adventures in the far east — of canada!

International Relations

In culture, food, friends, st. john's on July 20, 2009 at 12:07 am

Saturday, I was phoned up by Jeanne–

“Hey, do you want to play squash today?” Yes. YES! Oh my gosh, yes!

“Oh, this afternoon? Uh…sure, yeah.” 🙂

I had asked her if she wanted to try it one day, and she was game. So we went in the afternoon, she borrowed a racquet, and a guy leant us a ball (it seems Kevin, now back in Calgary, took the ball). I taught her how to play, and we spent a few hours rallying, and me running her through some exercises and practice things, and so on. She said she liked it, and we could try again another time. Another newbie initiated…

Anyway, it was late afternoon, it was pouring out, and neither of us had had lunch yet. I proposed that we try out the vegetarian/vegan restaurant in town, Sprouts (upstairs, it’s also where the Idlers practice their stuff). We walked to my place (we both needed to shower), had some rum and Coke (one of the only places I’ll drink pop; rum is one of my special weaknesses, especially Lamb’s spiced with vanilla and cinnamon–liquid heaven!), took turns in the washroom, and then we were off!

It was almost 4:30 when we arrived, and they told us they closed until 5 (for dinner). No late lunch for us, then. Oh well, we walked around downtown instead, and Jeanne wanted to see if she could find a cheap wok.

Along Water Street, we bought some stuff at various stores. Myself, I went back to the sports store and bought a new squash ball, and “speed” jumping rope–I’ve started to skip like mad between sets of things at the gym to keep the heartrate up, and it really makes for a more intense workout. Anyway, the guy at the shop remembered me, and he asked how my squash was going. We chatted briefly, and I explained how my partner returned back home and such–I was a little caught off guard, but pleasantly surprised. When we bade each other goodbye, Jeanne and I talked about how nice and common it is here that shopkeepers, staff at places, and so on all seem to make a special effort to remember you and your unique situation and treat or chat with you more personally. It’s a nice feeling!

We also stopped by Hava Java, so Jeanne could speak with her roommate, who I’ve also become friends with. At the cafe, we bumped into Ben, the big tattooed dude at the bonfire! We all chatted briefly, we extended an invitation to our Sprouts eat-out, but he had other committments. However, he informed us that he’d be hosting a house party at his place for CS members and friends next week, and he was going to tell everyone soon and that we had to come. Of course we would…and just like that, there’ll be another lovely get-together. 🙂

Anyway, he had to leave, and Jeanne consulted with the roomie–they were off to a show that night on the last evening of the Jazz Festival on George Street, and they had to figure out the ticket thing and other logistics. We let her go shortly (it was busy and she was harried), and continued looking for the Asian Variety Store (to see how they compared to another Asian grocery/paraphenalia store, The Magic Wok, a place we’ve both visited). As we left, we caught a glimpse of Mark, the frontman for the Idlers walk by in the opposite direction, but he was already too far along when we exited the cafe. First Ben, then Mark…one random encounter is one thing, but two…little did we know, however, it was just the beginning!

As we continued down Water Street, we suddenly ran into Maria, one of the CS German ladies at the bonfire event we had such a great time meeting with. She was wanderin around alone, and we were all pleasantly surprised to see each other. Discovering that she was indeed just wandering about, we invited her along to our (eventual) Sprout dinner.

She was initially hesitant–she had no money, as the ATM system that day had totally blitzed (it was not just her Euro currency thing), and of course there weren’t tellers around this late into Saturday. She insisted she’ll come, but just not eat, but I assured her it was not a problem if I paid for her dinner, as we’d rather have her along than not, and how often do I meet friends from Germany? It was my pleasure.

We continued just as before, chatting happily, and I’m pretty sure that’s why we totally walked by/did not find the Asian Variety Store, even though I had had an idea of where it was. Suddenly, we found ourselves near my work place, and Water Street did not continue much further. Oh well! I settled for showing Maria the War Memorial by Target instead, explaining its significance and the wreaths and such.

Jeanne decided the wok could wait for another day, and that we should eat–a wise decision. So we went to Sprouts…

Such amazing vegan food. I was mighty impressed by the menu–I really did want to try it all! Well-priced, and they all sounded so tasty! It was a cute place, too, with stuffed puffins suspended flying over our heads, and the interior delightfully coloured. I knew it was going to happen, but Maria humbly ordered only a single small soup, so Jeanna and I resolved to share as much of our food as she’d take, and she was just overwhelmed by the gesture and our insistence, and told me I was sweet. 🙂

And just to be clear, we’re just friends–she has a Mexican boyfriend, but was just genuinely touched by all the friendliness of the place (beyond myself and Jeanne). Besides, I love to feed people, and a bit of food is small beans for an international visitor!

Speaking of beans…I’d ordered a black bean chili, and asked for spoons for everyone to share–it was big enough that it could have been a meal in itself for one person, along with the bread. Wow. That was amazing chili, so expertly spiced, and so cumin-y. It was so good, you wouldn’t even notice the absence of ground beef. Maria was being a little cautious again, so near the end, I made her eat the rest.

She had a miso soup (“Me-so Hungry”), and they really did it different–this wasn’t the standard miso soup you get so easily from Japanese restaurants, they really refined it from just the miso paste with water thing. It was tasty.

For the main, I had their vegan Pad Thai (I’ve heard that it was amazing), and Jeanne couldn’t resist trying a vegan poutine “with a twist” (remember, vegans cannot have cheese). The Pad Thai may actually be better tasting than real Pad Thain with meat–not kidding. Wow, that was really good stuff! And the “poutine”–very interesting and tasty, but not so different. We shared everything, and after dinner, we just sat there and talked and talked and talked!

Jeanne had earlier in the day informed me that Montrealer Jason was getting screeched in today, as he was leaving soon–he’d be at Christian’s Bar at 10. I told Maria about it, and she on board as well–and bonus, there will be people there (aside from Jeanna and I) that will have already done it, so we can take all the pictures for them!

After dinner, Maria had to meet up with Celine at her place, so we all went. She was thrilled to see us, and invited us in–later as we chatted over their dinner (with Celine’s roomie, from St. John’s), but minus Jeanne who had to rush home and get the tickets to Shannon. I stuck around, and the ladies had delicious cod, salad, and German-ish potatoes (they insisted I have some, so I took some salad…); I also stayed because I was optimizing the roommate’s laptop. She’d told me it was slow–a common complaint–but boy did she mean it! Launching Internet Explorer literally took 20 minutes from when it was clicked…I offered to try and fix some things up given her permission (I’m not about to rummage through another’s laptop uninvited), or at least do the best I can.

As I got to know everyone even more, the Germans once again marveled at the people here, telling me that they have never gone anywhere or met anyone so briefly (and they’re fairly seasoned travelers), and so quickly invite us into their home. It was such a warm and gracious compliment.

In the end, I did a big cleanup of the HP Laptop (crap, just like Dell’s stuff–both of them fill their computers with dozens of useless junk programs many people don’t know how to remove), and while it was agonizingly slow at first, it got faster and faster and faster. Near the end, things actually happened as you clicked them, in real time! Stacy was so excited and impressed. 🙂

As I worked, Lisa arrived from an on-call shift at a hospital (always grueling work), and they fixed up dinner for her. By 10, I wasn’t quite finished my work with the computer, but it was already so much better than what it was, and I promised I’d be back if she didn’t mind; she couldn’t have been happier, and she saw us off as we made our way to Christian’s.

Jeanne and Jason were already there, as well as some other friends of the ladies’, including another German there for the same program/work, a dude named Philip. Another great guy, if a little shy because of language, but we got him talkin’! We all went upstairs, they signed up for the ceremony, and chatted jovially yet some more over beers, waiting for the event to begin at 11:15 pm.

What can I say but it was another full house, and everyone was super entertained? Every screech-in is a little different, and I was glad we all goaded Celine into doing it, as she was so adamantly against kissing the frozen cod. In the end, she had a lot of fun. 😀

With that, Jeanne had to leave for her show just a little further into George Street, and the rest of us sat and…you guessed it, chattered! And marveled at their certificates…Maria seemed so pleased, she handled hers so carefully! I’m so glad it’ll be something she’ll remember, none of them could stop smiling.

It was getting late for me–I do the morning runs on Sunday, and regretfully had to take my leave. When I left, they all gave me a hug, declared we had to hang out some more before they leave (too soon, too soon!) and it was once again quite astounding to think we’ve only just known each other for two days. Jason told me if I ever went through Montreal, I had to give him a message, and the girls, when they did leave, the same for when (not if) I visit Germany.

They were in a dancing mood, and I believe Jason led them to O’Reilley’s (Irish pub), where people inside seemed to be having way too much fun–from what we could hear and see, there was a lively band of musicians playing that traditional fiddly jig, and at the front of an enthusiastic crowd were guys and gals doing their best Riverdance impression. Brilliant…wish I coulda went, if not for the run!

I closed the book for that grand day, and hurried home before I regretted it too much!

  1. That was quite a detailed story. You’re writing. Eventually, the text overpowered me and I began to skim.

    You’ve for sure heard about the casting rumours about Game of Thrones. Let me just say that Sean Bean is a brilliant choice, and the guy who they cast as Robert doesn’t seem as fat as he should be, but he’s a capable actor. Now, they just need to start casting the rest of the kids/the women.

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