After participating in Tom Kennedy’s seminar 5 weeks earlier,
Tom invited me to share my message in Montreal and Ottawa as well.
So on Thursday, March 4, Kit drove me to Montreal where we met up
with Wendy Lloyd-Smith, co-ordinator of the NDG Barter Network. And
even though it was 11.30pm, Wendy stayed up to talk to us about how
things were going with her small group. I was extremely impressed
with the LETS Information Kit she’d designed and could see much
potential with her newly formed network.
Wendy had organized
a treat for us the following morning. A few NDG members arrived early
to meet me over breakfast. And what a feast it was, with bagels, croissants
and crepes aplenty, all through LETS, and much more than we could
City of Montreal
At 11 am, Roseanne, an NDG member, took us for a drive around the
city of Montreal. Unfortunately it was a very wet and foggy day, so
the view from the city’s hill was simply a sea of murky grey.
But once we got out of the car and into some buildings, everything
That's a bloody
big moose head!
As we searched
for somewhere to have lunch, we came across a very interesting tourist
shop. Inside were an assortment of Canadian giftware with the
typical Indian and Eskimo content, but also featuring some very impressive
stuffed animals. The size of the moose head was astounding, and the
polar bear, selling for $24,000 hardly seemed like a bargain to me.
Raccoons, wolverines and a lynx (bobcat) were featured as well, and
I was impressed to see the famous Australian Akubra hats and coats
being sold as well.
With the framed
bugs collection at a shop in Bon Secour Market.
The Bon Secour
Market, across the road, was like an up-market flea market, and
I spent all my time in a shop that sold African handicrafts, musical
instruments and framed insects. Some of the insects were 20cm (8 inches)
long, and the Tarantula spiders were another favourite of mine. Unfortunately,
as I was traveling without money, I would have to be satisfied just
with a photo rather than taking the real thing with me.
We stopped at
Notre Dame Basilica to light a candle. It’s one of the
most magnificent church interiors I have ever seen. But they wanted
a $5 entry fee.
I just light a candle?” I asked.
there’s no charge if you just want to light a candle”,
the attendant replied, “but you cannot take any photos unless
you pay the entry fee”.
print says Charles Dickens in Montreal 1842.
Finally we had
lunch at the L'Usine de Spaghetti Parisienne (273 St. Paul
Est, Vieux Montreal) which is in a building built around 1650. Our
table was in Place Dickens which has historical significance because
it’s where Charles Dickens wrote his notes for his book, Tale
Of Two Cities.
This is what the
framed notice wrote ...
DID YOU KNOW...
In May of 1842, Charles Dickens visited Montreal and wrote the notes
for A Tale of Two Cities in the back room
of this very restaurant!!
But what it didn't
mention was that he didn't publish his book until 17 years later,
Tower and Olympic Park in snow.
On Saturday, we went to Olympic Park with Lorraine. Lorraine is an
Australian lady from Cobram (3 hours north of Melbourne) who’d
been studying in Montreal since last year. Wendy introduced her to
us on the previous night when she came to see me perform my play,
The Glory Of Athens, at Wendy’s home. She enjoyed the play so
much that she was pleased to accompany us on our second sight-seeing
tour of Montreal.
Olympic Park is the home of Olympic Tower, the largest leaning tower
in the world, which was built for the Montreal Olympic Games back
in 1976. It’s a unique structure with an outdoor elevator car
taking tourists to the lookout on the top floor. But it’s had
some very bad, and justifiable, criticism in the past. The Olympic
Tower is annexed to a giant enclosed building, with a massive roof,
without interior supports. Unfortunately, the designer hadn’t
calculated the additional stress that several tons of snow would have
on the roof, and some years ago the roof collapsed. So today the roof
is cleverly supported by dozens of strong wire supports hinged uniformly
around the roof and clamped to the top of the tower, which fortunately
leans towards the massive building.
Park is the Botanic Gardens, home of the Live Butterfly Enclosure
and also the Insectarium, both of which we wanted to see on that day.
As we queued up to buy tickets, I noticed everyone talking in French.
Of course, I thought, we’re in Quebec now, Canada’s French
province. In fact, the language laws in Quebec are so strict that
it’s illegal for businesses to use English in their offices
(and literature, promotions, etc.) as their primary language. This
has caused some of the English speaking businesses to relocate their
offices just across the border in Ontario.
A Morpho lands
on a book about butterflies.
We were told that waiting in the queue to see the Butterflies Go Free
exhibit would take about 40 minutes. Fortunately, the queue meandered
through the Cactus and Bonsai exhibits of the Botanic Gardens and
so we casually glanced at all the plants as we snailed our way closer
to our goal. Dozens of very different cactus plants amazed me, as
did the ages of the bonsai plants, one of them displayed as 75 years
43 minutes later, we were in with the butterflies. The temperature
was set at only 24 degrees Celsius, whereas the Butterfly Display
at the Melbourne Zoo is set at 40 degrees. The area was packed with
people, hence the long wait. And the predominant butterfly was the
large bright blue Morpho butterfly. Most of us were hoping to have
a butterfly land on our clothes, head or hands. But only the people
with light and bright coloured clothes were so lucky. Then they became
even more popular than the butterflies, because now they were ‘the
to the giant moths and their cocoons suspended on ropes.
dishes, on tall poles, were scattered amongst the flowering bushes
and trees, where the butterflies could display themselves to the public
while satisfying their hunger and thirst. Butterfly cocoons were displayed
in warmly lit pupae boxes, while large moth cocoons clung to large
knotted ropes suspended from a cave-like opening, giving it a waterfall
appearance. Nearby signs offered us hope that we may get to see a
young butterfly emerging, wet and wrinkled from one of the cocoons,
but we had no luck during out 45 second wait.
But what I did
see was a a dead morpho being quietly removed from a flower bed.
the giant beetles display.
As we entered the Insectarium, the wall-mounted glass displays showed
hundreds of large and unique insects from all over the world. This
was so much like the ones I’d seen for sale in the Bon Secour
Market, but on a scale 100 times larger. Horned beetles about 10cm
(4 inches) long. Stick Insects about 20cm (8 inches) long. And a Carpenter
Bee about 4cm (2 inches) long. That’s definitely one insect
I wouldn’t want to be stung by!
But then I noticed
some live insects in a glass display case. And then I noticed live
insect displays all over the place. Wow! This was amazing. A large
enclosure with a couple of trees inside, was crowded with those massive
stick insects, but it took ages to notice them, sometimes when they
were only inches away.
live stumpy stick insect at the Insectarium.
A crowd of people
gathered around a staff member who was showing them one of his favourite
exhibits. It was a live stubby stick insect about 15cm (6 inches)
long. And he had it sitting on the palm of his hand. It had a firm
grip on his hand because when the guy turned his hand upside-down,
the insect just clung on. At one point he picked the insect up with
his other hand and moved it closer to the crowd who baulked as the
critter got closer. So, seeing an opportunity, I reached out toward
the guy with my palm upturned. He seemed a little startled with my
offer and asked me something in French. I just nodded, hoping it was
the right answer, and he placed ‘Stubby’ on my hand. I
smiled for the camera and happily returned Stubby to his master.
to sell chocolate-coated ants here”, someone said.
Presentation and The Glory Of Athens
Nine NDG members turned up for my LETS Favours presentation at 4pm.
It always excites me to see members being inspired to become more
active within their LETS group after hearing my presentation. Then
afterwards I put on another performance of The Glory Of Athens to
a small but very appreciative audience, rounding off another great
day of events.
Early the next morning, we left for Granby, arriving 75 minutes later
at my next host’s home. We were getting further into French-speaking
territory, but luckily my hosts, Pierre and Johanne, both spoke very
good English. Their 3 acre home was semi-rural, with only a couple
of small herb gardens still hidden under the deep snow. From their
warm dining room I watched some chickadees eating seeds from the bird-feeder
hanging close to the window. I couldn’t help but think of W.C.Fields
and Mae West in their movie, My Little Chickadee, whenever I saw those
birds. A harp grabbed all the attention in my make-shift bedroom.
Johanne is an accomplished harpist, though I wouldn’t be fortunate
enough to hear her play during my stay.
At La Maison,
giving my LETS Favours presentation to a French JEU audience.
Pierre had organized quite a few events for me during my stay, and
the first one was a Sunday brunch at 11am with the JEU group. So we
all got into his car, getting there a little after it had commenced.
The first couple of hours were allocated to socializing, so we knew
we wouldn’t be late for anything.
into English as GAME, but is an acronym for Jardin d’Echange
Universe (Garden of Universal Exchange). This form of LETS group is
typically French, with many other groups in existence. It is unique
in that it is a network without any administrative office. Each member
is given a trading book which records all of their transactions. And
after each transaction the members note the details in the other person’s
trading book. Their trading unit is the Minute, so 60 units are traded
per hour, with 60 units being equivalent to $10. I can understand
why some groups choose to use time as their trading units, but when
I see it related back to a dollar value, it just makes the calculations
that much more complicated. (More information about JEU can be found
The venue for
the brunch was La Maison, a former boarding/reception business, now
owned by 7 individuals determined to keep it out of the commercial
arena and equally as determined to have it serving the local community.
Hence their association with JEU, and happily accepting JEU minutes
as payment for services.
Lanctot is one of the La Maison owners and also a JEU member.
She is world renowned for her expose of the medical industry in her
book, The Medical Mafia, and has more recently written a book about
life called, What The Hell Am I Doing Here Anyway? It refers to LETS,
JEU and other community currencies, and she kindly gave me a copy
of her book with the following inscription.
Thank you for traveling and spreading the desire to create heaven
on earth! (love heart) Ghislaine
I was the featured
speaker for the afternoon, and seeing half of my 32 audience didn’t
understand English, Ghislaine offered to translate it into French.
So from 3 – 5pm I gave a shortened version of my LETS Favours
presentation, ending my session with a performance of my Homer monologue
(from my play, The Glory Of Athens) which was also translated into
Meeting Report (received April 19) Hello James,
... I want to take a minute to tell you about the impact of your
presentation in front of the JEU group in Stukeley Sud. I went to
a follow-up meeting that was planned the day of your presentation.
All the people that were there voiced their appreciation of your
presentation. They all felt energized from it. I told them that
although they felt your enthousiasm they missed on the practical
means you provide to ensure activity in an exchange network. I told
them about the roles that can be assume by some motivated people
and right away one person proposed herself to assume the role of
membership contact and get in touched with all members and revitalised
their offers and belonging interests. They agreed to charge all
the members' account 100 JEUs to pay that person to do this work
wich they call 'Spring clean-up'. They also realised that they should
perceive a certain fee to have a proper news letter that would motivate
members to exchange and that these fees should go into an account
belonging to the network. So the structureless network is seeing
the need for some structure. À suivre... Pierre Lazure,
Réseau d'Échange et d'Entraide Local
Having breakfast the next morning was very enjoyable. Even though
it was still very cold outside and covered with snow, the birds still
frequented the bird-feeder. Blue Jays, Cardinals, Redpoll Finches
and Juncos took it in turns to feed, mostly from the feeding box,
but also from the ground below where much of the seeds had fallen.
d'Échange et d'Entraide Local (RÉEL)
Pierre and Johanne were just starting a new LETS group, with only
5 members and no trading so far. So they were very excited about having
me give my LETS Favours presentation to 20 prospective members on
Monday night. And as an incentive for the guests to join, the $5 entry
fee was fully refundable to anyone who joined their new LETS group.
all of those attending spoke English, so I was able to give my normal
presentation without the need for a line-by-line translation. And
the 3 guests who needed my talk translated joined Pierre at the back
of the room where he quietly interpreted my presentation live.
Part way through
my talk, a newspaper photographer came into the meeting room and took
several photos before leaving and without saying a word.
And after my presentation,
nobody moved! Not a word. They just sat there. I was used to getting
lots of questions or people getting up to leave, but they were all
fixed to their seats, motionless. Pierre eventually thanked them for
their attendance and finally they showed signs of interest. One of
the members was so excited she immediately offered to take on the
very responsible role of Membership co-ordinator. This thrilled Pierre
and Johanne who were glad to see some help coming from someone apart
from themselves. I thought I could continue to be of help in the future,
so I also joined their group.
For the first
couple of days Pierre had asked me lots of questions about how he
should run his new LETS group, and he listened attentively. This is
an email I got from him a few days after I returned to Kitchener.
very nice to have you James and I learned a lot from your experience
that you so willingly share. I need your middle name as you know
our member codes are made of three letters. I thought Edward would
suit you well as it would make your code JET. What do you think?
We also changed the name of our network, it is now called 'Réseau
d'Échange et d'Entraide Local, RÉEL for reality. So
welcome to the RÉEL. Our money will be Faveur for favors
(learned my lesson well didn't I?) …
Have a nice
day in Toronto!
largest Audience For The Glory Of Athens
The next day we went to CEGEP de Granby, a French-speaking college,
where I was due to perform my play, The Glory Of Athens, at 11.30am.
Johanne’s daughter was a student at the college and had arranged
with her English teacher, Jennifer Hanna, for my performance.
who all spoke relatively good English, were aged 17-19, similar to
the Year 12 class I’d performed to a couple of months earlier
at the Confederation High School in Welland. Their response was equally
as enthusiastic, but this event stood out by being the largest audience
I’d performed to with 70 students in the audience.
And I got a great
testimonial from Quentin, who also talked to me straight after my
Ghia sou! I told you I’d write. My name is Quentin, we met
after your presentation (great presentation if I may) at the Cegep
of Granby [College near Montreal, Canada]. Just wanted to say, what
you did and what you are doing is marvelous. The way you brought
your ideas with humour, «good» humour as I call it,
intelligent humour, is simply amazing. I’ve been trying to
write plays of my own, and I must say, I never even came close to
what you did! I hope everything is going well for you, mustn’t
be that easy to travel the way you do. But keep it up, I think you
shouldn't stop until everyone has witnessed The Glory Of Athens!
Later in the afternoon, Pierre, Tom (who had also accompanied us to
the college performance) and I drove to La Maison De Cultures Ameridiennes
at Mont St. Hilaire (American Cultural House at Mount St. Hilary)
to see the Sugaring-off Exhibition. Along the way we saw a couple
of white-tailed deer, one of which watched us from the middle of the
road until we got to within about 30 metres of him.
Our entry fee
included dinner and entry to the Indian Masks Exhibition. The Indian
masks exhibition was a mixture of very colourful modern and traditional
masks made out of wood, leather and hair. These covered the long walls
of the exhibition room, and as we were the only people there, it looked
very deserted and empty.
Exhibition was tucked away in the far corner, and had a cozier feel
about it. But all the display boards were written in French! I’d
never seen that before. Even in China they have their signs translated
into English for the benefit of their tourists. And here I was, in
Canada, where most of the population speaks English, and I couldn’t
understand the exhibit! Fortunately, there was a TV monitor in an
adjacent corner which had a 15 minute show (spoken in French with
English sub-titles) on the traditional way in which maple syrup was
made, a process called sugaring-off.
the overnight temperatures are below zero (-5 Celsius is best) and
the daylight temperatures are above zero (+5 Celsius is best) maple
trees can be milked. In modern times, maple trees are linked to each
other using a very elaborate piping system, which draws the sap out
of hundreds of trees and collects them into a common barrel. But in
the good ol’ days it was very different.
It takes 30-40
litres of sap to make 1 litre of maple syrup, so the process is a
long one. And this is how they did it.
A cut is made
in the side of the maple tree using a knife or an axe.
A flat wooden wedge is tapped into this cut to act as a spout.
A bucket (made of woven birch bark) is placed under the wedge to
collect the sap.
The sap is collected and poured into a large metal pot.
The pot is heated until it turns into syrup.
Additional heating makes it even denser and forms a toffee, which
is spread over a bowl filled with snow, and peeled off, seconds
later, after it’s cooled.
The House Restaurant
had a traditional and delicious Indian menu.
Main - chicken thighs cooked in maple syrup served with rice and
Dessert - maple sugar pie without crust, served with ice-cream.
We were all very
warm and tired on our drive back home, though we all woke up with
a jolt when Pierre had to swerve to avoid running over a raccoon on
the road which had been hypnotized by the car’s headlights.
The next morning at 7.30am, Tom and I left Granby bound for Montreal.
Tom wanted to have breakfast at the famous Cosmos Café, so
we picked up his son and girlfriend along the way, and then went to
enjoy the café’s famous mish-mash meal, which it had
perfected over it’s 35 year history. As I waited for my breakfast,
I looked around and noticed the walls were all covered in paper currency
from all over the world.
Tony had owned
the business for all of those years and now ran the tiny little ‘hole
in the wall’ with his son.
have been sending me money from other countries for many years”,
Tony said, “I don’t even know where most of these countries
are. And I’ve got stacks of it inside as well”, he added,
venturing into the back and emerging with wads of foreign notes in
Most of the notes
were from third world countries where each note wasn’t worth
much more than a cent or two, but it was quite a conversation piece.
Recently Tony had also been featured on a TV documentary, Man Of Greece.
see my film?” he asked, pointing to a poster as we were about
Soon we were in Ottawa. I was staying with Margaret and her 3 cats.
But I’ve never seen such big cats before. Even though Brutus
had been put on a diet by his vet, he was still 26 pounds (11.5 kilos).
I watched him as he walked across the floor. His rear legs were buckled
and angled outwards for support. And his steps were short and jerky.
And once he’d staggered 10 metres he’d just collapse onto
his side, taking a break to catch his breath.
Pierre had called his sister in Ottawa to let her know there’d
be a meeting there, and we bumped into her just as we got to the meeting
venue. Ten others turned up as well. Ottawa LETS were going through
some hard times, so my audience were quite happy to see some hope
for the future after I shared some of my ideas. One of the members,
Mike the Orthotherapist, was so pleased he offered to give me a free
massage at 1pm the following day, in appreciation for sharing my LETS
presentation with the group. And seeing we had to be out of the building
after only 2 hours, 5 of us went out for drinks and continued our
discussion in a nearby café.
Passion Of The Christ Research
While I was an early riser, Margaret was not. So while she was fast
asleep I browsed through her library of books. There were lots of
books on history and also on religious topics. I’d seen Mel
Gibson’s film, The Passion Of The Christ, when it premiered
in Canada 3 weeks earlier. And even though most of the storyline had
been confirmed in the bible, there were a couple of questions I still
had which focused on the brutality of the film.
The bible says
that Jesus was given 39 lashes, yet I counted over 70 lashes before
the sounds were faded out, giving the impression that Jesus was given
more lashes than that.
And there was
no mention in the bible of Jesus being whipped with a metal barbed
But within minutes
I had my answers. After looking up Crucifiction in the 16 volume Encyclopedia
Of The Bible, I learned that it was common to add pieces of metal
to the ends of whips. And 39 lashes was the standard punishment for
minor offences, with gentiles suffering up to 300 lashes for major
offences. So, as Jesus’ offence must’ve been regarded
as much more than minor, it is very probable that his punishment was
more than 39 lashes.
When I shared
this information with Margaret, she acknowledged that she also had
done a lot of research on the subject. In fact, she’d tried
to contact Mel with some important additional information but she
couldn’t get a mailing address to send it too. (If someone can
find Mel’s address, please let me know so I can pass it on to
Yesterday, Tom and I had had gone to the American Embassy to see if
I could sort out a visa query I had. Unfortunately, the Embassy was
closed on Wednesdays, but it was suggested I return the following
day (today) between 10am and 11am to have it sorted out. The American
Embassy was barricaded with concrete barriers all along the edge of
the sidewalk, very much like a fortress, obviously to thwart any suicide
bombing attempts. Were they getting too paranoid? I don’t think
so. As I walked passed the information booth set-up outside the embassy,
I nudged Tom and pointed to the window. It had a gunshot hole right
in the middle of it.
Anyway, they told
me to come again on Thursday, so there I was. But when I asked to
enter they wouldn’t let me in because I didn’t have an
make an appointment for tomorrow”, the security guard told me.
leaving tonight”, I said. I then explained what I’d been
told on the previous day. I guess the guards just needed to be sure
I wasn’t a security risk. And having an Australian passport
must’ve helped. So they listened to reason and let me in. But
I had to walk through the metal detector frame, and they checked my
personal bag, and I had to leave my boots and my camera with them.
Then I was escorted to the next guard who questioned why I was being
allowed in without an appointment.
OK”, the other guard told him before returning to his post outside.
to embassies before, so I knew how busy they got. So now all I’d
have to do would be to wait in line until someone was free to see
me. The other guard walked me to the enquiry booths.
“Go to booth
number 7”, he said.
I looked around
to see 8 booths with absolutely no-one in line. And in the waiting
area with 30 seats, sat one solitary lady. Hardly a peak-hour working
And once I got
to the booth, my problem was handled both quickly and politely. So
I actually spent more time trying to get into the embassy than being
served while inside.
Margaret picked me up from Chapters bookstore (opposite the embassy)
and we went to Moe’s for lunch. Mike joined us for a pork souvlaki
and Greek salad with rice. Mike’s massage was going to be the
last thing I’d get a chance to do before Tom came to pick me
up at 3pm and take me back to Kitchener.
clinic was across the road, and for the next 75 minutes he gave me
a very professional massage. I was particularly impressed by his foot
massaging technique, where he started by prodding my feet and then
continued by stroking, knuckling, stroking again, and finally slapping
is a Swedish touch”, he said as my feet continued to sting.
article is taken from the ebook,
400-Day LETS Odyssey
Taris web sites