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ReportsThursday, 10 April 2003
Ottawa, Ontario --> Montreal, Quebec, Canada (due to upload problems some photes on this page could not be stored correctly)
This morning Paul Morisset had left the house early in the morning to go to the CBC for some more editing.
Joyce let me sleep in and after waking up she made me frittata breakfast with eggs and vegetables. I was going to leave Ottawa later today, so the rest of this first part of the day I spent writing behind my laptop at their dining table.
The sun was shining warm and spring was in the air, finally. Outside Joyce was practicing Qi Qong (“Chi-Kong”), a Chinese form of energy gaining meditation. She told me all about it. It was a form of the Taoism philosophy and she learned it all from a man named Master He.
About 3.30 I got everything packed and Joyce took me along to drop me off at the train terminal in Ottawa. The Canadian rail company VIA Rail had already offered to help me out with train transport when necessary and it was their marketing department who offered me a free ticket to get from here to Montreal!
I had to report myself at the Panorama Lounge, but only when I got there I noticed it was the lounge for all the first class travellers. I received a ‘fully paid for’ ticket to board the first class of this VIA Rail train! While I waited for the boarding time I waited in this lounge, and I was surrounded by men in suits with their briefcases and seriously reading newspapers. High class I guess!
The train terminal of Ottawa appeared to me as an art museum. It was huge, not really an architectural masterpiece and quiet. It was so different of how I have experienced train stations before.
At 4.30 the train departed. I had a comfy seat at the window and was immediately served with drinks. Heck, they even offered me wine, which I politely declined, because a new day and new hosts awaited me in Montreal.
It was also the first time people spoke French to me and talked French back to them. However I am not really good in French they swung to English to keep up with me.
The train ride took about 90 minutes and next to drinks I was also offered a nice chicken dinner on board of the train. I was really impressed by this form of first class travelling; don’t ever expect this service in a Dutch train!
There was an electricity plug, so I could even fold out my laptop and relax while editing photographs I made and enjoying the scenery. Clearly the snow has just melted on the Quebecois farmlands. The land was bare brown and ready to transform colourful by the spring sun.
Introduction to Quebec
As home to the only French-speaking society in North America, Quebec is totally different from the rest of the continent – so different; in fact its political elite have been obsessed with the politics of separation for the last forty years.
The beginning of Quebec’s potential separation from its English-speaking neighbours track back to France’s ending of the colony to Britain after the Conquest of 1759. At first this transfer saw little change in the life of most Quebecois. Permitted to maintain their language and religion, they stayed under the control of the Catholic Church, whose domination of rural society resulted in an economically and educationally deprived subclass where French-speakers would continue to dominate the province demographically.
French-Canadians remained insulated from the economic mainstream until the twentieth-century industrialization, financed and run by the better educated Anglophones, led to a mass francophone migration to the city.
Here, a French-speaking middle class soon began to articulate the moans of the workforce and to criticize the suffocating effect the Church was having on francophone opportunities.
The shake-up of Quebec society finally came about with the so-called Quiet Revolution in the 1960s, spurred by the provincial government under the leadership of Jean Lesage and his Liberal Party of Quebec.
The provincial government took control of the welfare, health and education away from the church and, under the slogan “Maîtrez chez-nous” (Master of our own house), established state-owned industries that reversed Anglophone financial domination by encouraging the development of a francophone commercial and business class.
The train arrived in Montreal just after 6pm. I was impressed by the high rise of the downtown city centre, something I have probably been yearning for after travelling to all these remote places in the north. I like big cities. I might never end up living between sky scrapers, but in big cities there is everything.
And that’s what I immediately liked in Montreal when I got from the underground area onto the streets. All those people! Different nationalities, different cultures, different languages and they all seem to live peacefully together is this metropolis.
I contacted my my first host (of many!) in Montreal and he told me to walk to the corner of Rue Sherbrooke and Rue Université, where he would pick me up. And there he was, Mark Burwash (29), my first host in Quebec, but a born Anglophone Canadian.
Mark, or just ‘Burwash’ to his friends, originates from Ontario and has the luck of working and living in downtown Montreal. “I manage a computer shop at the McGill University grounds,” he told me and soon we passed the university, this grand historic territory in the middle of the city.
With a comfy bachelor apartment on Avenue du Parc (Park Avenue) he lives right in town on walking distance to everything available in Montreal. Mark introduced me to one of his girlfriends (his widescreen television) and told me about his other girlfriend. “She is out of the water right now, but I sail her in the summer.” Sailing is Marks big passion in life.
The first thing Mark did was giving me all the open options for the coming night. First I was welcome to join a dinner with some of his friends, then there would be a magazine launch party in town later in the evening and a visit to a club around midnight.
I told him I just had dinner on the train and all that travelling had tired me a bit. “You know what,” he said, “why don’t you have a nap? I’ll go to this dinner and I’ll pick you up whenever you are ready.” It was very soon clear to me that he gave me all of the freedom possible. He even connected me to the high speed Internet network that is used by the entire apartment complex.
I also told him about an appointment I had at midnight tonight. I was invited by radio host Peter Anthony Holder to be a guest on his show ‘Holder Overnight’ on CJAD 800AM in Montreal. I was invited to be the guest for one hour.
So it was good I had a nap on the couch in Mark’s living room. Around 9pm Sascha McLeod (29), who lives on the 3rd floor of this old building, came over. She had talked with Mark and she offered to take me along to this dinner party at those friends’s place that was running out.
So she took me along in a taxi to this house of these friends of them, where they were just finishing their wines at the kitchen table. The francophone friends of Mark immediately made fun of me because I neglected to come over to enjoy their dinner. Excusez-moi, madame. But they were a fun and young bunch of people to hang out with.
A phone call later informed Mark that there was a big line up at that launch party and if there was one thing they didn’t like it was standing in line for a party. So pretty soon we ended up in a funky club a few blocks down the streets, still in downtown Montreal, where we had a few drinks and I met Sascha’s roommate Tan.
Around 11.30pm it was time for me to head to that radio station on Rue du Fort (Fort Street). Quite a far walk from this place, so Mark already told me he would help me out. He gave me ten dollars for a cab, the keys for his house and I took off on my own as he stayed at this club.
The francophone cab driver didn’t know where to find Fort Street, so when we were driving around and around, I told him I only had ten bucks. When we finally made it to the right address, the meter said $14, but he did not make a problem of this and accepted my 10-dollar note.
Five minutes later I met up with Peter Anthony Holder in the studio of CJAD 800AM, a talk radio station. Peter Anthony has been following my travels quite extensively since I left the Netherlands. He is one of the few radio people that like to call me and hook up with me about my latest adventures on the radio. He already called me when I was in the Belgium town Gent, talked to me when I was in South Africa and even this year, on January 13 he had the scoop of the latest news: I was going to Canada in February!
And now, we finally meet up in real person. He was really thrilled to finally meet up with me like this. After midnight he introduced me on air and we talked between commercial and news breaks for some 43 minutes about my travel adventures and listeners had a chance to call in to the studio and ask me questions. It was interesting. We talked, I made photos and at the end he donated me a CJAD 800AM t-shirt!
I hung around for another hour as Peter Anthony’s show continued, as he offered to drop me off at Mark’s place so I did not have to walk all the way back through the dark streets of Montreal after midnight.
Peter Anthony wanted to do something with radio since he was nine years old, he told me. “It was actually this radio station I listened to, I wanted to be one of those people at this station. And then it had much more music. When I got to work here, the station policy slowly changed to talk only. No more music. But then I was standing up and said that I want to play at least one song in my show.” And nowadays the station plays no more music anymore, only Peter Anthony has the right for one song, just after 1am.
But he is not only a radio host, he also hosts the Soul Call, a television show on the black community television station CH TV in Montreal. He is sponsored by the urban clothing company Fubu, and just finished a recording earlier today. “With provincial elections coming up on Monday, we could not use the studio for our usual recording on Sunday. That’s why it’s done today and that’s why I am still covered in Fubu clothing.”
As usually I enjoyed hanging around at this radio studio. Around 2.30am Peter Anthony took me along in his car and dropped me off at Avenue de Parc.
Good night Montreal!