The first week of February 2017 saw me landing in the new Calgary International Airport. Every time I visit I get excited weeks ahead of my flight. You can’t blame me, really. My family is there – my mom and dad, my sisters and their kids now all live in Calgary. This time, I came home to attend Thea’s debutante party (18th bday) and make her cake. This will be a bit nostalgic for me and Thea’s mom – my bestfriend Toni, because we became good friends when Thea was only about 2 years old. As the years went on, we got to be really close, like sisters, and I am so happy that she bonded the same way with my other two sisters. So, I will say that Thea’s coming of age is definitely a milestone for her mom and me.
In 1996, Toni’s family, myself, and most of our friends’ families all arrived in Canada as immigrants at the same time. During those years, Calgary was already a cool city what with it being the oil and gas hub of the whole of Canada. Downtown boasted of oil corporate headquarters – PanCanadian, Chevron, Shell, PetroCan, Suncor, Talisman, etc., their buildings stretched high up to the skies. But even tho the city was bustling enough, it was still lacking in variety and diversity. There was a limited number of restaurants with just a few choice for assortment.
There was the usual Chinese restaurants because, luckily, it has its own version of Chinatown, plus one or two other Asian joints, not much European cuisine places and that was about it. There were not too many places to go to or hang out in either. But my group of friends still enjoyed what we had and we had the company of each other. It was all that we needed.
So fast forward to 20 years after and here I am, this time coming out of the new and bigger international airport meeting up with my mom and dad who’re picking me up. They then drove me to my sister and her husband’s new house higher up the northwest quadrant Calgary in Citadel. I was telling my parents that the places we were driving on used to be boonies and empty lands. And now they’re slowly being filled up with beautiful subdivisions.
Not that these improvements just happened. Eversince I started working in the US and got married to my husband and settled in Maryland, I try to come home once a year, at the least. And every time I do so, looking around the city always gives me the impression that this city is changing so fast and for the better. In the past five years, I’ve seen sooooo many restaurants serving so many different cuisines, it’s a haven for a foodaholic like me. Name a specific county and you’re sure to have a taste of their food in a restaurant somewhere. And the constructions – new bridges, a diverse group of establishments offering an endless variety of service and goods, a now extensive +15 skyway connecting all the buildings in downtown, new malls and shopping areas – so worthy to be called a bustling metropolis. But what city wouldn’t be? The population of Calgary when we all first came was about 768,082. It has now doubled to 1,571,100. And despite the slight downturn of Calgary’s employment rate in the recent year, it is still the fastest growing metropolitan area. It ranks 4th after Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal with the highest immigration population, mostly coming from the Philippines, China, and India. Immigrants constitute 20% of the city’s total population.
To see a city as diverse as Calgary is a breathe of fresh air. To see all these people going around the city, without a fear of being prejudiced against their race, appearance or gender gave me a sense of security. They welcomed one another. They were interacting with one another. Not minding the color of their skin, all just working harmoniously together. And as I immersed myself in the crowd, amidst all the steel architectures and new towering buildings, I felt the same way I did 20-something years ago – I will always be in love with this city. I will always be proud to be a naturalized Canadian citizen.
And before I say goodbye for now, here is my niece and one of my nephews enjoying the almost 1 meter of packed snow in my sister’s backyard. This is the snow we got while I was there and I enjoyed it so much!