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The bus I am on has taken me to the University of Manitoba for many years, first as a student and then as staff. Travelling down Chancellor Matheson Road, I look at the area now called SmartPark -- a cluster of high-tech companies on the outskirts of campus, and remembered a time when there were sheep grazing in grassy fields.
The bus ride is seldom quiet anymore. I hear the constant chatter of one-sided phone conversations where there was once the silence of strangers. This morning, like many mornings, I hear only Mandarin. The contrast is a little jarring, even for someone of Chinese descent like me, but it reflects the recent influx of international students the university has seen.
I look over my left shoulder at the colossal stadium that is nearing completion. I’m not a football fan, and I await its opening with some trepidation. How will it affect life on our campus? Will it be like a bad neighbor who throws loud parties and disrupts the community every other week? I hope not.
As the bus meanders along Freedman Crescent, the new multi-storied student residence comes into view. A striking brick and steel building, with panoramic views north and south of the campus, it towers over the old, venerable Tache Hall residence, which saw its last students two years ago, and is now being gutted and repurposed for the Faculty of Music.
Not so lucky was Alumni House, the beautiful Georgian mansion next to Tache Hall. Once called "Practice House," because generations of Home Ec students learned the arts of childcare and household management there, in recent decades it served as the home of the alumni association.
Neither age nor history saved it, though. It was summarily demolished one summer to make way for a huge glass and steel structure that seems like it had to be shoehorned to fit. The state-of-the-art building provides much needed lab space for the School of Art, though.
I exit the bus in front of Tache Hall and think back to my first September here, long ago. The excitement and confusion of the first few days and weeks, as we all tried to navigate this larger pond of life, and the comforting reassurance when we saw old friends from high school.
As the years passed, multi-colored ski jackets, acid-washed jeans, and mullets gave way to backwards baseball caps, pyjama pants, body piercings, and tattoos. Our students will always remain the same age -- perpetually twenty-something -- it is we who do not.
In some years, time here seemed to stride hand in hand with the rhythms of living and life, and at other times it ran against the grain. It’s moving in leaps and bounds now, and while we may look back, time never does.