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June 22, 2012


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kwagI was talking with my friend Joe yesterday. He’s in Oakville for about a week visiting his sister. He’s never been to Ontario before. He’s from Philadelphia. He drove about eight hours. He’s married now with a couple of kids. They stopped in Niagara Falls. He’d never been there before either.

Last night on facebook I saw the pictures of them in Niagara Falls looking like they were having fun.

For anyone who lives in Waterloo Region, the trip to Niagara Falls has been done likely many times with visitors from out of town and out of province. But remember the first time? Remember the first time you visited Niagara Falls? That is what Joe and his family were experiencing yesterday.

When I was talking with Joe on the telephone, since he’s never been in Ontario before, I asked his what his first impressions were. To my disappointment, he told me it was much like the suburbs of Philadelphia but it was the little subtle differences that make it interesting.

(The opening scenes of Pulp Fiction ran through my mind – “You know what they call a Quarter Pounder with Cheese in France?”)

There’s an exhibition running at Kitchener Waterloo Art Gallery currently – From There to Here – it looks at Waterloo Region from the perspective of an outsider coming into this area. The Kitchener Waterloo area attracts people from across Canada and around the world. It is a dynamic community. Whether you travel from around the corner or across the planet we are all converging here. I moved here with my family almost exactly twelve years ago and I remember seeing Kitchener Waterloo for the first time, pronouncing the street names (Weber) and community centers (Breithaupt) incorrectly. I remember seeing the Mennonite wagons for the first time and getting lost on unfamiliar roads which seem to run in one direction but ultimately double back on themselves so you’re actually traveling north west on University Avenue East.

The From There to Here Exhibition features a number of artworks that not only look at the journey to a new area, but offer an alternative perspective on local landmarks. The two photographs that make up Parochial Views #7 by Andrew Wright exemplify this idea with the spiral parking garage in Kitchener and the Mennonite stable in a Home Depot parking lot. Their odd juxtaposition catches our attention – especially from the perspective of an outsider coming into the area – and then eventually they become less unusual as one spends ever lengthening time here.

Where: Kitchener Waterloo Art Gallery, 101 Queen Street North, Kitchener

When: Until September 9, 2012

For more information please visit website

365 things to do is brought to you by Keith Marshall, who still gets lost in Kitchener Waterloo but often on purpose.

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Keith helps home buyers understand homes, schools and neighbourhoods in Kitchener Waterloo. He is an author, an award-winning realtor and an agent of change. On Twitter @kdmarshall. Online at

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