Falling embers

Possibly more than many other cities, Montreal truly comes alive in the summer. The hot, sticky weather and the long hours of daylight signify that it’s (finally) time for picnics in the park, ice cream, late afternoon drinks (which unfold into late evening dinners) on outdoor terraces, sun-bathing and other sports on the gentle slope of Mont-Royal, bustling Plateau streets with restaurant-goers walking with a bottle of wine tucked under their arm, and the countless festivals that Montreal is famous for. When summer rolls around, one of the festivals I look forward to most is the international fireworks competition that takes place every year at La Ronde.

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Jacques-Cartier Bridge open to pedestrians. Kristina Kasparian

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Three weeks of travel, networking and fish & chips (I)

Photo by Kristina Kasparian

You’ve never been to London? How could that be?”

I’ve had to answer variations of that same question – posed each time with the same sentiment of surprise – on numerous occasions over the last couple of years. As an avid traveler and as someone who spent nearly every weekend of her European Master’s degree jetting off to another capital city, it amazed people (and me) that I had still not been to London, or to any other city in the UK for that matter.

And so, because fate kept London away from me a little while longer – until the right opportunity would present itself for me to be London-bound —the city quickly became a dream for me. It was finally this July, on my way to a summer school in my field of research, when I would finally have a ticket to London in my name.

And let me tell you – I was excited! I read the Lonely Planet London cover to cover (those of you who know me well can attest that I am a very slow reader who rarely makes it to the back cover). I blared London Calling at least once a day (much to the dismay of my husband, who hates hearing the same song over and over again). I even bought myself a Keep Calm and Carry On travel journal in anticipation. By the time I was scheduled to leave, I knew a lot about the city, except about how it would FEEL.

The plan was to spend four days in London, before heading on to Bangor, in Wales, to attend the International Summer School on Bilingualism for two weeks. After a very busy few months of meticulously designing my experiments for my PhD research and having to solve one challenge after another, I was looking forward to taking a break from my routine and life at the department, and hoped to come back refreshed and inspired.

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Daydreams of rucola, prosciutto and pecorino romano

My previous blog post was about productivity and fighting procrastination, yet I’d really be inhuman (and a liar) if I claimed to never fall into procrastinatory daydreams myself! I attribute these spells of distraction to (thankfully) having many other interests, and see no harm in entertaining some of these interests for a little while, even when PhD life is at its busiest. Something I frequently catch myself doing is wondering and pondering about food. I’ll think of an ingredient that I like, or one that I am curious about, and then I will Google it to see what I could possibly do with it, should I want to cook something new that evening or weekend. Indeed, I admit that thoughts of pecorino romano and rucola often seep into my day, interrupting my thinking about how a bilingual individual’s brain might deal with multiple competing languages.

So, here I am now, channeling my most recent food-thoughts into a blog post. What does a blog post about cooking have to do with PhD life, you ask? Well, although we PhD students are always pressed for time, we naturally get hungry when we work so hard, and we should be able to enjoy our life and eat healthy and tasty food, in order to compensate for our stress and deadline-filled days. Aside from that, for those who enjoy cooking, trying out new recipes can be seen as an opportunity for creativity, for taking a break and for gaining energy from a great meal.

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Where did summer go?

Where did all the time go?  This summer seemed so immense only a month ago, and all of a sudden we only really have a few weeks left until it is time to start thinking about fall again.

What have I accomplished so far this summer?

  • I have profited from Montreal.  I attended the Jazz Fest, the Francofolies festival, random street festivals that I didn’t know existed before, gone to a free tango class, biked all over the island at all times of day and night, had poutine, did yoga on the Lachine canal, got bagels from St. Viateur so often that I am now friends with the employees and get my bagels for free, went to house parties, climbed the mountain, tried the flying trapeze, attended Tam-tams and Piknic Elektronik…. and Much more.
  • I have gained amazing exposure through singing in the metro.  The amount of social and musical confidence I have gained through this experience is unmatched.  I have never in my life performed so often in such a short amount of time.  I have been featured by a small TV station, met agents, recording engineers, other musicians, circus performers, and music lovers.
  • I have built a very healthy lifestyle.  I have found a way to eat mostly local, organic food, exercise consistently, and know when I need sleep.  Hopefully I’ll bring this skill into the following year.
  • I have rekindled my desire to make music, learn, and work hard in this amazing life.  After a hard year of papers and study, sometimes the last thing you want to do is continue to study.  But there is so much to learn in this world.  And, most of the learning is experiential – all you need to do is step outside your comfort zone, and make ‘Yes’ be your magic word.
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