25 Jul 2012

Switcher

Of course it is a French verb. Granted, it may not figure in le Petit Robert, but to describe the act of changing or toggling something, switcher is nonetheless widely used. At least by the uninhibited Québecois, who take the English to switch, add the French verb ending -er and force the resulting construct through conjugation.

It takes some getting used to, but fortunately I am having plenty of opportunities, since there is a fair bit of switching going on in my life right now. Just over a week ago, I moved from my employer's hallowed executive floor to a new position in the trenches of the Canadian business unit. This brought not just a welcome change of scenery, but also one of challenges, pace, and team.

As it happens, I find myself working closely with three gregarious, and throughly French-Canadian, colleagues. In consequence, and unlike in my first three years at the company, I now frequently land in meetings and discussions held in French, albeit a version in which switcher is still one of the milder idiosyncracies thrown in.

Taking in the accent, the vernacular and the exuberance still puts a smile on my face, yet is no longer as much one of amusement as it is one of belonging. The Québecois version of French has become my version of French, much to the enjoyment of my colleagues, who gently tease me with it.

Switching things around every now and then is refreshing, and I am looking forward to what promises to be a pretty cool opportunity. Not quite as cool, however, as the most highly coveted switch that I have laid hand on in these sweltering summer days. It is labeled "ON". And it sticks out of my new air-conditioner.

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8 Jul 2012

Festival

Time flies when you're having fun. And with the long, warm and sunny summer days, plenty of fun has arrived in town. Conscient of the gruelling winter that has only just ended, and will be back again shortly, Canadians have become experts at making the most out of the warmer months, and Montréal in particular prides itself of an action-packed events calendar.

The internationally acclaimed Jazz Festival has just ended its two week run in the pedestrianized downtown Quartier des Spectacles. It was preceeded by the Francofolies, and will be suceeded by Just for Laughs, the Nuits de l'Afrique and Osheaga, all within the next month. Add to this the ethnic culture festivals on the islands, Shakespeare performances in parks, the Québec National Day on June 24th and the provincial house-moving fest on July 1st, and you'll understand why most Montrealers are glad these days are as long as they are.

Attending the festivals is a tradition shared across languages, social spheres or age groups, and something that I sorely missed, along with the rest of summer, during last year's stay in Chile. Even keener than usual, and encouraged by excellent weather, I joined my friends for many of the - mostly gratis - outdoor concerts in the last few days, and rediscovered why this is a such a wonderful city to live in: Just a few minutes on a Bixi from my doorstep, I can surround myself with a peaceful and merry crowd of festival-goers, sitting on the grass and listening to world class musicians entertaining them for free. When a gig ends, you grab a beer or some gaufres from a street-side vendor before strolling over to another stage, catching on to some emerging star, while the sun gently sets.

If, like us today, you've spent the first part of your day on the sandy beaches on Ile Sainte-Hélène, splashing about in the filtered waters of the St-Lawrence river, the evening music is but the cherry on your Montréal staycation.

And if, like me, you've still cheated on Montréal a little bit, to host your own personal festival overseas, then you will have realized that when you're having fun, the inevitable flight of time is but a reason to be celebrate what you've got - and for what lies ahead.

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