't be coming back. Coming in on weekends to remove personal items is not a good sign.

Like I told the principal, I don't know the system, I've never taught the course and I don't have the resources to prepare these students for the end of the school year. I have nothing to go on, other than the textooks. We've almost finished that material, and will have to start revising and working on the "cross curricular competencies" that the government requires. I would have to learn not only the math so that I could review with them, but also learn the curriculum and the exam system to prepare them. Yes, one of the teachers will be going through it on the next pedagogical day, but one day is not going to give me an understanding of the reform. I am not willing to burn myself out working as a supply teacher. Part of me feels bad about it, but I know myself and I know my limits.

I agreed to stay on next week until they can find someone to replace me.

Like my boyfriend's dad said to me, you can bet I'll be happy to be finished.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Thank God it's not a school day

There's a lot of ups and downs when it comes to supply teaching.

I get paid pretty well.
Seeing the little lightbulb go on over a student's head when they understand something is a beautiful moment. Especially in math.
I really like doing math.
There are a bunch of entertaining ex-pat Albertans who have ended up teaching in Trois-Rivières.
I am only teaching in one subject area.

I have never taught in this school system, never taught these courses, and the woman I'm replacing has left me with nothing. I therefore have no idea what student's have and haven't covered already, and I get the horrible feeling that I will be asked to stay on the rest of the year. I'm not ready for that.
Being the fourth or fifth supply teacher in two months makes it all that much worse.
I am not qualified to deal with students who have major behavioural issues.
Dreaming about lesson planning is not relaxing.
My French has deteriorated to the level of a junior high school student (and I swear a lot more).
Having a class go really well, and then realizing it was because a large portion of the class had been suspended.

It's been an intense week. In theory, I will be done with it at the end of next week. However, everyone but the administration has told me that I will be asked to stay on longer. So now I have to think about how to deal with that when the time comes.

Friday, March 21, 2008

this one goes out to all you teachers...

Week one as a Math teacher is finished. Two more weeks, possibly more, to go. If it was just about teaching math, things would be fine. But of course, I'm teaching that very special age group -- grades 7 through 9. Yikes. These kids need more than a replacement math teacher. Yesterday I had a steady stream of other teachers stopping in to see how I was doing, maybe to make sure I wouldn't leave and never come back. Yes, it's that kind of group of kids I have. Lots of serious behaviour problems. All the teacher shuffling hasn't helped them.

Let's put it this way: I'm glad I have a four day weekend. And to all you people I know and love that do this every day -- wow. You guys are amazing.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

me talk english real good

I did an interview today to teach English in French schools, in the Canadian government's answer to the JET program. The goals are to teach English to French students, and to share the cultures of different provinces.

The interview was all in English, except for a brief batch of questions in French, to see if I was capable of communicating. The interview went well enough that they started talking about what schools they could place me in to take advantage my science background. Of course, being a government program, I won't find out for a while, but it would be a relatively easy, well paying job that would put me in a French-speaking work environment. And (hopefully) keep me in Trois-Rivières.

I'd rather get accepted at McGill and get back into the wide world of science, but it's good to have back-ups.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Friday, March 14, 2008

I've made a huge tiny mistake*

Guess who starts work next week? If you said Tommy, you'd be wrong.

I've been running back and forth all day between home and "English school street", and the final analysis is that I'll be teaching high school math for the next three weeks. I've got a load of textbooks and no idea what I'm doing. I'm sure it'll be fun. I'm the third replacement teacher for that class this calendar year.

Did I mention I have no idea what I'm doing?

* Arrested Development people. I'm telling you, it's gold.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

almost good news?

It's no wonder I've been feeling up in the air lately.

I've got numerous job applications on the go, two job interviews successfully completed but still no sign of actual work, an application for graduate school in the fall that seems to still be missing a letter of reference, and another job interview next week. In theory, this means things are going well for me, right? Yes, getting to the interview stage is great. Having a successful interview is better. Having an interview that leads to actual work and a paycheque? It seems that's too much to ask.

Yesterday, I met up with an employer for coffee. We've reached the coffee stage. She gave me a load of materials for teaching, but no hours. We've been trying to arrange this meeting for two weeks now. Sometime soon I may even get to sit in on and/or teach a class. But of course, it all depends on how many students sign up. Such are the trials and tribulations of working for a private language school.

Last week, I dropped off a few applications to work as a supply teacher. Conveniently for me, it was the last day before the start of spring break*. So there wasn't actually anyone around in a position to interview me. I should hear more this week.

And today, I got a call from a potential doctoral supervisor. It seems people are keen to have me, I've theoretically been accepted (with an entrance scholarship no less), but there's no guaranteed funding to make it a lock. So things are moving in a positive direction, but nothing is guaranteed.

I supposed I should be less thrilled about that last one than I am. Of course I'd rather be officially accepted, but hearing that I'm in theoretically is great. It's gotten me all excited about doing things that aren't teaching English. To be honest, the thought of teaching English again kind of makes me want to cry. Even if there's money involved.

Lets all keep our fingers crossed now. I'm going to go study some more Spanish, on the off chance I end up in Panama this summer.

And if anyone out there feels like funding my PhD, I would be happy to accept.

Sorry. Sometimes I have to let these things out. It's funnier if you've watched Arrested Development. "Say goodbye to these!"

Monday, March 10, 2008

it seems to have snowed here...

Yesterday was (un)surprisingly quiet, after the super-snowstorm that started Saturday (ooooh - alliteration!). We were supposed to be busy as it was the boy's birthday, but festivities were cancelled due to snow. Just as well. He's getting ready to leave on a school trip to the Dominican Republic, and along with all the standard stress of getting ready to go on a trip there are plenty of extra headaches. It says something that one of the lesser headaches is that the hotel they were supposed to stay at no longer exists...

But back to the snow.

We went out for dinner Saturday night, and walking the two blocks to the restaurant was an adventure to say the least. Downtown was a ghost town and the wind was blowing hard enough to make my face burn. Getting all prettied up to go out for dinner was kind of pointless with all the wind and snow.

On Sunday morning after the storm, we hopped on the bus to go buy groceries. The sidewalks around the bus stop were not priorities for snow clearing, so there were hip-height snowbanks blocking the doors to the bus. On the way back home, the bus ran the residential slalom between cars parked on the street while people dug out their driveways. Have I mentioned how glad I am that I don't have to shovel here? Snow was piled up on lawns, reaching the same height as the houses in some cases. Our street was cleared in the early afternoon, but only because we live downtown.

The news is full of school closures, flight delays, road problems, and transit issues.

It's times like these when I'm glad I don't have a car.

Cat status update:
No longer hiding all the time, but remains torn between desire for affection and acute fear of human movements.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

He! Mon ami!

I don't know if Les têtes à claques exist outside of Québec (and by that I mean in English), but this video made me giggle.
Check ça!

Le LCD shovel

The fruits of a long collaboration between the scientists of NASA and Canadian Tire!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

new addition

It was only a matter of time. Say hello to Tommy. He arrived Sunday and has spent most of his time since then behind the couch. His previous owner had to give him up because of allergies, but secretly, I think she just decided she didn't really like having a cat after all. The hand-off was a bit weird that way. Anyways. He's sure to have a good home here. And he'll be able to learn English too. Because it's always good for a cat to have a second language.

Friday, February 22, 2008

yo soy...

Things continue apace.
At the moment, I've taken to studying Spanish. From a book written in French, no less. No, it's not just for the fun and intellectual challenge. I've gone and applied to a doctoral program. And an overachieving one at that. It's based at McGill, but runs through a research station in Panama, so there's a language prerequisite. I'm finding it extremely enjoyable to study a language so closely related to French. As a side benefit it forces me to go back and refresh all those basic things in French that either I never learned, or learned so long ago I've forgotten. And it's much more gratifying to learn basic vocabulary than to study the appropriate uses of pronouns and verb tenses.
In any event, I'm really hoping for this to work out. Half of my potential supervisors (because the program is split between two locations I need two supervisors) are extremely keen for me to start, but nobody has the money to guarantee me a spot. And since I was in some kind of daze for the last few months of last year, I didn't apply for a grant and hence, have no money of my own (which would pretty much let me dictate where and what I wanted to go and do). It's all very much up in the air at the moment, but I'm planning for the best.
In other news, I kind of have a job. I'm not actually working at the moment, but in theory I have a job teaching English. Teaching English may not be one of my life goals, but it helps pay the bills. At least it will if I actually end up teaching. Yes, it is a weird situation.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

language lessons

J'ai besoin de quelque chose comparable en français!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Maple me this?

One thing I've noticed living in Québec is the amount of maple syrup.

Sure, Canada is a country of maple: maple syrup, maple trees, maple leaves, maple cookies, maple candies, maple you name it. But in the west, probably because we don't produce maple syrup out there, I haven't noticed the same levels of saturation. Well, and maybe I'd forgotten just how much maple syrup there is here after two years in Japan.*

And that was before I went to a cabane à sucre, where each table gets its own litre of maple syrup to pour over plates of ham, tortière, baked beans and pancakes. And then you head outside to eat tire sur la neige -- maple syrup poured over snow and eaten like candy (Yum). It's all very good for you. Especially with a glass of caribou -- red wine or port mixed with some hard alcohol like brandy or vodka and a dash of, you guessed it, maple syrup.

Maple syrup is a standard condiment at breakfast tables, and those who know me, know I love breakfast. I don't quite have the same love of maple syrup as the rest of the breakfast eaters I see here. It seems to be standard practice for the waitress to ask if a diner wants maple syrup with their breakfast. I prefer my eggs with hot sauce, which is next to impossible to get here (the last time I asked, I got the bottle from the kitchen and some strange looks). I've even witnessed maple syrup in coffee, which I'll admit is tastier than hot sauce.**

So is this supersaturation particular to Québec, or is it an eastern Canadian thing?

Or is my theory correct: maple syrup gives French-Canadians special powers. What those powers are exactly I have yet to determine. Maybe it's something like being able to understand those really thick Québecois accents...

Next time:
Caramel spread on toast! Does that even exist anywhere else?

*That being said, I've been told that Japan is the third largest consumer of maple syrup and maple products -- right behind Canada and the US. Not surprising when you consider the gift-giving culture that flourishes there.

** Or HP sauce. Yes, I'm still going on about that.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008


We're not in Kansas anymore. Not that I've ever been to Kansas, unless you count the fact that Alberta is also a dry, dusty, windy flat place. It may or may not have been filmed in black and white.
Here, things aren't filmed so much in colour as in maple tones.
More to come.