A Travellerspoint blog

<fast forwards life>


View test trip for overload peter on Gelli's travel map.

Ok, so that clearly didn't work.

I'm not still in Canada. It is not still June. In fact, it's 20-bl**dy-13, and i'm sat in a Airbnb apartment in Brooklyn watching the aftermath of snowmageddon/snopocalypse/nero. Not the fish one.

Although I expect zero people to believe it, I had written most of the next maybe half dozen posts. But at various points life, the will to life and just, well, stuff got in the way. For all our sakes, I think it is will make more sense if I just call it quite there although I will try and recycle some bits later. You will see why.

It is now time to fast forward, so let's summarise everything after Montreal.

I got the train back to New York. Couple of weeks there with weekend in Washington DC in between. Travel companion arrives from Europe. Luggage does not. 3 days mad shopping for clothes in NYC. Then back onto boat, and a pretty good week back to Europe. No, I did not get up at 5am to watch Southampton IKEA approach. Then Sweden, assorted work, Spain and Portugal (yes you read that correctly. I finally made it to Portugal for the first time for a few days, and caught up with Morten – of the Landy project for those with very long memories), the Olympics (yay!), Travel-companions bags finally reappear in Europe, but no compensation. Work, Finland and pink fingernails, the Paralympics (even yay-er). More Sweden and more work. Increasing farce. Ice-cream soup, celebrating a year of being homeless, the arrival of the armadillo, a last minute change of Christmas followed by an interesting New Year in Berlin. Then a few days running around the UK, collect new travel companions, and get back on the boat. The Queen Victoria, this time. With weather so balmy that a week on the North Atlantic in winter involved more time on the balcony/outside than both previous trips combined, and as I am not healthier, wiser, and more frequent traveller, including barely feasible amounts of free champagne. A good trip, unless you happen to be my camera, which was not so happy. Few days of great sightseeing and stuff, and now i'm all alone again.

But I'm back in New York, and this time, probably, hopefully, maybe, more permanently.

I'm naturally still homeless. But i'm working on solving that one.

What comes now is likely to be limited in scope, but hopefully will involve reasonably regular updates of this poor lost Welshman, being wide-eyed and cynical and exploring the wonders of New York City and it's environs. Actually, you probably won't hear from me again until mid 2014 when I happen to stuck randomly on the Kermadoc islands and remember I have a blog. But i'll try. Promise?

Posted by Gelli 09.02.2013 17:56 Archived in USA Comments (1)

By popular request: Clive

A few of you have enquired about the whereabouts of Clive. Happily, he is, as always, travelling alongside me as my faithful companion and making sure I don't do anything more stupid than normal. And so I thought I would turn the blog over to him for a post, as the little blighter is being too lazy to do his own blog this time.

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Hello friends. Greetings and salutations. It is true that i have not written much on thus trip, but i admit that perhaps it has at least been remiss of me not to have shared a few snaps from this trip with you. As such, it gives me great pleasure to present the following brief compilation of a few of my holiday snaps from this trip with my Stupid Human.

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Me, prior to boarding at Southampton. I hope it is an Elk-friendly ship

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Me on board

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Look! A really big building being built

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Well if I don't read the map, we will blatantly get lost. As usual. If there is one thing that my Stupid Human is really bad at, it is all things to do with Maps and Cartography

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I knew I had cousins in Canukistan and that because they are from the Moose side that they were probably larger than me, but I never imagined that I could be made to feel quite so small. Wowsers. That is one impressive Moose

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Highlights of Canuikstan. A lot of water and a very tall building

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Oooh. Quebec. Pretty

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Even for an Elk, I think that would make a fantastic slide

So yes, my human friends. I am here, and as always, looking after my Stupid Human. Stay tuned for more snaps from the remainder of my – sorry, our – trip. Clive

Posted by Gelli 03:12 Tagged clive Comments (0)

Touring with a 2year old guide

If you ignore the protests – possible, if tricky at night – I quite liked Montreal. Though perhaps lacking much in the way of “must see's” for a tourist, it was a very agreeable city and somewhere i'm sure that would be fun to live for a while.

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Just how do you activate something uselessly?

Staying with friends of friends, I had free use of a bicycle with with to explore the city (at least until I destroyed the front tyre and had a long walk home) which is always a bonus. I trekked over to the 1976 Olympic park, Montreal's famous folly (though successful from a sporting point of view – ironically, unless you are Canadian - financially they were a disaster: even though plans had to be cut back late in the day, delays and cost overruns were staggering and meant the city was still paying off the cost of the stadium over 30 years later) to see how miserable and desolate east London will doubtless be looking in a few months/years time.

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One of the things I enjoyed most about Montreal was the street art. Especially in certain areas of the centre and at night, large parts of city was used as part of installations. Some more traditional, some stand alone; some involved light shows and entire buildings having ever changing displays projected on to them. Others were interactive: One was a row of children's swings with lights on them, which were linked to music instruments: the number, speed and rhythm of the swings dictating the notes played. There were numerous examples, and I liked it.

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The lights on the swings varies in brightness, whilat the speed of the swings and number being used - there is a row of them all the others along the promende - creates music, which varies by tone, pitch, density and volume

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The lighting on the side of the building is actually a kind of large interactive computer game which once started by sms, gets played by the noise and location of the crowd opposite

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On Sunday, much of the city was shut down whilst a large cycle event took place – if I had known about it in advance, I would have loved to take part as a way of seeing more of the city. Instead, I took a trek around the Jean-Talon market, and then spent a couple of hours in the Parc du Mont-Royal, both people watching and listening to a mass of Tam-Tam players who congregate weekly, and produce an incredible hypnotic rhythmic sound. Definitely worth a watch and listen.

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Unfortunately the rain – though not quite at the biblical levels of a few days ago – was regular and often quite heavy, which inevitably cut down on some of my plans. I have no problem with rain or getting wet, but doing things like climbing mountains to look at the view, when the rain and cloud are so thick that there will not be a view is not really my idea of fun. Instead I was given a guided tour by the lovely Sarah, who, naturally also brought her mum along, the old TP stalwart Tway. If you ever get the chance, I can recommend having a tour of pretty much anywhere by an under 5: you get to see very different perspectives to when you are just with 'boring' adults.

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My tour guide in the rain, Sarah

I tried the inevitable poutine – chips with cheese curds and gravy – a Canadian staple, to which my general feeling would be 'meh'; marvelled at the wonders of PFK (in the rest of the world, this is known as KFC. Even in France, it is KFC. But in Quebec, oh no – they need to change it to PFK – just to ensure that those dastardly English speaking companies don't destroy the local language. Or something.). I also ended up being offered money to give a lap dance in a strange thrash metal bar.

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At that point, I knew it was time to move on again.

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This, apparently, is how you get ready for a big night out in Montreal when the weather forecast isn't good...

Posted by Gelli 29.10.2012 11:45 Archived in Canada Tagged tp Comments (0)

A brand new experience: Striking French speakers...

sunny

Yes. I know I left the USA many months ago. And yes, I did return to the US from Canada. And yes I know most entries that follow will sound strange based on that. But they were mostly written whilst I was there (honest), and it is only my incompetence – and, occasionally, incontinence, although that is another story – that has delayed their postings, and for that, I hope you all can forgive me. If you can't, well, realistically, there is b***** all you can do about it anyway.

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It was more accurate than any clock. At exactly 20:00 every night, the quiet evening air was suddenly shattered by the bashing of pots and pans. People standing on street corners, on balconies, in their front gardens, all banging metallic kitchen pots and pans. This is casseroling. I was in Montreal. And this is protesting and civil disobedience, Quebec style.

For makers of kitchen equipment and drum sticks (musical, not chicken varieties) this has been a huge boon. For musical producers, it has doubtless opened a world of opportunities: unlikely as it sounds, some of the accidental melodies produced by the bashing of such diverse types of metal pots are surprisingly good. There is definite un-taped musical talent there. For tourists down town watching the parades and the police, it was mostly bemusing. For the non-protesting local, it has mostly become a weary, boring distraction. Each night varies: some nights, the protests die down with an hour – sometimes they are still going strong at midnight, and this has been going on for several months.

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Protesters on a march around central Montreal at night, and Police out in force to prevent them going places they don't want them to

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Though it has only received a minor note in most world – and indeed, non Quebecois Canadian – news outlets, Quebec has been in increasingly serious trouble for some time. What follows is my my – probably entirely incorrect – understanding of affairs and events.

It started in late 2011, when certain students started getting into disagreement over student fees. In early 2012 increases were announced by the government: The increase was 325 dollars about 200gbp) for the next 5 years, for a total of about 1700 dollars, or a bit over 1000gbp. Sure, not cheap, but on the grand scheme of things, a modest amount: Even after the full increase, fees would still be the cheapest in Canada, let alone North America, and as prices in the UK are this year rising by up to 5750gbp (eg: 28x the annual rise in Quebec, and almost 6x the total rise planned over 5 years) in one year, fairly inconsequential on the grand scheme of things.

But the students didn't like it. Quebec students apparently rarely like fee increases, and have protested on and off for 20+ years; in fact, every time an increase has been announced. Hence why the current rates are so low, and in the current economic situation, un-sustainably low.

By February, some social science students were out on strike, and protest marches were occurring. Talks continued, compromises were offered. But it wasn't good enough. The number of students on strike rapidly rose, hitting almost 400,000 across the province and every French speaking institution. From what I can attain, English speaking Universities were relatively immune and continued pretty much as normal. The protest marches became a daily event, causing chaos down town, and being attended by anything from 500 to 50,000+. One rally is believed to have had over half a million protesters.

As the protests built up, they evolved. Yes, tuition fees are still an important part, but the demo's became anti-government, anti-capitalist, anti-corruption. The Quebec provincial elections are due later this year or next year, and the more pro-independence/French parties have got on the bandwagon, at least unofficially. Protest badges have been worn by opposition politicians. Protest stickers appear all over town. And the average local got more and more anti-protest: the general view being that the students should just grow up and take a reality check.

Northern Quebec is mostly uninhabited, unexplored, often ice bound regions. But there is lots of oil and mineral wealth believed to be there. The protesters believe that this is being sold off by the state government to big construction and exploration companies, often run by friends of the ruling politicians or where former party members are now in charge. Some are against the sell off; some against who it is being sold to; some totally anti-exploration, wanting the wilderness to remain just that. Others agree that it should be done, but think the contracts should involve profits going back to the government and taxpayer which at present they are not, despite taxpayer funded development in infrastructure etc and construction permits being spent. Honestly what the real situation is, I have no idea. And the variety of things I was told or read suggest that many locals have no real idea either. Rumours spread like wildfire, even if they have no basis in anything even resembling truth. Unions are heavily involved, but depending who you talk to are either for the protest or against it; good or bad.

Last week (this is being written on June 4th) marked two big moments: protest marches hit their 100th consecutive day, and the local government, tiring of the lack of protest made a fatal error. Believing general support to be wavering and wanting an end to the strike, they introduced Bill 78 into law. Big mistake. Far from crushing the protest as they hoped, it was so heavy handed that it reinvigorated the masses and the level of protests rapidly rose. Casseroling became more commonplace, and the marches more serious.

If I understand this anywhere near correctly – and to be fair, I probably don't - the bill officially suspended all classes (so even those students and lecturers who had continued to study were kicked out) until at least August; it also banned any gathering of more than 50 people, unless the police were given 8 hours notice (naturally just before the summer festival season, which is Montreal's defining feature, and attracts millions of people each year); all parade routes have to be cleared with police; scarves, masks etc have all been banned in any circumstances whilst at the the same time, police have started covering up their own individual identification numbers. It has been made an offence to incite people to strike, to join a demo, to prevent people entering a classroom, and much more, and in all cases, burden of proof lies with the protester/arrested party and not the officials. And it appears that powers of martial law have been handed to the education minister. Not the police, army or legal people – the education minister. Who in herself, has been in the job barely 2 weeks after the previous one resigned. In total over 2500 people have been arrested during the protests; over 1000 of those have been in the last week since the new law was passed.

This has all had the affect of galvanising the protesters, and swinging public support back towards the protests. It was striking to me how many people were protesting on street corners were normal people: elderly, disabled, families, especially those with small kids (who, admittedly, almost all love making as much noise as possible, so being actively encouraged to bang things must be great) as well as more student types. On my first night in town staying with CouchSurfing friends of friends, we joined the main march. French speaking people on strike? It felt just like being back in Europe!

But if nothing else, it gave me a tour of the city at night! Several thousand were involved, and whilst there was gunshot heard and riot police in place, it was fairly calm despite being totally illegal. Everybody has scarves due to threat of tear-gas and smoke bombs, and though there were any number of 'rougher' looking people involved, and troublemakers, it was all fine. The main problem was communication – it had been planned that night as a silent protest with no casseroling, but hundreds were banging away. This meant that the songs and chants could not be heard. Talking to assorted others, they all had different grievances. I suspect this will run and run.

Chaos is promised for this weekends F1 GP amongst much else; the Americans have issued an official travel advisory against all travel to the province of Quebec. The Grand Prix, Beer, Jazz and other festivals all promise to bring the protests more into main stream and foreign press, but at the moment all I can say is watch this space.

Note: Yes, this was written in June. Yes it is being published in October. My apologies for my lack of punctuality. And obviously, some things have changed and the situation moved on. But, because I am not in Quebec any more I have no idea.

Posted by Gelli 28.10.2012 09:26 Archived in Canada Tagged strikes Comments (0)

Erm....

My apologies. This was not the plan. Some of you (very few, admittedly) might have noticed that i suddenly went quiet in the middle of North America and had maybe held out slight hope that I had been arrested, defenestrated, committed suicide, killed, murdered or worse. Sadly, no. None of them. I just appear to have got horribly distracted.

Sorry.

But i still have large chunks of blog at least semi written. So I hope that i can finally update and finish this tale of woe in the coming weeks.

Just don't hold your breath.

Posted by Gelli 12:27 Comments (0)

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