Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Crazy People in the Hallway

Last night I had a little bit of a surprise, involving crazy people in my hallway. But I'm already getting ahead of myself.

Monday was interesting. The training center is only about a ten minute walk from the hotel. I made a few observations on the way:

* Lines painted in the middle of the road seem to be more of a suggestion than anything. This is probably because none of the lanes seem (to me at least) wide enough for a single vehicle. And yet, despite this lack of space, everyone drives really, really fast.
* Crosswalks also seem to be little more than a suggestion. Jaywalking is rampant here.
* Cars don't like waiting for pedestrians. I saw a car make a turn in a space between two pedestrians that looked just large enough for the car. Both the car and the pedestrians seemed oblivious to each other.
* Does everybody in Montreal own an i-Pod? One would think so.
* Most everyone seemed to be really cold Monday morning. They looked as if they wished they had worn warmer jackets. I didn't bother zipping up my jacket and I was plenty warm. Are Canadians (in Montreal at least) really less used to the cold than Utahns?
* Montreal looks like a mix between Europe and America. It's pretty.
* I don't think you're allowed Canadian citizenship unless you smoke. Those with cigarettes outnumbered those without, by a fair margin.

The building that the training center is in is pretty big. The training company is on the 21st floor. I'm glad I don't have to look out any windows. I don't handle heights well. The guy working there greeted me bilingually, like everybody else. They have coffee, tea, and most importantly, donuts. I was pretty hungry. Four out of five of my students speak French. When then fifth one greeted me, I remarked that he didn't have a French accent. He replied, "no, I'm from Toronto."

I went to lunch with the English-speaking student and one of the French ones. The French guy took us to a shopping center across the street, which had a food court. The first restaurant I saw was a Dunkin' Donuts. Before long I also saw a McDonalds and a Subway. The only place that seemed to take credit cards was the Subway. I eventually decided upon a Greek place because they told me they would take debit cards.

I'm pretty unhappy with myself for deciding to play it safe while in a foreign country. On the other hand, my idea of playing it safe is a gyro. The menu was entirely in French, but they spoke English and understood "number three, with a Mountain Dew". They had a choice between poulet and beouf, and I fortunately remembered enough culinary French to know that meant chicken and beef (respectively), and to be dismayed that they didn't offer agneau (lamb), which is in my opinion the only meat appropriate for gyros. They also asked me a question that I've never been asked before when buying a gyro: "hot or mild sauce?" I went with mild, hoping that it would be tziki. It wasn't. But it was still pretty good. I then found out that they only take Canadian debit cards. Fortunately, they also took American cash, if only because that's all I had.

My student from Toronto ordered Japonais (Japanese) food, and my French student ordered McDonalds. I tried to ignore it. My gyro came with something that was halfway between a French fry and a potato wedge. They had something on them that tasted like malt vinegar. I'm hooked. We went downstairs, to find an ATM so that I could get some Canadian cash. Part of the shopping center is underground, and is connected to a large train station. My French student thought, correctly, that an ATM was sure to be found there. As I waited in line, a woman at the ATM kept giving me worried looks, as if I was going to mug her the second she turned her back, with hundreds of people in the immediate vicinity. I was wondering how Canadians would take to my biker jacket. I guess now I know.

When class was over, I walked back to my hotel without incident. I was pretty worn out, so I ordered room service. My strategy was this: I'm not paying for the food, so I might as well order something adventurous and something safe. I went with a duck terrine, French onion soup and a club sandwich. I've never had a a terrine that I've actually liked, though the very few that I've made myself got rave reviews from those who tasted them. Those people probably would have liked the duck terrine. I hated it. The onion soup was really good, and there was a lot of it. I ate so much of it, I couldn't finish the club sandwich. That's just as well, because it was one of the worst club sandwiches I'd ever had. Not enough bacon, and the turkey was dry and flavorless. There were too many fries, and I barely touched any of them. I couldn't help but notice that the fries came with mayonnaise. I didn't touch it. I also ordered a bottle of water, and they only had glass, litre-sized bottles in stock, imported from France. Fortunately, it wasn't sparkling.

Not long after I finished dinner, there was a knock at my door. Before I could make it to the door, it opened and two bubbly, friendly girls burst in with a basket full of chocolates, wanting to know if I wanted any. I'm really glad I was still dressed. I was still stunned from their entrance, and thought they were selling them. I politely declined and they offered me a bottle of water, ephasizing that it was compliments of the hotel. They also gave me a postcard and left me standing there, just a little confused. The postcard was the next day's weather forecast. I saved the water for class the next day. Teaching without a bottle of water or some other drink handy is painful.

The next day, I opted for room service again. I had skipped breakfast and lunch (other than training center donuts) and I was hungry. I ordered smoked salmon, a burger and a slice of cheesecake. The man who took my order did not have a French Canadian accent. Oh, no. His accent was much more French than that. He informed me that they were out of cheesecake and offered a chocolate cake instead.

The smoked salmon was good. It came with the same vile salad that the duck terrine had come with, which I avoided altogether. The burger was decent. I was surprised to find that it came with melted gruyere on it. The cake was disappointing. It had a slice of orange on top, and a wedge of pineapple. It also had two pieces of musk melon and two balls of honeydew melon. None of the fruit, save for the orange, complimented the chocolate cake, which was grainy and crumbly. I hope they have cheesecake tomorrow. Even if I get dinner somewhere else, I want to order the cheesecake, just to see how good it is.

The crazy people came back, knocking on the door and then opening it before I could get to it. Remembering their entrance the day before, I had made sure to wait until after they were gone before getting ready for bed. I took a chocolate this time, and another bottle of water. The chocolate, which was mass-manufactured, put the chocolate cake to shame. The girls were less bubbly, and this time I spied a clipboard that one of them checked off as they walked away. I feel like a statistic now.

I also feel pretty tired. I'm going to work on my lesson plans for tomorrow, and go to bed.


  1. Why oh WHY are you eating room service. You are in Montreal.

  2. I always enjoy reading - keep it up.



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