I’m taking French classes again. This is the fifth two-month course I’ve enrolled in, but the others had just nine hours a week of instruction; this time it’s twenty-five. When you add the lunch breaks, travel time, plus my paying job, I’m pretty busy. The school is well-run and essentially free; it’s run by the school board and exists to help immigrants integrate into Québec. If you’re out of work you can even get Emploi-Québec (the local equivalent to HRDC) to pay a stipend towards living expenses while you study; about two-thirds of the people in my class are in this program, which includes additional classes covering job searches, interviews, and résumé preparation. I’ve got to hand it to this province’s government; it’s very important to them that Québec remain French speaking, but they’ll go out of their way to help you learn if you’re interested.
One strange feature of my schedule now is that I have an hour for lunch every weekday, which is difficult to use “productively”. So, I’m overworked, but I’ve had time to read Il est par là, le soleil by Roch Carrier and One Good Story, That One by Thomas King, among other things, as well as to get to know my classmates a little. I’ve met a Cambodian man who fled Pol Pot to come to Canada in the late 1970’s, a Gujarati man from Tanzania with whom I’ve had some interesting chats about Shari’a, a young environmental lawyer from Mexico, and a couple slackers from Western Canada here killing time by being paid to learn French. Many of these people are fairly recent immigrants and have lots of questions for me about Canadian customs and history, which I do my best to answer. I tell them all that my own family hasn’t been in Canada for very long either, as a way of expressing my hope that they’ll also be happy here.
Anyways, I would like to increase my spare time by dropping my news reading compulsion, but that seems unlikely. Here I am, futilely following the fate of UK beauty products made from the skin of executed Chinese prisoners, of Pat Robertson, friend of fascist dictators everywhere, explaining Hurricane Katrina as God’s punishment for letting Ellen Degeneres host the Emmys (why does anyone still pay attention to that nut, anyways? why do I?), and generally listening to people speak truth to power. And as always, we keep the truth, and they keep the power.
It just seems so futile sometimes.
Edit: It seems my source for the Robertson quote is in fact a parody news site. My apologies — it just seemed so plausible. This is the guy who just called for the President of Venezuela to be assassinated, after all.
 I’ve had it out for Robertson ever since hearing that just days after the coup d’état of Guatemalan military dictator and evangelical minister Ríos Montt, Robertson hosted him on his live TV show, introduced him to the US public as a “humble servant of Christ”, and proceeded to write a glowing forward to a biography published soon after by a US church. Montt remains the most savage dictator Guatemala has ever had; for those of you not familiar with the country’s recent history, let me assure you this is no mean feat.