Between climate change consequences from the Pacific, anti-vaxx indecency and exciting francophone projects, the seasons in Vancouver are never the same. Enjoy the fall episode!
Floods in British Columbia
After a heat dome and scorching temperatures over 40 degrees celsius, the province is now experiencing extreme floods pushing authorities to declare BC under state of emergency. An ‘atmospheric river’ devastated roads, swallowed houses and lead farmers to rescue calves in their arms, braving strong currents. Although the name of the weather phenomenon that caused this deluge may sound like the name of a cocktail ("Pineapple Express"), this Hawaiian humid current shows that climate change is happening now.
The images are shocking, the testimonies chilling. Many people found themselves trapped in or on top of their cars, when these had not been swept away by the waters or the mudslides. Footages of landslides are impressive: the earth is no longer held by the roots of the trees that burned this summer. Not to mention the drying up of a lake about a hundred years ago, the Sumas lake; many farms and especially livestock were developed on these lands but nature is now taking over.
Today, only one death has been reported in a mudslide, but the medium- and long-term situation is dramatic for families without a roof over their heads, in regions where temperatures are already negative. Fortunately, amidst all the chaos, there is also more comforting news: neighbours and even strangers are taking in survivors, offering them shelter, food and support.
The thirst-quenching Source
In a few weeks, I'll be celebrating writing for the French section of La Source, Vancouver's flagship newspaper for diversity and bilingualism. I write articles and manage the media's social networks on a volunteer basis.
Two years have allowed me to meet artists, Francophones or not, remarkable actors of the community, in the service of diversity. I arrived only a few months before the pandemic and the newspaper has allowed me to stay afloat. Many, if not all, of them inspired me.
I was very touched to receive a message recently from an artist I had interviewed saying she thought the article was beautiful and that it gave her "wings". I almost didn't finish my journalism studies; I had been frightened by the power of this and I didn't want to offend anyone because we are human and therefore subject to imperfection. Fortunately, a teacher changed my perspective and explained to me the benefits we could bring to society as journalists, the good initiatives we should highlight. I am still very grateful to him for catching me up at that point.
As with teaching, I always try to be vigilant about the consequences for people. That's why I decided to go back to school, to train properly so that I could teach properly. I didn't think there was enough goodwill.
I also believe in continuous learning. We learn from everyone, until the end of our lives. It sounds a bit like a Lapalice truth, but how many times have we heard people reluctant to train or re-train? To doubt or judge the trainer? I remember once, in Madagascar, being reframed on my badminton playing by a child of about 7 years old. He was a real pro and I was really happy that he showed me the correct posture. But I know that humility is an obsolete value nowadays and too bad for those who don't appreciate it.
Vancouver's Francophone community
I finally took the time to meet the various actors of the Francophone community in Vancouver. Between the pressure to obtain a work permit and the beginning of the pandemic, I didn't really have the opportunity to meet many people, including Francophone institutions.
The Fédération des francophones de la Colombie-Britannique and La Boussole are key institutions in Vancouver and I was very happy to meet some of their members. Making contact with Francophones abroad can be a double-edged sword. During my various migration experiences (Australia, Madagascar, Seychelles and Malaysia), I have had the opportunity to see certain profiles and attitudes come back, both good and far from my values.
I remember a French man in one of the countries I explored, very egotistical and ethno-centric, so lonely that he wanted to befriend complete strangers. He was very successful, drove nice cars but was neglected by his children and suffered terribly. He disappeared when he saw that my partner and I did not share this love of money and that we lived happily and simply.
However, I think he was very happy to be able to express his feelings in his mother tongue. I have always been intrigued by the loss of the mother tongue. It does exist. Apparently, it's as if the mother tongue has retreated into the brain and it takes a lot of effort to find the words. Mistakes can happen, but they fade away once you get back into a language immersion.
The forum theatre experience with the project "Les Éloquentes" is very interesting. This method developed by Augusto Boal aims to make injustices visible to everyone, victims, oppressors, apathetic witnesses. It is a real collective and social construction. We all discuss the different outcomes.
It is an intense work because we go deep inside ourselves. We can question our previous actions and inactions, the ways in which we have reacted or not reacted to an aggression. During the rehearsals, we play our sketches but also the potential interventions of the audience. I must admit that it was an intense experience for me because I had the impression that I was suddenly given a power that was too great for me, the power to respond, to stop lowering my head and eyes, to say what I really think. But it's also terribly liberating to be able to act as you would have liked to in the given situation.
The performances are coming up and I'm looking forward to seeing the audience take this power and think about how to deal with these situations.
Fall and the seasons
A trip to Sooke on Vancouver Island gave me the opportunity to see a lot of autumn colours, not just the foliage of the trees. The skies and the sea under the sudden changes of the weather are magical. Autumn is the most exotic season when you come from a warm country in my opinion. I know that winter and snow will be evoked but the nuances are mainly limited to the sky whereas in autumn, the whole environment changes. The bare trees and the loss of daylight are spectacular when you come from the tropics.
I took advantage of my visit to Victoria, the largest city on the island, to visit the Issamba Centre. It is the only African cultural centre in the province and I was very happy to see all the flags on the wall and to recognise the Mauritian and Seychellois flags. We have an unofficial Reunion flag but it is mostly a nod to the Reunion community. I am African. I am also French, Caucasian, Indian and probably a thousand other things. I remember this thing about quarters and split identity, 10% of this or that, for me it's blurry and I feel all of that at the same time: French, Reunionese, African, Indian, genetic, cultural, now Asian via my research on the roots of my roots and my companion.
I tasted one of the best chowders (typical seafood soup, made with cream or tomato depending on the region) in Victoria but at the cost of a persistent smell of frying on my clothes, as if the oil drops were suspended in the air!
Anti-vaxxers at Remembrance Day
I had already been shocked by the reactions of people who refuse the vaccine, claiming freedom of choice at every turn, when nurses committed suicide because they thought they had unwittingly passed the virus on to patients. This information is unbearable when put side by side. On this weekend of remembrance, anti-vaxers disrupted a ceremony in Kelowna. Is this really the time? I feel sorry for those poor veterans who fought for that same freedom, to have it trampled underfoot in order to dispense with wearing a mask or refusing a vaccine, which is so difficult to obtain and/or expensive in less fortunate countries.
Writing, Ariadne's thread... or Nathalie's
I am happy to be part of the Francophone projects: the theatre-forum and now the writing workshops at La Boussole. This organization, which helps the Francophone community, has a very beautiful project involving pen pals, very touching, epistolary exchanges, something so intimate. It's a strange twist of fate because I have always written and sent letters and I still do. Many people probably think it's old-fashioned, that we read this carefully handwritten fold in one go in a world of rampant consumerism. But who cares, I always take the time to tell my story and to confide in this way that I feel is so intimate. Although I love sound, my first love is paper.
Writing by hand to someone you love is a special process today: you take the time to think about the words you say, you try to be legible, in short, you take time for the other person. But I know that this is not to everyone's taste, that it takes time, and I am already quite happy to have little electronic messages!