Thursday, January 29, 2009

In which I represent the US very well

What a day. So for my Canadian Multicultural Literature class, we had guest speakers Drs. Cecil Foster and Sharon Beckford, two rather prominent black Canadian authors/critics. They held a very interesting discussion with the class on the issue of race in Canadian writing (the details of which I won't go into, though they're probably 5 billion times more interesting than what I'm going to describe).

During the middle of the class discussion, I get hit full-force by a sniffle that's been threatening to overtake my nose all week. Without tissues. So I'm sitting about 4 metres away from three very VERY smart people (my prof is there as well) with my nose dripping. I can't get up to leave because we're right in the middle of a rather intense discussion. And there I am subtlely trying to 1) Keep my nose ring turned around and 2) Conceal all of this. Dr. Beckford keeps looking at me, though that may be my paranoid vanity speaking. What's worse, I decide to go and draw attention to myself by asking a question that, because my head is all congested, comes out nowhere near as intelligently as I was hoping. Something about the dual aspects of race--I have no idea.

Fast forward to Dr. Foster's lecture this evening. I'm transferring all my stuff up a couple rows to sit with friends when the introductions start. The guy on the mic (also a prof of mine) startles me a bit, so I stand up and elbow the guy sitting in front of me in the back of the head. This guy, as it turns out, is Cecil Foster. I stammer an apology, but I have no idea what he says in response because I'm too busy turning beet red. Dr. Beckford also recognizes and says hi to me, and I can't help but wonder if she's thinking "Oh God, there's drippy nose girl again...."

Good lord, am I awkward sometimes.

On another topic, I have decided that my brain speaks French really well (like in my dreams, and when I formulate answers in class in my head). It's just my mouth that can't seem to process whatever's up there. The good news is, I have this problem in English as well. It's why I stammer and talk so fast--and hey, I'm fluent in English. I think a good French immersion program would nudge me over the edge.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Thrashing fiddlers

So it's Saturday night and I'm sitting here watching a PBS special. I realize this makes me a massive dork, but really, it's almost worth it for the laughs. Anyone out there familiar with Celtic Woman? It's kind of like a manufactured Irish band made up of overly attractive woman--who, while talented, are mostly about spectacle. The fiddler, for example, plays while jumping up and down and twirling in circles while thrashing about her long blond hair while two men with bodhráins walk around her half-menacingly. And they all twitch their shoulders in time to the music when they sing. Rather overdone...

Oh, good, and now they're singing Danny Boy.

This has nothing to do with Canada, but I figure that not every post on this blog has to...

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

I'm proud to be an American, and I'm happy to be in Canada.

I'm proud to be an American, and it's about damn time.

As I watched record crowds on the National Mall today listening one of the most historical speeches in US history, I couldn't help feeling more than a little proud to be from the United States. Sharing a sense of overwhelming joy and relief with a room full of Canadians (watching on the CBC, no less) was amazing. Granted, I had to hold myself back from my usual celebratory methods of screaming and jumping, but I looked around the room (slightly teary-eyed, I have to admit) and everyone was glued to one of the four flat-screen TV's in the Student Centre.

Finally hearing a President reflect what many MANY Americans actually feel about our country (a necessary sense of humility, an acknowledgment that we need to pull ourselves back up and stop fooling ourselves) was such a relief. We can stop feeling like we need to be defensive, and instead rejoice and work with the rest of the world. Given where I am and the wonderful people I was with, it made me so happy to see several clumps of Canadian flags waving amongst American flags as they panned over the crowd--a reminder of the fact that you can't look down Pennsylvania Avenue without seeing Canadian flags flying over the Embassy just a block or two away.

And a small note on the power of democracy--this was my first election wherein I actually got to use my Constitutional right to vote (I voted for John Edwards in the primaries just before he dropped out of the race, but we won't talk about that), and just knowing that I had the ability to vote for the man who is promising to shift the world onto a better course...well...I couldn't help but smile.

Go America.

And in other news:

I keep find myself slipping "huhs?" or "uhs?" onto the end of sentences and these are being replaced every so often with "ehs?" My O's are starting to sound funny and I had a dream last night that I was speaking French couramment...Québécois-style (though I was told by a girl today that I speak French well...but with a more "from France" accent...I need to work on this)! I swear to God I'm not doing any of this on purpose because that would be incredibly obnoxious; I'm just catching myself at it. I suppose when it starts to go unnoticed, I'll really have to go listen to some good...American-accented jar myself out of it.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Why I love US Consulates

Well, OK, I don't. But. I need to get my passport renewed in case I decide to stay in Canada longer than the expiration date (not necessarily likely) and in case I want to return shortly after I get back to DC (very likely) and don't want to wait a bzillion years.

And there's one in Halifax. So...excuse to go to Halifax! One of these days...

Why Sackville rocks...literally...even though ice picks on crutches are a necessity

So. Question. What do you get when you combine 20 cm of snow with freezing rain the next morning and temperatures juuust cold enough to keep that rain frozen on the ground with a slick layer of water over it from the friction caused by pedestrians? And a campus on a hill?

Answer. You get--school cancellation!

...HA! Right. Maybe anywhere else in North America (by which I mean any of the States south of New York...and Mexico, but they're luckier with climate down there), but Canadians are really a tough and durable population. I'm beginning to think it would take a force-10 blizzard to get school canceled around here, and even then, I'm not so sure. I have a hunch they keep sled dogs hidden away for such emergencies.

But I had my first experience of slamming down on my ass in front of people this morning, and I'm starting to see increasing amounts of people with various degrees of damaged appendages. I wondered this morning if we'd all just be better off ice skating around campus.

In less climate-related news, I went to three (THREE!) shows on Saturday, all of which were AWESOME. The first was on Saturday afternoon--two bluegrass bands. The median age of the crowd was maybe 65, but those of you who know me know I LOVE LOVE LOVE bluegrass. And I thought it was rather cool that the planners of Stereophonic (the music festival this all came through) included something that the elder crowd (and a fair few of the younger crowd) could enjoy. And I found out that the local station has several bluegrass hours throughout the day.

Concert Number Two was at an art gallery (yeah, I know, cool, right??). The Superfantastics, a duo from Halifax were, well...super fantastic. Seriously--if you like catchy indie pop/rock, check out their music. They performed with Calm Down It's Monday, another duo--the girl sounds a lot like Feist. The latter was either super chill or slightly baked (or possibly both), but either way, they were absolutely hilarious between numbers and the music was of the variety that you'd want playing in the background of a soundtrack to your life.

Then we trekked over to this place called George's Roadhouse where the bands were too numerous to mention but all very danceable. Apparently the Tom Fun Orchestra was the big draw of the night--they call themselves a Celtic fusion group, but they were fiddle-less that evening, and a trumpet player covered the parts, so it sounded rather ska-ish. And unfortunately, I'd knocked back one too many beers (bringing me to a grand total of FOUR. Pathetic.) at that point to be fully attentive...but being able to listen to music and dance with new friends and drink and have it be totally legal was amazing in itself.

Come to think of it, the beer may have been the reason why the walk home in -25 was not nearly as bad as it could have been...

Still on the lookout for a good East Coast band with some serious fiddle action, but in the meantime, I'm totally blown away by the music scene here.

Saturday, January 17, 2009


So at some point in the very near future I will comment on the amazing music scene here in Sackville (like the Mt. A student who started out on the bagpipes but does this really cool looping-style self-accompaniment music and the fact that I just went to a 2-hour bluegrass jam) but for now, I wanted to inform my readers (and I can feel the anticipatory tension mounting) that...I found a pair of boots. At the thrift store.

The best part is, there's a tag in them that says "Made in the USSR" and they smell like they've been sitting in an attic for some time. But you know how much they were? $7.99. Real leather.

Have I mentioned how much I love this town?

Friday, January 16, 2009

A word on the weather

So given the domain name of this blog, I think it might be necessary to give my friends at home some perspective on this friendly climate we have in Sackville, New Brunswick, Canada. (Did I mention it's January? What sort of idiotic American goes anywhere north of Maine in January?)

It is currently -29 C outside. For my Fahrenheit-oriented friends (and for myself)--that's -20.2 F. The two systems even out at -40.

The people over in northern Minnesota and the prairies are probably scoffing over at this, but for a girl from Phoenix/SE PA/Washington DC, this isn't just cold. This is the kind of cold that, frankly, will kick your ass. It's even hard to breathe in this weather because your lungs are like "What the hell is that? Air that's 29 degrees below freezing? Yeah, screw that." and then cough every breath back up. It is necessary to wear at least 2 layers (depending on how good your coat is), a thick scarf, mittens (they are much warmer than gloves...I still need to buy some), and, if you're smart, tights or long underwear (I am not smart and do not own either one of these). And, of course, a tuque (winter hat). A good one. That covers your ears because if you don't have one, I promise you, they're going to freeze and fall off your head (at least that's what it feels like...lesson learned the hard way).

And a little warning about Sackville (also learned the hard way, despite the fact that a friend told me the first day I was here). Don't trust the forecast. Almost every day, the low has dipped below the predicted low (today, -22 C) and/or the high has spiked above the high (max so far about 3 C). Bring extra layers.

I am amazed at how people manage to adapt to climate changes. I'm convinced that humans are the most durable creatures on Earth, because we survive in 49 C/120 F (and yes, I've been in that kind of weather--frequently) and conditions where your snot and breath freeze when you walk outside. And I've also got to hand it to the ducks in the nearby Waterfowl Park--they were just chilling (very literally) in the grass the other day, like nothing special was going on.

The world's really an amazing place.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Quote of the day and an email from my mother

"The U.S. cultural steamroller, covering so vast a terrain, is a clumsy vehicle that can destroy or destabilize despite its drivers' best intentions." -Max Wyman, The Defiant Imagination: Why Culture Matters

*sigh* Sorry.

Also, please note the subject of the following email, sent from my mother when I told her the high was going to be -17 C tomorrow.

International shipping charges...are annoying.

So I need boots that don't weigh 7,000 pounds for shorter treks through the snow. I spent a good half hour looking for a non-Uggly pair that could actually hold up to winter weather. Then I found out New Brunswick import charges would be $24.44 with a $10 shipping rate. On a $60 pair of boots. Worth it? I think not. Thank you for nothing,

I need to stop blogging about boots.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Canadian Politics 101? Not really.

We-hell. And you all said the culture shock would be minimal (I don't know who "you" is, but let's pretend I have a reason to be defensive for a minute). Obviously, you've never jumped to a third year/fourth year course in Canadian politics after coming from a school that hardly gives a damn about Canadian/any other country's governmental happenings.

I have a hard enough time hanging onto US politics as it is, but at least in an advanced course, I would understand most of the references. I was having to over-exert my attention paying skills during most of the lecture to understand anything that was going on. The professor is a Senator from New Brunswick, and also the former Lieutenant-Governor, and the guest lecturer was Dominic LeBlanc, a Liberal MP also from New Brunswick. I'm not sure what I was expecting to happen--I suppose nothing more from myself--but it was just a tiny bit overwhelming.

Granted, I do know something about the Canadian political system. I've read a bit, watched some CBC, talked to some friends. So I can give you a basic overview of how the system works and what each political party stands for. But I'm going to have to do a hell of a lot of background reading.

Just when I was thinking maybe I could quietly drop the class, the professor, after talking about our upcoming class on Barack Obama, said, "And I understand we have an American student in the class!"

I could feel the star-spangled shame rushing to my cheeks as my hand raised in spite of itself. The moment people find out I'm a student at American University (here AND in the States) they think I must be a political aficionado. I have a hard time convincing people that's NOT the case. I'm not even a poli sci student (and what I should be is a literature major). My curiosity just gets the better of me and I sign up for courses like this one, hoping to hide in the back like a silent sponge. I guess that won't be happening.

I suppose I should stop blogging...after all, it's 11 PM and I have an entire country's worth of knowledge to catch up on. Fortunately, I'm set to go for a little while from some Tim Horton's coffee. Maybe that will increase my capacity to absorb Canadianness. We'll see.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

You know it's cold when...

WeatherBug has the image of an igloo next to the daily forecast.

You walk outside and your nose ring freezes.

Even though, as a silent statement against the bleach-blond, Ugg-wearing zombie clan of the US East Coast, you NEVER wear snowboots, you find yourself needing to put them on every single time you walk outside.

You're in Canada in January (oh, right!).

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Food discoveries of the week

Butter tarts! With raisins! I found these cute little pies at dessert and asked the girl I was with what they were. She suggested they were butter tarts--and having never had one and not being one to pass up trying any food that has "butter" in the name, I took one. Then when I went back for late night (an awesome 2-hour period wherein the meal hall reopens and serves all sorts of delicious things--tonight was a mussel bar), I took another one. I've often thought that something pecan pie-ish without the pecans would be delicious. I was proven correct.

Also, blueberry ale! Now, I like most kinds of beer, a few wheat varieties excepted, but you really can't go wrong with frozen blueberries floating in a lovely brew that tastes faintly of...yup. Blueberries.

Next, we have ketchup chips. As much as I love salty and potatoey junk foods, these were not my favorite things in the world. To someone used to kettle-cooked barbecue potato chips, these didn't quite measure up. And they were sort of purple...

Lastly, Coffee Crisp. A Kit-Kat like candy bar with coffee. And bigger than Kit-Kats. Where could you possibly go wrong?

And on a completely different note, I need to get some skates because I fully plan on being better at skating when I leave than I am now.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Indoor photos

So it's too damn cold to go outside and take pictures right now. They keep saying I'll get used to it, and I'm sure I will, but for now, my wussy self is opting to stay planted next to her portable heater.

But just below is the (crooked) view out my window....and to the right, the flag that keeps throwing me off. One of these days, the fact that I'm in another country will stop surprising me.

More to come, je vous promets.

Monday, January 5, 2009

My fellow Americans...

Some initial observations:

1) Canadians do not say "eh" all that much. At least not here. I've heard it tacked onto the end of sentences a bunch, but it's not like they're spouting off "ehs" with every verbal turn.

2) Sackville has a lot of stuff going on for a tiny town. I know, I'm new, and I'm told I'll get over the "everything's awesome!" honeymoon phase, but there's a lot of stuff crammed within a few square miles here. A movie theater, a drugstore (Pharmacie Jean Coutu--how cute is that?), a bitchin' thrift store complete with skis and rusty ice skates, like 3 or 4 pubs, a hardware store, a tucked-away theater, a diner, and this campus has bjillions of buildings. And if you go to the end of Bridge St. and take a look at the landscape--it's HUGE!

3) When it snows in DC, the students freak out, stare out the window, and speculate for hours about whether or not the next day will be a snow day. When it snows here, no one even blinks. They're telling me that, comparatively, this is not a lot of snow. There is more snow here than I've seen in my lifetime.

4) I've never really even owned a pair of snowboots. Here, I think I'll be wearing them most of the time.

5) It's cold here, so the people make up for it by being a lot warmer, and you'll only be an outsider if you work really really hard at being one.

6) Even the graffiti seems nicer. I saw some yellow paint scrawled on a wall that said "Don't be afraid." And there was one in Moncton that said "Pompous faggot"--not at all friendly, but certainly articulate.

7) Thrift stores freakin' ROCK, especially in countries and provinces where the tax rates make you gasp. I bought a mug for $0.49 today.

8) When I first came to Canada (Quebec City), I thought that Aero chocolate was the coolest thing EVER. It's in the vending machines downstairs, along with some other crazy stuff (i.e. dill pickle flavored chips).

9) Blueberry beer = THE BEST THING EVER. Also Canadians know WAY more about US politics than the other way around (I knew this already, but it really hit home tonight).

Saturday, January 3, 2009

J'suis ici! or...Je suis ici!...or whatever the correct abbreviation would be

So for those of you who know what a nervous twitch I am, you'll also know it's because I'm a HUGE scatterbrain and forget things like it's my life's goal. Every single travel experience I've had over the last several months has been accompanied by some near-disaster that included me losing something (my wallet, my phone, my passport, my boarding pass, my keys) or leaving something behind.

Today, I had the distinct pleasure of 1) Finding all my travel documents and having to keep them together all day, 2) Taking a Super Shuttle to BWI, 3) Bringing along ALL my stuff for an entire semester, 4) Catching a flight at 12:45 to Detroit, 5) Catching a flight from Detroit to Newark with a 42 minute layover while switching airlines, 6) Remembering to exchange currency and having to run between concourses within 25 minutes, 7) Catching a flight into Moncton from Newark.

I know, I was a stupid booking, and I would have been better off flying directly out of Newark. But you live, you learn. Anyway, the many many steps left many many places for disaster to happen. And I was absolutely convinced they were going to lose my luggage, they weren't going to let me through at the border (my passport expires in late June), I was going to lose my wallet, my boarding pass, or my passport, and/or I was going to miss a flight. So I spent the entire day checking and double checking that I had everything. And there was a lot of running around in the airports to make sure I got to where I needed to be on time, so I was a sweaty mess all day. Since I hadn't (haven't) eaten since 10 AM, my hands were also shaking.

In fact, I psyched myself out so badly that when I went to change currency, I was in line and almost had a nervous breakdown because I thought I'd lost my wallet. Turns out it was in my sweatshirt a sweatshirt that I was wearing...

But everything went smoothly. I got to everything on fine, I got through customs OK, I found a taxi, checked into a cheap hotel (I forgot hostels existed, otherwise I would've gone with that route), and I'm sitting here in Moncton too excited and worked up to sleep. I'm here!

And of course, my iPod started playing "God Bless the USA" as we flew into Moncton (God only knows why I have that in my collection)...but the next song on was by Les Cowboys Fringants (which, while a Quebecois group, was better than the previous song choice), so it made up for it...and then I came here, switched on the CBC, and some woman was singing the Star-Spangled Banner...but it was for a hockey game, so I guess that's OK, too...