Sunday, June 26, 2022

Ten Years In An Unexpected National Capital

Ten years ago today, I arrived in Ottawa, a place I had never expected to live and work.  I had been working to move on from my previous job and got several interviews in the DC area.  Instead, I was told about a job interview process at Carleton that I knew I would not get (long story), but I had hoped to practice my stuff and maybe make a few connections.  Instead, I got offered a different job--the Paterson Chair in International Affairs.  And I will forever be grateful for the accidents and luck that got me here.  So much so that I resurrected one of my oldest Spew gags: how I am surprised, troubled, enchanted, and humbled

  • Besides being surprised at how ten years flew by, soon making Ottawa the place I have lived the longest, I guess I am surprised by how I feel like I belong here and how quickly that seemed to have developed.  True, it was the first place I ever moved where I knew people.  I quickly developed friendships with other folks at the other university in town, my friends at Carleton introduced me to folks in the media with several now being friends.  Creating a network, the Canadian Defence and Security Network, was not easy but it was eased by how many people I met at the various events around town over the years, by the contacts I developed at a number of institutions inside and outside of government.  It really is a small city, and it is chock full of people engaged in the stuff that interests me--International Relations, Foreign Policy, Civil-Military Relations, ultimate frisbee, and Defence Policy.
  • I am troubled by the politics of the place--that the city council seems to be dominated by the contractors and can't buy a train system in any competent kind of way, that the provincial leaders don't care about the city since the provincial capital is in Toronto (and we saw this play out during the far right occupation of the city), and the media and perhaps Canadians think that money spent on normal federal stuff is a waste, like the Prime Minister is supposed to live in a dump and fly on an obsolete plane.  Ottawa is a pretty special place, but it has been under-served by politicians at all levels.  
  • I am enchanted by so much of this place, whether it is the sweet ultimate fields near me, the canal that makes for good biking routes (and the ice cream place that makes my exercise bice-creaming), the relatively short distances to get to anywhere in town, so that it is easy to agree to meet folks wherever and to enjoy pretty much all of the place.  I guess the most enchanting aspect of the place are, to repeat myself, the folks I have met--ambassadors, military folks, officials in the department of whatever foreign affairs is called now, the sharp folks at the enemy university, the sweet folks at the Dean's office (I have had great relationships with two Deans here, which is a streak unparalleled in my career), the frisbee folks (of course), and on and on.  
  • I am humbled by the expertise that so many have.  I am a generalist, so I know some about a lot, but not a lot about that much.  This town has so many people who are so sharp in their specialty that I am constantly being corrected.  But that is a good thing, as I keep on learning.  I can't trot out the whole "unfrozen caveman" thing as much as I could before.  Ten years in Ottawa also means twenty years in Canada.  I still don't know about Canadian history, and there are plenty of friendly Canadians who correct me about the present that I don't understand.  

While there are somethings I miss about my previous job and about Montreal, I know that I made the right decision ten years ago for me and for my family.  That we will not be leaving Ottawa when I retire, as we like this place and we really like the people we have met along the way.  This place very much feels like home, and I have much gratitude to all those who made us welcome.  My ultimate career is nearing its end, so I will have to find some other activity to keep me busy in the summer.  I may really become Canadian if I end up paddling up and down the canal.  

Anyhow, thanks to everyone for making us welcome. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Lovely piece Steve. We couldn’t agree more.