My French Favourites – Books + Films

Hello All ! I am going to share with you 2 of my favourite French books and 2 of my favourite French films. Feel free to leave your favourites in the comments so I can check them out.

Bleu Blanc Vert – Maïssa Bey

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This novel follows the 30-year period following Algeria’s independence through the lives of two Algerians. It starts in 1962 with a girl and a boy and progresses with them as they grow up and begin their adult lives together, the story ends in 1992.

The use of these two characters allows the reader to get a male and female perspective on the same events, which I think is one of the main reasons why this book works so well.

 

Le Prénom – Matthieu Delaporte & Alexandre de la Patellière

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This is a pretty well known French Comedy play which has also been turned into a film.

“Over dinner, Vincent and his sister, Elizabeth gather with their spouses and a childhood friend; however, when Vincent, whose wife is pregnant with their first child, mentions that he has chosen a highly controversial first name for his child, all hell breaks loose.”

It’s very funny and likely to become one of those books that you reread. The script format makes this much easier to read and digest than a novel.

 

La Haine – Mathieu Kassovitz

“Mais l’important, c’est pas la chute, c’est l’atterrissage”//“What’s important is not the fall. It’s the landing”.

839033_BYSEA_laA gritty, unsettling, and visually explosive look at the racial and cultural tensions in modern-day France, specifically the low-income banlieue districts on Paris’s outskirts.

A young Arab is arrested and beaten unconscious by the police which sparks riots in the notorious suburbs. Aimlessly passing their days on their home turf, the 3 main characters, Vinz, Hubert and Saïd —a Jew, an African, and an Arab—give human faces to France’s immigrant populations. The film follows their simmering resentment at their marginalisation which eventually boils over. This film perfectly demonstrates and holds the mirror up to France’s identity crisis.

I love this film, truly love it. I watched it for the first time whilst in sixth form and fell straight in love with it. I then went onto doing a presentation on the film and the issues it raises, during my undergraduate studies and it shaped my speaking exam topic choices from then on. A must watch !

 

Untouchable – Olivier Nakache & Éric Toledano.

This film is based on the unlikely friendship between a quadriplegic (a person affected by paralysis of all four limbs) French aristocrat and his Arabic ex-con carer. Click here to find out more about them. When you watch the film you’ll realise how nicely the director has included the often amusing and beautiful moments that the pair shared.

untouchableIn the film, a Parisian aristocrat hires a young man to be his live-in caretaker. Although very different the two men bond and develop a close friendship. This film brings together two people from two very different walks of life, two people that you wouldn’t expect to be friends but nevertheless two people that bring joy to each other’s lives. A feel good film that’ll have you smiling, laughing and potentially crying mostly happy tears. Also, there are some great songs throughout by Earth, Wind & Fire and the wonderful pianist Ludovico Einaudi.

 

What’s your favourite French book and/or film? Let me know in the comments

 

Until next time !

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Language & Identity Conference

Hello One & All !

Yesterday I went to a conference in London. It was my first time attending a conference  and so I thought I would share some thoughts on it.

Why did I go?

My reasons for going were as follows:

  • It posed as the perfect opportunity for me to learn more about Canada.
  • I wanted to learn more about the relationship between language and identity within Francophone Canada.
  • I have been thinking about whether I want to do a PhD after my MA and I thought that through listening to the findings of researchers that chose that educational path, that it would give me an insight into the extent of the research they conduct even after completing their PhD.
  • Last but not least, I wanted to practise speaking French and expose myself to dialects from other Francophone areas within Canada minus that of the Gaspé Peninsula which I had become comfortable with during my time in Canada.

What was it about?

There were 12 speakers (but I only heard 11) that discussed their findings on the topic of Language and Identity in Francophone Canada whilst all tackling the subject from different and interesting angles.

Here is a copy of the programme:

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What did I learn? / What did I find interesting?

Matthew Hayday (University of Guelph)
Elements of distinctiveness: The French Fact and English-speaking Canada’s identity politics since the Second World War

  • What I found quite interesting was the progression of language changes within the government and how that played out in the day to day lives of Canadians. The Official Languages Act (Loi sur les languages officielles) came into force in September 1969 which gave French and English equal status in the Canadian government. This meant that all federal institutions had to start providing services in English or French on request.

From this act being implemented, it was interesting to be presented with examples of how people tried to incorporate the two languages into children’s tv and also into songs. For example, in the late 1980’s, 3 Canadian muppets were added to Sesame Street. One of those muppets was French-Canadian Louis (pronounced Louie) the Otter, making the show bilingual.

“All Canadians should capitalize on the advantages of living in a country which has learned to speak in two great world languages” – Pierre-Elliot Trudeau.

  • What also intrigued me was the uproar that came after the Act was implemented. The word “racism” was used by Anglophones within Canada who felt that French would end up having a higher status than English, which would disadvantage them within the workforce.

From my understanding, a lot of work has been done over the years to give people a chance to take advantage of the bilingualism in Canada. An example that illustrates this is the fact that more schools offering French from an early age. Despite this, in the grand scheme of things, in Ontario for example (which is where Hayday is based), only 11.2% of the population can speak both English and French. So after 49 years, there is still work to do in order to help both sides of the community to profit from Canada’s bilingualism.

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Panel 1 – Canada overall / Le Canada dans son ensemble:
Valérie Lapointe-Gagnon (Université de l’Alberta) Ces anglophones qui sont montés aux barricades: la défense de la dualité linguistique canadienne par Gwethalyn Graham, Gertrude Laing et Scott Symons, 1950-1970.

Lapointe-Gagnon spoke again on the idea of Canadian dualism and the fact that in the 60’s, the government recognised the fact that dualism exists within Canada and that they needed to “remake”/”reconstruct” a new Canadian identity that encompassed both parts.

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Rachelle Vessey (Birkbeck, University of London) French and English language
ideological debates in Canada: Evidence and examples from the media.

One of the main areas of discussion for Vessey was the Canadian Radio Broadcasting Commission and how they have dealt with bilingualism. It was mentioned that at one point CRBC attempted to have a bilingual radio station but then people started listening to American radio instead. Throughout this presentation, Vessey also touched on the fact that from her research, the English language tends to be used for more functional purposes in articles and seems to be slightly taken for granted. In contrast the French language articles seemed to use more “emotional” language.

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Panel 2 – Canada overall / Le Canada dans son ensemble
Jean-Pierre Corbeil (Statistique Canada) Le recensement canadien et la
construction sociale, politique et scientifique des identités francophones
au Canada.

Corbeil discussed several interesting things on the basis of the relationship between statistics, the categorisation of people that fall into the same racial (language) group and the characteristics of those groups. He also mentioned that there is this variation between how people are being defined by the state and also how they personally identify so: external categorisation VS personal identification. This is something I want to delve into more in the future so that I can truly unpick it because it seems the state has over simplified it by stating that there are Anglophones, Francophones and Allophones (people that speak another language that isn’t English or French) but it’s more complicated than that.

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Panel 3 – The West / L’Ouest
Catherine Levasseur (Université de Montréal) Être bien plus que francophones: expériences de mobilté et de transnationalité de jeunes en contexte minoritaire au Canada.

One of the main things Levasseur touched on was how children view themselves. She mentioned that oftentimes, their identities are based on that of their parents or their grandparents so for instance, a child with a Hungarian mother and a Canadian father may identify as Hungarian despite being born in Canada. This could be due to the weight that this part of their identity holds socially within their day to day lives.

To close, it was a very interesting conference which definitely pushed me to think more about the complex relationship between language and identity, along with the struggle to equally represent the identities of those in Canada.

That time in Banff

Hey All ! Hope you are doing well !

So last month I spent 4 nights in Banff, Alberta. Here are the highlights of my trip !

Day 1 – Lake Tour 

I started my day with a trip to the supermarket. Having arrived at gone midnight I didn’t get to appreciate how scenic Banff was until the next morning and I was not disappointed:

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I mean it goes without saying, this is not a shabby view from outside a supermarket!

Lake Louise & Moraine Lake –

Later that day, I went on a Lake tour (with Discover Banff Tours). I was genuinely soo excited to go on this tour as I had been wanting to visit Lake Louise since before I even left London back in August. Before arriving at Lake Louise, we stopped off at Castle Mountain:

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Also, here’s a taste of how scenic the drive up to Lake Louise was:

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Then we arrived at the beauty that is Lake Louise ..

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I’ll give you a moment to just add Banff to your list of places to visit.. go ahead..

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Such a beautiful lake and I absolutely love the contrast of colours in the pictures.

After spending some time at Lake Louise, it was time to head to Moraine Lake.

Out of the two lakes, this one for definite stood out to me, there were also significantly less tourists at this lake as I happened to visit on the day that the road to the lake was officially opened for the summer.

Here is what the lake looks like from ground level..

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.. I know, you are thinking “How was she more impressed by this than Lake Louise?”. I didn’t understand what the fuss was about either, I was then advised to hike the Rockpile trail to get a better view of the lake. It took about 20-25 minutes but it didn’t feel that long because the views act as the perfect distraction. It’s also not very steep so you don’t end up sounding as though you are about to pass out when you get to the top.

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Here is what the lake looks like from the top of the Rockpile Trail:

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I think my automatic reaction was “Wow”, I genuinely felt like I was looking at a completely different lake.

There is something about being able to visit and see the sights in a place that you have only seen online. Throughout this trip there were soo many moments where I struggled to genuinely take in how beautiful Banff truly is.

Day 2 – Columbia Icefield

On my 2nd day in Banff, I started my day at 6am as I had an all day tour planned that started at 8:30am.

We made several stops on the way to the ice field (which is in Jasper National Park) to appreciate the lakes,mountains and rivers.

Mount Chepren + Waterfowl Lake:

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North Saskatchewan River:

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Oh and after 9 months in Canada, I finally saw a bear ! A black bear!

20180523_18451220180523_18461120180523_184441 Fast Forward to the Columbia Icefield, the largest ice field in the Rocky Mountains.

This is the ice field from a distance:

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And here you can see the road that led up to the ice field which seems to disappear, that would be because there is a part of the road that is at an 18 degree angle.

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Then it was time to head off in the Ice Explorer, which is an all-terrain .. enormous vehicle.

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During the journey onto the ice field, the driver kindly told us to make sure we don’t go near the areas that are marked with red flags as those are the areas that you are most likely to fall in.. he also nicely added that if you were to fall in that you would most likely die by the time you made it to the bottom and that it would be near impossible to retrieve you in time. So now.. as you can imagine, I walked around the entire ice field like a baby that was learning to walk for the first time.

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Interesting fact for you: This vehicle has 6 wheels and each wheel costs $5,000 CAD/roughly £2,850

After this, I went on the Glacier Skywalk which is a glass-floor observation platform overlooking a 280m drop. Not for the faint-hearted but if you aren’t afraid of heights you would love this !

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Then it was time to head back to the central part of Banff but we made a couple of stops along the way.

Bridal Falls:

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Bow River:

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And.. That’s all folks !

I hope you have enjoyed this post about my time in Banff. I had a great time and I would definitely say it’s worth visiting.

What the Puck ! (pun intended)

Rimouski Oceanic VS Moncton Wildcats.

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Hello One and All !

Right, so going to a hockey game was kind of half on my list of things to do whilst in Canada.. and it kind of wasn’t. A sort of “It would be nice if it happened but I won’t cry about it if it doesn’t” situation.

So the opportunity presented itself that I could go to a Junior hockey game in a nearby town and I could not decline the invitation.

It was pretty good ! It’s funny how somebody who makes zero effort to watch sports on any other occasion found themselves glued to the game, to the point that my eyes were actually tired by the end of it. Keeping an eye on the puck is a sport in itself.

Before the game started, we all stood for the national anthem. As someone that has never found themselves in a situation where they have had to stand for the British national anthem let alone the Canadian one, I could only stand there staring at the Canadian flag whilst being surrounded by Canadians and become greatly aware of being a Brit which then made me feel like a total fraud haha.

Back to the game, it started off slow and by slow I mean I started to question whether the players on both teams had internally made a collective decision to take it easy. The first period was long and uneventful.

Having said that, something had changed when they resurfaced for the second period. In fact, I would go as far as saying that this is when the game truly started.

Before the crowd had a chance to really get into the game again, both teams scored a goal within about 10 seconds of each other.

Fast forward to overtime.. 

The time between the previous score and the final score was .. long !

I can only imagine how draining it must be for players to keep their focus despite the amount of time and energy spent navigating the space. Time just kept ticking and ticking, tensions were rising among the players which dare I say added to the entertainment factor (just saying..) and just as I was starting to think we were going to be there for the night .. Rimouski Oceanic scored. I cheered a little louder than I had anticipated (truly caught myself off guard) and for some reason.. a fist pump was my automatic reaction (once again.. who have I become?).

All in all it was a good game and I would definitely go to another one in the future!

After that it was time to eat.. we went to a pizza place and naturally everyone got pizza but given that I have a Poutine addiction that I need to tend to from time to time, I got Italian Poutine :

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I spent the rest of the evening chitchatting and eating my body weight in Poutine. You just can’t beat good company and good food. Time well spent !

 

Until next time !

 

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Go go .. Chicago Pt 2

Time for more Chicago greatness !

Tuesday 6th March –

Earring Workshop

Anyone that knows me, even slightly.. will have probably noticed that I pretty much always have jewellery on. It’s like clothing at this point. I woke up on Tuesday with no plan for the day and really I don’t know how I ended up back on the library website but somehow I did and I found out they had an Earring workshop in the Makers Lab. I just couldn’t say no !

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The aim was to create earrings that were animal related and.. given there are only two animals that I genuinely get over excited about: Dogs (in particular Pugs) and Giraffes, I figured my earrings had to be related to one of the two. I already have pug earrings and so making a giraffe pair was the logical option. So the first thing I had to do was find an outline of a giraffe on Google. This was then put onto this software called Inkscape that allowed me to copy and paste the giraffe outline, adjust the size of the giraffes and add small circles where the jump ring and fish hook would be inserted. Once that was done, I saved my giraffe outlines onto a USB which was then put into a laptop that was linked to the laser cutter. Less than 5 minutes later, I had these..

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The next step was to use two sets of pliers to attach the ring and hook.

Here is the finish product:

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I think they are adorable and I have already got some wear out of them.

Wednesday 7th March – 

Museum + Cultural Center Take #3 + Chicago Deep Dish Pizza

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Firstly I headed to the Museum of Contemporary Photography, I have to be honest.. I didn’t enjoy it very much. It is super small and I like to be forced to think when I go to the museum and the current exhibitions just didn’t do anything for me.

Despite a disappointing museum visit, a friend came to visit that same afternoon and of course.. anyone that dared to come within a 2 mile radius of me and label themselves as a friend of mine had to endure a Cultural Center visit haha.

After that we headed to dinner and I got to try a Chicago Deep Dish Pizza. I can only say that it in some senses resembles a pie more than a pizza and it wasn’t greasy at all like a “regular” pizza which was great. I greatly appreciated the fact that it had like a pie-like crust as opposed to a soft soggy.. piece of disappointment:

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After dinner, I spent the evening relaxing and chit chatting !

Thursday 8th March –

Sears Tower + Lincoln Park Zoo + Lincoln Park Conservatory + Jazz Club.

A full day of pure greatness.

We started the day with a trip to Sears Tower, I have to be honest this wasn’t originally on my list of places to visit whilst in Chicago but i’m glad I ended up going. The weather was perfect which meant that I could take in all the beauty that is Chicago, Illinois..and the other 3 states that are apparently visible from this tower but let’s be honest.. I had no idea what was where or what was what. A few arrows or notices on windows wouldn’t have gone a miss ! #justsaying

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We also checked out the observation deck which is pretty much a section that extends out one side of the building and you can see the city below you (not one for the faint hearted), it was pretty cool indeed.

Here we go for those classic instagram shots (this was not my idea..no really, it wasn’t):

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When your friend gets carried away with their new found photographer role and you just lose it:

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Once I had finished with my modelling debut, it was time to head to the zoo !

This was probably one of my most amusing zoo trips ever, some animals seemed like they just wanted to be left alone to eat and some looked as though they were deeply contemplating their own existence. A unique experience to say the least haha.

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I went to the zoo to see one animal in particular and after searching for said animal for what seemed like a lifetime. I was a good few moments away from just assuming that they weren’t out due to the weather and then..

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A Giraffe ! Some people go to Chicago to see the sights.. others go to see a Giraffe. Keep your judgement to yourself, thanks.

Here is me channeling my inner giraffe ..

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.. pretty convincing eh?

What you can’t tell from that picture is that I actually had my giraffe earrings in also. Once again, Keep your judgement to yourself.

After, we headed to the conservatory which is attached to the zoo:

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Very pretty and relaxed.

Fast forward to later that evening…

‘The Chicago R&B Kings’

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(picture courtesy of google images..as I failed).

We went to a Jazz/Blues club called Buddy Guy’s Legends and I kid you not, it was absolutely amazing. When we first got there, we had dinner whilst the band set up:

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And then it started and I failed to take a picture because my eyes were quite literally glued to the stage until it ended.

It was soo good, I pretty much sat there smiling the entire time. Kinda like this..

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Being at that Jazz Club made my heart soo happy. It was just incredible. Such talented singers/musicians. Really amusing MC and just in general a very chilled and easy going vibe. Perfect evening. Loved it!

Fast forward to Sunday 11th March – 

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

Location: Auditorium Theatre

Shortly before heading to Chicago I was at work..working like a good employee *clears throat* and then I realised that there was an Alvin Ailey show taking place during the time that I was going to be in town and I got soo excited, I cannot even explain to you. It was as if someone had told me that they had a pug to give me (please note that was not the case and I am open to pug offers).

This show was amazing ! I was sold from the minute I saw the performance space ..

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..then the show started and within the first 5 mins, the goosebumps started. Such talented dancers and storytellers. It was lovely to finally witness the work of a group that I had heard about countless times throughout my time in high school/sixth form. A touching performance that also acted as a reminder that I miss the stage.

Just in case you want to know more about it, you can read the breakdown of what I saw here (Program A).

It was great to end my time in Chicago on an absolute high!

Monday 12th March –

Back to Matane –

My time in Chicago had officially come to an end. It was time to return to the snow that is Canada and the silent town that is Matane.

Here’s what a human that has an emotional attachment to their hotel room looks like…

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To close .. one thing that repeatedly happened throughout this trip was me finding myself having conversations with random people, from taxi drivers, shop keepers, other people at the workshops and even the lady next to me at the theatre. These conversations collectively act as one of the main highlights of the trip. True meaningful conversations about life, goals, travel and so on. Everyone has a story and that is something that intrigues me more and more as time goes on.

An amazing trip. I laughed a lot, ate lots of chocolate, ate some good food in general, listened to some good music, got my theatre fix, created and enjoyed some city time ! Chicago, thank you and .. i’ll see you again some day.

Until next time !

 

“Life to me is a journey – you never know what may be your next destination” – David Russell.

 

 

Go go .. Chicago Pt 1

Hello One & All, it has been over two months but I am back !

Spring break decided to make a wonderful appearance which meant that I hopped on the plane to spend some time in Chicago. Why Chicago I hear you ask.. my response: Why not !

I had an absolutely incredible time and before I get carried away with outlining what I did whilst I was there, I just want to say: please add it to your list of places to visit. Thanks.

Right..

Saturday 3rd March –

Woman Activist Tees Workshop + First ever Burrito

I started the day off with a grilled chicken burrito from a place called Spanglish (a place I ended up going to like.. 2 more times during my time in Chicago – creature of habit to say the least). After consuming half of the burrito I had to admit defeat and ask for the rest to take out. I left wondering if my stomach would ever be ready to meet American portion sizes during the trip (the answer was no..):

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After breakfast I headed to the local library for a workshop. An artist based in Chicago (Elaine Luther)  decided to do a workshop to teach people the principles of t-shirt design through hands on practice. We started the workshop with Elaine showing us some pictures of t-shirts other people had made in other sessions, such as this one:

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Then it was our turn to start brainstorming and sketching ideas for our shirts. The idea was that we made a shirt based on something that we felt passionate about. The ideas I noted down were: Speech, Power, Silence and Gender. This led to the thought that in society, certain voices are heard and some aren’t and often gender plays a huge role in that. Then it came to the question of “When will men and women be equal?”. Those that know me are aware that I am no artist so the key was to get my idea across in the simplest way possible (both simple to draw and simple to read/understand). This was the sketching process:

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So I had decided on the recognised symbol of a male and female on either side of an equals sign with a question mark below it. The paper I sketched on was called contact paper, it was sticky on one side like the sticky back plastic used to cover school books. Once I finished sketching, I outlined it with a sharpie then used a craft knife to cut out the shapes.

After that, it was time to put the contact paper onto the shirt.. and then of course, I chose this moment to change my mind on my design. I kept asking the others if the question mark worked and from the feedback I decided it was a stronger statement without the question mark (so I just covered over the question mark with more contact paper so it wouldn’t be included in the inking process).

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Next I had to choose the ink, I chose black to keep it simple but as I write this.. it has dawned on me that someone could read into it and think “it’s not a black and white issue”.. (I didn’t think of that at the time but let’s imagine my subconscious did).

As you will see in the following picture, there is another shirt that I tried to make using the cut outs from the first shirt.. but the equals sign got ruined in the inking process:

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The next half an hour.. to hour was spent using a hair dryer to speed up the drying process.. I think I was getting more hot and flustered than the shirts to be honest !

Anywhoo.. here is what it looked like at the end:

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Not bad for a first attempt !

Sunday 4th March – 

Chicago Greeter + Chicago-style hot dog

Before arriving in Chicago, I found out that they had a service called “Chicago Greeter” which is provided by the Chicago Office of Tourism. In short, it allows residents of Chicago to volunteer as “Greeters” and offer tours to those visiting the city. It allows visitors to get a taste of Chicago through the greeters eyes, you do also have the option of specifying your interests to give the greeter an idea of what you may enjoy seeing/doing.

My greeter was called Mary and the first thing we did was head to the Chicago Cultural Center which became my absolute favourite place throughout the trip.. I proceeded to visit the Preston Bradley Hall (upstairs in the cultural center) two more times, the Tiffany dome and the hall itself were just soo beautiful :

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(I genuinely only managed to take pictures of the dome during the first visit because I was too busy repeating “Wow, I have no words”).

Around the bottom section of the dome, there is the following quote: ” Books are the legacies that a great genius leaves to mankind which are delivered down from generation to generation as presents to the posterity of those who are yet born.” -Joseph Addison.

Then we went to Millennium park..

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..The classic Cloud Gate tourist shot.

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There are two of these 50-foot glass towers that project images of a broad social spectrum of Chicagoans. In summer, water spouts from an outlet in the fountains that gives the impression that water is spouting from their mouths (a play on the traditional use of gargoyles).

We also went to the top of the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel which offered a great view of the park, the lake and the museums in the distance:

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We then wandered around for a bit and then headed to get a Chicago-style hot dog .. with everything on it. It’s safe to say I have never in my life seen a hot dog with soo many elements to it and my taste buds were also quite confused. Having said that, it was pretty good:

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Monday 5th March – 

Cultural Center take #2 + Chocolate

I decided that I needed to go back to the Cultural Center, I was not over the Tiffany dome yet. Before heading to see the dome again, I thought it best to check out the exhibitions that were on in the center because I knew that once I headed upstairs to the hall, that would be it.

#theselfproject by Cleveland Dean

Due to the proliferation of the selfie culture, Dean pondered a few questions:

How has this changed us as a society?

Are we portraying our true self or is this just a public facade?

What are we exhibiting and what are we hiding?

He was also interested in the role of Narcissism vs Sharing.

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This interactive installation was inspired by the selfie culture and the song “You can’t hide from yourself” by Teddy Pendergrass. The viewer is supposed to take a picture in the one that resonantes with them the most at that given moment then upload it to Instagram as a means of creating a new piece of artwork that also brings together a community of people from different backgrounds that have found themselves identifying with the same ideal in their own way.

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Nina Chanel Abney

Just outside the exhbition space, there was a recording of an interview featuring the artist talking about how her work has changed over time and how she has found new ways of illustrating things such as people. For example, through using shapes, Abney found that she could communicate the idea of a human being without having to draw the entire body. Abney’s pieces varied in subject matter, some touching on the relationship between black people and the authority in America whilst others challenged the idea of gender and relationships:

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On the way to the Preston Bradley Hall, I stumbled upon the Grand Army of the Republic Rotunda and Hall which to my surprise also had a dome !!

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I just can’t get over how much character every corner of the building has.

Then I was off to see the Tiffany dome.. again ! Whilst all the other tourists were doing.. tourist things, I sat in this hall for a good while relaxing, reflecting and just taking in the beauty:

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So.. you may be able to tell that I liked the hall? like.. just a tad.

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.. Okay you get the point.

Once I dragged myself away from the building, I headed to Godiva Chocolatier and bought some chocolate because.. Chocolate is life.

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I proceeded to open these like 2 days later and yes I failed to take a picture to show you. I don’t know how many people think of taking pictures when they are tucking into truffles but I am not one of those people. Just know they were good (as if chocolate is ever bad).

 

To be continued …

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Amanda VS The Snow

First of all: Happy New Year all !

So I started writing this blog post back in November when the snow arrived but I never got around to posting it. I am now back in Quebec and on Sunday I was welcomed back by what I shall call “The Real Snow”.

Here are my thoughts on “The First Snow” and “The Real Snow”:

Start of November – So it started snowing on November 5th .. I can’t say I was too excited about seeing the snow falling from the sky. I figured seeing as Quebeckers were saying that the snow was late this winter, that in fact it had been postponed until I was mentally prepared but.. apparently that’s not how it works over here. Who would have known ! This first appearance of snow (which in fact disappeared as quick as ever), led to a frantic online hunt for snow boots.. given I will be walking to work throughout winter, I needed to be prepared!

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Fast forward to mid November – This was when I found myself humming the chicken song whilst walking to work .. it seemed to help. If you don’t know what the chicken song is.. here you go. Before you hit play, my excuse is they played it when we had our training sessions in Quebec City.. it’s catchy and .. yeah.

Firstly, if you listened to the whole thing, you are making me look normal. Secondly, if you find yourself humming it involuntarily in the next day or so, you are welcome.

Right.. now that you are clearer on what the song sounds like, we shall continue with this blog post as normal..

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End of November – Now I am not really sure what the weather is doing. I woke up one day and walked to work in the snow, left work and the snow was gone..having been replaced with ice . The next day, the snow came back. Now .. urm, consistency doesn’t seem to be a thing. I can’t even stay mad at Matane’s weather when I am packing my stuff to head home and I notice the best view from my classroom window…

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Suddenly becoming the human version of Bambi seems worth it after all !

So far I am yet to fall over which gives me some hope but let’s not get carried away because I have heard the snow won’t be disappearing until the end of March/start of April so there’s plenty of time for me and the floor to become well acquainted. In addition to that, since the snow has started falling and the ice spreading.. I am starting to struggle to identify the difference between myself and Bambi on ice.. yes, just let that mental image simmer in your mind.

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UPDATE – Fast Forward to January !!

Ha.. So my naive British self thought that I had seen the snow .. I in fact saw a dusting. I returned after Christmas to actual snow. I can tell this stuff is 100% here to stay.

Here’s a comparison:

November:

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December:

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January:

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Only God knows where the road and pavement have disappeared to.

The weird thing about the weather is that it is warmer than before I left to return home for xmas.. but there is like 10 times more snow !

Tuesday 9th January –

Today I walked to work in this..

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I had enough layers on for about 3 people: vest, base layer top, long sleeve top, cardigan. Base layer leggings and winter trousers. Coat, scarf, hat, UK appropriate winter gloves, ski gloves and my snow boots. Like I said.. enough layers for 3 people. I honestly cannot say I felt any cold at all during my 15 min walk to work, in fact.. I got to work feeling like a sweaty mess. It’s safe to say my winter gear does the job !

It was really strange having to navigate my way to work today,  I spent most of it walking in the road as it’s the clearest part. I survived the walk to and from work, almost lost my footing once because some parts of the snow are deeper than they actually seem to the eye, but I managed !

Wednesday 10th January –

Okay today was the ultimate mission. I don’t understand how enough snow can fall over night to make the entire right side of the pavement on the main road inaccessible. I kid you not, my walks to work are turning into gymnastic sessions. I get to the main road and realise there is a great problem, I cannot walk down the right hand side of the road so I need to cross and walk on the other side. This turns into Amanda crossing where there isn’t even a crossing.. then contending with a barrier of snow that had been created along the length of the side of the road (I am almost certain that it was at least hip height and as someone who if 5’3, it may as well have been the same height as me!). I don’t think I have ever had to balance myself to that extent before. The beauty of climbing a barrier of snow..

Stay tuned for Bambi stuck in the snow as it continues to pile up.

Until next time!

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Home for Christmas

 

 

Hello All ! Yes I know.. it’s been a while but before we get to my excuse, I hope you had a wonderful Christmas and if you don’t celebrate Christmas then, I hope you have been doing well!

So.. my excuse: I went home for xmas and I have been too busy indulging in many mince pies.. more stuffing than you can imagine and a few too many ferrero rochers. To add to that I have been spending quality time with my nearest and dearest but.. I am back !

Tuesday 19th December-

So I arrived back in London on Saturday 16th December. After overcoming some wonderful jetlag, a few days later I ventured out to spend some quality time with my best friend. The day started with food and some chit chatting aka hogging a table in a patisserie for many hours..

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After a while, we decided it was time to head to the train station, destination: Winter Wonderland.

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So this was the first time I had been to Winter Wonderland, I didn’t really know what to expect but I wasn’t disappointed !

Food vendors to satisfy every food craving you have ever had.. crepes, mac and cheese, hot dogs,candy floss .. the list goes on. Right so, I am not good when it comes to too many food options and it’s safe to say the different amazing smells didn’t help matters. So in a classic indecisive Amanda manner, I chose to make one “food” purchase which meant that I could literally taste diabetes approaching.

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…Apparently this is a “normal” size. I don’t even want to imagine what a large one would look like.

Whilst I was at Winter Wonderland I took some pictures and as you’ll see, the lights looked soo much better as the evening went on, Enjoy !

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All in all, I would say that it’s worth taking a trip to check it out. It’s like a cross between a Christmas market and a Fairground.. with a Ferris wheel thrown in for good measure.

Christmas Day –

This year I spent Christmas Day at my Grandma’s and the Christmas Dinner honestly made me do a little shimmy in my seat.

Just in case that is hard to envisage..

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..you’re welcome.

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Christmas was lovely, lots of laughs and lots of music. It was nice to just chill, talk and eat. Also .. I had no idea that there were reggae versions of Christmas songs, oh the things you learn at Grandma’s at Christmas !

 

A few days ago I went to my aunties house which then turned into a girls day where my mum, my auntie and I all sat and watched thrillers for the evening and ate chocolate. Now I kid you not, I had the best day. Yes we may have watched parts of the films through our shirts out of fear, yes we may have missed parts because we were too busy discussing what bargains we had found in the boxing day sales but it’s simple evenings like that, that end up meaning a lot.

Also .. can we just take a moment to appreciate Sanchez the cat who from time to time decided to come along and watch the tv with us:

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Well, that’s all from me. This Christmas period has been super enjoyable, I have one more week until I head back to Canada but I am feeling recharged and … somewhat.. kinda.. not really .. ready to return to the snow, oh and those wonderful minus numbers. Let me just embrace this last week haha.

 

Until next time !

 

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Xmas Party + Comedy Show

Saturday 25th November –

Yes a slightly premature xmas party but.. who cares!

Can you tell I was happy about finally having an excuse to wear my xmas jumper??

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I went to Rivière-du-Loup for a Christmas party. Before the party started, a few of us headed to get some dinner and I couldn’t say no to the BBQ pulled pork poutine, it was soo good:

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After that we headed back to the house for the party..

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Later in the night we headed to Bar Le triangle and I ended up getting into a conversation with this guy who mentioned that I had to try Italian poutine, I couldn’t justify eating poutine twice in one night but I made a mental note.

Something that amused me about the inside of this bar was that when I looked around, I could see people in coats, boots and scarves.. the Canadian winter nightlife everyone.

Sunday 26th November –

The next morning we headed to L’Estaminet for brunch:

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After brunch we headed to Parc des Chutes (Falls Park):

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A frozen waterfall ..

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And soon after it was time to return to our towns, here are a few snaps I took as we left Rivière-du-Loup:

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I will never get over the sunsets in Canada.

Monday 27th November –

I headed back to work as usual but in the evening I went to a nearby town called Amqui with one of the Canadian assistants. There is a Microbrewery called La Captive and they had a comedy night:

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There were two comedians, Pascal Cameron and Joe Guérin and they were soo soo funny. I was slightly concerned beforehand about how successful I would be with understanding jokes in French but I would say I understood a good 85% of what was going on but some of the jokes flew straight over my head because they were local jokes that only Amquiens would understand. One of the jokes that stuck with me though, it was one in which Cameron said “Amqui is a nice village” (Population of Amqui: 6,320, so naturally.. a village size) and one of the audience members was like “town” and there was an awkward silence and the lady in the audience continued with “a town, we have a hospital”, and then there was another 2 second pause whilst Pascal Cameron looked awkwardly at the audience and said “ah, yes .. you have buildings so, it’s a town”. It’s just amusing because even in Matane there are people that consider Matane to be a village and those that are very serious about protecting it’s town “title”. Most of the other jokes for the rest of the night were the sort of jokes that make you want to shake your head and laugh simultaneously. It was nice to kick start the week with laughter.

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Tuesday 28th November-

More work as usual, Tuesday’s are an odd day.. it seems to be the day that all the students collectively make an effort to stay at home. A very quiet day around the school but then I got invited out for lunch out of the blue and of course, the answer was: yes! We went to Café aux Délices and I got handed the menu of the day.. I saw the words “Poutine Italienne” and in that moment, all I could hear was the guy from outside the bar in Rivière-du-Loup saying “You must try Italian poutine” and so..

 

It was soo good but of course I couldn’t eat it all. I was super full and then the waitress appeared with chocolate cake and asked if I wanted some:

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I don’t say no to cake so I fought my way through half of it before I had to admit defeat.

I have to say even the day after I was still full, I don’t know how 24 hours later someone can still feel full but.. there you go. If you fancy eating something that is going to keep you full for an entire day.. Italian poutine is the way to go !

All in all, a good last few days – xmas goodness, laughter and poutine.. I can’t complain.

 

Until next time !

Chinese Fondue + Impromptu Meet-Up.

Thursday 9th November- 

At the beginning of this week, I was invited for lunch, I made sure it was on a day that I didn’t have to rush back to the school for more classes but I expected the three others around me to rush back to work because isn’t that just how things work? Apparently not! 2 whole hours later, after consuming crepes, salad, buddah bowls, talking about England, theatre, football (my specialist subject.. not!) and laughing a good amount, we slowly moved away from the table to pay. Apparently the normal 1 hr lunch break doesn’t exist in Matane? They may be onto something..

Sunday 12th November- 

I was invited round for dinner by the same family that invited me to the haunted house and parade over the Halloween period. On the menu was: Chinese Fondue. Before arriving in Matane, I had never heard of such a thing but since arriving I have been asked countless times whether I have ever had a Chinese Fondue, the answer “no” often becoming the cause of a puzzled expression.

When the invitation was presented, I was sent the following picture as a means of explaining what it consisted of..

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My first thought: “Raw meat”.

I can confirm, no raw meat was consumed, Thank God !

I was slightly overwhelmed when I saw bowl after bowl, tray after tray being added to the table with the fondue… cooker.. thing in the center of the table. So overwhelmed that I pretty much forgot to take a picture until the last minute.

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I had garlic bread, some beef, a jacket potato, cheese .. and more garlic bread. There was also a cheese fondue but I could only eat so much !

It was a really good evening but another evening that really tested my French, 7 whole hours of conversation. 7 ! But I did notice one slight difference compared to my fried brain situation at the Halloween Party, my verb conjugations stayed with me till the very end !

Right.. fast forward to the following week !

Friday 17th November –

Friday’s tend to be my day for just getting bits done, grocery shopping and so on but this Friday was different ! 3 of the other assistants decided to take a trip to Matane, we had absolutely nothing planned but I would say it was well spent.

It was brought to my attention almost immediately that we all had blue jumpers on, this called for a picture.. now it didn’t quite go to plan because it was snowing and.. taking my coat off was not quite an option.. so this is the picture we were left with:

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After this blue jumper picture fail, we went to Café aux Délices where you can find just about anything, from burgers to chinese food and there are also lots of quebecois dishes. After staring at the vast menu for about 20 minutes, we decided to ditch the menus and opt for the buffet instead:

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Group photo attempt 2 ..

 

One of many attempts.. I really had no idea how difficult it was to get everyone to smile at the same time !

After our meal we headed for a walk by the river because who doesn’t choose to further freeze themselves to death when it is snowing? A completely normal thing to do.

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After we decided to check out what was on at the cinema and headed to see Justice League. The guy working at the cinema made the assumption that we were students and we were more than happy to accept the new found student status, if you say I am a student, who am I to argue? Thank you for the cheaper ticket.

The film was pretty good, quite a few funny moments and in general it was nice to have a catch up.

That’s all for now folks, I shall be heading to Rivière-du-Loup (about 2 hours from Matane) today for an xmas party. I knew it made sense to pack my xmas jumper!

Until next time !