Maybe I should be posting this on the Canada blog, but I don’t really want my parents reading it, so it’s stuck here.
Having spend the past four months in a foreign country, I knew that my brief, belated visit home would be prominently marked by one question. “So, how’s Canada?” How can I begin to answer that question? “Great, thanks” was my standard reply. It’s not that I’m not enthusiastic about the experience, it’s that there is too much to say to respond to a question asked out of mere politeness, rather than genuine curiosity.
I will answer truthfully here. My time in Montréal has been wonderful, fun, traumatic, lonely, amazing, overwhelming and, hating to sound like a hippy twat, life-changing. I have lived, laughed, cried and danced more here than I have in the past 19 years and 7 months of my life. I have made great friends, most of whom tend to be grouped and referred to by their collective nationalities – The Irish, The Dutch, The Norwegians, The Frenchies . My French is still at this level. I have not experienced a great deal of homesickness, aside from during my recent Christmas flight-cancellation nightmare. I have been too busy trying to make light of this strange, wonderful city. Its simultaneous French and North American-ness summed up, I feel, by the name of that famous coffee chain here: ‘Le Café Starbucks’. I live on the fringes of Le Plateau, a traditionally French neighbourhood. My apartment is old with big windows and high ceilings. The upstairs apartments are not accessed through some communal entrance hall or lift. They have their own external staircases, wrought iron, which is a typical feature of most housing in Montréal. These stairs are currently icy and snowy and look impossible to navigate. I’m glad to live on the ground floor. Another bonus of my apartment is that it is located five minutes from my favourite club. Café Campus is the sort of club that offers cheap tequila shots and thinks that Bonnie Tyler, Wham! and A-Ha is a suitable soundtrack for a night out in 2010/11. I wholly agree with them.
Along with having a great deal of fun here I have, again not wishing to sound like a hippy twat, at least tried to make sense of who I am as a person. This indulgent soul-searching was catastrophically derailed by a problem in the shape of a blonde ice-hockey player from Alberta. I am silly about many things – shoes, mainly -but men are not one of them. So, I was greatly surprised to find myself turning into a gurgling wreck, descending deep into full-blown neurosis over Mr. Hockey Sticks. Being the mature, sophisticated sort that I am, I compensated for this by getting horrendously drunk at parties at which we were both in attendance and making him (and everyone else) laugh at my blokeish-innuendo-ridden-fart-and-knob-joke humour. I, of course, kept my real feelings very hidden, to the point that a close friend of mine thought I fancied the arse off of another guy, A, who I had been more openly flirtatious with. Now, I love A to bits. He is a terrific, one-of-a-kind, fantastic human being. He is also, a) Australian and b) a wearer of Ugg boots, which are two major flaws when considering a shagging partner. Anyway, I kept my cards close to my chest and, as someone like him inevitably would, Mr. Hockey Sticks got a girlfriend in the form of a very sweet French friend of mine. Now, not only is this girl lovely, but also stunningly yet unusually beautiful in a way that probably makes most straight girls and gay men question their sexual preferences. I felt shit. Not only was he shagging someone else, both of them were in my friendship group. I had to see them together frequently and each time I did I wanted to run away, cry and/or throw up. My own silence throughout the whole situation frustrated me. Had he known how I felt, been a total dickhead about it and started flaunting his sexpot French girlfriend around I could’ve drunk a bottle of red wine, moaned about how shit men are and gone out clubbing. And possibly become a feminazi lesbian and stopped shaving my armpits. But no. This is a guy who has affirmed for me that the great ones exist. He is kind, decent, funny, well-mannered. I think of him as handsome rather than hot. Sexy, yes, but ‘hot’ seems wrong. He is old-fashioned and traditional. The All-American (or, I suppose, All-Canadian) boy – hockey player, in a fraternity, ridiculously perfect and charming smile. Exactly the type of man I suppose us ‘modern women’ aren’t supposed to fall for anymore. Which is ridiculous because of course we do. He’s of the old school and I find that attractive, rather than outdated. Anyway, all of these wonderful qualities I’ve listed made it harder. It’s getting easier, but has thrown up some uncomfortable truths. I now know the type of man I fall for. Not just fancy, but really lose my shit over. I also realise that I don’t think I deserve such a person. Of course he’s with Miss Sexy Bitch Francaise and not me. Why in the name of arse did I think that I – she of the eternal belly chub, midnight panic-attack neuroses and Cher’s Greatest Hits on the iPod – was deserving of someone so lovely, not perfect, but lovely? This is not an ego-boosting thought to a 20 year old who has never had a proper relationship. So I cheered myself up by slagging around a bit. It was fun, but this term I really feel I should start assessing the ‘relationship’ corner of my life. Not in a wanky way. Just because I’m on the North American continent does not mean I am going to develop and addiction to self-help books.
Ok, so the pity party is over. Largely my experiences in Montréal have been great. Great friends, great places, great oppurtunities. I’ve learned a lot – not so much in college – through my laughter and my tears. Four months of amazingly profound life lessons and stupid, drunken nights. Round two? I can’t wait.