I’ve found I have a lot of time on my hands now. My husband currently lives almost 7 hours away by car. He’s in Ontario for the next four months. Gotta love the military! So here I am, a stranger in a very strange land. I have no status in Canada yet, and I speak only English, so a job is out of the question. I have no children or pets to occupy my time. The region is small, the Anglo community here even smaller, so I have few friends. Most days revolve around hitting the gym and deciding what to eat for dinner. Since I’m online a lot to communicate with friends and family back in the U.S., I’ve decided to waste…ehr…productively spend some of my time on this new blog, relating my experiences and observations as an American plunked down in Northern Quebec. To say there’s some culture shock would be an understatement.
One theme that I expect to recur regularly is a phenomenon my husband and I have named “Q Parking.” Q is both my husband’s nickname and the first letter of the province of Quebec. We learned during our HHT (house-hunting trip, for those lucky enough to be completely uninitiated in all matters military) that in Quebec, people (most certainly including my husband) park like assholes. There is, I’ve noticed since the move, far less concern here for the personal space of others than back in Oklahoma (where intense, “down home” courtesy and friendliness often mask outright rural nosiness). This lack of concern is evident in utter obliviousness to others’ ability to park conveniently within any given lot. Automobile manufacturers have thoughtfully provided steering wheels to allow for accurate adjustments to each vehicle’s trajectory. However, instead of using these marvelous devices to maneuver one’s vehicle within the lines of a parking spot, it seems that a surprisingly large number of people simply give up on driving at some random point after entering a parking lot. They just stop, sometimes nearly within the lines, sometimes not so nearly within, and sometimes with complete disregard for any designations, and they exit their vehicles. It’s absolutely normal, even expected, to see at least one vehicle parked directly on top of the “no parking” symbols painted in front of our branch of Bank of Montreal.
In trying to learn to fit in here, I’ve experimented some with Q Parking. I thought I was getting pretty good at simply ignoring the lines or at most treating them as mere suggestions, putting my car (named “Ginny”; sure, it’s a little nuts to personify a car, but wait until you hear about my friend, Carl) into park, and abandoning Ginny where she sat, regardless of how badly I had parked. However, this young Grasshopper has MUCH to learn from the true masters here. I will post a couple of photos to illustrate this point.
Another theme that will recur is the dreaded LANGUAGE BARRIER. While some people in the region speak some English, it is the exception rather than the rule. I know some French words, and I can fluently say the following phrases:
- I do not understand.
- I’m sorry, I do not speak French.
- I would like a vodka. Double. And a whore.
As you can imagine, I have some difficulty communicating even about simple matters. This should improve when I begin taking French courses next month, but for now, all I’m capable of doing alone is hitting the gym and shopping for groceries and household items (and even THAT proves quite challenging at times, occasionally resulting in the dreaded crying jag sitting inside Ginny in the Canadian Tire parking lot).
Since hitting the gym IS on the list of things I can do, it seems it’s time to wrap this up for now. For any who take the time to read this blog, now or in the future, thanks for your interest. Also, I would like to say that, with so few exceptions as to be nearly beneath notice, the people here have been friendly and have tried their best to communicate and to help me. When I poke fun at the region, the language, the people, or the customs, I’m poking as much fun at my own Okie expectations and ignorance of the culture here. I don’t mean for any of this to be cruel or disrespectful.