Canadian Football

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The half-time entertainment

I went to a Canadian football match and watched an AFL game.  Well it was at half-time, a demo match and rather low skills, but the locals got the idea and were appreciative.  The people around me were somewhat surprised that none of the players wore any padding, helmets, or other protective gear.  However, it was fun to watch.

The main match, the Canadian game, was between Montréal and Winnipeg.  The two cities in Canada where I have spent most of my time.  Winnipeg is the stronger team. Montréal has only won four of nine matches this season and only at home.  Apart from the game, which I must admit, I struggled to follow at times–it was nonstop noise, advertising, commercial breaks for Tv and ‘cheer-girls’.  I’d argue that the girls worked harder than most of the players. 

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The girls workd harder than some of the players

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Key Players were introduced before the start of the game

Advertising, did I mention advertising?  It is a stop-start game, not at all free-flowing and depending on the state of the game, the complete team changes.  Interesting the loudest noise was made when the opposing team has the ball down and about to make a play.  The idea is that if it is noisy enough they cannot hear the play being called.  

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Montréal trailed 10-0 for most of the first half, but it was even at half-time.

I’m not going to try to explain its rules and strategies here, it is beyond my comprehension.  The game is played in four, fifteen-minute quarters, but with stoppages, changing teams, and all the other activities it lasted almost three hours.  Montréal trailed most of the match and with about four minutes left it was down by seven points.  The exodus was like a Port Power game at Adelaide Oval when it is being thrashed in the final quarter.  Yet, the impossible happened.  With a Try and a Conversion (field goal–I think) Montréal tied the score.  Apparently draws are rather rare in Canadian Football.  So rare that the rules to break the tie were put up on the Tv screen.

Scores

The score at the end of the match, a tie-break was then played out (ALS is Montréal)

That final kick, with six-seconds to go, was a place kick.  It tied the scores and was taken from about forty (yards) from the goal and directly in front.  Not a big kick by Aussie Rules standards.  However, it was seen as desperate and with not much chance of success.  It cleared the cross-bar, but not by much–enough though to tie the game.  During time-on the lead see-sawed, but Winnipeg came out the eventual winners.

For me it was special exposure to part of Canadian Culture that many visitors may not experience.  I was the guest of Professor Steven High (Concordia University) and his teenage son, Sebastian.  It’d was a beautiful night.  We ate hotdogs, popcorn and drank Pepsi…beer if you wanted it.  Thank-you Steven and Sebastian, this evening capstoned a wonderful visit to your beautiful, friendly and fascinating city.  Go Montréal–I will check the scores online with interest.

This piece was written as I sat in the Bella Vita Cafe (Pizzeria) on the corner of Rue Jacques Cartier and Rue Saint-Paul E. in Old Montréal.  While typing I enjoyed a long black coffee, garlic bread and Ministroné Soup, with cheese.  However, the cheese came on the garlic bread, not with he soup as in Australia.  I wonder if there is any real traditional cuisine anymore?  Food is influenced so much by the local culture.  Maybe there is a journal article here?

Birthday in Montréal

This birthday celebration for me was somewhat different.  It started out academic, moved to a typical tourist bus tour, a walk through some different places in the evening and I finished up watching a fashion show.

Montréal is unique.  A French speaking city in the Province of Quebec with English and then Arabic the second and third languages.  Yiddish was the third language here in the early half of the previous century and there is still a strong Jewish community…just try the bagels.

I will keep the academic discourse to another time and place.  Suffice to say that my study tour of North America and especially here at the Concordia University has been worthwhile, informative and so helpful.  It will mean that I’ll have work ahead of me when I return to UniSA and write up the reports, give briefings and presentations.  However, the work has only just begun.  So why am I here?  That will all come out in the wash over the coming weeks and months.  Back to my birthday with a difference.

Around one in the afternoon I booked one of those hop-on-hop-off bus tours that permeate many cities.  I have found them great for getting a bit of as spiel about the place and great for orientation as well.  Had my train trip not been delayed, I’d have done this on Sunday.  Yet, it was a nice way to spend a couple of hours on my birthday.  Montréal is not only different to the rest of Canada, it sees itself as different too.  It is a nation within a nation, well the Province is.

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Street posters highlighting that Quebec is different

The weather was cool, but at least it wasn’t raining.  Some of the city is still without electricity following a tornado-like storm yesterday.  While Canada is celebrating 150 years of formation, Montréal is celebrating 375 years…it was first settled by the French in 1642.

After the bus tour I went underground.  I don’t have any statistics for this city under the city, but it is huge.  At least three levels before you get to the underground transit system and interconnects a significant section of the city.  In the winter, when it is minus 10, 20 or more (not temperatures that I ever want to experience) many almost live underground.  It is possible, if you live in a city apartment, to leave your home, travel to work, go out for lunch, return to the office, do your shopping on the way home and cook your dinner and not step outside.  No wonder the people here embrace the summer and weather where you can be outside, daytime or at night.  I managed a little shopping.

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I walked the streets back to my hotel and. Had a short rest before heading out around 6.30pm.  During the bus tour we were driven through ‘The Village’ and the Latin Quarter, so I headed off to explore them on foot.  On my travels I found the local fire station and I couldn’t help myself I had to have a look and chat with the Firies.  It is a world-wide club.  Before I got to the Latin Quarter I stumbled across a free concert in one of the squares.  The music was upbeat and if I was x-years younger then … maybe?  I enjoyed watching.

The Latin Quarter was packed with people, and cafes, bars and restaurants spilled in to the streets.  There was hardly an empty table and at some venues people lined up waiting.  Talk about pressure on having a quiet relaxing dinner when you have hungry hoards staring at every mouthful you take.  Don’t order another wine or beer.

I was starting to feel hungry but decided to walk on to ‘The Village”.  Not sure if this name came from the The Village People (YMCA fame) or not.  However, it is the gay centre of Montréal.  The people here have embraced diversity, religions, races and are passionate about politics.  On a Wednesday evening the area was busy but quiet.  No doubt after the Gay Parade here on Sunday the place would have been jumping.  I was not looking for a big meal and most of the places were either offering fast-food or big meals.  I kept walking.

I wandered another couple kilometers back along Rue Sainte-Catherine to the mall area.  For the past few days Festival Mode & Design ‘pop-up’ fashion orientated booths, displays and activities were taking place.  Most of it was in French so I didn’t fully understand the context.  One of the failings of Australian education, well in my day, it was only bi-lingual if you were in the top stream of classes.  I never made that level at high school.

I found a nice Asian restaurant and had won-ton soup with ‘shrimp’ and dumplings with a pale ale.  No candles, it would have necessitated the Firies being called out to douse the flames.  The area was alive.  People.  Activities. Light shows. Live music. The star-struck wannabes lining up for that perfect make over and advice on making it it in fashion, makeup, clothing design, sales…

A crowd was gathering so I wandered along as well.  It was a fashion show that lasted for forty-five minutes.  This was a first for me.  I have never taken much notice of fashion or cat-walk modeling in the past.  This was an interesting experience.  The show was a performance of entertainment, fashion, live music, multi-media digital displays and surprisingly for me, enjoyment.  A bank of paparazzi were position at the end of the catwalk where every garment draped model posed to be photographed.  This was a not only a display of fashion, but a celebration embracing the history and diverse culture of Montréal.

Why do models pout and look unhappy?  The only time there was animation on their faces was in the finale.  However, I was entertained.  Not only by the rather good looking models, but the supporting performances by kids, a Bagpipe player, jazz trumpeter (I loved that) and themed cultural and history covering all the religions and some local sporting heroes. What also caught my eye was the range of models.  Naturally there were the perfect male and female bodies, showed off to perfection.  In addition there were plus sizes, the average (not so perfect) shapes, short, tall, young and old, anorexic as well, different races, black, North American Indian, Asian, Middle eastern (including Muslim) and French/English influences as well.

The crowd was entertained, appreciative and supportive.  There was not one inappropriate outburst by anyone.  The crowd walked away happy and I wandered back to my hotel, reflecting on a different and interesting birthday.

I’m embracing the French/Montréal style.  I wrote this sitting outside in a cafe called Brasseurs, just off Rue Sainte-Catherine, drinking short black coffee and surrounded by people speaking in French, English, Italian, and Yiddish. It is 1230 Thursday 24, August here, and I will post this later tonight, or in the morning.

Canadian Museum for Human Rights (Winnipeg)

I have been struggling on how to Blog about this museum since my visit four or five days ago. Nothing I wrote seemed to convey my lack of understanding of what has happened in the world, or express the extent of the brutality by some over others. Of course I have known of many of the atrocities, the genocide, and the absolute bloody mindedness of hate, ideology and fear. The history of human violence against those who are different goes back thousands of years. It is not a twentieth or twenty-first century phenomenon. So instead of focusing on the histories of inhumanity–I could never do it justice–my thoughts and writing are about the museum and my experience there.

The museum stands out in the Winnipeg city-scape. It is six stories tall and a spectacular, modern, architectural design. Its exterior of angles and geometric shapes will catch your eye and the modern, stark, but beautiful interior complements the perseverance of people in spite of the horrific history of human cruelty and viciousness.

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While there are artefacts and archival collections on display, it was the high-tech interaction that brought this history alive for me. From an iPod App self guided walking tour, numerous interactive exhibitions to a number of small theatres where you can sit and watch narratives of history unfolding, the experiences are sobering. It made the experience personal. I will let the accompanying photographs show some of the aspects of the museum.

I sat watched and listened to one exposé of the Holocaust, among others. There is a floor of the museum dedicated to this specific genocide. While I have read about and seen films of the Nazi atrocities this is the first time I have had a personal interaction with such barbarism. Taking photographs of a cap, an article of clothing, pages from a diary, or display photos, to me seemed an intrusion, almost demeaning the suffering these murdered victims and survivors experienced at the hands of Nazi ideology and the ignorance, hate, or apathy in other countries at that time–and unfortunately still pervades some societies. I have not visited the sites of the death camps in Europe and I’m not sure I could now.

If I have an issue about this museum it is not about what is on display, or how it is educating the community–children to adults. I observed that Australia and New Zealand don’t rate a mention–we are not that innocent, and why isn’t there a similar museum in Australia?

I walked away from this record of history asking why? Why do we hate difference? Those who see past the differences and embrace diversity and tolerance are heroes. Hopefully I am a wiser and more humble person–through spending a few hours in this special museum and the richness of history.

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A Power Nap (Ontario)

It is official we are 11.5 hours behind schedule. I’ve missed my connecting trains from Toronto to Montréal (scheduled for 1630 today Saturday 19th) so it is anyone’s guess where I will have my head on a pillow tonight. I may need to slip in a few power naps during the day.

Overnight I sensed that we stopped a few times, but my sleep was restful. At breakfast I sat with a woman from south China who is reuniting with her 13-year-old son in Toronto where he has been on a two-week summer camp–his first time away from home. The other couple were French. Well he was French, she is Greek and they live in Paris and are both computer experts. Her accent is almost Australian. It was an interesting international exchange of culture, food, language and laughter. The French couple like the big Canadian breakfasts, while the Chinese mother and I are more comfortable with a small continental type meal. However, we all soaked up the coffee.

We passed through little communities of Algoma and Sudbury. Just a few houses scatted around the railway line on the shores of yet another lake. While we are in this summer period of lush greenery it beguiles the harsh environment of the desolate winters here. There are no gutters on the roofs of homes or outbuildings, so the snow can slide off. The gardens are left to the natural elements and the roads are hard packed gravel that apparently turn to frozen mud for six-months of the year. It must be such a different trip in winter, everything covered in snow, lakes frozen, blankets of white everywhere.

The day has turned cool, heavily overcast, changing the colours of the vegetation to a more muted hue and the lakes have lost their lustre of bright blue. The long straight stretches of rail have given way to gentle curves, as the tracks meander around the edges of one lake before encountering the next one. Even the atmosphere on the trains seems to belie that of the outside. People are quieter today. Possibly over the flush of meeting new people and are comfortable sitting, dozing and reading. There are twenty of us in the upper lounge and no one is talking. A few are reading, one playing a computer game, there is the aroma of freshly brewed coffee, which is making my nose twitch, a teenage boy is undertaking a biology project and two of us are drafting Blogs. Drafting, as there is no Internet connection. We have just been advised that the first sitting for lunch is at 1130–an hour away and I haven’t got over breakfast yet.

‘Wild fires’ have ravaged this area in the recent past. However, the rejuvenation shows just how resilient Mother Nature is. Then it is as if the fires suddenly stopped and the train enters a lush cave-like tunnel of green with the branches of some of the trees almost touching above us. The birch and fur trees are older, bigger and have thicker trunks that I have seen during the past two days. The terrain is changing as well. There are small hills and we seem to be climbing a little, the curves in the track are more frequent and there are frequent level crossings. Ah time to pull over on to a siding … no doubt a freight train has priority.

This Blog was written on Saturday August 19. Similar to yesterday, there is no Internet access where I am currently. As with yesterday’s Blog, it may be a day or so before this gets out to the world.

PS–I made it to Toronto, almost twelve hours late. Canada Rail was a little better organised on the ground. I had vouchers for the York Hotel, across the road from the station, and a $15 for a meal or a drink, or two. I opted for the drink. The barman lived in Adelaide and worked at Pembroke School for a year or so. My train to Montréal departs at twenty past nine Sunday morning.

 

Ten hours behind schedule…

…and I don’t really care. I’m here for thirty more hours.

The three-dozen or so passengers who boarded in Winnipeg eventually settled in around 0630 Friday morning. Thankfully I got on board before it rained, as the platform is in the open and not sealed. The staff on-board are friendly and guided me through the various aspects of the sleeping quarters. Quite compact cabins and certainly no room for other than carry-on luggage. I climbed into bed expecting to be comatosed by the clackety clack of the train over the rails. However, the train moved no more than two Km and stopped on a bridge spanning the Red River. We sat for at least another hour and I dozed.

A big breakfast was offered…mine consisted of a coffee and toast. As I returned to my ‘cell’ the train started to move and I was quickly lulled to sleep. Freight trains have the priority on the rails here. I have been surprised by the amount of freight movement by rail with the consists long (160-200 flats) and often the containers are stacked double. The passenger trains are regularly shunted off to sidings or stopped to allow freight to pass uninterrupted. So schedules for passenger services across Canada are flexible. For sure, the east-west trains do not run early.

Unlike travel by plane, people on trains move around, sit together for meals, or to have a coffee and talk. The majority seem to be retired, but there are younger travellers as well. Apparently there are some other Aussies on-board, but I haven’t caught up with them as yet. People are friendly, chat and are inquisitive about Australia. Talking to an almost captured audience, they are interested in my research and oral history in general. The idea of linking their narrative to their collection of family photographs is appealing and not something that had been considered previously by any with whom I have spoken. Maybe I’m having a little influence.

The early part of this journey is over open prairie, crops, hay waiting to be bailed and small herds of cattle. The countryside is very flat and so green for the middle of summer. After some further stops to let freight through we slowly moved in to forests. Young pines, birch, cedars, maples and elms pack each side of the tracks. There are patches where a fire had swept through and the pines were dead. However, new trees are starting to reclaim their rights again. Then there are lakes–dozens of them. Small communities, holidaymakers, canoeing and fishing are common to see. However, most of the lakes are pristine with no one disturbing the tranquillity. Apparently Ontario, where we are as I type this up, has tens of thousands of lakes in its Province. I’m sitting in the upper-deck viewing lounge and the vistas are special. Green and blue, trees and water. I estimate that we are travelling at around 60 km per hour so it is a comfortable speed to take in the scenery. As I typed this we slowed to a jogging pace again–no we have stopped.

By mid afternoon the fuel tanks had to be topped up at a small hamlet, interestingly called Sioux Lookout. At a guess there would only be a few hundred people living here, including a First Nation community. While we could hop off and stretch our legs there was no time to leave the siding/station.

The journey has been in sun since about 10 am and I am still mesmerised by the number of lakes. It seems that every half a kilometre there is a new body of water, another wide creek or a swampy marsh. The service from the dining car is outstanding and the food in preparation, presentation and taste is excellent. I contemplated buying a book to read on the trip, but I am glad I didn’t. There has been much to do. Okay, some Blogging, but meeting others, mainly Americans and Canadians, some from China and India and the other elusive Australians.

After the re-fuelling I sat in the lounge car where two musicians were entertaining anyone who stopped to listen. Apparently Canada Rail provides complementary travel for entertainers between Vancouver and Toronto, if they entertain the paying customers during the journey. I spent forty minutes listening to them sing whilst playing the banjo and ukulele. It is a small, small world. We spoke between renditions of Beatles music, Gordon Lightfoot and others, plus some local folk songs as well. Perri is a classical pianist and is based with an opera company in Toronto. Phil is a sound technician and works in the Centre for Oral History and Digital Story Telling, at Concordia University, were I am heading next.

Dinner is over; I was in the first sitting. It is dark outside, the clocks have been wound forward as we travel further east and the speed of the train has picked up considerably. There must be a clear line and no slow moving freight trains. Time to pull down the bed and catch up on some sleep.

This Blog was written on Friday August 18, but there is no Internet access in the middle of Ontario. It may be a day or so before this gets out to the world.

 

Five hours at Union Station

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The update board and the time mystically changes

It had to happen. I’m stuck in the Winnipeg railway station and the passenger train is idling on some siding still three hours away. I’m not alone. There is about a dozen people are also lounging around the waiting area. At least the kids have run our of puff and have crashed into a quiet slumber. This is one busy rail route. The waiting area is under the tracks and there are extremely long consists moving in either direction every fifteen to twenty minutes.

I was told today that during the height of the cold war, Russia had nuclear missiles trained on Winnipeg as it was a strategic rail hub for North America. Hopefully mad Kim does not have the same idea.

The beautiful building dates back well over 100 years. It is typical of the rail monoliths constructed by the rail barons in the 1800s and early 1900s–grand, ornate and impressive. Many of the out buildings that were part of the rail-yards in the previous century have been restored and used as part of the Fork Historic Site. This is a cultural, historic and food area to please anyone looking for a relaxing drink, a bite to eat or some Canadian memorabilia.

 

There is an outdoor stage area that is turned in to an ice rink in winter. The adjacent Red River, (Muddy Waters)… freezes in winter also. The centre of the frozen river is cleared of any debris and skaters can glide for kilometres in either direction. Engineers check it each day to ensure it is safe.

Another hour has passed and so has the arrival time. Very quietly the time of arrival has been changed to 4am on Friday. The train is now six and a half hours late. At this rate I will not be arriving in Montreal until Sunday–24-hours later than expected.

I have put the time to good use. I had a seventy-minute power nap. Marked five PR GradDip assignments. Re-drafted a five-minute Podcast for the same class. Cleared a bunch of emails from students. Written this blog. But I need a coffee!

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After the power nap– now I need another one, it’s 2am.

Four days in Winnipeg

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Snow indicator with a fire hydrant

Winnipeg is a relaxing and enjoyable city. It is slightly bigger than my hometown of Adelaide (Australia), friendly, and warm in August. Well it is summer here and in winter they measure the snow-fall in metres and the temperature in minus degrees. The fire hydrants in the street have orange coloured indicator poles attached to them so the firies can find them in winter. Not a place I’d enjoy with that level of cold. The Canadians I have met here have been surprised that I have never seen it snow. I have seen and been in snow, but never falling from the sky.

For the tourist there are interesting things to see and do. I mentioned the Walking Trail, called the Loop in an earlier post. It took me a few hours over two days to complete the walk as there are so many interesting stop-offs on the way. The walk along the banks of the Red River and a stroll around The Forks historic site were relaxing and I got a feel for the history of the place, going back to the First Nations. If you are the more adventurous type of traveller there are canoeing, horse riding and bike riding options as well. Remember they drive on the right hand side of the road here.

Along many of the avenues there are pop-up food and drink outlets. These mobile cafes seem to work without any conflict with the bricks and mortar establishments. The range of food is interesting, from the typical hot dog and hamburger to Mexican, Vietnamese, Chinese, Greek and Italian fare. Tasty too. I guess these are not businesses that flourish in winter though.

The Canadian Museum for Human Rights is a must for any visitor here. I spent about four hours there and I still haven’t been able to Blog about it how I want. I certainly will not do it justice. May be some contemplation on the train east over the next two days will help.