Spent the day mostly on a train. Arrived at the station early in the morning only to have our train delayed by 40 minutes. When it arrived we walked out into the brisk winter wind and boarded the train. We found our seats and i promptly dosed off with music playing in my ears. The train jolted me awake every few minutes, but then we had arrived in Toronto. Due to the late arrival we didn’t have an hour lay over, but 20 minutes. We got aboard the next train and headed out shortly after that. This train was much longer. I emailed about housing and leases, about school and checked every social network I was a part of. Dozed off again, then was awoken to our train stopping. Another delay, a freight was broken down between us and our stop. Another 40 minutes and we are on our way again. Past lake shores that looked like meringue, the ice forming in waves on the shore. Factories and houses tucked into the hills and shores and forests.
We made our way finally rolling into Ottawa. Met a girl on the train from our conference. We all cabbed it to the hotel, then quickly checked in. By quickly I mean yet another fiasco, we must be 21 to sign in, we must have a credit card. Madeline signs for us, I put down my credit card for both Rachael and I and were off. We whip up the elevator, drop everything in our room then whip back down to hail a cab.
Off to the university for our dinner. We meet all these amazing women and I feel dwarfed by their talents and successes.
The woman who cooked us an amazing feast of vegan, whole food delight is a business woman turned restaurant owner, the first ever in the food olympics (first woman and first vegan chef.) She talks about her passion for the environment and the health of our generation. How GMOs are causing our children to become obese and diabetic. She has such a passion for what she does.
Julie stands up and introduces the first speaker, tells us all how excited she is to see us all here, how excited she is to see what we bring to the table. She tells us that education and hard work can be lonely, that we have to rely on one another for support and comradery, she means every word.
Martha stands and speaks, moving us all with her words of the terrain of equality, and inequality. The law as something that must be formed and reformed, followed and fought . She tells us our battle terrain is anywhere we choose it to be.
Anne stands up and introduces the next two women as people who she is inspired by. Shes speaking of these women who are her colleagues, but also her heroes. She’s tearing up in her accented english.
The stand is then taken by Karin, the leader of a feminist law group in Ottawa, one of the only of its kind in Canada. She speaks of the battles we fight and how we must choose what we believe in. She speaks of doing what will allow you to still find compassion and caring in yourself. She speaks of all the characteristics that make us who we are, and that allow us to respond to law.
Then she gives the stage to Suzanne Bouclin, a profesor of law. SHes flustered and overwhelmed. She talks about how as an academic she lives in an ivory tower. That people say she is the opposite of an activist, and she admits that to a degree she is. But she sees the real world too, the homophobic slurs, the embarasment a student feels when humiliated by a prof. She says she wants to take away the capital P in professor and the miniscule s in student. She says that what we bring to the table may be more than her life experience ever has. She believes we can all teach each other. She’s so excited about her newly held position to make these things happen that she nearly moves herself to tears when sharing her feministo as she calls it.
We drink wine and eat dense vegan chocolate cake. We mingle and talk. I tell Suzanne and Karin how much the moved me, how they nearly had me in tears. How excited I am to be here witnessing and participating in all of this.
Julie pulls us aside at the end of the night and asks us to please ask all the questions we need to, want to and can. To clarify as much as we can and ensure we understand as much as we can. She wants us to take in as much as we can, she says that if it takes hours for her to elaborate she is more than willing to take the time. She begs us to not be scared of sounding unsure, that we are first year undergrads and we aren’t expected to know everything, but she wants to teach us as much as she can.
We leave and we adventure downtown. I get compliments from a homeless man. We nearly get lost a couple of times Rachael and I, but we make our way to Rideau Street and the Canal, Winterlude is in full swing, dance parties, ice sculptures, beaver tales, skating, you name it. We ask strangers to take our pictures and they kindly oblige every time. A man dancing yells “I’m so free” I tell him I love that hes free and he tells me I should be too, and to have an amazing night.
We get in the cab back to the hotel. Take warm showers to defrost ourselves. Wrap ourselves in our warmes comfiest clothes and tuck ourselves in for the night (with free Winterlude hot chocolate in hand.)
The first night has already been the experience of a lifetime. Theres such a sense of support and friendliness that I never thought was possible. These women have such passion for what they do, for human rights and for equality. They are beautiful in there power and their success.
And to think, this is only day one <3