Back from Montreal

Just finished a 2-day internal school board conference in Montreal.

The first day I was in the city, I felt some anxiety while riding the Metro. I was surrounded by so many people of different backgrounds. Everyone was dressed differently and speaking quite charismatically. Up here in the north, many people dress ‘down’ in muted colours; you won’t see suits, dresses or high heels unless there’s a wedding or a funeral. Many people are very shy and speak quietly; it’s not unusual even for Cree adults to give you a silence when you ask a question (not out of rudeness). So what I’m trying to say is that, even being born in Hong Kong and having lived in large cities most of my life, being isolated for 4 months straight does weird things to your head. I don’t know what the proper term for it, but I’ve nicknamed it “reverse culture shock” (by the next day, I felt fine). I doubt many people have every experienced such a strange feeling.

The only other similar experience I’ve had is when I moved back to Toronto after a year in South Korea. My brain actually got exhausted very fast from suddenly being able to read signs, storefronts, advertisements. Not only that, but I suddenly could understand what everyone was saying and could not tune out! It took about a week before this sensation become normal for me. It’s surprising how quickly you can be acclimatized to a new environment.

Now it’s Friday afternoon.

I’ve been awake since 5:20 am this morning, having to rush to Pierre-Elliott Trudeau Airport by 6:30 am so that I could fly back to Waskaganish (only two flights leave for the James Bay region at 7:30 am each day).

As of 10:30 am, I am back in the Cree nation. I am surrounded by unpaved gravel roads, dotted with potholes. The spruce trees are scrubby and weak-looking, nothing taller than two stories. Giant flakes of snow are floating down and the air is clear, crisp and fresh.

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The school is already mostly empty, due to the huge, important hockey tournament in Val D’Or and my substitute teachers have informed me that work ethic through the week has already been very low. I’ve marked a few science foldables from last week and am unpacking a giant order from Staples (thank goodness I can replenish my highlighters and have fresh cue cards).

Do I feel at home? Yes, I do.

Do I miss the city? Oh yes, I always will.

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