In 2011, I wrote 10 things that I will miss about living in Japan, and now that we have concluded our assignment in Winnipeg, I think it's time that I write a tribute about the place we called home the last 3 years.
As Tim and I were busy packing and concluding our lives here, I asked the question - what have we accomplished over the years? Personally, I felt like I didn't do much. Tim has a more concrete answer to this question, seeing everything he has worked on with the US Consulate. But for me, it felt like time went by so quickly. We moved when Nina was 7 months old, and Kevin was 2. But as I started looking at photos for this blog entry, I realized that we did do a lot. We've been to so many places, events and met a lot of friends. I now understand why I couldn't complete the home projects I've wanted to do since we've moved - scrapbooks, organization of files on my computer, archiving our family photos. When I packed my art supplies in boxes, I found all the scrap booking materials, empty albums and photos ready to be sorted and posted in the albums. My files in my computer are still disorganized, and our family photos are still all over the place - after 3 years of wanting to organize it. What have we accomplished over the years? We raised happy kids who hopefully remember how fun it was to live on this side of the earth.
Here are 10 things we will definitely miss about this place we called home : Winnipeg.
1. Our Friends
I may not be able to thank them all here (but I know I did personally one way or another before we left) but we will definitely miss our friends. Our family friends, our play date friends, our kids' best friends, our choir family. We will miss the friends we met through Tim's work both in the government and the private sector. They've helped us transition in Winnipeg so easily, and they've also made our last few weeks so horribly hard. Tim's Winnipeg assignment was quite unique - as there was no embassy community support that we could rely on. We had to find everything on our own, but we somehow managed. This is Canada after all.
Moving to a new country is difficult, especially when everyone has their own lives to lead, but these friends opened their hearts and homes to us, even if they knew we would move again. We feel blessed to have established pure and deep relationships with them, and we will always remember them, wherever we may be.
2. The Food
One of the most surprising things about moving to Winnipeg was the outstanding food scene, specifically gourmet food. Tim and I made it a point to have a date night every week and we never ran out of places to enjoy. We found the best Mexican, Chinese and Pizza restaurant right in our neighborhood. The chefs here are so creative and dining in their restaurants made us feel like we were in New York or Tokyo or Rome! Here are a few photos of our best dining experiences. We have a list of all of them - so shoot me an email if you're interested in the List.
Diana's Pizza (we don't know what happened to this place, but it is now closed!
7 1/4 - I heard that they sold their restaurant, and will open again soon with a new chef. Their old chef is now the chef at the new restaurant being built at the Inn at the Forks.
Van Xai's Restaurant at St. Anne's. Best Fried Chicken ever.
Pop Up Restaurant at the Frozen Lake at the Forks - only open during the coldest months. The top chefs of Winnipeg serve 20 people at a time, very intimate, very Top Chef feel.
Our chef for the night was Mandel Hitzer from Deer and Almond
Pop Up Resto
3. Arts, Culture, Sports
Winnipeg has so much to offer in terms of the Arts. We are so impressed with the theater companies, art galleries, music and theater festivals, ballet and the symphony here that we never turned down an event we were invited as guests. Thank you Winnipeg for being such a vibrant and proactive culture city. The Folklorama festival is an event we will miss. With 43 pavillions this year, celebrating the multi-cultural community Winnipeg enjoys. We also loved going to a couple of Jets hockey games. I didn't know crazy Canadians are about hockey. (How did I not know that!?!)
Oh, and the black tie events too. I'm not a fan of dressing up and getting made up, but once in a while, it is a treat.
Winnipegers love their hockey! I enjoyed watching the games as well.
Tim and I attending the Winnipeg Art Gallery ball
The Nutcracker by the Royal Winnipeg Ballet
Going to the Winnipeg Art Gallery ball for the first time
Going to the Italian Gala
4. Playgroups, Activities for Kids and Schools
The first thing I did when we moved to Winnipeg was go online and look for places to take the kids to so they don't get bored at home. They were too young to go to school, so I had to establish a routine, not just for them but for me as well. It was difficult to find activities at first, for they were not all available online, but as time passed, as I met more and more Moms, I was able to identify places we liked to go on a regular basis. The kids eventually went to school, and they absolutely loved the experience as well. Here are some photos of our favorite activities and play areas. Again, I have a List. Email me and I'll send it to you.
St. Vital Mall play area
Fort Whyte Alive
Classical music at Lyric Theater
Fall at our nearby lake
6. The Parks
Manitoba has beautiful parks and beaches/lakes. Birds Hill Park was our favorite as it was just 45 minutes away from our house. St. Malo Provincial Park was also another favorite as it has 3 playgrounds near the beach. We could stay there for hours. Grand Beach was a nice weekend getaway. We found a great Bed and Breakfast owned by this old couple who have lived in Grand Marais all their lives. We also found Spirit Rock Inn to be an affordable, hip hotel with a great coffee shop with homemade pastries at the ground floor.
One time, we traveled around 4 hours to reach a beautiful place called Queznel Lake. We went fishing for the first time and the kids absolutely loved it. It was such a fun trip.
Inn Among the Oaks ( Grand Beach )
Camping in Grand Beach
7. The Beauty of the City
Tim really got into aerial photography during this tour. He took photos of our neighborhood, the city in different seasons, and other places in Manitoba. We appreciated the city through his photography.
Queznel Lake (hexacopter)
Downtown Winnipeg at Christmas Time (phone cam)
Manitoba Legislature (quadcopter)
Seine River (quadcopter)
Tim in action aboard a boat in Queznel lake
About to land on a makeshift landing pad
Downtown winnipeg (phone cam)
Tim in his man cave
Shot of our neighborhood using the radio controlled airplane
8. Traffic and Winnipeg Drivers
Yes, we will miss even this. Everything in the city is 20 minutes away and it's easy to get to places. The out of town places like the parks are easy to get to. Traffic is not horrible if you plan your day and avoid rush hour traffic. Driving in the winter, surprisingly wasn't that difficult, as long as you slow down at a traffic light, slow down at a curve, and always anticipate what other drivers are up to. And one thing I've learned is to ignore SUVs who think they are indestructible. I've taught the words "compensating" and "mid-life crisis" to my children, to describe people who driving too fast, and those with convertibles (haha, inggit lang ako!) Also, Winnipeg drivers do not signal. I asked my neighbor Steven about this and all he had to say was - "When you signal, it means you commit to it. Winnipegers don't like to commit." I found that thought really enlightening.
In total, I've only had one fender bender experience (a kid hit the back of my car, he was texting and thought the traffic light was green), 2 towing incidents (Argh! let's not talk about it) and 2 parking tickets (again, not my fault! Haha!)
9. The First experiences for our kids
We will miss the fact that the kids did a lot of "firsts" in Winnipeg. First dental check-up, first cavity filling, first eye exam, first bike ride, first ballet recital, first day of preschool, first soccer practice, first skating lessons! With that said, we thank Winnipeg for all the great programs and services they have for kids.
Believe it or not, winter in Winnipeg is harsh, but there is beauty in it too. I think it helped that we knew we would get out in 3 years, so we conditioned ourselves to ride it out. If there is something that Winnipeg has taught us, it is to be tough, it is to prepare yourself and dress appropriately. It is to do what you want to do even if it is -40 F outside. Once it was almost -50F and school was still open. I drove Nina to school just to see if parents still brought their kids despite the weather. To my surprise - Nina's classmates were all there, in time, like nothing is happening. With that kind of training, we can live wherever! Helsinki, bring it on. Ulaanbatar, sign us up!
Icicles on the gazebo
Ice on our garage door
Skating at the Forks, Beautiful winter day - it must have been -20 and everyone was out!
Our neighbor's garage
Our other neighbor grilling at -30 F, you gotta love Canadians
We will miss you, Winnipeg! Till we meet again!
As they say in foreign service, it is your decision to enjoy and take advantage of the country you're assigned in. I've heard a lot of people talk about how much they dislike Winnipeg, how they think it's a big city wannabe, or that there isn't much to do. Sometimes, in the dead of winter, when it has been -30F for 4 weeks, I could feel that way too, but we did try to think positive and we've really enjoyed it. Tim loved his job, and he was home for dinner almost every day. The kids loved the friends they made here and we did too. This was a indeed a great tour. Next up, MANILA!!!