So July 4th happened. That night, I went out with Anthony L.’15 and William N.’17 to stand by the MIT side of the Charles River and watch fireworks. We listened to explosions set to the timing of the perennial favorite ‘God Bless America’, alongside such American classics as Adele’s ‘Hello’, DNCE’s ‘Cake by the Ocean’, and Justin Bieber’s ‘Sorry’.
(They also played Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ and a bad rendition of Demi Lovato’s ‘Confident’, for some reason.)
Ultimately, the main event lasted 20 minutes, and felt about as titillating as any number of events that MIT runs on the regular.
My trip with Ryuga H.’18 and Ian C.’19 to Canada for Canada Day groceries, on the other hand, was much more exciting.
First, some context:
Sometime in late May or early June, Ryuga, then still buzzed from the end of term and feeling ambitious, mentioned wanting to run some meatings during the summer. At the time, the choice was obvious: July 4th, Independence Day, would be perfect for grilling outside and celebrating the (almost) birth of a grand, bald eagle-waving country with copious amounts of beef. The problem, however, lay in the fact that, because it was Independence Day, a good number of people probably already had plans for grilling outside on their own.
Not wanting to compete with Random Hall’s (and MIT’s) staggering sense of patriotism, Ryuga suggested Canada Day instead. July 1st — close enough to July 4th that we wouldn’t have to start planning it until much later, and far enough into the summer that enough people would be free to go on a day trip to Canada to buy Canadian groceries for the event.
Oh, you thought we were going to celebrate this normally, with American-manufactured and imported goods?
Canada it was. And so the road trip began, at the butt crack of dawn, with Ian and I falling asleep very early on during the car ride and missing most of New Hampshire and Vermont.
(No really, look at how close we are to Canada. How is New England so tiny?)
Despite not bringing my passport, we were not detained at the Canadian border. Apparently, as we would later find out, it is easier to enter Canada than it is to leave it.
From the Canadian-US border, it was another hour or so before we reached Montréal — or, as Ryuga described it, “basically the US, but with all the street signs in French”. And the drive to the city did not disappoint; we passed many French and metric signs on the way.
(It was at this point that I remembered that, outside of the US, Myanmar, and Liberia, the rest of the world had moved on to the metric system.)
We reached Montréal at around noon, and found really cheap parking in a lot by the market. We then wandered around aimlessly for a bit, Ian saddled with the cooler we had borrowed from New House’s La Maison Française (French House), while surreptitiously checking out the beef as Ryuga tried to remember how to ask for beef cheeks in French.
Eventually, Ryuga went up to the nice man behind one of the counters and asked him for beef cheeks in English.
We ended up buying around 12kg of beef short ribs instead, because butchers don’t usually have many beef cheeks laying around for purchase.
Next was a stop at the local supermarket, for some ice, followed by a car ride to another market for vegetables.
(Keeping up with the tourist game, Ian and I took a picture by the ridiculously cheap potatoes.)
We finished grocery shopping for mitBEEF fairly quickly, grabbing the last item, $60 (Canadian) worth of cheese curds, from a cheese store by the farmers’ market. The produce and beef products were settled in the trunk of the rental car by around 3:30pm, leaving us with an entire afternoon free for general tourist things.
Ryuga drove us first to the Parc olympique de Montréal, home of the 1976 Summer Olympics and general tourist trap, also currently undergoing some kind of construction nearby.
Having taken the lift up to the top, we spent some time in the observatory, taking pictures from the windows and buying postcards to send home to clam. I made my first Canadian purchase at the gift shop, and was mildly surprised by the sales tax.
After doing our best impressions of tourists for about an hour, we left Olympic Park at around 5pm to find food in Old Montréal. Being possibly the hungriest of us, having eaten nothing but Pop-tarts that morning, Ian picked a random restaurant along the street for us to try out, and after some failed attempts at communicating with the waitress’s impeccable French, we were ushered to an open table outside, with French-English menus.
I ordered poutine, because nothing else on the menu appeared sufficiently Canadian. Ryuga got a sandwich, and Ian had pizza.
After dinner, we wandered Old Montréal for a while, taking pictures of old buildings and streets and basically anything that I thought would be amusing to document.
We found an A&W, listened to the Canadian government system at work by the old city hall building, stood outside the Notre Dame Basilica, and followed winding alleyways to modern shops dropped inside old facades reminiscent of the older parts of Boston. There were chateaus and governors’ mansions and posters boasting of historical reenactments of the city’s heritage. We walked until my phone was at around 5% battery and I was at 10%, then headed back to the car at around 7:30pm, anticipating a five hour drive at most before we would be back at New Random, MIT — just in time to turn in for the night.
The sun was still up at 9:05pm as we drove through the Canadian countryside, racing towards the US-Canadian border.
We waited in the backed-up line at customs for several hours, watching Archer on Ryuga’s phone and snarking at the duty-free shop by the side of the road. Long after the sun had gone down, we rolled up to the customs check, where I had to convince the customs officer that I was an American-born American and Ryuga had to explain why we had 12kg of beef, $60 (Canadian) of cheese curds, 40lbs of potatoes, and a bag of carrots in our trunk.
The customs officer, upon learning that we were MIT students who had driven up to Canada from Massachusetts to buy beef, laughed at us and pointed out that our carrots, though we were striving so hard for authenticity, were imported from Israel and therefore not natively Canadian.
We made it through customs intact, and eventually arrived at New Random after 2am. Ryuga was let into the building, groceries were brought upstairs, Ian was sent to bed, and I shambled off to my room.
(Then the next day, we had our mitBEEF meating and ran out of food, because for some reason people are more willing to come to mitBEEF meatings when they are on campus and/or during the summer.)