Citizen or Visitor?

I was walking through Point Grey neighbourhood near Kitsilano today with my visiting friend from Toronto and boyfriend. We walked along the rocky beaches enjoying Vancouver’s breathtaking landscape engaged in conversations about life and the gentrification and architectural development of our city. Wayne noticed the dramatic changes in Chinatown and areas like Olympic Village, Mount Pleasant, Main Street, Marpole, and Fraserview. He also pointed out the increase in bikers, cars, and the friendliness of commuters on transit as they exit the bus with “thank-you.” As we were talking, my mind could not help but make references and connections to the readings in our course.


We decided to walk back to the car through the neighbourhood to look at the beautiful houses and their gardens. While on our walk, we noticed a ‘neighbourhood clothing library.’ I’ve only seen neighbourhood book libraries around the Mount Pleasant and Main Street areas which I personally make use of. I thought to myself what a wonderful take on community building and the practice of acts of kindness. Along the next two blocks, we stopped a few times to admire the gardens and the heritage homes contrast to the newer builts laughing about striking the 55million Lotto Max.


In front of a yellow, cedar-siding house with a colourful spread of blooming, fragrant florals, we stopped to admire the inspiring garden-scape. The owner of the property was in her robe chatting to her garden-watering neighbour. As we were walking off, she walked over to greet us and invited us to smell her China roses. She warmly engaged us in a conversation about her blooms and the planning of her garden which took two years. Our gardening discourse soon changed to her thoughts about the changing landscape of her neighbourhood.


She talked about how closed off her neighbourhood was to the rest of the city and she welcomes the addition of bike lanes and walking paths in her neighbourhood that has brought more visitors. She noted the accessibility has brought a few people to her today including the three of us. She asked where we were from and what Wayne thought about the changes in our city. Like the earlier beach conversations, our readings of urban social cohesion, citizenship, cosmopolitanism, risk and uncertainty, globalization, multiculturalism, the educated person, and transformative intellect all came to my mind and I felt comforted to know that I found in this stranger the social transformation and hope we have been contemplating in our program. For me, it also replanted Appiah’s notion that to foster a successful cosmopolitan civilization that cares about issues, “we have to be imaginatively engaged with the lives of people, with the lives of strangers.”


Near the end of our meaningful discourse, she articulated how these wonderful changes will open up her $6 million neighbourhood to “people like you.” My impression of her sense of building community and bridging peoples concluded with her underlining lived reality of privilege and this quickly distanced us as strangers further noting our social differences and the fact that I am merely a tax paying citizen-visitor to this part of the city I call my home. On our steps away from her, we did give her the benefit of the doubt of not meaning her choice of words and joked about how we will buy her $6 million yellow, cedar-siding house when we win our Lotto Max big jackpot.


Ethics in a World of Strangers with Kwame Anthony Appiah