–by G.K. Sydney (photos and column)
So, it’s time for another column. And, given our purpose, it should be about adventure and new discoveries that we’ve made. However, before I do that, I’d like press pause for a moment and mention a very important thing.
What I’m referring to is the way in which newcomers are received here in Sooke. That’s right, I’m talking about the way we’re welcomed, enveloped into the community and made to feel a part of it. Does that happen? Or is it just my imagination? Let’s look at the following points and see if I’m right.
First, let’s think about the businesses in town. How come, in this town, every shop is cool and every restaurant is so appealing? I could wander through those shops all morning, treat myself to a good lunch, meet somebody for a great coffee later and go for dinner in west coast elegance that same evening. And, I even could, if I was so inclined, top the whole thing off with any number of fabulous craft beers before wobbling home.
Then, amazingly enough, I could do it all over again in different places the next day (not that I could afford it; just sayin). In addition, I really don’t have to go anywhere else to find such great things with which to decorate my walls, to shop for excellent new outfits, get my hair or nails done, get a massage …I could go on and on. And all of that would come with awesome small-town-service-with-a-smile, only in this case, everyone means it and that is apparent to newcomers.
It’s all so happy-making, so casual and comfortable that I find myself smiling every time I do even a small part of it. It’s warm and welcoming and could only get better if there was ( just my personal preference) maybe, a shoe store? A cool, reasonably priced (maybe even cheap?) fuuuunky ladies’ shoe store? Again, just sayin’.
And then, let’s examine what I noticed about traffic around here. Lots can be said on this topic, I know, but I want to narrow it down to one thing that jumps out at you when you come to the island. And that is that here, it seems, pedestrians rule. Maybe this is just the way it’s always been for you and so perhaps you don’t notice, but believe me, in any other place, vehicles are kings. They DO NOT stop when people are on the side of the road and thinking about crossing. They do not slow down, wave and smile or anything else as they are racing to their destination and barely seeing people on the sidewalk.
But here, you just have to lean in the right direction, cut your eyes across the street at a crosswalk or use any other form of body language that shows you just might be considering crossing to the other side and, pow, the vehicles stop and patiently (or maybe not so patiently) wait for you to cross. You and the driver may even wave and smile at each other. Wow! Now that feels welcoming.
And this would not be complete without mentioning generosity. This town oozes generous kindness! The recent bottle drive is one example, the food bank, the Christmas Bureau, the church garden and on and on. My husband and I have been doing some volunteering and during that time, we’ve discovered that there are volunteers in this town that are over the top. It’s hard to fathom how much they give and how willingly they do it. Sooke, you have such a warm and open attitude. And that same attitude extends to new residents too. Fabulous.
And last but not least are the friendships that develop when you move here. I personally am so warmed by the people I’ve gotten to know that I’m not sure if I can write this without blubbering.
Monday morning rowing – what a joy. Yoga to die for and yes, sometimes it feels that way. Hiking as much as anybody could ever want and your choice of who knows how many hiking or walking groups. Lunches and coffees with people I didn’t even know a year ago.
Swimming and all the other things at SEAPARC — so much fun. Last week at our Aqua exercise class, we sang along to the Beatles (after all, that class is filled with old hippies, let’s face it) in loud crazy waterlogged voices as we bumbled about in the pool attempting to exercise.
Really, what more could a town do for its new residents?
And I cannot end this without mentioning those friendly neighbours with whom we are creating once-in-a-lifetime relationships — we feel incredibly lucky. You can’t go for a walk around here without stopping five times to mindlessly yak and gossip. Our neighbourhood has turned out to be amazing and is a great place to live. Talk about feeling good about your new home.
And so Sooke, to sum it up, I have to say that I was right about the welcome and I think you should be proud. Not only do you have a great place to live, but you are a great group of people. You may be a small town, but you sure have big hearts. Keep up the good work, and thank you. We newcomers are ever so grateful.
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- Introducing a new column to SPN: “Through the Lens of a Newcomer”