Voyage au Nord: Where are we now?


Boston, Cambridge, Providence, and Amherst were beautiful places to be, but this journey must continue and onward we’ve trudged up to Montreal, QC, Canada.

There’s much to share about all this journey and the intricacies of travel. To provide some context, I will recall  that some years ago I was a post-doc at the University of Toronto – Erindale  campus. This was a post-Sept 11 period in the early 2000’s, but as we frequently traversed back and forth across the border the process was relatively painless. Quick flash of a passport, a comment on my work visa, and on I’d trot to my home above the border.  The only difficulty we ever really had was with the crossing of our pet dog. We fussed over her shots, her paperwork, and the descriptions on the website. In the end it didn’t really amount to much actual hassle at the border — just the prep took some effort, and, once again, we moved quickly to our destination.

The world has become somewhat more paranoid since that time. US – Canadian relations are more strained. And while the movement through the border was still relatively simple, I have to say the questions were a touch more aggressive from our customs agent and the experience suggested some greater concern. Of the dozen or so vehicles that passed the line in front of us, it appeared that almost a third were waived to the side for more intensive scrutiny.

During our turn, the agent asked, “If you are a professor why aren’t you at your university teaching your classes?”

Sabbatical” I replied. The answer, while true, still felt a bit flimsy under his regard.

In turn, each person in our car provided explanation of how we came to be crossing at this time — mid-September. If we were arriving to Canada without legitimacy our agent would know about it and we would face the consequences. Fortunately, we passed muster and were waived through. No “Bienvenue a Canada” this time, just the modest acceptance that we seemed to pose no obvious threat.

Nonetheless, we made it through with close to a minimum of hassle and to the beautiful city of Montreal. I’ve spent a little time here over the years and it always feels like one is in Europe, with a mingling of both modern and beautiful historic architecture. Its citizens mostly speak Quebecois accented French, but in the last 24 hours I heard that mingled with smatterings of Greek, Vietnamese, Italian, English, Spanish, and a few other languages without identification.  With the smiling people of the city relaxing at the patios of the many outdoor cafes and restaurants all the while chatting and watching life pass in front of them.

It is a friendly city,  a beautiful city, but still definitely a city. There is little parking, and it only is available with either stress or expense.  There is traffic. In the last 24 hours I’ve nearly had my car towed, my GPS lost my position multiple times as the signal pinged unsuccessfully off various buildings, and unexpected drivers and bicyclists have crossed my path on near miss trajectories a half  dozen time.

To get a feel for the local culture, I spent some of today walking around to find a place to get a haircut. I found a little and the proprietor/barber cutting my hair verve and provided an extended oratory with great flair during this time: how had my previous barber failed me — and was this representative of the awful techniques in New Jersey?!!? Why had my family emigrated away from its European homeland at the start of the 20th century? (Persecution). Why he had so many children and his belief that I should make sure I have more! (Apparently having more children keeps you…something…actually, I kind of missed the end of the sentence on this point while the buzzing from his tools reached my ears. He was so excited about the topic that I really didn’t want to upset his flow to make him recap the finer points of the argument).

All told, being here I keep fluttering back and force between victories (woohoo my hair is out of my eyes! My car isn’t being towed!) and frustrations (urrgghh, why doesn’t my phone accept the Canadian network? How come this my GPS believes I am driving the wrong way down this street, when the signs suggest its okay??).

Whatever happens,  I must recognize that I am home. I am always home this journey, even when that home feels a little unfamiliar and I don’t know  whether I am on this street or the next one over. Wait, a minute, am I even in the right apartment?

(Pictured above the major stops along the journey so far. We’ve now been traveling about a month, I’ve had conversations with nearly 10 influential Psychologists from different universities, backgrounds, and topical areas. I’ve read about 10,000 pages from articles, watched  a few hours of lectures on YouTube, started a Twitter account, and slept in about 5 different houses. Just about 10 months to go, about 70 more Psychologists targeted to speak with, and travel across the midwest and west coast of the US, Australia, New Zealand, southwest and southeast of the US, the UK, east coast, and then home to New Jersey. Then again, right now wherever I am is home.)


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