I've always had a love/hate relationship with Sarnia. Most of my immediate family resides here and I was born here so in that sense it's "home" but in my heart I've never really felt that way. Being born in
Both of my parents were technically 'big city folk'. Born and raised in
Whenever I come back to visit, I am struck by how much I take for granted living in a big city. Sarnia has similarities to many small Ontario towns- a virtually empty downtown core (even tho it's beautifully situated right on the water) and an ever expanding culture of big box stores on the outskirts. One the things that I used to appreciated most about Sarnia is slowly falling by the way side as well. The proximity to actual farm land used to mean local produce was readily available, even in the chain supermarkets. This week I happened upon the grand opening of the new SunRipe store ( a boutiques style produce chain) and was horrified to find only imported and picture perfect produce available at horrendous prices. Local strawberries growing less than 5 k away were no where to be found but the giant flavourless ones from California were front and centre in their pristine plastic boxes. Meanwhile the farms are being turned into cookie cutter housing, with no trees, and huge lawns to water and keep weed free with pesticides - no ban exists here.
Other things I take for granted like Toronto's multiple bin recycling system are a foreign concept here as well. The blue bins here take very little- cans and glass primarily but most plastics are still not recycled - even more disturbing when you realize that many of the petroleum based plastic polymers are produced right here in Chemical Valley. Yet plastic bags are still given away freely at every shopping establishment. Green bins for organic waste are non existent. Thankfully I learned to compost from my parents long before the city of Toronto got on board and my dad still has 4 or 5 composters scattered around the yard even tho there are only 3 people living in the family home theses days. Even leaf composting and yard waste pickup is controversial here. I spoke with someone who works for the company that holds the waste pick up contract with the city and his opinion is that it isn't worth it. He stated that the city couldn't pay them enough to collect it and they couldn't afford to do it for free. This was while he sat there admiring his new work vehicle- a Hummer, one of two the company owns and his second vehicle- his first is a BMW.
To my friends and family here I probably come across as a big city elitist but it's difficult to stay mum about what seems painfully obvious. Even basic things like transportation here are so frustrating to me. As someone who doesn't drive I find it incredibly difficult to get around and people here find it strange that neither the Russian nor I have a drivers license, let alone a car. Everyone drives everywhere here- the public transit system is so badly designed it's practically useless and bicycles are for leisure not transportation. The most frightening outcome of this is how many people I know here drink and drive routinely!
As I write this, Toronto is cleaning up from the G20 and the protests gone bad. The news reports have been depressing and I'm glad I missed all that - ironically because the two remaining daily trains from Sarnia to Toronto were cancelled this weekend because of the potential security threat. Toronto may be hectic and crowded and I'll likely never be able to afford to buy a house there but I miss my tiny garden, street cars at the door, and my green bin. I can't wait to be home.