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Montreal – Week One. (Life is hard in the big city).

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I’m midway through my first week here in Montreal.  When I moved back home to Moncton three years ago, I was overwhelmed with a sense of everything in my day to day life had become so much easier.  Over the past years I’ve kept the fading memory that somehow, life in a big city was more difficult, but I had forgotten all the details.  This week has brought all of that home, and much, much more.
 
I moved into the apartment Sunday at midnight, after driving up from Moncton with the cats.  The drive went 100% better than the last time I made it, when I drove them down from Hamilton three years ago.  I’m happy I went with the decision to buy two large-size cat carriers, instead of putting both of them in the extra-large carrier.  It was much easier to take each one out, clean them up if needed, and put them back in, during my semi-hourly pit stops.  The drive went by much better with the peace of mind that the cats may not have been happy, but at least they were comfortable.
 
I had all day Monday to unpack and sleep, before work with CGI began on Tuesday.  I’ll be up front and honest about the apartment.  I’m terribly disappointed by it.  From the ad, and Chloe’s description I was hoping to move into a very upscale place.  It’s not.  It’s crappy.  And, it’s my life for the next year, at least.  To be fair, it’s along the same standard as most of my not-so-nice apartments in Toronto, so I know I will adjust.  My disaspointment probably comes mostly from being spoiled by my house back home, which is far, far nicer than any apartment I have ever lived in.
 
The hardest thing has been living with no internet.  I pop into an internet cafe once a day to check my email.  Having no internet access from home lends more to the feeling of my place being barren and empty than my having no furniture.  I would take internet access and no furniture over furniture and no internet.  Of course, right now, I have neither.  Talk about getting back to basics.  Me, two cats, and an air mattress.  (Something about that combination sounds like a bad idea).
 
Work has not been a whole lot of help either.  While my orientation day was useful and informative, I have since spent the past two days without assignment, and without a laptop.  There’s a hiccup in the supply chain, and no one seems to know where my laptop is supposed to be.  What a tragedy it is, that I am working for the largest software consulting company in Montreal, and I have to step out to a corner internet cafe just to check my email.
 
The part that strikes me as funny, though, is that not a soul here at CGI seems to notice or mind that I presently have no work to do, or any means to do that work if it should come my way.  And since I’m not able to check my email, I suppose even if I were assigned something to do, I would have no way of knowing  These past two days I’ve been feeling less like a highly experience developer, and more like a carboard manikin hired to fill out a desk.  I know this will all pass, at least, since starting Monday I should be working full time at the client’s site.
 
I know Montreal well enough to get around by foot.  Getting around by car is a whole other matter.   Yesterday, I excused myself from work early (no one noticed) to start cheking into places where I can park my car.  (More on that in another post, the pure ignorance of the Montreal Parking authority is a rant in it’s own right).  Since right now I’m living without the finer luxuries or life (like dinner plates, or glasses) I decided to head up to Loblaws with the car to get a large load of groceries and household items, before I park the car for a month.
A Loblaws or Provigo would do, anything that carried President’s Choice products should be fine, since I have my mind set on getting the exact same dish set that I have in Moncton, only didn’t want to bother shipping up.  It’s only thirty dollars for the set, and not really worth the trouble packing and risk breaking them.
 
Sadly, that Loblaws didn’t have a housewares section that even a modest grocery store in RIVERVIEW, New Brunswick might have, so I needed to locate another Loblaws and try there.  The cashier was nowhere close to helpful giving me directions to another Loblaws.  I got the very distinct feeling that she was trying to get rid of me.   That feeling has been the predominant one I’ve gotten this first week here, that if I ask someone a question, they might answer me, but only in the hopes that I will then go away, and no longer be their problem.  This, I believe, is the mantra of most of the civil servants of this city, and they go home every night and meditate upon it.  I can only guess what the chant would be.
 
(As addendum to that last comment, I just received the first good customer support I’ve yet to receive this week from, of all places, Bell, while ordering my internet connection.  So now I know somewhere along the way I walked into Bizzaro World since coming here).
 
The Loblaws cashier’s directions led me on a wild goose-chase for a Holy-Grailesque, elusive Loblaws around St-Croix.  If I learned one thing yesterday, it’s NEVER drive around Montreal hoping that you will randomly bump into a Loblaws.  It’s a frustrating, fruitless, exercise.  And, as I learned from my Google search today, that store doesn’t even exist anyway.  I’m sure that vile, teen-age cashier had an awfully good laugh at my expense.
 
Which reminds me of a second point of infinite wisdom when trying to negotiate the streets of a big, unfamiliar city.  Get a cellphone!  Wow.  I remember how much I loved having one back in Toronto, but I forgot how utterly helpless I feel driving around a large city without one.  So getting a cellphone is next on my priorities list.  I don’t condone driving while talking on a cellphone.  In fact, my best roadrage fantasies usually feature a crowbar, and some jerk yabbing on his phone talking about yesterday’s football score.  But when you’re lost, and frustrated, and you need to call someone for help or directions, a payphone is never around.  Or… it’s just around the corner of that street you’re not allowed to turn left onto, and you’ll drive 25 more blocks before you are finally allowed to turn that way.
 
Well, I suppose that’s enough of a rant for now.  Today I’m already feeling much better than I have all week, knowing I have a place to safely store my car where it won’t get towed (even if it’s in the exact opposite side of the city as me), and knowing that while I might have to wait a week, eventually I will have an internet connection at home.  Life, slowly, gets put back together.
 
Now I’m off to go find some dinner plates.
 
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Written by anthonygreene

September 7, 2006 at 5:27 pm

Posted in the wondrous tao

Looking for a home remotely

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Preparations are being made for my move to Montreal.  I’ve found my place to live for the next year.  Though I’ve moved across the country several times now, and I couldn’t count how many times I’ve moved in total, this is definitely a new experience for me.  I’ve never had to find an apartment while not having the liberty to inspect places myself.
 
You can check out the original Craig’s List Ad for my apartment for my apartment.  It has a few pictures of the place.  If you follow the link and check out the ad, you’ll know absolutely as much as I do right now about the place that I’ll be moving into this Sunday.
  
I decided to get a 2 bedroom place.  Either I’ll start hunting on Craig’s List for a suitable roomate once I get up there (hopefully someone who can keep an eye on the cats when I’m gone at work), or just keep the whole place for myself so that I have a spare room for when guests come in from out of town.  And I really do hope you guys will come!   I’m trying right now to think of this Montreal move more as a one year working vacation, than as a permanent move to a new city.
 
I have to extend out a big, warm thanks to my friend Chloe for taking the time to go look at the place for me.  All I was looking for a was thumbs up.  So, when she said the place checked out, I signed the lease.
 
Maybe I should be a little more careful when making life decisions like these.  It seems that as I grow older I should become more cautious.  Instead, making life decisions with little information becomes easier every year.  I’m really hoping this makes me either enough of a Taoist that I simply trust the universe will place me exactly where I aught to be, or enough of a Buddhist that I just don’t worry about it.
 
The rest of my week here in Moncton is tying up loose ends, and figuring out what stuff I can fit into a car that is the most essential for my life in the next few months.  It’s an excercise of minimalizing and prioritizing that I would recommend to anyone to try regularly, whether you’re moving cross-country or not.
 
 
 

Written by anthonygreene

August 29, 2006 at 3:46 pm

Posted in the wondrous tao

Precious few moments of connectivity

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Well, I`m here in Montreal and it`s absolutely everything I remember it to be.  Except that I`m just remembering what a strange experience it is wandering around a big city where you quite literally know nobody.  I just went for my first job interview, and checked myself into a backpacker`s hostel, Auberge Utopik.  I`ve never much cared for spending too much on a motel room when all I really need is a bed to crash in, and a shower in the morning.  All I know is that the cost of the bed ($20) has easily been worth having a place to change and lock up my bag.  Today is just too hot to be wandering around montreal in a suit and tie, carrying a suitcase.  I`ve already spent about 4 hours doing just that.
 
Tomorrow I have a couple of interviews with CGI that I have big hopes riding on.  More and more, I am liking the idea of going to work for a huge, freaking consulting company.  While I`ve really enjoyed working for a small consulting group for the past couple of years, a change would be nice.  And both job interviews I`ve had in the past couple weeks have been with product companies, which is really driving something home to me that I never realized before.  I really enjoy consulting.  I`m not entirely sure if I would be happy working on software purely internally for a company. 
 
I don`t have much time here remaining on my 30 minute pay-per-use internet at this internet cafe.  But so far, if I have to say anything about how Montreal stacks up to how i remember it, I`d say that:
 
1)  Yes, the women are absolutely as beautiful as I remember them to be.  I still haven`t figured out how this city does it.  Maybe beautiful girls are offered tax incentives to move to the city.
 
2) If anything, Montreal has maybe TOO much style.  Almost every city block boasts some kind of work done by local artists, and in their bid to all outdo each other there`s almost a feeling of getting lost in it, of style overload.  I imagine the natives here don`t notice because they`re just used to it.
 
Nothing in my first couple hours of being here has pushed me towards or against relocating here. But I am looking at it from a slightly more sober, mature point of view than I have previously.  When it all comes down to it, it`s still a big city.  And it only took minutes of being back in a big city to remind me of the quiet charms of living back home in Moncton, NB.
 
Today I`ll just bum around Montreal for the rest of the day, hang out in parks and cafe`s, and maybe get some reading done.
 
If anyone`s reading this , pop in a suggestion on what i should do with my day here in Montreal.  I`ll probably come back here and check my email again sometime this evening.
 
 
 

Written by anthonygreene

August 10, 2006 at 3:48 pm

Posted in the wondrous tao

Off to Montreal

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It’s been quite the summer.

In the last week of June I was informed by my present employer, Derek Hatchard of Ardent Development, that he would no longer be able to keep finding me new contract work. I can understand that. Ardent used to make a tidy profit from nearshoring contracts from the US, but with the Canadian dollar doing so well (or the US dollar doing so badly, however you want to look at it), nearshoring hasn’t been quite the lucrative market that it was two years ago when I started on with Ardent. Also, the IT market here in Moncton is pretty tight, and it’s been a difficult situation having my employer find me contract work, instead of me going out and finding it myself.

So, with that bomb dropped on me, I knew that I had to start looking for new work. Pending unemployment tends to take the ease and relaxation out of summer. I managed to squeeze in the best week-long vacation in my life, in Southshore, Nova Scotia. Hopefully a post will come with photos from that trip.

–Edit. Check out the photo gallery I just uploaded (Summer Vacation, Southshore 2006) for pictures from just before and during my vacation. The lovely couple of ladies you see (lucky) me with are Adeline (redhead) and Sascha (dark-haired), friends of mine from Moncton and all-around troublemakers.

After about a month of looking, I hadn’t found the IT scene here in Moncton to be very promising, so I started to consider some alternatives to finding work in Moncton. Anyone who’s worked with me anywhere has had the chance to hear me whine, moan, and generally go on about how much I would like to live in Montreal sometime in my life. It’s been a recurring theme since I was first there at twenty-two, and yet strangely it never seems to work out whenever I try to move there. The longest I have ever lived there for was (if I remember) about 3 weeks, back in June 2000, when I had left my job at ITI to bum around Montreal and look for work, only to be pulled right back to Toronto with a job offer from Cyence International (then Cyence Group) that I just couldn’t refuse.

Now I’m off to Montreal again, six years later, for a couple job interviews. At this point I still have no idea at all whether I’m going to go through with this or not. I’m hoping right now that a fantastic job offer will help to make my decision easier.

Of course I (and people around me) am thinking I’m crazy to be doing this. I’ve only just now gotten my house finally in a livable condition, complete with appliances, furniture and all that good stuff. And the cats really like it here. And I have friends, and family. Oh well. We’ll just see how it goes.

Written by anthonygreene

August 8, 2006 at 11:19 pm

Posted in the wondrous tao