May 31, 2005

I`ve got today off, so I decided to go to IKEA for their $1 breakfast. I bought myself some cheap plant potters, so that I can grow some basil and peppers over the summer, and green up my room a bit. On the way out I bought some Swedish chocolate; I swear that it`s seriously under-rated. I also got a cinnamon bun and some Swedish coffee -also really good -and had a little snack outside on the grass and under the sun.
They`re predicting a thunder storm later today...

May 29, 2005

5 Pin...
Last night, after a long, hard day of accueil and elevator rides, I went out to play 5 pin bowling with a bunch of the other guides. There were between 20 and 25 of us who actually went bowling (it`s more fun with lots of people). The bowling alley was all in black lights, and they had disco/90`s dance music playing. When MJ`s Thriller came on, five people got up and started to do the dance in sinc. It was hilarious, and they were all pretty good too (maybe you had to be there to see it!).

May 27, 2005

Palestinian Visit...
Today the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, came to Canada and visited Paul Martin. Guess who was working on the Hill? Yup, I was working on the front when his 15 car motorcade rolled in. Let`s just say it was rather impressive! Abbas` limo rolled right up under the Peace Tower, where he jumped out of the limo, and was followed by his security, as well as a lot of aides and other memebers of his staff.
I thought that security would be a bit annoyed with the guides who were working outside, but they were really nice to us before and during his visit (then my shift ended, so I didn`t see him leave).
I also saw a groundhog on the grass in front of the building -I`ve never seen a groundhog before, so I thought it was cool.

May 26, 2005

Six Days de Suite...
Yesterday was my first of six days of work in a row. I swear that my voice will be gone by the end of them. "Hello! Bonjour! Est-ce que je peux vous aider? Can I help you?" And then it goes on from there. Or the tours, when I have to project my voice to 50 people in a large foyer.
Now I know why they won`t let you work more than 7 days in a row!
One thing that I like about the work is that it`s interesting meeting people from all over the place. On the weekend, there was an Austrian convention in town, so 200 Austrians (including members of Austrian clubs in Canada and the US) came through Parliament, many dressed up in traditional costume!
I also had a cool French public tour yesterday with only 6 people on it. I stopped by Romeo Leblanc`s portrait (the First Acadian speaker of the Senate), because I knew that two of the members were from New-Brunswick. It turns out that they used to live three houses away from him.

May 23, 2005

Comment Cards...
As with most places, Parliament Hill has comment cards available for guests to fill out. Despite having only done 3 days of tours (and only 7 tours in those 3 days), I`ve had two guests fill out comment cards. They were both favourable. The first (a lady from Santa Barbara, California) wrote about how friendly everyone on The Hill is. The second was a girl from Germany who said how knowledgeable her guide (me) was, and how you`d have to pay 10Euro in Berlin for a similar tour of the Reichstag.

***So, feel free to comment on my blog (hint, hint). It`s not that hard to do. You just click on the comment link below a post, and type in your comment/reaction/rage/question, etc.

May 21, 2005

Tulip Festival, and Haunted Walk...
I went to Dows Lake, where there are a lot of tulips that are part of the Tulip Festival here in Ottawa. There are over a million tulips in Ottawa, as part of a tradition started when Ottawa housed the Dutch Royal family during WWII. To show their gratitude, Princess Margriet sends over tulip bulbs every year. She was actually in town last weekend, to look at the tulips, and to remember the Canadians who died during the liberation of Holland.
Last night I went out for Korean food with my friend Jane, and her boyfriend Jesse, whom I met for the first time. The food was amazing, and it was great to meet Jesse, whom I`ve heard so much about.
After dinner, Jane and I went on the Haunted Walk of Ottawa. Alexa, a friend of mine, is a tour guide there so she was able to get us free tickets! I was hoping to take the tour with her, but there weren`t enough people, so we took the tour with a friend of hers.
I wasn`t really scared, until we went into the top floor of the Old Carleton County Jail, which is now actually a Youth Hostel where you can spend the night (but not on the top floor, because it`s haunted and very few people have been able to spend the whole night there -many have left screaming in the middle of the night). We saw the old gallows, where there were three public hangings. There was a man on the tour who was a total skeptic, but after standing in front of the death row cell, he went totally white and got really freaked out. Yah, I wouldn`t want to spend the night there.
I`ve taken a few photos, and just posted them online.

May 20, 2005

Crazy Day(s)...
It`s been a busy two days at Parliament.
On Wednesday and Thursday I was working Accueil (welcoming people to Parliament and directing human traffic) and the Peace Tower. On Wednesday I got to see the Attorney General of the US, Alberto Gonzales, as I was working under the Peace Tower when his entourage (including security) answered a few media questions, and then went into Parliament. That was my brush with fame, lol. I also saw Hedy Fry, a Liberal MP from Vancouver, and exchanged a few words with David Kilgour, an independent MP who had considerable power in last nights confidence votes.
Yesterday was busy for totally different reasons. Besides the daily protesters, more protesters started to arrive around 2. There was a big banner outside that read "Happy Retirement Paul!" I bet they were surprised.
The building was closed to tourists from 4 to 7, due to the voting in the evening, and the number of people who wanted to attend question period and the votes in the evening (no, I didn`t have the right to vote last night, it was only for elected Members of Parliament). We had a 2 hour long line for security, one hour before question period. My shift at Accueil started at 10, and there were already people lining up then for the 308 available seats in the gallery.
Later in the evening, there was more-or-less a countdown until the vote. Luckily I was off work at 6 (the doors to the gallery were locked at 5:45, as no one can enter or leave during voting), so I got to go into Centre Block and watch the non-confidence vote on TV inside Parliament.

May 18, 2005

Pay Day!!!
Today was my first pay day, and I actually got paid on time, with no delays!
You might wonder why I`m so excited that I got paid, but if you remember when I was working in France, I started in October, and didn`t get my first regular pay cheque until the end of January.
Thank You Canadian Bureaucrats For Your Efficiency!

May 17, 2005

First Day!
Today was my first actual day on the job, as a Parliamentary tour guide.
The morning started out with a gr. 8 school tour from Guelph (near Toronto). It actually went better than expected, as the lady with the educational tour company warned me about them. Apparently the teachers were "on vacation", and I had to watch out for the kid in the red shorts. When I asked anyone if they could guess why the House of Commons is green, the kid in the red shorts said "because it was the kings favourite colour!" and laughed thinking that he was making a wise-crack. Little did he know, but that`s one of the theories. He wasn`t a problem after that :)
Just after the tour, one of the bosses came into the guide lounge and said, " Belinda Stronach just crossed the floor" (from Conservative to Liberal). All of us political nerds went into action, theorizing how that will affect the vote of confidence on Thursday, and if that will keep the government from falling, and...
Then I had an English public tour with about 50 people on it, from Scotland, England, Israel, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, as well as all over Canada and the US. It was a lot of fun, and I think it went pretty well. At the end, an American woman and her husband came up and took a photo of me for their scrapbook!
After lunch, I had a French public tour, which was much smaller, yet I was a lot more nervous. Because both the House of Commons and the Senate were sitting, we could only go into the Hall of Honour, and the LRV (Library Replacement Visit). They were all great, except for one guy who kept asking questions in English, and complained about having to go through security. At least they all gave me a round of applause at the end of the tour.

May 16, 2005

Bubble Tea, and Laundry...
Yesterday I met up with Jane, a friend of mine from high school who`s studying out here. We went out for bubble tea -I had mint, which I won`t ever have again because it tastes a bit like mouth wash. I should have stuck with the traditional fruit flavours.
I recently watched "Le dîner de cons", which is an excellent French comedy. You`ve got to love French humour! The premise is that every week a group of friends hold a dinner where they bring the stupidest person they can find, and choose an "idiot of the evening". However, Pierre doesn`t make it to the dinner, after hurting his back. His "invite" ends up at his place, and things go downhill from there...
After my laundry is done, I think that I`m going to head to the Parliament buildings and take a look around again before my first tour tomorrow morning. I thought my first tour was on Wednesday, and that I was doing Acceuil and the Peace Tower tomorrow. Turns out I had them reversed.

May 14, 2005

Busy, Busy, Busy...
I`ve been so busy that I haven`t been able to even check my emails in a few days (which is very unusual for me).
On Thursday evening I had coffee with Chantal, a friend of mine here in Ottawa that I haven`t seen in about five years. We met in Jonquière, on the Summer Language Bursary Program thing. Another friend of ours from Jonquière is in Toronto, and will probably come up some time during the summer.
Yesterday evening was the "Passing of the Torch" from the winter tour guides to the summer ones. We had pizza in the Reading Room of Centre Block (where the fire of 1916 started), and then the old guides did skits mocking the IOs (Interpretation Officers -our bosses). After the pizza, most of us headed out to a local establishment for refreshments. I was so happy that they actually had Leffe Blonde!
This morning all of us guides went on a tour of the city of Ottawa (and crossed into Hull, Québec), and found out lots of cool tidbits of info about the city from the IOs. For example, we drove over the vaults that hold most of Canada`s gold, as well as the gold of 7 other countries (I don`t know which ones those are though). We then had a tour of Rideau Hall (the Governor General`s residence) before having a potluck in West Block (I love this being able to have parties in the Parliament buildings!).
The whole group of tour guides this summer seems to be really cool (despite some of them being nerds). Part of our training has been doing stupid skits to demonstrate different parts of good (and bad) guiding. Let`s just say that you have to be able to laugh at yourself... It`s been fun though. My first day of work is on Tuesday, out front and in the Peace Tower. My first real tour is on Wednesday morning.

May 11, 2005

Fall of the Government of Canada?!?
In short -not yet.
Last night there was a vote held, which the government lost. Because the vote wasn`t one of confidence, it doesn`t mean that the government has to dissolve. (However, the opposition insists that it was a vote of confidence). The vote was for a report going to a committee, and the committee (majority Liberals and NDP) probably won`t adopt the report. A vote of confidence is only for budget bills, bills that the Government declares of confidence, or bills dealing with the Constitution. The amendment voted upon last night wasn`t for any of these types of bills.
Today we got to ask questions to the Clerks of the House of Commons and the Senate, which was a lot more interesting than it sounds! Of course, we asked about the vote last night. They said what I just wrote, but in a lot more detail.
However, there`ll be a vote of confidence next week (May 18th) on the Government Budget. If the government looses that vote, then it could fall, and an election called (assuming that the Governor General doesn`t try to get the Conservatives and Bloc Québécois to form a government).
The President of Mali visited Parliament today, so there were Mali flags flying with the Canadian ones on Confederation Boulevard. Unfortunately I didn`t get to see him enter Parliament, because I had to get back to the training session (I missed him by 20 minutes).

May 10, 2005

One Week...
It`s scary to think, but in one week I`ll be giving tours of Canada`s Parliament! I think (hope?) that I`ll be ready for it.
Today we got to meet Alexa McDonough, the former leader of the New Democratic Party of Canada, and yesterday we met Senator Joyal (an important senator).
The weather has been so nice here lately -it was between 25 and 27 degrees Celsius today! We all had lunch outside on the lawn of Parliament today.

May 08, 2005

I Was on TV!
This morning I went to the ceremony for the 60th anniversary of VE Day (the end of WWII in Europe) here in Ottawa. My parents actually saw me in the crowd as the camera panned by (I saw myself on the big screen TV, but didn`t know that was what CBC was broadcasting nationwide). The ceremony was very good.
After, the veterans did a parade down the street, and we all waved and clapped for them. They also brought out the old WWII tanks, and put veterans on them!

May 07, 2005

Cora`s & NWM...
I had breakfast today at Cora`s, with Alexa and Adeline, two friends living in Ottawa that I met while I was living in Lille, France, and they were working as tour guides at Vimy Ridge. I had a huge breakfast -the serving sizes at Cora`s are huge! I`ve wanted to go to Cora`s since 2nd year French class, when I read an article about it in L'Actualité.
After breakfast, the three of us headed to the National War Museum, which just opened today (they were giving out free DVDs, so I grabbed one). It was an amazing museum, one of the best that I`ve seen. It was surprisingly neutral in it`s history (i.e. they mentioned the internments, conscription problems, and the Winnipeg General Strike of 1919). We looked through most of the museum, but were too tired to see the rest of it. They had a lot of various military vehicles, even had one of Hitler`s cars. It was great to see Adeline and Alexa again.
Tomorrow morning I`m planning on going to the ceremony at the National War Memorial (near Parliament), in remembrance of the 60th anniversary of VE Day (Victory in Europe -May 8, 1945).

May 06, 2005

One week of training down...
Well, my first week of training is done (I`ve got one more before I start my actual job). It's been a really fun week, and yet I`m dead tired at the same time. Wè've done a lot of cool things, and learned a lot as well. The last time I took any history was five years ago, so the Canadian history lecture today was really helpful. I`m looking forward to sleeping in tomorrow, but I won`t be slacking off the whole weekend. There`s always stuff to do in this town. And, I need to go into Centre Block, and look around a bit while learning about the various paintings, and sculptures.

May 05, 2005

Ed Norton...
OK, I don`t know what it is, but whenever I head back East, people think I look like Edward Norton (the actor). I`ve gotten that comment several times since I arrived! Lily will laugh hard ( a l'air de Ed Norton, avec le coup de cheveau de Jason Priestly..., lol).
So much...
So much has happened in the past few days, I don`t know where to start (again!) The other day at lunch, I saw Jack Layton (the leader of the New Democratic Party) in the cafeteria, as well as Mike Duffy (a TV Parliamentary reporter -he`s fatter in life than on TV!).
This morning I had breakfast with the Speaker of the Senate, the bearer of the mace, and the sergeant at Arms. They were all really cool, the food was amazing, and the room, well, incredible. I also got to see (and take a photo of myself beside) the table on which Canada`s constitution was signed in 1982 by Trudeau and Queen Elizabeth II.
The day before we had coffee with the Speaker of the House of Commons, who was also very nice, and quite short! Today I got to sit in on part of Question Period. It was almost like a circus, with the various parties yelling, booing, cheering, heckling. We were allowed to sit in the press gallery, because the main public seats were full. It always helps to flash an official badge! I attended part of a remembrance ceremony on the Hill this afternoon for the 60th anniversary of the holocaust, with the leaders of all the political parties, some of the survivors, and the Ambassador of Israel.
The training hasn`t been too intense, but there`s a lot of material to read, and learn. It`s a good challenge though. Tomorrow I have to give a mock tour stop at the Library of Parliament, to an ESL tour group.
All of the guides have also been given a pay raise, which is always appreciated! All of the guides are really cool -it`s going to be a cool summer!

May 02, 2005

I'm In Ottawa!
I made it to Ottawa, really late on Saturday. As I was walking to the luggage carasel, I noticed that Stockwell Day was walking behind me (the former leader of the opposition party). I saw him again today while having lunch at the cafeteria in West Block.
I got more-or-less settled in on Sunday, and my flatemates showed me how to get to the mall, grocery store, and to Parliament. Then I wandered around the Parliament buildings for a while.
Later on Sunday evening I went to Parliament, for a chocolate fondu, and meet-the-other-guides event. The Parliamentary kitchen makes good cookies and fondu! I met lots of cool and interesting people from around the country, including my French profs daughter, and a guy that my dad taught in high school. Then we went down to the House of Commons, and sat in the seats, and were given a little pep talk, before being broken down into our smaller groups (7 people and one interpretation officer).
Lots of cool stuff today too:
-sat in the Senate
-I got my security clearance
-Got my nifty uniform
-Had lunch at Parliament
-got a 3" binder full of stuff to read through
-and lots of other cool things too, I`m just too tired to keep typing...