A question commonly asked by co-ops or even University of Waterloo students: “What is there to do here?”
At first, I would have told you, “absolutely nothing.” Within the past 4 months, I have managed to go to Toronto, Niagara Falls, Oakville, London, or New York City each weekend. Of course these were “for a reason”, be it a conference, festival, events, gatherings, extracurricular learning experiences,etc. However, I lost sight of what it was like to learn to adapt to a new city. I realized I had not fully come to embrace, Waterloo, Ontario’s fastest growing city. What about #tywlife, right?
TEDxWaterloo was amazing and it was incredible to see almost 1000 passionate people from the area. A few weeks ago, I decided to see what this city really had to offer. I learned to become “a local” and lived like the locals do. After all, this is how we create a lifestyle in a new place, right? (And no, going to Toronto, which is just 1.5 hours each weekend, is not a complete lifestyle…although I can argue that it could be and several people do do it. At this stage of my life, not yet.) Here’s what I did:
- Tuesdays – Student 10% discount at Zehr’s, a grocery chain part of Loblaws. (No more weekly T&T trips in Toronto or going to No Frills in the city.) I had a chat with Zehr’s employees and this discount only started this year. Apparently numbers of shoppers haven’t changed much, but according to cashiers, it just gets busier on Tuesdays. In my opinion, students get to save on part of the ridiculous tax in Ontario. (What an Albertan I am…haha!)
- Conestoga Mall – (No more Eaton Centre, Yorkdale Mall, Queen Street, etc.) probably the largest mall in the Waterloo area. Fairview is in Kitchener. (I have yet to venture there often enough yet. Perhaps just to take the VIA Rail!) It was quite the experience shopping here. It’s not as elegant as Southgate Mall or West Edmonton Mall, but I’d say it is a mix of Southgate and Kingsway. Renovations make the mall very open and spacious. There are an assortment of stores that cater to a variety of tastes. (Ex. H&M, LaSenza, Aeropostale, American Eagle, Bluenotes, Laura Secord, Coles, etc.) The food court is huge and resembles a smaller version of Vaughn Mills Mall (outlet-like mall in Vaughn, ON). I enjoyed my day of shopping and eating here. There are also a few banks, that I actually use!
- St. Jacob’s Farmer’s Market – (No more St. Lawrence Market in Toronto.) Every Thursday and Saturday, there’s a huge open area where local farmers and people from Mennonite communities sell their fresh produce. It’s a great way to spend a morning/afternoon. Seeing the families enjoying themselves and going with my shopping list is satisfying, whether it is a quick trip for cheap groceries/flowers or an afternoon stroll, it’s quite fun!
- Centre In the Square – Last week, I attended Hawksley Workman’s concert! (With a local friend and Shad Alum!) He’s an artist from Ontario, who won a Juno and has performed all around the world. It was the first time I have ever attended a concert of this genre. To my surprise, I loved it! Never, have I seen such a passionate man + his band. So modest and so grateful. I would almost compare the drummer/pianist’s passion and expressions during the performance to that of Angela Cheng’s piano performances with the ESO, but that might be pushing it. haha!
- Waterloo Shad Valley Alumni Network – (Since the Edmonton Shad Valley Alumni Network is so far…) As I did in Edmonton, I created a Shad Alumni Network in Waterloo. A few weeks ago, we had our first event and had about 10 people come out! I didn’t know anyone, but created the Facebook fanpage, reached out to my networks, and sent a call for alum.
- Co-op Social Committee – A group of highly ambitious, energetic youth vying to be RIM”s ambassadors? What’s not to Love? We organized events for the hundreds of co-op students on RIM”s Waterloo Campus. As a Building Rep, I hosted a multitude of events and got to know everyone personally. I will miss the Winter Co-ops, but I know we will meet again, so I am not sad. The power of creating Sustainable Relationships, right?
What happened this past Saturday?
I woke up to the sounds of construction outside my window at 830am (Waterloo is bustling with new properties and student condos) and reached for my BlackBerry Torch. Reading through my emails and notifications, I then reached for my laptop. Read a couple of interesting articles, then saw a video on BNN. Emailed a couple of teammates with highlights and shared a couple of websites and intriguing reads with them. I decided today was going to be a productive day!
Pulling up the recipes I researched the night before, I took over the kitchen and made some brownies! (First time from scratch on my own…Impressive, I know!) With some “measuring” help from my roommates (obviously Engineering, I kid!), the soon-to-be AMAZING, DECADENT, CHEWY, DARK-CHOCOLATE COVERED, MADE-WITH-LOVE brownies were in the oven. (My roommates could attest to that – they loved them!) A quick shower and a run over to my last sublet, I am now officially living at the new loft! No strings attached to my old place (Thank God!) For the last 2 weeks, I have been a proud owner of 2 rooms in Waterloo. I should have made some profit from that room somehow… Back at the loft, the brownies were almost ready. In the meantime, I marinated steaks. (Also for the first time. Last month in Toronto, I experimented with chicken)
My friend, and former RIM Co-op dropped by, and we headed for a brisk walk through Waterloo Park to Uptown Waterloo. We passed a petting farm, a beautiful pond, and the Perimeter Institute on the way there. (The architecture of this building is absolutely phenomenal!) We arrived just in time for “Jane Eyre” at the Princess Cinema. I was reminded of how much I missed the good ol’ English IB days and read up on the themes and analysis at home. The film was pretty good and I touched me in a different way than reading the book or watching the black and white version, a couple years back. Uptown Waterloo is a small street, but packed with unique stores and tiny restaurants. My friend and I headed to Symposium for a late lunch. Symposium is great for their Monday $3.75 Burger Special (reg. $10.75-$13.75) and Sundays 2 for 1 cake deal! Their cakes are almost 1lbs each!
The walk home was relaxing and calm. We walked past the Waterloo Public Library, the Police Station, families (such cute children – thank God, not my own. haha!), a Glass/Clay museum, and past some UWaterloo student housing.
Back at the loft, my roommates were “chilling” and little did I know I would be spending my 9pm-1am at the kitchen counter, discussing topics from the Financial Crisis and TED talks to Costa Rica and playing creative games. Eventually, I cooked my steak and lounged until 1AM…yup.
What a great day! Now it’s Sunday and my teammate is coming over later to take me to his daughter’s piano recital. If I’m lucky, his wife is going to teach me how to make Tibetan dumplings. I’ve prepared a homemade-brownie + chocolate eggs + Terry’s chocolate treat for his kids. A co-op is over and we’re making pancakes!
So…the next time someone asks what there is to do in Waterloo, they won’t be greeted with a blank face again. Take care!