Strangers talking to you on the street
We were enjoying a savarin when a lady started talking to us. The conversation was sparked by a "Ah yes, that's good!" This incredible lady took us on a journey telling us that she was an archaeologist specializing in ancient diseases. But that her real unfulfilled dream would have been to be a volcanologist. She even had an app on her phone to track volcanic activity around the world in real time. We were treated to a real lecture from this Vancouver Islander, apparently a regular at this Vancouver tea room. She revealed that she was originally from Europe, had lived in Japan and was a widow.
People talk to us, people talk to me. It's incredible how much they open up. Do they know that I respect their word? That I will never reveal anything that could put them at odds? That they can trust me? Is that why they give themselves up to me so naturally?
I made a pledge to myself when I embarked on my career in journalism. It was crucial to make that pact with myself. I think I had it in me even before the journalistic turn, by the way. And I will never forget a lady I was taking care of in Paris, when I was doing home help.
She was not a very nice person, she even accused me of stealing money from her when she went shopping. I think that her butcher had tricked me, but anyway, I gave her back the difference. I don't really know if it was personal, if she didn't like me, if she didn't like my skin color, if she didn't like people or not anymore, but in the end, it didn't matter because she made me live an important moment and that's the most important.
While I was out shopping, while I was coming back panting from having climbed I don't know how many floors with my load, she asked me to sit down for a moment. And she opened up. She told me about her difficult arrival in Paris for a girl from the provinces. She told me about the difficult stages of her life. I felt a kind of relaxation in her attitude. It wasn't nice, but she had to open up about it.
The next day or two, I learned of her death from my employer. I was and even as I write these words today, I am genuinely moved. Perhaps relieved for her, that she was able to confide in someone about this before she left.
Then there is this lady on the Skytrain platform, who started in the same way, on a trivial subject, the presence of works that cancelled the trains from 11:30 pm. This Filipino lady then offered me to sit next to her to continue the conversation. I then learned that she was working at the hospital and that she had knee pain. She said that she was usually shy, but that after the experience of the confinement (which was light in Vancouver compared to the rest of the country and other countries), she finally found it pleasant to talk to someone like that.
She also asked me if we had met before. It's funny because this question came back to me in many different places and countries: one day in Paris in a supermarket, another one in Reunion Island and another one in Australia. It's funny to often sound like someone you know, no matter where you are, no matter what language you speak.
Conversations on the Skytrain
The other day, Yew Meng and I were in a moderately full Skytrain. We could hear behind our backs, a conversation between two young people who were obviously having their first date. This place was quite singular for this kind of discussion.
We listened to the questions and answers, a little stiff of these new lovebirds. There was something rather mechanical in the exchange, perhaps due to stress and emotion. The questions ranged from a simple interest in a color or bread (no, neither of them was French, though) to much more intimate and hard-hitting questions for a first date: Do you talk easily about your emotions?
Why I work on a podcast
Sound is important to me. When you think about it, the appearance of the telephone created, at least for my generation and the previous ones, a very important link with sound. You could perceive tones, it was a beautiful symphony of silences, noises in the background, prosody.
Today, some people are terrified of answering a phone call and take refuge in chat rooms and other instant messaging systems. This world where only notifications animate the atmosphere, when the phone is not on vibrate, is subject to so many misunderstandings and misinterpretations. It is also because the vocabulary is very poor. I was recently reading George Orwell's "1984" (yes, you can nail me for waiting so long to read it) and the novlanguage is there. I am, however, a supporter of the language evolution camp: it is evolving. But it still loses words, and therefore meaning, in the process.
It's strange in a way because technology is more and more advanced so that we can see and hear each other, but socially, we shut ourselves off more and more, we refuse the image, the voice in favor of cold digital messages. At least, the little words scribbled on paper at school left a more personal trace with handwriting.
The gamelan workshop
Publik Secrets, a collective of artists, organized a gamelan workshop as part of the ExplorAsian festival. We were lucky enough to attend, in Hadden Park, not far from Kitsilano Beach. This instrument has always fascinated me.
The gamelan is native to Bali and Indonesia. Its sound is produced by striking either metal or wooden cylinders. It cannot be played in isolation, it is part of an ensemble. The other instruments in the ensemble are percussion, gongs and other instruments that I cannot talk about, as I am only conducting a discovery workshop.
The artists Robyn Jacob and George Rahi introduced us to the instruments and showed us how to play them before we performed. We learned a simple suite. Something very organic happened to me. These vibrations were very soft and powerful at the same time. The sound was relaxing and hypnotic: I was totally absorbed in the sound and the moment. Of course, there had to be some concentration to not make a mistake, but beyond that, the experience took me a little further than that. As I repeated this simple sequence, I began to make a little swaying of my body: it was like the ebb of waves, like a breeze that animates a leaf. There was a gentle movement in me.
Then we played the suite, doubling the strokes and varying the volume. We alternated whisper and presence, rustle and radiance. I felt what I love about music: the organic side of the instruments. For me, nothing beats playing an organic instrument, whether it's wood or metal, and more than anything, nothing beats seeing these artists playing these instruments in the flesh. Of course, that doesn't stop me from enjoying the heavy bass of a good metal music song.
We stayed in the area, invited to watch the ensemble rehearse. It was timelessly beautiful, it was a musical tale, it was an animated painting with sounds. You can see the sounds if you concentrate well. Colors but also forms. This was a painting with a lot of depth, several planes and incredible actions. Some of the patterns really reminded me of the patterns used on the fabrics of the region (Indonesia, Bali and Malaysia): there was a kind of rotation, similar to the leaves that roll up.
At that moment, I felt like everything was a fabric: music, community, time... Fibers that intertwine.
I started music by ear, playing on a small children's piano. I was lucky enough to have a year of lessons with a very good teacher and learn classical music. He was quite flexible and a good teacher: he proposed me to transcribe the music I liked (so rock) on the piano so that I could play it. Then I met Dominique Amouny, an extraordinary teacher of Carnatic music. He set one of my songs to music. But above all, he introduced me to Indian singing and quarter tones, which I love.
I was very happy that people stopped, listened and absorbed this music. Some took pictures and videos, applauded at the end of the piece. I was happy to see the interest of the public for art, for such a beautiful and different music, to see this thirst for culture and sharing, this listening of the human pulse through music.
The pandemic has finally stimulated my artistic activity: two theatrical performances, one of which included one of my songs and the setting to music of a poem that is not mine. I must admit that I am the first one surprised! And apparently, this is only the beginning...
'De la plume à la scène' (From pen to stage) - a journey in times of pandemic
This project of staging letter exchanges between French-speaking adults in difficult situations and students learning French in a Vancouver school (anonymously) led me to play the role of a Mauritian woman, to play my own music, to set someone else's words to music and to assist in the staging. It was incredibly interesting and I would say that I outdid myself. I didn't expect to do all of this and more importantly to be able to do it!
Magda Ochoa, our director, is like a conductor and we are the strings and the keys that they play to create a symphony. It's beautiful! To me, she is a person who wants to bring out the best in us, the best in order to embody the right emotion.
We had a full house for our only performance on March 31, with 100 spectators, in Studio 16 of the Maison de la Francophonie. I am very happy that this project was supported by La Boussole, an organization that I cherish for its actions in the community.
I remember looking for agreements to put this person's poem on my couch. The challenge was that it was prose, so the vocal line was not obvious. On stage, I must admit that I lost the thread at one point and that it was difficult to hear the other musician. But it's the hazards of the job, of the stage and apparently, it didn't get along too well.
I was happy to finally feel my voice "open". Since I came to Vancouver, I had the impression that I had lost my voice, that it was a little curled up, that it sounded less. But since I've been doing yoga, I feel like it's flowing more easily. It must be that you physically open the chest and that it must help the breathing for example. I notice it with the "Om" that we chant at the beginning and at the end of the session. Sometimes I even feel that I can sense "dimensions" in the chanting. I used to feel this in my own songs when I experimented with more throaty sounds. I think some of my readers won't really imagine me doing throaty sounds but that doesn't mean I sing heavy metal!
I felt a communion with the other actors and the whole crew. For the technical side, hats off to the lighting designer who helped us two days before and who accomplished what we wanted on stage.
I met the person I played on stage and once again, I was overwhelmed with emotion. It is even more disturbing because we are connected, a bit like sisters, by the same root, Mauritius. Once again, I really made sure to try to respect the person I played as much as possible, not to caricature anyone, to use the words of our first role, Nunamata (Macy in real life), volunteer of the year at La Boussole.
I also did an interview for the WebOuest channel which made a documentary about the project. It will be very strange to see me in an interview: usually, I'm the one asking the questions!
I was exhausted for several days after the performance but so happy. It's an intense thing, the stage. The performance and the music on the same stage, it's another dimension.
The call of the stage?
It's funny how things sometimes happen. On the day of the performance of "De la plume à la scène", I was waiting in front of the theater and something quite incredible happened. A restaurant shares the premises of the Maison de la Francophonie, as does Studio 16 where we performed. A family came out of the restaurant, the lady smiled at me and I smiled back. We started a conversation. She noticed my guitar and asked me if I would be interested in being a solo artist for a wedding on Galiano Island! To be continued...
Since that show, the person I played said she was inspired by seeing me sing on stage and would like to develop a choir project. After the pandemic, we are all thirsty for meetings and sharing in the real world. This will be a project about the different linguistic communities of Vancouver (and Canada) and I will practice the difficult art of writing. You have to start somewhere!
I've been contacted about another project in a language other than English and French. It sounds very interesting but I can't give too much away right now!
I also played guitar with a friend in a park, a very Vancouver practice as soon as it stops raining (note that I could have said when the weather is fine but a fine day in Vancouver is a day without rain, even if it's overcast and cold). It was a beautiful moment and we will try to write songs in French together.
Judge for a public speaking contest
I will soon be a volunteer judge for the Canadian Parents for French public speaking contest for the British Columbia and Yukon region. I must admit that I am looking forward to being in contact with French education again, even if it is in an indirect way.
I met a very nice lady at the Festival du Bois at their booth and I was happy to see French children's literature, reminding me of my own (especially when I see Glénat albums, reminding me of my long absorbed readings at the library when my mother took the time to choose her books). I have always loved comics and find them to be a sometimes undervalued and underutilized medium in the educational world. As an adult, I still binge on comics and graphic novels. It's not for nothing that comics are called the ninth art.
Multilingualism, a constant in my life
Although I was raised in one language, French, I was always attracted to other languages at a very young age. Although I understood absolutely nothing, I sang "in yogurt" to the songs I was exposed to at home (in English and Brazilian). Later on, I had the chance (we forget too much in France) to learn other languages at school: English, Spanish and even a little bit of German.
In Paris, I had bilingual friends. Then when I started to travel, my friends' skills also expanded. I began to meet people who could speak languages that were very exotic to me but also had the ability to speak three or more...
It fascinates me and I hope to soon enrich myself by learning other languages. That's why one of my next artistic projects will be about this very theme. We must show this beauty!
The Festival du Bois
I went to the Festival du Bois, a francophone music festival with artists from Quebec. It was a great experience after two years without such an event. I admit that I was lucky because in a time of pandemic, I managed to play in two rooms and make a festival! I know that many people are living in total confinement and I do not forget them.
Who says Quebecer says necessarily poutine, the second love of my companion. I must admit that it was good. There were also more traditional dishes but I was so full of poutine that I couldn't taste the rest: next time!
I was representing The Source newspaper when I was there but of course I went to see my friends from La Boussole at their booth. It was a very rainy and cold Sunday and they were quite brave under that tent. Fortunately, they were able to shelter under the main tent afterwards.
The easing of health restrictions in Vancouver allows for a bit more activity and February was a busy month for me, between yoga challenges and rehearsals (and even new performances of Les Éloquentes).
Year of the Tiger Malaysian style
In early February, we celebrated the Year of the Tiger Malaysian style with a typical dish: yee sang. The first time I discovered this tradition was in Kuala Lumpur. We were at a restaurant and they brought us a round dish (for prosperity) with different piles of vegetables and julienned smoked salmon and other mysterious ingredients.
The tradition is that everyone around the table picks up the ingredients and mixes them with their chopsticks, while making wishes for the new year. Depending on the personalities of the guests, this can quickly turn into a vegetable firework display! But this year, we were in a very small group and it was manageable.
It was a beautiful moment of sharing with family and friends.
For the next play with Magda Ochoa, I will create original music. The first time I had such an opportunity was with Natalie Vella, when I created music for her short film, Nocito. I was an actress and a musician on that project. It was very strange to see myself projected on a big screen in a Parisian cinema and to hear my music played in dolby surround.
We are also doing a collective dramaturgy for this piece, which I find extraordinary! It's a beautiful project that shows more than ever that hardship is a great opportunity for learning and growth. I feel very fortunate to be able to be part of this La Boussole project.
Still in the arts but as a journalist, I met Angela Clarcke from the Italian Cultural Centre in Vancouver and we discussed the concept of a queen. I also met Sepideh Saba, a watercolourist of Iranian origin who, by chance, lived in Malaysia before moving to Canada! I conducted both interviews in person and it was a real pleasure to move around and have a human connection instead of always seeing each other in 2D. I could have spent hours with these interesting women!
The yoga challenge
I also participated in the winter yoga challenge with Mandana. It was intense: I did yoga every day in February! But it paid off: I feel better in my body, obviously more flexible and energetic.
I'm doing inversions, something I hadn't done much before. The very first time, I still remember, was with Annabelle Leray in Australia. At the beginning of the course, she showed us how to do it and I thought I would never manage it. But through self-persuasion and hard work, I managed to do it by the end of the session. It's all about confidence!
Mandana has really helped me a lot and I will continue with her. She is doing bilingual classes. Her preparation work is very careful and all the sessions are thought out in a progression. She impresses me by observing well and taking the time to give personalized advice to each student. Of course, there are the right words when giving instructions but beyond that, I believe in energies and I think she is full of good vibes.
The end of Covid?
The restrictions are beginning to ease and we can finally envisage slightly larger gatherings. The epidemic is not over, but let's hope that the upturn is not far off. In Vancouver, wearing a mask is no longer compulsory but recommended, especially on public transport. Our families in Asia are once again confined and the latest news from China does not bode well, but for the moment, everyone is enjoying this little respite in Vancouver...
Despite the protests in Ottawa during the "freedom convoys" last month, the country is still playing by the rules. I was amazed to see internationally, the many convoys and the display of the Canadian flag to show their solidarity.
I am puzzled by the question of funding: how can you find funding, even food, to support such a movement when there are people living below the poverty line in the countries concerned but also in other countries? Why can't we find more funding for the fight against world hunger and the protection of the environment? Why do people choose to support "freedom fighters" financially when we could invest in the protection of life in general?
I now present titles from The Source on Radio Canada's Panorama programme every fortnight, when the newspaper comes out. The first time was only my second live! The first was a live broadcast for BFMTV in Australia about the missing Malaysian plane.
Obviously, there was some stage fright, especially as I couldn't see the person I was talking to. On re-listening, although I found myself stiff on the first article and too fast on the second, it wasn't too bad after so long. The link wasn't great and you lose a lot of quality but hey, it was a first.
I tried a special little mudra before I went on air and I think it helps.
The second time wasn't as steep but I got my feet stuck in the mat a bit. The third time should be more relaxed.
Anyway, it gives me more motivation for my podcast project. That's the hardest thing about this kind of project: keeping the same motivation all along. Fortunately for me, I have some invaluable supporters who are there!
The launch of the collection "Autour d'Elles: Récits de vie
The launch of the book is just around the corner (25 March) and will be open to all by registration for a Zoom conference. During the workshops, I heard some fascinating life stories from francophone women in Western Canada and I can't wait to read them all.
This project, a partnership between the Alliance des femmes de la francophonie canadienne and the publishing house Terres d'Accueil is so interesting that it deserves to be continued and perhaps even expanded. The more consultation with newcomers, the better the experience will be.
I was contacted by a journalism student who wants advice on Australia. It's funny that I'm still being contacted about this, as I left the country almost 6 years ago now.
I've received quite a few requests for contacts and advice from journalism students but also sometimes from Reunionese and even other profiles...
Meeting Reunionese in Vancouver
I was FINALLY able to meet some of my colleagues here! I was so happy to hear the Creole accent and talk about places we have in common. These words rolled around in my ears with pleasure and reminded me that I didn't dream the place I came from. I'm not likely to go back for a while, not being able to leave the country for over a year now.
But this meeting with three people from Reunion made me feel really good, an opportunity to travel a bit without taking a plane...
A warm voice
The sun is sometimes in the voice of people. This enveloping warmth, like a cozy blanket, is there, on the airwaves. I was interviewed Vaughn David for my next article in The Source, a very interesting woodcarver and it was an unmitigated pleasure to hear this artist talk about his love of wood, of colours of the wood, of these beings that he is turning into works of art.
This local artist is métis, in the Canadian way (in France, it means mixed people, with any kind of origins). His work and the person he is impress me. He is a magician, a real human being, the illustration that a human being is not opposed to nature as we may end up believing some days, that we all are children of the nature and that we should accept this condition instead of chasing after neon lights, the hum of factories, the fumes of drugs, the glories of one day. This man knows how to look at wood. We forget the meaning of this word: look. We all see things but we don’t take the time or make the effort to look, to listen the thousand stories unfolding around us.
I still remember the voices of some people. On of them has passed away but his voice is still living in my ear. It is low and makes me think of a precious wood. But it is also makes me think, for some reason, of a whole universe: santal wood, a sunset, ocre colour and dark orange.
As a radio girl, I of course am more sensitive to voices. Sometimes, I have surprises when I listen again to sounds. It makes me feel nostalgic.
The migration journey
I was very stressed about the job search, which was directly related to my status here in Canada. If I didn't find a job, I thought I wouldn't be able to stay in the country, which is true in theory.
I was contacted several times, they found my profile interesting, but as soon as the question of my status was raised (Francophone Mobility, work permit closed), all doors closed. I explored other possibilities with an immigration consultant and I am much more relaxed about the situation. However, Covid has slowed down all the processing and I will have to be very patient.
I am again filling in immigration forms. For some of the information, I refer to the ones I filled out in Australia, not without a bitter aftertaste. I think back to those moments, all that energy, all that time (a whole year of planning, two years of studying and working at the same time in my thirties) and hope I don't have the same unfortunate outcome. It's like opening a scar again. In Australia, there was the novelty of the process. Now there is the fear of falling back into the same situation.
You have to find the addresses and name the jobs over the last ten years. It's fine if you don't move around a lot, but in my case it's sometimes a headache. The advantage is that I already know the process and I will normally be less tired than the first time.
The Myers Briggs test
According to this famous test, I am an ENFJ: Extravert Intuitive Feeling Judging. This acronym is also replaced by the profile of the protagonist or the teacher, depending on the version.
I find the description quite accurate and close to reality. Someone who has an interest in helping the development and growth of others.
Wellness Together Canada
I contacted the Wellness Canada hotline because I was in the process of breaking down and I can only recommend them. I hesitated for a long time: to call or not to call? Do I feel that bad? Am I not taking the place of someone who intends to end his life?
In France and in other countries, talking about one's mental health is still taboo and there is a tendency to stigmatise those who do not hide it. You have to be a good little soldier, never have any faults, but at the same time not be too happy, because smiling in the street for nothing, just because you are happy, is extremely suspicious. But why should we walk straight all the time, never have a moment of weakness, never be beset by depression and hide to die like the birds? I did that for a long time, going into hiding to die in my corner. It was often an abject failure.
If I were an employer and I knew that one of my employees was suffering from a mental disorder (my interlocutor explained to me the connotation that this adjective has here in Canada, different from France where it is a pejorative term), on the one hand, I would really take care of this person and, on the other hand, I would salute his efforts because this step shows that this person has resilience and is capable of overcoming obstacles.
Doing work to know yourself and the more you know yourself the more you become aware of your weaknesses and strengths. There was a time when I was having anxiety attacks. It was so intense that I was very afraid to be near a window. I was on medication. One day I decided to be stronger than the crisis, stronger than the medication. I kept telling myself in my head: "I am in control, I am in control. I'm going to make it, I'm going to calm down. And it worked. I got stronger that day. I've never had another crisis until now. Maybe I'll have one again one day, I don't know what the guarantees are. But I know that I managed to control myself the first time, that I have the strength to say stop.
I spoke to friends and positive people interviewed Yamoussa Bangoura, the founder and artistic director of the Kalanbanté troupe. He is a very wise and inspiring man. A good advice: surround yourself with positive people.
Since then, I have bounced back well and will resume an old project with lots of surprises that I can't talk about right now. After all, I have all the skills to do what I want to do so I might as well go for it!
While reading ("Le château" by Mathieu Sapin), I discovered the concept of kairos. This term refers to "a small winged god of opportunity, which must be caught when it passes (seize an opportunity)" according to Wikipedia.
It's funny because this Wikipedia article also talks about synchronicity in Jung and this is something that intrigued me a lot when I was preparing my thesis for my Master 2 French as a Foreign Language. My thesis topic was "Developing oral competence in a hybrid training". I had mentioned this subject but my tutor rightly dissuaded me from taking this route because it was too far removed from linguistics.
Who knows if he might be passing by and I might pick it up!
But sometimes you have to make your own luck. Recently, after the slump and the call to the hotline, I decided to take care of myself. I was so focused on the outside, on being given a chance, that I let myself down completely.
It took a huge drop in my morale, a kind of moult, for me to create a new version of myself. I had so many negative thoughts, my self-esteem was at its lowest. I had to dry out, crack, burn in order to be reborn.
Now more grounded, physically and psychologically, I may and probably will start a very powerful adventure: my adventure. Again, I am quite mysterious but I can't reveal my plans but I am happy and hopeful.
Back to the stage
I'm back on stage with Magda Ochoa as part of the « De la plume à la scène » (‘From the pen to the stage’) project with La Boussole. I'm glad I did, because stage and performing arts projects at this time can be uncertain.
For this performance, I will be an actress but also a musician! I haven't performed with my guitar for years, the last time being in Malaysia.
I will have a role that fits me but I don't want to give too much away yet, I need some surprises for those who will come to the performance on March 31st! All I can say is that I have a role
that is tailor-made for me...
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.’