Has Moving Made Me More “Canadian”?

I’m definitely not one for stereotypes, but I somehow find myself being engulfed by the stereotypical “Canadian” character that so many think about when they think “Canada”. Leaving southern Ontario has certainly changed me a little, or maybe it’s just me doing my best to adapt to the surroundings. Either way, I find myself being more “Canadian” since I’ve moved to Brandon.

First, the friendliness. Generally, I think a Canadian stereotype/expectation is friendliness, and I’ve actually seen that stereotype in action here. I’ve found that I’ve had to change and adapt my ignore-everyone-one-the-street thing. I find people here just don’t do that as much, and although I can do some ignoring sometimes (and I really try my best to – southern Ontario habit), it’s harder to do since there is that small town, friendly vibe to Brandon. I remember when I was younger in southern Ontario, walking on the streets and saying hello to people; however, that changed awhile ago. People are so entranced in their own worlds and aren’t interested in interacting with people they don’t know, just to say hi on the street. It’s weird to see that friendliness in southern Ontario. So here I am in Brandon, trying to get rid of my lack of stranger friendliness and just saying hi, or smiling.

And then there’s hockey. Okay, I will admit, I’ve only been to one Brandon Wheat Kings game (they won, by the way!), but the fact that I have even been to one is a huge accomplishment. Also, the fact that I’ve contemplated buying a ticket before for other games is another big accomplishment. See, I’m not a sports person. I don’t watch any sports on T.V., so why would I want to go to a hockey game? But there I was on Friday, enjoying the game and quietly (and secretly) getting into it, although I could do without Willie the mascot, as I have the obviously common fear of mascots and anything that looks like them.

Then, Tim Horton’s. The Canadian staple. In Hamilton, I would never spend any time at Timmies. If we’d go get a coffee of some sort (usually a chai latte or a frap) it’d be at Second Cup or Starbucks. None of this plain-jane Tim Horton’s stuff. Admittedly, I spent a huge amount of my time in high school at Tim Horton’s when I lived in northern Ontario in a small hick town in the middle of nowhere, but that was only because it was literally the only thing to do in town. That, and car tag. Now in Brandon, I find myself at Tim Horton’s a lot, enjoying a coffee or french vanilla with friends.

I’m certainly not complaining about my changes since moving here. It never hurt to be more “Canadian”, even though these are just stereotypes…but they maybe have a little truth to them?

Snow: The Inevitable Happening

There are first times for everything. Yesterday was my first Manitoban snowfall. I knew it’d be happening eventually…but was hoping that it would hold out for a little while longer. Of course, all of this came when I was informed that it was 15 degrees in Hamilton yesterday, and you know, you could easily go outside without a jacket on. How nice for those people. It seems like I’m living in a different world now, that’s for sure!

You Can Always Go…Downtown

The more and more I speak to people about the state of downtown Brandon, the more hope I have for the city and it’s downtown core.

Through speaking with friends, co-workers, business owners and some other important downtown people, I’ve learned that downtown Brandon used to be a great and prosperous place. Everyone was downtown. All the businesses you could think of were downtown. It was the center of Brandon. However, over time, it fell victim to what so many other cities have experienced. The urban/suburban sprawl. This brings in two of the biggest culprits of killing downtown’s all across the country, which are big box stores and chain restaurants. People seemingly gravitate towards those things, however unfortunate.

Luckily, it seems as though there is a vision for a new and better downtown core, and it’s not all talk. There seems to be some action taking place. Talking with one business owner, he was excited about the prospects of having outdoor cafe’s and not closing down the streets come next summer. Another thing that’s happening is the McKenzie Seeds building being turned into condos, which is a great investment towards the development of downtown Brandon.

And of course, you can’t forget about what’s already downtown. Today, after strolling through The Town Centre, I spotted a retro decor shop and insisted to my friend that we go in. It was fantastic (and a post about it may be coming soon!) and the owner was more than friendly. There’s also great shops like Ten Thousand Villages and The Marquis Project. And as mentioned before on this blog, good restaurants and pubs like the Chilli Chutney and Double Decker (I’ve heard some others are great, but haven’t been able to venture to those yet). These places have already started the revitalization of downtown and other businesses I hope will follow suit.

If you’re a resident of Brandon, or even the surrounding area and come to Brandon often, make sure that you’re voice is heard. You can take a survey at Renaissance Brandon and let them know what you’re thinking about downtown and how you think it can improve.

Alright, I’m stepping off the soapbox now. And no, I’m not trying to be an ambassador for Brandon. I just love downtown’s, and I really want to see this one work!

“Manitoba’s Second City”

I always love to hunt for a cities past. Maybe it’s just because I know that there was a sense of prosperity in a different time, and a different energy you can feel through old videos or photos. Or, maybe it’s just romantical in some way. Either way, I came across some vintage Brandon stuff which is wonderful and I’d like to share it with you!


This video talks about Brandon, as well as Riding Mountain National Park and northern Manitoba.

And some vintage photos and postcards –

Photos source: The Manitoba Historical Society

Hopefully there will be more to come!

It’s All About the Butt

On Friday, I went to horse sale. It was so Manitoban of me. I went with a friend who has long seen my advancements with horses, and she even put me through a horse therapy program at camp one summer, so I could get over my fear of horses. I still have the certificate to say the least! Anyway, she was there to buy a colt, and I was there to be her wingwoman and soak up any horse knowledge she threw my way. Here are some things I learned about horses yesterday:

1. A dun has a distinctive dark stripe down it’s back.
2. The butt and neck should have good alignment – although in colt’s and filly’s, growth spurts make it a little wonky at times.
3. A colt is a male horse under 4. A filly is a female horse under 4. (I was really kind of just unaware of the right term for the female horse…)
4. Bloodlines are big business.
5. I love paint horses. Fell in love with one yesterday!
6. Everyone is a sucker for a buckskin.
7. Legs and knees shouldn’t be pointed out.
8. Horses height is described in an interesting way, such as 15.2 (heard lots of that), and upon more research, that apparently means 15 hands, 2 inches. Innnteresting.
9. All the power comes from the butt.

So those are some lessons learned. I probably learned more, but I can’t remember everything! In the end, it was a good day, and although my friend didn’t get her chosen buckskin, she got a great sorrel with a pretty cute marking on his face!

The Unlit Province

That should be Manitoba’s new slogan. Forget “Friendly Manitoba”, it’s all about “The Unlit Province”. Upon arriving to Brandon, I have continuously noticed how dark it is around the city come evening time. The street lights come on, but they aren’t particularly great, and they aren’t everywhere. It’s rare to see a street with street lights the whole way down, on both sides. Whenever I’m driving at night, I’m constantly squinting (and no, my eyes don’t need to be checked!) and I’m watching out for anything that could creep up on me. I don’t want to hit anything! Honestly, driving around Brandon at night is like driving in the boonies.

Another issue is the lack of highway lighting. For example, when I was coming home from Thanksgiving from Boissevain, 40 minutes south of Brandon, I couldn’t believe that the number 10 highway wasn’t lit. At all. Not a street light to be found. It was pitch black. For a high way that has a decent amount of traffic, I was confused as to why they haven’t invested in some street lights. I was totally paranoid that I was going to hit something…and guess what? I almost did! A coyote was right on the shoulder of the road when I drove by it, only seeing it right as I drove by – because it was so dark!

So Manitoba, I have a bone to pick with you. Why don’t you light up your streets and highways better? Bring the province into the light!

The Brandon “Hills”?

Adventurer as I am, I, along with my friend Adrian, went to what is known as “The Brandon Hills” yesterday. Now here you have an Ontarian and an Albertan, who are used to either mountainous hills or mountains period, going to somewhere in the Brandon area that claims to have hills. We were skeptical to say the least.

Once we got there, we started on the 2km loop, with snacks in hand – just in case we got lost, or a coyote bit ours legs off and we were trapped there. We were walking, walking, walking…there was no hill in site. The trail was fairly flat, as you’ll see by some of the pictures below! However, we did find something that was semi-creepy. As we were walking through the path, I looked over and ask “Is that a lake?”, not really being able to see through the forest area, and Adrian looked closer and said “No. They’re gravestones!” So because we thought they could possibly be gravestones, we had to get off the beaten track and go through the forest to these “gravestones”. They ended up being cat tails. Needless to say, that was disappointing. I was hoping to have some grand, eerie story about the Brandon Hills.

After seeing the cat tails, we finally got to our first official hill. YAY! It was a small hill, and Adrian and I were mocking the feat of climbing one, but at least there was some semblance of a hill. So we go on, and are continuously reminded that we’re on the 2km loop, as we see numerous signs saying so, although I was confused because I thought it meant the 2km loop was over and I keep asking “When is this going to end?” – not that it was hard in any way. In the end, there were about 4 or 5 hills. It was certainly no hike, but I’m sure in the summer, or even in the fall while the leaves are still on the trees, it’d be a really beautiful outing.

Imperfection

Alright, I think I’ve discovered that I love places that are a little rough around the edges. Hamilton, Ontario may be one of the greatest loves of my life…and in general, Manitoba is another love. Guess what? Both of these places are a little (maybe even a lot) rough around the edges.

I’ve never really had the desire to move to places that people rave about or are obsessed with (read: Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver), but it’s the places that no one really wants to be that I end up in. Now, let’s be clear, Hamilton and Brandon are two very different cities, and one would probably equate Hamilton to Winnipeg more quickly than one would to Hamilton and Brandon. But let’s just say this: Brandon has a lot of potential, much like Hamilton, but it doesn’t really know what to do, much like Hamilton (although some awesome things are happening there right now).

I think most people would say Brandon is the place where there is “nothing to do”. The culture and arts aren’t great. The nightlife is suffering, and there is even a lack of variety in restaurants. So does Brandon need a renaissance? Mmhmm. But much like Hamilton, Brandon right now is trying to turn things around, and hey, these things take time.

For example, Brandon is working on the “downtown pedestrian mall” (although many Brandon residents scoff at this attempt at downtown renewal), and there are already many things in place that make the city at least a little worth it. There is the Art Gallery of Southwestern Manitoba, which has been around for 100 years, there are numerous trails and parks within the city, but even more just a short drive outside of Brandon. And although I hate that there isn’t Thai food in this city, at least there’s Indian, as well as some awesome Italian food, and a few great pub spots, with live music. Not to mention that there are always different events going on at the Keystone Centre.

So what am I getting at? I’m saying that yes, Brandon needs a little bit of an upgrade, but just because things aren’t flashing in your face as to what you can do here, doesn’t mean that there isn’t anything to do. You have to look a little harder, much like you do in Hamilton. There isn’t something new constantly going on and maybe it’s not the “coolest” place, but it has a good start for a city of about 50,000 people. However, it doesn’t have to be perfect. Like I said, I always end up in the places that are a little rough around the edges and that people generally don’t end up in. It’s make you creative, and it gives a little character to the city. So in the end, the renaissance may come, but for now, I’ll take what Brandon has to offer.

*ETA: I think some people in Brandon DO know what to do, but many others are satisfied with how things are here. It’s just a matter of bringing vision to life.

Never Say Never

Just a year ago, I was in Manitoba. Specifically, Brandon and my Manitoban “hometown”, Boissevain. I was here for a potential wedding (long story), and just to visit, because I hadn’t been out here that summer.

I had two Thanksgiving dinners, and one, in which I remember vividly talking to my friend’s mom about social work in Manitoba and how it’d be so great if I moved here and did social work (although, I’m questioning how much Manitoba needs me at this point). I was pretty non-committal, but I thought about it. For real. I was like, hey, maybe I can do that.

However, as great as the week long visit was, I specifically remember nearing the Ontario border on my drive home and telling myself “I’ll never actually move here, it’s just a summer infatuation”…as I looked around at the frosty ground and the uninspiring cold, flat land.

I got back to school and didn’t think much more about moving to Manitoba – especially to Brandon. I got through the year at school (somehow!) and I was jobless, although was promised employment at my student placement from the past year. This was awesome…and then a 3 month contract turned into 1 month, and then 1 month turned into 1 day. I didn’t know what to do with myself (while waiting to see if this job thing was going to pan out – it never did), and then the thought of camp entered my mind. I was asked to go, and I was extremely careful in my decision making. It took me forever to make my decision. I didn’t know why this was something I was going to do in my life right now, but in the end, I decided to go. I was officially going to be in Manitoba at the end of June.

I get to Manitoba. I’m fearful about my decision and ask myself and others the purpose behind being there. I had hoped that there was some purpose behind going. I mean, I was done school. Why would I go to camp for the summer? It didn’t make sense to me at all. Still, I went. And let’s just say, if I hadn’t of gone, I wouldn’t be in Manitoba right now. Purpose?

Honestly, within the first week of camp, my mind started meandering over thoughts of moving to Manitoba…and for some reason, not Winnipeg, but to the southwestern area of Manitoba; the little pocket of Manitoba that I have come to know and love. I always said that I would never live in Brandon, yet this was the place I felt pulled to to move to. Insane. Completely insane.

Much like my decision about coming to camp, it took a painstakingly long time to make the decision. Well, it felt like forever to me. At the beginning of August, I made the decision to at least try to find a job. If I got a job here, then I would move.

Needless to say, after some long thought and serious decision making, I decided that I was moving here regardless of employment. I figured that I would be unemployed in either Hamilton or Brandon, so I may as well be unemployed in a place I feel like I should be at this point in my life. And that was that. The next day, I sent in my 60 days notice to my landlord; a week and a half later, I packed up, along with my friend Tari and headed back to Ontario. I was there for about 2 weeks and BAM, I was gone. I think those 2 weeks were the most overwhelming and stressful weeks of my life…but I don’t regret spending the time I did with friends and family, when I really should have been packing up my apartment.

And now I’m here, wondering how in the world any of this ever happened. Like the title suggests, never say never. I said that I would never live in Brandon (I had said that for many, many years), and just last year, I said that I would never be moving to Manitoba in general. Oh how things can change. I’m still navigating the new waters and trying to find my place here. It’s tough. I just hope that the time will come sooner than later that I’ll have a few things figured out, and in the meantime, I’ll still work on the farming machinery and country music.

Unexpected Diversity

Throughout my fine summers in Manitoba, I got the picture of a very white-washed province. And let’s be honest, most of rural Manitoba is very white-washed, but has a great Aboriginal presence as well. That’s as far as diversity went for me when I’ve been out here.

Once I moved to Brandon, I thought that I would be giving up diversity and culture. I thought that I wouldn’t see a person of either white or Aboriginal descent for days upon days, months upon months. But Brandon has refreshingly proven me wrong.

When I step out into the city, I see so many different backgrounds and cultures. Diversity is all around, although somehow surprising to me. Spanish, Chinese, Korean, African-American, Aboriginal, Indian (East – thank you very much) and many more are all in this little city.

For some reason, Brandon is quite the little hotspot for diversity, and thank goodness for that! I know others may feel differently, but I for one love the diversity and am so pleasantly surprised by it. It makes me feel not so far out of touch with the rest of the world. It makes me remember some things of home, but also makes me realize the great potential this little city has.

P.S. I think I have officially coined Brandon as “the little city”!