Carnival at North Hatley

We did not celebrate Carnival like most people in the northern hemisphere do. Firstly because I am from the southern hemisphere and Carnival for me is not at all what it is over here. Far as I know, they don’t have Carnival here (sorry ;-).

North hatley carnival sunday.
So we went for a drive, with plans of walking with snowshoes in the forest of Mount Hatley. It was a perfect day for that, sunny, beautiful skies, no clouds… but arriving in Hatley we got stuck in a ditch when I tried to turn around on a wide road (that was really not that wide, duh). Had to call tow. Anyway, later we went to visit the town and I have to say it’s quite cute. If you ever come to this area you have to go see this place.

This one is a video for a friend who asked me to film random parts of life over here. Enjoy buddy!

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Driving in the blizzard in Sherbrooke

Boston and New York are under “orange alerts” because of massive snow fronts coming in. Airports shut down, chaos everywhere… and we aren’t too far from there so we do get some of the harshest weather too.

This is a short drive from the city center to the Bishop’s Uni in Lennoxville, one of the largest neighborhoods here. I put this up just so you could see what it’s like driving around here in this weather.

Arrival in Montreal, back to work

I arrived in Canada on the 12th of November with a lot of enthusiasm, a bit of anguish, the good kind. Discovery, exploration, new.

The flights were fine, British Airways is often that way. Stopping at London gave me a last opportunity to try something typically European (fish and chips), have a beer, and move on. I did not sleep on the long haul, too excited.

After landing in Montreal Trudeau, we moved on to the immigration lines which everyone said would take hours. I guess we were lucky because in 10min we were done, with work permits in hand.

JC's office
New office, new mobile, new computer, new mug

We waited some minutes for my employer to arrive, got in the car with our 10 large suitcases and drove to Sherbrooke. Arriving in Sherby around 1a.m. he wanted to show me my office, and I did like it quite much.

I started working 3 days after arrival which put me back in action quickly and also didn’t allow me a lot of time to feel lost. My new job is in Software Development, I do analysis, troubleshooting, and development of features for real-time applications as well as PC applications in the paper industry.

Sherbrooke, Quebèc

Rue Wellington Nord.jpg
Rue Wellington Nord” by Philip BastaracheOwn work. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Sherby, as some call it, is a mid-sized student city in the Estrie region of the Quebec province. You can read a lot about this city here on wikipedia. To be short: it’s a city with a very strong English heritage mixed with  French roots, making it a fairly balanced bilingual city. Here you can work, study, live in either French or English without having to speak the other language. Today it has a little over 150.000 inhabitants and is the center of the region. Sherbrooke is the union of 4 different villages (6 neighborhoods) with a strange political arrangement (they have 4 mayors).

Sherb politique.png
Sherb politique” by Libertad-pbOwn work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

We arrived here on November 12th 2014 around 1a.m. completely exhausted but our initial impression of the place was that it’s quite vast, extended; and that the population density must be quite low. The next day we toured around the city to find out that the city center is very cute and charming, resembles a tiny bit the European cities we were used to. As soon as you leave the city center though it gets strictly residential. The buildings here are quite low so the city skyline isn’t full of obnoxious skyscrapers, etc., which is nice. That also makes things grow apart.

We chose this place because it was small, but still big enough. We were tired of the highly dense cities of the French Riviera, tired of Paris, tired of traffic. We wanted somewhere a little more peaceful but not countryside. And Sherbrooke is just perfect, with its huge educational backbone it also has an great leisure options. There are good bars of which I will write one day, museums, theaters, and alot-of-alot-of opportunities for outdoor activities.

Sherbrooke et mont orford.jpg
Sherbrooke et mont orford” by Michel Gagnon – Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

There’s a lake in the center, and a river running through the city. Loads of parks everywhere, forests, more than 150km of bicycle paths/tracks; public tennis and baseball courts, hockey and skating rinks… it’s wonderful. In so many ways this place is much more democratic than any city I lived in in France.

Sherbrooke also has a healthy and strong industrial sector, as well as other expanding sectors like IT and Health. Another reason why we came to Sherbrooke specifically is that I had found an employer interested in my profile before coming here. That made everything a lot easier for the move. Once they confirmed their intentions, we started getting on the move. They arranged our flight tickets, picked us up at the airport, and helped us finding a home.

So practically we were all set even before arriving in Canada.

A new beginning

And so a new chapter starts on this adventure that is life. Last day in Nice, Cote d’Azur – November 12, 2014. For the third time leaving (mostly) everything behind, moving to a new country: Canada. After a lot of frustration and disappointment, malgré le bon, I decided to quit France and move away. Although I have no regrets and am overall very happy with my time in France I leave with a somewhat bitter after-taste. Maybe it’s because I had so many high expectations following the 5 previous years in Finland, maybe it’s just because France is a disappointing country for expats, I don’t know. But the fact is that Canada seems a better place to settle down in terms of culture, society, habits, community, and government.

The new place is called Sherbrooke, located between Montreal and Quebec City, and is about 40min from the US.

More on Sherbrooke later.

Adieu Nice! Adieu La France!

Fecha a conta e passa a régua.

Malas prontas, bilhete na mão, tudo pronto mais uma imigração. Saio daqui um tanto dividido entre as boas lembranças, alguns bons amigos que fiz, lugares onde morei e que visitei…

A França é um país lindo, dá pra ver em algumas fotos e vídeos que fiz durante esses 4 anos. Com certeza vou sentir falta desse clima, do tempo e do mar de Nice e vizinhanças. Assim como meus familiares que visitavam todo ano e aproveitavam também… 😉

Realmente nas últimas horas antes de partir dá um apertinho, afinal aqui eu tinha uma vida fácil, muito confortável, muito prazerosa. Vinhos, quejos, praia, sol, sol, mais sol, MOTO, restaurantes, música, cultura… quanta coisa de nível fica pra trás.

Deixo algumas fotos em homenagem a esse lugar fantástico.

Roquebrune-Cap-Martin
Roquebrune-Cap-Martin
Plage de la Garoupe
Plage de la Garoupe
A última moto
A última moto
Nosso barco no canal du Midi
Nosso barco no canal du Midi
Tour Eiffel
Tour Eiffel
Re Le Port
Re Le Port
Le Port - Nice
Le Port – Nice
Promenade des Anglais
Promenade des Anglais
Cabo de Antibes
Cabo de Antibes

Sold all the bikes

20120918_001IMAG0355373419

If France gave me anything, it’s motorcycling. And I can say pretty confidently I would not have even thought of trying this if I hadn’t moved to the French Riviera.

It is indeed the best place for riding a motorcycle. I feel lucky I had to opportunity to own 5 different bikes, get into mechanics, and get a new hobby. You can learn a lot about yourself when working on a bike.

It also taught me a lot about the French culture, their driving habits, it gives you a different insight into society.

All that’s gone now, but I will try to find a new bike in Canada. Maybe a dual sport…

Why would you move to France

I moved from Finland into France in the end of 2010 after Nokia announced its partnership with Microsoft. I knew that was the beginning of their downfall and thought it was a good sign I should find a new employer, and perhaps leave Finland. So I did. Choosing France wasn’t very complicated: I wanted to stay in Europe, find a warmer, lighter country. By elimination, France was my choice even though I didn’t speak French – always had wanted to learn this language.

Coming from Finland I had a lot of high expectations. Organization, efficiency, efficacy in all areas of life be it govt services, security, transportation, and most of all in the private sector. Man was I wrong! What a colossal disappointment. Many foreigners understood my frustration, but the French themselves identified with all my complaints; they just can’t do anything about it. It is incredible to me that a country that is a leader in Europe in so many aspects is still drowning in bureaucracy like that… it’s just unbelievable.

Take their tax system for example: you cannot simulate how much you will have to pay even in the last months of your fiscal year (although you can estimate roughly). Also: if you want to shorten your installments and pay in advance, you need to keep receipts of your payments because the on-line payment system is not integrated with the republic’s Tax offices, so they basically don’t know what you have paid, when, how much. It’s ridiculous.

Oh the bureaucracy! Welcome to the world where everything has to be done by letters! Yes, because of such disorganization they’re forced to keep track of things with actual paper. And when you send your letter, you also cannot forget to pay for the “delivery notice” that proves the destination received something from you. I could write about a dozen stories and examples of things that are just plain senseless. I’ll be short and just say that France is painful. It’s slow, chaotic, disorganized, and yet you have access to a pretty nice standard of living.

In France you eat like nowhere else, drink the best beverages, enjoy any kind of art form you want. You also have access to amazing sceneries, although nature is not wild but quite tamed and “civilized”. The people of France are not renowned for being the most open, friendly in the world – in fact they’re known for being arrogant. But still, I thought arrogant is not such a bad quality to work around. In theory it must be a superb country to live in.

Until today I really don’t know how to rate France because what I lived, my “personal bubble”, my experience was positive, a lesson. I don’t regret having moved to France. I discovered a new country, society, communities, made good friends, started new hobbies, etc. So in a way France allowed me those things. But at the same time, I lived so many frustrations, disappointments, that the overall feeling is like I have a dark shadow behind this great experience. I did not find that the French people are arrogant, but I found a truck-load of other things that are not good. The French are open-minded, in the sense of curiosity: they want to try new things (food, music, etc) and new ways to do things, but at the same time they have a very strict sense of identity and who they are is very important for them. They aren’t proud like the Americans. They are open to diversity – as long as it doesn’t disrespect or invade their space, freedom, individuality, their rights.

And of course, one of the most sickening details for me: there is a lot of racism and intolerance in France. You wouldn’t guess, because of their long history with immigration. I think that France has been taking it easy for too long, didn’t do it’s homework, and now have to struggle with too many problems that can quickly be linked to immigration.

The last drop of disappointment for me was something I don’t quite know how to describe – it has to do with the peoples behavior. I have never seen, met, been close to people who complain so much, so often. Things quickly escalate out of proportion and it’s not only easy but quite common to get insulted in traffic because you missed the green light for 2 seconds. You can also suffer abuse or get insulted by anybody simply because you’re “pissing them off” while trying to get your rights served. People seem to not care at all about insulting others or over-using curse words. Putain has become the English equivalent of “oh well”, or “wow”. It’s a culture of not giving a damn about your neighbor, not wanting to help others if it means going 2cm out of your way. Don’t get me wrong, there are good people in France too, it’s just that you don’t get to see it that often.