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Mike's Trek to the Great White North 1994

Part 4: Work and Fun

The entire time we were in Quebec, it was cold.  The warmest it got was about -20 degrees Celsius, and the coldest was about -40 degrees Celsius.  It was very cold.

Our drive to the base was about 40 minutes long.  The poor heater in our car never got warm.  Think about it - let's say your heater heats up the air by about 60 degrees, so that when it is 30 degrees outside, you can make it 90 inside.  Now, let's assume the outside temperature is about -30.  You heat the air by 60 degrees, it's still only 30.  We weren't sure which was worse, to just sit there with no heater or to have the heater blow cold air on you.

The work was interesting.  The plan was to install the software on Monday and Tuesday, and train the Canadians on Wednesday and Thursday.  We installed on Monday, made a few corrections on Tuesday, and by Wednesday, everything was ready for training.  Everything, that is, except for the Canadians.  But, they said, not to worry - they were prepared to accept only a day of training.

We worked from 8-4 each day.  What was funny is that it was dark when we went to work, and it was dark when we came home.  And bitterly cold.

Obviously, this picture was taken in the summer...
The old city gate that we passed through each time we left the city.

On Monday night, we went to a nice little restaurant and had a great meal of chateaubriand for about $25 each.  The next day, we decided to go a little more economical, so we drove out of the old city to McDonalds, where we spent about $18 each on fast food.  So, we decided that we would eat in the more expensive restaurants within the old city, as all things considered, they weren't that much more expensive than the fast food.  We realized that everything was more expensive in Canada.

Being invited by Canada to come up during the winter would seem to be cruel, as it was so cold, but in all actuality, there was one thing I loved - we were there during hockey season.  On Wednesday night, we went to the Colisee to see the Quebec Nordiques play the Philadelphia Flyers, which was pretty cool.  Normally, you couldn't get tickets, but our hotel had a concierge, who specializes in "hard to get" things.  He made some calls and scored us some tickets.  It was a good thing I had that cash, since I had to tip him.

Go Sens Go!
It's Ottawa and not Quebec, but it's the only picture I had of a hockey game.

Yes, and that is another story.  My boss had no money, so he put things on his credit card and I paid him in cash.  We went by a number of ATMs, and they have this thing where you slide your card in order to get the little vestibule to open up.  Only, it never opened for him.  I don't know if it was his card, or if it was frozen or what.  So, I had to loan him money.  By Wednesday night, though, he had all my cash, so I had to borrow from him (they don't like to sell beer on credit cards at the game).  As you will see in my other stories, I always like to have cash, whereas my boss preferred to rely on his credit card, and on every trip we went on together, he had to bum cash off of me at one point or another.

On Thursday, we went to go train the Canadians.  Serge tells me that a number of them are Francophones, so he is glad I speak French.  I tell him I don't speak French.  He tells me that when he spoke to my branch chief, our branch chief informed them I spoke French.  So, Serge had to translate for us.  It was slow and awkward, but in all actuality, even if I did know French, I don't think I would be familiar with the complex technical terms that would be needed to teach them how to use the software.

The Canadian military is cool.  I had a light-hearted "who's military is better" debate with a Canadian officer, and he said something that really shows how tough the Canadian military is.  "You think you're military is tough," he said, "you ought to go be a peacekeeper somewhere like the border between Israel and Lebanon, and have both sides shoot at you in your robin's-egg-blue beret without a weapon.  That's tough!"  As I talked to this guy, I soon developed a great respect for him, as he was in all kinds of nasty terrible places - unarmed.  And it was good to see that the Canadian military considers themselves as Canadian without respect to provincial politics. 

Thursday night we had one good last meal in Quebec, and then it was early to bed.  The great thing about flying on government travel is that they do things like schedule you for an 8 AM flight out of Montreal.  So, we had to get up at 3 AM the next day to leave the hotel for the three hour drive to Montreal to catch our flight.

Continue on to Part 5: Montreal