Fall 2012 Orientation Weekend | Pirates and Metros and Chocolate, Oh My!

Hi everyone and welcome to the first official blog post!
This is probably going to be, yet again, another lengthy post. Why, you ask? Well we just completed Orientation weekend and the past days have been just packed, so there is a lot to share! In this posting I hope to cover moving-in and the major activities of Orientation. While classes have indeed started, you’ll have to wait until the next post (approx Sept. 5) by co-blogger Liz to get the scoop on that.
For orientation we engaged in a variety of activities, such as moving-in, ice breakers, information sessions, cultural investigations, dining out at various locales, playing games, going on adventures, and much much more! A weekend worthy of the first posting!
Anyway, to the tasty bits.
On the first day there may or may not have also been an epic quest to locate an EB Games lead by one of the RA’s, Phil, and myself (as Gaming is kinda a big deal with my peers and I), which was sadly a failure as we inadvertently went into the wrong shopping center. While I could yammer on for hours about this fun time, I’m going to focus in on what’s important (orientation) so as to not bore you with my autobiography.
Cut to Friday, 10:00 AM in the Lobby of the UQAM Res Hall. I managed to set up my room rather early, so my experience of  move-in day was as follows:
Me (walking towards exit of building): “Yo Phil, Brian and I are heading on down to Saint Catherine Street to find an EB Games. I think I know where it is this time.”
Phil: “OK. Just be back by 3:00.”
And then Brian and I left the building. From what I’m told later, during this interim of my absence people moved into their rooms. But before I get too far ahead of myself, why don’t we share in on the move-in experience as well? UQAM lets Champlain College (du Vermont) use a couple of their quads and triples in the residence hall. Due to the fact that each floor only has a limited number of these, we are located throughout the building. I myself secured lodgings on the third floor, while some of my friends live on the ground floor (not the 1st floor in Canada, mind you). So I have here some ludicrously high-quality photos of my apartment, which by now you are all no doubt dying to see, so let’s take a little look, eh?
Living Room
We have since put a fan in the window. Also note the 3 TVs.
The Living Room is the first thing you see when entering the apartment. The room comes with 2 couches with a modern motif, and a single coffee table. There is also one of those tall floor-to-ceiling lamps (hard to see in front of the drapes).  We’ve since added our own touches and beautified the place. Another interesting issue was the fact that the thermostat is entirely in metric units (degrees Celsius) so my first task was to convert into degrees Fahrenheit and make a little reference note next to it. However, heat was not needed anyway as it was still summer,  the entire weekend was well into what felt like the high 80’s. Did I mention there isn’t any AC? Because there isn’t. HEY YOU SHOULD BRING FANS. DON’T FOLLOW OUR POOR EXAMPLE. Luckily my roomate’s family brought us a few good fans and our rooms have cooled down to a chilly 78 degrees since.
The Bedrooms offer the only real source of “AC” as there are ceiling fans At first it seemed like the fans were utterly useless, but as we were soon to learn (and feeling rather silly afterwards) not only did we have the fans spinning in the wrong direction, but on the well settings, “1” is the highest setting, not “3” as one would assumedly think.
Bedroom
It s far less blue in real life.
So the rooms come  furnished with a bed that has 2 draws hidden beneath, a shwanky desk that, a landline phone, cork board (attached to the desk), a chair, and a standing wardrobe. While my window open upwards from the bottom, the other rooms had differing styles,  and some  windows overlook an enclosed courtyard.
quad
A relaxing enclosure
Overall,  I have found the rooms to be comfortable. This could be due to my huge slew of gaming posters., which can be put up with ticky tack, pins, or painters tape. . Anyway, if you’re coming up in the future, I’d suggest getting a keyboard if you have a laptop, as the desk table is just too high to type completely in comfort, as I am now experiencing.
The kitchen is pretty standard. A fridge (without a freezer rack), an oven with one large burner and three smaller burners, a microwave, and a dish drainer without a dish pan. Our suite (but not all the suites)  also has a huge pillar in the middle of it, which has actually proven rather useful as a means to display our apartment bulletin board (bring your own).
kitchen 1
drawers
Now if only we had somewhere to store our food…
That’s a lot of drawers, which were already half filled with the “amenities” from last year. A real treat. Luckily there’s a Walmart within driving distance. The first thing we grabbed from Provigo was some slick bagged milk. We quickly learned that storing said milk in the fridge is far easier if you just dump all 3 tiny bags into 1 big pitcher as opposed to having a single bag in a pitcher and leaving the other 2 saggin’ around the place. So bring a large, covered pitcher. You’ll thank me later.
The hallways differ from quads to triple, but essential each has common shelves at either end, and a bathroom each. Some four-bedroom suites have two bathrooms. The bathrooms have a medicine cabinet, toilet, and sink, but are quite large. There is one shower per apartment, however, which will undoubtedly foster teamwork for morning preparations.
What s behind curtain number 1? EMPTY TV BOXES!
That’s enough of that for now. Cut back to the story or my roommate and I exploring the city and St. Catherine.  Our journey along Saint Catherine’s street took us to the Apple store (which looks like a hospital for fruit), The Eaton Center (the large mall Phil and I searched for an EB Games in, finding only disappointment and a food court), The Future Shop, and finally the Ailes Complex (the large mall right next door to Eaton that just so happens to have an EB Games in it).
We then began the approx 15-20 minute journey home. To make a long story short: we made it. Details about the city will come in later posts, no doubt.
Anyway, back to Orientation. The first thing we did was meet up in the lobby lounge with “Fearless Leader” Duncan McKenna, the Student Activities coordinator/ our Montréal guide, Stefi Brazzeal (Assistant Director), and Genevieve Lord, the Champlain College Montreal Director (name is the pronunciation variant of “Jean Vee Ev” as opposed to “Jenn Ah Veev”). We all did a little ice breaker game involving pictures, which was fun, even though  we were all pretty familiar with each other already as everyone is a game major. After a talk about safety, money, etc. and an offer by on professor to work for his indie study as class credit, we had  free time until 6:30 to continue unpacking, buying groceries, taking a nap, etc. That night we all went to the 5th floor lounge to check out what fun activities (and free pizza) the RAs had in store for us. What ensued was an emotional roller coaster of games and ice breakers that ranged from the hilarious college classic card games and fun teamwork games like “Pirate Captain,” to more serious and even powerfully emotive games such as “16 Cards” and “Cross the Line.” But overall it was a valuable experience. Afterwards we went back to our rooms and, like any true game majors, the 4 of us played video: a long awaited reunion of minds.
Oh hey, a note about banking. post I recommended TD Bank. The deal is that TD Bank (America) and TD Bank: Canadian Trust are basically the same chain but different branches, so what this means is that you can use the Canadian TD ATMS without any sort of fees, but you can’t directly access your account via a teller. So no deposits. Also don’t forget to call your bank and let them know you will be abroad! You can do this for a TD account on the online banking site by filing a customer support ticket under “account inquiry.”

SATURDAY

At 10:00am “SHARP!” we met up with those RA fellows in the lobby and headed off towards the Academic Center.
Duncan met us in the student lounge/kitchen with a feast of bagels, fruits, yogurt, juice, cheese sticks, and the like. It was absolutely delightful. until we realized that the orange juice (in juice boxes) had turned to Italian Ice. After the social breakfast, we all met with the staffers again to go over some more information like future events, the student handbook, and the like. Then it was time to hit “the Main” for lunch. We took a nice little trip down some cozy cobbled streets to a long market street full of food vendors, jewelers, and even a used electronics table. Matt Jordan grabbed a “rare” copy of “Super Mario Bros + Duck Hunt” for the NES he doesn’t own. Anyway, we were all given $10 to use for food and we split up. Team Evan (Gilly, Brian, Phil, Me, and Marc) headed down the street looking at shops, dreaming of the expensive bistros, and catching up. For lunch, we grabbed some sausages and water.Attractions on the road included a bounce castle, face paint stations, and a place called the “League of Extraordinary Greyhounds,” which was a petting station with dogs. After marching around for a bit, the whole crew met back at the designated location.
Just some studly dudes we saw on the way. Ignore the hideous Gilly head on the right.
When Duncan returned, it was time for the SUPER HAPPY FUN TIME SCAVENGER HUNT! Breaking up into teams of 4, we were tasked with locating and photographing certain locations around Montréal within a time limit. The winner got a new router, because the Res Hall has no wireless, but luckily I brought my router for just this reason.
Duncan, seen here in Blue. A stylish chap.
Because I am not omnipresent, I can only relay the experiences of my own team, Team Monstrosity, and what I heard later on from the others, but that’s OK; we were the best team anyway. So Gilly, Brian, Phil, and myself ran down the street. We started off by running back to Sherbrooke and then to the West to snap a picture that represented out team name (a Monster Energy Drink truck at a giveaway event), a pic of Phil impersonating a statue (tastefully using Queen Victoria as a subject), and a bonus picture of some pink trees, which I had luckily seen before.
Anyway, we then toured around the city grabbing pics of metro stations, Notre Dame, Old Montréal, China Town, Place Des Arts, and other local attractions. By local I mean we walked a distance of almost 10 kilometers in total. It was hot but fun! Got to get some water from a vendor in China Town, take a short cut across a big field, see some weddings (must be a weekend thing) and get our workout for the semester.
A tiny city we saw en route
Be on the lookout for Hunch-Backs (pictured: Not Notre Dame)
One of our many “Gate Pictures”
We took a round-about route in retrospect, but we still ended up meeting another team at Notre Dame, then we caught up with Marc’s team on the way back to the Res Hall. Assuming they were ahead of us, we ran to pass them. A simple feat for a man of my amazing abilities.
The faces of Winners. And Brian (Left).
When we got back to the Res Hall and handed our findings to Duncan, we were saddened to discover that Pictor’s team had beaten us by a handful of minutes. However, we did go out of our way to find the bonus picture WHICH THEY DIDN’T GET. So who wins? The fastest or the highest scoring? Let’s ask any professional sport. Besides Track. Anyway, we got some free time until the evening that was full of cultural investigations, such as looking at the Canadian Netflix roster.
For dinner, We all got dressed-up real fancy-like to go down to this nice Italian restaurant off of Saint Catherine Street, called Wienstein & Gavino! The atmosphere was made to look like an old-time vintage Italian bistro, with  brick and mortar walls, dim lights, boxes of wine and art, chandeliers, and various mosaics and barrels scattered around. Sadly, the lighting was dim so I didn’t really get many good photos, but I did my best.
BEST.
The table pretty much took up the entire half of the second floor.. The menu was full of dishes both exotic and classic. I myself ordered the “Pizza Rustica” which consisted of cream cheese, apples, bacon, feta, and walnuts. I was feeling adventurous. It turned out to not only be a good move, but a delicious one.
In progress
The waiters were intensively attentive, refilling waters, bringing out a seemingly endless amount of Italian bread loaves, and the like. Pretty much everyone got something different, and everything looked good. I decided to get aslice of “Death by Chocolate Mousse” cake, but I was torn between that and the apple cobbler. It was ludicrously good and rich, so much so that I couldn’t finish it and ended up sharing with some of my peers. The slice went, from top to bottom, some sort of biscotti thing drizzled with chocolate and raspberry sauce, then a thick chocolate ganache, then chocolate mouse, then a buttercream cake layer, then mousse, cake, mousse, thick chocolate cream base, and a chocolate drizzle around the plate with raspberry sauce drops.. The lighter layers in the picture below are the actual cake parts.
Death ensued
We took the Metro back, which was quite exciting, I suspect, for those who had never ridden one before. Uponupon arriving home, Guild Wars 2 (a new PC game) was played by many a people. I know this because I was one of them. So overall, the day was great. We got a delightful self-tour of the city, some crazy good free food, and fun company. I do believe at some point in the day, other groups went shopping for their first time at Provigo.

SUNDAY

We met at 10:00am for the last time in the Lobby before heading out to the AC for breakfast.  This time we enjoyedlarge muffins and buttery croissants. After the meal, we went to the LEAD credit event in which we did a budgeting workshop. Seeing as very few of us have any income this semester, this seems like an appropriate activity. We practiced budgeting for the semester’s purchases, different saving methods, and looked at the prices of school sanctioned events in order to prepare for them. Your standard LEAD session, essentially.
Afterwards Duncan took us down to a large park with a plethora of ponds, shady spots, and animals, where we ate a catered lunch of sandwiches, chips, soda, salads, pasta, and some desserts (I really enjoyed the frosted brownies). Things of note in this time slot were the squirrel that came right on up to us while we were eating our picnic lunch on the grass, and this little old man who was driving a small train full of people around the park.
Our Fearless Leader knows the way!
When we got back to the AC, we had a little session about Canadian and American culture, drawing similarities and contrasts, then we went over the political issues of the region. It appears that not only is Québec considering seceding from Canada (again), experiencing another election with language and sovereignty issues, but there is a considerable amount of student unrest regarding suggested tuition hikes. The student protests are only one facet of the attack against the raises, and many complex social and political issues swirl about here and there, with student supports being denoted with a red felt square pinned to their person. Anyway, the  slide show was rather interesting, and made me see Canada as a complex sociopolitical system instead of just “another country” that is “kinda like the U.S.” A very busy and informative day indeed.
That night we went to an improv comedy show on Saint Catherine Street, which was pretty funny and showcased some impressive talent. I’ve always enjoyed improv and shows like “Whose Line is it Anyway?” so getting to sit in on a live show was a real treat. We walked back to the Res Hall laughing about what we’d seen, talking about the upcoming week, and making plans to get together again in the future.
Now, I could go on and on with details about all of what happened this weekend, but if I had done that, this post would be three times as long and no one wants to read that. Or type it. So I went a bit scarce on the specifics, but I hope you got the idea of what we experienced on our first weekend in Canada. As I write this, almost a week of classes has passed and let me tell you the days are still packed. If you want to hear about all that jazz, check back in the near future for a new post! I can’t wait to be able to share the rest of the semester with all of you!
Thanks for reading!

— FfPost by Evan Tetreault, Montreal Fall 2012 Blogger