Sunday, June 28, 2009

Bonne St. Jean!

Salut, nos amis,

We celebrated St. Jean Baptiste Day by painting a Quebec flag on Milo's face and attending a picnic in Parc Lafontaine with some friends from Dave's scholarly home away from home, the CCA. The weather cooperated, and Milo made many enthusiastic friends with his flag-face. It got awkward, though; the spirit of Quebecois nationalist bonhomie kind of falls apart when you can't communicate with your fellow partiers in French.

I guess now is as good a time as any to confess that the French we all planned to learn never really materialized. Milo's daycare is bilingual, but that's more incidental to the staffers speaking one language or the other. There's no formal educational programming for French or English there. The main result is that Milo now feels comfortable playing with kids he can't understand, and he knows a few "French" songs that he sings sometimes, to our great bemusement.

As for Dave and I, we both took a 10 -week class at our local leisure centre, Dave's was a twice-weekly lunch hour conversational class and mine an evening "Level 2" with limited conversation and mostly grammar. Most of my classmates were international students at McGill who were fluent in English. Dave's class was more of a mix, but same problem: the only native French speaker was the teacher. That's no way to learn a language, sadly. After having had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be immersed in a language (okay, I HOPE it was not just once in my lifetime!), back when I lived in Mexico as a teenaged exchange student, I see now that it's the only way, at least for me. Certainly the quickest way. A lot harder to pull off when you live with your own nuclear family. And our friends here all speak fluent English, Dave's colleagues too. The only "real" French conversations I've had since moving here have been very brief exchanges involving grocery delivery, subway ticket purchases, navigational directions (giving and receiving), and simple greetings. I will say that my comprehension improved somewhat; now when someone on the street addresses me in French I usually get the gist of what they're saying on the first go, unlike back in Jannuary. Over all though, despite the odd time watching French tv or listening to French radio, I score low on learning French. C'est la vie.

Above: the eerie modern ruin of the Expo '67 site. Rotting glue-lam beams, weeds growing through concrete, still-futuristic design disintegrating into the soil. Oddly peaceful, lots of birdsong.

In other news, we only have 2 more weeks here. It's hard to believe our time here is almost over. We don't quite want to believe it. But the Jazz Fest starts this week, so that softens the blow somewhat. STEVIE WONDER is playing the first free concert!!!! We will be there, camped out if necessary. I am anticipating many great things from this show, among them a stirring tribute cover of a Michael Jackson song or two.

About this poster, on St. Catherines Street near our house: Montreal's suburbs are their own municipalities, so like all such cities, it loses out when people leave to live the suburban dream. 

For those of you following our movements, we will leave here July 12 and fly to Winnipeg, where we will enjoy some summer fun with Dave's brother Tom and his tribe for just over a week, then we will touch down in Calgary only long enough to pick up a few things, including a brand new car (I know! Weird! But Sylvia finally died right after we left Calgary and we need new wheels), then it's off to the Okanagan to visit Dave's parents. We'll return to Calgary August 1 and spend the next few weeks getting resettled.

We'll be really busy in the next two weeks getting packed up and ready to leave, so I don't know whether I'll have time to post to the blog, but I will try, okay?

Smile, please.

1 comment: