Wednesday, August 30, 2006


In the lull of being home, or perhaps just the comfort of truly familiar surroundings, I've lacked the drive to write every day, not felt the necessity of writing every day. In a way my writing is a way to reach out, or reach within, in order to communicate with others and myself. Lately, life hasn't thrown me anything incredibly new and exciting. Or at least nothing that strikes me as terribly different from my lifestyle like my travels in Italy did. But with Italy just around the corner yet again and the finishings of little writing application for an online mentorship with UBC and working my last week at the office, I can't help but feel that excitement and anticipation of new adventures to come.

Last week it had hit me that I would be leaving. For Italy. For 5 months. I would have no towels that are my own, no sheets that are familiar, nothing but a barely furnished room without decoration, without life settled in it. I would be in Europe. I would be going to school. Completely in Italian. And for some reason I had felt afraid and nervous. This only hit more when I started going through some clothes with my mom last weekend. I would need clothes for lots of weather, it rains a lot in Ferrara, especially in November. I found everything incredibly overwhelming. I didn't know when I was leaving, I hadn't yet printed out my ticket, I owed some amount of money to my landlady for an apartment whose address number I had forgotten. For months I have been repeating that I am going to study abroad with the Middlebury Program in Ferrara this fall for a semester until January in which month I will have exams. I still don't know when I am coming home. I still don't know my courses. The repetition didn't help solidify the fact that I would be going away for a long period of time. But the fear and worry has worn off as the moment of the end/beginning, that time in between that is so hard to grasp, starts to take hold.

I will be in Europe. Completely in Italian. A couple of opportunities to travel. Plenty of time to learn, read, write. I will write more often, and find a new rhythm. Buy sheets, towels, food, notebooks, textbooks. I'll bring my yoga mat and Henderson, my Canadian maple-leaf-sweater-wearing teddy bear. I'll start with a fresh confidence and determination to learn. A new year, a new beginning, a new continent. It's hard not to feel more excited now when I repeat that refrain that I will be in Ferrara for the fall semester. I will be in Ferrara! For the fall semester! In Italy! Wowzers, this is exciting.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Kick Carbon Ass

I've always been a fan of planet earth. Whether it was Captain Planet, Ferngully, recycling or the ecological footprint, I couldn't help but get excited about environmentally conscious ideas. I've been looking for a way to do my part and signed up to do the Nature Challenge with the David Suzuki Foundation ( Although I try to opt for public transit or walking most of the time, I know that I will inevitably be releasing carbon out into the atmosphere. Even if I became a hippy nudist camper out in the woods, I would still need to produce some carbon to live. So aside from trying to support socially and environmentally friendly organizations (, I discovered the possibility of individual carbon offsetting. There are a few websites (,, that allow you to calculate your carbon emissions and your required donation to offset those emissions. An offset will go towards renewable energy development and thus offset your carbon emissions in the long run. It strikes me as a great idea, and a concrete way for individuals to kick some carbon ass.

Monday, August 21, 2006

retrospective on my weekend

After 15 phone messages and catching up with life at the office, here I am to wring some words out of my system. I need to write an article for work, so I am trying to get the mental juices flowing. It's surprisingly quiet and for some strange reason I've lost my ambiance music, it kind of makes me sad and a little nuts. Well not too nuts, just peaceful. No ringing, no classical music, just silence and the sound of me typing. Maybe this is better, a bit of meditative moments at the office.

I had a quiet weekend mostly to myself to regroup, recollect and resurface. I was in a downright foul mood on Friday even though I did not spend the day at work but volunteering. The foulness was alleviated slightly by hanging out with my sister and watching a crazy funny movie called Flirting with Disaster, basically common truths extrapolated to the utmost degree. Good times (you are NOT good B and B people!)

Saturday was spent getting an early morning haircut, doing some intense yoga (and finally getting that handstand I have been attempting to do ALL summer) and a chillaxed evening with a Spanish movie called Sex and Lucia, a spanishly circular, wonderfully sensual and poetic, slightly erotic portrait of a writer. It really appealed to my sensibilities, and I drifted off to sleep content.

Sunday was a rainy day but still the parents and I ventured out to Milano and Jean Talon market for foodstuffs. Amazingly it was quite busy out there. It's quite fun to hang out with my parents, they're such positive kooky people. I laugh a lot and enjoy myself, man they're awesome people. My mother seems to have preserved this childlike excitement for everything, and that sense that everything must be done immediately. I don't get it, but it's wonderful. We also headed for an expertly crafted lunch at my Aunt and Uncle's house with perhaps the funniest sounding most delicious corn I've ever tasted. Picture 5 people eating long cobs of corn that is so crunchy you can hear all the kernels popping off the cob in what sounds like a cross between a downpour, applause and fireworks. I couldn't help laughing at one point. Man that was a good moment.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

my mission

Too many words spilled on pages never read. I hesitate to type the next sentences wondering where they will live on, in silence, in print, flashing black and white. Who it will reach and swim bitterly in the mouths of haters, dance happily in the minds of lovers. Words broadcasting out to the world to no one in particular, joining the flood of typed text in the newspapers, on billboards, typed on bright
computer screens. Flowing out and trickling down into the sewer, getting lost in pools of ink, getting drained to rivers of waste, to be forgotten, to be unused. But far from the black seas of unread ink there are those words that shine crisply on the page, struck so proudly on the page they indent the paper making sure they will stand still. Those words speak loud to readers' eyes, snaking excitedly from sight to thought, igniting a frenzy of inspiration. There you have the very special meaning of words laden with honesty, they inflate others with emotion, send waves to their fingertips that scream for a keyboard or a pen. And thus the tradition continues, and words scratched years ago with a feathery quill and bronze ink on parchment ignite the phrases of the keyboard into a new document.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

old people moments

I don't know what it is but I have been having these moments where I have been observing elderly people doing whatever they are doing. First the man with his soundless violin playing, then this woman with her twittering Mozart pink cell phone and today an elderly couple.

I was getting my lunch (I stupidly forgot the leftovers from the Chinese feast the Rubin clan had last night) and there was this couple in front of me squinting at the menu and bickering amongst themselves. They flipflopped their decisions and pointed at things and loudly exclaimed that they would take the wrap and this salad not that salad. They were either deaf, American or both. They seemed so discombobulated and wrapped in their own world. The saleslady tried nicely to tell them to go to the cash once but they obviously didn't hear and upon a second louder and more eyecontact filled attempt got the couple to the cash. The lady and I exchanged smiles as if we both knew that senility was to blame, we seemed to love these old people regardless. They were dressed sort of tacky and were a bit liver-spotted. The man seemed outraged or amazed, I couldn't tell, that the price of a wrap two salads and two coffees was 9 dollars. Judging from the 5 in his hand, I think he might have only deemed the meal worth 5 bucks. Having paid the woman when to stake out a chair and yelled to the man to join her, at which point he yelled her way that he was waiting for the wrap. They were off to eat. After their 9 dollar meal they ambled discombobulatedly (i think that word was made for them) off into the Montreal downtown. I was fascinated.

Monday, August 14, 2006

plan A never works

I had another moment, for lack of a better word, on the bus coming home on Friday. I was sitting reading my book as I heard this shrill cellphone tinkering out a classical work by Mozart. A cell phone ringing, fine. But it just kept going, hammering out the sonata, or whatever it was, in a high-pitched bell succession. I tried to ignore it, but at a certain point looked up to see who the hell wasn't answering their cell phone. Are you that deaf that it has to ring for 30 seconds? And when I looked up I saw this older woman looking down at her ringing pink metallic cell phone. Perhaps sensing it had gone on too long she silenced the ring and gave her cell phone a discreet and meek smile before putting it back in her purse and staring out the window. I was touched.

Anyways, this weekend I vowed not to use the Internet. Since I have Internet access from 9am to 4pm 5 days a week constantly at work, I decided enough is enough. I am going to spend the weekend with people, books, movies, nightclubs. No Internet. Not that the Internet is the devil or anything, it's just I had had enough and felt I was developping a bit of an addiction. The thing is the Internet gives you the impression of being in touch with people, which of course it does, but at the same time, you are at a computer. You need real people in your life. After two days, I survived. It wasn't really that hard. I had Sarah Dunant's book The Birth of Venus to finish and some photos to edit as well as writing to compile. The urge was great to go and waste time on Facebook and MySpace, but I found other ways. It's funny how much we rely on technology just to pass time. Instead, I cooked with my dad, I rented a movie, I chatted with my mom. Much more exciting in my book.

I came to work today thinking that I would have time to write long emails to friends who had written over the weekend, but instead found that people actually had tasks for me to complete! Wonder of wonders, I was manning the photocopier (good ol' buddy o' mine) and researching hotels before the morning was through. Lesson: never vouch on plans working out, it usually doesn't happen. Welcome to life. Well, back to work, never know what else might hit!

Thursday, August 10, 2006


I sit behind this desk receiving emails and correspondence from friends, reading up on world news and keeping abreast to the lives of friends and the world. All the while, I still feel equally individual, as if all these words flashing across the screen feeding my mind and heart mean nothing.

It's really nice to know that there are people out there who appreciate you, but there is something to be said for actually being in touch, hearing someone's voice, seeing their facial contortions, feeling the closeness of a hug. Today, for instance, I saw an old friend after maybe three years of keeping some sort of strange contact. It was so much nicer to see him in person instead of writing notes online. You can talk so much quicker, tap into body language, subtleties, guide the conversation wherever. You don't have to rely on your sense of trying to decipher what is actually going on, what tone of voice your friend is using. The Internet is great for keeping contact, but to really be in touch you need to ACTUALLY see your friends. Some write, others don't, you live in the physical present and take your friends along for the ride and whatever happens later remains a fact to be seen, to be written to be experienced.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006


I truly miss Italian gum. I finished my last stick yesterday and accidentally bought Trident Splash Vanilla Mint which only reminds me of trips to the dentist. Why can't they sell gum like they do in Italy, 40 little pieces in a box with a breathfreshening bit of eucalyptus in the middle. Ok, I'll stop.

As I listened to what seemed to be the life story of some man from Ontario, I wondered if I could get used to this job. It is already Wednesday, midway through week one, and I have been answering questions and happily diverting calls when the little phone rings here. Well it isn't too little, its one of those phones that has three parts and needs little stands to hold it up. This place does help students pay for their education among many other things and I can wear fancy nice clothes to work. I don't think I could answer phones for the rest of my life. I have hit that tender time in life where I won't stand for what I don't like anymore because I am on that chase for that life career. The job I have for now will be great, nice people, nice work environment, good pay, but in the back of my mind I am still wondering what type of routine I could ever get used to, if any. So the search continues.

Meanwhile, I saw the man and his violin again today, determined to make music, still ignored by most passing. I wonder to myself if I will ever build the courage to talk to the man, ask him what he is playing. Would I pretend to hear his imaginary music or would I ask him what he is trying to do and crush his determination?

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

montreal moments

Today I feel like a problem solver. No longer is it a civic holiday in Canada and the phones really are ringing. Although I may not know too much about what goes on her but, luckily, I have the names of the people who do. So all I have to do is transfer, extension number, send and the call has been connected and the person who needs their information will surely get it. Hoorah.

So I took a personality test and discovered:
***You Are An INFJ***

The Protector

You live your life with integrity, originality, vision, and creativity.
Independent and stubborn, you rarely stray from your vision - no matter what it is.
You are an excellent listener, with almost infinite patience.
You have complex, deep feelings, and you take great care to express them.

You would make a great photographer, alternative medicine guru, or teacher.

I saw perhaps the most depressing thing ever today. There was a man on the street playing his violin for money. Beggars are nothing new to me, after my two year stay in Cambridge, MA where they almost line the streets. This man however was older, white-haired and balding, wearing thick glasses. Amidst besuited men and women going to and from lunch and people milling about downtown, I leaned in to hear what he was playing. Although he was moving his bow in what seemed like a rapid tremolo, his fingers covered in off white powder as was the bow and the body of the violin below it. But leaning in, there wasn't a sound at all. Just a man, violin case at his feet, trying desperately to play his violin, as if he had once graced Place-des-Arts as a stunning soloist, fallen into disrepute by old age, fearing whether or not he could charm a note out of his violin. It was sad. As evocative as a detail from a dream.

Monday, August 07, 2006

call me maria

Two days, a four and a half hour layover, and a lovely business seat later, and I am back in Montreal, writing from behind the reception desk, replacing Maria, the secretary during her month of vacation to god only knows where. It really is hard to believe that 72 hours ago at this time, I was sitting in Milan eating lunch. How the world has changed.

I've crossed the Atlantic ocean and things are quite different. The streets are wider, everyone owns cars, people live in houses and have yards, there isn't a historically intersting landmark every 100 metres or so, and the food on average is of a lesser quality. Asked questions by my parents whether I like Italy or Canada, I defaulted to say that I love my home nation a lot more because of its embracing of tolerance and diversity. But as I mulled over the question more and more, I realized I enjoyed the expressiveness of the italian people, the high quality of food no matter where you go (although I am beginning to think that my family is a European one transplanted in North America), the heat (yea, I think I love it), the people, the beautiful purity of the language, and well the sun. I need more time to get readjusted to Montreal, the town that will always be my home. I need to get reaquainted with the nightspots, the downtown rhythm, the pace of life, the people. It's funny how different life is here. It will still be a few days before I stop becoming tired at 9pm thinking its around midnight (not bad on the second day... that one day for every hour of change just might ring true).

So here I am at the paying job of the summer. Not to mu knowledge, today is a civic holiday in the rest of Canada since Quebec gets St Jean Baptiste and Manitoba gets Family day (thanks for clueing me in Nadira). I guess the rest of Canada wants a day off too. So what that has meant for me is that I have been writing lots of emails and am now writing this blog. There have been no faxes, no mail, and one phone call. Luckily, I get paid a ridiculous amount. The highlight of my day has been calling the building hotline to tell them that a toilet is leaking. It involved tracking downt he number and filing the complaint. Man, my life is exciting. My hours are wonderful, working not 9-6 like in Italy (although I always left at 5, in quiet but unpurposeful protest),but instead 9 to 4. Which now means I only have a bit over 2 hours left. Who knows, maybe I'll get another phone call.

Friday, August 04, 2006

l'ultimo giorno

So I'll make this brief (not that other posts have been incredibly long). I awoke to a paradoxically cool day in milan, the one that is sunny with that cold undercurrent. In other words, blissful. I slept in, because I could for the first time in a long time. I went swimming because there was a pool, and i did yoga because it brings me back to earth and helps clear my head. I wandered around downtown and checked out a 'modern' art museum, housed in napoleon's villa, a wonderfully free sojourn (I am not even sure if I had to buy a ticket...)

The real reason I am back in Milan today was for the Last Supper. I called at the end of June and the first available spot was the last time slot on the day before I left. I waited in the piazza in front of the last supper pretending to read a book for an hour. I wondered what it would be like, how I would feel. Would I be disappointed because, like the museums I have seen lately, the smell would be rancid, the lights would be badly placed and there would be no information provided. I walked in, paid for my ticket, and when we were ushered in, the group of 6.30, we were herded into one room, then another, then another, being encouraged along by opening doors as doors behind us closed. We waited tensely in the last room, trying to peer through the glass. I was at the back of the pack so I couldn't see anything, and just waited for them all to go forward. And then I stepped in.

I got that full body shiver. The last supper fills a whole wall. I know I had read that it does, but you don't understand it until you see it. Bone-chilling. Lifelike. It feels like Jesus Christ is actually having his last supper right there before your eyes. It was wonderful to see someone paint not goldleafed triptychs, not a woodworked cross of a dying christ, but a real scene. Truly amazing, executed with skillful attractive geometry. A thrilling reflective end to my trip here in Italy.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

lost in words

today was a day of travel on high speed trains across the boot that is italy. i got lost in my book today, feverishly trying to finish it, never getting to the end. the train ride back felt like I had entered a poirot novel with its cabins with facing rows of seats. whirring through rain and sun past italian countryside, the passages of the shadow of the wind have been unfurling in my mind. a meeting with marina, shopping at gs, and a dinner later and I am still entranced in the novel wondering how it will ever end and when it will ever end. it sure has been a long time since I have been so entranced in a novel, I had to force myself through the first 6 chapters to become hooked but i finally managed to get involved. as the sun sets I realize i have one final full day in milan and then i will be heading back to canada for a month chez moi before returning to this boot. i should go and finish this novel and put my frenetic mind to rest.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

little bits of goodness

I had a bunch of good moments yesterday, so I am going to make a list because I don't feel much like writing. Currently I am in Pisa which is really nothing but a leaning tower that doesn't even lean that much and a bunch of church buildings. Woo.

Wonderful moments of yesterday:
early morning stroll through empty lucca
reading on the battlements on a shade covered bench
finding lucchese olive oil and wine
buying a shirt that fits my body type just right and getting some strappy sandals
visiting the cathedral museum alone during a violent thunderstorm amidst medieval music
getting a free chocolate sample at a shop that was out of this world (and i have no idea what it was)
being mistaken for spanish, polish, italian, french everything but american or canadian
dressing up for dinner with carly and hitting the town
turning heads
finding a restaurant with a handwritten menu
seeing a family of three adopted children and two fathers, wonderfully responsible and content
talking to carly about family futures, and all the possibilities
eating a dinner of two courses, wine and water for 15€
befriending a couple from london\burma and laughing away
feeling sexy both at the beginning and end of the night
finishing off the night with a tiramisu amidst salsa music

great moments brought to you by stefan zebrowski-rubin

Tuesday, August 01, 2006


I am incredibly happy. There are moments when I have to tell myself: I am in Italy, I am alive, I am alive in Italy. I had one of these moments with Carly, having a picnic on the walls of Lucca. There was a nice breeze, we had bread we had cheese, I tasted the best peach of my life (yellow huge and juicy) and I was alive in Italy (and still am). After this lunch from divine powers, I had a great huge plan to visit two gardens and two museums. Getting a bit lost, we plopped ourselves down in the luxurious Italian garden of palazzo Pfanner and decided that what we needed was to cool off, to change my shoes, for me to apply more crema doposole and get food for dinner. This whole affair interspersed with shopping (Lucca is some sort of manageable heaven of a shopping town) took perhaps the whole afternoon. But we had fun, we chatted, we found books, we looked for wireless, we failed miserably, we made dinner, we read. I don't think I have sweat so much in my life, I am not able to wear the same shirt two days in a row and I sweat profusely in the night. Man, it's good to be alive. Luckily, today it just may rain. Grazie a dio.