Back to School

Cosplay in Chinatown
August 23, 2014

I won't be the only one starting up university classes here in Montréal come September: a dear friend from days living back in Québec City, Siliu, is in the process of moving here. I'm, of course, happy to have a friend moving to Montréal and a close friend with whom I've traveled multiple times across the border to the U.S., at that. But, I'm not sure what Siliu herself makes of the circumstances bringing her here. It seems less out of desire for a mere change of scenery and more on account of being snarled up in bureaucracy that she's making the move.

Even back when I was about to quit Québec City myself a year ago I already had the impression that town was getting too small for Siliu as well. She excelled at her job but was far underemployed. During the end of last year she spent over a full week visiting Montréal just to get away. But, packing it in to finally move here is very much a pragmatic decision:

Siliu at Grande
Siliu has a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering from a university in Shanghai. She also has a fair amount of relevant job experience back in that city, too. But, all that counts for zilch in the Province of Québec. According to whichever ministry is in charge of assessing the equivalent value of a foreign degree her B.S. isn't recognized here--even in-part--toward accreditation in her field. That has to be obtained wholly through credentials acquired over study at an institution within the Province of Québec. She's come here to repeat her B.S. from scratch.

So, to work in her field she's following the same path I took a year ago. This week, Siliu moves from Québec City to Montréal. I'm sure her French must be far more fluent than mine (she's spoken that language at work for nearly two years) but here she'll be attending an English-medium university: Concordia. Their campus is right in downtown Montréal and just a five-minute bike ride from McGill. I'm expecting that we'll begin seeing each other often over lunch.

In the meanwhile, we've been spending lots of time together. Siliu just finished attending a Concordia orientation. She's scoping out places around town to move into. (Seems like she has promising leads on an apartment-share situation.) Professor Gwen was kind enough to let me play "sub-host" for a couple days. Over that time I've exploited Siliu's talent in the kitchen to cook up Chinese dishes far tastier and healthier than what meals I'd be providing for myself when eating solo. I think it's a fair-enough trade that I buy the ingredients in Chinatown and she turns them into something yummy (with me alongside playing well-intended-but-largely-inept sous chef.)

Cosplay in Chinatown
We took advantage of the fine weather yesterday afternoon by sitting outside a long, wooden terrace running along a Chinatown bakery. It was a pleasant place to situate ourselves outdoors, chat and people-watch for the price of a cup of coffee and a barbecued-pork bun. Unexpectedly, the people watching was particularly good: there must have been some sort of anime convention taking place somewhere in the neighborhood. Dozens, if not hundreds of young adults costumed as Sailor Moon, Pokémon, and far more contemporary Japanese cartoon characters who I didn't recognize strolled along Chinatown's main strip, Rue de la Gauchetière.

Siliu recognized many more of the heroes than I did. I asked about one in particular, a woman wearing a cape emblazoned with a sole, large character: 壱.

"What does that character mean?", I asked Siliu.

"I don't know. It's something Japanese that we don't use in Chinese," she said.

Siliu and David Take
Dinner Chez Gwen
I looked the character up on my phone when she strolled down the street to pick us each up a cup of fruity, milky bubble tea. When she returned I asked if she had any clue as to what it could mean then finally showed her the more complex traditional form from which the Japanese alternative derived: 壹. It's fun to have a friend moving here with whom I can speak comfortably in three languages and contemplate the script of a fourth.

I'll soon be transitioning back into la vie montréalaise, myself. The second year of my master's program will start in a few days. My class load will be light: just further Persian language study. Though my main focus over this academic year will be composing a 100ish-page thesis. More immediately, I need to find an apartment to move into. Professor Gwen has been kind to allow me to stay on at her place while she's been off in Inner Mongolia on an archaeological expedition. But, she returns soon. I'm considering returning to the same complex of studio apartments off Parc LaFontaine I lived in last semester.

Lots ahead. I'm very much looking forward to what experiences this school year brings.