16 March 2008

Montreal Part 2: Cross-Country Skiing in The Park Is Totally Normal & Other Adventures

When we left off I had just eaten an entire bowl of hummus, sharing only moderate amounts with everyone else. Now refueled, we headed to the University of Montreal to meet with Catherine and Marvyn of Carpool West Montreal. Daily commuters themselves, the two got frustrated with how many people made the 30-minute drive to campus on their own. Certain that there was a better way to save fumes and in turn, THE PLANET, they set out to launch an online carpooling site (similar to Craigslist) where students from their school could find riding buddies to make the commute with, speeding up the journey and saving students money at the same time. Carpool buddies themselves, both claimed there were rarely disagreements about music durng the ride. I was skeptical.

Not wanting to be labeled “single-riders” ourselves, we hitched a ride with them to the bus stop and continued on to the big park in the middle of Montreal that is on a mountain (clearly, I don’t remember the name). There, we met Geraldine and Francois of Optik Oblik, an online alternative media site aimed primarily at sparking debate through words, pictures and video with 16-35 year-olds across Canada. They want to offer an outlet to young people to express their views without being filtered by mainstream media. They’re also totally ridiculous and I love them.

They carried folding chairs and a table into the park so we could create an “alternative” interviewing scene. Francois also brought a sled, which we packed ourselves in to careen down a mountain (don’t tell my shoulder doctor). I don’t remember the last time I laughed so hard!

Now soaking wet, snow down my pants, we hopped in a taxi to make our last stop of the day – Marie, Yamie and Onira of Vidanges en Cavales. Their goal is to create an artistic and social bridge between Quebec and countries in Latin America through performing arts. All theater students, they have written, directed and are now performing their own show, built on teaching young people on both sides just how similar they can be in terms of struggles and challenges as well as hopes and dreams. Nicolina and I sat in on a rehearsal and I have to say, they’re good. Real good. I picked up about half of what was going on and I still felt connected.

What’s so incredible about Canada is the absolutely can-do, must-do, want-to-do sprit in young people. No matter what their passion or their cause, they’ve connected with this movement and with each other on an ideals level – all sharing the belief that they have the power to create change in their schools, cities and country as well as in schools, cities and countries around the World. Makes me proud to know my Dad was raised there.

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