#YEG: Walking on Whyte

An author’s memories of wandering down Whyte Avenue.

Illustration Raymond Biesinger

In May 2017, I was ill. Concussed and anemic, I couldn’t do much because of fatigue, dizziness and headaches. Life was a lot of effort, and I had to rest frequently. Some days, all I could do was lie on my couch and stare at the back alley, like a pathetic version of Rear Window.

But as I started to have more energy, I went for walks. So, I walked around my Whyte Avenue neighbourhood. Because I was tired and weak and was just re-adjusting back to Canada after a trip to South Africa, I did what the writer Sarah Selecky calls “deep noticing.” I saw my neighbourhood in a completely new way. As I walked, I began to notice how my neighbourhood had changed since I’d arrived almost nine years ago. Businesses had come and gone, but there was a distinctively different flavour to the businesses that were thriving. I realized Whyte Avenue had become a lot more multicultural.

I come from a mixed-race Asian family, and have a degree in International Studies and ethnic relations. On the first night I came to Edmonton, I bought samosas at Remedy, and went to see Mongol at the Garneau Theatre. I was pretty sure I would like living in the area. It already felt like home. As I have lived in my Whyte area apartment, different businesses have opened and closed. There is a spin studio, owned and attended by a large component of non-white people. Most of the classes are run by people of colour. Small businesses that I hadn’t noticed, like the Asian waffle place on Whyte Avenue, called Gama, had opened during my time here.

I can now walk to at least three or four bubble tea places from my house. And, among all these new businesses, there were the mainstays, like the Vietnamese Friends and Neighbors Cafe and the Indian owned Artisan Resto-Caf.

Even though I couldn’t concentrate enough to write or read, I could still put hours into
wandering around my neighbourhood. There were subtle things I picked up during my self-guided tours; like the fact that many of the sushi servers were speaking Cantonese, or that Dorinku is based on a hapa izakaya from Vancouver. Unless you’re paying attention to what’s happening around you, it’s very easy to overlook the things in your neighbourhood. If you walk around without looking, you won’t notice that a business has recently closed or that there’s a new Venezualan arepa place opening up. But if you walk slowly, carefully and pay attention to your surroundings, you’ll see so much more.

Alexis Kienlen is an agricultural reporter, book reviewer and author of three books. She lives for chocolate, apples, books and overseas travel

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