Well, here I am!
I’m all moved in. Not unpacked yet – that’ll have to wait. Dinner with the teachers (professeurs) and the workshop / residence leaders (animateurs*) is in forty minutes. Instead of cafeteria food, they’ll be ordering in stuff and eating au Château. The Château is the campus bar.
I had a great drive up here. The skies were hazy, but the Valley looked ripe to burst into springtime splendour.
Incidentally, Highway 101 is one of my favourite drives in the province, though this was my first time behind the wheel personally, making it all so much better. (I drove up here, taking way too much stuff with me – virtually everything I thought I could possibly need – but that’s the luxury of driving for you.) It’s fast, scenic, and variegated.
The new westbound lanes between Ellershouse and Windsor are fantastic. The drive is so smooth, it’s as if you’re on a cloud. Even the bridges are seamless, and they are so well blended with the flow of the road that you hardly notice them. I didn’t hear my beer bottles (in the trunk) rattle once the whole trip!
I don’t know what they’re going to do with the section in Windsor – it will be tricky to twin, what with the narrow underpasses and the causeway. But after Windsor it’s twinned again, and even as you’re merrily rolling along, you come over the hill and see the Minas Basin for the first time. What a sight! Hasn’t yet gotten old for me.
Then we get into the uniquely Maritime art of the two-lane freeway. The highway until you get to Greenwood is fairly busy for its type, and it’s three lanes as often as not. It’s kind of like those busy two-lane expressways through the inland mountains of Japan’s islands, except for the part about the mountains. Still some dramatic hills and scenes, though. Hopefully twinning won’t eat up too many productive orchards!
Between Greenwood and Cornwallis I had the road pretty much to myself. It was pretty sweet, let me tell you. Then there was the bridge over the Bear River. The approaches and the bridge itself make a dramatic curve, so you have to bleed off quite a bit of speed before you can safely take it – I’m surprised all they have posted is an 80 km/h advisory speed. My opinion is that this section does not yet have the traffic volumes to warrant twinning, but I’ve only been over this portion of the highway a handful of times.
Then there’s the non-freeway portion from Digby to Weymouth, the last section of its kind on the 101. Clare has been bypassed, but it was a situation where there was no “upgrade”-in-place à la Highway 105 – the road through here has always been Trunk 1, and there was no 101, so it got bypassed first. It might be a long while before they bypass the Digby to Weymouth portion, but at least the plans are on the books. It’s not bad, I suppose – it’s even kind of funny, because it’s posted mostly at 90 km/h, and it only really ever slows to 80 km/h even in a fairly densely populated stretch, complete with blind curves and crests and a school. On PEI I think it would all be a 50 km/h zone (not just the provision for the school zone when children are present). Anyway, I think the biggest justification to build the new alignment is that the rest of Highway 101 is up to (two-lane) freeway standards, and it would probably speed up commerce between Yarmouth and Digby, if there is any.
As I drove on Trunk 1 towards Church Point, I started to recognize the scenes from my last time here – the churches, the businesses, the road that I walked along one day taking photos. And then I saw it, the big church – the tallest wooden church in the world. My nerves reached a fever pitch. What would this time be like? Who would I meet? Even though I was here in 2007 and I think I roughly know the drill, I still have no idea what lies ahead.
Car parked, I was greeted by and met Jonathan, who helped me get my room keys. I saw Luc again, and it was like I just saw him the other day, though it’s been four years.
Said Jonathan, “Yeah, Beaulieu, it’s nice, you’ll get to be there for two weeks…”
“Well, you know how it is with contractors, they never finish on time!”
So I shan’t get too comfortable with this room, though that suits me fine – this room is technically better than the one I had last time (it feels larger and there is a sink and vanity), it was a little bit funky when I first opened the door. I’ll be keeping the window open until I go to bed, and maybe I’ll have it open a crack even then.
Well, time to go meet some people! Nice to be here early – this way only one person had to watch me lug my suitcase up the stairs. ;-p
* * *
Late Saturday Night
Not much going on yet. Met a few people and chatted with some familiar faces. It’s been four years yet it feels like I was here just the other day.
I’ve finally unpacked. I managed to drag it out over two hours. Now this room is as neat as it’s ever going to be, and I remembered to take pictures of its pristine state. And even though I thought I covered for every contingency, I forgot to bring the power cord for my shaver! The shaver only came with one power cord that fits both the simple charging stand and the charging/cleaning unit. So naturally I just brought the latter with me, but I left the power cord with the stand. Mom found it and will get it in the mail to me.
I’ve learned that the main academic building has open wi-fi. That will come in handy – not only will it make “blogging” en français that much easier, I’ll still be able to get my daily DQVC ! :-p It only takes a few minutes to do and won’t really take away from my experience. Amazingly, setting my DSi to French in its system settings changes all the games that support French, to French. A complete French translation of Dragon Quest IX is on the cart and ready to go. Pretty sweet, I’d say. I also have the French version of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past on my computer. I probably won’t play it much if at all – they keep us pretty busy here! I won’t be in Beginner-1 anymore*, and beyond that level there is apparently much substantive homework. Still, leafing through my dictionary on every couple of dialogue bits is a good way to pick up some extra vocabulary, and for me it’s much easier to see usage than hear it.
Being here a second time means that I won’t be making the same mistakes twice. It also means I’ll be making entirely new ones. You don’t want to know how many names I’ve forgotten. But that goes both ways, so I don’t think anyone is miffed. I expect people to get angry with me, but maybe that’s because I’ve spent too much time in the service industry, or maybe it reveals deep-seeded inner demons.
* * *
Sunday brought a few more new things to wonder about:
1. There are fewer people than usual enrolled in this session, due in part to the reovation of one of the residences (though the one being renovated, the one we might move into, only holds 16-20 and the shortfall seems greater than that) I guess that will mean shorter lines at the cafeteria...
2. Speaking of which, there are no more trays at the cafeteria. This change dates from the academic year just passed – the staff observed that people were wasting food and thought that they’d be more judicious if they had to carry things a plate at a time. For me it’s a bit of an annoyance because a) I like to get everything in one trip and b) I almost never waste food. The fact that I’ll stuff myself silly to avoid such waste is a compeltely unrelated problem! ;-p Who knows – maybe I’ll actually lose weight here instead of gaining a buch more.
3. The workshops have been chaged around a bit:
3-1. The video production workshop is no more – just as well, because spending hours upon hours in an editing room using the English version of Final Cut Pro is time that is not spent learning and living French. This time they just want a few volunteers to help shoot each event (and not always the same volunteers, thus spreading out the workload), and they’ll take care of the editing and production themselves.
3-2. There are other changes to the workshops, too: The preparation-of-educational-materials workshop, meant for the benefit of those in the French Immersion for Teachers program (held in the Summer session), is being offered in the Spring session. That’s tempting, as is the choral workshop. If I get to Intermediate-1, I can also go for the Plein Air “workshop” - this basically means group cardio and strength training every afternoon. (“Run, Will, run!”) Maybe next time, when I’m advanced enough (if I’m not advanced enough now, though I think I could pass for Intermediate-1 in a pinch), and also not nursing repetitive strain soreness from endless typing at the gulag.
* - I think “facilitator” is a pretty good English translation for animateur. “Counsellor” also works, but it has a strong association with summer camp. In a sense this is kind of a camp – French boot camp, I guess. But “facilitator” sounds more age-appropriate in my opinion.
** - Since more than a year has passed, that’s not actually guaranteed! It all depends on the pre-test. I think Beginner-2 will be pretty much in the bag, though. I may have been quite close to getting into Beginner-2 last time, since I was in the “upper” class of Beginner-1 (if such a thing can be said!).