Tag Archives: montreal2019

Last Day in Montreal


by David Xi and Jada Wooten

This morning we were pleasantly surprised to wake up to croissants for breakfast. It was a fitting choice for our last breakfast all together. After we were fueled by the croissants, we were ready for our last day of service.

We took the crowded metro in order to get to McGill children center. Once we arrived, we were greeted by a swarm of kids and parents. They provided us with a boost of energy, before we went off to do our various jobs. Some of us painted a classroom, while others were working with the children. We were assigned to work on the mural. We had to think on our feet in order to get the mural done within the limited time frame. The project required us to make a lot of changes to our initial design and work with different types of tools, all while fielding questions from the eager kids. We were fortunate to have the help of many people throughout the process including our friends from Be The Change and staff at McGill. Even though there was unexpected moments, it was a great opportunity because it was exciting work with interesting people.

The excitement continued at our picnic lunch with our friends from Be The Change. It was slightly a steep walk to lunch, but it was totally worth it. We enjoyed delicious snacks and sandwiches. We amused ourselves by playing games such as Uno Flip. We even learned a new game called pow. We ended the picnic with a discussion of our experiences in Montrèal and a gift exchange. Unfortunately, the goodbye was cut short because we had to rush back to finish our service.

After the picnic, we went back to the children’s center and continued our mural. By the time we got back, the paint was dry so we did a second layer and perfected the details of the design. After that, Jada added the sketch of children holding hands in front of the trees. We painted the children in dark grey by mixing brown and blue to ensure that they could have universal representation and be symbolic of all people. Upon finishing the mural, we decided to leave the children a message and further enrich our work, so we wrote “The future of the world is in this playground” on the sides of the mural. This message—representative of the meaning of our painting—embodies our hope that those children, when they grow up, will make the world a better place and carry on the responsibility of human evolution and social progression. In their innocent eyes, we saw the possibilities of a future without hatred, prejudice, and conflict. Although their innocence likely won’t survive the cruel reality of the adult world, their current existence proves the kind, loving nature of humanity and reminds us of an alternative path of social evolution we can pursue, one that is honest, natural, and pure. And so, with an immense sense of fulfillment, hoping that our work will be an inspiration for these kids, we left the children’s center and concluded our service in Montreal.

For dinner, we went to a restaurant called Deville Diner in downtown. Since this was the last time we gathered together, Kim proposed that each of us say something nice to Marie-Laure to express our gratitude. We kept the plan for this little farewell ceremony a secret and waited until the end, when Marie-Laure was about to get up and pay for our dinner. We thanked her for putting so much effort into organizing this trip, for pushing our limits by requiring us to speak French, and for maintaining a positive atmosphere among the group no matter how difficult the situation was. We’ve had ups and downs, and there were times when we wanted to give up our set service goals, but Marie-Laure was always there to motivate and encourage us, knowing that this experience can only be meaningful if we try to make it so. We also expressed our gratitude for Renee and Kim, who took great care of us and were always there to keep us safe, reminding us of proper behavior when we were overly excited, and lightening the mood when we were low-spirited. Without them, this experience would’ve never been as rewarding and memorable as the past two weeks.

As this service trip came to an end, we must look back and reflect: what have we accomplished? How did the experience impact our own growths? What can we learn from this trip going forward? While this journey will be remembered and viewed differently by everyone in the group, what we can all agree on is that for the past two weeks, we brought positive changes to the local communities through our service at the food bank and at the school garden; in addition to that, our visit to the retirement home and the children’s center elevated the meaning of our service to the level of interpersonal and spiritual connection through the formation of our loving friendships. Our collaboration with local students allowed for the exchange and mutual-appreciation of our cultures as we saw so many similarities between us despite our different backgrounds, beliefs, and walks of life. Our love for life, our enthusiasm for service, our curiosity for new experiences, and our passion for activism is the proof that when united, the only difference between us that matters is the unique ways we can all contribute to the making of a better future. On this trip, we’ve witnessed the hardships of survival, experienced the power of grit and perseverance, and learned to understand the absolute necessity for human communications as it is the only way to eliminate bigotry and truly bring people together. If there’s one thing we wish all members of the GS community can take away from our service trip, it is that to change the world, we must begin by understanding each other—and ultimately, learn to love all people for who they are. In doing so, not only can we fundamentally obliterate the existence of unjust acts, we will be able to eradicate the source of those injustices and shine a light in the hearts of all humankind.

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Montreal, Day 10

day 10

by Lorelei and Leila

This morning we were up bright and early. After breakfast we headed over to Louis Joseph Papineau to do some more gardening. We were split into two groups again, one started with shoveling mulch and the other watered flowers and then moved on to painting more of the pergola. One of the girls from Be The Change, named Rosa, was working with us. It was really nice to talk with her in French, and she even helped me with grammar. I had a wonderful time getting to know her and practicing French. By the end of the day, the pile of mulch was significantly smaller and the pergola looked so colorful and lovely! Then we all had a really good lunch under the shade of one of the trees next to the garden before heading home for a break. After the rest at home we set out again at around 5:30. We met up with Kim and Marie-Laure briefly to discuss plans and check-in then went to dinner in a smaller group at the boardwalk. Each of us promptly honed in on the same dish. With our garlic grilled cheese and truffle fries we sat by the water to eat a peaceful but brief dinner. We then walked by the boardwalk again to make the last decision on any final purchases. I bought a small silver ring and a Montreal T-shirt. We met up with the others again and took a stroll down the street filled with strings of rainbow lanterns almost forming a second sky for pride month. We also stopped by a large plaza with salsa music and lots of people dancing. It was really cool seeing everyone out at night having so much fun with their friends. I managed to snag one on the lanterns (unlit) before we left. We headed home by subway and settled in for the night.

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Montreal, Day 9


by Melissa Ford ’21

Today we started our first day of service at the school Louis Joseph Papineau. We arrived at the Jardin des Patriotes (Patriots Garden) and split into two groups that would alternate tasks every so often. A few of the students from Be the Change came and helped throughout the day as well. One group moved compost into the garden while the other group painted. We worked with Camilla who runs the garden and she was super sweet. If I was having difficulty speaking French, she helped me rephrase and get to what I wanted to say,

We ended twenty minutes earlier than we were supposed to because Camilla said we worked faster than she had expected. Even though it was a hot and sunny day, we were able to do our best. We took breaks often and made sure to stay hydrated.

We went to a circus next and got a tour of the building. We learned the history behind the building called la Tohu which was where we were. There were artists practicing on the stage and we got to watch some acrobats and dancers. By the time we left the main room, we were all in awe of what the artists could do. For each show the artists have to learn a new choreography, they were amazingly talented.

By the end of the tour, we were all tired and needed a rest. We went back to the house had dinner and either took a nap or rested. At 7:30 pm we were out again with Donna, the woman who runs Be the Change at the school. We venture to the sights of the “Oratoire” and the top of the Mont Royal which have the best view of the city. As the sun descended, we were met with a golden view of a gorgeous city. Then as it got dark and lights began to appear we marveled over the twinkling of the plethora of lights in the city. There were many tourists viewing the city lights, but there were even more lights showing us how active and lively the city truly is. From above we could recognize murals that we had seen earlier in this trip and so. we were able to see all the places we had been. It was honestly the most beautiful sight to end our fourth to the last day in Montreal.

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Day 8, Montreal


By Rachel and Johanna 

Today was the first day of service with the students in the “be the change” group here in Montreal. We started the day off by meeting the deputy Frantz Benjamin and the city council member Josue Corvil. They told us what their job entailed, as well as a little description of the current political situation in Montreal and Quebec. It was a very nice conversation that we had, learning a lot about the special situation of Quebec compared to other Canadian cities and their promise to do their best to help when the public need them, about which we had time to ask questions. We ended out conversation with a nice lunch that had been prepared for us, and then received a flag of Quebec before leaving.

After lunch, Melissa, Jada, and I rode in Donna DeLuca’s car, who is a leader of Be the Change, and who is also a teacher at Louis-Joseph Papineau, which is the school where the students we met went to. She gave us a tour of the city as we rode in the car with her, and she explained that the location where the school is, is a very impoverished area of Montreal. Then we arrived at the school where we were greeted by many students such as Grace who is a student there, around our age who spoke very quick French. We talked about our favorite animals, and how many credits she has in high school. (She has 74 credits, while the normal maximum is 72 which was very impressive.) Yasmine and Bayard were our tour guides and showed us around the school which included places such as the library, auditorium, and a classroom. We also learned about 5 values that are important for the organization, Be The Change. These values include “Amour, Famille, Respect, Paix, et Joie” which is “Love, Family, Respect, Peace, and Joy.” They hold these values very close. Afterwards, we got a tour of the garden that we are going to be working tomorrow and Wednesday. Then we went back to our Air BnB, briefly, to go pick up Kim Hebron, who is our co-chaperone/leader for the week. We were all very excited to see her! Soon after we got Kim, we took the subway to Downtown Montreal. We met the students there and we got a tour of the city which included walking through Chinatown and ended up staying at the Vieux-Port which reminded me of a boardwalk with many shops and a light-up Ferris wheel. When the students from Louis-Joseph Papineau left, we went to go get dinner at the food trucks. We all ended up getting Fish and Chips, and I had the best lemonade of my life! The rest of the night consisted of strolling around the Port, shopping, eating ice cream, and watching seagulls as we sat by the water. We then made our way back to the Air Bnb, ready for the service that awaits us for the next 4 days.

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Montreal, Sunday, June 16

by Jada

Hi everyone, this is Jada. I am going to tell you what happened today, June 16th, on the Montréal service trip.

Fortunately, we had a late start. Some, including myself, saw this as an opportunity to get more rest. Meanwhile others used the extra time to bond by playing cards. All of us made sure to enjoy our last minutes in our Québec City Airbnb. Since, we not only adored the house, but also loved the city.

Our last moments in the city were spent at Le Billig, a crêperie. At brunch almost all of us struggled to order because we wanted to maximize our amount of crêpes, while staying within the budget. For some this meant sharing crêpes, while others simply ordered two crêpes. All of us enjoyed Le Billig both for the amazing food and their equally amazing staff. The employees even recommended a street fair to us, which we stopped at momentarily. However, we had to hurry because we made plans to see the waterfalls before our departure from Québec City.

We took the scenic route to the falls, which provided us with a nice preview of the falls. However, the preview did not compare to the waterfalls in person. They were absolutely stunning. I was not only amazed by the beauty of the falls and the surrounding nature, but also by the different people who visited them. We saw people of various backgrounds coming together to enjoy nature, which was nice to see in an era so focused on technology. For this reason and many more, it was hard to leave the falls, but we had to head back to Montréal.

The car ride back was full of discussions, music, naps, and food. For me, discussions revolved around French movies, tv shows, music and expressions. Needless to say, we listened to a lot of French music in the car. I was so focused on the conversation, the music, and navigating that I did not have time to take a nap. However, I was refreshed by the potatoes and tea that I got at Tim Hortons. Overall, the ride was long, but I enjoyed every minute of it. The fun didn’t stop when the car ride ended. We continued to amuse ourselves with food and games at our Airbnb in Montréal.

We ordered from Poutineville. Some of us took a chance and tried poutine, while others stuck with American cuisine. However, all of us enjoyed our meals and the time we spent gathered in the living room. We continued to bond by playing a singing game. The game required us to break into teams, the couch team and the table team, which in turn brought out our more competitive sides. However, the team also required cooperation within the teams. We ended the night with the table team, Renee’s team, winning. This was the perfect way to say goodbye to Renee who was a great supervisor and our song connoisseur. We will miss Renee very much, but we are excited to welcome Kim. We are also excited to see what the following days have in store.

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History’s Witness—Scavenger Hunt in Quebec City

David Xi

by David Xi

Today we embarked on an exploration journey that took us around the Old Quebec City, originally built as a fort to defend the settlers from the invasion of other colonists (mainly those south to Quebec in modern-day United States). Our scavenger hunt started at the exterior of the city, where we saw the stone walls that have protected the city for hundreds of years. Ancient yet formidable, these walls were the guardians of Quebec City’s history and culture. Right next to the Old City was the Quebec National Assembly—a solemn and authoritative hallmark of western democracy. Surrounding the Assembly building were past generals and politicians whose statues were enshrined into its walls, their glorious heroism forever captured in history as a testimony of Québécois patriotism. The crosses on those statues revealed the pervasive influence of Christianity, as well as the pious and faithful spirituality of the locals. At the front of the Assembly gate sat a statue dedicated to the indigenous people. Holding bows and arrows, their presence reminded us of the tremendous suffering of the indigenous people in face of European occupation. While historical figures are often viewed as heroes by some people, they are also the source of great injustice in the eyes of the others. Touring around the National Assembly and submerging ourselves under the awesomeness of those statues, we learned that the essence of history is not glorification, but truth-telling. The perspectives of the minorities can provide us with a deeper cultural and political understanding of who we are as a society.

Going into the Old Quebec, we saw rows of cannons lying beside the dampened sidewalk, bringing us back to three hundred years ago, when countless battles were fought at the very spot where we were standing today. Raptly following the soldiers whose footsteps paved the way for future generations, we arrived at the Notre-Dame de Québec. Bells ringing, people praying, the church’s dominance was made obvious by its towering spire, creating an atmosphere of aloofness that was both sacred and intimidating. Right next to it was the statue of François de Laval, the first Bishop of Quebec. His was the proof that faith does not fade away as time passes; generations to generations, the continuation and elevation of Christianity is ensured as in those churches, monuments, and the hearts of countless faithful Christians are God’s words preserved.

Keep walking forward, a huge monument entered our sight. It was built to commemorate the inclusion of Old Quebec in the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1985. A few blocks away, we found the hotel Le Château Frontenac, where in 1943 Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom gathered to discuss strategies vital to their victory in WWII. Who could have known that on a hot September evening seventy-six years ago in this very hotel, humanity’s future was permanently and inevitably changed. Reading this story on a bronze plate outside, we were pulled into that era of flames and chaos, imagining ourselves at the negotiation table and witnessing first-hand the most epic comeback in human history, one that put an end to the evil fascist regimes and salvaged our freedom. How evident it is that our actions today, however insignificant they may seem to us at this moment, might alter the course of the lives of millions of people.

As noon approached, we revisited the exterior walls of the Old City and went to an ancient military base nearby. It was used as the main defense center when first constructed and is now a major tourist site. Even though the fort is no longer in use, we still saw two soldiers guarding its entrance, defending the honor of this symbol of Québécois tenacity and valor. Finally, we journeyed southward to locate the Garden of Joan of Arc. At the center of the plaza sat the grand statue of Joan of Arc, the girl who liberated France in the Hundred Years War. Sword in one hand, the statue posed for an outcry of justice as the words of liberty echoed with its elegance. This statue was not just a monument to a monumental woman; it was the perfect combination of poise and passion, of beauty and bravery, of sublime and strength. What’s more gratifying than to learn that centuries after her execution, Joan of Arc’s heroism is still celebrated whilst the despicable deeds of her persecutors are burned into traceless ashes of history?

At the end of the scavenger hunt, we broke off into groups to enjoy lunch and to spend the afternoon revisiting sites that intrigued us. While the exploration was over, we left having a much deeper understanding and appreciation of Quebec City and its history, culture, and religion. It is through experiences like this—where all individuals can be submerged in this living monument of human evolution, intertwined with ancient complexity and modern easiness—can we truly comprehend the meaning of history—that we are not merely its witness, but also its creator.

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Day 6, Montreal

Day 6

by Justin

We travel to Quebec City after four days of busy service in Montreal. The trip from Montreal to Quebec City takes around two and a half hours. Most of the group members are able to take a nap during the trip so that they can conserve some energy for afternoon activities. One significant difference after arriving at Quebec City that I have observed is how the language of the sign changes. In Montreal, there is a number of signs that are written in English. However, there is hardly anything that is written in English in Quebec City. There is even no English menu in the restaurant that I have lunch today. During lunch time, the group is able to do some shopping and have lunch at a large shopping mall in the downtown area. After moving into the new house that we live in, we take a brief rest and head directly to the old city area. Unlike the modern, tall buildings in Montreal, buildings in Quebec City are more similar to the ones in Europe and have a more classical structure than the ones in Montreal. One of the most grandiose architectures that I have seen today is Château Frontenac in the downtown area. There are also many statues situated around the castle, possibly to commemorate its creator. There are many signs of cultural influence in the old city: the ubiquitous French signs, the French architectural designs, etc. In today’s brief exploration of the old city, we find some restaurants, a few souvenir shops and an art store. I feel very tired as the days comes to an end. Still, I am exhilarated for tomorrow’s visit to the museums and to learn more about the history about the city.

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Montreal Day 5


by Lorelei 

Today we had a free morning! Everyone got to sleep in a bit and then some of us went out to the café around the corner for a delicious breakfast and some wonderful smoothies. Around 10 am we headed out to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts to see the Thierry Mugler couture exhibit, which was so cool! Every room was tailored to the pieces that were in it, which really added to the experience. The very first room was focused on the costumes Mugler had designed for a production of Macbeth in Paris. It was very dark, and in the back of the room was a hologram scene of Lady Macbeth going mad, with sound effects of crows screeching, and ominous music. The room after that was focused on the costumes Mugler had designed for celebrities, such as Lady Gaga, Madonna and Beyoncé. My favorite room was a large hall where the walls were screens showing underwater scenes that morphed into rainforest halfway down. There were sound effects to accompany the scenes, and it felt like you had just walked into a different universe. The costumes in the room were inspired by marine life and animals in the rainforest and were absolutely incredible. I could have spent hours in the exhibit, but we had to head over to Santropol Roulant, an organization that provides a meals on wheels service to the community. We were given a tour of the building and got to see the roof gardens and some cool murals. After the tour we went to their farmers market and got some fresh organic produce for dinner. The rest of the evening was spent cooking dinner, eating and relaxing.

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Montreal Day 4


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Today we were at Moisson Montreal again, although things were a little different. We split up into groups of five and were sent to different tasks. My group was taking boxes with different supplies and loading them onto palettes which we then moved to an area with loading trucks. In previous days we had been helping with other parts of the process. To see the full picture of who and how we were helping people really brought the service aspect to life and showed a different perspective. It was also nice to have a change of pace, see new parts of the warehouse, and meet different people. Since we were so tired from moving boxes all day, we settled in the apartment for a short rest after service.

After the break we took off for a long walk into the city and saw the heart of downtown. We ventured into old Montreal and broke off into smaller groups. We ate dinner out and got ice cream after. We explored the quaint pop-up shops that lined the brick paved road. We saw street performers, caricature artists, and small school groups touring. There was so much more we wanted to see but time was running out. Gathering back together, we took the opportunity to take some photos in the fading sunlight. It had been a long day so we rode the subway back home to rest our feet.

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Day 3 in Montreal


by Melissa Ford ’21

Today was our second day of service. We all awoke reluctantly with immediate exhaustion. It rained off and on today which allowed us to cool down for the first time since we arrived in Montreal. Trying to not let exhaustion consume us, we got ready to go back to Moisson Montreal.

When we got there, we put on our protective toe covers and locked our belongings away. We walked back to the tables we were at the day before and waited for our task. Sorin asked if we wanted to do something new or the same thing, we said we wanted to do the same thing we did the day before without hesitation. We already had a routine set up, so we knew what to do. There were already pallets full of chocolate for us to unpack, so we jumped right back into our groove. We weren’t as fast as the day before, but we were still trying our hardest.

We had half a day at Moisson Montreal where we finished two and a half pallets and all of the chocolate that we were given. We had gotten out a little early so we ate our lunch before we got back in the cars and went on our ways. Next we went to CHSLD Providence. Saint Joseph Retirement Home.

Here we got a quick tour of the home that had over eighty residents. On the second floor was a church room where everyone gathered for mass or other religious activities. There were dining halls on each floor as well. We all gathered with a handful of the residents and volunteers in the first floor dining hall to play Bingo. Each of us got placed around the tables so we could help and talk to the residents. Some of them were over 100 years old! The oldest we heard was 108 years old. We then played many different rounds and types of Bingo. Sometimes we had to fill the whole board, get a “T” shape, the square around the FREE space, the four corners, or just a line.

Each time someone won. They got a prize from the prize table. The whole time we were playing Bingo, they were only speaking French so we got a lot of practice with our numbers and simple conversation.

After Bingo we said goodbye, well “au revoir” to be exact, and climbed back into the cars to go home. At home, a group of us began to make dinner. We all ate and those who didn’t cook, did the dishes.

Today went by fast and was a bit exhausting, but we were still able to have a good time. It was fun to use our French skills to help the residents and to challenge ourselves with hearing French.

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