Today I became a tourist in my own hometown.
I was invited to join a group of Chinese exchange students staying in my building for their trolley tour, and my curiosity about the whole thing won me over. So, at 12:45 p.m., I made my way downstairs to the Annex to meet with the rest of the group.
The tour took 90 minutes and took us to St. Boniface, the Exchange, Osborne Village, Wellington Crescent, Academy, Assiniboine Park, then back up Corydon to finish at the Museum of Human Rights. The path was elegantly planned.
Even as a local, I really enjoyed taking time to really look at these buildings, particularly down Wellington Crescent (a street I normally drive through with no intent to look around). The trolley tour allowed me to stop and smell the roses.
Our tour guide was able to share many tidbits of information along the way: some new, some old, and some I’d forgotten a long time ago. I got to see the house that Neil Young lived in as a teenager, learned that a Manitoba man was the basis for the character James Bond, and re-learned that the white building next to St. B’s Cathedral is the oldest in the city.
There were a few facts that were omitted for the sake of time (our tour guide was very careful to speak slowly enough for those having trouble with English), but still, our brains were filled with stories. The guide tried to communicate facts about Neil Young and The Guess Who, but any mention of local musicians inevitably prompted the Chinese students to ask questions about Justin Bieber.
The ride itself was joyful. Winnipeggers are still not used to seeing the trolley on the streets, so many waves from the bus were met with smiles and poses for our cameras. The touristic excitement was contagious – these are new people, strange, living a lifestyle so different from mine. And they see me and wave. I am welcome here.
The occasional distraction of others on the street was no deterrent to the tour guide. He embraced their attitude toward the trip gracefully and delivered us all a wonderful afternoon.
The girl who sat next to me quietly said that her favourite part of the tour were the houses down Wellington. She, like many others, had photos to take home on her iPad.
Another girl said that she thought that the life of a Canadian was very relaxing. I can’t help but wonder if they feel that way because they are here as a pseudo-vacation. I remember thinking the same thing in Victoria and Vancouver (“Everyone seems so laid back!”), but I imagine that if I lived in BC, my daily activities would end up just as hectic as they are here.
The students are part of multiple programs, but the ones that I spoke to are in electrical engineering. They are all hoping to study and/or find work in Canada.
I am sure that their English is improving (many of them were very easy to communicate with), and I hope that they all get to experience life here. Maybe one day, one of these students will be living in my room at the residence. That’s a pretty neat thought.