I just wanted to give readers a little update on my life here in Montréal now that I've been here for just a little over two weeks.
A typical day for me begins at 5:50am. The sun usually wakes me up, as I only have blinds on the windows. I have breakfast, get ready, and report for daily Mass at 7:30am. (The picture to the left shows the interior of the church from the vantage point of the back section where the community prays daily office--it's a pretty and colorful church in its way.) Morning Prayer follows Mass, but I have to go to school (so I pray Office of Readings and Morning Prayer on my own). I walk to the metro and take the train one station over to school.
I am in French class from 8:30-11:45 Monday-Friday, and on Tuesdays 1:00-3:00pm as well. Most of the class is in French. Indeed, the little smattering of English heard is usually from students. As might be expected, the classes focus on conversations skills and building up our knowledge of grammar rules and vocabulary.
Given the schedule, I miss daytime prayer with the community, but make it home for lunch. Lunch and dinner are great opportunities for me to practice my French, or to listen in on conversations. I admit, I still find it difficult to understand people when the speak at normal pace, especially if they have a heavy Quebecois accent. But...I'm getting better. It was at dinner one evening that I coined a new term--Kentuckcois, a Quebecois variation of "Kentuckian". Je suis Kentuckcois!
If I don't have class in the afternoon, I inevitably have to take an afternoon nap, then get up to study. After prayer and dinner, my evenings are usually taken up by study also.
Things that have surprised me thus far would be the hilliness of the city, the temperature (like how hot and humid Montréal can be), the high prices at the stores, and how tired I get during the day, just from concentrating so hard on understanding others.
Things I have loved so far include the amazing churches in the city (including the two basilicas downtown), the convenience of the metro subway system, the view of the sunsets either from the vantage point of the University of Montreal or the the roof of the priory where I stay, the carrot cake and poutine I had at Nickel's Diner, and the friendliness of the people, especially the Dominican friars with whom I live.
I have also enjoyed getting to witness to my Catholic faith and my Dominican vocation with the people I encounter--namely, the other students in my class. Just getting to wear the Dominican cross around campus and the city is a witness, where the main religious symbol is no longer the habit of Catholic religious brothers and sisters (although I have seen two religious sisters and one benedictine monk in habit), but the head scarf of Muslim women.
Speaking of which, I have been impressed by the number of Muslim women witnessing to their faith by the head scarf. To me, the sight is a powerful one, and a positive one. While most of the Western men and women run around in their summer clothing--some of them barely covered--these women witness to modesty. They become, thereby, a kind of billboard for Islamic values, and they proclaim quite eloquently "We (Muslims) are here." I have only seen one woman wearing the extreme version of the veil, where only here eyes were visible.
On the weekends, I usually explore different parts of the city. This week's adventures included visiting the Cathedral Basilica of Mary, Queen of the World and Notre Dame Basilica and going to see Harry Potter 7.2 in the McGill area of downtown. --Not to mention having Cincinnati style Poutine (the fries with chili and shredded cheddar cheese). That poutine was awesome! I look forward to trying either Mexican or Greek style poutine next.
When in Canada, eh?
Br. Paul, OP