House sitting in Montreal, Quebec, Canada
“Aspiring to be at home with ourselves is a quest.”- Michael Brown: The Presence Process Under the Donald Trump regime in this hot political summer, Americans are talking about fleeing to Canada. The news has been bad. Reports of collusion with Russia, obstruction of justice, treason and impeachment are mild compared to the violence “on […]
“Aspiring to be at home with ourselves is a quest.”- Michael Brown: The Presence Process
Under the Donald Trump regime in this hot political summer, Americans are talking about fleeing to Canada. The news has been bad. Reports of collusion with Russia, obstruction of justice, treason and impeachment are mild compared to the violence “on both sides” that resulted in the murder of a young woman in Charlottesville. She could have been me.
We arrive in Canada after 24 hours of flying, mostly waiting for standby flights out of Vegas, Chicago and Miami… but without our luggage. Our taxi driver at the Trudeau Airport is from Morocco. Aloui tells us without hesitation how much he loves Montreal. Exhausted and suffering from a toothache that invades the whole left side of my face, I am skeptical.
From the cab window, the town looks old, rundown, and very sketchy. We only have an address in Le Plateau Mont Royal for a MindMyHouse. It leads our driver to a dark alley strewn with garbage. Aloui refuses to abandon us until we find our address at 4513 Rue de Bordeaux. Using Bob’s flashlight, he finally discovers a hidden gate covered with weeds. Keys are in the mailbox as promised by Anne and Micha, the kind owners of our shelter.
The one bedroom apartment is the size of student quarters and sparsely furnished by IKEA. But it is clean and the two cats that were once homeless are there awaiting dinner. We are all sheltered, far better than the Haitian immigrants arriving in the dead of night to sleep on cots at the Olympic stadium. I fall into a safe, warm bed with my mantra: “I feel safe now.”
In the morning the toothache has merged with a migraine headache into one big head pain. Looking out the bedroom window, I see a graffiti covered stonewall climbing to a cold steel spiral staircase. I had read these outside “S” shaped staircases were typical of Le Plateau.
In the kitchen area I take a Codeine tablet with a cup of instant coffee and looking out the window, see a well-kept garden with roses and vines growing up another steep staircase.
This upstairs, it turns out, is where our new neighbor Randi lives. Randi works with the Alzheimer’s Foundation. She is empathetic enough to offer us a loan of clothes when she learns our bags were left behind in Miami. She tells us about the Haitians arriving in winter, and the loads of winter coats and hats and gloves offered to them by the local Quebecois.
The Mounties greet them with hot coffee, and documents to apply for medical insurance.
These are refugees fleeing Trump’s American deportation policies across the border to Canada reminding me of the runaway slaves escaping to the North with Harriet Tubman.
I feel ashamed of my own country. Over the next month we discover the mixtures of many nationalities living in harmony in Montreal. As we people-watch at free festivals and concerts and events in the city parks, we see multiple acts of kindness, like giving up Metro subway seats for elders, or offering a ride to a local market by a stranger on the street. And a kind Asian herbalist offers me Chinese medicine that cures my toothache in 2 days. This is second best to free medical insurance as the Ya Zhou Yan capsules only cost 7.65CD.
Montreal is a city of parks and churches, all filled with music. Parc Mont Royal is often compared to Central Park in New York City. Frederick Law Olmstead designed both parks and both serve as their city’s playground. On Sunday afternoons in summer hundreds of people gather for the Tam Tam – a spontaneous gathering of drummers beating many percussive instruments to the cacophony of pagan rhythms. There is a most fragrant smell of pot and sweat mingled within the drum circle, as wild dancing ensues. It reminds me of voodoo in Haiti on a Saturday night followed by Sunday morning Mass in Port-au-Prince.
We attend Sunday mass in the magnificent cathedral Basilique de Notre-Dame with the 7,000 organ pipes played by the same organist for the past 40 years. The church bell named the Gros Bourdon is the largest on the continent of North America. When it is ringing out, the jazz musicians in the cathedral square in front of the church began swinging in. After communion, we commune in the park with the circle of Tam Tam drummers and dancers.
We often plan our day around park events. On our first Saturday in Montreal we attended a free opera performance of Porgy and Bess; on our second Saturday there was a free concert by the Montreal Philharmonic streamed on big screens in 20 parks in the city with an estimated overall attendance of 75,000 people. Art is the public integration of community.
Our local children’s park even has a public piano that anyone can play. And the kids have painted squares of their original art in the main street to celebrate the August Street Fair on Avenue Mont Royal in Le Plateau. The community provided the piano and art supplies.
On August 21, 2017 we head for Parc Mont Royal to see the partial eclipse of the sun. First we take a bus to the Planetarium at Olympic Park to get our eclipse viewing glasses. We see many Haitian refugees strolling the grounds of their temporary home in the Olympic Village. We learn that refugees are only allowed stay in Canada legally for three months if they are economically depressed. If they are fleeing a repressive government in danger of their lives they may stay longer. Immigration laws eclipse immigration dreams.
We applaud Canada for its humanitarian effort on behalf of immigrants crossing the border. And we thank our Canadian homeowners Micha and Anne for the shelter they offer us in Montreal. The cab driver Aloui proves to be right. There is a lot to love in our neighboring city of Montreal.