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Pierre Vallee - Trois Rivieres, Quebec, Canada - French (Global Lives Project, 2013) - Life Story Part 1

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My name is Pierre Vallée. I was born December 1, 1971 in Salaberry-de-Valleyfield. I am 41 years old. I've been married for 15 years. And father of three sons. -- How old are they? -- They are 8, 10 and 14 years old today. -- Where do you live? -- I Have been living in Trois-Rivières for 13 years. Since 2000, we moved from Valleyfield to Trois-Rivières. --- What language do you speak? --I speak French in my daily life and English at work. -- Do you have any religious beliefs if so which ones? -- I am baptized, I'm Catholic but honestly, I don't practice much. -- What is your profession? -- I am a maritime pilot on the St. Lawrence River. I am a member of the Corporation of Pilots of central St. Lawrence and I'm a pilot from the Quebec Trois-Rivières group. Our corporation of pilots includes three areas. Quebec Trois-Rivières, Trois-Rivières Montreal and the Montreal Port. I am a pilot since 2002, from Quebec Trois-Rivières and previously I had two years of apprenticeship; apprentice pilot from 2000 to 2002. Therefore, I have been on the river for 13 years now. -- Pilots of specialized vessels like you belong to which social class? -- What social class? What do you mean by social class? -- For example you have the middle class, what else have we got? The high finance, the rich. Do you feel rich? Do you feel more middle class? Upper middle class? average low middle class? and why? - Insecure? -- No, I do not feel insecure. Our work gives us a good job security. There are only a select few who have access to these positions and I compare myself to the elite part of my profession. There are only 50 pilots who are certified by the Ministry of Transport to navigate all Commercial boats between Quebec and Trois-Rivières. I am one of those 50 pilots. I think we rarely... We're embarrassed to say we are good sometimes but I think the pilots have achieved a degree of expertise which makes us part of the elite. So, I would say we are from an affluent social class. Not rich, but more than middle class. -- What do you know about your ancestors? -- In reality very little. I rarely expressed interest. Obviously, I know that my ancestors came from Europe from France; I think from Normandy but I've never been much interested . I am someone who really live in the moment. I'm not interested to know my ancestors. I know that my ... I have the history of my parents of my grandparents, even a bit of my great-grandparents, but after that ... I never wanted to know. -- What were your grandparents trades? -- My paternal grandfather was a construction worker. A carpenter. Then, my maternal grandfather was a trader. in Salaberry-de-Valleyfield. He had a store that was called: Biscuiterie Giroux. They still have it. One of their two children, my uncle, took it over several years ago. He is still there; it became a chocolate shop. It is a kind of small delicatessen in Salaberry-de-Valleyfield. Then my uncle made it a little more refined I would say. -- And what did your grandmother do? -- My maternal grandmother, she worked at the Biscuiterie Giroux too. My paternal grandmother was a housewife. The difference between my paternal and maternal grandparents. From my mother's side they only had two children which was a relatively small number for the time. On my father's side they had 6 children which was an average in those years. The 50s. -- Do you have a brother? brothers? sisters? and what are their jobs? -- I have a brother, younger than me, named Charles. He is a welder with all kinds of specialties. High pressure, aluminium and stuff. And I have a sister who is sales manager at a car dealership. -- Was there something that you inherited from your family that predestined you to become a pilot? -- Honestly no, nothing. I could say that the only thing that brought me to this is the openness of my parents with regard to professions. My father was ... Was part of the school management of the Polyvalent of Valleyfield. And my mother was...She did a nursing course later. When my brother was old enough for school. Originally, she was a beautician. But what has brought me more ... their openness made sure I was not limited in my choice of professions. Then when I talked about that it was really a surprise. I would even say, that ... My father was at the head of the school I was attending. So, of course, he spoke with the teachers and the guidance counsellors. and everyone told him that I could never do this job because my grades were not very good. I was an average guy with about 75,80. And I had to work hard to get those grades. As soon as I would stop studying a little my grades would go down. Then, during my secondary 4. My father worked at management level at the Valleyfield's school. That "polyvalent" school is only secondary 3,4,5 secondary 1 and 2 was in high school. Then, when I joined the school. Social pressure, whether from friends or teachers meant that it became a bit stifling. I have a strong character so I was able to handle it well but for my brother who was a little less strong, it really choked him up during his school years. Then my sister; she was very good at school so, she had very few comments. For me secondary 4 was a year that went wrong. I was not good at school. I failed several subjects because I didn't have a purpose. Then when I found the Maritime Institute and the profession of marine officer, maritime officer, Because it must be understood that it is not a course to become a pilot. There is no course to become a pilot. There is a course that is a college diploma. Which takes place at the Maritime Institute of Quebec in Rimouski. This is the only school of navigation in Quebec. And then when we go to Rimouski we are trained to become maritime officer. It is after… The experience, acquired experience then the progression of diplomas and positions on ships that we can aspire one day to an apprenticeship position as a pilot. But there is no course to become a pilot. What I wanted to be when I decided this career choice was to be a naval officer. -- So, what made you discover that at 16? 16, 17 years old? -- I lived not far from St Francis Bay in Valleyfield. I was delivering the newspapers. In my newspaper round I was passing by the edge of the navigation channel. And I saw the boats go by. It piqued my curiosity. In a class I had at the time, which was called career education, I think I stumbled upon the course's description, then on the officer maritime's profession. So, I asked the career education's teacher I think. Maritime officers had promotional videos on VHF. And then I asked the teacher if it was possible to get one copy. She got one. When I saw the video I really knew that it was it. I often went in my father's office at the high school. My father ... I never saw my father leaving the house in the morning to go to work saying: "Oh! not again, not one more morning". Plus he was working overtime. He made ... They had problems with the copier. He would make copies himself during the weekends. I never felt from him, as far as his work was concerned, the idea that it was difficult. But me, if you would have put me in his office. Which was a school in the 70's. A block of concrete and glass. I would have lasted 6 months and ... I would have left before dying there. While working on the boats you're outside. You travel. It fits with my personality. Then there was one element, it is a position of high responsibility. For some... There are people for whom responsibilities stifle them. It motivated me greatly. It's really what made me chose this career. However, when you start the course. Since this is a job that is very, very different from other jobs because we leave home for long periods. If you do not really like that. It is something that is hard to do. A little... -- Emotionally ... -- If you do not like it. It's not like someone who works from 8 to 5 then at 5 o'clock they go home. For people who like the most their wife and children. Because when we are navigating we are gone 3 to 4 months at a time. The course at the Maritime Institute is such that after the first two sessions We train on boats to see if we like life on board a ship. Because it must be understood on boats we work with people. We eat with the same people. We live with the same people, we are always interacting with the same 20, 25 people for long periods. And you do not have any other social connections. Today it is a little less painful for people who sail because the communications mean that we can now have a little more communication with the family via e-mail, but when you're on the open sea. Some boats do not have satellite connection. So, it is still relatively cut off from social life. But when I was sailing. It was 15 years ago. It's been 15 years since I stopped navigating on ocean freighters. The only means of communication was the satellite phone and it cost $ 10 a minute. I remember a January 1st I was talking to my wife on the phone. She surprised me by phoning me on the boat. It was anchored off Beirut, Lebanon. The 31 minutes phone call cost some $ 780. Then of course after 10, 15 minutes of saying: I'm bored, I love you, I remember that we were talking about the mattress we wanted to buy. We paid it twice just by speaking about it this famous mattress. -- Before continuing on your academic progress I want to talk a little about your family. Your spouse, what's her occupation? -- My wife is a remedial teacher. --ok. And your children will you tell us a little about them? --Yes, I have 3 sons. My eldest is 14 years old; it's his birthday today, Zachary. He is a very versatile boy. He is at the conservatory of music. He is part of the musical at school. He is attending St Joseph's Seminary in Trois-Rivières. He is very very very good at school. His average is above 90. In certain subjects he reaches almost 800 in his reports. In math and science he takes after his father. Those were my strong subjects at school. He is an adolescent or nearly an adolescent who is open to the world. He went to a CISV camp in Vancouver 3 summers ago. He was 11 or he had just turned 12. He went to Vancouver for 1 month. -- What is CISV? -- CISV is an international organization that means. Children International Summer Village. This is a youth meetings organization for the interaction between young people. It's not a camp to learn English or languages it is just to open the youth to a global awareness. Then he went to Vancouver with the Canadian delegation. There were 11 other delegations. They were 48 youngsters with 12 coaches, so 60 in total. Then he spent one month in Vancouver with CISV 2 years ago. During his camp in Vancouver he met a young Norwegian with whom he got along very well. Then last summer, he went to spend three weeks in Norway. And then ... I said three but it is two weeks in Norway. He travelled alone. He left Montreal, he flew, he transferred in Heathrow. Having just turned 13 it was a good challenge for him. Then the young Norwegian, his mother and sister came to spend two weeks here to see life in Quebec. So this is a young man who is very interesting. My second son is named Joaquin. Joaquin one could say that he is quite the portrait of his father. He is probably the one that resembles me the most. He's a ... He is a little guy who knows exactly where he is going. He is resourceful, he is pigheaded you cannot make him change his mind. He is determined. When Joaquin says: it's okay, I'll do that, unlike the two other boys who will stop when they come to an obstacle, Joaquin, there is nothing to stop this child he is fearless. This little boy when he climbs trees he doesn't climb on the third branch, he will get to 40 feet up in the air. He is a little boy here in Champlain, we have a lot of daredevils. We have 4x4's. At four years old he would drive the 4x4 on his own. This is a little boy who is very determined when he decides something he will go through with it. This is a boy who has a lot more ... He suffers from... The exact term I should reconfirmed with my wife but... of dysorthography, therefore, his academic work is asking a lot from him. It requires many, many efforts for the results he obtains. Compared to Zachary, he is a little like my sister and me. My sister Dominique was someone who was academically gifted at school while I had to work at it. Joaquin is the same. It is easier for Zachary he gets very good grades. But if we compare Zachary's effort in comparison with his grades it does not represent the efforts Joaquin puts in, when you look at his grades. -- Do you have a third son? -- My third son is the baby, he is called Pacifique. Pacifique, he ... When my wife was pregnant there was someone who told us "You'll see the names represent the children." Then I'd say "That is such crap” We choose the names before the child comes into the world it can't work, you know. But then it does. We had chosen Zachary's name three years prior, 2 or 3 before he came into the world. You have a few more Zachary today, but at the time there were not many. We were looking for a name, then one night I said to my wife “I know how what we are going to call him, it starts with Z”. And then ... No, I said the name of a singer. At the time I was thinking about Bruno Pelletier. Or Sylvain Cossette, who was trendy. Not Sylvain ... I said “no, it starts with Z”. Then she said " Zachary? ". We chose Zachary long before he was born. Then we wanted boys names. Because we wanted boys. My wife wanted boys. She had a technique ... for making children, for babies. Yes, who said ... anyway ... -- To influence? -- To influence the sex and three times it worked exactly as we wanted. We didn't want any girls and we didn't get any, we had three boys. Then ... So, for Zachary his name represents his personality. He is a jack-of-all, he is quite versatile. Joaquin is a much harsher name. The "k" in Joaquin ensures that it is a harder name. It is just like the child. Baby he was ... He was learning to walk, he would get up and bump his head, and he would just rub it off and carry on again. He is hard on his body. We wanted names with nicknames that were easy. Zachary was Zach, Joaquin is Jo. Then Pacifique, contrary to what people may think. This is not an invented name, it is an old name. It had already been used in Quebec. There was a great vigilante of the city of Montreal , Pacifique Plant. Therefore, Pacifique represents exactly Pacifique. -- How old is he? -- Pacifique is 8 years old. When small you would never hear him, he never cried, he did not moan. He is someone who is very versatile. He gets on well with Zachary. When Zachary is with Pacifique we do not hear them. He gets along very very well with Joaquin. When Joaquin is with Pacifique you never hear him. When there are friends over at the house, Pacifique goes off and plays with them. When there are no friends, he will amuse himself on his own. He truly is a Pacifique. For him as well school takes a lot of effort. More than the eldest but their academic paths are fine. Since my wife is a remedial teacher she helps them on their academic paths. -- The interview is going great, I like it; you explain everything well. Yes, it is fantastic, it's really good. Could you please move to your left? -- Like this? -- Not too much, just your chair, the same angle. This is good, it is because there is a pole and I would rather the pole ... Could you move a bit more? yes, good. Ok, it's good. That way it doesn't look like you have a pole sticking out of your shoulder. It's just that thing ... Yes, that is better for this shot. For the other it is less good but it does not matter. -- I wanted to go back to your academic progress. You were telling us you had studied in Rimouski. Could you explain to us how many years for? How many months does the training take? What were the steps? -- Yes, after my secondary five, I chose to go to the Maritime Institute of Quebec in Rimouski. It's still a ... a choice that is quite original. For someone who had never sailed, who had never set foot on a boat. Then ... the kind of break that there was between. The omnipresence ... Not the omnipresence. But the presence of my parents. Until 17 years old. Then suddenly you leave the family's nest. And you go 600 km away from home to study. In my case it was really good. I really enjoyed the experience. It doesn't always have that effect. I have friends for whom Rimouski was a kind of never ending party. It is a school where navigation 1 classes are required. In order to do navigation 2. And navigation 1 happens during the fall, the autumn session. If you do not succeed you can't do navigation 2. Which is in the winter session, so you fall one year behind. By failing one course. Leaving home, the family's nest for me. In those years went really well. Because at 16, 17 relationships were more difficult. With my parents, especially with my mother. And the fact that my father was at the school resulted in the fact that we were really being checked by the teachers, by friends. Not really by my father. But the teachers would say: Pierrot if you don't stop that I'll talk to Gaston. So, in secondary 3 well, you stand straight and listen well. But in secondary 4 I would tell them: "You want to talk to Gaston?, You want his phone number? It is the same as mine." I didn't t give a damn, then things didn't go so well in secondary 4. But at the end of my secondary 4 I discovered the Maritime Institute. My secondary 5 went well because I had found a purpose. And because I had... I had failed my secondary 4 's mathematics. Then I got a great math teacher. I was in 5, but I had to repeat my secondary 4 math. A teacher called Claude Rodrigue He was really different from other teachers. He would walk around the classroom and then all a sudden, he would pass right close to you, grab your pencil case and empty it upside down. just as a joke. But he was a teacher who really gave me back the ... Restored my taste for academic effort. Then in Rimouski... when I left at the end of summer, early fall 89. my parents took me there. My parents often came to Rimouski. My parents often travelled for miles to see us or attend events with us. many, many miles. I remember a time when i was a cadet on a boat and we were on a deep sea voyage then came to Quebec. in the middle of the week at about 9pm. My Parents left Valleyfield with my brother and my sister. They travelled for 350 km ... 200 ... about 350 km from Valleyfield to Quebec They came to eat with me, they picked me up from the boat and we ate at the steakhouse St Hubert. Then they gave me a kiss and travelled back to Valleyfield, they got home at 4am. they were both working the next morning. My parents never hesitated travelling by car to come see us. So, they came to drive me back to Rimouski when they left and I was alone for the first time and for a long time. I had already been to cadets camps where I had been alone for a long time but this time it was permanent, and you know make your own meals, do your laundry and all that. They just told me: study well don't go waste your time in Rimouski, if it does not work, well, you come back to Valleyfield. You'll always be welcome home. I didn't need...It went very well in Rimouski. I've always been... like during my secondary not in the 95 but between ... 75 and 80. And I didn't fail any subjects during my six sessions in Rimouski. -- So, it was three years of training. -- It is three years, but interspersed with training at sea to see if you love life on board a ship. There are courses at sea during our academic training it is 6 sessions but over 4 years. It is spread over 4 years it's called the cooperative system. So we do... we do 12 months of sea time on boats as a cadet then it gives us the experience and it also gives us the required time at sea required by the Ministry of Transport in order to take the exams that qualify for a license ... a certificate of competences to be third officer. -- When you say ... -- I am going to ask you to... I'll do it myself. I am sorry, it's a special thing for the skin because with the light you shine. -- yes, that's it, it is starting to get warm. -- A kind of Christmas tree. -- This prevents one from shining? -- Yes, it's a special paper. -- Efficient --I may have a camera that plays tricks on me but I brought this with me.

Video Details

Duration: 30 minutes and 1 second
Country: Canada
Language: French (Canada)
Producer: Karen Vanderborght
Views: 114
Posted by: globallives on Sep 30, 2013

This is part of a 24-hour recording of a day in the life of Pierre Vallee, a boat pilot living in Trois Rivieres in the province of Quebec, Canada.

This video was produced by Karen Vanderborght, David Fabrega, Marie Dietlin, Rafi Leeuwenkroon, Marianne Ploska, and Catherine Genest.

This video is part of the Global Lives Project, a video library of life experience.
For more information please visit

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