very helpful lioness

Montréal 1, webchick 0

Mon, 07/20/2009 - 13:58 -- webchick

I should probably go start some LiveJournal to whine about personal crap, but I don't have one, and I really need to get some stuff off my chest, so this'll have to do. :)

On Saturday, Marci and I are embarking on what could be a life-changing trip for a week to Vancouver, BC. I'll be sans-laptop, so if you need something from me, please let me know before then.

If you care about the long, rambling back-story, feel free to read more.

Last time my life took a radical change was back in 2005. I had just received my Canadian permanent residence, I was graduating college, and Marci and I were looking for a new place to call home. Halifax was starting to feel claustrophobic, and we wanted to move somewhere that had actual stuff to do that didn't involve 12-hour trips to Boston, where we didn't run into the same people every day, etc.

Montréal was appealing because it had the following things going for it:

  • Size. It's the second-biggest city in Canada, with ~3 million people, rather than around 300K in Halifax.
  • Proximity. It's a one-leg flight to either Marci's family in Nova Scotia or my family in Minnesota.
  • Culture. There were actual bands that came to Montréal and played actual shows. :P We also really embraced the idea of learning a new language, and becoming immersed in French culture. It was going to be an adventure!
  • Familiarity. We'd come to Montréal a few times to see shows and so moving here appealed more to us than moving to someplace like Toronto. Plus, Toronto was "scary" big. ;)

So, we packed up everything we owned, and moved to Montréal in June of 2005.

Later that month (the day after we got our Internet switched on, iirc), I found out that I was accepted into the Google Summer of Code program, and would be spending the summer working on Drupal. This was a tremendous opportunity, not only because I'd be able to somehow get paid to work on open source, but also because it gave us a couple of months' reprieve from having to find "real" jobs. So I spent the summer days taking in the sights from the city and the summer nights becoming obsessed with Drupal. ;) I vowed that once SoC was over, and I was slaving away in some boring office job doing .NET accounting applications, I'd still keep in touch with the friends I'd made over the summer.

In September, after SoC had finished, Marci and I decided to take the job hunt thing more seriously. We enrolled in some French immersion classes for about a month, and actually were doing quite well. In the meantime, my SoC work had led to some freelance Drupal work on the side which let me put off any serious job searches for another week or two, and then another week or two, and then... all of a sudden I found myself working more than full-time from my house as a self-employed Drupal developer.

Four years later, I now work full-time with Lullabot, which involves a big chunk of time traveling all over the world teaching people about Drupal. I also work another full-time job as a Drupal community member (which doesn't pay quite as well ;)) doing things like acting on the Drupal Association Board of Directors, co-maintaining Drupal 7, organizing initiatives to get new contributors involved, etc. I have a Drupal book under my belt, and get flown out to conferences to talk about Drupal stuff or more social issues like women in open source, and I get to spend a big chunk of my time collaborating with friends and on interesting problems that in some small way help change the world for the better. All around, life is pretty damn sweet.

Yet, all of these jobs and responsibilities make it really tricky to make it to those French immersion courses or, indeed, even leave the house at all most days when I'm not about to hop on a plane somewhere. I have many really good friends from all over the world who I speak with regularly on IRC, but the only friends I have in my own town are either people I see at Drupal meetups, or else cab drivers. :P (There's also kind of a weird dynamic at Drupal meetups. I can't just be Angie, some geek hanging out with her friends, because I have all of these stupid titles like "The Drupal 7 Core Maintainer." It can make socializing awkward. :\) The question I dread being asked most is "How long have you lived in Montréal?" because I get "the look" (and often times "the rant") when I say it's been years, and "No, I don't speak French yet, and yes, I'm sorry." It's given me a whole new empathy for what Mexican immigrants in the United States must have to deal with on an hourly basis.

So. The bottom line is I find daily life here in Montréal exceptionally alienating (because I don't speak the language, and I likely never will unless I give up at least one of the jobs that I genuinely love) and extremely lonely (because I don't feel like I have anyone here in town to just call up on the phone and invite over to play video games). And as a result, I spend more time on the computer than any reasonable human being really ought to. ;) It's great for Drupal, but not quite so great for my general self-esteem and mental health. ;)

When I flew out to Open Web Vancouver in June, it felt like coming home. This is both because it was literally like coming home -- my first-ever Drupalcon was in Vancouver, which directly led to a number of life-changing events, as well as great friendships that last to this very day -- but also because there's just something... I don't know... magical about Vancouver. I first visited there when I was a kid and our parents drove us all around the US and Canada one summer vacation. I've been back 4-5 times since then. Each time I'm there, I'm filled with wonder and happiness. It really made that particular trip back to Montréal even more dark and depressing than usual.

So Marci and I have had a heart-to-heart talk. And we're headed to Vancouver on Saturday for a week -- laptop free! -- to have as much fun as possible. To see if it'd work to make Vancouver our home base for the next ten+ years of our relationship. I'm both terrified and excited about the possibility. We'll see how it goes...


Aww! I hope you and Marci truly enjoy yourselves next week! You'll find where and know when the place is right and I wish the best for both of you wherever you end up. I've always heard that Vancouver is a great place and it seems there is a pretty good-sized Drupal community there.

So since you'll be gone can I temporarily haz your Drupal core commit access? ;)

Submitted by Okwari (not verified) on

As someone who doesn't speak French either - I can definitely sympathize. But this is my home. I wish I could have made more meetups - so you wouldn't have felt so out of place. To me, everyone at the meetups were Drupal Big Brains, and there I was, toting my tiny Drupal brain.

Being Mohawk, I have felt that sense of outsider-ness you decribe to the Nth degree. Sometimes, I have to wonder if the rudeness is beacuse of my heritage, or because of my lack of understanding of the French language.

I'm not sure I want to know.

I do know though, sometimes Montreal can be a really wonderful place. Some really kind people, regardless of language or heritage.

I wish you luck regardless whatever path you and Marcie choose. :)

Submitted by Genny Engel (not verified) on

You are far too cool a person not to live on the West Coast. Basically, the West Coast rocks.

Plus, if enough Lullabots live on the West Coast, you're bound to give trainings in Portland or other locations out here more often ... and I hate flying across the country.


Submitted by chx (not verified) on

After moving about 8500km westwards to land in Vancouver, I certainly can't deny the lure of this place...

The amount of time you give to Drupal is incredible. Marci must be an amazingly understanding person.
My own "missus" always makes me go outside and stuff like that - luckily going to outdoor hackfests count too :-)
Go for vancouver i say! If it doesn't work out then try yet another place - you got decades and decades to work it out.

As a Brit living in Montreal, I know what you mean about the alienation aspect. I know that I'll never speak French (I've tried several times, I'm just not a language person unless you're talking PHP or Python) so more or less from the start I contented myself with meeting people from the anglo community. It's a small group, but not so small that you can't gather a good bunch of friends.

I've met people through work (McGill), through my wife (Westmount girl born and bred), through pub quizzes (Hurley's Irish Pub, first Tuesday of every month, sorry about the plug) and through the Montreal blogosphere.

It took a few years (probably about as long as you've been in town), but now I can say I have friends I can just call up and invite over to play games. None of them are francophone, but c'est la vie.

Sorry to go a little off point here. I'm a little new to drupal and after reading through two books you've had a hand in, I promised I'd do this. Using Drupal & Frontend Drupal have got to be the best two Drupal books I've read. I'm a Nigerian and an honest one at that. I come from a pretty heavy graphics background I've been building websites for 6 years now I started with the HTML/ASP combo but moved on. I came across Drupal then but ran away because it seemed so complex and I started with Joomla. I came across Using Drupal and I've not looked back. Frontend Drupal is the bomb(I've read just 4 chapters) and it's made my theming hell with Drupal just that much easier. The book is so good, that I hide it from my competition.
I just want to say thank you and God bless you for all your great work. I don't think I could have made it this far without your help. I look forward to attending Drupalcon one of these years and then I get to thank you in person.