Three months. Trois mois. 91 days. No matter what way I put it, no matter what language, it’s hard to believe I’ve been here for 3 months. In some ways that time has absolutely flown by, while in other ways it feels like I’ve been here forever.
Now where is ‘here’ you may be wondering?
Here/home for now is a place called Rimouski, Quebec. Back on September 1st I dragged me, myself and 97 pounds of luggage onto an airplane bound for Quebec City. A few days later I was dropped off at a house full of people who don’t speak english, and life has been flashing by ever since.
Work life these days consists of being an english language monitor in a francophone elementary school. I work with roughly 400 kids from grades 1 through 6 doing activities, both in the classroom and small groups, to help the kids improve their english and learn about life and culture in English speaking Canada. Madame/Mrs/Miss Natasha (said with a cute french accent) at your service.
I often get asked why I left everything behind to come here. And what I had back home was pretty good, but at the same time I know this was a good choice. First of all, to have a meaningful job that’s decently connected to what I want to do in the future that pays enough to be financially independent? That in of itself is a blessing for a 21-year-old and a reason to move 1000 km away. But the ultimate goal of my time here is to improve my french.
And oh, is it improving. Oh yes indeed. Because when you live in a house full of french-speakers, as well as in a community of fifty thousand people where a whopping 0.7% of the population speaks english as their first language (that’s 330 people), and only 22.7% claim to be bilingual in english and french, it’s kind of inevitable. (Check out the 2011 census if you don’t believe me! https://www12.statcan.gc.ca/census-recensement/2011/as-sa/fogs-spg/Facts-cma-eng.cfm?LANG=Eng&GK=CMA&GC=404)
But my time here is definitely about more than a pay cheque, work experience and linguistic ability. The program is called Odyssey after all. It’s been about adventure, about connecting with nature, learning more about the country I’m proud to call my own, and not following the status quo. It’s about getting a glimpse into life as a minority, making it through the tough days when your friends and family are a thousand kilometres away, and exploring the joys and treasures a new community holds. It’s been about learning how to refill the pellet stove that heats the house, being able to rattle off the times when the tide will be in or out, and finally understanding the Quebecois accent. And of course, it’s been about copious amounts of hockey, poutine, and maple syrup.
So that’s where life has taken me for the time being. For those of you who ask, no, it won’t be forever. My wandering and adventures of the past few years have been fun and I wouldn’t change them for anything, but I’ve also figured out what I love, my priorities, and that I would really love to live in one place for more than 8 months. Because I haven’t done that since I was 17 years old and I’m ready to do that again. So come summer, I’ll be back Ontario, and trust me, the wait for me to come back will be worth it.
“Language is not a genetic gift, it is a social gift. Learning a new language is becoming a member of the club -the community of speakers of that language.”