All summer long, I bumped into canvassers wearing emblazoned binders and vests with the logo of the charity they were working for. “Do you have a minute for the environment?” some ask plaintively. “I don’t bite, come closer!” others plead.
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I admit it, I suck at buying souvenirs. First, I often don’t have room in my luggage. Second, most souvenirs are not exactly useful and can be downright tacky. What’s the point of spending money on trinkets that will just collect dust at home?
Recently, one reader asked me what Canadian souvenirs I would recommend visitors to buy.
Whether they are BlackBerry, iPhones, Android, smart phones or mobile devices… everybody’s got one.
Ottawa seems to be partial to BlackBerry though, probably because Research In Motion (RIM), the telco company who invented the device, is Canadian, has contracts with the government and is a big employer in Ottawa.
I’m very ashamed to say that, for the past…er, 8 years, the pumpkin carving duty was often performed by my Chinese in-laws.
But this year, we decided to tackle the chore.
Cut me some slack, okay? Back in the days, October 31st was just a regular day in France—no pumpkin, no sugar-high kids, no candies.
North Americans take Halloween seriously. As soon as the back-to-school displays are gone, they are replaced by gooey candies and a wide range of merchandises sporting skulls, bats, pumpkins, skeletons and the like. Be afraid, be very afraid…
My story with Canadian cinema didn’t start very well. When I first came here, Feng dragged me to see Men with Brooms. Keeping in mind I barely spoke English and didn’t know much about Canada, I automatically assumed it was a comedy about… guys doing housekeeping, a bit like Mrs. Doubtfire. Well, turned out it was a movie about curling. I didn’t even know curling was a sport.
Last Saturday began “Occupy Ottawa”, a movement modelled on the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations in New York. Lots of people showed up at Confederation Park despite the cold and the rain and it was very interesting to watch. I stayed there most of the afternoon for the General Assembly during which were voted the basics of the movement (where, why, how etc.).
Right after it was announced Steve Jobs passed away, the Apple Store at the Rideau Centre became an impromptu memorial to his legacy. It started with one post-it note, then two, three… and now the entire glass door that separate the two entrances is covered with little notes, some witty or empathic, written in different languages.
Recently, an unbelievable story made the headlines in France. For three year, a number of internauts supported Noa, a bubbly seventeen-year old blogger, in her fight against cancer. One day, Noa passes away from the illness, announces Salomé, her twin sister. Salomé, a ski champion, starts blogging as well and gathers quite a following among people still distraught by Noa’s tragic death.
In Ottawa, the gathering takes place today on Parliament Hill and Major Hill. When the clock on the Peace Tower strikes 4:20, bam, light up your spliff and enjoy—just make sure you don’t burn a passing RCMP Officer with your lit joint (guess what, Parliament Hill is not exactly cop-free).
How can you translate something that doesn’t actually exist in your home country? Most French will understand “Halloween” or “Thanksgiving” (thank you Hollywood!) but chances are a lot have never heard of “Boxing Day” or “Tailgates parties”. I know I hadn’t anyway.
It’s spring, flowers are blooming, the grass is green and… nope actually. Sorry, I was dreaming. It’s still cold and the only thing that seems to be growing these days are campaign signs. These big pieces of cardboard, commonly known as “lawn signs”, popped up magically the night after the federal elections were announced and are now spreading across the country. In fact, some signs were even up before the election was called!
I’m such a lucky girl. Sometimes, I get out-of-the-blue emails from strangers all around the world who want to share their life saving with me, or simply want to give me money.
And look at what I recently received: a job offer! In Canada! I couldn’t resist sharing it with you.After all, I may be the only person in the entire world who received it. Told you I was lucky.
Of all the frauds and scams around, identity theft is probably one of the scariest of all. It’s sneaky and the consequences can be huge, not to mention that clearing the whole mess up can be Kafkaesque. How to prove that someone else assumes your identity? How to prove that you are not responsible for your fraudulent alter ego’s actions? The consequences of this crime can be felt for years.
So, here the big news: on Friday, the government fell. On Saturday, Harper met with the Governor General who agreed to dissolve Parliament. Placards grew overnight on front lawns and we are heading to the polls again on May 2nd, 2011.
When I first came to live in Canada, Feng got a job working in a movie theatre. We were two penniless travelers and the perspective was very exciting: a job! Free movies! And so we started going to the movies regularly, thanks to the free passes Feng got at work.
I work in a cubicle and it’s fairly common to overhear phone conversations. When I first started working there, I would always hear my co-workers begging IT Services for help: “Can you reset my password?” “Seriously people”, I thought, “how hard is it to remember variations on your birth date?”
On this cold Saturday, hundreds of Canadians gathered on Parliament Hill, right in front of the Peace Tower, to march in solidarity with the people pushing for democracy in Libya and Yemen. The protesters peacefully called for the end of the Gadhafi regime in Libya and a loosening of oppression in Yemen. Despite worrying reports from Libya where violence escalade and demonstrators clash with Gadhafi ‘s brutal security forces, people were optimistic in Ottawa and hoped for a better future.
The difference between European coffee and North American coffee can be illustrated by the cup: in the old world, you sit down for hours sipping a concentrate of the precious beverage in a thimble-size cup, a small piece of sugar and a square of dark chocolate in the saucer. In the new world, you line-up for a mega-size of super-hot coffee served in a large disposable paper cup.
I got my first health card in 2005 when I became a permanent resident. This gave me the right to benefit from the many health care services paid for by OHIP, the Ontario Health Assurance Plan. Unfortunately, the card didn’t come with the following warning, which I think should be mandatory: “the quality of care is excellent but good luck accessing the system”.
I don’t get Halloween. Even though some of the earliest Halloween traditions started in Europe, we didn’t celebrate it at all when I was a kid in France. It was primarily a North American tradition we knew about because of the U.S. horror movies. But about 15 years ago, Halloween saw a resurgence in popularity in France with the help of a huge marketing campaign led by major American companies such as McDonalds’, Eurodisney and Coke.
Whenever Canada wants to commemorate, celebrate or simply show its artistic side, it releases a new quarter. An Anniversary of the Confederation, the Millennium, the Olympics, Canada Day… there is a new quarter minted with a special reverse design for a ton of occasions.
As the saying goes, “the road to hell is paved with good intention”. But for Canadians, the saying takes a very deep and literal meaning in the spring.
A popular Canadian joke claims that there are only two seasons in Canada: winter and construction. Indeed, after our long and harsh winters, crews of construction workers are dispatched all over Canada to tackle new projects, fix the roads and repair the many cracks in the pavement.
A while ago, I was visiting Gean’s blog when I noticed an intriguing banner: “Lend $25, change a life. Get $25 back and lend it again. Change another life.” I clicked on the banner and I was directed to Kiva.
I learned that Kiva’s mission was to: “empower individuals to lend to an entrepreneur across the globe”.