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Last day à Montréal

(A word about the image above…I walked by this pile of snow each day when I went to UQAM. I thought it was so pretty that I just had to share it…haha. I remember such piles from my years growing up in Iowa!)

Last night, I enjoyed watching the Montréal Canadiens defeat the Ottawa Sénateurs in the first round of Stanley Cup play-offs. The Canadiens won 4-3 with 6 of the 7 goals being scored in the second period! It was quite exciting to watch, even though I know very little about hockey. I’m thinking that all hockey games aren’t that rocambolesque (i.e., incredible), but who am I to say? I think the Montrealers had a bit more bounce in their collective step today.

I headed to the office mid-morning and worked through some literature for awhile before giving gifts and saying goodbyes. Bob and Ariane were so welcoming this week, and I feel very fortunate to have made these connections. Between the student strike and Bob leaving for Australia Monday (goodness, that has got to be a long flight from Quebec!), my timing could have been better. Nonetheless, it was a beneficial collaboration, and Bob has invited me to stay in touch, do online surveys at UQAM, and even incorporate his theory on passion into my work. I hope our paths cross again one day.

After lunching in my hotel room and checking in for my flights (yay!), I set out on foot to return to my favorite part of this city: Vieux Montréal , where Reed and I went Saturday. Today was much warmer and I knew the way, so it was a very enjoyable two hours of site-seeing and walking. I again saw the Basilique Notre-Dame de Montréal, strolled down Rue St Paul, and I even walked through China Town (that’s for you, Abbie!). Also, I ducked into La Baie, which is the Hudson Bay Company, Canada’s iconic department store.

When I returned to the hotel, it was warm enough that I could sit on the balcony and read for awhile, so that was a treat (especially with my west-facing view). I am so excited to return to my family tomorrow, but I have thoroughly enjoyed my week, and I have learned so much. Even though the culture here is somewhat familiar, it still holds many opportunities for increased awareness about cross-cultural considerations. I will file away this experience in my sabbatical folder, but I will return to it often for further contemplation.

Research ups & downs (but mostly ups)

Yesterday I met the researcher at the Université Québec à Montréal (UQAM) I had contacted last fall. His name is Robert Vallerand, and he has been studying motivation, passion, and other constructs related to positive psychology and social behaviors for about 30 years. I ran across some of his articles when working on my literature review for my study. He very generously agreed to collaborate and share his expertise with me. You can read more about his research lab here.

Bob’s assistant, Ariane, also has been very gracious, even getting me keys for office space and wifi access. Today, I got to sit in on a lab meeting for Bob’s research team. I was greeted via email this morning with the following meeting reminder: “Bonjour à tous, Un petit rappel pour le lab meeting aujourd’hui à 11h30. À tantôt!” I think I like appointment reminders better when they’re in French. 

The team members, consisting of a couple of undergrad students and about four grad students, plus Bob and Ariane, shared their research projects, all of which relate to passion. We had fruitful discussions of how harmonious and obsessive passion connect with meaning in life (my topic), and it was a great experience to exchange ideas. Bob encouraged me to look into presenting my research at the next European Network for Positive Psychology conference, which will be in Angers, France, in 2016. (This was before he knew I was there last month, or that we are contemplating how to get there with students in 2016, so I was blown away by the connection!)

Anyway, the people here have been wonderful – part of the “ups” of doing research in another country. My timing, however, is part of the “downs” as there is a student strike now at UQAM. Needless to say, this makes finding research participants a challenge. Not all sections of this large university (~40,000 students) are striking, and I don’t know the details (Google them), but many students are participating, including most psychology students. Therefore, I cannot go into a couple of classes and get my surveys done efficiently.

The research team helped me brainstorm about alternatives, and today I was successful in getting 22 student surveys at a food court on campus! (My goal at each site is 30, though this likely will not be possible in Haiti…I’ll worry about that next month.) I’d like to have some adults outside the 18-22 age range too, so tomorrow I will go to Place des Arts and Complexes Desjardins, a cultural and shopping area, complete with more food courts. It pushes me outside my comfort zone to approach people in French to ask them about completing my surveys, but I figure the worst they can do is say “no” (and think I’m a bit strange).

After my research day was done, I walked about 1.5 miles to the more “French” part of the city, hoping to be reminded of Paris un petit peu. Mais non…pas aujourd’hui. I did find a Starbucks and Gap though (please read the sarcasm in that statement). The French language is more prevalent here than I expected, but the French influence in other ways is not as present as I had hoped. Still, I’m so glad to be here and am learning a lot. It’s such a good experience to go to new cultures as many lessons await.


Weekend escape to Montreal…week of research ahead

Reed and I had a little get-away to Montreal, Quebec, this weekend. I’ll be doing some research here this week as part of my sabbatical project, and it was real bonus to get to kick it off with my husband as my travel buddy. We were quite delayed out of Portland Thursday night, but thankfully, we made our connection in Newark and arrived in Montreal Friday morning. It was rainy, windy, and cold to start, but the skies have cleared and I am looking forward to a few warm, sunny days here. There is a lot of evidence around of a brutal winter here, so I think the québécois people are ready for spring!

Friday we got to know our neighborhood; we are staying downtown, not far from the University of Quebec where I’ll be working (we are also very close to McGill College, so there are lots of students around). We found some crêpes for a late lunch, and I enjoyed chocolate fondu for dessert. We got a few groceries, rested a bit, and made our plan for the weekend. In the evening, we walked to Benelux, a brewery that got high marks online, even from Portlanders. It did not disappoint, and we went back Saturday for another pint of “American IPA,” which doesn’t really even make sense. Anyway…

Saturday we ventured out via bus and metro to Vieux Montreal (i.e., the old part of the city). We first visited the Basilique Notre-Dame de Montreal, which is basically a smaller version of the one in Paris. It also contains Chapelle Notre-Dame du Sacré Cœur, which is a smaller chapel behind the main altar…this is where Celine Dion was married, if there are any fans out there. We hit a few souvenir shops…no big purchases as we are good on hockey and winter gear. Well, and Reed is repulsed by all of the maple flavored sweets.

We walked to Chapelle Notre-Dame de Bon Secours, which in Montreal‘s oldest chapel, dating back to 1771. It is also known as the Sailors’ Church and has model ships hanging from the ceiling, which I was quite fond of. We walked to the port, and we were still searching for what people like so much about Montreal. So far, it was a bit less than impressive. Then we wandered onto St. Paul Street. This was what we were looking for. It is a quaint, old cobblestone street with lots of cafés and shops. We settled into a little French-inspired café and had some quiche for lunch. It was delightful.

We sojourned on to the other side of the city to see Saint Joseph’s Oratory of Mount Royal. This huge shrine on a big hill is where pilgrims flock in hopes of miraculous cures. Brother Andre, a humble cleric, attributed his curative powers to Joseph, and Andre petitioned for donations to build the oratory. It is the second largest dome in the world, after St. Peter’s in Rome. It was finished in 1967, 30 years after Andre’s death. He was canonized as a saint by Pope Benedict in 2010, as the two posthumous miracles required by the Catholic Church occurred in 1958 (cured cancer victim) & 1999 (boy emerged from a coma). At the oratory, you see discarded crutches, canes, and wheelchairs, supposed evidence of healing. We took in a mass while we were there, which was good of course, and we checked out all of the Oratory’s features, from the crypt church to the votive chapel and the dome, of course…even Brother Andre’s heart is on display! It was an interesting experience…you’ll have to ask Reed for his take on it all!

Today we enjoyed lunch at an English pub with a large selection of Scotch. The Manchester United vs. Manchester City match was on, so it was quite a boisterous crowd. Reed packed up and I left him at the bus stop, headed to the airport…definitely the low point of the weekend. I walked to the Musée des Beaux-Arts (art museum) and strolled through the many exhibitions for a couple of hours to take my mind off his departure. I enjoyed seeing works from Degas, Monet, Renoir, Matisse, Rembrandt, Rodin, Picasso, and Dali. I walked back to the hotel in the warm sunshine, so that helped me feel a bit better too. I’m just not the same person without Reed by my side!

I am so thankful for our weekend escape and the new memories that were made. Now it’s time to get to work on my research so I can jet back home on Friday! Here’s hoping for a productive, and quick week…

Museums of two extremes

Most know that Paris is full of museums. Today we took in two and had quite different experiences. We took the metro to Place de la Concorde and saw the obelisk. Then we crossed the street to Musee de l’Orangerie, situated in Jardin des Tuileries. It was absolutely delightful, both in content and scale. The most famous work here is Monet’s Nympheas or water lilies. This is a series of many large panels housed in two oval rooms in l’Orangerie. It was spectacular. There is another floor of paintings to view, many from the impressionist era. Also quite nice. Then we were done and departed, after buying a few mementos at the cute little shop.

We strolled through the garden to the Louvre. We cut the queue with our Paris Pass (awesome) and made our plan. We went to see La Jaconde (the Mona Lisa) along with just about everyone else. I think it was as crowded as when we were here in August! We visited Venus de Milo with another crowd. We saw many things – paintings and statues mostly – along the way. Next we found our way to Napoleon III’s apartment, and it felt like we were at Versailles. Such over the top opulence! It was sort of cool to see and much less crowded. We found the Lacemaker next, by Dutch artist Vermeer, which was unexpectedly small. Finally, we descended to view the medieval Louvre before exiting. The whole thing was overwhelming, just like the other times I’ve visited. I’m not quite sure how to experience it any other way, so maybe next time I’m in Paris, I’ll skip it all together. I will definitely return to l’Orangerie.

We walked toward Les Halles, stopping for lunch along the way. Next we toured Saint Eustache, a cathedral built in the 16th century that houses the largest pipe organ in Paris. Young Louis XIV received communion here and Mozart’s mother’s funeral was here, among many other things. We had a 3:00 booking at O Chateau for a wine tasting (part of our Paris Pass), so that was next. It was good in terms of the wine, but a bit too much shtick from the somelier. The Pompidou was an easy walk from this point, so we went there next to enjoy it from the outside only. We were sort of museumed out by now. The metro took us home, and we will go find crepes for dinner in a bit.

One more full day here tomorrow. We have a few things left to do, including another flea market, a boat ride on the Seine, and the best museum: Musee d’Orsay. Should be fun!

More pictures…?

I’m hoping to get a few more photos from yesterday in Angers to load this morning. Hardly any of what I attempted to add last night appear! The wifi (say “wee fee”) here leaves a bit to be desired, and it has to be “recharged” every 30 minutes. Anyway, hopefully more sites show below…

More from Angers

The morning began with a visit to Château d’Angers (see http://monuments-nationaux.fr/en/actualites/a-la-une/bdd/actu/1541 for more info), an incredible medieval castle that contains one of the largest tapestries in the world (and the oldest in France). A-MA-ZING! 

Then I went to the Centre international d’étude de la langue française (CIDEF), located at the Université catholique de l’Ouest, which is also where AHA is located. I met with Sue and two nice women, both named Florence, about study abroad opportunities. There are many, even if students don’t speak French! I am excited to take back ideas to Concordia to see if we can get some students over here.

I also visited the Anglophone library in Angers, where Sue volunteers. I was able to have a few more surveys completed for my research. I can tell that English is highly valued here, especially with a high unemployment rate – it can really help young adults secure a decent job. Next Sue and I got coffee before she left for her Italian class. It was a very enjoyable – and productive – day. (I wanted to include many more photos but was unsuccessful and gave up…my apologies!)

À bientôt, Paris!

A quick update while we wait to depart Paris…at least for now. 😉

We had our last breakfast on Rue Cler; croissants, coffees, and a hot chocolate for Abbie. Then we walked the very short distance to L’Hôtel national des Invalides where there is an Army Museum and Napoleon’s mighty tomb. It was another spectacular campus of buildings, and the kids seemed quite interested in the war history, especially that of WWI & WWII.

We strolled back to Rue Cler for lunch at the Chinese restaurant from yesterday. Then we went next door for delicious gelato and coffee. We should have time to grab one last crepe before taking the Metro to the bus to the airport. Then we should land in Dublin around 11:15pm, only to depart about 12 hours later.

We have been talking with the kids today about all we’ve done and what they’ve enjoyed the most. Abbie’s list of favorite destinations from first to last goes France, Ireland, Scotland, and England. Jackson’s and mine goes France, Ireland, England, and Scotland. Reed’s is Ireland, France, Scotland, and England. The kids both loved the Arc de Triomphe, Eiffel Tower, Blarney Castle, and Alnwick Castle. I need more time to reflect on all we’ve done before I can create my list. I think we have lots to keep talking about and lessons to learn from this time away together. It has been a gift!

Spectacular sites, sparkles included

Mom and Abbie in line at Notre Dame

Today we checked off a few more items from our priority list for what to see during our visit to Paris. We enjoyed café au lait ($8 each!) and croissants around the corner from our lovely hotel and then set out for the Metro. We went to Île de la Cité to experience La cathédrale Notre-Dame, or the spectacular and enormous Notre Dame Cathedral. We considered going up the bell towers, but the line was very, very long, probably a 90+ minute wait (& no queue jumping privileges with our Paris Pass). We instead waited in a super long, but fast moving, line to go into the sanctuary. A service was in session, so we sat for a bit to take it in. Then we traveled around the outside hallways, admiring the architecture, stained glass, and monuments along the way. It truly is a marvelous structure – we learned that it took 182 years to complete!

After we viewed the inside, we walked along the Seine to view it from the outside. The gardens are beautiful, the flying buttresses are incredible, and the ornate detailing is phenomenal. I particularly like the “green guys” (i.e., the Apostles) climbing up the spire. In preparation for our visit, Abbie has been watching The Hunchback of Notre Dame repeatedly, and we did so together two nights ago in our hotel. We kept our eyes open for Quasimodo and Esmerelda! 🙂

Next we walked over to Sainte-Chapelle, Reed’s and my favorite cathedral that we’ve seen…like anywhere on the planet. It was built in the 13th century in a medieval gothic style, and it contains one of the most extensive collections of 13th c. stained glass anywhere in the world. We again didn’t have the line cutting privilege with our Paris Pass, but we met a nice woman and her 12-year-old daughter from Southern California while we waited. She approached us and asked about Abbie, as her daughter is also from China. It was fun to talk about our experiences of getting our precious daughters years ago.

Jackson’s reaction to the grayscale window

Sainte-Chapelle isn’t large like Notre Dame, and you actually have to go upstairs to get to the main chapel, which is kind of cool. The windows that surround it are amazing in both color and story, going through both Old Testament and New Testament stories. There seem to be hardly any walls connecting the windows…you are surrounded by colored glass. Unfortunately, about 1/4 of the windows were behind construction walls undergoing an extensive restoration process where the glass is removed, cleaned, and reinstalled, with new lead where needed. And this included the huge rose window, which was masked by scaffolding covered by a partition  with a grayscale image where the window would have been. 😦 The kids were a bit underwhelmed, especially after waiting in line for awhile, and I can’t say that I blame them. Perhaps they will return one day to see the whole thing in all it’s glory.

We descended back down into the Metro (to the very cool Cité station) and took the #1 line to the Charles de Gaulle stop. We ascended from beneath the city to the majestic Arc de Triomphe. It really is a spectacular view, right from the escalator out of the Metro. We were right on the Champs-Élysées, one of the most famous streets in the world. We descended again to go through the tunnel under the huge rotary street that surrounds the monument. Up once again and we went straight for the queue – this time with cutting privileges. 🙂 We climbed the 284 stairs up one leg of the Arc to the top. This is one of the best views in all of Paris – the Eiffel Tower on one side, Sacre Coeur on another; the Grande Arche at La Defense on yet another. It was spectacular.

La Défense from the Arc

We descended the stairs down the other leg and then walked around the Arc. It really is hard to get it in a photo when you are right next to it – it is so HUGE, standing at 164 feet high, 148 feet wide, and 72 feet deep. It has ornate detailing on every surface and huge sculptures on its legs. It was commissioned to be built by Napoleon in 1806 – talk about a “Napoleon Complex!” Beneath the Arc is the tomb of the unknown solider from WWI, complete with a burning eternal flame and decorated with flowers. It really was an awe-inspiring experience, both for the kids at their first viewing and us at our subsequent viewing. One quick note, if you want a fabulous view of Paris from above, this is about the best place to go. You miss the long lines at the Eiffel Tower and the view, unlike Sacre Coeur, is unobstructed. 

Back on the Metro to our neighborhood to find lunch. We returned to Rue Cler, this time enjoying Chinese food (including beverage), for only €7.5 each; a truly remarkable deal. However, there was a gelato shop next door that we indulged in and blew the budget (€3.6 each!). It was well worth it and perhaps even better than our Grafton Street gelato spot in Dublin. I guess we are quite a bit closer to Italy here. 🙂 What was really nice is you could choose as many flavors as you wanted, even in our small dishes. I went with caramel, chocolate, pistachio, and coffee, and they shape it like a rose when you get it in a cone as I did (check it out at amorino.com). Reed and I also got really good coffee; I think we will return tomorrow.

The boys went back to the hotel, and us girls did a tiny bit of souvenir shopping. Abbie wanted some Eiffel Tower earrings, and we had been searching for non-dangling ones (my rule). We were successful, and I even found a little glass pyramid for Jackson, reminiscent of the ones at the Louvre (with the Eiffel Tower etched inside).

Speaking of which, we returned to the Eiffel Tower tonight a bit before 10pm to view it sparkling. On the hour, from just after dusk until 2am, it twinkles for five minutes. Lots of people gather in Champ de Mars, the long park between Ecole Militaire and the Tower. It is a festive atmosphere with music, drinking, and laughter. We found a patch of grass and joined the party. Right on cue, it dazzled the crowd…one of my favorite things about Paris: how it dazzles me.

Backing up a bit, we went out for dinner at the place we scoped out last night. It didn’t go so well. the snails were not a hit (Jackson did at least try one; Abbie chickened out), the cheese pizza had a LOT of funky French cheese on it (even made me gag), and the bill was exorbitant. Oh well…I guess we are doing our part to help out the French economy.

Tomorrow we will pack up, explore the city a bit more (Hotel des Invalides & Napoleon’s Tomb), and then head to the little Beauvais airport to fly back to Dublin before returning home Wednesday (not sure when we’ll have a chance to update the blog). Even though I would love more time in Paris, I think we all are ready to go home. Thank you in advance for your prayers for “journey mercies”!

Walking tour & welcome meal

Our Monday morning started in a leisurely fashion which was good, as 3/4 of us had trouble falling asleep (Reed did not). The kids and I had lunch in as Reed met his students and Tony for a Book of Kells tour at 11:30 (the rest of us will see it when my folks arrive). When they were done, they came by the apartment and got a quick tour…we want them to feel welcome here (they’ve designated themselves as our other four adopted children, at least for three weeks). 🙂

We all departed to meet up with Tony and our tour guide for the afternoon, Sean Finnegan. (A highlight for me was getting to meet Tracy Dicks, the London-based AIFS staffer who set up both this and the Cape Town program!) Sean is a lovely older gentleman who knows a lot about Dublin. As he works for the tourism office, he promised to tell us no lies while on the tour…he had quite a wit about him and often tried to stump us with questions about his city. 🙂 Our 60-90 minute walking tour ended up being about 150 minutes, and we didn’t even travel much distance! We strolled from Trinity down to St. Stephen’s Green, which is only about 1/2 mile away, and back, stopping frequently to hear about the sites. It was interesting most of the time, but everyone grew tired by the end of it. The kids (all six!) handled it well, and we were proud of them.

We had some time to return “home” in the afternoon before our welcome dinner. We met the students and Tony at the front gate of Trinity and headed toward Temple Bar around 7:00. We were ushered up two sets of stairs to a nicer restaurant setting at Oliver St. John Gogarty’s, which I didn’t expect (I thought it would be more of a pub setting, which the first two floors are). We had a lovely dinner, complete with duck for Hannah, lobster for Jamieson, steak for Kayla and Tony, sole for Jamie, pork loin for Jackson, Irish stew for Reed, fish & chips for Abbie, & veggie lasagna for me. We sat there long enough to make room for dessert, so it was a fun celebratory type of meal. We heard about the students’ home stays, which are going well, along with other things they’ve done to explore the city, both together and separately. They are a really great group of individuals, and we are so glad each one is here with us!

We returned home around 10:00, still fairly awake…it doesn’t get dark here until about that time, so our clocks are a bit shifted. We all slept well (I am writing this Tuesday morning), and are ready for another Dublin day!