Thursday, August 07, 2014


Foreword:  This whole blog is, obviously, an egotistical enterprise.  I'm talking about MY life, MY travels, MY experiences, after all.  But this post is specially so.  It's a personal reflection and, more than any other post, is written also for myself.  Feel free to ignore it.  And feel free to keep reading because, after all, it is indeed about a special event: my 5th anniversary of living in Canada.

In 2009 I wrote a post about our 4th anniversary of living in Beijing, a sort of looking back at four years of living in China, and a kind of goodbye before moving to Toronto. Now it's time to do a similar thing, to look back, and maybe prepare a goodbye before we move to Mexico City.  The actual anniversary was on August 2nd but, you know, finding the right state of mind and the right words is not the easiest task when life's about to change dramatically!


You know how travel is one of my biggest pleasures in life and, all in all, I think these five years here were frankly amazing! If we talk about other lands, I discovered Portugal or, more accurately, I feel in love at first sight with this country I had never ever planned to travel to and, in the same trip, I revisited southern Spain, where I had the immense fortune of celebrating the love of a couple we hold very close to our hearts.  Scotland, like Portugal, transformed from a place that had never entered my imagination to a place of almost magical beauty and one of my most fantastic road trips ever.  I even got to travel back to my beloved Lebanon, to good old friends, a home I hadn't visited in some 8 years. Of course, being so close to the United States gave me the chance to take a new and refreshing look at New York, and to see the country under a different lens thanks to Boston, Buffalo and Detroit.  And Mexico, home, which in my last visit offered me a happy, warm and love-full rediscovery of Mexico City.  And, in a strange twist of things, we even got to France, albeit a very, very distant - but very intriguing - part of it.   But if were to choose, the "fairest of them all" would be Iceland, a place that so enthralled us that we had to see it twice, in summer and in winter (for Christmas and New Year! oh, so incredibly thankful for this!).

But that wasn't all, because I got to see plenty of Canada too!  Like Portugal and Scotland, I had never thought of travelling to Canada.  And that's what I loved most about this experience - it was an incredible and totally unexpected gift that showered me with the new and exciting.  The immense, flat, vibrant during summer and gelid during winter Manitoba; fun, delicious, romantic, sexy, gorgeous Quebec in torrid summer, magic winter and absolutely stunning autumn; sea loving Nova Scotia, strangely beautiful and quiet in winter; colourful, verdant, remote Newfoundland teeming with marine life; unbelievably imposing, inspiring and überbeautiful Alberta; and, obviously, Ontario, home, which amongst many things gave us our first camping trip ever.

So, yes.  Super happy.  Did I see all I wanted?  Of course not!  Nunavut, Northwest Territories... one day, some day, hopefully, maybe.  Northern Lights... I'm catching you one day, you'll see. Norway... you just wait!   But anyhow, I see this as the part of my life where I enjoyed nature the most.   I had never travelled through so much gorgeous wilderness, and I had never enjoyed it so much.  I'm taking that with me as a very special gift.  Thank you Canada for your beauty, and thank you for your vicinity to other places of great beauty too.


The language department of my brain is pretty happy with these five years.  Of course, it'll never be truly happy, because chances are I'll never master all human languages, past and present [SIGH].  But still, my walks to work provided me with plenty of time to learn!  I had time to revisit old friends like Dutch, Catalan and Hebrew and, though we're not close buddies yet, we're better acquainted now and one of my friends even honoured me by switching from Spanish to Catalan [HAPPY DANCE].  I got to play with Armenian (thanks to a trip to Quebec City that put in my hands a course I had wanted to buy many many years ago in Beirut) and with Persian (did I say what an unbelievable pleasure it's been travelling through Iran?)), and had to face the tough fact that, wow, well, they're a lot more difficult than I had thought!  Thanks to a fascination with throat singing and Tanya Tagaq, and a fantastic bookshop in Montreal, I got to take a peek at the most different language I've ever seen: Inuktitut.  And my love for Iceland naturally led to a brief Icelandic course with other people equally struck by that fascinating country.  And Yiddish?  Nu, I can't really talk, yet, but I can get by now. My French, which I hadn't really used since Lebanon (where I studied it for the first time), got a new lease of life... with a québécois twist!  After all, studies reveal that one's accent veers towards that of their interlocutors when there is a positive relationship, and my sympathy to Canadians shows clearly when I open my mouth to say something in French or English today.  So, oui, language-wise, this was a mechaye of an adventure, eh?


Work is what brings me to these places.  Work is what allows me to stay long in them and experience them.  How could I not talk, even briefly, about work?  I worked for five years with wonderful people.  No, really. My team, all of it - the best: great human being and devoted to what they do.  I've worked for five years at assisting and helping people, and I've been in charge of a fantastic program that more than anything showed me about human dignity, hard work, and trust.   I won't be dealing with this field of work anymore in Mexico, and I'm really glad that my last work experience in the area was full of good people.  A sincere toast to my colleagues, both inside and outside the office, who made it such a rewarding experience.


Yeah, what a catch-all category, eh? Life!  I have no idea where to start.  Our lives are in constant change. We ourselves are in constant change and, hopefully, in constant growth and learning...

Well, when it comes to seeing, doing and eating... these five years here have given me aplenty!   Film?  Over the top!  The Toronto International Film Festival, the Toronto Jewish Film Festival, the Hot Docs International Documentary Festival, the Toronto After Dark (horror, sci-fi, action and cult) Film Festival, the Shinsedai (Japanese) Film Festival, the Inside Out (LGBT) Film Festival...  Need I go on?   Also, this city makes you believe that being able to choose between Chinese, Ethiopian, Korean, Nepalese, Indian, Georgian, Persian, pure vegan and what-not is the normal order of things!  Or that it's only normal to have an Indian culture festival, a Persian one, a Jewish one, a gay one (Pride), to see Chinese dragon dances on Chinese new year, ice sculptures and countless Irish-identified Canadians, to see thousands of Sikhs celebrating their new year, and thousands of people in costume for Halloween or for zombie crawls, or to stay awake all night enjoying art and performances.  And I arrived from China with a taste for tea and Belgian beer, but now I'll leave Toronto with an addiction to coffee and to porters and stouts.   And I have the feeling I've still got many things I've forgot to mention...

But it wasn't all outward experiencing.  I've become more aware of my ancestry, of the history and stories it represents.  And being in this country has also taught me about the power of creating and forging one's identity, how our past feeds the tapestry of our lives and yet how we are the weavers, preserving, tweaking, or creating the patterns.    Also, if these 5 years have taught me anything, it's the value of not prejudging anybody on anything.  That gender and sexuality and kinkiness come in numerous shades of equally numerous colours, that often blend into each other, or even change with time or situation. That outward appearances say little about personal experiences, about world-views, about values. That I should try to listen more, and talk less; that I should remember to ask more about what others think, and presume less about them; and that gentle speech is not easy, yet a must as the human and compassionate thing to do.   Thank you, my transsexual friends, my pansexual friends, my leathermen friends, my tattooed friends, my socially aware friends, my good-natured and trusting friends, my kinky friends, my first generation Canadian friends, my nature loving friends, my gentle and open friends... You've made this an incredibly rich, rewarding and enlightening journey.

And, finally, most of this has been side by side with my companion of 13 years now, my versatile artist who's found a renewed and intense passion in Butoh and who's given me the wonderful opportunity of being an accomplice in finding beautiful places for him to get inspired and improvise.  His love, patience and striking honesty and integrity have helped us through highs and lows.  Through my stubbornness, arrogance, crushes, and sometimes unexpected changes. He's a keeper, and he's proven that time and time again.  13!


I emerge from this experience feeling more interestingly travelled, more authentically and less restrictedly myself, hopefully more gentle, more polyglot, and definitively more adventurous.  It's a win.  And as I feel like an honorary Beiruti, and like an honorary Beijinger, I trust my Canadian friends won't mind if I say I feel like an honorary Torontonian and Canadian.  Thanks.  Merci.

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