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Berlin, Frankfurt, Paris, Chapel Hill, Boston, Istanbul, Calgary, Washington DC, Austin, Tunis, Warszawa and counting

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Life in Calgary

The funny thing about Calgary (in this particular case, read: Canada) is that it is very much like the United States. Except that it's not. Yeah, I know that makes a lot of sense. I've been here about a week now, I've been very busy with work, so I haven't managed to get around and explore a lot, but I just bought a used bike off some hobo for $10 yesterday and will be discovering the city on that in the weeks to come, especially as work becomes more of a routine job and I'll have more time on the side.

I had already spent some time in Calgary when I was about 14 and came here with my parents (and sister), but most of what I remember from that time is related to trips we undertook outside of Calgary (Banff, the Big Horn River) and the suburban life style that I had had never experienced before. This time around what struck me the most so far has been the niceness of people. In the States people are super friendly, but one is never sure how much of that is put on (if not say hypocrisy). Here I constantly get the impression that people are genuinely nice. The woman in the store where I got a sandwich yesterday was positively charmed by the fact that I was from Europe (placing me in England upfront) and it didn't seem fake at all. Maybe Canadians just act better than most Americans, I've been falling for it in any case.

Calgary is very much dominated by the oil and gas industry which in turn is very, very male-dominated. If you go for lunch downtown during the week most places are filled almost exclusively by (white) men in suits being served by scantily clad (hot pants or really short mini skirts while they bring me lunch? really?), tall and rather attractive women. Disgusting, if you ask me.

Apart from that the town is sprinkled with little parks and very much accessible by bike, if a little too spread out to walk. Especially when you live downtown. Also Canada, even more so than the USA maybe, represents a post-racial society. I played ball on an outside court yesterday, with two little Asian guys, two French-speaking African-Canadian teenagers, some tall white dude and a Latino-looking guy. And everyone got along really well. At the same time all of these guys were pretty bad ballers and there seems to be a clear negative correlation between people's niceness and their ball-playing skills. Me being only semi-nice on the court, I am also semi-good, which let's me dominate a court like the one yesterday, but is not sufficient for really tough ones.

A word on that tough court too. I found a gym where I believe the best game in town is run. I (as usual, talk about being a skinny, white guy with longish hair and not enough of a cocky bastard) have a hard time getting on the court there, but I do manage and it's been good. I definitely will enjoy getting intro proper playing shape again. Anyway, from a sociological point of view this court is really interesting because it is dominated by Sudanese guys (some of which are really good ballers, tall, skinny, fast, aggressive). When I was in Boston last year I kept on running into guys from Cap Verde there, here it's the Sudanese. In both cases they must be living on the continent for a while (their English is impeccable), but still talk in their mother tongue amongst each other. How these immigration patterns come about is fascinating even if I cannot offer any kind of explanation for them.

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