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February 24, 2009



(Which, I just realize, also resembles two hands held to the sides of a face.)

There are many ways and many levels through which travail brings us to know ourselves. As a Canadian moving to Québec from Canada’s ‘west’, I was a privileged immigrant as I already knew how the money and the postal system worked. But I was an immigrant none the less. The job skills that I had brought with me, which were dependent on the ability to write, were useless in this new linguistic context. Like many immigrants I had to begin again. At the same time I have had to recognize that others see me through a history that I do not recognize as my own, through assumptions that colour the way that I am seen. I have learned to laugh at these assumptions, and even to play with them, but they cannot be discarded like ill-fitting clothes.

I have been forever marked by my journey to Québec, and it is the most wonderful gift. Learning to speak, read and even write in another language has opened up the world in new ways. I have learned the histories which define this place, seen the gaps between these histories and those that I grew up with, and come to understand that the world is traversed by many stories. Access to newspapers and Web sites in French has made still other points of view available. And my students, some who travel no farther than from across the river, while others arrive from Haiti, Africa, Europe and South America, continue to open my eyes to new perspectives on the world.

La plus grande surprise dans ce périple est la rencontre avec l’autre – et de me rendre compte que l’autre, c’est moi-même.

A wonderful, thought provoking series and comments, Beth!

Thank you for pointing out that I wrote "travail" rather than "travel" in the first sentence of my comment. It is a warning to people who are considering living in a language other than their mother tongue that the capacity to spell might be seriously compromised. … at a certain point the two languages begin to interpenetrate as a result of moving back and forth between them.

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Who was Cassandra?

  • In the Iliad, she is described as the loveliest of the daughters of Priam (King of Troy), and gifted with prophecy. The god Apollo loved her, but she spurned him. As a punishment, he decreed that no one would ever believe her. So when she told her fellow Trojans that the Greeks were hiding inside the wooden horse...well, you know what happened.