August Travels: Bonjour, Hi!
In 2003/2004 I spent a high school year in Québec, Canada’s francophone belle provence. I lived with a host family in Joliette, close to Montréal, and got to know their culture, language and traditions. It was the first time I spent considerable time away from home, in a place that soon became home. Before I left, ma famille québecoise handed me a key to their house insisting I could come and see them any time. We have stayed in touch ever since.
It took me ten years (!) to be back. This summer it FINALLY happened. My August travels led me to Québec. All these years didn’t seem like all that much, though. Being back was as if I’d never left. I stayed for almost three weeks and had a fantastic time with my host family and friends. They organized a welcome back party for me, integrated me into their routines once again, took me around old and new places. I had Lucky Charms or peanut butter bagels for breakfast and ate lots of poutine, Québec’s popular junk food meal consisting of fries, gravy and cheese. It looks distasteful at first glance but once you try it, you may end up loving it.
My friends invited me to a weekend out by the Lake Memphremagog where we swam, had hot dogs and burgers by the barbecue and marshmallows by the fire place. I met my friends’ fiancés and boyfriends. It was great catching up and seeing what they’d all become. We have all aged a little but at heart we’re still the same. One of my dear friends took me to a spa out in the woods and I can’t think of anything more relaxing. If you ever find yourself in the area and you feel like forgetting about time and space, make sure to visit La Source in Rawdon.
This time I also stayed in Montréal for a few days. My seventeen-year-old self didn’t get too familiar with the city back then. Even though we used to go and visit family members in the suburbs, I was more interested in the latest FRIENDS season and in visiting huge malls at the time than I was in appreciating what else the city had to offer. I will feature Montréal in a separate post and share my newly gained impressions of this great cosmopolitan city. This time, it struck me how bilingual Montréal is in some places. Even though Canada officially is a bilingual country, most native French speakers live in the province of Québec where about 95% of the population speaks French as their first or second language. Montréal, though, may be referred to as bilingual, depending on the neighbourhood you find yourself in. When you enter a shop, the vendors’ first words will be “Bonjour, Hi!” in order to determine which language you speak and to be able to assist you in any of the two, French or English.
Being back in Québec was an incredibly healing, fulfilling and inspiring experience. One thing is for sure: It won’t take me another ten years to return. Québec, je me souviens et je me souviendrai toujours!