Lookin' Good at 58

Monday, February 16, 2009

A Brief Conversation That Changed Everything

After my two month or so stint on the SS Norway and my recoup of 1 week in Fort Lauderdale , I was back home to ponder what I was going to do after my hopes of working on a cruise ship had quickly vanished after this dreadful experience.

In late 1986 I found a job in the States outside Boston and then turned it down to stay in Montreal.

To be honest I really didn't know what to do. So I decided to take my separation slip from the University Club of Montreal and file for unemployment insurance and enrol myself in a French course. In Montreal you have to speak English and French and since the government was paying , here was an opportunity to learn French and get paid for it while attending school for 6 months Monday - Friday.

So for the first 6 months of 1987 I went to French School to learn the language. What I was planning on doing was settling for good in Montreal where I grew up.

However while I was going to school I met this gentleman who asked me a question I had never thought of and that was , why don't I look into one of the exchanges that Canada has with other countries , notably Switzerland and France where you can go and get some great experience.

Peaking my interest I asked him how do I do that and he said I had to contact the proper department and get some forms , fill them out and send them back. Well I had been in Europe back in 1977 for a 45 day trip and my thoughts were to check into this. I was staying with Mom so I had nothing holding me back so on I went to get these forms and fill them out and send them back to the government.

Fortunately I was learning French at the time and had my Hotel Restaurant Management course behind me so I qualified to try to find hotel work over in Switzerland. It was May when I was accepted in the exchange so all excited I thought all I had to do was wait for a call from an employer who would be willing to take me on over in Switzerland.

Well it was lucky I did not wait around because I got a hold of someone in charge here and asked how this exactly works. The person replied my chances of getting a job are very slim as what happens is they put your name in an industry newspaper there and then you have to hope that anyone pays attention to it. Basically he said you are better off doing your own job hunt.

My Mom was moving to Toronto at the time so I had to get a place of my own quickly so what I did was go to the travel agency and get a list of all the hotels in the French part of Switzerland and send my resume done in not perfect French out. I sent 50 resumes out. I received 26 nos and out of 50 I got the one yes I needed about 3 weeks later.

It was for the following year (1988) on February 1 that I was scheduled to start. I signed the contract immediately and sent it back. I was so excited. Just think of being able to work in Switzerland , right in the centre of Western Europe and live on site right at the hotel where I will be working. Phenomenal!

So for the rest of 1987 after the course all I did was collect my umemployment insurance till it expired in December and live in a furnished one room right on the lakeshore in Lachine. All I did was practice speaking French by listening to the radio talk shows and reading French newspapers and Hercule Poirot police detective stories. I even enrolled in a course about entertaining at home at a French college to improve my French. I was the only english student in the entire class. It had ideas of what to serve and presentation tips. I had a burn to learn French as well as I could.

The room I moved into for the duration of the year was about $50 a week so on my $225 a week unemployment I was able to have enough for food and go out once in a while and enjoy my time.

About 3 months later in October I went to the Swiss Consulate downtown and got my work visa stamped in the passport.

My brief conversation with the gentleman at the school really changed things for me and my plans on settling down. His mentioning of an exchange ranks up there with one of those great life changing moments I have ever had. Sometimes if you just ask questions or begin a conversation with someone it can spark an idea. This was one of them.

It was the last time I would live in Montreal. I always thought about moving back there for quite some time but as it turned out I learned later it is hard going back anywhere as it never is quite the same as when you left it. Time moves on and things change and so do we. I have great memories of Montreal and that is where it should rest.

Next week we are heading to Switzerland for 1988 and 89.


James Mortimer said...

A good story.

Has similarities to where my life is heading, looking at moving to a completely different life.

Nice to know you now, just starting my blogging career.

Hope you enjoy my site as I have been enjoying yours.

Take care.

Waiter Extraordinaire said...

James...welcome and I have put your blog on my blog roll. Sometimes opportunity comes when you least expect it. I like your blog , had a quick peek at it. Will comment as well. Thanks.