March 2, 2007

On Edmonton, Place, and State of Mind

Category: Academic,Canada,Edmonton,Tech,Travel — Biella @ 8:10 am

Recently, I got a comment on an older blog post on Edmonton that basically agreed with another comment that Edmonton was so not the cat’s meow. Despite the winter and many months later, I guess I still do think it is, although in saying so, it is not I think their assessments are wrong, I think my take has as much to do as what has come before (like NJ, which was not the high point o my life), my experiences here, and what is to come in the future.

I tend to like Edmonton because there is enough stuff to do but not too much to do. It is that whole freedom from choice that I like because I often shut down in the face of too much choice. What also colors my experience in a positive light is that generally, Canadian politics, social policy, and way of life, are a step up or two (or maybe three) than that of the United States. So the worst of Canada (if you are even to call Edmonton that, which I would not), in this regard, beats out the best of the United States. And I have lived most of my life in the US so that is my point of comparison. Even if you are living in a fantastic American city, you always face the possibility of struggling in ways that will *never* happen in Canada. It makes for a calmer, less aggressive society. For example, I recently learned that Edmonton has the highest murder rate in Canada, at a whopping …. 36 people per year (population of Edmonton = 1 million). I grew up in a place, Puerto Rico where the yearly murder rate hovers at about 700-800 per year (population = 4 million). And yet people here are freaking out over the high rate of murder, which is a good thing because hopefully they can bring it down but this fact should make the US pause and think about what they are doing up north to keep the murder rate so darn low (and the answer I think is pretty easy to find).

But perhaps a lot of my love of the place has as much to do or more with my state of mind. After a grueling year of finishing a dissertation under pressure as I had deadline, and then living in NJ where I was on the job market (which meant spending so much time churning out application after application and then flying around interviews), in addition to flying 7 times in one year to visit my mom, my life here just feels so much more sane than it has been in years. What sealed it all was that right before I moved here in August I was lucky enough to be offered a permanent job (which means this summer I will be moving to NYC to join this department and I will be back to the land of overwhelming choice), so that for the first time in 5 years I did not have to apply for anything in the fall that would guarantee my livelihood for the next academic year. I was not faced with a year of lots of travel (and actually traveling in out out Edmonton is really one of my least favorite things). With that firmly in place, I could just concentrate on things like my work, my friends, brewing kombucha and do things routinely, like exercise, which I had not consistently done for years.

There are things about Edmonton that I find totally obnoxious like the cities inability to plow roads leaving a thick glaze of black ice on the roads so that when you drive in the city, you basically are at real risk for an accident (and this is despite a 6.6 BILLION government surplus). There are a tad too many strip malls in the outlaying areas, and of course there is the infamous winter. We are still deep in it. The cold temperatures have been with us steadily for months now and according to folks, there are still two more months to “look forward to.” The cold and the constant layering of clothes are getting to me a little, although I do appreciate that the cold is just not as cold as one would think with the actual temperatures. The lack of wind, the dry conditions, the cute as chubby-as-anything- bunnies that run through the snow, and the overpowering sun all help to make -6 F much more mild, so it is not as bad as you would or I would think it was.

So while I am thrilled to join the department where I am moving too, I will be sad when I leave, though perhaps not as sad as Edmontons “darling” hockey player, Ryan Smith, who was just traded by the Oilers to the NY Islanders. The day he left, he literally was shedding tears at the airport. And I have to say, even though I have no attachment to hockey, I found the pictures endearing because there is nothing like seeing a grown Canadian man cry over hockey! : )


  1. Congratulations! I didn’t know about your NYU appointment. I guess you’ll be working with Siva and Co. Exciting.

    My take on Canada is a lot like yours. So much more relaxing to live someplace where people don’t have any reason to turn vicious, either out of desperation or out of fear.

    Comment by Matt Norwood — March 2, 2007 @ 3:46 pm

  2. Thanks Matt.

    Hopefully I will be seeing you soon? You will still be in NYC next year I hope..


    Comment by Biella — March 3, 2007 @ 7:35 am

RSS feed for comments on this post. | TrackBack URI

Leave a comment

XHTML ( You can use these tags):
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong> .