We have two KFF-presentations at the same school this day, and are scheduled to meet at 10:45 in front of the school. I look on the temperature indicator on my laptop, and it says “Montreal:-25C”. I put on all my thick winter clothing and step outside. Not that bad, actually. Minus 25 degrees are okay.

I walk to the subway (a 30 second walk) and before I enter it, I feel a little cold.
When I get out of the decently heated subway system at Peel station and walk for five minutes, the coldness shock kicks in. There is some secret physical law that makes saved body warmth at a certain outside temperature completely vanish after five minutes.
I wear gloves, but the cold eats easily through them. I breathe on them with warm air – too bad that air coming from my mouth also carries little water particles, which turn in a few more minutes into a layer of ice. My gloves are full of ice particles (although I didn’t touch any snow) by reaching McGill university. I find out I walked too far, take a quick picture of a crazily big abyss right next to the university building. This huge hole is definitely part of the Canadian government program Operation Mapletreasure:

During the next twenty years, the Canadian government will collect maple syrup from all over the country (as taxation for maple farmers, 10% of their yearly production volume) and store it in giantic bunkers, located within the city borders of Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa, Quebec, Vancouver, Edmonton, Halifax and secret reservoirs far in the North. Through unknown sources it has been sickering through that the reason for these efforts, funded by taxpayers, is that Canada will stage a coup to sabotage the gold currency and make maple syrup the world’s new money measurement good. With Canada having the largest stored maple syrup ressources, it will become the world’s hippest country.

For making a call on my cell phone, I take shelter in a nursing home so that I don’t have to expose my blank hands to the extremely cold air. Finally, I arrive at the high school building nearly on time, and we walk up a concrete staircase, surrounded by tinted glass, to the fourth floor. The classroom features tables which not only have a different shape, but directly imply a different learning culture than in Austria: They are round, with about 1.8 meters in diameter. The kids are somewhat around fifteen, and even if we cannot complete the presentation, the teacher suggests we should come back in one week to finish our PowerPoint slideshow.

(I will describe the current content of our presentation in a later post)

She even takes us out for lunch in a nearby university restaurant and we indulge some pizza.

Back at the school, same classroom, same teacher, different students:

In the beginning we ask what the kids associate with Austria, where upon one little girl replies: “Well, Australia is far away!”
Everybody starts laughing, and I hope they heard my addition “Yes, especially the German Kangaroo is well known, and the Italian Koala bear is the total tourist attraction!”
I am far more fascinated by the fact that they are 9th-graders (15 and 16 years old) and have the knowledge that the point in history that started the first world war was when Franz Ferdinand was murdered in Serbia. That’s a usual indicator that they have a rich knowledge about the two big wars – and it turns out that they not just have a rich knowledge but also are really interested in the matter. We again get interrupted by the end of the lesson and all I can do to round things up is to give them the last minute motivational speech “You can make a difference”

As we pack our equipment, four of the kids come back and tell us, their next class teacher allowed them to talk to us a little longer. I am amazed by their interest; one of them is reading Mein Kampf and has a sophisticated understanding of Hitler’s writing style, the other one tells us about discrimination in Canada, another one relates to the movie Valkyrie … and I feel like a teacher in a school that achieved to really cause interest in student’s minds. Being a history teacher must be great fun, actually.

One of the guys looks at me and asks out of the blue “Do you do graffitti?”
I object but explain that I do photography. “Ah”, he says, “because there is spray paint on your shoes.”
What a clever little fellow…

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