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Seattle and Vancouver: More than just neighbouring cities – Corbett scholar Richard Tian

UW – Photo Credit: Richard Tian

January 24, 2020

The United States and Canada have a history of positive relations, from being trade partners to allies in battle. It’s not difficult to see why these two countries are on such good terms, since they have so much in common culturally. The vast similarities between Seattle and Vancouver exemplifies this. From an outside perspective, both are coastal cities encompassed by the Pacific Ocean to the west and enclosed by the Cascade Mountains to the east. They also experience the same mild summers and rainy winters. However, upon closer examination, the two cities are alike in many more ways than in just these superficial qualities. My personal experiences growing up in Vancouver and now living in Seattle have made me realize this.

Bainbridge Island Excursion

Bainbridge Island – Photo Credit: Richard Tian

Bainbridge Island is a short ferry ride west of Downtown Seattle. This ferry ride shared many parallels to ferry rides from Vancouver to Victoria, such as the ocean breeze on the sundeck and the overpriced on-board food. Upon arrival, my new international friends and I ate at a local crêpe shop. My friends’ excitement in trying out salmon crêpe emphasized the abundance of salmon in the Pacific Northwest compared to most of the world. We then checked out the Bainbridge Historical Museum, where I was reminded of the horrors of World War II. In school, I learned about the devastation caused by the imposing of Japanese internment camps in North American communities, but to see the shift in Seattle public school class photos from before the internment camps to after was drastic. Before, you could see the diversity in the schools, but after, the only children that remained were Caucasian. Next we visited the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art, where I got to appreciate the many talented local artists’ work on display. It was especially fascinating to see all of the intricate, handcrafted glass sculptures. Lastly, we stopped by the beach to take in the serenity of the island, before returning to our busy city lives.

Pack Forest Retreat

Pack Forest – Photo Credit: Ryker Bukowski

Pack Forest is 100km south of Seattle, and is a place I would have never thought to visit. This retreat was organized by Unite UW, a program whose purpose is to create lasting friendships between international and domestic students. Going on this retreat made me feel nostalgic for my boy scout days. Everything from hiking in the large coniferous woods, to living in cabins and making s’mores by the campfire reminded me of when I was just a child first developing my wilderness skills. The only thing that brought me back to reality was the American flag waving over the campgrounds. Over the weekend, I also got to bond with a new group of friends. We shared moments together creating a team banner, sharing our backgrounds, and enacting a fun skit.

Bob’s Pumpkin Patch and Corn Maze

Bob’s Pumpkin Patch and Corn Maze – Photo Credit: Amanda Yu

Bob’s Pumpkin Patch and Corn Maze is 50km northeast of Seattle, and is definitely another place I least expected to visit. The last time I was at a corn maze, the corn plants were so tall that they appeared to be like fortresses looming over me. This time, the maze didn’t seem too bad from the outside, but boy was I wrong. In just a few minutes after entering, my group was completely lost. Even with coloured tape to guide us, we seemed to be travelling in never ending circles. To make matters worse, it was especially rainy and muddy that day, meaning it was slip city for me in my flat shoes. Luckily, we managed to stumble upon a staff member who helped lead us out just as the sun began to set.

Seattle Center Diwali Celebration

Seattle Center – Photo Credit: Julia Bergquist

The Seattle Center is in the heart of Downtown Seattle. I went to a Diwali celebration expecting it to be a smaller-sized community gathering but, to my surprise, the place was packed with people of all backgrounds. This proved to me how accepting of different cultures Seattle is, and this is a value that Vancouver directly shares. There were amazing performances, traditional dishes, and artwork by schoolchildren. I even got to create a plaster sculpture and a stamp painting. Back in Vancouver, I have attended many similar events to this, such as the Richmond World Fest. It has always been interesting to learn about the various traditions that people value over the world. Learning more about different cultures has made me realize that I share more in common with others than I had thought.

Union Bay Canoeing

Union Bay – Photo Credit: Elsa Zhong

Union Bay is just southeast of UW, and the UW Waterfront Activities Center offers a range of watercraft rentals for voyaging in these waters. I would have never known about this until I went on a spontaneous canoeing trip with friends. As we rowed towards the middle of the bay, the rough waves created by winds and larger boats definitely reminded me of my times paddleboarding at False Creek in Downtown Vancouver. It felt like a game trying to coordinate our paddling to avoid tipping over with every incoming wave. The waters immediately calmed south of the bay. It was especially relaxing to go with the gentle water’s ebb and flow in this area while taking in the scenery of the surrounding marsh.

Fremont Sunday Market and Troll

Fremont – Photo Credit: Joseph Yang

Fremont is a short bus ride west of UW, and is home to a weekly Sunday market. The market was full of various vintage goods, and local crafts and foods. Since I was a child, I have loved going to markets like these, not knowing what interesting things I’d find. One of my fondest childhood memories was finding a broken Xbox console for just five dollars, and then managing to fix it for a few dollars more. Being in Fremont, I of course also had to check out the Fremont Troll before I left. It’s such a random sculpture, but it really gives the town a sense of individuality.

Vancouver, or Greater Seattle?

Other places I’ve explored include Bellevue and Westlake. The nice, quiet neighbourhood of Bellevue resembles West Vancouver, while the vibrant, colourful streets of Westlake during the holidays reminded me of Downtown Vancouver.

Honestly, it is still difficult for me to grasp all that has happened over the short course of three months. However, this adventure has definitely made my 2019 all the more meaningful. I look forward to continuing my Seattle explorations in 2020 and continuing my reflections on just how alike these two cross-border cities are.