Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Amour = Montreal

"Words... they'll try to shake you. Don't let them break you. Or stop your world from turning. When words keep you from feeling good, use them as firewood and let them burn" - Words by Train

Going through my Canada trip pictures, I realized I only took three pictures of myself: one was in the science museum (and it looks like it can be in any science museum in the world) and the other two made it looked like I was visiting Beijing, China instead.

Hahaha. Oh well, what important is the memory I bring back, right? (and what a memory Canada turns out to be. Montreal, you will always have a special place in my heart... cewahhh)


I did not get to do any research on Montreal before I got there, except to learn that the taxi from the airport to the hotel will cost me 38 Canadian Dollars. Before traveling, I will usually do extensive study on what to do in the area and how to get around.

Well, I was just too busy this time around to google things up.

But just like life, when you do not put up any expectation at all, that’s when you will enjoy it the most, right?

Montreal is such a charming city with a mix of personalities. It has an European air about it. French is the main language. All signboards and menu, among others, are in French, and people are most likely to greet you “Bonjour” instead of “Hi”. I indulged in greeting people in French, because it sounds so cool, hahaha, but of course when they started to continue the chat in French, that’s when I’ll have to sheepishly explain that my vocabulary does not extend beyond hi and thank you. They’ll just smile and switch back to English, but I noticed that throughout my many travel people warms up easily to you if you make effort to speak in local language.

The Canadians are superfriendly too. Once, we were standing at a corner of the street just figuring out where to go next – we’ve been walking randomly with no fix destination – and a guy greeted us and ask if we need any direction. We didn’t answer directly because we don’t have any particular direction in mind, but the guy thought we didn’t answer because we don’t understand English, so he asked again in French… lagi aaa blur kitaorang. Because he was so nice, I asked him the way back to our hotel, eventhough we totally know where it was.


I totally love the European feeling of the French quarters, particularly the buildings and cobble-stoned street. My favorite thing to do here is to stroll among the narrow alleyways and visited the little shops and boutiques. Too bad the shops closed so early (6 pm, okay?!) and the conference schedule was really full that I don’t have enough time to fully explore the area.


The other parts of the city do remind me that I am actually in North America, and I was immediately transported to cities like Minneapolis and the quieter street of New York. It does remind me of my four years at the States, and coupled with the crisp and cold almost-Fall weather, well, it was really easy to get a little bit nostalgic of my college years.

And of course – Chinatown! It’s everywhere in the world, right? It was so weird that one turn off the street and suddenly I was bombarded with signage in Chinese promoting dim sum, acupuncture and Chinese herb and Chinese music being played on the speaker. Sue and I went here almost daily to get our fix of bubble tea since Chinatown is just next to our hotel.


Rue Ste Catherine is the famous shopping area where numerous shops and shopping complexes lined the road. Too bad that it was a bit far from where we were staying, so I did not get to shop much at all. My eyes were spinning like crazy looking at all the clothes and shoes. Rugi, rugi… (kedai-kedai tu la yang rugi. They lost one potential shopaholic!)


But my favorite thing about Montreal is how bicycle friendly the city is. They have special lanes for bicycle, lots of parking space for bicycles and this…

This rent-a-bike facility was set up everywhere around the city. You can rent a bike from one point and return it to any other point. The rate is 5 Canadian Dollar for a day, if I am not mistaken. The lovely thing is, people actually use the bikes. I’ve seen people biking them everywhere. Kan best kalau KL macam ni.

Friday, September 10, 2010

1 Syawal di Awan Biru

"The world has it's ways, to quiet us down. The world has it's ways to quiet us down. Comes the rain, down comes our spirits again. But down comes the strength, to lift us up and then..." - Losing Keys, by Jack Johnson

Greetings from Hong Kong, my friends! I am now waiting for my flight out to Montreal, Canada. We got delayed for two extra hours :( Hopefully, we'll make the Toronto-Montreal connecting flight; if not, need to spend the night at Toronto pulak.

1. If you ever wonder how does it feel to spend the eve of Raya alone in your bujang apartment, let me tell you: it sucks! I thought four years of studying abroad could prepare me for this. I even had to sit for a final exam on one of the Raya there. But the feeling is different. Being in a country where people don't really celebrate Eid definitely suppressed the raya feeling. As such, 1 Syawal went by just like any other day. You don't really 'feel' it, and I can survived that.

But being in Kuala Lumpur when the rest of the family is in Melaka, and when the city is empty, when all your friends are away enjoying time with their family, and you are there alone in your apartment packing up for your trip... cue the takbir raya, cue the mercun, cue the raya songs - oh man, the loneliness factor increases one-hundredth fold! I could not even stayed at home because it got so depressing, so I spent the day running errands and walking around the city. Even in a sea full of people, I felt so alone :(

So unless you are a heartless person, or your heart is made of pure steel, silalah pulang beraya di kampung. If you are like me, a woman that looks all macho on the outside, tapi sebenarnya di dalam hatinya memang mudah tersentuh, silalah pulang beraya di kampung, okay?

2. My flight was 'nicely' planned for 1 Syawal at 9.25 am. And of course, I forgot to call the airport taxi to pick me up. Lebih tragis lagi, it was raining right after Subuh, just the time I planned to leave home. I had no option but to wait for the taxi outside the apartment, but did you know how many taxi are outside that early in the morning, plus it is a Raya morning??? Zero!

The rain was rather heavy, thus I can't tugged my big luggage along, so I left it near the guard station, and walked out with a small umbrella. Dalam kedinginan pagi Subuh disaat hujan turun mencurah-curah (serious, syahdu okay), five minutes passed with me praying nervously for a miracle (and yeah, almost crying too), before I saw a taxi from far away. Memula dia macam tak nak berhenti - lagi la aku nak nangis!! Huhu, nasib baik dia berenti gak. "Maaf dik, tak nampak. Gelap sangat", the taxi driver said. I thanked him so many times :"Terima kasih la sebab berhenti, pakcik. Saya dah menggelabah dah nih". Serius, aku rasa macam nak peluk je dia, haha. I even planned to pay him double, just because I felt so relieved!

We went back to my apartment to pick up my luggage and off we went to Setiawangsa LRT. He first offered to send me to KLIA, but since he wanted to perform Solat Raya in Wangsa Maju - obviously he won't be able to get back in time - I said the LRT pun okay la.

And you know what, he did not want to take the taxi fare! "Saya belanja raya," he said. Ya Allah, murahnya rezeki ku hari ini. My day was set to look like it will go all wrong, and here came a good soul to make everything all right again. I prayed that He will bring more rezeki to the pakcik taxi yang cool itu.

3. As Sue and I got off the tram at the international departure hall at KLIA, I was approached by three very nervous looking Indonesian women. "Maaf, ibu. Tumpang tanya. Dimana perlu kami dapatkan tiket? Tadi diberitahu pramugari perlu naik keretapi". We were in a rush, but I could not help but to feel for them. They really looked like unseasoned travelers, macam rusa masuk kampung pun ada gak, completely lost. I remembered the nice pakcik taxi, and I know it's time to pay his kindness forward.

"Mau kemana ni?" (Aku bercakap dengan sedikit accent Indonesian, haha. Macam fail je). They said they are going to Bahrain for work, but the only boarding pass that they had was the Jakarta-KL used boarding stub. They gave me their passport and I found the e-ticket inside.

Oh, next flight is on Jordanian Royal Airlines. They thanked me profusely when I explained that they might had to take the tram to the main terminal and get the next boarding pass there. But as they waited for the tram, I remembered that there should be a transfer counter in this very terminal itself. As I walked back to them, I saw them approaching two MAS stewardess about to board the tram (inilah stewardess from their previous flight, yang suruh diaorg naik keretapi tu). I saw one of the stewardess got kind of annoyed and pulled some faces when the three ladies asked for her help. Isk... tak boleh jadi ni. I swooped in and asked the stewardess in my authoritative, snobbish sounding English where these ladies should be heading. Baru la dia senyum dengan girangnya, "Oh, they approached you too, madam? Yes, they can just go to that transfer counter. Thanks for helping. Be careful (sebab ada troli nak langgar aku, haha). Selamat Hari Raya!". Huish, pilih kasih. Bila orang speaking baru la nak layan. Kesian ok kakak-kakak dari Indonesia tu.

So, I told them the direction to the counter, tapi serius muka diorang macam sangat confuse dan macam tak reti baca directional signage jugak, so aku decide to walk with them to the counter terus. Huhuhu, beria sungguh diaorang berterima kasih ("Terima kasih, ibu. Nasib baik ada yang mahu menolong..."). Aku harap they get to their destination safely!

My cheap phone can't be set to roaming (yeah, memang kena beli handphone mahal la nampaknya lepas ni), so I'll be out of touch except via email and FB, hopefully. Missing you guys already - can't wait to be home :)

p/s: yesterday I had the final Ramadhan weigh-in. Tadaaa!!!! Awesome blossom!