Why is that there?

This is the James Administration Building at McGill University
This is the James Administration Building at McGill University

Here is the James Administration Building at McGill. It is a big stone building just to the right of the Arts Building, and that’s where I went to get my student card. I expect that I’ll spend many long hours there in line-ups, just like I did at the Stevenson-Lawson Building at UWO.

But did you notice something strange? Look closely at the photograph and tell me if you see what I see.

Look just above the McGill crest, between the two swirlies over the “ADMINISTRATION” doorway. There’s a frog. Why is there a frog? Below is a close-up. I’ll give you 4 whole points if you can tell me why there’s a frog, and why it’s a slightly different colour than the rest of the stonework above the door.

Why is there a frog?
Why is there a frog?

The job interview

St Mary's hospital, where I had my job interview
St Mary's hospital, where I had my job interview

On the first full day that I was in Montréal after moving here, I had a job interview. I joked that it was a shocking thing that I actually had an interview for a job in my field, since I am a philosophy major.

Actually, this job is even more specific to my area of study, since it is a job in the field of bioethics and I am studying bioethics.

The job is for a part-time position, co-ordinating a study in a hospital very near my house. The hours are flexible and it seemed perfect. I enjoyed speaking to the man and the woman who conducted the interview, and I think I would be a good candidate for the position.

Over the weeks since then, I occasionally got word from people that I had asked to be my references, saying that they had been contacted by a professor at McGill. That was an encouraging sign.

On Wednesday the 12th, I heard back from them by email. I had forgotten to tell them that my phone number changed. Oops! They told me to give them a call on Thursday. When I called on Thursday, I found out that I was not offered the job, but that they might have work for me at another time. The man who called me stressed that when he said that he might have work for me later, he didn’t mean that in the dissmissive or condescending way that it is usually meant when potential employers have to reject applicants. He actually seemed serious about it.

I don’t feel too bad about the fact that I didn’t get the job. The guy who was offered the job was finishing his PhD, and so he was super-qualified for the position. At any rate, it might be for the best, since I got a TA-ship, and I don’t know how heavy the work-load is.

James McGill

The statue of James McGill on the McGill campus
The statue of James McGill on the McGill campus

Here is James McGill. Or rather a statue built on the McGill University campus in his honour. After his death, his money paid to found one of Canada’s oldest universities by royal decree. While this statue isn’t actually James McGill, his real body is kept only a couple hundred metres up the hill from where the statue is, along with half of his accountant’s body.

That’s not a joke, actually.

Back in the seventies, when DNA was all the rage, some science students at McGill decided to test James McGill’s remains, which were kept on-campus, in front of the Arts Building. What they found is that there were actually two men’s bodies there, which is in fact, double the expected number. The best explanation that anyone has been able to give is that when McGill’s body was exhumed and moved from what is now the train station to what is now the campus, the people who did it had a hard time distinguishing where one man’s body ended and the body of the next man’s began.

What they should have done is have James McGill taxidermied, and then, when the technology was developed, motorised. That would have certainly prevented the mess-up that ended with him having to share a grave with half of his accountant until Jesus comes back.

McGill athletic centre

McGill athletic centre exterior
McGill athletic centre exterior

The McGill athletic centre is a maze. I went there on Friday for the first time, and again on Monday, to go for a swim and to use the weight room. To get to the pool, you go through the main entrance off Pins Ouest, and then turn right. You go down the hall until you see a sign on the right with a diagram of a man on a diving board, which says “vestiaire masculin” (men’s change room) and “follow me.” You open the door, then go down a set of stairs, open another door, and follow a winding path of doorways and corridors with low-set pipes running above your head. If I was much taller, I would run into them, I think.

A sign that leads through a labyrinth of hallways with low ceilings and exposed pipes to the men's locker room
A sign that leads through a labyrinth of hallways with low ceilings and exposed pipes to the men's locker room

After my swim, I checked out the weight room. It was very busy, but there were a lot of cardio machines there. I got lost on the way out and had to ask someone coming out of the football team office how to find the men’s change room that adjoins the pool. They pointed me in the direction of a completely different set of twisty hallways that went by a rather large set of loudly humming electrical panels and did eventually lead to the change room where I had left my things.

Sketchy hallway on the way to the McGill Memorial Pool
Sketchy hallway on the way to the McGill Memorial Pool

Oh, and by the way, they’re strangely insistent that you bring your towel to the fitness centre. When I paid for access to the school gym on Thursday, the gentleman who was helping me made mention of it at least 4 times while selling me the gym membership. Not only that, but there is a big sign, saying that you need a towel for entry, just outside the fitness centre doors. Maybe it’s a Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy reference or something.

How to get a Métro pass in Montréal at the student rate

A Métro station in Montréal
A Métro station in Montréal
  • Submit your legal documentation to McGill.
  • Wait for your Québec Permanent Code. This number is generated by the government of Québec, and there’s nothing the school can do to speed up this process. This may take over a month. Your permanent code can be found in Minerva, under Student Menu > Student Records Menu > View Your Unofficial Transcript. If the box next to “Permanent Code” is blank, it hasn’t been provided yet.
  • Go to the James Administration Building. You can get a confirmation of enrolment for the OPUS card there.
  • You will need $13, your Permanent Code, confirmation of enrolment and a pen for this step. Go to the OPUS centre at McGill Station and fill out a form to request an OPUS card. Buy a card. They will take your photograph at this point, so maybe have a shower that day.
  • Put enough money on your OPUS card to buy a monthly student pass. For one month, it costs $37.
  • Buy a monthly pass, and use the OPUS card as your Métro fare.
  • Finally, get on the subway at your nearest Métro stop and reminisce about the days at UWO where your student government literally handed you a public transit pass on your first day of school. (Then again, the transit in London is nowhere near as good as it is in Montréal, so it’s best not to romanticise your memories of it too much.)

Right now, I’m on step two – waiting for my Québec Permanent Code. I eagerly check on the McGill student services site daily, but it hasn’t arrived yet.

Edit: I finally got my Québec Permanent Code on August 5th. (I submitted my legal documentation on June 19th.) And yes, I did rush out to get a Métro pass. And yes it is everything I could have dreamed it would be. :)

Another edit: If you are moving to Montréal, consider downloading the iPhone app for the Montréal Métro that I wrote!

New student card!

My new McGill card and my old UWO card
My new McGill card and my old UWO card

Today I got my new McGill student card. I woke up this morning, and made sure to put on my nice white t-shirt and my nice white collared shirt, and I went to campus and they took my picture.

Look at the photo attached to this post. The first thing you’ll note is that the hair is gone, but then I also want to draw attention to the fact that even though these student card photos were taken 6 years apart (summer of 2003 and summer of 2009), I am wearing exactly the same clothes. Not just clothes that are the same style, but the very same shirts that I was wearing on my Summer Academic Orientation day in 2003 are the shirts that I wore today. And I’m okay with that.

When Pickles noticed, she said, “Guess what you’re getting for Christmas this year!”

Count your blessings

The courtyard for our apartment
The courtyard for our apartment

These past few days have been busy! We made it to Montréal, and at the request of many friends and family, I think I’m going to blog about it. I’m dead-tired right now, so I’m going to give a summary of a bunch of things that went really right, that easily could have gone otherwise. I will fill you in later with more of the details of what has happened recently.

  • We found our apartment in Montréal very quickly. We had allotted a week for apartment-hunting, but we ended up taking the 2nd one that we saw.
  • We negotiated a great deal on our apartment. And I mean a great deal. So good that our landlord called us back and called our demands “brutal.”
  • Our new apartment is right across the street from the Métro station, which puts us about 20 mins away from McGill.
  • When we got here, we discovered that we can actually see a grocery store from our apartment window. It’s just down the street from us.
  • We rented a truck to move our stuff to Montréal. On the U-Haul website, for an apartment, they recommended the 14′ truck for an apartment. Fortunately, the U-Haul people on Erie Street in Stratford were all out of 14′ trucks, so we rented a 17′ truck instead. This was good, because there was no way that all our stuff would have fit into a 14′ truck. No way at all.
  • I had a job interview the very day after we arrived in Montréal. (It was today, Friday, at 11h. I’ll write a post about how that went.)
  • When we arrived, we arrived a little bit before my parents, and the doorknob on the door wasn’t working, but we just happened to arrive at the exact same time as the man who does maintenance work in our building, and he helped us get into our apartment right then.
  • Just yesterday, when we stopped by Stratford to drop off some stuff, I got an email from McGill – I was offered a position as a Teacher’s Assistant!
  • We were originally planning on having my parents come by at 10h30 on Thursday to begin packing. Fortunately for us, they got the truck a day early, which meant that a bunch of friends could help us pack everything into the truck. There was a lot of stuff. It would have taken a long time to do it ourselves, and we would not likely have been able to do it all, and get to Montréal in time for my job interview.
  • Nicole had a doctor’s appointment scheduled for the morning that we left.
  • The weather was overcast and cool, but it didn’t rain.

There are a lot of other things that went right when they could have easily gone wrong, but those are the things that come to mind right now. Post below if you can think of any yourself.