Free French: Reunions II

David, Silvia, & Gabriel
QUÉBEC, Canada
August 30, 2014

There were no Pisco Sours being served at the party this time: the host was 7-months pregnant. Until yesterday I hadn't expected that I'd be attending a baby shower over this visit. But, that's just how I've concluded a wonderful 4-day visit catching up with friends around Québec City.

It was all down to chance that Daysi's baby shower was held over the brief days I've been in Québec. We didn't manage to coordinate over e-mail until I was nearly on my way out. Luckily, I'd happened to book my departure on back to Montréal at a time that was mere hours after the gathering. It had been almost exactly two years since my former classmate hosted a birthday party; this time I returned for her baby shower.

Daysi's Baby Shower
As with so many other of my former classmates from days of French study at Université Laval Daysi is still enrolled in francization classes. I hadn't expected to find so many of the fellow immigrants with whom I rubbed shoulders every day to still be doing the same thing I am: attending classes as a perpetual student. But, as opposed to how it is for me, for them ongoing studies are chosen as less of a lifestyle choice and more as one of the viable ways to forge an existence here in the new country. Finding work in Québec is difficult without fluent French. On top of that, the majority of decent jobs require some modicum of English ability. Most of my former classmates from South America are still brushing up their skills in both languages.

That's not to say that newcomers are in a bad way, here. There is a tremendous amount of aid available to families. Credits awarded for each child in the family tally up into monthly cash disbursements from the province. Waiting lists are long, but $7-per day daycare is viewed practically as birthright in Québec. Specialized training courses for those who left a skilled profession in another country to emigrate here are free and abundant. I happily availed myself of the wholly paid French lessons that came with a small stipend for enough time to get myself comfortable functioning in the language.

Frogs' Legs at
Buffet des Continents
I did recognize a few of the faces in the birthday shower crowd from previous gatherings. It was, of course, the classmate from Peru that I sat next to over many months who I was most interested in catching up with. It was good to see Daysi both expecting and doing well, overall. Her husband (who shares my first name) has a solid job; their house felt even more comfortable and homey than how I remember it being a couple years ago. They've converted the ground floor into an Air B'n'B rental space that brings in additional income; their current guests visiting from China were rather surprised that I was able to tell them all the bus routes and ways to get around town in their native language.

Thanks for the invitation to your baby shower and best wishes for your delivery, Daysi. Whenever I next return to this town there will be three of you!

I spent my final night in town being hosted at the home another South American classmate. Silvia and Gabriel took me in and treated me to meals of home-cooked Colombian food. They also treated me to an international buffet I hadn't been aware of while living here: the Buffet des Continents. I didn't expect any of those dishes to taste like anything like how they would in their countries of origin. And they didn't. But, even when cooking for a Québecois palate they probably couldn't make frogs' legs taste like anything but chicken and I'm always a sucker for all-you-can-scoop ice cream, anywhere.

Madame É. and David
Meet for Morning Coffee
Thanks for hosting, Silvia and Gabriel! I hope you two can come back to Montréal again before long. It'll be my turn to host.

Though I didn't stay with either of them over this visit I did get together over coffee with a couple of my previous instructors from days of francization at Université Laval. This morning, Madame É. and I shared early cups of coffee and chocolate croissants at Brûlerie Vanier. Though younger than any of the students in the immigrant class that she was teaching when we first met Madame É. may well be the first off the perpetual-student bandwagon. She's now in the final stages of her master's thesis, at a point where she's doing more cutting than composition. Given how early the stage I'm at in writing my master's thesis I'm jealous how so close she is to completion.

Annie and David Squint
into the Sun
Yesterday, I shared drinks at Café au temps perdu with the dearest of my friends here, Annie. She's the former substitute teacher who eventually let her spare room out to me when I needed somewhere to spend my final weeks studying French. Annie is so solid in every aspect of her life. She's still constantly exercising, working out beyond anything I imagine to be humanly possible. She's still teaching various levels of French to immigrants. She's still working part-time at the National Assembly. The main changes are that Annie has moved a few blocks over from where we briefly shared an apartment together and that one of her grown children has moved back in. That should be temporary: Annie's daughter's modeling career goes in fits and bursts but seems to be taking off. She's getting more and more photo shoots and has appeared in recent editions of international fashion magazines.

It's been so good to see everybody doing so well. Though I know that moving to Montréal was the best decision for me to carry on exploring places I'm curious to live in and keep studying areas of personal interest, I do miss this crew back here. Exactly one year since I moved away from this town I'm nostalgic for the people and places I left behind. I truly have such good people in this town.

I know I'll be back again soon.