Discover more from jen dyck-sprout
Escaping vs Exploring
+ Episode 3 of Thursdays with Uri: how and why he exercises his brain
I first saw my hometown with fresh eyes after my first semester in college. In contrast to Montreal’s, Winnipeg’s downtown skyline looked so much smaller than I had remembered. It felt implausible that somehow a city could form around so few buildings, yet there was something optimistic about the fact there even was a “downtown” to be revitalized.
It happened again after I spent a year studying abroad in Germany. The flood-prone Red River suddenly looked like a creek in contrast to the mighty Rhine. I didn’t know what to do with all the space between buildings. I felt something approaching kenophobia (a fear of empty spaces and voids).
The biggest shift in my perspective occurred after spending a couple years in New York: every Winnipegger was suddenly and irrevocably blue-collar*.
I think this term has a bit of a negative connotation, at least in the U.S. where blue-collar work is especially undervalued and underpaid, but I mean it in the best way possible: warm, easy to please, good-natured, and down to earth.
These are the type of people who don’t prioritize wealth creation above all else; wealth creation at any cost. They place a greater value on social cohesion and free time.
Yes, these are grand generalizations, but I don’t think you can find a Winnipegger, no matter how wealthy or politically conservative, who doesn’t think that capitalism is out of control in America.
“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.” ―Terry Pratchett
Why do I share this?
Friends and family here often make comments that lead me to believe that they believe that I don’t like it here. Like I can’t possibly love a place that I have left.
But I think might love this place more than those who stayed.
Leaving Winnipeg has never been about escaping. I wasn’t running away (though I have always hated the winters here), or hiding from difficult feelings (though I did leave after my mom passed away). It was always about exploring.
This visit I realized that in all my exploring of other places, I was actually exploring Winnipeg.
And it turns out I am Winnipeg. A white-collar job will never change that.
All around the world, people have remarked on my friendliness, but to paraphrase Kurt Vonnegut: what people like about me is Winnipeg, Manitoba. Our license plate slogan is Friendly Manitoba after all!
In this episode of Thursdays with Uri, we dive deeper into my experience of being home, discuss his impressions of Winnipeg, and explore how he keeps his brain sharp.
3. Thursdays with Uri
Jen: Okay, so, here we are in Winnipeg. We've been here something like a week?
Uri: Just under.
Jen: Recording our third episode while Teo naps,
Uri: Hopefully for long enough.
Jen: Yes, we just need half an hour, we might get 15 more minutes. Um, how has your time in Winnipeg been so far?
Uri: You know, I really like Winnipeg. It took me a minute from the first time I came and just got nosebleeds.
Jen: You've had how many nose bleeds so far?
Uri: Every day, it's annoying actually.
Jen: And this is not even dry for Winnipeg, like winter is a whole other level.
Uri: It's the middle of summer, and my nose bleeds every day.
Jen: So what do you like about Winnipeg?
Uri: It feels like I'm in a cabin all the time. Everywhere I go. It's like, there's something about it that feels very country, even though it's a city, like, you know, they have tall buildings. There are people going to work in suits.
Jen: Yeah, but everyone's also kind of from the country haha.
Uri: So it's like a, it's a city inside the country.
Jen: It's very sleepy.
Uri: It's very sleepy. I think the other reason I like is because I've been able to really focus and I think it's because everyone else around me is moving a lot slower than I am.
Jen: What other observations do you have of the city?
Uri: It feels like, no one works in tech.
Jen: Definitely no one works in tech. The fact that my brother has never heard of SAAS.
Jen: Didn't know what SEO was.
Uri: Yeah. He's an engineer. He's smart. He could know this stuff, but it's just not on his radar.
Jen: At all. At all.
Uri: Which is amazing.
Jen: I have been meaning to ask my friends here who uses Amazon? Because so far, zero for everyone we've talked to.
Jen: Not that long ago I asked Nelly if he used Slack and he said, "I think I've heard of that. What is it again?" So that's Winnipeg. I think the other thing about Winnipeg is like everywhere you go, people look at you because there's a good chance that they might know you.
Jen: So you kind of feel watched, which I found very suffocating when I lived here. When I first moved to New York, it felt so liberating. I come back and I immediately feel a little like smaller. I feel like I can't talk about what I do here, it's a little too out there.
Uri: What does it feel like coming back?
Jen: I guess it's just like home. Like I could hear the geese this morning and it reminds me of home.
Uri: Last night we did the South Sudanese Folklarama. First of all, I actually loved it.
Jen: Wait, so for context, Folklarama has been going on for over 40 years in Winnipeg and it's a two week cultural festival where I think it's something like 80 pavilions put on three shows a night, each pavilion represents some part of the world. So El Salvador or Brazil, or the Philippines, or as we went last night to the South Sudanese one. And it's really popular. Like the city kind of orients around it for two weeks, every summer. And I feel very privileged that I got to go to that growing up. And you learn about the best things in other cultures. And so when you grow up celebrating in that way, where it's fun and you try the food and you see the dances and you hear the songs, of course we'd want to be like welcoming people from around the world to this place. They're interesting. They're fun.
Uri: It's a very special thing that that happens here. Cause you could say like, well they're not like us and they're here to steal our jobs.
Uri: In the audience there were people from everywhere. The only other place I've felt that, is in Trinidad, and it's around carnival time. I don't know where in the U.S. that is. If anywhere it's definitely New York.
Jen: Right. New York does have the like the Dominican parade and the Puerto Rican parade, and of course, it is a bit of a melting pot. But there isn't a two week festival where it's the only thing happening. There's not actually that much to do here haha. So when there is something, it's kind of like, that's what's happening. Everyone in the city knows if you want to do something, that's what you do. Other than going to a blockbuster movie. Or going to the lake.
Uri: Yeah, I think that's very, very special.
Jen: So yesterday at the South Sudanese pavilion, you became a handshake, man.
Uri: Oh yeah. I'm a handshake man now.
Jen: This is something you do regularly. You find something you like, and then you become that "man." So in the last month you have become a turtleneck man…
Uri: I’m a turtleneck man now
Jen: you've been a seed man, you're one meal a day man now
Jen: you're a push up in the morning man now you're a handshake, man.
Jen: So why do you do this?
Uri: The obvious answer is that it makes you laugh. But whenever I feel like I've become stagnant, and I don't feel like I'm growing, I do things to sort of throw my thinking off. So that I have to actively think. And so things like, I now switch my watch from my right hand to my left hand. That breaks the comfort.
Jen: Why do you think that's important?
Uri: I want to be good at thinking. And I think thinking is an exercise and so forcing yourself to think is important. If I can reduce the amount of automatic decisions, then, you know, forcing my brain to stay active. I don't want to become that old guy that needs help with the VCR. You know? I need to stay sharp. I think the way to do that is to have some curiosity. I don't want to be a creep, but I want to stay young. Oh my f***ing god, oh my god. Get the fuck away.
Jen: That's a big spider…
Uri: Oh my goddddd, ohhhhhhhhh shittttt….