Holidays at Home

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Photo by jill111 / Pixabay

Like many of my fellow grad students, I travelled home to spend the holidays with my family. I‘m half way though my vacation and things are following the same predictable pattern, more or less. There is the excitement of seeing my parents and siblings, followed quickly by the readjusting to suddenly living with 6 people (I normally live alone). We all open our presents together, play board games and enjoy lots of good food (though this year half of us got food poisoning!). And while I’ve experienced the holiday joy Heather talks about, I also experience the impostor syndrome Angel describes so accurately, especially since everyone knows I’ve been doing cancer research for the last 5+ years. (more…)

Some (Random) Things that Uplift Me: An Anecdote

Random squirrel posing at McGill university. Photo taken by Yours Truly.

Random squirrel posing at McGill university. Photo taken by Yours Truly.

 

The Dilemma

I am the kind of person who gets annoyingly bored by the mundane and so I have developed an eye for those little obscure details in our surroundings. For example, after many months of observation throughout various seasons, I have noticed that there is a small conserved population of black squirrels that live specifically in that courtyard on the Atwater/Sherbrooke intersection, right at the 144 bus stop. That was the first time I had ever seen a black squirrel and probably the only place I have ever seen them in. I know black squirrels exist elsewhere, but please don’t burst my bubble and tell me otherwise. You see, it’s very simple: squirrels make me happy. The way they hop; search for food; naively miss the piece of walnut you just threw right in front of their scrawny paws; the way they stand up on their two hind legs while they’re checking you out (I mean, look at that guy in the picture, really!); the way their bushy tail is, well, bushy; the way they chase each other and interact with each other and the occasional human.

I’m about to pull a Miss Potter here and tell you a tale about black and gray squirrels. The only difference between me and Miss Potter is that I will actually be in the story – just very briefly. But let me do this properly like the good ole scientist that I am.

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Seattle’s Grace

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Seattle’s Space Needle

Happy New Year, graduates! Holidays are over and blue Mondays are back in season. Subzero temperatures and free ice-skating on the sidewalks seems to be the rage here in Montreal.

I won’t spend too much time talking about studying or grad school, since many of us are still in holiday mode so grab a mug of your favorite hot beverage and let’s share stories!

Let me start by what is freshest in my memory. Being in Seattle was a nice reality check. Despite it being one of the best cities in the US to live in, it still made me realize that there are several things I tend to take for granted in Montreal (no, not the winter):

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There and back again

Here we go again!
Image from internetcafedevotions.com/2011/12/unpacking-suitcases/

The kitchen was packed with friends and family. The cat had just attempted, quite bravely, to jump onto the counter and eat the turkey. My mom was trying to dazzle her guests with anecdotes and drinks as my father rushed this way and that with charred ovenmits tending to gravy and potatoes and other piping hot dishes bubbling on the stove.

“Things are seriously never this hectic in Montreal,” I thought.

It’s not like every time I go home things are so chaotic. Winter holidays are so unique perhaps because of the increased expectations all mixed in with the nostalgia of holidays past.

I had been anxious about my return home for the holidays. After I had wrapped up my work, enjoyed some yummy food and drinks at the lab Christmas party, and finally packed my suitcase, it sank in: Oh my…here we go.

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A Kunming Carole: Reflections on the Holidays in Five Scenes

Street Performer, Jinma Fang, Kunming, 25 Dec 2012

Scene One: Christmas Light Bulb

I knew I wanted to write a blog post about spending the holidays in China, but couldn’t  find a thread to tie my thoughts and experiences together. China, being an atheist state (opiate of the masses and all), does not officially celebrate Christmas. This has not, however, stopped the incursion of a certain jolly resident of the North Pole, or market capitalism from incentivizing a growing red-and-green presence starting in early December. Some of it is right on, like the decked-out Christmas trees that occupy the front of major department stores. Some of it is slightly off, like the Chinese translation of Christmas as Shengdan Jie (圣诞节), which literally translates to “Holy Birth Holiday,” but might also be confused for “Santa Holiday.” And then there is the downright funny appropriations, like the balloon-and-stilts payaso Santa I came across in one of Kunming’s main public squares. Cobbling these images together in a coherent manner seems at once forced and yet inefficient in capturing this unique collage.

I’ve gotten into the habit of going to a nearby Cantonese restaurant on not-just-Saturdays to indulge in dim sum, and catch up on some reading on my Kindle. The food is delicious, the location is convenient, and the clientele is exclusively Chinese. I found myself heading there, thinking about how best to describe the holiday experience. Busy as always, I walked into the restaurant, and couldn’t help but smile: my familiar servers were buzzing around, carefully balancing little delicatessens on bamboo steamers, all the while wearing Santa hats and moving to Jingle Bells. In Chinese, of course.

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WHAT ARE YOU PLANNING TO DO THIS SUMMER?

No work
Finally…I have declared a retreat from all activities involving lab work, school work or any associated word relating to “work.” This is indeed a surprise coming from a workaholic like me (if I say so myself…)

The story behind
Winter semester 2010 was particularly a hard one. With writing my thesis, editing and re-editing with a pair of borrowed hawk’s eyes, TAing and working part-time at a CEGEP, I was on a roller coaster of stress and serious time management issues. Simultaneously, I was working on a PhD proposal for my application in Educational Studies (another story in itself).

This semester was worse. Maybe, mostly from recurring fatigues and stress from the previous semester and failure to take a well-deserved break. If it was up to my “Let’s go with the flow” persona, I’d definitely go on vacation with my friends or opt for a lost island with perfectly calm lagoons and refreshing coconut drinks or pinacolada.

However, my scholarship was over and I already had a job at a CEGEP (which I love and intended to keep since I was new), I decreed upon postponing the fun for a while. In addition of my job, I was also working on some publications and additional lab works.

Nowadays
Since the start of this week, I am officially in holiday mode. For one thing, I sleep till late – 10 am and sit on the deck to linger over some tea and muffins. My cat is nowadays my faithful companion (miraculously never leaving my side), since my partner is off to a conference in the States. Then, I catch up on some long awaited readings – books from Wiggs, Griffin, Sparks and Paolini or watch some movies. I prepare a light lunch – mostly tuna sandwiches and indulge upon comforting chocolate desserts. Then, it’s nap time with my faithful cat half-asleep, guarding the bedroom door.

Occasionally, I do think about some pre-reading for my PhD – but I manage to brush off this idea. There’s still gardening to enjoy and new recipes waiting to be discovered…

In a few weeks
When summer will be in full swing, I plan to visit Marine Land and Niagara Falls. I can hardly wait to board the “Maid of the Mist” and feel the rejuvenating powers of the Falls. I look forward to replenish my energy and face next semester with a smile.

Neerusha Gokool Baurhoo

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