A Town Called Rouyn-Noranda

A Town Called Rouyn-Noranda

When my husband graduated from Teacher’s College two years ago, we celebrated by packing our bags and heading into the world to start our ‘for real’ grown up lives. It wasn’t that either of us hated Toronto; the city offered us a great many opportunities while we lived there, something we’ve always been grateful for. But neither of us are city people. It’s not the noise or the people (though the pollution did a number on my husband’s asthma), it’s just that we like smaller towns better. There’s something about living in a place where stores close at a reasonable hour and people spend the evening at home or at the park with family and friends. We weren’t sad to put the city behind us and neither of us is in a rush to go back.

We agreed at the time of my husband’s graduation we’d go where there was work for him. Ontario seems to pump out more teachers every year than there are positions. And if you want to teach in Ontario, you have to jump through several flaming hoops to get in the classroom full-time. It wasn’t that we were unwilling, we just knew the odds. Lots of people want to stay in the GTA, they like it there, they have family there. We had neither of those issues, so we left.

My husband grew up in small northern communities, the kinds of places that are difficult to reach and tend to present issues for those that live there. Long waits for health care, for instance, and long travel times to reach transportation hubs or sometimes even Wal*marts. Jobs in places like that aren’t desirable because no one wants to pick up and move to the ass-end of nowhere. Luckily for us, we didn’t care where we ended up so long as they had half-descent internet connectivity.

Also luckily for us, we didn’t end up in the ass-end of nowhere. We ended up in a small city in northern Quebec known as Rouyn-Noranda. It’s located about 8 hours from Toronto (our previous home), about 8 hours from Montreal and about 6 from Ottawa. In a lot of ways, Rouyn-Noranda is isolated, there aren’t many major centers close to us. On the flip side, though, we have everything we need within about ten minutes drive. We aren’t a pimple on the map, so to speak.

There were drawbacks, of course. The city has a decent sized English population, but it’s located in Quebec, a largely French province. I speak maybe three phrases in French. They consist of “Do you speak English?”, “My French is very bad.” and the standard “Hello, goodbye, thank you, sorry.” My husband, on the other hand, had enough background in the language to be a superstar. He can answer the phone in French and carry on a conversation. He’s ordered for me at restaurants for the last two years when simply pointing to the picture of what I want on the menu wasn’t sufficient. And of course he’s teased me mercilessly when we’re sitting in a french restaurant, the waiter speaks to me in English and my brain completely freezes.

Language was really the only barrier we faced moving here, and it wasn’t much of one. The people in this town are fantastically friendly, even if they can’t understand a word you’re saying. Most people can switch to English when they realize I don’t understand French, and even those who can’t are cheerful and try their best. Every year the city organizes music and cultural festivals. Some fairly famous people come to perform here, although usually after they’ve passed the peak of their fame. We even went to a Halloween showing of Rocky Horror Picture Show, including a live performance alongside the movie by a troupe of local actors. My favorite outing was the Christmas festival. We hiked up a path lined by fires, watched a short performance including Christmas music and sipped hot chocolate around a campfire.

Alas, our time here has come to an end. The winds of change came knocking, and we’ve let them carry us away. With all that’s happened the past two years, especially with our first home ownership experience, it’s hard to believe we’ve only been here two years. Certainly neither of us expected to bid farewell to such a wonderful place so soon. But life, the universe, or whatever it is, often has other plans for us. We’ve met amazing people here, shared fabulous experiences, and we’ll sorely miss each and every one of them.

When this post appears on my blog it will be moving week. We will have packed up our first house, shoved our lives into the back of a truck, and set off for our next destination; England. This move is a big one, an amazing one, a terrifying one. As such, this post will serve as filler for a three week hiatus while we wrap up all life’s little loose ends and set off to unravel the next bit of the tapestry. If you’re ever in northern Quebec, looking for a place to visit, or perhaps considering settling down, take a look at our fair Rouyn-Noranda. You won’t be sorry.

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