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Seeking Community

It’s Friday.  Again.  The end of another looooong week.  Where do the days go?  I know I keep mentioning how much driving I am doing, but to give you an idea, I filled my tank on the way into work yesterday morning, and had to fill it again this evening on my way home.  That’s over 600km of relatively “local” driving in 36 hours, or 20km every hour.  Crazy!

I worked very long days both Tuesday and Thursday, teaching 6 and 8 hours on each day respectively.  While I really enjoy teaching, doing these long stretches is exhausting.  I don’t know how grammar and college teachers keep up with the all-day long, daily teaching they must do!  But I am enjoying getting this much experience and am learning exponentially as the weeks fly by.

Wednesday, as well as this afternoon, I drove to Waterloo to conduct research interviews.  I am immensely enjoying the process of my data collection.  The people I am interviewing are fascinating, and I come away from these discussions inspired and full of hope.  I already have tons of ideas swimming around in my head and am looking forward to being home for the next three days to start trying to make sense of it all.  (Ok, I am immensely looking forward to being home for the next three days period! )

Overall, life is going very well.  I really enjoy the work that I’m doing, my dissertation is moving forward, and my new home is a wonderfully welcome place in which to live.  So I find it a bit odd to feel rather down tonight.  Really, I think I am just lonely.  I interact with many people during the week, but it is all at a formal level:  students I am teaching, supervisors I work for, experts I am interviewing, sales associates I am buying from, etc.  I’m trying to think if I’ve had any face to face interaction for social purposes at all this week…

Nope, I don’t think so.  The only social interaction I’ve had has been a couple of long distance chats on the phone, and discussion via the internet.

Tonight I came home to a cold, dark house.  Again.  Thank goodness for the animals, as at least someone greets me when I come through the door.  I’m too tired to get the wood stove going, as I’ll be in bed within the hour and don’t want to waste the wood.  Besides, I’m not comfortable having it burning away when I’m in bed as the landlord has yet to have the chimney cleaned.  Death by chimney fire (the chimney runs through my bedroom) is not in my plans if I can help it.

My roommate is working even longer hours than I am these days, and I think I’ve seen her for less than 5 minutes a day this week.  She is often gone before I get up in the morning, and home after I go to bed.  The latter has been because for social reasons.  She at least has local friends.  I have to do a 2 hour drive to have coffee with a friend.  Last week I was invited to what I’m sure would have been a delightful party, but again, it would have been a 2 hour return trip, after doing that drive 4-5 times in as may days before.  Once home for the weekend, I simply do not want to go back to London.  Or anywhere for that matter.  It’s tough living this far from where the rest of my life happens.

It takes a very long time to establish yourself in a new community.  It was months – or longer – before I had any really good friend when I lived in London, and there I had much easier ways of making friends.  I had classes and close-proximity neighbours who were also newly arrived to town and looking for friends.  By the time I moved last June – after living in the same place for five whole years – I had a really busy social life, almost too busy!  And now I’m back to square one.

I have met quite a few people in this area, mostly through my efforts to eat local, and through my roommate.  But as of yet, none of the people I’ve met seem interested in developing anything more than a superficial or economic relationship.  I think part of the issue is that many people around here belong to one of several different religious orders (Mennonite, Amish, Quaker etc.) and seem to stick pretty close to their own.   Building community is neither simple nor quick, especially for me as I have very unique interests and strong opinions.   This experience is a good lesson for me, and one that will make me think carefully about where I live next.

Speaking of which, I have to say that I am really enjoying getting to know the Kitchener-Waterloo area.  Today I spent some time exploring the  main drag in Waterloo, and discovered a really wonderful healthfood store: Eating Well Organically.  This shop has a number of organic – and better yet, fair trade organic – items that I have not been able to find elsewhere.  Bananas, for example.  Fair trade, organic bananas.  The first I have come across, and thus the first bananas I have purchased in 2.5 years.  How exciting.

I also bought some raw milk parmesan cheese from Québec (ok, not exactly local, but an exception I am willing to make for such an impossible to find, high quality product that really fits my eating ethic: specifically, a raw milk product), new varieties of fair trade, organic teas and spices, organic coconut and a local, organic pie pumpkin from the Healthy Organic Produce Enterprises cooperative (H.O.P.E: an Amish Farming Co-Operative located near Aylmer, ON).  This last item will give me enough pumpkin to make the pumpkin honey recipe I was hoping to make this weekend.

I also discovered a second hand clothing store called Twice is Nice that had some great clothing.  For $10 I bought awool sweater that will help keep me warm while I write this winter.  The clothes are in fantastic shape and very nicely displayed.  The items are more expensive than what you’ll find at, say, Goodwill, but the quality is much higher.  The Goodwill stores in London seem only to carry worn out, flabby, synthetic items making shopping for clothes there very discouraging (I do, mind you, regularly find useful, decent quality household things there).  Apparently there are other high quality second hand clothing stores around the Kitchener-Waterloo area, and I look forward to finding them.

Overall, this region strikes me as being very community oriented and caring.  The mere fact that there is an abundance of easy to access free parking downtown sets the tone.  In most cities, parking downtown is such a hassle that one is discouraged from shopping there.  Not in Waterloo.  I was able to park and browse the shops, many of which were independent businesses.  At 6pm on a Friday evening, the area was bustling, with pubs bursting at the seams.  I look forward to getting to know the area more.  Who knows, perhaps it is a place where I could finally find community.

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2 Responses

  1. Your animal friends will keep you going.

    Job related commuting/driving time is similar in rural as urban areas. It’s just that in rural areas the drive is less stressful and more scenic.

    • Hi Al – The animals are indeed a terrific source of support and companionship. I really don’t know how I’d survive without them, even when I do have other humans about.

      Very true about the rural commute. My drive is extremely scenic, to the point of being breathtaking in some lights, as long as I am doing it while the sun is up. These days I drive home in the dark, and it can get downright scary when the weather is bad. I’m definitely saving up for snow tires!!

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