Our trip to Newfoundland this past weekend was amazing in so many ways. I’ve been to the Maritimes before (most recently, a trip to Halifax in 1995), but I’d never been out to “The Rock” before. Funny how this is also the nickname for Alcatraz, with just about as many people wanting to escape. The difference in Newfoundland is that, even though lots of people are forced to leave to look for work, they almost all come back. From young to old, everyone loves their heritage and given a choice, most would live here their whole lives.
The problem, for those who don’t know, is that much of Newfoundland’s economy is based on fishing or logging. The cod fisheries are pretty much exhausted and so many people are losing jobs. The rest of Canada, especially Westerners, like to grumble about how a lot of fishermen collected unemployment benefits for half the year because they could only fish half the year. Now even those seasonal jobs are gone. I joked to my friends that it seems ironic that Albertans would be criticizing Newfoundland, since Alberta’s wealth has come from oil, another non-renewable resource. It could just as easily been the Albertans out of work. But that’s Canada. A group of squabbling regions.
I’m off topic, now, of course. I wanted to tell you how great the people are in Newfoundland. Even though their standard of living is probably near the bottom of the scale, they are the most generous and hospitable people in the country. The thing I noticed most is the complete lack of pretension and self-consciousness. In the pub we inhabited for the two nights of our visit, the band were a bunch of 30 and 40 something guys, playing mostly traditional music. The dancefloor was always packed, with a rare mix of old and young people. Stepdancing seems to be taught to everyone at an early age, and no one seemed to care if you were a good dancer or not. It was just enthusiasm and having a good time that counted. Very refreshing when you come from a city as cold and arrogant as Toronto.
I haven’t even mentioned yet the spectacular scenery. We visited Signal Hill, where Marconi received (or transmitted, I wasn’t paying enough attention) the first transatlantic wireless signal. And Quidi Vidi Village, a picturesque fishing village right in St. John’s. And best of all, Cape Spear, the most easterly point in North America. When we drove there, it was raining hard and the winds made it even worse. We were reduced to running out of the car for five minutes at a time, taking a few pictures, then running back to the car to try to warm up and dry off. In the summertime, you can see icebergs floating a few hundred metres off shore, and spotting whales is not too difficult either. I’ve always loved the ocean, and in St. John’s, you’re right out in it.
We were only there for a weekend, but I know how much I want to go back. Next time, in summer. It was so nice to have conversations with every shopkeeper and waitress we met, and the Newfoundland sense of humour is in evidence everywhere (one of Canada’s best TV shows is a political satire called This Hour Has 22 Minutes, which is performed by four Newfoundlanders). In Canada, we tell Newfie jokes. I’m sure they were all started by Newfies themselves. To conclude, I’ll leave you a list of placenames in Newfoundland, which I found very amusing:
- Come By Chance
- Conception Bay
- Cow Head
- Dildo (and South Dildo)
- Halfway Point
- Heart’s Content
- Heart’s Delight
- Heart’s Desire
- Joe Batt’s Arm
- Leading Tickles
- Seldom (and Little Seldom)
If you’ve read this far, you might want to see the rest of my pictures. Feel free to add your comments, too.