The first time I uttered the word Newfoundland, I was pointing at a photo of a Newfoundland puppy. Pleading with my mother to let us have one. Mom looked around our small suburban ranch house. Pointed to an adjoining photo of an adult Newfoundland dog.
Large as a black bear.
I never got the Newfie.
Today, Newfoundland conjures up images of a a wild, windswept seacoast like the one in The Shipping News. I see weather-beaten fishing boats rocking in deep, cold coves. The blinking of lighthouses. I hear the voices of hearty, no-nonsense people swaddled in layers of woolen sweaters and rain gear. People with their own ways of doing things, their own perspectives on the world.
People like Wanda.
Wanda lives with her family near St. Johns, Newfoundland on Canada’s far eastern coast. She is self-employed.
I met Wanda through my friend and her cousin, Anne Marie.
Anne Marie and I met last year at a New Years Eve/50th birthday/murder mystery party. Over copious amounts of wine, we talked for hours as she told me about her family in Newfoundland.
Thank you, Anne Marie.
My Conversation with Wanda
Look out a window in your home and tell me what you see?
I see snow, lots of snow, trees, and the forest. We live where the houses are far apart. We have lots of land. My kids snowboard in my back yard, only in the winter though. In summer we have a fire pit.
What myth or stereotype about Newfoundland would you like to set straight?
Being from Newfoundland, it’s (often) unheard of. Most people can’t pronounce it. Referred to as The Rock by many, Newfoundland is often misunderstood. The people are often referred to in a demeaning way, like we are uneducated and disconnected. Yet, when people visit here, they fall in love with our land, our people, and our place.
Go back to the 911 events, when many Americans were directed here. We took care of them. To this day, these relations continue.
What brings you joy?
My two white huskies, the open space, the beach, the ocean. I love to work (many would say I am a workaholic) but there is nothing like the peace of walking on the beaches at Sandy Cove or Eastport. Listening to the waves and roar of the ocean, enjoying the dogs. We go for trips by boat to the isolated coves. These are only reachable by boat. It’s like being in the middle of nowhere. Just peaceful.
What are your greatest fears?
Failure. I am self-employed and have been for 15 years. Sometimes I question the direction I have taken. Don’t get me wrong. I am confident and diversified, but sometimes I wake up at night and say to myself, you’re a crazy woman. You should be working for the government and get a pension.
What gives you hope?
The future. The times have changed so much.I see great opportunity (especially now that our province has an oil reserve). We will have access to future financial resources.
What is the most unusual thing about where you live?
Our space. We have so much land. We are surrounded by the ocean. We have icebergs. The caribou and moose all roam freely. We have just around 500,000 people in our entire province.
If I came to your house for dinner, what would you serve me?
Treats from the sea and the garden. We are still blessed to have access to fresh cod, cod tongues, crab, and we have our own garden. So it would be a feast from the sea and from the garden topped with a dessert made from a variety of berries, like bake apples, partridgeberries, and blueberries.
With a little local wine from Rodrigues winery.
What is your favorite time of year in Newfoundland?
I love fall here, as the weather is most consistent. Most days, the weather changes three or four times in a day. It starts with rain then we get windy, then it gets cloudy, and then it can be sunny. As they say, only in Newfoundland. Four seasons in one day.
Fall offers the best for us, as the evenings are longer with daylight savings time and we get to spend time touring our country spot in Eastport. Fall also allows us to enjoy the benefits of the harvest, (fresh garden vegetables) and we have extra opportunity to enjoy fishing for cod . . . and other treats from the sea.
What does your country do really well?
Economic and political leadership and stability.
What do you wish your country did better?
Immigration. We have a big issue here with access to skilled and low skilled workers. We have a country that has an aging demographic. We need to embrace immigration and bring more skilled workers to our country. Our immigration programs need to be reformed.
What is your opinion of the United States? Chicago?
I like it. I have travelled there many times. My aunt has lived in NJ for 50 years, so I have always travelled there. I have a great appreciation for the country and the relationship the US and Canada have with free trade.
I really enjoyed Chicago. The brand of Oprah is prime in my mind. I was there for Anne Marie’s wedding. I wish we could have stayed longer. We were there only four days. I plan to go back. . . soon I hope.
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