Just a note on the langue quebecoise: while my French vocabulary is steadily increasing, it’s my English that really needs work. Quebecers have co-opted any number of English words by chopping off all but the first syllables. For instance, a “mush” (pronounced more like “moche”) is a mushroom. A “snow” is “snowboard.” Likewise, a “skate” is a “skateboard.”
They also use English words, but with slightly modified meanings. That can get really complicated. If someone makes a reference to their “jogging,” they’re talking about their sweatpants, but if they mention “running” they’re talking about their running shoes.
Quebecers are very expressive and Quebec politicians in particular don’t mince words. Common expressions include, “It’s a total mess,” “complete lack of judgment,” and “totally unacceptable.” I once heard uttered the equivalent of “lying bastard” without so much as a batted eye.
It was all a little overwhelming at first. I moved to Quebec City on December 31st. Dad, who came with me to help me get settled that first week, and I stumbled into an outdoor New Years’ Eve party with twenty-some thousand fêtards in the middle of Grande Allée. We rode a Ferris wheel – from the top I took in the view of my new city and I understood why they called it a winter wonderland. At midnight, they shot off fireworks that lit up the sky above the legislative building, the National Assembly. It was a pretty incredible welcoming committee.
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I found a cute, one-bedroom apartment in Old Quebec, a seven-minute walk from the National Assembly. At 26, it was the first time I’d ever lived alone. I ruined my coffee pot by leaving it on a hot stove element. My shoddy laundry machine, which was probably as old as my heritage apartment building only washed about 40% of my clothes, so I cleaned my socks and underwear by hand in the sink and hung them up to dry on my kitchen cupboard knobs.
I started a dishrag on fire and had a nervous breakdown when the latch on my back door broke because I thought I’d been burglarized. But other than that, I got by okay and I surprised myself by how much I appreciated the solitude. On Friday night, I’d walk home and stop at my corner dépanneur for a bottle of wine.
With a fresh glass of wine at the ready, I taught myself to cook.
That year, Quebec City had this on-again off-again relationship with winter (but not precipitation) resulting in a real adventure every morning on my way to work. The sidewalks were either covered in snow, or completely iced over – or a combination of the two which was the most treacherous. My colleague told me that ice chunks often fell without warning from the rooftops in the old city. I agreed that it wouldn’t be a very classy final chapter of my life if I was taken out by a large chunk of falling ice and every morning I made it to work alive, I was slightly relieved.
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I finally got my apartment insured after I started that small kitchen fire. My French greatly improved after one embarrassing moment when I asked my colleague for his handcuffs instead of the TV remote (yeah, that was awkward). I found an awesome Yoga studio where I found equilibrium Monday nights and learned French vocabulary for body parts I didn’t know I had.
In February I started dating a guy with a washing machine and my quality of life greatly improved. He has two girls, 13 and 15. By summer, we started spending a lot of time together as a family, taking the girls camping, to the beach, to the water park and to La Ronde (the permanent amusement park in Montreal) where I passed out on a roller-coaster and then puked. The girls were super comforting and took good care of me.
In October, the four of us went to visit a Samoyed dog breeder and that sealed the deal. Now that we were expecting, it was only natural the house hunting begin. And that’s how I ended up with a fur baby, two step daughters and a real adult life.
When I returned to Regina, I spent quality time with Flayla Flay who I’m pretty sure forgot who I was, but was happy to hog my bed with me again anyway. I missed home, but as a journalist, I knew I was in the best place to make as much of a difference as I can.
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