Wednesday 28 July 2004

hurrah for Ed

Hey, something to blog about! It's Ed and Martine's 12 Monkeys time, and this month's theme is:

Describe your first impression of Montreal.

I'm not sure if we made it through Montreal, but I know we drove through Quebec on our way down to Boston when I was almost 9. The only French I knew was "Je m'appelle Lisa", thanks to the one and only phrase my Dad could remember from his grade 11 French class. I remember stopping at a park where a girl joined me on the swingset. Being the friendly sort I am, I said to her "Je m'appelle Lisa". Of course it never occurred to me that once I got that one phrase out, communication would get a bit tricky if she only spoke French, and sure enough the little girl proceeded to yak away at me at great length in a language I didn't understand. I have a vague recollection of being confused and walking away from the swingset, and thanks to me, this girl probably grew up with the impression that Anglophones are really rude.

The next time I visited Quebec was a weekend with a friend in Montreal in 1989. I absolutely fell in love with the place. There was so much that was completely foreign to me, and I'm not just referring to the language (at this point, my vocabulary had expanded to ordering beer at restaurants and getting cigarettes from the convenience store). I loved how coffee came in big bowls, eating these yummy things called "Croques Monsieurs", and how everyone smoked - anywhere and everywhere. I loved attempting to speak French and trying to decipher conversations happening around me. I loved that it had cobbled streets and a bazillion cafes. I couldn't believe how cheap rent was (remember, this was 15 years ago and it was compared to Toronto) and how easy it was to get around the city. I was smitten.

On a whim that can only happen when you're 20 (or again at 30 if you're me), I decided to move there. My friend went to Montreal ahead of me and picked out an apartment for himself and another one for me, and I moved there without having seen it. I was surprised at how pleased my parents sounded when I announced that I was moving in the next month, but in retrospect it was probably due to relief that I didn't stay put and marry the guy I was with at the time. My Dad rented a van and drove our things 300 miles to Montreal. Ah, the days when my possessions would fit in half a van. I lived in five different apartments, had eight different jobs, and made dozens of very good friends. I left in 2000 to move here, but I will always consider Montreal home. I miss the bagels, the fantastic multicultural cuisine and communities, all the festivals, the "doo dooooooo" sound of the metro, and I even miss speaking French (which vastly improved over 11 years, thankfully). Most of all, I miss my friends.

Of course we'll always have MSN Messenger.

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