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We started the day off by getting to know each other through a series of group challenges in Belleview park. Next, our instructor told us to walk. The only instructions were to be conscious of our senses and to “go slow.” I had no destination in mind. The spice store caught my attention while my friend took photos of street art. The neighbourhood energy felt different, but I was frequently reminded of the Toronto I was familiar with as modern skyscrapers formed the larger landscape above crowded, colourful storefronts. We met back with the group and discussed what we saw, what sparked our interest, and how the four streets we were given maps to made us feel. Most of the group spoke about a distinctly multicultural place, and when prompted by the instructor, shared interest in understanding why this came to be. I brought up the juxtaposition between modern Toronto encroaching onto what looked like an older neighbourhood with unique character.
After discussion, researching on our phones, and being realistic about our capabilities, we came up with our question of interest that would form the foundation of the remainder of the day. Why is Kennington Market worth protecting from modern-day development? We created tasks. Roll one, stay in Belleview park to do research on current issues facing the market. Roll two, interview store owners. Roll 3, continue to observe the daily routines of the market and write a personal reflection.
When the group rejoined there was a different buzz, everyone wanted to talk. “One storefront owner told me I would never understand,” said one student. “I spoke to women who told me that small local run businesses are the only way forward for environmental sustainability,” said another. Our researchers brought up several articles regarding a successful fight to keep Walmart and Nike out of the neighbourhood. One of our creative writers read us a line from her reflection aloud “I feel people can be themselves here.”
Day one was coming to an end. After a debrief with our instructor, I did not leave the day feeling defeated, rather somewhat invigorated about the learning that I wanted to continue. I saw the layers of my own backyard that I had neglected to pay attention to. We had not answered our question today, but we got a start. Through those who wanted to talk to us, but more so, through those who didn’t, we realized there was something about this neighbourhood that was fighting to save their core, their identity. Why? We would try to find out more tomorrow.