Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Big Sky Country

As you may or may not know I have a co-intern at the National Gallery of Canada, the as-yet unphotographed Hye-Sung.  Hye-Sung is from one of the conservation school in Paris, the Pantheon-Sorbonne, where she is majoring in conservation of photographs and graphic arts.  Originally from South Korea, Hye-Sung speaks excellent French: she's just now learning English.

Since my French is practically at the same level as a 15-month old's, we have very stunted slow conversation in English.  This is okay, as she really wants to learn it, and really must, as she'll be interning in Rochester (NY), where nobody will speak French.

She is very nice, and I'm sure there will be photographs of subsequent joint adventures soon enough.  Today, completely out of the blue, we had this conversation:

Hye-Sung: Jessica.

Me: Yes?

Hye-Sung: Where is Montana?

Me: Montana?

Hye-Sung: Oui, Montana.

Me: In the North, near Canada.

Hye-Sung: Close to New York?

Me: Uh... no.  Far from New York, but next to Canada.  Nobody lives there.

Hye-Sung: (makes surprised sound, I realize she took my previous comment literally and is now wondering why the US has a state where nobody lives)

Me: People live there, just not many.  Lots of nature in Montana.  We'll look for a map of the US on the computer right after lunch, and I'll show you where Montana is, okay?

Hye-Sung: Sounds good.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Hudson's Bay Company

Flatmate Andrea and I went to the large shopping center in downtown Ottawa on Saturday, the Rideau Center, to see what could be seen.  The large department stores anchoring the shopping center were Sears (yes, Sears is Softer in Canada too) and a Canadian store called 'the Bay'.

The following train of thought occurred shortly after I arrived in Ottawa, and I just haven't gotten around to relating it in writing until recently.  I've verbally informed multiple people about this already.

I was thinking, geeze, the Bay... I wonder if that's an updated version of the Hudson's Bay Company... And it is!  The Hudson's Bay Company is the oldest commercial corporation in North America and is one of the oldest in the world.  A huge part of me wants to go to the Bay and attempt to purchase a striped wooly blanket and pay with a fox pelt or moose-skin.

The company logo: how very Pink Floyd of you, HBC.  Fact: they still sell striped wooly blankets, they're just paid for in Canadian dollars.

Yours truly, channeling my inner Mandi Schlegel, wearing a coat freshly stolen from Michael Jackson's wardrobe.  This was not at the Bay, but at some random store in the Rideau Center.  Mum would hate shopping here - all of the stores play 'that thumping music'.

Shopping here in Canada, unless I want to buy wooly blankets and maple syrup, seems to be a little on the 'lean pickings' side of things.  And the shoe selection here sucks really bad, all black and brown and loafery.

Seriously contemplating taking a Saturday and driving into upper New York to go to Target.  Is this bad?

In Which I State, "Everyone Loves Chips and Salsa," in A Weak Attempt to Make Up for My Own Apathy

Flatmate Andrea was invited to a 'Girls' Night' hosted by one of her fellow PhD students.  She didn't want to go alone, fearing that all the others would be jerks, and so invited me along.  Okay.  The invite we received said we were supposed to each bring, "a bottle of wine and an appie".  I first misread this as, "a bottle of wine and an apple", and immediately though, "Oh, this will suck."

The event was casual (I assumed, as the use of the term 'appie' was clearly a casual slaughtering of a perfectly acceptable ordinary word) so I decided to dress casual.
1). jeans and hair in a ponytail
2). sneakers covered entirely in silver sequins
3). shirt Liang brought back from Taiwan (reading, "ALGEBRA is for Lourt" with a giant felt apple sewn into the middle) 

'Appie' wear for certain, I thought.  
(Sidenote: every time I write the word 'appie' I feel a little sick).

We walked in and my first thought was, "Oh. Crap. This is going to suck."  A pile of stilettos by the door and five other girls wearing fancy clothes and lots of make up and not a single ponytail, sitting at a table with candles and wine glasses and 'appies' like you get at gala museum exhibition openings.  And then two of the others were introduced to us as old sorority sisters, giggle giggle.

Oh!  And our 'appie' was a bag of Tostitos and a open, mostly full jar of salsa.  As I informed Flatmate Andrea, who is Hungarian, "Everyone loves chips and salsa."  What was I thinking?  Clearly I've been operating in a desperate world of graduate students, most of whom had former lives somehow in fine art, where it is totally fine if, after a long day/week/whatever, you bring chips and salsa in any state of openness.  In many ways, I prefer my world.

Final Thoughts:
The party was fine.  Everyone was pleasant, though it was nowhere near as much fun as a Kate party.  And I almost laughed out loud when pink champagne was brought out toward the end of the night.  I was like, "Seriously?  Pink champagne?  Champagne cocktails are so way classier."  This from the Girl Who Brought a Partially Used Jar of Salsa.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Pie Season

Big news: it's pie season in Canada.

I'm not sure what the scenery down in the States is looking like, but up here in Canada things are starting to look more yellow/orange/red than green.  Apples are also a dime a dozen right now.

The first pie of the season.  Alas, the Canadian Apartment is lacking in multiple necessary pie-items, such as a rolling pin and a pie plate.  So I had to buy a ready-made crust already stuck in a crappy aluminum pie pan.  

I suppose I should be all, "whatever," about it, but I like to make my own crust, even though I make a rather crappy crust, because I like to use the rolling pin.  It's the exercise you have to do before eating the pie, you know, to cancel out the sugar of the pie.

I love this wooly orange skirt.  I was all matchy-matchy with nature this week when I wore it.  Which reminds me, I'm also currently in the market for a yard, yard-and-a-half, of green felted wool fabric, FYI.

Alpha & Omega

Alpha and Omega Uhl now have a blog!  (Link to the left, under 'Notable').  They're not writing it themselves yet, or even dictating it to any one who can type.  But as we all know, our big is like the people of Lake Wobegone: the men are handsome, the women are strong, and the children are above average.  

So I'm sure Alpha and Omega will be typing their own blog, editing 'The Book of Steam', and designing warp drives before we know it.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Walking Tour 1: The National Landmarks

As stated previously, on Saturday I embarked on my guidebook's 'Walking Tour 1: The National Landmarks'.  And as mentioned prior to that, I stated something like, "On Saturday, I think I'll walk to Quebec.  If the weather is good."  

Well, lucky me (and a vicariously lucky you), for the sun was shining, the day was beautiful, and 'Walking Tour 1' heads directly into Quebec.

For starters, a different view of the US Embassy, showcasing the lovely... sculpture.

This is the nice park near the National Gallery where I frequently go visit during lunch. 

I was chilling there, at the beginning of Walking Tour 1, forming the plan, and some Australian tourist comes up and asks me how to get to Parliament.  I must be very non-threatening in appearance; the Australian was like the Australian version of me, early twenties, in Ottawa, having no idea where Parliament is located.  So I pulled out the guidebook and we figured it out.  After that, some power-walking headset-wearing Canadian speeds past me and says very loudly, "Yeah, there's a lot of tourists here, aren't familiar with Ottawa," as though I was Canadian and familiar with Ottawa.  I replied, "I'm not from Ottawa.  I don't know the city."  But he had spend away, not hearing me.

What are these Rats of the Sea doing here in inland Ottawa?  Following a series of canals?

The locks: you know this part of the story. 

In a semi-related note, I got this bubble tea at this little noodle shop in Byward Market.  I swear it was made with whipping cream: it was very rich and held the bubbles from the shaking step for at least twenty minutes.

Heading up Parliament Hill.  Apparently I was partially correct by calling every single pointy-roofed building Parliament, as Parliament Hill is a complex of three large pointy-roofed buildings, all of which are governmental/Parliamentary.

Elizabeth II as an equestrian statue.  How often do you see a woman-equestrian statue?

A Notable Canadian and a Bird.

Some old retired man maintains this house for stray cats up on Parliament Hill.  The cats have this nice condo to live in, they get fed, and they have all their shots and are fixed.  No cats were home when I stopped by.

One of the Parliament buildings.  For real.

Walking past Parliament Hill.

Diverse architecture.

Library and Archives Canada.

What I think is likely the border between Ontario (left) and Quebec (right).  

How do you know you are in Quebec?  Easy, all of the decorative banners are Quebec designs.

So does Ottawa span two provinces?  No, silly, the city on the Quebec side is Gatineau!

I saw these huge pipes along the road as soon as I crossed into Quebec and was like, "Huh?"  Then I remembered that the guidebook informed me that papermaking was, and still is, big business in Gatineau.  Whatever the Canadian papermills are doing they need to share with the papermills in Johnsonburg because I did not smell a bad smell the whole time I was there.

The Canadian Museum of Civilization.  I went there solely to see one temporary exhibit, one that will close this coming weekend.  'The Greeks'.  It was small, but had really spectacular gold jewels from the Hellenic era.  

I really enjoy the name of the Canadian Museum of Civilization.  It has such a grand scale to it.

Sculptures outside of the Canadian Museum of Civilization.  They are apparently meant to be people (that is what the sign told me).  Sorry, I cannot remember the artist or title.

And over there in Ontario, you can see Parliament and the glass towers of the National Gallery.

Heading onto the bridge back into Ontario.

Kind of halfway along the bridge, possibly simultaneously in both or neither Ontario and Quebec!

This is the interior of the oldest French Catholic church in Ottawa, the Cathedral of Notre Dame.  It has two very tall, pointy, and shiny silver towers outside at the entrance.  At this point in the walking tour, I really wasn't into photographing the outside, and was mainly thinking about buying blueberries at the market.  Anyway, it may look like marble and other various stones, but it is not!  The church interior is wooden and completely faux-finished to look like marble.  Very nice.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Locks, alternately titled, Engineers May Enjoy This

So I spent a huge part of today wandering around the Parliament Hill area of Ottawa, or as my guidebook calls it 'Walking Tour 1: The National Landmarks'.  This will be detailed in the future, never to fear.  I got a wee bit of sun, turning my pasty pasty museum skin slightly pink.  It's not a sunburn, it's too wimpy, but I'm considering it as stockpiling vitamin D in preparation for the Canadian winter, just like one of the fearless Canadian black squirrels that are storing up nuts and whatnots.  

Anyway, I was generally following 'Walking Tour 1', though occasionally meandering off on my own.  I walked through the part I usually eat lunch at, then decided to go in the opposite direction of the Gallery, and guess what was there!


These locks are part of the Rideau Canal, which connects the Rideau and Ottawa Rivers.  It's part of a system of waterways connecting Ottawa and Kingston (towards the south west).  They were constructed between 1826 and 1832, part of a military defense plan thanks to the US and the War of 1812.  The military man behind the design was smart enough to design them with commercial and military purposes in mind.

Today the canals and locks are still used.  And are operated manually.  I saw them (and you will too).  They are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.   Apparently the fee for a season pass to use all of the Federal Canals in Canada is only like 200 (Canadian) dollars.  Not too bad.

And lucky me, there was a boat going through the series of locks, out into the Ottawa River.  This video might be boring for all the non-engineer-types out there, but I did put a great soundtrack along with it.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The U.S. Embassy

This place is barely two blocks from the National Gallery.  It is a little piece of America up here in Canadialand.  I think literally, actually.  Or maybe I made that up, as I so like to laugh at the conclusion of F. N.'s story of her college-age dad puking on the Embassy of Uruguay, in my mind, effectively vomiting on the entire nation.

In other words, it is the US Embassy.  I'll probably be here quite a bit.  I'm sure the Ambassador will invite me to all of the Fancy Dress Cocktail Parties they'll be hosting.  You know, for all the expat-Americans in Canada.

Sure, looks harmless enough.  But look closer: a huge metal fence (possibly electrified) and big concrete barriers (attempting to disguise themselves with pretty little trees and flowers).  Not very welcoming.

I was a little afraid to take the picture.  I'm also a little afraid to run across the intersection towards the building, like that they might shoot me, and I'd be lying (shot) on the sidewalk in front of the US Embassy pulling out my passport and yelling, "No!  I'm an American!"

Fun Canada Facts, Courtesy of the US Embassy Website:
1). Land-wise, Canada is the second largest country in the world.  (Russia is number one.)  
2). About 75% of Canadians live within 100 miles of the US border.
3). The population of Canada is around 32 million people.  (The combined population of the states of New York and Pennsylvania is also around 32 million.  Having driven massive quantities through both states, I can tell you that that comparison means that nobody lives in Canada.)  

The National Gallery of Canada, alternately titled, Musee des beaux arts du Canada

There are some really big spiders in Canada, I don't know how they've hushed it up for so many years, but I finally saw one today leaving work.  Unlike Daddy-Long-Legs, which are too small to kill humans with their little tiny fangs, these nasty specimens are not too tiny.  Fortunately for the general American populace, the spiders favor cold climes.  Unfortunately, I am living in their prime realm of terror: Canada.

In Real Life, the spider is actually a Sculpture: Maman by Louise Bourgeois.  In 1999 Bourgeois was commissioned to fill a huge space (Turbine Hall) at the Tate Modern with an installation work.  This giant spider was part of the piece, it is the largest spider she has made.  After the installation went down, the spider decided to head westward to Canada.  It seems to be the unofficial mascot of the NGC.  Not exactly cuddly, but distinctive.

The Gallery.  It's like the Museum of the Future.  I think it looks awesome.  If only there were wind turbines nearby - the the Awesomeness would be complete.

The Gallery has little letter-combinations for all sorts of things.  NGC, MBAC (this one took me longer than it should have... your hint is, 'the museum has a French name as well'), RCL, PDP, and so on and so forth.  RCL is Restoration and Conservation Laboratory, a series of words summing up the various labs and people working in conservation.  PDP is Prints, Drawings, and Photographs, so I am simultaneously part of RCL and PDP.

This is the paper/photo conservation lab.  As the paper conservator Geoffery says, "We have the best view in the whole building."  It is true.  And the wall is just one big window/semi-skylight.

The infamous view out of the windows of the Prints, Drawings, and Photographs conservation lab.  Yes, that is the Ottawa river, and in the distance on the other side of the bridge, Quebec.  I'm thinking maybe I'll walk to Quebec this weekend.  Depends on the weather.

Don't be jealous.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Ottawa in the Summer

So I'm in Canada now.  Everyone really does say 'eh' all the time.  And my first day of work somebody called somebody else a hoser.  (I already called David and shared this glorious information with him).  I want to go to a furniture store now and see if I can buy a chesterfield.  Or maybe a nice ottoman.

I am working at the National Gallery of Canada, which is gigantic.  In this photograph, the glass tower on the left are part of the Gallery.

Mum and I had something like the following conversation when the parents visited:

Mum: So the National Gallery here is pretty big?

Me: Yes.

Mum: So what would it be compared to museum-wise in the US?  Like... the Smithsonian?

Me: No Mum, it's like the National Gallery.

Mum: Like the National Gallery?

Me: Yeah, you know, the National Gallery in Washington?  It's the same, only it's Canada's version.  England has a National Gallery too, in London.

Mum: Oh.

-a pause-

Mum: I've not been to our National Gallery.

Ottawa has lots of these pseudo-Gothic buildings, which are all governmental.  If pressed to identify them, I say, "Oh yes, that's Parliament" like I know.  They're all Parliament to me.

The view from the grounds of the museum, looking over the Ottawa river.

Ottawa is right on the edge of Ontario, jammed up against Quebec.  This is the bridge to Quebec.  It's all French-Canada over there, though loads of people speak French and English in Ottawa itself.

Ottawa in the summer feels pretty much like anywhere else in the summer.  It's pretty much Arctic-temperatures in the conservation lab though.  Keeps those chemical-degradation reactions movin' real slow-like.  Just the way we like 'em.

Low-Land Leftovers

I was skimming through my Nederland photos today, writing my final report for the lovely and generous Samuel H. Kress Foundation (may it continue to forever fund poor and hopeful conservation grad students).

And I found this gem!  Liang, this is the last one I took for you!  If you didn't know they were bongs, you'd think they were just another nice piece of non-functional but beautiful glass.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Little Birds Leaving the Nest

Kicked out of my comfortable Winterthur bundle of sticks and scavenged pieces of fluff, as well as my huge and awesomely-painted apartment, and after a brief dalliance with the lowlands of Nederland, I was bound for The Homeland's Northern Neighbor.  (O) Canada!

I drove a million miles through the state of New York.  Outside of New York City, there is not a single person living in the entire state.  It is so empty.  I should have stopped to get a tea at the gas station twenty miles from home, because it was the last one I saw for the next two hundred and eighty miles.

There is nothing out there!

I did pass Johnsonburg, which smelled repulsive as usual.  Why must paper-making involve such vile smells?  'Welcome to Johnsonburg' - UGH.  

On the way north.  Funny, I had always thought Mexico lay to the south of the United States.  My bad, apparently.  

I did arrive safely in Canada, and with the help of the parents (who visited for about 24 hours) and Ikea (those stores are madness, avoid if possible), am now reasonably settled in my New Canadian Digs.

A Long-Awaited Party

Nearly all of WUDPAC 2009 made the journey south to Ole' Virginy to see our own Bret and Emily (who is as good as a class member) reenact their wedding.  They had gotten married more than a year earlier, secretly, and not told anyone for months.  The reenactment also involved a huge party.  Of course.

Some classmates.  We all arrived early, the day before, to help decorate, pick up hundreds of bags of ice, and to start the party.

One fabulous thing about Bret's family's place is that you can catch a ride of the golf cart and zoom around the cows, peacefully grazing in the pasture.  In Cow Pasture Golf Cart Off-Roading, there is no speed limit.  One needs to hold on tight and not look the bull in the eye.  As we were told, "He's real mean."

Baby cow.   Clearly.

After spending almost two full years non-stop in one another's company, we are now being pushed out of Winterthur and into the world, all into Far-Apart Locations.  At the time of the Long-Awaited and Much-Anticipated Party, we could catch up on each other's summer projects, lives, new apartments and cities, and internship start dates.  Hopefully we'll be able to visit each other during the year!