Saturday, August 21, 2010

Thrifty Survival and Long Lost Friends

Montreal greeted us with French accents, warm hugs and a pile of clothes in the biggest (and probably most disorderly) thrift store I had ever seen. The warm hugs did not come while we were in the pile of clothes- that would have been disconcerting considering the storefront display of mannequin body parts. Much more preferably, the hugs were from Alex and his girlfriend Nuha. I had met Alex seven years ago at a Buddhist wat in Northern Thailand. At that time, we were both in our first week of travel and full of new experiences- Alex's a bit more exciting at that point to be honest since gullibility and blind trust can lead a person down roads they will never forget. But those are different stories- and this was a different Alex... or "Same Same, but Different" as they say in Thailand.

The icepack on his arm in the picture above was to heal his body from a long day of MMA (mixed martial arts) training. We went to see one of his (brutal) training sessions and all Joo could say afterwards was, "Alex, why do you do that to yourself???" But for all the external violence in the fights, Alex's personality was just as soft and welcoming as it had been when we first met and it was wonderful to spend an evening catching up. Everyone should have a couple friends in their lives who is completely removed from everyone else in their life... it allows for a wonderful dash of honesty, listening, and growth.

Alex's girlfriend Nuha made us a delicious breakfast spread before heading off to her job where she makes flavored puddings.

With Alex training all day long, we went out to explore Montreal. Aside from the thrift pool shown above, we spent most of our day dodging in and out of shops, based not so much on the contents of the shops but more on when it decided to pour down rain and when it was only cloudy.

Every so often we would stop and Kiwi and I would continue on our Chess marathon (he was winning 4-3 at this point). If you think chess is an exciting game, which you probably do of course, just imagine the thrilling experience Joo was blessed with as she was allowed to watch all of our games!

The above picture doesn't quite tell the whole story though because Joo did get some excitement... a park ranger walked up to us and asked us our birthdays. Based on Joo being the next one with a birthday (a nice random sampling technique) he proceeded to ask her an incredibly detailed survey on her experience with the Montreal park system. In spite of the fact that she had only been in said system for less than an hour (and most of that was spent yawning over a chess game), she confidently and without hesitation answered questions about the 19th century layout of the Montreal canals.

After a long day of walking around the city (ask Joo about it and she'll quickly point out the fact that I had told her we could finally splurge on public transport for once... and then made us walk all day), we came home and played some video games. Alex had a FIFA soccer game and Kiwi and Joo were still a bit upset at South Korea's loss in the World Cup so we worked hard to reverse the annals of soccer.
We cashed in our Canadian money just a hair too early (before we had lunch) and were forced to scrounge around pockets, the car, phone booths, behind vending machines, etc. to come up with the $5 to buy a footlong Subway sub, as we figured we might have some trouble at the US border (the Korean tourist visa is never a guarantee into the country- there's always the chance the border patrol can deny entry for no good reason which ALMOST happened to the boys when they came back in March). This particular border however was the second easiest border I've ever crossed (the easiest was in Ireland once when no one was even within sight and so we just crossed in).
Our next destination was Boston, but we took our leisurely time going down through Vermont. Joo fell in love with Vermont rest areas which offer wireless, luxury padded seats for surfing the internet, and even free gourmet coffee of assorted flavors (who wouldn't fall in love with that?)

Kiwi on the other hand got busted for stealing at a crafts place we stopped because he thought all the stores were connected and you could just pay at the front desk when you were finished. We sorted things out and the stop was successful as a whole considering the 30 cheeses we got to sample for free.
A bit further down the road we found a nice place to pull off and do some hiking...

and a general return to our hunter-gatherer roots.
Sometime after dark, we eventually pulled into Boston, or Cambridge to be precise where we met an old friend, Eric Rutt, and his wife Mahlet. This was another friend I hadn't seen in several (seven?) years, although he had been invaluable in giving us some crucial advice via email as we went through Joo's immigration process.
Joo prepared a delicious meal of lettuce wraps, which we enjoyed during the crashing thunder and lightening of a storm as the curtains billowed around us in the dining room.

We walked around Boston the next day. Despite it being a pedestrian-friendly city, I think we were all getting a bit urban-ed out and were itching to get back to some countryside (although the time we actually spent with Eric and Mahlet seemed lamentably short). Here is the Boston library's courtyard. And it really is... I'm not just saying that to make you take a picture.
Given the extreme hype put on Harvard within Korea's academic machine, it was no wonder that Joo was a bit disappointed when she saw it was just a normal set of buildings with nothing that special to it.
The downtown farmer's market, however, lifted everyone's spirits since we got there just as they were declaring half-price on all the 2-for-1 specials. I got some carrots to share with the needy...
It was a hot, hot day which didn't help the growing anti-urban sentiment (not that it wouldn't have been hot in the countryside, but a hot and tired mind tends not to consider such logic), but the mood, and general view of Boston, improved considerably after an iced latte and became almost ecstatic when I finally consented to taking the subway back- our first public transportation of the trip.
Back at Eric and Mahlet's place, Joo did some catching up of her own with their maltese-poodle Layla who may or may not have a separation anxiety. We never did quite understand whether the stories Eric had told us about how they had to emotionally prepare her for their leaving each day (beginning with a 15 minute warning, a 10 minute reminder, etc.). In any case, we tried our best to make sure she didn't get emotionally attached to us, as is made clear from the pictures below.

No comments:

Post a Comment