Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Oh Canada - Part One

Early last summer I had two friends visit from New Zealand.  We planned a bit of a road trip from my place in Massachusetts up to Nova Scotia in Canada.  This would be the longest (and only) time I’ve been away from my family ever and I was seriously excited.  Giddy even. 

There were plans afoot for a heatwave at home so I was hopeful that Canada would get that memo and turn it on for us too.  That didn’t quite work out but I packed as if it would anyway. 

It was quite exciting to go across an international border in my car, we don't typically do that in New Zealand since we are a series of islands.  The Canadian border control guy had no trouble welcoming us to his fine land and we forged ahead into the great unknown. 

We were headed for Halifax, Nova Scotia as this was the place that one of my friends had spent a year as an exchange student back in high school.  We were going to check out her old haunts and visit her host family. 

We arrived to our first night’s accommodation somewhat late.  No one had informed us that there is actually a time difference of an hour from one side of the border to the other.  This left us searching for dinner somewhere close to 11 pm.  We found a restaurant (recommended by our friendly inn keeper since his wife owned it) and settled in.  Not that our stay there would be long, they were almost ready to close up.  The waitress apologized (Canadians are good at that) and then I, for one, delighted in saying thank you over and over again just to hear her say “you’re very welcome” over and over again.  She was so polite she said the whole thing every single time. 

We ate very quickly and made our way back to our rooms.  It was a spliced up old house, perfectly comfortable.  It comprised of a bedroom with two single beds and then a hallway leading to a kitchen with bathroom attached.  In the kitchen there was a small dining table and a double bed where I slept.  It was quite convenient.  If I had wished, I could have cooked breakfast without having to get out of bed.  I didn’t, but I can mark off 'sleeping in a kitchen' from my list of interesting things I have done. 

We continued on our way the next day and enjoyed the scenery immensely, the coffee not so much.  Oh well, Canada can’t have everything.  I have to say, in the 5 or so days of driving around an admittedly small piece of Canada I think I may have seen one police officer on the road but only from the corner of my eye.  It’s probably a good thing because being so close to the top of the world does tend to make the car go faster. 

When we got to Halifax we actually stayed in the dorm rooms of a local university.  We each had our own room and shared a bathroom.  There was a kitchen too but we were far too fancy to cook.  It was really rather nice and extremely affordable.  We even had a mouse.  There was an ultimate frisbee tournament or practice or something going on down below which was entertaining, as well as the soccer team practicing and a runner getting his starts right.  That was a little annoying because he didn’t keep going around the track although it was a little bit entertaining when he almost got hit by the soccer ball.  It turns out he wasn't very good at kicking the ball.

We drove to some coastal towns and they were truly delightful.  At one such town we stopped and went walking.  At this point it was getting rather chilly and since I had packed my bags with hope in my heart that Canada would turn on the sun I was experiencing some regret.  We found a little shop that sold all kinds of souvenirs including clothes.  I picked out some gifts for the family and also a jersey for myself.  As I was paying, the owners of the shop were making small talk.  They wanted to know where we came from and what brought us to their lovely little village.  We explained that we were all from New Zealand but that I lived in Massachusetts.  The conversation went like this:

“Why do you live in America?”
“Well, I married an American you see”
“Oh, I’m sooooory” (husband and wife in unison and in tones of deepest sympathy)
“I do quite like him you know”

Of course I was, at that moment, buying him a t shirt that has a picture of a man all alone in a boat with the words ‘if a man speaks at sea where no woman can hear, is he still wrong?’

On another day we went in search of a lighthouse.  There were a lot of them but we wanted to see this one beach that had sea caves.  We arrived when the tide was out and they were pretty amazing.  Completely empty caverns that you could walk right inside of.  We didn’t because there was still a pretty sizable stream to ford before getting to them but we did walk out on the beach and get pretty close.  When they fill up with water you can apparently go kayaking into them. 

There was a restaurant right there on the beach and I got my first proper fish and chips in such a long time.  It was glorious.  As we sat we watched the tide come in and start to fill up the caves.  There were a lot of people there but we still made note of one family that were sitting close to us.  I don’t know why we noticed them but we did. 

We drove a little bit further up the road over some covered bridges before looking for a place to turn around.  Now in America (and I assume in Canada) people don’t take too kindly to you pulling up their driveways in order to turn your car around.  In New Zealand this is perfectly acceptable.  We had driven far enough and I decided to turn New Zealand and plead ignorance if it became a problem, we were in a pretty rural area so we figured it would go unnoticed anyway.  We nosed into a driveway and executed a very quick and painless turn.  As I reversed we all noticed an absolutely giant New Zealand flag attached to a flag pole in the front of this house.  We were astounded.  This is not a sight you generally see (unless you come to my house).  We looked at the letter box and noticed that the house belonged to Wayne Jackson.  Actually quite a New Zealand sounding name.  We committed it to memory and carried on.

After we got onto the road to the lighthouse we had been searching for we wound around for quite some time.  Finally we arrived.  There was a small walk down to the actual lighthouse itself.  We started down the path which opened out to a beautiful ocean view but a fairly average looking lighthouse, to be honest.  We took pictures, as you do, and set off back up the trail.  It was there that we encountered the family we had all noticed back at the restaurant.  Since this was now our second meeting and figuring that they were probably tourists like us we decided to strike up conversation.  It went something like this.

“Oh, hi.  We meet again.”
“Yes, ha ha, we must be following you.  Where are you all from?”
“We’re from New Zealand, just on a visit, and you?”
“Oh, we’re locals, just out for a drive.”
“Do you know Wayne Jackson?”
“How do you know Wayne?” (a little suspicion creeping into the voice)
“We don’t.”
“We were just at his house and he has a giant New Zealand flag outside. We thought he must be from New Zealand.”
“Oh, no.  He’s from here, my husband was the best man at his wedding.  His daughter married a guy from New Zealand.  Nice man.  What were you doing at his house?”
“Oh, just turning around in his driveway.”

No doubt Wayne and his family now have a similar story they tell about three strange Kiwi girls on a path to a lighthouse.

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