It’s snowing in Québec

I am home for the night and I thought I’d make a few notes about the last two days. Yesterday, we went on a tour with a local named Yves. (It’s pronounced Eves, you silly Philistine.) Yves is a semi-retired economist who now runs a community organization called Bien Vivre à Saint-Roch.  He was a great guide who taught us a lot about Quebec history and he ended the tour at the farmers’ market I wanted to visit the day before. He served us a nice lunch of local cheeses, bread, salad, cider, and Christmas cake.   It was really nice.

The market is called Grand Marché de Québec and it is nowhere near the place we walked to yesterday.  While we were there we tasted a lot of ciders, ice ciders, locals wines, and even a whiskey.  This left us a little tipsy and we ended up buying 7 or 8 bottles of local alcohol. Buying while drinking is never a good idea, but the liquor shelf back in Philadelphia will appreciate it.


We ended Sunday with a very nice dinner at a place called Chez Rioux & Pettigrew. It was really good. I had a perfect piece of salmon, and Samer had a halibut appetizer that was delightful. I thought my fried bread pudding dessert was amazing and I want more of it while I am typing out the memory. So good.

Today, we went dog sledding at Mont Saint-Anne. We went with a company called Les Secrets Nordiques.  It’s a 2-hour excursion and it is really fun, though you are probably on the sleds for an hour.   We started out with me riding and Samer driving, and then we switched.   The guides didn’t tell us when we hit the halfway point, so I rode for about 2/3 of the trip and drove for about 1/3.  Our start was a little shaky.   Our dogs surged forward and then started fighting with another team of dogs.  One of our dogs broke free and started to run away!   It was kind of intense, but we pulled it together and hit the trails.

After the dog sledding, we went to a spa for lunch and relaxation. It was called Le Nordique spa Mont Ste-Anne and it was lovely. There are outdoor hot baths and saunas.   You do something hot (a bath, a sauna, or something) and then you are supposed to do something cold.   There is a freezing cold waterfall, a cold rain shower, and you can even jump in the frozen lake!  I barely touched the cold water stuff.  The air was freezing when I would leave the pool and that seemed sufficient to complete the hot and cold cycle. There was one old québécois lady who did jump in the frozen lake. I was impressed, but deep down I judged her for being insane. We went to relax in a yurt with a fireplace after a bit.

For dinner, we split a great charcuterie platter at a local brewery in Quebec called Noctem Artisans Brasseurs. The québécois know meats and cheeses and I love them for it.

YUL & Québec City

We are in transit to Québec City for a short vacation. We can’t use the lounge because it is on the international side of airport security, and we can’t get to it because we are on the domestic side of Montreal Airport.

Because of this unfortunate discovery, we find ourselves in an airport restaurant with a lot of game on the wall. This restaurant has this super good hot sauce called La Pimenterie. It was surprisingly hot. I assumed the Quebecois steered clear of spice, but I was wrong.

***Time Jump***

We’ve settled into Quebec City.   It’s pretty and a bit sleepy, which is perfect for a vacation designed around exploration and relaxation.  We started out by taking a walk to the Market Old Port of Quebec, because we thought an indoor market could be a great place to find lunch, and buy some supplies for our apartment. I was pretty hungry when we arrived at the market’s address. News flash. There is no market, it is currently being demolished.

Annoyed about not knowing the state of the market, we wandered into old Quebec.  We stopped for a hot chocolate and slowly walked back home. Close to our house is a great cafe called Maelstrøm Saint-Roch. We stopped in for a beer and made our way to rest.

For dinner, we went to a pretty famous Quebecois place called La Buche. I am glad we made a reservation because it was very busy. We started by ordering barbecued rabbit legs (ailes de lapin) and a salad.  The rabbit was pretty good, but they were drowning in a far too sweet barbecue sauce.   It really masked the meat.

For my entree, I ordered something called pâté chinois. The restaurant describes it as a Quebec shepherds pie with “Yukon Gold Mashed Potatoes, Creamy Corn, Bacon, Red-Wine-Braised Beef and Fruit Ketchup”. Samer ordered sausages (saucisses “ils en fument du bon” et sauce aux 3 moutardes). The portions were way too big, but both dishes were good.  This restaurant is fine, but nothing fantastic.

I did try something akin to a cold mulled wine called Kariboo.  The menu described it like this:

Legend has it that this emblematic drink was invented by the coureurs des bois. It’s said that they drank caribou blood, but mixed it with alcohol to make the taste more palatable. Today, you’ll be happy to know that we’ve ditched the blood for a mix of alcohol, wine, and spices.

I liked it and will order another.  After dinner, we decided to walk the 25 minutes home to burn a few of the calories.

A weekend in NYC. Inheritance is so good.

We went to NYC this weekend.    We saw the Strauss opera Der Rosenkavalier on Friday night.    We ended up having terrible seats.  We were sharing a box with some strangers who were tough to see over.    I was very annoyed and it probably affected my enjoyment of the opera.    I found the first act too long.  Obviously, the music was beautiful, but the narrative could use some tightening.

I moved to a new seat at intermission.  Act 2 was a real joy, and act 3 was ok.  I started to doze off toward the end of it.   It felt like we were at the end, and then there was one more scene, and then another, and then another.   Before I left Philadelphia for NYC, I was talking to my lead, and he asked me about opera.   I said, “It’s a German opera that I suspect will feel about 2 hours too long.”   I was right.

The next day, we saw both parts of Matthew Lopez’s play The Inheritance. It’s wonderful. I’ve been thinking about what I want to say about it, and am lost on how I want to describe my time at the theater.  I wept and laughed and leaned so far forward I almost hit the women in front of me.   My husband cried on our walk out of the theater and we both considered how much we take for granted on our walk to the hotel.

There is something transcendent about really good, dare I say, great theater.   It’s not like any other art form.  I fell into this play from the beginning.   I regretted not having read or seen Howard’s End or read any of EM Forster.  Forster is a delightful narrator and character in the play.   The play made me want to sit and write with others and pen a tale that we worked on together.  It made me think about my gay community and angry about the generation of mentors stolen from me. I was watching but living in the world being created in front of me.

The play made me reflect on my life and my work.   There is a line that I am unable to quote, because my memory is not as good as it once was.  Basically, we are confronted with the fact that a character is wasting his potential because of his need for security and stability.   The quote was something like “his days accumulated like snow on an autumn day.”   Oh my reader, that hit me like a ton of bricks.   His days were just occurring and amounting to nothing.  It is the only time yesterday I thought about my job, a sentence was never so apt at describing how I feel about my work.  Brilliant.   I still can’t get the picture of snow amounting to nothing on a browning yard out of my head.  Magnificent.

The Inheritance is a natural successor to Angels in America.  It’s very long (almost 7 hours) 2 part play about gay men in New York City.    This is about my generation.  This play is set in 2018 rather than in 1985.   It’s a different world and there are new stories to tell.  Lopez is obviously paying homage to Kushner. And much like Angels, I like part 1 better than part 2.   Though it is critical to see both parts.

I cannot recommend this play enough.  I think everyone should go see it, but I think it is absolutely imperative for gay men to go and see it.   I think that is wonderful.   Like many of our lives, it is funny, tragic, serious, sexual, and deceptively profound.

WF ED 572, 002, FA19 – Blog Reflection 7

What is the most important thing you have learned in this course? How do you feel about it?

Short answer:  I want to continue with OD.

Long answer:   I am in the middle of a career change (though not necessarily an employer change.)  I’d heard a lot of things about organization development and I wanted to test the waters to see if this is work I would be interested in exploring.    Before we hit the half-way point in this course, I knew that I really enjoyed the field of Organization Development.

I’m a fan of Paulo Freire and the discipline of popular education. Popular education raises the consciousness of its learners and allows them to become more aware of how their personal experiences are connected to something bigger. Popular education empowers us to make the changes needed.  For me, the parallels with OD are obvious.   OD empowers those in the system to make the change they are seeking.  More often than not the knowledge we need to make the change already exists in the room, we just need it to come out and be heard.

I think the thing that I’ve liked the most is how I think about OD vs. Change Management.   OD is my heart and change management is the brain.  Often I just want to get things done (fixed.) Frequently that needs to happen, but it infrequently leads to long term culture change.    That is why I know that OD is a better and harder path to follow.

As Paulo Freire said, “Knowledge emerges only through invention and re-invention, through the restless, impatient, continuing, hopeful inquiry human beings pursue in the world, with the world, and with each other.” It’s up to OD practitioners to actually facilitate the curiosity needed to uncover the knowledge to make organizations better.

WF ED 572, 002, FA19 – Blog Reflection 6

What ethical challenges have you faced? (Do not describe individuals or specific organizations but simply describe situations.)

I am sure that I have faced more challenges than memory allows, but I am thinking about 2 separate instances. A previous job responsibility was to administer a company email server. One time a manager called me frantically asking me to “stop an email”. I explained to her that was not possible. Then she told me that she sent an email to a staff person that she regretted. This was before the era of everyone having a smartphone and the manager was confident the staff person had not seen the email.

“Could you log in to their account and delete the email?” I was stuck, because as the administrator I had the ability, but it felt wrong. A superior was asking me to break into a colleague’s email account. Doing so would avoid a lot of stress between the manager and the employee, but it was a huge breach of trust. I was also nervous about telling a manager, “no.” We didn’t have a written code of conduct for technical administrators at that time. Inevitably, violating a space where an employee had some expectation of privacy felt like a serious ethical violation to me.

The second case was when I  working for a fairly sick person whose incompetence resulted in company money being used inappropriately. She was an undiagnosed alcoholic, who could not do the job she was hired to do. The ethical considerations were many. She was awful to the staff so it was hard to manage the feelings of “you’re abusive” with “this person needs help, it’s a disease.” Being public about gross incompetence would hurt the company’s reputation and that was not good for customers or staff.  This was a very difficult situation with no obvious remedy to an employee with little power.

What values do you believe in? How much do you feel that you are a role model of these values when others observe your behavior?

When I think about values, I think about social justice. I value openness, solidarity, justice, and curiosity. I believe that to achieve a just society we need to be open with ourselves and with each other. We cannot make any necessary changes if we do not reflect on our own selves and are unable to be open about those discoveries with those we trust.

I believe that people must stand in solidarity with one another. Some may call this value “community”, but I think solidarity sets a posture about trusting those around you and knowing they will support you when you need it the most. That doesn’t mean blind loyalty as someone who stands in solidarity with you in the tough times should also give you the feedback needed for personal change.

I believe that it is important for me to be curious about the world around me and I want to surround myself with others who are curious. Obviously, there is a near-infinite amount of knowledge to tap into this world. How can any of us improve if we are not curious about ourselves and the rest of the world?

All of this leads us toward justice. My personal and professional life is completely oriented in the direction toward justice for working people. All of these values come together to form my orientation in contributing to a just society.