Monday, July 13, 2009

Life in Waterloo - Part 1 - What the heck are Twin Cities?

One of the joys of living in a new part of the province or country or world is to compare and contrast experiences of living in that new place with what we're familiar with.

I've lived in Waterloo before but it's been a long time (eight years!). Some things are the same, some are different and I'm seeing it all now through the eyes of a parent instead of the eyes of a late twenty-something.

I've decided that I will do an occasional series called Life in Waterloo. I plan to write about our life here of course, things I discover, things I love, the ways that our lives are different because we're in a different city and different part of the province. I'll try not to make it "how Ottawa sucks and how Waterloo rules" or vice versa but that will likely happen once in a while. I'll do the same for the months that we're in Austin, Texas.

And so, on to Part 1.

We live in Waterloo. About a 5 minute walk up our street, and you hit Kitchener. I can bike to Tamara's house in 5 minutes. Tamara lives in Kitchener. I live in Waterloo. Bell Canada and Canada Post list us as living in Waterloo. Onstar and the Globe and Mail list us as living in Kitchener. (They're wrong.) Other people list us as Kitchener-Waterloo. That's because Kitchener-Waterloo (also known as K-W) are twin cities. It should really be conjoined twin cities. You can't tell where one starts and the other begins save for the small signs that say in various ways "you are now entering the historic village of Waterloo 1857" or "City of Kitchener 1916" in a small nondescript sign posted above the parking regulations (yes, they could be different in each city).

My favourite one is on King Street and says in a tall, vertical sign from the 1940s or so "City of Waterloo".

There are two municipal governments, two hydro companies, two library systems, two distinct downtowns (although both are located along King Street and Waterloo affectionately refers to its downtown as Uptown Waterloo). There are two of many things. It does seem ridiculous to those who don't live here or haven't lived here in a long time. It's hard to explain if you haven't been here and can't picture it. They were once two distinct villages that grew together as the villages grew. Now it is one large(ish) urban area that is still two cities.

There was talk at one time of amalgamating but nothing came of it. And so they remain conjoined twins with people living in working as though they were one. Until you have to deal with government or phone companies or hydro or swimming pools or community centres (if you live in Waterloo and want to take swimming lessons a few streets over at a Kitchener pool you have to pay an extra $25 a year). Then it matters.

It all adds to the odd character of this town/town that I love.

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