The World at Your Door

May 8, 2009

if Muhammad doesn’t go to the mountain, then the mountain will go to Muhammad
~Variation of a Spanish Saying.

One of my fellow bloggers theme is travel, but not travelling as a tourist but travelling as a voyager, as a discovery destination, where you can be exposed at other people’s food, tradition, architecture,  culture. He often talks that is not how many pictures did you take, but what kind of person you become after travelling.

I cannot agree more with his points, but one downsize of travelling is that you require both time and money, and sometimes time and money are scarce resources. Even if you backpack and do not change your socks for three weeks, you still need to pay airfare (if you can get there by bus is not really travelling, right?), food, some kind of accommodation (even camping costs) and of course you need those three weeks off. So, the world is out there waiting for you, and you hear the call, but simply you cannot go for the moment.

I recently moved from Toronto to Montréal and yesterday I rediscovered something I longtime forgot, that if you cannot go to the world, the world may be already at your door. No matter if you live in a small town or in a mega city, chances are, in those places you never go because they are for tourist, there is a vibrant community of people who is eager to talk to you.

So, while waiting for my permanent apartment, I found a backpackers hostel. After be assured by the clerk that my liver and kidneys will stay with me if I sleep in his facilities, I took off the streets to get to know my new environment. The first thing that I need to check in a new city is if the pubs offer decent food and local beer, so, armed with a book (it is always awkward to dine looking at the ceiling) I went in a brasserie. I sat and after eight minutes, a group sat next to me and order a beer that looked better that the sludge I was having, so I asked them what beer it was; since I couldn’t understand a thing they were saying I though they were Montréalers and asked in French; they just stared at me. I asked again in English and then, at unison, they said “ah, dis iz cider, mayve too zweet for yu” -are you from Europe? -Finland! -Ah! Suomen Tasavalta! -Ah! ja! ja! ja!

From there I learnt that Stolishnaya is regarded as an inferior Vodka, real men drink Finlandia; that there is actually reinders in the forest and not just in Santa Claus workshop, and that Finnish, to my dismay, find Montreal winter to be “too cold”. That Finland does not have 10 but exactly 5.1 million people (where vould wee put tenn?) that they prefer cider to beer (!) and, sadly, Helsinky’s outdoor mixed, naked hot tubs are an urban myth.

In the hostal I learnt that French people hate living in Paris (another big surprise that I keep hearing from French expatriates that prefer the snow to the Seine), that a Paris lady is happy living 80 kms NORTH of Yellowknife and do not plan to return to France, that a lot of people take better pictures than I do, and that Québec cheese is consider “almost as good as our [French] cheese”.

I used to do this in Mexico, but in Toronto I never did it because I was busy adapting to my new home. I rediscovered yesterday that you can adapt to your local world and, at the same time, enhance your links to the Global Village. Juan will be proud of me.

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