It’s been over a year since Emily and I moved into the Olympic Village. For the first 10 months, our home was was just another Vancouver apartment, in a highly politicized neighbourhood lacking retail and people.
But things have really changed in the past few months. The village has new life (with more people and more retail) and we’ve gotten to know many of our neighbours. Instead of living in a beautiful, but isolated area, it now feels like we’re part of a strong community.
Last month, I volunteered to organize a community garden on the rooftop of our building. It’s been hard work, but it’s great to see the results – a prospering garden full of flowers and vegetables, and more importantly (I think), over 20 neighbours who know each other a lot better now. Before the garden took root, I only knew one of our neighbours (and only her name). Now, I’ve lost the anonymity I once had in our building, with neighbours young and old stopping to talk to me in the hallways and on the street. It’s not an experience I’m used to in Vancouver, but it feels good.
In addition to the garden, I’ve gotten to know people living in neighbourhood through online networking. Technology is often criticized for isolating people, but in this case it has connected me to my neighbours. There’s a Facebook page for the area with an active community who’ve organized a potluck and quiz night.
It was great to meet other people in the village, and hear the same praise and complaints about our neighbourhood. The Olympic Village is home to a wide array of people – there are multi-million dollar condos, rental units, a co-op, and subsidized housing. And yet, we are all dealing with a growing neighbourhood, nearby construction, retail that is months behind schedule, and fancy heating systems that don’t work as expected. And yet, most of us feel lucky to live in such a beautiful neighbourhood.
I’ve also got to know some of my neighbours via Street Bank, a website that facilities sharing between neighbours. It’s a great idea. I haven’t borrowed anything yet, but I’ve lent out my drill and hand saw to neighbours.
In other community building news, Emily is in the midst of organizing a composting Food Scraps Drop Spot pickup for the Olympic Village. She’s busy recruiting volunteers and organizing the logistics.