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ReportsTuesday, 29 April 2003
Deer Island --> Penobsquis, New Brunswick, Canada Dana Conley woke me up this morning around 7.30am. He had already gone to the ferry point to pick up his batch of newspapers and came back to get me. Within a few minutes I was ready to join him in his car as I was coming along with his newspaper round around the island.
It was early morning for me, but I was clear awake. Probably because I went to bed early last night.
For the last twenty or somewhat years, Dana has been the courier for the Transcript Journal on this island. And it is the only available paper on the island, so Dana has somehow a good monopoly position.
He delivers all his newspapers while sitting in his car with the radio on and his window open, pulls over near the mailboxes along the road and slides the folded newspaper in it.
When there is no mailbox, Dana wraps the paper in a plastic bag (especially made for newspapers) and throws the paper somewhere on the front lawn, preferable as close to the front door or the walking path.
Of course, being a guy from The Netherlands, where the country is that flat that paperboys deliver papers either walking or on their bicycles, I had to try out this way of newspaper delivering myself, of course. I wrapped some papers in their bags and when Dana gave me the signal I swirled the bags out of the window, hoping they would always land on the right lawn in front of the same house.
"Are you trying to take over my job!?" Dana asked me. "You are doing pretty well."
"You never know," I said, " I now know that I can be a paper courier too, maybe somewhere in the future!"
"Oh, watch out now," Dana suddenly announced. "We are entering the coloured neighbourhood of the island right now." I was stunned by the fact that there is a coloured neighbourhood on this island, actually called like that too, and pointed out to me, and I was curious why I had to watch out. What is so special about a coloured neighbourhood? Isn't everybody the same?
"Look, on this side of the streets lives Mr. & Mrs. Green and on the other side, lives Mr. & Mrs. Black. This is why the locals call this street a coloured neighbourhood. Hah!"
"Oh…" I was perplexed. Those locals sure had humour!
Today was also both our departure days off the island. Dana had to head to the airport in St. Stephens and catch a flight to Toronto, before heading to his friends in the States. And I had to head out to my next address in New Brunswick.
Last night we quickly figured out how to run things. Dana's neighbour Conrad was going to Saint John today, and he offered me a ride. Once again I wouldn't have to hitchhike. And with my next hosts, who live way east of Saint John, I had a phone conversation in which they told me they would be in Saint John later today anyway. So lucky me! I could be dropped off and picked up in Saint John!
We packed our bags and I thanked Dana for his support in getting me to Deer Island and helping me out with a place to stay. Then I dropped my stuff in Conrad's car and quickly had a last visit to Dana's mum down the road.
"Boy, you haven't enjoyed my apple pie yesterday!" she said warm-heartedly complaint to me. "I guess you do want to taste it before you leave," and she gave me a big piece of her home-made pie. I thanked her when Conrad was ready to go as we would try to catch the 10.30am ferry to the mainland.
On the ferry, Conrad showed me some photos of his whale watching touring company and told me everything about his new boats, what his visitors thought about it all, how unique the experience is, about whales and other big fishies, and etcetera.
Once on the road for an almost one-hour drive to Saint John, I had to honestly apologize myself to Conrad for snoozing away in his car. Somehow there was still some drowsiness in me.
We arrived in Saint John just after noon and Conrad wished me luck when I got off at the King Square park. I am back again!
But my next hostess would be around here at 3pm, so that meant I had to enjoy myself on my own for a few hours. That was okay for me and after having another walk through the City Market, the Lancaster Mall, and some of the centre streets; I ended up at the park and decide to sit on one of the benches in the warm sun while reading a book.
A man came sitting next to me on the same bench. He looked at my pack and was apparently amazed with seeing an unknown face. We small talked about the weather and what I think about Saint John and I followed his assumption that I come from one of the islands. I did not lie, I actually had come from Deer Island today.
A nurse walked by while sipping a Tim Horton's cup of coffee. "Excuse me, ma'am," my friendly neighbour said to her. The lady halt and looked at him, then at me. "Yes?"
"How many time does anybody tell you that you look beautiful?" he asked. The lady smiled, blushing because of his question.
"My husband says it every day," she answered.
"Well, I think he should say it every fifteen minutes, ma'am."
The lady thanked the man for his compliments and walked on through the park. That was really nice, I thought.
The man introduced himself to me as Bruce. When he was about to go for another walk, he was desperate to show me a picture of his dog. "Oh nice," I said, when he pushed the dog photo in my face. "She will be nine years in a few weeks," he said. He stuffed the picture back into his wallet, wished me a Merry Christmas and took off.
Why do I always meet up with town idiots?
Just after 3pm I met up with my next hostess, Cynthia MacLeod and her mum. They had to do some errands in town, but could pick me up on the way back to their home in Penobsquis.
You says the name of that small town just as you read it, don't make it any difficult. Anyway, not many people would care how you pronounce Penobsquis, because it is very small. It is that small that I could not find it on any map, not even on the internet. Only the postal code could pin point the location correctly for me. Oh… there?
It is in Penobsquis where they first discovered natural gas a few years ago, "on our land," Cynthia says. So I asked if they had become really wealthy now. "No, we don't have the mineral rights to the land, only what goes six inches deep in the dirt. The government just came in and installed pumps and built gates and everything. They pay us a few hundred dollars a year and call that a lease."
It was a 45 minute drive east from Saint John and in the mean time I got to know Cynthia and her mum a bit better. Cynthia had heard about my website through the CBC Radio (Gosh, who didn't? Thanks guys!).
She and her friend Doug Ouimet opened their own country store last November. "So don't look at the mess in the house, everything is very much still under construction." Next to running this store along the road, she also creates oil paintings. "Mostly landscapes and paintings," she said. "And Doug is a photographer and we also try to sell our own art at the store."
With all the family's land, the couple also runs a small farm in the valley behind the store. "We have milk cows and I have a horse. We don't have any children, but we consider our dogs our children," she laughs.
"Our computer is at the repair," she said, "so I haven't been able to read your latest reports yet. My mum is anti-computers." In the passenger's seat her mother nods along. "Why is that," I asked. "She has heard too many stories about broken families where the husband goes on the internet and finds himself a new lover in another country." Ha-ha.
"So how did you meet up with Doug," I asked Cynthia, curiously. "Uh, through the internet, actually. Doug originates from Ontario." A-ha!
When we arrive at the country store and the home of my hosts, situated along the road with not much else in the neighbourhood, than a graveyard next door. Workers are busy with building a fence. It is 23 degrees in the sun, summer hot as I would call it.
Inside the store, I meet up with Doug and friends of the family. "This store has also become a place for social gatherings. You should see it in the evening, when all kinds of locals pop by for a coffee."
I drop my stuff in the antique living room, where I would sleep on the sofa tonight and get back to the store area where most of the activity takes place. I am introduced to the neighbouring friends Bob and Cathy and they are amazed to meet somebody who came all the way from the other part of the world. "And you mingle in so well," Cathy said.
Then Bob went to his house and got me something they would like to give to me. "My grandfather was in the Canadian Army and helped with the liberation of The Netherlands in May 1945. He stayed with a Dutch family for a while, afterwards, and that family gave him this wooden plaque." And Bob hands me this plaque, which has the 'weapon' of the Dutch city of Haren on the front and the back side says: "In remember of Holland. From you Dutch Friend. July 5, 1945." That was exactly two months after the country was liberated from Nazi-Germany.
"We want you to have it." Their grandfather liberated The Netherlands over fifty years ago, got a plaque from his Dutch friend and now I their children give the plaque back to another Dutch guy. I was amazed. I'll take it back home.
The afternoon had already ended and after I had a power nap to recharge myself again, dinner was announced. And while customers of the small store still walk in and out, I sit with the family and the neighbours at this little table enjoying this giant piece of beef. "From the land, not from a store," I was told, and it was a long time ago that beef tasted that good!
The night slowly set in and Doug connected me to his phone line in their bed room. Due to all the construction going on in the house, the bedroom contained a lot of stuff, just like the kitchen. When they first finished the store and got that running, the rest of the house still had to be renovated. "And that takes the longest time," Doug said.
At night I try to write my stories while Cynthia and Doug watch American Idols on television. I personally think there is no good singer within the contestants, because they were terrible distracting my writing that night. But on the other hand, I am happy, because Idols is another invention by Dutch people, hehe.
Good night Penobsquis!