July 31, 2005

Spice Boys...
We had a talent show tonight with the guides, and I was part of the Spice Boys. There is an amazing amount of talent in the group of people that I work with. We had opera, a drag king, tap dancing, original skits, violin and sax solos, and The Spice Boys.
I was part of a group of five guys that dressed up as various Spice Girls, and who danced to the song Spice Up Your Life. I was Scary Spice, ironically because I`m the least scary of all of the guys. We dressed in drag, and I ended up borrowing some fish-net stockings, and a really short skirt (it was 10 inches long, about a hand and a half, and definitely not regulation length at my old high school). I also spiked my hair, which ended up looking pretty good actually. My tétons, which were pretty big, fell out part way -all the more reason why it was funny. We did a crowd interaction bit, and got an excellent reaction all around. At the end of the song, the other guys carried me off the stage. Afterwards, everyone said how much they loved my face during the "Spice up your life!" part which I mimicked... I`ve put a photo up with my other Ottawa photos. If you want the link, let me know.
I think that we`ve lost all our credibility, and will have to chew tobacco and swear every other word for at least the next two weeks :)

July 30, 2005

Fire Alarm!!!
This morning, the fire alarm went off at work (that still sounds funny to me, knowing where I work). We weren`t sure what it was at first, but it didn`t take too long to figure it out. Everyone had to be evacuated out of the building, and the fire trucks came rushing up the hill. It turned out to be a false alarm, but it caused a lot of hassle as everyone who was on a tour had to go through security again before they could restart, which put everyone else behind. It was already busy (all English tour tickets gone for the day by 11AM), and we didn`t really need the backup.
The day was relatively uneventful otherwise. I`m heading out soon to watch the original Planet of the Apes with Kyla, whom I haven`t seen since I was in France last year when she was working as a Vimy guide. She`s back in Canada now, after working for a few months in Bristol, England.

July 29, 2005

Boat Cruise...
Last night I went on a boat cruise along the Ottawa River with a whole bunch of guides from Ottawa. Of course there were a lot of Centre Block guides (i.e. me), as well as East Block and InfoTent guides. There were also guides from the Capital Info Centre, the Royal Mint, Rideau Hall, Canada and the World Pavillion, as well as a few other smaller museums in Ottawa. There were approximately 150 people in all.
I had the late shift yesterday, so I left right after I finished work (at 8:40 PM). We took off from the Gatineau side, and danced along the Rideau River for at least 3 hours. We kept going around in circles on the river -I don`t know how many times we passed the Parliament buildings. It was a ton of fun though, and I`m glad that I went. Needless to say I`m tired this morning, but at least my first tour wasn`t as rusty as some of the other guides! I took a much needed nap during my split shift, but I`m back off to work now for the second half.

July 27, 2005

Cooling Down...
It`s finally cooling down here. It was around 20C last night, so I actually able to sleep with the big blanket again. It`s supposed to stay relatively cool (low 20`s) all week, so it looks like I`ll be wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants all week.

July 25, 2005

Back in Ottawa...
Well I`m back in Ottawa now, after a fun weekend in Montréal. Yesterday in Montréal I did some shopping along St.-Denis in the morning, and bought some CD`s (Les Cowboys Fringants!!!), and looked into a bunch of other shops. Sophia and I then checked out the McGill campus, as well as a large cathedral in downtown Montréal (Marie-Reine-du-Monde). We went to a friend of Sophia`s place for some tea, and some patisseries.
Now I`m back in Ottawa, and I`ve got 7 days straight, until my next day off. At least the week will be broken up with the boat cruise and talent show.

July 24, 2005

Montreal, Day II...
Yesterday afternoon I went for a picnic in Parc LaFontaine. It was a beautiful day, lots of sun, a slight breeze, and it was only 26C! We ate, talked, and ended up playing frisbee for a bit.
Later in the afternoon I went out and bought a French-French dictionary from a used bookstore (only $20!), as well as a French thesaurus. We then wandered through the Juste pour rire festival, and listened to a few stand-up comics, en francais, as well as saw some people acting. We waited for some of Sophia's friends near the Nuits d'Afrique (Nights of Africa) Festival, and listed to some African music for a while. A bunch of us then headed down to Vieux Port and watched the evening fireworks. It was Canada last night, and on previous Saturdays they've had various other countries performing. Canada wasn't too bad, surprisingly!

July 23, 2005

In Montréal...
I'm in Montréal, just about to head out for a picnic. I arrived yesterday with no problems, and looked around the immediate area surrounding the bus station. For lunch I had a smoked meat sandwich. Now I know why Montreal smoked meat is world-renowned!
I met up with Jelena at the bus station, and we went out for a coffee. I haven't seen her for five years, since the summer I went to Jonquiere to study French. She's working here in Montreal for the summer, doing rat neural research at Carleton.
I went for Indian buffet with Sophia, and a bunch of her friends from her linguistics masters' program. Une soirée en francais. We then headed over to another of her friends' places for a house warming party.
Today, we'll be heading to a picnic at Parc La Fontaine with some friends, then do some sight seeing in the afternoon.

July 22, 2005

I`ve got my bus ticket in hand, and I`m stepping out the door. I`m on my way to Montréal this weekend to visit Sophia and Jelena. I`ve never been to Montréal before, so I`m looking forward to it. I`ll update when I get back on Sunday evening.

July 20, 2005

Meeting Mobina...
Today Camille and I met with Mobina Jaffer, one of the six British Colombian senators. We were able to meet with her for 30 minutes before the caucus meetings this morning.
She`s got an amazing story, having grown up in Uganda, but becoming a refugee in the 1970`s and ending up in Canada. She was educated in Law in England, and worked as a lawyer for many years in Vancouver.
As a senator, she was the first East Indian, first African, and first Muslim appointed to the Canadian Senate. Working as the Canadian Special Envoy for Peace in Sudan, she recently returned from the Sudan, and will be returning in a week for the remainder of the summer. Currently she`s working on the Anti-Terrorism Act (special), Official Languages, Internal Economy, and the Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament committees.
She was incredibly nice, and had some interesting insights and stories. One of the interesting things that Mobina had to say was that it`s a shame that more people in BC don`t speak French, and how it`s almost an educational tragedy. She was also very kind, thanking us for having made the effort to contact her, and making a point (several times) of telling us to stay in touch with her.

July 19, 2005

Team Dessert Party...
Last night after work was l'Équipe Avenir`s (my team`s) dessert party. We all brought desserts to share, so I baked a chocolate brownie cheesecake (it turned out pretty well). In all there were two cheesecakes, Timbits, a Skor cake, ice cream and chocolate sauce, French patisseries, popsicles, and Bailey`s. I stuffed myself with dessert; I probably had too much. It was nice to get together as a whole team, and laugh for a few hours.

July 18, 2005

100% Humidity...
I didn`t know that such a thing was possible but there`s 100% humidity now, as well as yesterday, here in Ottawa. You almost expect to see a fish swim right in front of you. When it`s this humid, it actually makes it difficult to breath.
Even though it`s only 23C outside at 8AM right now, the humidex pushes that up to feeling like 34C (93F)! It`s supposed to get a fair amount warmer than that today.

July 17, 2005

Egyptian Festival...
Yesterday I went to the Egyptian Festival at St. Mary`s Coptic Orthodox Church here in Ottawa. They had an Egyptian bazaar, tours of the church, and good Egyptian food (I had kofta in a pita). The church was really beautiful and filled with icons, and it was cool to learn a bit about the Coptic Church, as I knew virtually nothing about it before.

July 16, 2005

The Cup...
Last night I met up with Sophia (from Vancouver/Montréal) and two of her friends from here in Ottawa at Centretown Movies (an outdoor movie theatre) where we watched The Cup. It`s a movie filmed by a Bhutanese Rimpoche about a group of young monks obsessed with the World Cup.
Afterwards we went to Pub Italia, which is a cool place in Little Italy, and we got a table on the patio. I was shocked and delighted to learn that they had Kriek Cerise on tap! It was a really nice evening, and it was nice to see Sophia before I go visit her next weekend in Montréal.

July 14, 2005

Last night we had a bit of thunder and lightning -at least 2 hours of it. The lightning lit up the whole sky, except for the rare but huge bolts of glowing light that shot down from the sky. The thunder cracked, and boomed off the buildings. We`ve had thunder and lightning here before, but not like that. Apparently it gets even better (i.e. more) in August! Back on the West Coast we don`t get thunder and lightning like this -the humidity makes for a good show.

July 13, 2005

Heat Warning...
There`s a heat warning for Ottawa -again. A heat warning is if the humidex is going to be over 40C for two days in a row or more. One thing that I hate about the heat is that it makes it impossible to sleep; I just roll around all night feeling uncomfortable. Even the fan doesn`t make much difference with the humidity.
Even the guard in the bear-skin hats goes inside if it goes over 36C! I think it`s about time I get a glass of water.

July 11, 2005

National Gallery...
Today I visited the National Gallery of Canada. Because of my job as a tour guide, I can get into all of the Ottawa museums for free! I even managed to get into the Renaissance in Florence exhibit for free, even though temporary exhibits aren`t usually included (it helps to have connections).
The Renaissance exhibit was quite impressive, and reminded me of my time in Italy. I looked through a lot of the permanent exhibit, but I`ll have to go back to see the rest of it. I didn`t even get to look through the First Nations art. I don`t really "get" modern art. There was one painting that was yellow on the top, and red on the bottom. That`s it. Nothing else.
It`s become hot again, so it was nice to spend about 3 hours in the air-conditioned museum.
The local strawberries are out, and they`re incredibly good. I went to Byward Market, the local market, and bought some fresh strawberries from one of the stands. They`re so incredibly tasty and juicy -I almost half of them on my way to the grocery store!

July 09, 2005

The BEP...
Last night, after rafting, I went to listen in on the Black Eyed Peas (Les Pois aux yeux noirs) concert here in Ottawa. They were playing as part of Bluesfest. Although I didn`t have tickets (too expensive), I nudged up to the fence, and could see the screen from outside. I didn`t catch the whole concert, but I heard "Where is the love?", and "Shut up", which were both great.

July 08, 2005

White Water Rafting...
Today I went white water rafting with 6 other guides (Monic, Mélanie, Marc, Meena, Shannon, and Graham). We were picked up around 7:15 in the morning, and were driven up the Ottawa River (Rivière de l'Outaouais). We spent about 2.5 hours in the morning rafting through various rapids (the largest being a class 5), before having lunch. After lunch, we spent another 2 hours rafting and we even did a cliff jump.
It was tonnes of fun and I`d go again, though on a different river.
On one of the rapids our whole raft tipped, spilling everyone into the river. This was fine (we were all wet anyway), except that I was wearing shoes which made it almost impossible to swin -just think of lead balloons attached to your feet. I ended up going through the next, yet much smaller, set of rapids on my own, holding my breath. I fared OK, apart from a gulp or two of water, but Graham didn`t. He got a deep gash just above his knee that was quite deep, and had to be treated. If they were closer to town they would have given him 1-2 stitches, but they had to use a temporary treatment since we were in the middle of no-where. It`s all part of the adventure, and I guess that`s part of the reason why we signed the liability waver at the start of the trip.

July 07, 2005

Saudi Royals...
I was working in the Peace Tower this afternoon, when I got to take up several members of the Saudi royal family. I doubt that they were high ranking, as there are over 3000 members of the Saudi royal family, but it was still cool. A Senator came into the elevator first and said, "Bonjour jeune homme, ceci sont des membres de la famille royale de l'Arabie saüdite". Gulp. They were nice though, and one of them asked me if I ever get claustrophobic, or tired of going up and down.
In other news, there was a terrible attack in London, that killed at least 37 people, and injured over 700. The Peace Tower flag is flying at half-mast in remembrance.

July 06, 2005

Les Trois Accords...
I bought a CD a day or two ago, and it`s got to be one of the funniest ones that I`ve ever heard. It`s by a group called Les Trois Accords, a French group from Québec, and the album is "Gros Mammouth Album turbo", with a large mammouth on the front. It includes the smash single (I`m serious, it was huge in Québec) called "Saskatchewan". Quite honestly, the singing sucks, but the music is great! It`s incredibly catchy, and the lyrics are funny.
Here`s a sample of some lyrics from a few of the songs, starting with Loin d'ici (Far from here):
Fr -Quand je vois ton visage, Je pense à ton nom, Et à tes cheveux, Ils finissent exactement là où commence ton front...
En -When I see your face, I think of your name, And of your hair, Which ends exactly where your forehead begins...
Another example from the song Vraiment beau (Really beautiful):
Fr -Tu étais vraiment beau, Avec ta moustache... Et lorsqu'il faisait chaud, Elle te faisait de l'ombrage, Et lorsqui'il faisait moins zéro, Elle recouvrait ton visage...
En -You were really handsome, With your moustach... And when it was hot, It gave you shade, And when it was below zero, It covered your face...
I could give you more examples, but I`m sure that you get the point. But seriously, I`ve got one of their songs stuck in my head, and I can`t get it out. "Hawaienne, J'aurais voulu que tu soé Hawaienne..."

July 04, 2005

Old Friends...
On Saturday night I met up with an old friend, Emily, who I met in Jonquière about five years ago, while I was there studying French. We were supposed to meet up with Chantal, another friend from Jonquière, but she had appendicitis and was in the hospital (we just learned today). Emily and I had dinner at a cool little Italian place, which makes their own pasta and sauce. It was incredibly good -reminds me of Italy!
One problem with the humidity here in Ottawa is that it carries germs and bacteria really well. I don`t think that I`ve ever been so sick in my life as I have while I`ve been in Ottawa. I`ve only had two small colds, but many of the guides have gotten the stomach flu, various colds, and have lost their voices many times. I`m just lucky that I haven`t flat out lost my voice. I`ve come close too many times to count.
But I guess that speaking to large groups of people in a noisy building, and dealing with the public all day can do that to you.

July 01, 2005

Fêtons le Canada! Happy Canada Day!
Today, July 1st, is the 138th anniversary of Canada (Confederation was on July 1st, 1867). So, happy Canada Day!
I started the morning off by going to Parliament Hill, and lining up against the fence, by the red carpet and the Centennial Flame, so I got a front row view of all of the events. At 9 there was a parade along Wellington, just in front of the Parliament buildings. The raising of the flag was at 9:30, at 10:00 the changing of the guard, at 10:35 the RCMP Musical Ride. The musical ride was really cool. It`s amazing the precision the horses and riders maintain. Around 11:10 the Air Force Command Pipes and Drums played along the red carpet, and stopped right in front of me to play for 15 minutes. I love the bagpipes.
The PM and Governor General arrived just after noon, and walked down the carpet in front of me. I tried to take a photo, but there ended up being the head of a security guard in the way. Oh well.
I then went for a chicken burger in Major Hill`s Park, before going back to the Hill to listen to part of the noon day concert. I got to hear Mary Jane Lamond, who`s a really cool Gaelic artist from Cape Breton.
I went for a BBQ with a bunch of the guides in the Sandy Hill area, which was a lot of fun. We all hung out for a couple of hours, before slowly making our way back to the Hill for the evening concert.
The concert was pretty good, but we watched most of it on the big screen TV`s. It was still fun though, with everyone around, and it was a beautiful night. We watched the fireworks from near the locks, before heading for some snacks at a restaurant. There were so many people everywhere. It was a much bigger party than Paris was for Bastille Day (the French national holiday). There were at least several hundred thousand people out on the streets -all of the downtown core was shut down to traffic.
Happy Canada Day! Fêtons le Canada!