Read other Immigrant’s Postcards here.
Day 1: The Sisters
After a 10-12 km walking tour of the fortified city and along the river, we sit down on a bench at the foot of the majestic Château Frontenac hotel to catch our breath.A stream of people—mostly tourists, some office goers, a few elderly folks—pass us by.
A group of three Chinese women (sisters? friends?)—probably in their fifties—arrives. We can’t decipher their animated conversation. But two of them take their cameras out to photograph the third lady, who is only too happy to pose.
She stands next to a bench facing us, holding an arm up. “Hold on, I’m not done yet,” she seems to say to her friends while swiftly moving up the hill behind the bench. There, she takes her position, raising an arm and a leg even as she prods the other two women to click fast.
Passersby pause in their walk to take in this unique scene; some explode into laughter.
And although there is no sea in sight, all I’m reminded of is the comradeship of the widowed sisters-in-law in Tapan Sinha’s “Nirjan Saikate.”
Back from a lush and soothing ferry ride across the St. Lawrence River, we buy crepes from a mother-daughter stand at a local artisan fair. We walk into a park to consume the supper.
A couple of young musicians emerge to set up their arrangements even as snatches of a conversation between two members of the audience floats over to my ears. The man is telling his female partner/friend about the man-woman busker team we saw perform at the Château Frontenac square yesterday.
As with every street performance, the daring duo had requested the gaping, near-voyeuristic audience to make donations at the end of the show.
Our man in the park today talks about his chat with the male busker. “I asked him how much money do people actually put in your hat after the show?
“He told me most people put pocket change – the quarters, nickels and loonies. Very few – maybe one or two people – actually put five or ten dollar bills.
“And so that’s what you give after watching a 45-minute show in which the performers risk their lives. And right after that, you spend $200 on dinner.”
I can validate what he is saying. Yesterday, when I sheepishly carried two five-dollar bills to put in the buskers’ hat, I noticed those were the only non-coin currency items in the hat.
Suddenly, I don’t feel so bad about eating crepes clumsily in the park instead of dining at a fancy restaurant.
Read Part 2