It's funny how much easier it is to meet strangers when you're traveling. In a foreign culture, you're so lost that you' ll connect with anything vaguely familiar--such as another English-speaker. Back home though, it's easy to settle down into a daily pattern. Things stop being new and exciting, you have neither need nor will to share your enthusiasm with your neighbor. Recently, however, I've been meeting a lot of strange people. It all started last Monday, with Sherry. Here I was, studying in a coffee shop, like the good student I am. I wasn't what you'd call particularly abordable: totting headphones, I had papers spread all over my table and was frowning down at them with an air of mild disgust. All of a sudden, a whirl of activity and colour bursts into the coffee shop and speeds straight towards me. Confused, I look up to see a woman wrapped in countless layers of coats and scarfs, clutching an enormous gold bag with sequins and ribbons sewn on haphazardly. Despite the pouring rain, her hair looked windblown, and she peered down at me through green and orange peace-sign-shaped hologram glasses."Can I sit here?" She asked. "...Uh... sure..." I replied, unsure of what else to do. But she had already settled herself comfortably by the time I replied. Fascinated, I shuffled some papers out of the way and glanced surreptitiously in her direction. She sighed, popped her red coat open (revealing more layers beneath), and glanced outside. Colourful pins were stuck all about her: On her bag, on her coats... Beneath her toque and hair, she was wearing old battered headphones. "Oh, you're looking at the pins." She said."Er, yes, they're very pretty." "You like them? I made them. I'm an artiste." She deftly unbuttoned one and handed it to me. It consisted of swirls of colourful paint mixed with sparkles. As I was admiring it, she leaned forward and whispered:"Ten dollars." I looked horrified, and put the pin down onto the table."Well, it's pretty, but I really don't think I can justify...""Ok five dollars, then." I smiled, embarrassed, and shook my head. She sighed. "I'm sorry, it's just ...difficult, you know, being a student...""Yeah, well it's difficult to be an artist too," she quipped. She turned back to the window. "I'm waiting for someone," she explained, "that's why I'm here." I nodded, vainly attempting to read my papers. Time passed. She started to fidget. Finally giving up on my papers, I set them aside and asked her what she was listening to. She proceeded to cheerfully explain that she was a musician (a woman of many talents!), pulled out a handful of CDs and two battered harmonicas. Then, she ripped her headphones off and snapped them over my own. "This is my newer stuff," she told me. It consisted of vague guitar strumming and lyrical poetry about war. "Ah." I said. "Here," she was rooting around her CDs now, "this stuff, now this stuff is more vintage." She began to explain to me how she played music with her brother and was waiting for someone to come talk to her about a show. At that very moment, a black sports cars screeched to a halt right outside the coffee shop. Her head snapped up. "Oh! I have to go!" Quickly, she packed up her scarves, pins, harmonicas, wrapped her coats around her, grabbed her headphones and ran out of the store. I stared, transfixed, as she ran up to the car and knocked on a window. A door opened, and she hurried inside. Then, she turned to me and started waving energetically as the car sped away. It honestly took me a good ten minutes to recover from that five minutes of conversation. I must have changed somehow, because since then, three total strangers have asked to sit at my table in coffee shops. None, unfortunately, were nearly as entertaining as Sherry.
Lucky me-- I get two Thanksgivings this year! I am celebrating American Thanksgiving in Massachussets this year, which requires me to get up at 6 A.M. tomorrow to catch a bus. So obviously I'm updating my blog at 11 P.M. rather than, say, pack. I'm pretty excited. I'm looking forward to seeing my (distant) family again, sharing stories and good food, and catching up on some much-needed sleep. Hopefully I will be a little less distracted, too. These days, I feel as though I'm suffering from Attention Deffecit Hyperactivity Disorder!I've had some pretty funny things happen recently, so hopefully I will be have time to post from the States. For you Americans out there, happy Thanksgiving!
Internet, meet Brenda
It's been a bit of a rough day (week), so today after my shift at the hospital, all I wanted to do was sit on my couch and play with my giant African snails, Brenda. Then I realized-- why I've never introduced them to you! What a goof. So here goes: Internet, meet my giant African snails, Brenda. Aren't they darling? I started off with 5, but many of my friends have requested one, so now only one of them is technically mine. Since they were a bit hard to tell apart at first, I named them all Brenda. Now though, I've renamed the largest one Henry Kissinger, the second largest Leonid Brezhnev, the darkest one Percy, and the remaining one stays as Brenda (my friends Robin and Owen adopted the 5th and renamed it a very politically incorrect Charles Taylor). I've already posted about these kinds of snail before. Well, I loved them so much that I decided to adopt some of my very own! These snails are illegal in the United States because they'll eat any vegetation in large quantities
. Additionaly, they're hermaphrodites and are able to lay thousands of eggs each. Yikes! Talk about an invasive species.I love them though. They've settled very nicely in my apartment and really add to the decor, I think. They're pretty much the best pet ever. The can survive weeks without being fed or watered, and obviously don't make much noise. They also give great massages: Who wouldn't want a giant African snail as a pet?
Woah! It's been a while. Mea culpa.This year's been a whirl of activity (as usual, I suppose). Mostly, I've come to the realization that this is most likely my last year in Montreal. This means, naturally, that I must finally do all those things I've been meaning to do-- check out that activity night on Monday nights, visit the biodome, try out that restaurant I've been eyeing for the past two years. It's great, only now I am falling even more in love with this city, and the thought of April makes my stomach tie into knots. Right now, midterm season is wrapping up. What's really been keeping me occupied though are the medical school applications. Essay upon essay describing why I should be accepted, why I would make a good physician, and why I'm ever-so-wonderful. If it wasn't for my sister's constant nagging and inestimable editing help, I would have given up a long time ago. So, thank you 007!I quit my lab job, which left me floundering for a while-- adjusting to 20 extra hours each week was hard. As of last year, I didn't have any hobbies, books to read, people to call just to kill time. There was simply no time... But now I'm grateful for the extra time to relax. I also volunteer at a local hospital, and have started being trained as a tutor for illeteracy. It's amazing!I'm trying to figure out what I'm going to be doing with my life in the near future. Right now, the rough plan is to go to Guatemala a month this summer to work in a hospital there and learn spanish (my friends did this last year). Then, Heather and I are trying to figure out where to go travelling-- but seeing as how I no longer have a job, I'm having trouble seeing how that's going to happen. I was also offered a potential job at KAPLAN (the place where I took MCAT classes), so I could always re-live the horror there... but this time, get paid really well to do so. Hmmm. As for next year... if I get rejected everywhere, I figure I can always bartend in Barcelona. It's an option, right?