600km Walking Pilgrimage through Spain

Written by Denise Chng Lisan & published on September 2 2008

From the moment I discovered an ancient pilgrimage path in Spain in June last year, the attraction of walking hundreds of kilometres towards an assured destination grew on me daily. My eagerness to go on a month-long journey on foot across the steep slopes, lush valleys and forests of the Pyrenees, and through countless small towns and villages, was part of a subconscious quest to find depth and meaning in my life. At the age of 33, I was approaching – prematurely, perhaps – what seemed to be a mid-life crisis.

Straits Times Life! Article,Denise Chng Lisan,Camino de Santiago,Camino Frances

Letter from Quebec: Preserving Heritage

Written by Denise Chng Lisan & published on November 8 2008

'TRAVEL is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living,' wrote Miriam Beard. Life in Quebec is now my teacher, pointing out my knowledge gaps and honing my ideas of living - be it language, culture, life-skills, or the environment.

Denise Chng Lisan

Life in Quebec

Posted by Denise CHNG Lisan On Saturday, September 27, 2008

Life in Quebec is refreshingly different.

In a land of cold, I have met people with much warmth. The Quebecoises love to have fun. They love music. They love people. In the little town of Rimouski, almost everybody knows everybody. It is common to be constantly greeted by friends on the street by taking a walk around town.

People often ask me why am i named 'Denise'. The origins of my name, Denise, came from France. For a Chinese, it seems bizzare to the Quebecoises that I would have a French name. On the other hand, the common question seems bizzare to me. Most people in Singapore have western names like David, Julie, Mary, Tom, Dick and Harry. I suppose, being Chinese, the locals here expect me to have a more Chinese name, maybe like Tan Ah Lian. When I experimented and introduced myself as 'Lisan', I drew blanks on people's faces. It was too difficult for some, and they avoided trying completely.

I often have to explain that I'm not from China. And that Singapore is not in China. I often wonder if that message registers.

They also explain to me that they are not French, though their ancestors are. They are French Canadians, and have its own distinct culture, food, accent, colloquial expressions that puts them apart from French in France. I have to constantly remember that all the classes of French language I took has its limitations now, because the language Quebecoise is VERY different.

I learned to swear very quickly to fit into the culture. The popular words that put people at ease are swear words, like how we say "it's so fuckin' good!' or 'it's freakin' cold!'.

I tell my new Quebecoise friends that they are so contradictory. When one wants to say something tastes so good, in normal French, one would say "C'est si bon!". But in Quebec, we can say "C'est ecoeurant!" it means it is so good that "it makes me want to puke!" When life is good, a friend would say "Life is hard", mocking the opposite. In this once-very-Catholic country, the biggest swearwords would come from the Catholic religion, like 'tabernacle', mocking the sacred. They pride themselves on traditional food named "Sister's Fart" and "Ears of Christ". This juxtaposition of opposites is everywhere, in its culture.

The Quebecoises celebrate everything, with festivals ranging from music, dance, food, to floating woods, falling snow, and even laughter. Montreal hosts the world's largest international festival of humor. Singapore's favorite humor clips (that we see on our buses) "Just for Laughs" are made by the Quebecoises. There are probably more humorists in Quebec than any other parts of the world. There are competitions pitting one humorist against another, to see who can make better jokes.

it is no wonder the Quebecoises take life easy. They make fun of everything, and make everything they do fun.

1 Response to 'Life in Quebec'

  1. Anonymous Said,'> 3 October 2008 at 20:53

    hey dee,

    i know what you mean by contradictory expressions. we have the same thing in vietnamese. if something is really cute, you say you really hate to look at it :) people always say they hate to look at bella.

    tony t


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