Another Duffy adventure.
Our globetrotting corespondent Ben Duffy, who will graduate with distinction from UMass this spring, has filed his first traveling report in a while. But before getting to that, the latest report about my brother is more about the weather in Nevada than himself. Hey, no news is good news when it comes to this disease!
It has been an exciting day back home in Fernley Nevada -- and not in a good way. We were watching CNN this a.m. and saw that the huge storms have caused lots of water to come pouring down from the Sierras causing a levee to break this morning on the canal in Fernley. Freezing water flooded into town at 5:00 a.m. Hundreds of homes and some schools were flooded. We are very fortunate because neither our house or Chanen's house was involved, thank God!
Other than that, day +9 was pretty uneventful at the hospital. We are anxiously awaiting the stem cells to engraft and start to show up as white blood cells, but it did not happen yet. John's white count was still zip zero zilch when checked today. Normally, they will start by day +11, so I guess we are jumping the gun, but it is hard to wait. Seems like we have been waiting for this moment for about 9 months. Interesting correlation, huh? Sort of like anticipating that new baby to arrive!
We are just getting hammered by storms in the west and there is another one on the way tonight. We love getting the precipitation, but it would be nice if it just spread itself out over a few months instead of coming all in 3 or 4 days.
Hope you are all doing well. Have a wonderful and blessed Sunday!
And now here's Ben's latest:
I just got back from the most amazing trip to Quebec City. I went with my girlfriend, Ai-Ya. She had never been anywhere quite so cold before. It's really something of a Winter Wonderland.
One thing I learned quickly about Quebec City is their staunch pride in their French heritage. They really consider themselves Quebecois first, and Canadian second--if at all. In the few days that I was there, I saw the blue and white flag of Quebec almost everywhere, while the red and white flag of Canada was much harder to find.
Quebec City is filled with history. This is the entrance to the provincial parliament of Quebec (l’Hôtel du Parlement), which was once the capital of all of Lower Canada, back when it was British territory. If you look closely, you will see that the foreground is occupied by a statue of American Indians--who have a strong presence in Quebec Province, even to this day--and in the background are the statues of two men--General James Wolfe (on the left), and Marquis Louis-Joseph de Montcalm (on the right). Wolfe's British forces defeated Montcalm's French forces here at Quebec City in 1758.
The historical significance of the battle was enormous, because it was essentially the end of French influence in North America. The history is a bit more complicated than that, but basically France lost their prized New France and thus they pulled out of North America. The British wrongly believed that over time, the French would Anglicize themselves because they were under British rule and surrounded on both sides by English-speakers. They were wrong. Essentially, that's still what the Quebecois are angry about after all of these years.
The final battle between Wolfe and Montcalme took place on the Plains of Abraham in 1758, part of the French & Indian (Seven Years) War. Today, the Plains of Abraham is a large downtown park. When we were there, the main activity was winter sports, as city residents came out in droves to enjoy their park.
In the river floated large chunks of ice. Across the way, you can see the cliffs where General Wolfe set up his artillery batteries and pounded the city.
Ai-Ya and I posed as General Wolfe and Marquis Montcalm:
Ai-Ya even found a guidebook of the city in her native Chinese:
The Old City section of Quebec is old and very European. It reminds me of a lot of German cities I have seen, except a whole lot colder:
This is the restaurant aux anciens candiens--which happens to be in the oldest house remaining in the city of Quebec. It was built in 1675-1676, and now it's a super fancy-schmancey French-Canadian restaurant. We ate there, just for lunch because the lunch menu was much cheaper.
Instead of the soup of the day, I substituted escargot--that's French for snails. I must say, they were quite delicious. I suppose anything tastes good when you drown it in garlic butter. For the main course, I enjoyed a slice of traditional Quebecois meat pie, made from various types of wild game. The place was really fancy, and they went out of their way to be make themselves as traditionally French (Canadian) as possible. Here was a picture of our waitress, Kathleen:
This New Year's was very special for Quebec, because it marks the 400th Anniversary of the founding of the city, as noted here on this bus stop (and everywhere else in the Old City):
Quebec's founder was Samuel de Champlain, who had an accomplished life and a long list of achievements, but he was also the founder of this city and of New France. His statue takes a prominent space downtown next to the Château Frontenac:
This building downtown displayed the number "400" to mark the occasion of Quebec's 400th Anniversary:
Quebec Separatists seized on the 400th Anniversary Celebration in order to shine the spotlight on their issue. The main New Year's Eve Celebration downtown was briefly interrupted by some passionate people who wanted to use the opportunity to make a political statement about Quebec Nationhood. Not that I'm against that--I rather enjoy making political statements of my own. This was the best picture I could get. Translating from one language to another is always tricky and approximate, but I would translate this as "400 years a colony--and when are we going to have a country?"
More Quebec Separatists crashing the New Year's Eve Celebration:
I spotted this sticker downtown in a small park. It says "Yes to a free Quebec", and its sponored by the Comité national des jeunes du Parti Québécois.
One evening, I sniffed out a really cool local bar, and we walked in to find some seperatist sentiments, including this sticker, which borrows from an old anti-war slogan. It says: "Give A Chance to the Country" (meaning, the country of Quebec"):
So Quebec Seperatist feelings run high in the city of Quebec. Another item of local pride--I'm not sure if it's quite as nationalist in nature--is the visibility of old Quebec Nordiques hockey apparel around the city. The Nordiques were part of the NHL from 1979 until 1995, when they picked up, moved to Colorado, and changed their name to the Avalanche. This throwback Nordiques jersey was for sale at a shop in the Old City. It was so sharp, I wanted to buy it, but jerseys like that cost big bucks. I took one look at the price tag and just decided that taking a picture would be almost as good a souvenier.
Although I took this picture on December 30th, this is basically what the New Year's Eve celebration looked like.
We were walking around down where the main festivities were, when we ran into this creepy guy. He seemed to take quite an interest in Ai-Ya, and she was afraid of him. First he asked her if she was from China, and when she said no, he asked her if she is from Taiwan. That's not bad, considering the fact that just minutes before, some other guy we met in an elevator asked her if she was Japanese. He said that he had a Japanese wife. Actually, Ai-ya says that many people--even people from the Far East--mistake her for Japanese because of her complexion, or Korean because of the shape of her face. So this guy was pretty astute to know that she was Chinese-Taiwanese. He also guessed that I was from Germany. "Why, do you speak German?" I asked him in German. He said no. Then I responded to him in French that I was actually from the United States but that I had lived for three years in Germany. He was quite impressed that an American could speak both French and German. Still, Ai-Ya wanted to get the heck away from him as a quickly as posible, because she thought he was a skeez-ball.
Wandering through the Old City, we came to Quebec's most recognizable landmark, the Château Frontenac. This thing is really a sight to behold.
In front of the Château Frontenac was this man, selling Tire sur la Neige--melted maple taffy on fresh snow. A winter treat!
On New Year's Eve, we took a wonderful trip outside of the city to Ile d'Orléans. Ile d'Orléans is an island in the middle of the St. Lawrence River that is bascially just tiny farming communities. It's rustic quality means that a lot of tourists come out there in the summer, but we were there in the dead of winter. There is really only one road to speak of--Quebec Route 368--which runs a ring around the island. We first stoppd at this one apple orchard and met farmer Joe Giguère, who was selling his unique brand of hard cider, Un Goût de Péché (A Taste of Sin). We both bought a bottle. Mr. Giguère was a really nice guy. We asked him if we could get his picture, and he asked if Ai-Ya could be in the picture as well. Ai-Ya was a big hit.
There was something eerliy calm about seeing Mr. Giguère's orchards lying under the deadly silent blanket of winter:
We stopped to take this picture of these long-haired cows standing out in the middle of the Canadian winter...
...and we got stuck on the side of the road. Yes, the car was hopelessly gone. I have never felt like such a stupid tourist in my life--we pulled over to snap photographs, and we got ourselves in a heap of trouble.
I breathed a sigh of relief when a woman came down from the farm house in a giant Dodge truck. "Vous avez besoin d'aide?" she asked me ("Do you need some help?") "Oui, nous avons besoin d'aide," I replied. She checked out the situation, went back to the house and came back with her husband, Pierre. Together, those two had us out in a jiffy. Country folks are good like that. They just wanted to help us. Here I am with our savior, Pierre the farmer. Altogether, I don't think that we lost more than twenty minutes:
We continued on our way around the island. By the way, this is what the river looks like. Ai-Ya wanted a pictue of this to send back to tropical Taiwan, where no one has ever seen anything like this. She said that her friends would ask her if she was playing with penguins:
This street musician was playing the traditional backwoods music of Quebec.
During my time there in Quebec, I really learned to like that music. It's on the radio pretty much 24 hours a day. It sounds vaguely Irish, mixed with Bayou music. At that bar we went to with all the locals, they had a musical duo that played a lot of different types of music, including this Quebecois backwoods music. When they played those songs, all of the people got very excited, were clapping their hands, stomping their feet, and singing along with the music. You could see that these were the songs that they grew up with. As you can see, the Quebecois are very proud people who are very attached to their culture, including their music.
We had a great time, and I would recommend that anyone go and visit this city. We had so much fun in the three days that we were there.
Thanks Ben, and be sure to keep us informed about any of your future adventures! Finally, here's a little U2.