Just Five More Months

Autumn 2007 in Nova ScotiaI only have five months left in Halifax. How incredible is that?! Given I’ve lived here almost all my adult life, just about everybody has come to associate me to this little seaport city. But that, of course, is on the verge of changing.

As a result, I find myself looking at the place differently. No, not with regrets. Not even nostalgia. Just differently. Like, “This is my 22nd but last autumn in Halifax.” So, yesterday I took advantage of the gorgeous weather on one of my rare days off to take these pictures of fall in Nova Scotia, including some in my soon-to-be-former neighbourhood.

Yes, only five more months. But the short time that remains does raise a dilemma as far as Dr. Snake Oil Salesman, the asshole who’s unfortunately my upstairs neighbour. Clearly, the landlord’s office never sent him a notice as I thought it would a few months back. And now, in addition to the music, he has taken to walking like a fucking elephant. What is it about some people who think that just because they’re not wearing shoes, they can stomp as heavily as they want while walking on a hardwood floor? Honestly! There are times when I can actually feel the vibrations!

So the dilemma is: grin and bear it, it’s only five more months; or, it’s five more months, so I have nothing to lose by declaring all-out war so that, maybe, I can get a little bit of peace in that time. The former would be the rational thing to do, but the latter might feel so damn good! What’s more, since the super and the landlord know I’m moving, they’re probably not going to be inclined to do anything for me …unless, of course, they choose to do something for the sake of the next tenant. But I doubt it. That would be proactive, and they’re a 100-percent reactive bunch.

And just as I was typing that paragraph, the asshole just turned his damn music up. Pig fucker!

Good Things Remaining Silent

It’s really been eating at me that I can’t yet publicly say what’s been happening to me lately at my day job, but it’s been really good. It all started just over two weeks ago, and then something unrelated happened on Thursday which is only pointing to better things to come.

I guess there’s one thing I can say without revealing anything I shouldn’t herein. The last contract I signed was to take my employment to 31 December. Well, I now know for a fact I’ll be going beyond that date, and that’s a good thing.

Will They Blame Canada (or the Canadian)?

It’s been chillier than normal the last few days in Mexico City. As a matter of fact, lately it’s been only a few degrees warmer there than it’s been here in Halifax. And El Poema has said to me that he heard in the news down there that, due to the effects of La Niña, there’s a possibly it might actually snow this winter in Mexico City.

In his nearly 30 years, El Poema has never seen snow.

I couldn’t suppress my laughter. Just watch: if it does snow, it’ll happen when I’m there and he and his friends will jokingly blame me, the Canadian, for bringing the snow along with me. As if!

What’s funny to me is that El Poema really, really can’t stand the cold. He had no regret leaving Canada many months before the first snowflakes began to fly. But it’s as though La Niña has decided to help me out a little…

If you’re going to get involved with this Canadian guy, you better get used to the snow.

And then there’s me, who hates winter, hates snow, and would rather live somewhere warm if I could. If all of this isn’t irony, then what is?

Pauline’s Bill and Fluency (Among Other Things)

I’ve been outrageously busy these past few weeks, which is why I neglected this blog once again, but let me pick up from where I left off.

It’s already becoming old news, but it turns out the reason why some (likely biased) members of the media brought up the matter of Pauline Marois’ poor English language skills is because of the bill she has introduced in the National Assembly that would confer a form of Québec “citizenship” that is largely based on immigrants acquiring a certain level of proficiency in French after three years of residency. Therefore, the insinuation — cheap shot, really — is that she expects immigrants to learn another language in three years while she hasn’t been able to do the same in 58 years. Granted, it’s a clever bit of rhetoric, but still fundamentally a cheap shot.

But what raises a lot of questions is whether this policy would form two classes of citizens: one that can’t speak French and, consequently, can’t vote and can’t hold public office, versus one that is fully enfranchised and can vote and hold public office. Critics suggest that would even be counter to Québec’s charter of rights. And at a gut level, I have to agree. I don’t like the precedent this would set.

Because you know, it’s never going to be good enough. First of all, what’s going to be the standard or measurement of “an acceptable level of French”? I hope to hell the standard isn’t for written French, because what’s going to happen there is that the standard is going to be much higher than what’s expected of Québécois purs laines, who, on average (like their anglophone counterparts in the rest of Canada, by the way), can’t write worth a heap of beans. But let’s say the focus will be on spoken French for day-to-day interactions. Then comes my second concern: I know very well it will never be good enough, and there will result an implicit (if not de facto) second tier of citizens. I base this belief on my observation of how some Québécois — I won’t bother making links — put down the efforts of anglophone politicians who make a very real effort to speak French. For instance, I really don’t like Prime Minister Harper; however, I have to give him credit for how much he has improved his French in the last four to five years. It doesn’t sound “natural” on him and it probably never will, but, as a result, I can already hear the derogatory comments towards someone like him who would reach his very acceptable level of proficiency as “not good enough” and “murdering the French language.” And finally, if the aspired-for standard of spoken French is the variation that has become common in North America — not that there really is such a thing, but rather many variationS — then the same negative judgement will be reserved to those whose spoken French has a more European flavour.

You know, one of the big reasons why I’m moving to Montréal next year is that I want to live in French after more than 20 years in an anglophone region. But I’m one lucky bastard! Because I learned English and French simultaneously at a very young age, the two languages occupy the same area of my brain, whereas with my feable attempts to learn Spanish these days, I’m having to find another area of my brain and hope that, through practice, I will be able to gain access to that part of my brain without needing to go to the first area for translation. There’s absolutely no shifting of gears in my brain when I turn the radio or TV from an English to a French channel. I don’t notice a damn thing. Not even 20+ years of Halifax has killed my French or, more importantly, my sense of identity as a French-speaking Canadian first and foremost.

On the other hand, this could be a tempest in a teapot, for the chances of Marois’ bill passing in the current National Assembly are slim to none. And it’s quite possible the standard will be laughingly low, just as I’m sure some new Canadians learn just enough English to be conferred citizenship. But the polemic Marois’ bill has fuelled in Québec, alongside all the talk of “reasonable accommodations,” is definitely worth noticing, because there are glaring rhetorical inconsistencies on both sides of the issue.