1997: Europe 2004: Canada/UK


Friday 14 May

After a grueling day (almost 24 hours in fact) spent either in an airport or in the air, I finally reached Montreal. At first, things did not appear that well because it was pouring down in buckets as I was coming out of the airport.

After a short rest in my hotel, I ventured into the night scenes of Montreal. Or, more specifically, I went to my first milonga, at Dancing Mocha Joe. Actually I was a little tired so I did not dance at all, but it was wonderful to be bathed in the Tango music – even if it was after a 20-minute walk from the nearest Metro station…

Saturday 15 May

On Saturday morning, this little exchange took place.

As I set out to discover Montreal, a car drove next to me and stopped. The driver, a man, said, “Hi, I am Italian. Do you know where xxx is…?”

In reply, I said, “Sorry, but I am a tourist…”

“Oh, a tourist…”??

I think that pretty much killed the whole conversation. Which brings to mind: since when do we introduce ourselves by the categories we belong to?? I mean, instead of using names? :wink:

Sunday 16 May

Joined a half-day city tour today.

First impressions of people of Montreal? Extremely friendly, very helpful and courteous. From the pedestrians on the street offering directions, to the helpful and patient shop assistants, up till now, I have had nothing but favourable impressions.

The city itself reminds me very much of my hometown, Melbourne. There are pockets with intense activities: either cultural events, or concerts for teenagers, or just bars, or caf�s, and there are heritage buildings which portray the historical roots of the city.

Some shots of the city of Montreal (opens a new window)

17-21 May

This week is the ICASSP 2004 Conference, which is the main reason for me being here, so not much to tell really.

Apart from the technical meetings – which I have learnt a thing or two from, I am glad for the opportunity to meet up with old friends again. For example, there was the friend from ANU whom I last saw in Paris (during my previous trip) as well as a senior who is now working in London, at Imperial College. Naturally, through them and other colleagues, I was able to make more professional acquaintances.

A couple of observations of social behaviour at the Metro stations here. Firstly, people waiting at the platforms automatically make way for the alighting passengers. Secondly, when on the escalators, again, there is a unspoken convention of standing to the right-hand side to allow people to move through. I think Singapore or Singaporeans have a lot to learn from people of Montreal in this regard. No rules or “guidance” are really necessary – just some consideration for others and common courtesy.

There was a slightly amusing incident two days ago (18 May). As I was coming out of the Metro station, the elderly gentleman in front of me picked up a copy of the free newspaper they have at all stations. He promptly sized up the newspapers against his head. A little puzzled, I continued. Then I realised what the purpose of incomprehensible actions: it was raining that morning, and he was going to use it as a shade… :-)

Photos taken on St Helen’s Island (opens a new window)

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