Right from the first day that we pointed out thumbs East from our home in the valley of British Columbia, it was this island that we were aiming for.
Even the first car that pulled over, whose driver, rolling down their passenger-side window and looked at us quizzically, “Where ya goin’?”
“Newfoundland!” we would both reply, smiling maniacally.
The strangers who would pass us in the rushing streets of New York city, who noticed our backpacks and took a second just to ask us, “Where are you going?” “Newfoundland!” was all that needed to be said.
Not everybody had heard of this place, but those who had, had nothing but positive things to say. “Say ‘Hi!’ to the Newfoundlanders for me,” everybody told us when they dropped us off. “I hope you two like to party.” From province to province, everybody continued to get us excited for where we were headed. It’s always been you, Newfoundland!
So, before I go, there’s a couple of things that you should know…
Thank you for your words: it has been a valuable lesson to learn that the English language is arbitrary, and conjugations are conditional. Never before had I heard the word ‘by’ be used in such a way! At first I just thought it was a bit humourous, but after these past months I really do view it as the best kind! Your affectionate terms are also uncanny. I remember the shock that I felt after thanking the cafe-lady for my morning coffee, to hear her reply with, “You’re welcome, my lover.” Gasp! We just met…is this normal? I don’t know if I’m ready for this type of talk!
Thank you for your weather: I hadn’t had a ‘snow-day’ in at least six long years, but catching sight of your citizens skiing downtown Water Street, and hearing that 60cms of horizontal snow doesn’t stop the joggers from trotting along at daybreak, really makes the blizzards more comical than awful. My winters of the past have been mild, barely-frozen, and boring, but this Real Canadian Winter has been bad-ass and I have felt bliss when observing the people tredding carefully, wrapped in winter parkas and fur hats, gripping tightly to Tim Horton’s paper cups, stereotypes firmly in place. I couldn’t think of better way to finish off a ‘Great Canadian Odyssey’ than by ending the journey with at least 30cm of snow on the ground. I think I am ready for Scandanavia, now! Your summers sound brilliant, and I will have to come back to experience one for myself; to finish what I started out here.
Thank you for your shores: I don’t know how I would have survived doing a winter-over in an interior province. Island-style is a great lifestyle. Whenever I would accumulate the feeling of claustrophobia from looking at cement and steel for too long, I never had far to go just to know that the whole world is still out there. Just a quick trip to Signal Hill and there it is!: the big blue, endless horizon, knowing which way was East definitely would help to ease my mind. Seeing the ocean, frozen over your jagged coast – what beauty!
Thank you for your rocks, and cliffs: Did you know that they are made of gold? If you catch them in the rays of sun, you will see for yourself.
Thank you for your geography: One has to really want to get to Newfoundland to get to Newfoundlan. We picked apples up off the ground for two and a half days for our ferry fare, and then had to spend seven hours on a rocking boat with only old men who had had too much to drink. It was well worth the effort, for me. Subsequently, one also has to really want to get off of Newfoundland to get out of Newfoundland.
The result of your isolated location is that everybody out here understands what you’re going through out here, because they are all going through the same thing. Your settlers came over from England a near half-century ago for the best fishing grounds on the North Atlantic and, since then, this island has transformed into something truly unique – a place marinated in its own traditions for so long that I can only be reminded of how carbon, with nothing but compression, is slowly transformed into nothing less than a dazzling diamond.
Thank you for your men: Many men in flannel shirts and rubber boots – that is what I like to see. I’ve watched them shuffle from bay to bar and seen the way that they take care of business – the gruffness of their voices and the heartiness of their laughs; a twinkle of the eye and a crooked smile.
Thank you for your women: What an inspiration. What I think of when I think of Newfoundland women is a beautiful resilience. Women who are built tough like the houses here, to withstand the winds and rain. Women who can feed a whole family off of cod and cabbage, for they cook it with empathy and serve it with patience.
Thank you for your hospitality: Never once did we sleep outside in this province. One of your kind strangers always happened to find us and bring us in. We always got to where we needed to go, and I don’t remember ever being hungry over here, either. My first day on this island I was brought out of the rain and into the home of a man who so generously offered us a meal of rice and fish that even I, after a near-lifetime of militant vegetarianism, couldn’t refuse. Everything that I wanted upon arrival is exactly what I have ended up with here.
Thank you, Newfoundland. I’ve really enjoyed being your darling, ducky, and dear for the past four months.