December 20, 2011

When politics crosses the (goal) line

Montreal and the rest of Quebec is all a-buzz with the news of the firing of the Montreal Canadiens coach (a French dude) and the hiring of an interim coach by the name of Randy Cunneyworth. He's a unilingual anglophone -- a fancy way of saying he doesn't speak French.

Cunneyworth comes with great credentials and he was hired from within the Canadiens organization. Everyone should be happy, yes?

Of course not. Now the government is involved and suggesting the team get rid of this unilingual anglophone and instead hire someone who speaks French. They really don't care if he speaks English, as is the case with many people in Quebec, just that he speaks their language.

Separatist groups (the crazies who really do want to separate and have their own country) are insulted and calling for a boycott of Molson beer (the family owns the Canadiens). Personally, I see it as an idle threat because they probably don't drink the beer anyway.

Unfortunately, under Cunneyworth's leadership of three days, they have lost two games. The interesting element will be if he starts winning, will he be worthy? 

Our good friend Mark Kirstein emailed us today and said it best....
"Ok sell the house get back to Blackhawk country. When there is a damn near civil war over the Canadien coach not speaking French it truly has gone too far. And when that shit takes space on my sports page {Chicago Tribune} it is even worse."

October 15, 2011

Because it's the law

Nothing says "obey the language laws" like making sure a protest is bilingual.

September 28, 2011

Hannah comes to Canada

Five days...two provinces, three major cities, a little league baseball game, an historical tour, lots of meals out, discovering a new house, tolerating a neurotic dog and keeping an aunt, uncle, two cousins and a mom and dad on their toes...that was our wonderful visit with our beautiful niece Hannah. And of course her parents. We like them too. It was awesome to watch my baby brother, whose diapers I once changed, be a dad. We are so proud of John and Stephanie. While their 16 months with sweet Hannah has not been typical and they have faced hurdles that would make many parents crash and burn, they have taken Hannah's difficulties, focused on her abilities, (which there are MANY) and have become the best parents a child could ever ask for.

We love it when we have visitors. It's a great chance to see the place we live through new eyes. And this was a particular monumental visit since Hannah was traveling to Canada for the first time. For us it was enlightening to watch a 16-month old and her time flies. Hannah has some respiratory issues so we were quickly taken back to our days with Louis and nebulizer treatments every few hours. It's good for us to see how far Louis has come. And for Louis it was a great time to hang out with his Uncle John who happens to be one of his favorite people. He was thrilled to have his uncle at his baseball games and took some pointers from John, while Hannah was entertained and watched with enthusiasm.
We spent a day in Ottawa at Louis' baseball game and walking around the city. I love this city. It's very regal and a mix of old and new. Danielle joined us for the day.
A quick night at home was followed by a road trip to Quebec City. As many of said, this is the closest to a European feeling and we have to remind ourselves we are in North America. We had a great time walking the city, eating, embracing ourselves in history for a tour (Louis got to play hooky, Danielle had to stay behind for school). It was a wonderful time. Hannah was a rockstar! John was most entertained by the rude, aggressive drivers we experienced while trying to leave the city at rush hour. He opened is window yelling "douche bag" to one driver. I had to laugh when I told him that there are some things that just don't translate and in French, douche means shower, so he just called that dude a shower bag.

Our last day we spent quickly touring Montreal...with drives to the schools to show Uncle John and Aunt Stephanie where Louis and Danielle get their Quebec education. While in Montreal, John was quite patient when an old French guy gave him hell for not speaking french when he asked John a question and he responded with "no hablo fran-say."

We had some time at home and an adult dinner out which was appropriately capped off with Duke getting sprayed by a skunk at 10 pm. For John and Kish, it was just like old times in Arizona.
We had an amazing five days and can't wait to see the Colorado Schmitz family again!

September 24, 2011

the Daily Duke 9.24.11

We are so enjoying having my brother John, his wife Stephanie and our precious niece Hannah visiting from Colorado. Duke is very interested in Hannah, especially her toys. Who needs dog toys?

September 20, 2011

the Daily Duke 9.20.11

Duke didn't get the memo that it's Fall here in Canada. This didn't stop him from taking a dip in my friend's pool. But then again, he doesn't have an issue with cold water.

September 14, 2011

Bikes and sangria

We are fortunate to have a wonderful network of bike paths in and around Montreal. Today's 30KM ride to Old Montreal was so much easier with a pit stop for a pitcher of sangria at an outdoor cafe. It was a beautiful day....

When you have three combination bike locks and have no idea what the combinations resort to finding a cafe where you can BYOB...bring your obnoxious bike. 

September 11, 2011

Ten years later

It's hard to turn on the radio today without hearing non-stop coverage of the tenth anniversary of 9-11. It was such a difficult day for the U.S., and we were so absorbed in the events that I didn't take into consideration what it must have been like to hear the news from another country. Now, being in Canada for all the anniversary coverage makes me think of the impact it had on Canadians.

Because it likely won't make the news in the U.S...I thought this letter from President Obama to Prime Minister Stephen Harper was worth sharing....

Dear Mr. Prime Minister:
It has often been said that the United States and Canada are great neighbors, trading partners and the best of friends. Friendship gives us comfort and it gives us strength, but can be tested in difficult times. In one of the darkest moments in our history, Canada stood by our side and showed itself to be a true friend.
On the 10th anniversary of September 11, 2001, we remember with gratitude and affection how the people of Canada offered us the comfort of friendship and extraordinary assistance that day and in the following days by opening their airports, homes and hearts to us. As airspace over our two countries was shut down, hundreds of flights en route to the United States were landed safely by Canadian air traffic control in seventeen Canadian airports from coast to coast. The small city of Gander, Newfoundland, population 9,600, received 6,600 diverted passengers, while Vancouver received 8,500 people. For the next 3 days — before our air space was reopened — those displaced passengers were treated like family in Canadian homes, receiving food, shelter, medical attention and comfort.

Ten years later, we continue to be grateful for Canada's friendship, and for the solidarity you continue to show us in our shared fight against terrorism. The United States is fortunate to share a border with a country that understands, in your words, "There is no such thing as a threat to the national security of the United States which does not represent a direct threat to this country."

On this anniversary, we recognize all the gestures of friendship and solidarity shown to us by Canada and its people, and give thanks for our continuing special relationship.
Signed Barack Obama

September 8, 2011

the Daily Duke 9.8.11

We're enjoying some beautiful sunny days. Although, it's easy to tell that fall is in the air with cool mornings. Duke is loving the dog park. It's hard to believe that in a matter of months this place will look like this.

September 7, 2011

"I'm almost fluent" word of the day 9.7.11

a system of government in which most of the important decisions are made by state officials rather than by elected representatives.
a state or organization governed or managed according to such a system.
the officials in such a system, considered as a group or hierarchy.
excessively complicated administrative procedure, seen as characteristic of such a system : the unnecessary bureaucracy in local government.
ORIGIN early 19th cent.: from French bureaucratie, from bureau (see bureau, -cracy ).

Now we really understand the origin of the word. 

Change of course

It's been unbelievably stressful in the Pisani household the last two weeks getting Danielle settled into post-secondary education. Since she technically graduated from high school in June (after grade 11) her next step was to go to CEGEP for a two year program.

And then came immigration issues. And miscommunication. And frustration. And tears. And swearing.

Due to the fact that our family is in Quebec on Paul's work permit, which expires on September 21 and is in the process of being renewed, Danielle's student visa was hung up in the incredible bureaucracy of the Quebec government. We're talking frustration beyond belief. The week before she was to start CEGEP -- and couldn't speak to a live person in the international office of her "new" school for direction -- we were told that if she couldn't produce her student visa by September 19, she would be de-enrolled from this school. Even though we were going to be paying over 10K for this school when the Quebecers go for free.

Yes, imagine the frustration. And the language in the Pisani household. Imagine the phone conversation when the Quebec immigration person called Kish one morning. He unfortunately was on the receiving end of an enormous, yet somewhat professional, outburst and, bless his heart, he stayed on the phone and listened to the rant. And the criticism of the Quebec government. However, in between my rants, I thanked him a number of times for speaking English and complemented him on his command for the language.

So, we decided that we needed to research the one and only viable option, and that's what we did. After filling out an application in record time and having an interview, she was accepted to Lower Canada College (LCC) which is a grade 12/pre-university program in Montreal. The only "issue" is that by attending this program, she is no longer eligible to attend a university in Quebec. We weren't too disappointed with that  non-option of Quebec because frankly, WE DON'T HAVE A CHOICE. 

Frustrated yet? Imagine.

So after so many issues with the Quebec government and "public" institutions, we gave a silent middle finger to the system and changed courses to this new school. I was speaking with a friend yesterday and explaining the situation and said that in the big scheme of life events, how fortunate we are because we're talking about education and where we have a choice. And then I had to stop myself because I realized I was trying to maple syrup the situation and make it sweet. However, after the fact, this is a minor bump in the road. 

The good news? She's in an excellent school where the focus is on preparing the students for a university in Canada (not Quebec) or in the U.S. There are only 40 kids (co-ed) in the program and enrollment has doubled just from last year. They have administrators on staff who work one-on-one with the students on scholarships and applications. And I really like that several of the administrators also TEACH a class or two so that they can stay connected in the classroom. Brilliant idea, eh? Ironically, Danielle is one of only a couple "international" students in the program which is saying something about what some Quebec students must be thinking when the really do have a choice.

And, she's enjoying wearing "real clothes" as they have to dress in business attire each and every school day. We'll be sure to ask in December how much she misses a uniform. 

In the meantime, we couldn't be happier with her placement. And most importantly Danielle is happy and she's getting a kick-ass education. 

We're not so happy with Quebec at the moment. 

the Daily Duke 9.7.11

Duke watched by the door as Danielle and Louis each left for school at different times. As he gets older, he appreciates the peace and quiet in the house.

September 1, 2011

Our 8th grader

Something happened this summer. Louis must have grown a foot, his voice lowered by several octaves, he increased our food budget by hundreds of dollars, he craves his independence and he had a great summer. Today was his first day of school. Yes, he had new clothes to mark the occasion but opted instead to wear his old crap. I remember the days when I could set clothes out for the kids and they would just wear them.

So, what did Louis do this summer?
He had an amazing baseball season playing on a "typical" baseball team. (We don't like the word "normal"). He and his team went to the provincial championships, unfortunately losing two heartbreaking and very close games. But, we were fortunate to be with wonderful parents, the best kids and we looked forward to each and every game. It was lots of fun.

He got to go to a Toronto Blue Jays game and sit in the Blue Jays charity box with great friends from his baseball team. And mom got to go too. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience and we will never forget it.
While at the Blue Jays game Louis came face-to-face with a Frank Thomas photo
He also got to sit in the box for the Katy Perry concert with another great friend. I'm sure he's happy all of his dude friends know he went to Katy Perry. We had a great time and what a way to see a concert!
After Toronto, Louis and mom hit the road and went through Niagara Falls. He was not that impressed. But it was worth the stop. I made him smile in this photo.
We stayed the night in Cooperstown, N.Y. and went to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Absolutely AMAZING. Put it on your travel list, even if you're not a baseball fan. The town is quaint and a great place to visit. We took out a membership because we kept thinking that Paul and Danielle needed to experience it. We're hoping to head there this fall.
After Cooperstown we went on to Portland, Maine to meet up with Danielle who had been nannying there for a couple of weeks. Paul joined us too we had a great time. We love Maine and everything about it.

So, that's Louis' summer. In between this he had baseball camp, time with friends, fights with his sister and lead the life of a typical teenage boy. And for that we are grateful.

August 31, 2011

Happy trails

I just love the northeast. The kids and I took a quick overnight trip to Burlington, Vermont to save a shitload of money by avoiding 15% sales tax and inflated prices in Canada shop for school clothes. It's worth the trip as there is not sales tax on shoes and clothing in Vermont and as we all know, that stuff adds up. Plus, it was a reason to hit the road and head south and also go to our favorite Burlington Mexican restaurant.

We like to take the ferry these days. After crossing Lake Champlain from New York to Vermont, there's a pretty country road we take when I ran across this store and had to stop and take a photo of it. Unfortunately, the store was not yet open. Brilliant name.
We made our usual trip to Walmart for our usual provisions and when I turned the corner I saw this....cue the sound of a choir singing "Alleluia." In WALMART folks. God bless the U.S.A. When we go there it's like the whole world is on sale.

August 25, 2011

the Daily Duke 8.25.11

Duke would like to thank the Korte family from Lemont, Illinois for being so thoughtful and bringing him a box of Trader Joe's dog treats when they come to visit earlier this month. What we would give for a TJs in Montreal. Duke thought they were mighty tasty. Merci!

The perfect season

Louis has had a great summer of baseball. His team finished the regular season and the regional playoffs undefeated! So this spirited team is headed to the Provincial championships tomorrow. We've had so much fun this season with the players, the parents and the siblings. Paul didn't get thrown out of any games this year. He did have a lot of fun with the boys. One kid in particular is named Laurent and speaks mainly French and his name is very French. After saying it a few times and asking for the pronunciation Paul said, "okay......Larry." Nothing like bringing a little American influence to the Canadian baseball team. Go Blue Jays!

August 17, 2011

the Daily Duke 8.17.11

Have I mentioned that he was supposed to be Paul's hunting dog? He's a bit domesticated now.

August 14, 2011

Da plane

There's something eerie about driving down the interstate near the airport and having this plane appear in the windshield. It's the very large and regal Airbus makes a daily flight from Paris on Air France. No, I was not driving when I took this photo.

August 12, 2011

A nice night

It was a beautiful night for tennis in Montreal last night. Chilly temps. Good tennis. Our American won. Full moon. Full stadium? Yes, this match was sold out even though it doesn't look like it. Good times though.

August 10, 2011

the Daily Duke 8.10.11

Duke is very bummed out to learn that they don't allow dogs into the Rogers Cup Tennis Tournament in Montreal this week. He's thinking of all those balls he could add to his collection.

Rogers Cup

One of my favorites things each summer in Montreal is the Rogers Cup tennis tournament. Louis and I enjoy going early in the tournament where we get to see some great tennis. Lucky for us our session last night was rained out and we learned the real meaning of "raincheck."

August 6, 2011

the Daily Duke 8.6.11

We have had an awesome several days visiting with out of town friends and an overnight in Quebec City with the Korte's and the Oltman's of Chicago. Duke enjoyed the attention from the dog-loving Korte family and was never far from food. Duke had a sleepover with a friend while we were gone for the night and struggled to stay awake the day after as we hung out late into the night (or morning) with these great friends.

August 3, 2011

August 2, 2011

Construction criticism

This is what happened in Montreal over the weekend. A giant piece of concrete fell near the entrance of a tunnel on a major road frequented by 100K cars a day. Fortunately it happened on a Sunday morning when thankfully most people were off the road. 

The sad irony? It happens to be the middle of what is called the "Construction Holiday" in Quebec. A time when most construction shuts down for an entire two weeks so employees can take paid vacations (in addition to other vacation time). Bright orange signs and barricades remain up clogging traffic, but there is very little construction action on the roads in Montreal. We have always thought it was silly as winters are harsh and summer is an ideal time to jam on those projects. But, it's a union/political thing for the most part and these people need a break. In the summer. In construction "season."

Louis and I just returned from some time spent traveling in Canada (Toronto) and the northeast U.S....Niagara Falls, Cooperstown, N.Y. and the coast of Maine. I noticed right away in Toronto the clean and well maintained roads and infrastructure. It's the polar opposite of Montreal where freeway overpasses are dark and dingy due to age and lack of maintenance and have nets attached to them to catch the falling concrete rocks that can easily slam into the cars below. On our drive we appreciated the state of the U.S. roads too. Despite the debt ceiling issues, I never once felt like concrete was going to fall from the "ceiling" of a freeway. (Obviously, there are many roads in the U.S. in need of repair and there have been bridge tragedies and more, however, we will never complain about that after living in Montreal.)

Montreal is an island. The only way to get to the island is via a selection of bridges...most of which are in dire need of repair and it's not uncommon for bridges to be closed in any given day to to "expansion joint" issues. The government knows it's an issue...but instead they keep putting band-aids on the bridges  while keeping inspection reports out of the media so that we don't know the extend of the dangers all while blaming budgets when there is so much corruption in the construction industry and bureaucracy beyond belief. Several weeks ago someone said the area in the above photo was just fine.

I crossed the Camplain bridge yesterday to come home and noticed all sorts of noises coming from my car that I had not heard for a was as if I decided to take my little Ford Escape Hybrid 4 wheeling. Each and every time I cross that bridge, I cross my fingers. 

My mom was visiting once and commented on the scary bridge. I though she was going to start with the rosary as we approached the structure. She said she couldn't the believe the condition of the roads. To which I said, "yes, but we have 'free' health care." And she commented "good, you're going to need it."

August 1, 2011

the Daily Duke 8.1.11

Duke got to experience the ocean for the first time in Maine and loved every minute of it. He tried drinking the water a couple of times and didn't like it. He's been drinking a lot of water today. Sort of like the day after a few too many salty margaritas.

July 22, 2011

Not a joke

Here's one thing we will not miss about Canada. Seriously, people pay this for cans? Or, I mean, canettes.

July 17, 2011

the Daily Duke 7.17.11

To say that Duke is always at our feet is an understatement.

"I'm almost fluent" word of the day 7.17.11

Of course we were hoping for a U.S. win....but here's the word of the day which is obvious.

July 8, 2011

the daily Duke 7.8.11

Danielle has been gone this week visiting Colorado and spending some time with her Uncle John, Aunt Stephanie and precious cousin Hannah. Every once in a while Duke will wake up from a slumber, go upstairs into Danielle's room and bring down some random stuffed thing from her bed, desk, floor or closet. I think he's saying he misses her. We all do.

July 4, 2011

the Daily Duke 7.4.11

Duke got to go with us on our road trip and overnight stay in Vermont. He had a chance to take a ferry across Lake Champlain linking the states of New York and Vermont. Seeing all that water from the car as we were moving along in the ferry was quite confusing. He's getting to be a great hotel guest too.

Two countries, two celebrations

We decided this year we wanted to really celebrate Canada Day this year. Our original plan was to go to Ottawa until we realized there was a royal couple there stealing the thunder. We opted instead to stay in our local town and watch the fireworks and listen to some music. The tunes were good, but the fireworks? They were....shall we say....we're quite certain the sidewalks they just put along our road must have used up much of the budget. It was still fun to be out and enjoy with our local Canadians.

Since we live so close to the US, we decided to drive to Burlington, Vermont for the night to enjoy a 4th of July celebration on the 3rd of July. We know Canada has health care, great work benefits and social program, but WOW....the US has it nailed in terms of the fireworks displays. It's safe to say the budget for the 4th was not ever cut and we were happy to enjoy that in Vermont. Seriously, one of the best displays we have ever seen. It was nice to not think about deficits, debt ceilings and all that drama and enjoy the celebration.

We took the ferry home across Lake Champlain
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