Reveling in the Edmorgasbord
It wasn’t the oil that brought me here. It wasn’t the guarantee of exercising while shopping in a giant mall, or that of free air-conditioning for eight months of the year. Rather, it is the diversity that keeps me here.
Over half a century ago, a couple who perhaps had my blood type or my dark features set foot upon the fertile soil of western Canada and started a new generation. Each new root that spread in the family lineage was luckier than its predecessors, and those that stemmed from it became more auspicious still. I am fortunate to have been raised immersed in my heritage, and have showcased it proudly to this day. Edmonton is a great city in which to be Ukrainian as there is a vibrant community with many great people, who all have the same love of being Ukrainian. However, I am also grateful that I attended public school, where kids of all different cultures took classes together. After that came university, where there were so many interesting people from such varied backgrounds it would take a lifetime to meet them all.
I remember one summer job where I was in a meeting and suddenly realized that I was the only Caucasian person there. There was someone from Lebanon, Bangladesh, China, India, Pakistan, Japan; we were practically able to hold quorum at a United Nations assembly. A deep sense of pride rose within me at how respectful and professional everyone was to each other.
Talking with someone of a different culture from you is always a cool experience. It can shine a light on perspectives that you were previously blind to. When I was in Barcelona last summer I met two men from Israel. All the tourists were talking about the upcoming tomato fight. When asked if they were going, one of the Israeli men simply shook his head and commented neutrally that it was the biggest waste of food he could think of. A simple comment I’ll never forget. Another incident I like to remember is speaking with a fellow employee from South America who had recently moved to Edmonton. It was easy to tell how much he missed his homeland. He was originally from Lebanon, then moved to Brazil where he had a son. He passionately described to me the daily lifestyles both in Brazil and Lebanon, and smiled when he started talking about how he found others with his culture here in Edmonton. We laughed when we compared the foods of our individual cultures; somehow his rice and fruit may have won out as healthier over my perogies and sour cream. Yet most people I know here love to eat both.
I love that I have a Chinese friend who shows me all the best places to eat Vietnamese. I love that an Indian man has found his other half in my friend, whom I know can’t wait to wear a sari. It makes me smile when my whole office smells like curry, or when someone brings exotic fruit for everyone to try in a package covered with what looks to me like hieroglyphics, but is actually Arabic writing (cue my joke of how I merely forgot to read it the opposite way).
There are so many fabulous places on this earth to see. So many rich cultures, many of which are nowhere near as fortunate as we are. To me, one of the biggest benefits of living in a city like Edmonton is that it allows me the means to travel all around the world while still being able to come home and buy milk for another few months. When I travel to beautiful destinations, warmer and closer to a beach than Edmonton, I still think about how good we have it here. Fresh strawberries at the grocery store five minutes from your home, open until ten o’clock. Toilets so comfortable people finish novels while sitting on them. And on hot summer days, I could write epic poems about how clean and refreshing our drinking water is. I’m always saving up for my next trip. But no matter where I go, I always breathe a jet-lagged sigh of comfort when I spot the man jogging on the treadmill by Highway 2. This is home.