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Why Vancouver? Why You?

Thank you to all entrants. Please visit the semifinalist page to view the top ten essays as determined by our panel and the public voting. Click here to view the top ten

A Vancouver Odyssey

By William New

Warsaw, Algiers, Montreal, Portland, Vancouver. A lifelong journey through languages, universities, technologies. From Polish to Russian, then French, now at Simon Fraser teaching in English. From a small cold apartment to desert hot single bedroom, a cramped first house, then larger family home, eventually a tiny cottage, one of the oldest in Mount Pleasant. From young PhD to professor to entrepreneur to corporate executive to technology leader in Ottawa. A young marriage to exhausted mother to grandmother of two. Tree-climbing tomboy to bicycles then skis, now yoga and long walks to Granville Island. Through health, illness, divorce, rebalance, international acclaim, expecting someday to retire but unsure of that verb. Writing papers, coaching students, professional talks, flying worldwide. Lover of European cuisine but enjoying most the Polish bakery on Cambie.

Born ten years earlier and a half world apart. British forefathers came to Vancouver and the US as Anglican churchmen. Wartime navy family crisscrossing the continent to build ships on both coasts. Depression frugality saving for education with a scholarship son finishing top in Grade 12. Family visits from San Francisco to Vancouver, remembering village roots in England during the Great War. An engineer by choice but a physician through necessity to escape VietNam conscription. From young MD/PhD to professor to entrepreneur to corporate executive to venture capitalist. Their paths crossed in Portland. Career offers came from the East, but West Coast was home. Vancouver was ideal, blending Silicon Valley with Canadian sanity.

They started over again. A small Yaletown apartment. Long walks down Robson to Stanley Park and back. Revisiting the Anglican church of his youth and the Catholic church of hers. Enjoying fresh salmon and Okanagan Pinot Noir as their special treat. A tiny lab space at Simon Fraser that grew with hard work and recognition. Students from around the globe. A tired old car that survived a bus collision on Granville, and barely able to climb snow-covered Burnaby Mountain was replaced by a newer all-wheel drive. She appreciated Canadian healthcare, he US Medicare. NAFTA permitted research collaboration across the border. Both missed their daughters in the East.

She had her medical problems, now he has his, but the work continues. Graduate students move on, the next generation of US and Canadian faculty. There is talk of slowing down, but the fire continues, well into retirement age for both Canada and the US. Travel is less, but through email and Skype there is no letup. Grim reminiscence of post-war Europe is replaced with stunning visions of modern progress. Vancouver recognized today among the most liveable cities is far distant from photos of its own roughneck past. Parents and childhoods fade in memory as we ourselves soon become pensioners, our youngsters the adults facing a New Normal. Vancouver and Seattle inexorably merge, as did Windsor and Detroit. But British Columbia technology is generations ahead of the fading automotive industry of Ontario. Progress moves Left, in geography and politics. Vancouver is the future for Canada’s 21st Century. Our coast. Our city. Our home.

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