Happy New Year 2022! My best wishes for peace and common sense. This new year starts with an air of déjà vu: a pandemic that never ends, cases on the rise, rebellious weather...
The weather, always extreme in British Columbia
The beginning of the year was not a smooth one for the province. Heavy snowfall was accompanied by freezing rain. It was beautiful to see flowers encased in ice like glass, it was like being in Murano, but you can't help but think of the people sleeping on the streets. Emergency centres were open but still. Some people refuse to go there for safety reasons, as well as potential exposure to Covid.
I heard from a friend who used to live in Quebec that some people were staying out in -15 degrees.
We also had a king tide in Vancouver, which submerged part of the city's shoreline. And we are now experiencing our second atmospheric river. Some residents in the risk areas explained that they had been evacuated up to 6 times.
Canada's Francophone cultures
On a lighter note, before I knew I was coming to live in Canada, I devoured Guy Delisle's comic books. I think I first came across one of his comics in Madagascar or Australia, it's not so clear now, in an Alliance française, a French Institute or a public library.
Canada's Francophone cultures are varied and I look forward to discovering them all. There are the Quebecois of course, but also all the other francophones. In British Columbia, I found Pauline Johnson Tekahionwake's books at a Christmas market in Vancouver.`
It's also through television series and popular culture. It's such a common format that we forget it's the gateway to a culture. I watched ‘Can you hear me?’, which takes place in Quebec and helps me work on my ear. Yes, I’m French but the accent and even the vocabulary differ sometimes. I also saw 'La Bolduc’ and heard the Gaspesian accent for the first time.
I also recently read a book by Canadian authors Michel Tremblay and Matthieu Simard. As usual, I manage to choose books that are relevant to current events; for example, "Une fille pas trop poussiéreuse" is about the end of the world. Michel Tremblay was a little less sombre. I started "Poisson d'or" by J.M.-Le Clézio, an author I like a lot.
I was looking for dance classes in Vancouver and I don't really know where to turn. I feel closer to belly dance and samba. I came across a haka (New Zealand Maori warrior dance) and it still has the same effect on me, the same effect as when I first saw and heard it: it gives me chills of awe. The unity that exists in this dance, whether at a funeral or a wedding, is powerful. It always moves me to tears.
The percussion, especially the low vibes, accompanied by voices, resonates strongly with me, like a cosmic call. Many things, if not everything, can be summed up in vibrations. The vibrations of the taut skins hypnotise me.
I was re-watching the film ‘The Perfume, Story of a Murderer’ (2006 adaptation) and it brought me back to my podcast project on intangibility. I'm on my first episode about courage and I need courage to continue this project. It's not always easy to motivate yourself on a project like this alone.
The death of Anne Rice
Anne Rice, author of a revival of the fantasy genre and especially of the vampire figure with her Vampire Chronicles and other cycles of the same genre, is no more and I am terribly sorry about that. I discovered his work as a teenager, when I had to do a book report in high school for my English class. I had ordered the book in its original version and slept with my bilingual dictionary to understand the idioms and American slang. I kept at it and chose ‘The Body Thief’. It was very hard work but so interesting. I would go to sleep like that, with the Anne Rice book and the bilingual dictionary open and the headphones on, with the first Muse album, 'Showbiz'. It's a beautiful memory.
The winter solstice
Of course, there were the festive season, Christmas and the New Year. But what really made me happy was the winter solstice: to think that the light is going to come back, that we are at the beginning of the cycle towards longer days, that is a real gift! No pun intended, I see the light at the end of the road.
This good news mitigates the fact that a countdown has begun for me. My work permit, and therefore my work permit to stay in Canada, will expire in about ten months. It is imperative that I find a job to maintain my status and be able to stay in the same country as my partner. The pressure is gradually coming back. I try not to give in to it and to keep a cool head.
‘Yes, but we all go through the same thing, you know.’ Although this sentence starts with a good intention, I find it hard to hear it over and over again. Few have found other words more empathetic. Supporting someone during a difficult time, even if you haven't experienced it yourself, with a few comforting words has become a rare thing.
After the Montreal airport episode, I can't risk leaving the country and so any thought of seeing my family and friends scattered around the world is as far away as the horizon. I have few friends _but fortunately, good ones_ here, having arrived a few months before the pandemic and having my whole being riveted on finding a job in Francophone Mobility, a step I had clearly underestimated, well sold by its promoters and so unattractive to employers.
But then, long-distance relationships are always complicated. I miss my family and friends. I thought I was well-trained in this area, having kept up letter-writing relationships for years. But all of a sudden, everyone has decided to close in on their circle, not even bothering to reply to a message, even a virtual one. Being always too busy, too overwhelmed. And yet, helping out, helping with removals, psychological support, being present at difficult times (dangerous or emotionally very trying), nothing is enough to keep in touch. I'm old-fashioned: a word is a word, a promise is a promise, and gratitude is a time-suck for me. I belong to another world and I often doubt my place here.
Fortunately, the picture is not so black and I am still in touch from time to time with friends from years ago. I shouldn't be so disappointed, I hear the phrase echoing... ‘We are born alone and we die alone.’ But in between, shouldn't we enjoy a little human connection?
Banning plastic is a global struggle
Anecdotally enough: almost every country I've lived in has adopted a ban on the use of plastic bags while I was there. For example, in the Seychelles in 2017, in Malaysia in 2019 and now in Canada. I don't understand why a country like Canada has waited so long to make such a decision.
The plastic bag ban came into effect on 1 January in Vancouver.
The pandemic of selfishness
The subject I'm about to address may offend some people. But I find it hard to contain my sadness and disappointment, hard to see that it is necessary to wait for the situation to reach some people in the ramparts of their intimacy before they decide to reconsider their self-centred positions. We have to wait to see, not the friend of a friend, but directly his friend, disappear under the tubes of the respirators to become aware of the situation. This pandemic divides and creeps into relationships, but I'm too suffocated by the surrounding morass to remain silent.
I wish I were wrong when I feel that this situation is becoming a battle of individual freedom versus the common good. But where is the decency, the humanity? When you think of the countries that do not have the labs to produce the vaccines, the structures to absorb the patients, the staff to deal with the tsunami of patients, the patients who cannot pay the hospital fees? Without looking beyond one's own country, whether 'developed' or 'emerging', hospital staff were elevated to heroes in the early months of the pandemic and it only took a few more months for everything to blow over. The Capitol was trampled a year ago in the name of individual freedom. Is democracy its own enemy, discredited, used as a shield of conscience for the benefit of one?
In the name of the freedom to dispose of one's body, can one put the weakest in danger? I know I've already mentioned this information, but it never stops working on me: a family of French tourists reintroduced measles to Costa Rica in 2019. The case did not make many waves but I find it appallingly cynical. The family had decided not to vaccinate themselves or their children and now an entire country is at the mercy of a disease that had been eradicated. But what kind of world do we live in? How can we believe that caregivers were sitting on their hands before the pandemic?
In Quebec, caregivers with Covid are being called back to work. Not only have they been on the front lines for two years, perhaps not having had any holidays, not having much rest, seeing their family life degraded, but now, because of the increasing number of cases and lack of personnel, they have to continue working. I don't think we can decide, because yes, in developed countries we decide, by our choices, the fate of these people. I don't know any of these people, I don't have any family or friends working directly in the hospital and I don't think we need to be in that situation to put ourselves in their shoes.
Recently, a bus that had been fitted out to vaccinate the population in Réunion was vandalised. The shame has no limits. It reminds me of the ambulances and firemen who were attacked and had refrigerators thrown at them from the roofs of buildings when they went to certain suburbs. How can public services that help the population be attacked? How can you do that?
I found this beautiful Arab proverb in Le Clézio's ‘Poisson d’or': ‘Health is a crown on the head of the healthy, which only the sick see.’