A month or so ago, one of my Laval colleagues wrote in a forum, “I looooooooooove December for the news summaries!”
I’m glad I’m not the only one.
Before getting cracking on New Year’s resolutions, catch-up Haiti blogs and slightly overdue photoessays…I want to take a little time to look back on the year that was.
For each month, then, one thing that happened to me and one thing that happened on the world stage:
The week before I left Quebec City for Belgium was the coldest week of the year, and in Québec City, that is saying a lot. I made the mistake of walking from Université Laval to St. Lawrence College to cover a theater production, and despite the fact that it’s less than 15 minutes’ walk in good weather, by the time I made it, I had no feeling in any extremities.
A few weeks after getting to Belgium, I went to Lille to meet the Laval crowd. I didn’t particularly love being in Belgium, and Lille made me feel so free! It’s an emotion I can’t put my finger on.
Another weekend with the Laval crowd, at a cottage in Septeuil, northern France. Champagne, dancing and camaraderie…it all went by in a blur.
Vacation! So many possibilities for this month…perhaps the look on Mom’s face when I took her to Binche, Belgium…
…perhaps sitting back in Amsterdam with a mint tea and a nice fat joint…
…perhaps laughing until my chest hurt with old friends in Nîmes…
…or perhaps every single detail about Morocco.
Spontaneous trip to Paris for my friend Sarah’s surprise birthday party. More precisely, the look on her face when she saw me there. Also partying in the beautiful city of Ghent with Annelies and her daughter.
Landing at Bujumbura airport, running into the open arms of Emilie, Félicie and Pierre.
In terms of absolute significance, I guess it would be Pierre breaking up with me. But I’m not close to forgetting my encounters with Paul, “Mr George”, Alison Blair and the Musaga project or Jane Goodall!
Accompanying Paul and Pascal to a press conference with Pierre Nkurunziza and Denis Sassou Nguesso, my first such conference with any heads of state…hours of waiting in the hot sun and surreal Soviet-inspired pageantry. Also discovering Ethiopian food with Mahi and Nick in Addis Ababa.
Joining Le Monde Bouge, a current affairs radio show on CHYZ 94.3. My first piece was on the Jeux de la Francophonie, which includes cultural as well as sporting events. Working on the piece, I discovered the Haitian singer Jean-Jean Roosevelt and the obscure art of competitive storytelling. There was also my lovely quarter-century party with the Laval group…
Becoming a regular at folk-music jam sessions. And sweating through the Oktoberfest beer piece.
Meeting Jean-Claude (from Nîmes!) at random in the basement of the Montreal youth hostel when I was down there on the TV shoot. Also, the return of my fabulous, true friend Tim.
The teenage education activist Malala Yousafzai is released from hospital after she was shot in the head in the fall. Like a lot of people, I’m in awe of this girl for having the guts to stand up for what she believes in at such a young age. So many of us just never get up off our behinds at all…
Pope Benedict XVI resigns and cedes control of the Church to the ever-surprising ecclesiastical pop-idol Pope Francis.
Death of Hugo Chavez. He wasn’t perfect–who is?–but I believe his head and heart were in the right place.
Suicide of Rehtaeh Parsons, a teen bullying victim from Nova Scotia. I said it before and I’ll say it again, bullying isn’t funny. It really isn’t. Also the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh, a reminder that prosperity for the few (of which I acknowledge being part) rides on confining the many to expendable, pathetic existences…
Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight, three women who had been sequestered in a basement in Chicago, were rescued. Blanket coverage. The alleged kidnapper and rapist, Ariel Castro, was sentenced to over 1000 years in prison and later hung himself. The man deserved everything he got, that is not under dispute. But if Ariel Castro gets sentenced to 1000 years for making three young American women’s lives a living hell, how is it that Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga gets 14 years (one four) MINUS time served, for recruiting child soldiers, making the lives of hundreds of Congolese young people a living hell (not to mention the kids’ family members and victims)? Makes you think.
Beginning of the Nelson Mandela bedside watch…
The Lac-Mégantic train disaster…47 people killed and a small city gutted in a ball of fire. One of those “where were you when you found out” things…I was sitting in a café in Bujumbura enjoying a sandwich when I heard someone on TV say “c’était une rivière de feu” (It was a river of fire) with a Quebec accent. I looked up and saw one of the scariest things anyone will ever see…fortunately, for me, it was just on television…
The world’s eyes were on the Royal Baby…although hundreds of babies are born every day…
I parachuted back home and into a news storm…the Charter of Values…
Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. Fear and exhaustion in the voices of expats I interviewed. Two weeks later it was already out of the news, metaphorically drowned by Mandela’s death, Syria and the Central African Republic crisis…and competing for attention with the admittedly entertaining Rob Ford farce.
Everyone knows where they were when Nelson Mandela died, leaving behind 95 long, full years. I was in class, not paying attention to the presenter (incidentally, a Béninois) and focused on the TV piece I was working on on the Central African Republic. Sad month for Africa.