Happy Easter, everybody! Hope everyone has a wonderful Easter.
Good Friday and Easter Monday are holidays here in Ottawa, so the embassy is closed for both of them, which makes for a four-day weekend for me. The weather has been really nice, so it’s been a nice break, but there’s still a lot of snow laying around and I really wish it would just go away so we could move on with spring and summer weather.
However, as part of the holiday weekend, a lot of stores were closed in Ottawa on Good Friday. After driving by four very obviously closed grocery stores, I went home and decided that I’d just go shopping on Saturday, even though there were a few things I really wanted on Friday. However, after awhile, I remembered that the rules were a bit different in Quebec and did a little googling and found grocery stores that were open over there. Success! So, I went over to Hull to go grocery shopping and got what I was after. 🙂
That makes two trips to Quebec this week, since I also went to Montreal for the day on Wednesday for a few work meetings. Montreal was really neat and I’ll have to go back on my own sometime when I can do some sightseeing and not just run from meeting to meeting.
I also took the train for the first time in Canada on my trip to Montreal. I’ve taken plenty of trains in Europe when I lived in Germany and Belgium, but this was my first time to take a train in North America. It worked really well and was a lot easier than dealing with parking, driving in an unfamiliar city, etc.
So, I learned today that pandas arrive by FedEx. I’d never really thought about how pandas get from China to wherever else they go, but apparently they travel on their very own Panda Express plane. Why did I learn this, you may ask. Well, I couldn’t help it. You see, two pandas arrived in Toronto today and it was allllllll over the news. And who can blame them? Pandas are darn cute.
The two FedEx-ed pandas arrived in Toronto today and Prime Minister Harper even signed for them. They’ll live in Toronto for five years and then move to Calgary for another five years.
I saw my first motorcade in Ottawa this week. The French Prime Minister was visiting Ottawa and I saw his motorcade zip by as I was on my way to work. It didn’t delay me too much and I haven’t seen one here, so it was kind of fun and exciting to see it.
Ottawa and Washington have a lot in common since they’re both capital cities with lots of museums, festivals, government employees, etc. However, Ottawa is smaller and also seems a lot more laid back. There’s not quite the hype around important people, security is less intense, and, as evidenced by this being the first time I’ve seen a motorcade here, there are a lot fewer motorcades. So, there are a lot of the same benefits of being in Washington without some of the downsides of DC like the traffic, security setups, and motorcades.
Now, a few pictures of the preparations:
Putting up French and Canadian flags to prepare for the French PM’s visit.
Putting up French and Canadian flags to prepare for the French PM’s visit
Sometimes, I wonder what life in the Foreign Service was like before the internet.
I spent a year in Germany as an exchange student in the late 1990s. Only one of my four host families had internet connections set up at home and it was dial up. I only stayed with them for about a month, but I’d go back to their house after school once or twice a week to check e-mail. I’d log on, download my e-mails, type responses offline, then log back on to send them, since it cost per minute for both the internet and phone use. I talked with my parents on the phone every two weeks or so and mostly just sent letters or e-mails to friends.
When I was in Germany, I’d sometimes go to the train station in town to find English-language magazines. Since U.S. television and movies were dubbed into German on television and in movie theatres, it was a BIG DEAL when another exchange student got ahold of a movie in English. I had very few ways to get U.S.-specific products like Dr Pepper, (decent) salsa, etc. Kraft Macaroni and Cheese was like gold.
Now, part of the reason my life was so different is because I was a 16 year old student then and I was living with German families who had to adapt to their lives and I’m a 30-something professional living on my own and can make more of my own decisions now, but a lot of it has to do with how technology has made so many things different. I have a laptop that I can take with me to post easily. I now have 24/7 internet access that’s fast enough that I can stream U.S. movies and TV shows online. I can chat online with friends around the world, keep up with them on Facebook, or call them over the internet. I can even video chat if I want to see their face! If I’m craving a U.S. product, I can often order it online instead of having to go on a wild goose chase around town and then having to pay 3x the normal price for a stale product.
So, I wonder what life was like in the Foreign Service before internet access became so common. Did people order a lot more things by catalog? Just make do with local products? Did people call home less frequently or did they use the IVG a lot? Did they also swap U.S. movies because they were hard to come by? It’d be interesting to know and one of these days I should really get around to asking one of my coworkers who experienced the Foreign Service before the internet came on to the scene.
Even the Canadians I talk to have said that this was a cold and snowy winter this year. However, I may be getting ahead of myself, but I think that Spring is starting to sneak up on Ottawa. It hasn’t been below 0F in a couple of weeks, it’s actually gotten above freezing for several days in a row, the snow is slowly melting, and to top it all off, I saw a squirrel on my way to work last week. So, it looks like spring is starting to arrive in Ottawa, though I’m sure it’ll be awhile before I’m running around in flip flops. Still, it’s nice to see the weather improving a bit and to not have to put on quite as many layers each time I want to leave the house.
Alas, Posterous has decided to discontinue its blog service after April 30th. So, I’ve decided to move my blog to WordPress, since it has a nice interface and would let me import my old posts. Unfortunately, misplacedtexan and several variations of it were already taken, so I settled on texpatica since life in the Foreign Service makes me an expat and I’m from Texas. Texpat was already taken, so I went with Texpatica to cover all things Texpat. I hope you enjoy the new space and format. I may be tweaking things over the next few days and please let me know if something’s not working right. 🙂
Filed under Texas, Texpat