Sunday, November 27, 2005

Hello from Montreal

So I'm here in Montreal, sitting in my hotel room, which stinks of cigarette smoke. It's supposed to be a non-smoking room. The front desk assured me that it was. I guess they just take the ashtrays out of the room and call it non-smoking.

My hair reeked of cigarettes when I woke up this morning. Not because I was out at a bar last night but because of the nicotine-filled pillows. The windows don't open. I feel like I'm suffocating. At least I have a nice view. I can see the snow on the ground, the city lights in the sky and the cross on the hill.

My head hurts from trying to speak French all day. I try not to let people know that I'm an outsider, or worse, that I'm an imposter. My last name is French and I don't speak a word. But I'm trying. Usually, I just nod and smile and say "oui."

Sometimes it backfires. Like at the grocery store this morning when I was putting my groceries into the plastic bags. A woman came running over and sprayed machine gun bullets of French in my direction. So I just nodded and smiled and said "oui." She paused for a second. I could tell she was trying to determine if I was: a) not very bright, or b) just English. I think she decided on the latter.

"I was trying to tell you that you're using the small bags. The big bags are over here."

"Merci," I said (I don't give up that easily).

Back to the hotel. So there's a bunch of us from work here and everyone but me has a king sized bed. I have two little double beds in a non-smoking smoking room. It's my own fault. I spoke French when I checked into the hotel. In other words, I said "oui" to everything without understanding what the front desk person was actually saying. The thing is, everyone here is so nice that if you speak to them in French (no matter how mangled or poorly accented) they will speak French back to you.

Or maybe the hotel had simply run out of rooms with king sized beds by the time I got here. My co-workers arrived long before I did. I ditched them at the luggage carousel at the airport to share a cab downtown with a scandalously young sculptor I met on the plane. We have plans to meet up for a beer tomorrow. It figures. The second I leave Vancouver, I get a date.

The real action starts tomorrow when the UN climate change conference kicks off. A few hours later, the government is expected to fall. It should be a very exciting day.

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