Big ole post about Halifax

Just before my 16K run, the thought of which made me feel unpleasantly nauseated, I checked-in on Foursquare to the Running Room on Spring Garden and simultaneously tweeted, “Wherever you go in Canada you can drop in on Wednesdays and Sundays for a group run!” I’m such a fangirl but also pre-emptively impressed that my training schedule was not sidelined for a weekend merely because I left town.

While I left Halifax 8 years ago (almost to the day), I have been back on average twice a year and as the years go by, my sphere of activity in the city shrinks. As I was telling Thuy, who is a returnee from Toronto, I don’t know anyone left in Halifax except for her. Unlike in Toronto, there aren’t even people I wouldn’t want to see left in Halifax! Although several municipalities and the surrounding rural region amalgamated in 1996 to form the HRM (Halifax Regional Municipality), I refer to the former cities separately and, in truth, I visit “Halifax” but stay mostly at home in Dartmouth and fly in and out of “Halifax” but the airport is in Enfield. Thuy lives in Clayton Park so I bypass the city again. This trip, however, I made it to Halifax not once, but twice!

After dim sum lunch with the family, we went to Dalhousie University’s bookstore where I only wanted to score a colourful school mug (mugs, yes, but not colourful) and a school sticker. The latter, most surprisingly, was not available except for those long and backwards ones you stick to your back car window. It was nice to get a visual update on campus. The “new” Computer Science Building and FASS building are nowhere near the new kids on the block with the Management building and (most new) Life Sciences Research Institute being most shiny.

I was worried that there wouldn’t be a sufficiently long route for me to run on Sunday but they are pretty much on the same training schedule as I am with their goal race, in PEI, on October 14. A fairly good 16K route was mapped out for us which we tweaked to make a bit better!

While doing my “research” for this post, I looked up the the race a guy’s shirt advertised. Not Since Moses is an interesting name for a race and while I was reading about it, the answer dovetailed with Lil Sis’ question, “Is there a race at the Bay of Fundy?” The Bay of Fundy is an icon located and shared by Nova Scotia and New Brunswick and is known for having the highest tidal range in the world (17m). The Hopewell Rocks are especially popular with the tourists as they look like giant flower pots and have been shaped by the tides. They are inaccessible at high tide but you can walk around their bases during low tide. And a 10K walk and 5K run were designed around this phenomenon! It looks like a terribly muddy race and the top 5K time was 23:45! It’s one of those races that really capture my imagination and fancy.

The chatter in the Running Room was that the 16K course was flat and I really do take that to heart too much. Instead, I found that while we traced a big square heading westward at the beginning, it seemed that after every turn, we were still going up an incline! The pace leaders set up a great route that first took us through the old neighbourhoods like Connaught Avenue before heading north and followed the water all the way to the park. Our 2:15 group–as I am not setting up unrealistic expectations–were just four: two women about my age or younger and a much older man. He seemed to have his own agenda as he was out to rehabilitate his knee, not train for a particular race. We hopped onto the “North Street Bypass”, a new multi-use trail running alongside Barrington Street where I actually got a little lost in thought (a rarity for me) and motored ahead until Jim told me to slow down!

We passed by the building that now reads “Canada’s Atlantic Fleet” which is a change from “Canada’s East Coast Navy”. Throughout 12 years of school and university, I would drive across the bridge every day and feel proud and a little teary or wistful that Halifax is the headquarters for the Royal Canadian Navy’s Atlantic Fleet. Furthermore, there is an air force base not far at Shearwater that provides shipborne air support to the Atlantic Fleet. I’d like to think that is the Maritimer/Bluenose part of me to love bridges and be proud of the harbour’s business. I also think the militaristic pride might also be something weirdly innate, like when I enjoy watching the first few minutes of Alien, the movie.

201206_04_06 - Canada's Atlantic Fleet
Image from Flickr user danimirljepava

On Jim’s suggestion, we ran along the boardwalk and I was game for such a nice running tour while getting in my long run. We ran by Purdy’s Wharf towers, icons of the Halifax skyline, which I now know house the Halifax office of my company. We ran through the old boardwalk as people started arriving to explore or setting up their wharfside mobile businesses. Running through the original boardwalk, I was so impressed how clean everything was and new additions, notably a gaudy and bright children’s play area, mixed with the original sea-inspired structures.

Purdy's Wharf - Halifax
Purdy’s Wharf :: Image from Flickr user dino.29

We ran by Bishop’s Landing which remains my favourite condo development in Halifax and if I had to live there, I would want to live at Bishop’s Landing. I think the appearance of mixed architectural styles and the time at which it was developed has made the development in external appearance stand the test of time.

I know that I haven’t visited the waterfront in so many years and so a lot has changed in that time but otherwise seems slow-going to people who live in town. Coming from Vancouver that is shiny and new with a nice but kind of obnoxiously-so waterfront and Toronto that has somehow let theirs wither away until developments kick in for the next decade, Halifax’s waterfront strikes me as a picturesque balance of the old architecture that reminds you this city has 250+ years of history and the new wave with shiny glass structures that look like really cool marine biological research is going on inside. But they probably just house a call center or something.

Bishop’s Landing :: Image from Flickr user Veinotte

And just beyond Bishop’s Landing, we ran by the completely rejuvenated Pier 21 area. I know that’s been in the works for several years but I rarely make it to Halifax and that area and I was wildly impressed. The Farmer’s Market that used to be at the Brewery Market has a fancy new and permanent home at the Halifax Seaport. It’s a very cultural space as an additional campus to NSCAD, galleries, a film and media centre, the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21… and the Garrison Brewery. I have no idea what the cruise passengers use to be presented with but this is a lovely landing spot for them that easily connects to the rest of the boardwalk.

Halifax Seaport Farmer’s Market :: Image from Flickr user TomFlem

Then we entered Point Pleasant Park and although we only did an abbreviated loop, I never knew if the next turn would open up to the park’s entrance through which we would exit. For all that I went to school close to the park and my piano teacher lived in the area, I did not visit all that much which is why I was initially so surprised that “parks” consisted largely of trails and are not the immaculate gardens I prefer. The few times I went running with an ad hoc running group with computer science classmates and the time I took a dog (oops) against regulations onto the outer loop. Running! With a dog! Something I haven’t done since.

Since were embellishing all morning with our route, I asked if on the way back we could cut across Atlantic and run by my high school. No spectacular changes as far as I could tell since I think they’ve extended as far on their lot and the lot behind it as possible. Still, it made the run feel complete. And completed it was, as we soon arrived back at the Running Room. I was pleasantly surprised that 16K had gone by without lapsing into boredom that I had immediate amnesia of the rolling incline inside the park and at the beginning of the course.

As I drove home, taking the Macdonald Bridge, it occurred to me that the only city that I’ve driven in for real is Halifax, about six years’ worth. It is a necessity in Halifax even if I lived at Bishop’s Landing because you’d go out of your mind with boredom not going elsewhere, I think. I remember Mum would kind of malign some of the Chinese wives who couldn’t drive and relied on family and friends to drive them places and find it’s funny I would be the object of her criticism now? I hold a license but I’ve carefully selected (and paid dearly this year) to live close to work in the past eight years. It’s no wonder I’m happy as a cricket driving in Halifax between the usual spots. It doesn’t hurt that I learned in a Mazda and Mum has a newer Mazda and traffic this weekend has been non-existent.

MacDonald Bridge-13
Angus L. Macdonald Bridge :: Image from Flickr user Rexton

I’m in a really weird place right now to write this “love letter” and otherwise reminiscing post to Halifax. Why? Maybe I’ve finally grown out of my insecurity that needs to hate on it. Maybe I know I won’t ever have to fall back on it again and that has scared me for so many years. I have always rooted for the city and especially for it to not fall over the edge into oblivion, like when the Halifax Shipyard won the big contract last fall. Afterall, a better reputation for Halifax is better for me when I say I am from there and it trickles to the disposable income of the citizens that then reflect in business for my parents.

I’ve found that while I’ve been in Toronto, it’s been an additional cachet to be most recently living in Vancouver (7 years) but originally from Halifax (22 years). Then, you know, I look Chinese, so you know I have a story, haha. What I like is “being from away” which is true in Toronto and Vancouver although in Toronto, Halifax is a little too close for comfort, too many Maritimers make their getaway to Toronto after university.

I know I will return to Vancouver and it is just a matter of time and finding the opportunity. The past year has been rough but rewarding and helped me figure out my right place amongst all these Canadian cities. My family doesn’t talk about it so I can only speculate that not a single one of the decision-makers wants to live remotely close to Vancouver. And I’ve learned in the past year to just be resigned to it and not, henceforth, to live half-a-life because of it. I don’t want them particularly to live in Toronto and wish they could all live in my parents’ big house in “Halifax” (Dartmouth). I would visit once a year and stop grumbling about it, I swear.

On this day..