Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Snap, Crackle, Pop ...

(.... went my wrist one day.)

I'm bored.  This is not how I'd planned to spend my year off.  You may have wondered what the hell I'm up to, since you've probably figured out I haven't left Toronto yet:  I'm just hanging around with no apparent purpose to my days, other than waiting to find out what I need to do about my broken wrist.  It's one of those teeny tiny bones between my arm and my hand, so it wasn't immediately obvious when I broke it.

But, yes, it's actually broken.  I found that out for sure last week.  So now I'm waiting around to find out what I need to do next to make it all better, instead of hopping in a plane again to jet off to London and then India.

I think I did it in Peru, hiking up to the Sun Gate at Machu Picchu, since I had a particularly un-graceful fall down some steep steps built for people 8 feet tall (not the 5'6" kind that I am).  It kind of hurt a bit then, but it didn't really swell up or anything so I didn't think much of it.  Plus, well, I was in Peru, and heading on to Ecuador next, and didn't really feel like trusting myself to either health-care system.

Came back to Toronto for a few days in July and it felt fine, so I didn't worry about it.  Headed out to Newfoundland to wander around for a while, and the wrist started to hurt again after af few days of putting tents up and down and various other camping-related activities.  Came back to Ontario, it still kind of hurt and got much worse after writing like a demon for the 3-Day novel competition (really fun, I'll tell you about it in another post -- so I finally made a doctor's appointment.

Well, it took a couple of weeks to actually see the doctor, but got an X-Ray immediately and found out a couple of days later that it's broken, much to the surprise of my doctor (as well as me).  So I've been walking around with my arm wrapped up in a brace while I wait for the promised referrral to an orthopedic surgeon.  It's been almost a week and I haven't heard, so I'm going to nag my doc's office again tomorrow.  I just want to get an answer on what happens next, so I can start planning accordingly.

In the meantime, here I sit in limbo.  I was having fun in Toronto for a while, catching up with friends and checking out some theatre and wandering around wherever the whim took me that day.  But I'm tired of sleeping on the couch, and I'm trying to figure out how to make my money last, so I don't feel like going out spending gobs of it while just killing time here.  And, most importantly, it's almost October, and I'm conscious that that means I only have 3 months left on my original timeline to be off work (possibly being extended for another 3 months -- I'll keep you posted).  So I'd rather be using my time to do some of the stuff I'd originally planned!


I am not good at waiting.  I have no patience to speak of, even when not a stressed-out workaholic at the office 18 hours a day.  I'd probably still lack patience after spending a year meditating while doing yoga in an ashram in India. 

So I sometimes have trouble entertaining myself, particularly since unwilling to spend large amounts of money -- if anyone has brilliant ideas for free stuff I can do, let me know (I am sick of crap North American television, so don't even bother to mention that). Some of the things I usually do for fun are difficult, Writing is much more awkward with the brace on my arm -- I can't do it longhand, since it's my left wrist that's broken (I'm a southpaw, in case you didn't already know), and even typing is very awkward (hence the lack of blog postings lately).  I can't go to kickboxing, since I can't punch anything with my left hand (that's my good hand, so what's the point?).

Best case, probably, I have to have a cast for a few weeks; I'm thinking that makes India a bit too challenging, so would probably switch plans and go to Ireland and Scotland instead.   Worst case ... I have to have surgery or have the bone re-broken since the bone has probably already started to heal but might not be doing it correctly.  In that case, not sure I'd be going very far at all.

Arrrggghhhh.  Just give me an answer one way or another, and I'll figure out some way to entertain myself.  It's the waiting around I can't stand.

Monday, September 20, 2010

How to Speak Newfoundlandish

If you thought it was enough to speak English and French to travel around Canada, think again.  There's an island outpost, way off the East Coast, where they speak an entirely different language.  It's related to English, to be sure, but at times it sounds not very much like it at all.

I'm talking about Newfoundland.  You'll have read my last post, dear reader, about the whys and wherefores of my love of this particular corner of Canada (if you haven't read the post, go back and read it, and try to stay up to date in future!).  Part of its charm is the Newfy dialect, with its own unique pronunciations and words and sayings.  There are whole dictionaries devoted to the translation between Newfy and English, I kid you not.

What makes it so unique, you ask?  Read on and find out.

Consider the origins first.  Newfoundland is one of the earliest-settled parts of North America, and because of the isolation of most of the outport villages, speech patterns were largely preserved from the earliest arrivals on down.  Linguists have been known to visit the province just to study their speech – if you want to know what an Irish or Scottish or Cornish person sounded like a few hundred years ago, there`s probably a remote corner of Newfoundland where they still speak that way, just as their ancestors did when they first crossed the Atlantic.

And it`s an island, to boot.  Island people tend (if I may generalize) to take pride in their “differentness”, in anything that makes them unlike the rest of the world.  And until air travel became affordable and commonplace, Newfoundland was a difficult enough place to get to that the outside world probably left them largely alone.

Whatever the reasons, it’s entertainment in itself just to walk the streets of a Newfie village and listen to people talk.  On my recent trip, we sometimes found ourselves asking each other, “What did they say?  Did you understand that?”  It’s that different.

Not so much in St. John’s – the “townie” accent is still noticeably different than a central Canadian (even my friend Janette’s, after 20 years in Ontario, particularly after she’s had a few glasses of Scotch).  But it’s in the smaller places and the more remote parts of the province that “Newfoundlandish” really comes into its own.

Here’s your primer – 10 steps to sounding like a Newfie. Well, the outport version anyway -  also known as “baymen”, regardless of gender.  Distinguished from “townies”, who are from St. John’s (If you want to sound like a “townie”, I’ll introduce you to Janette).
1. The letter "H":   Drop your “aitches” from the words that start with one, also pronounced “haitches” depending on which bit of the province you’re in.  (I think it used to be a Catholic/Protestant thing.)  And throw in an aitch/haitch (“H”) on words beginning with vowels.  Easiest to observe in the northwestern tip of Newfoundland, where our guide at L’Anse-aux-Meadows spoke of “hicebergs” and “harrows” and “hiron” as he regaled us with Viking tales.

2.  "Ing" versus "In' ":  Drop the “g” from any words ending with “ing”.  “Going” becomes “goin’ ”, “drinking” becomes “drinkin’ ”.

3.  Lose the "th":  “Th” is always pronounced “t” or “d”.  For example, “They go to the pub for drinks” becomes “Dey goes to de pub fer drinkin’ ”.  Which leads me to the next rule ...

4.  Verbs:  Conjugate your verbs differently.  “To go” is not “I go, you go, he/she goes, we go, they go”, it is:  “I goes, you goes, he/she goes, we goes, they goes”.  Past tense often uses this version of present tense:  for example, instead of “So I said to him ...”, you’d say “So I says to ‘im ...”.

5.  Terms of address:  If you’re referring to a man, call him “buddy dere” (“buddy what’s-his-name” for extra points) or “feller-me-lad”.  If speaking to a man or a woman, call them “my love” or “my darling”, regardless of how well you know them.  (Don’t worry, they won’t think you’re hitting on them.)  If speaking to a man, you may also call him “boy” (pronounced “bye”) or “me son” (“my son” – does not denote parenthood).  A woman may also be “me ducky”.

6.  Vowels:  Stretch out your vowels.  “Jesus” becomes more like “Jaysus”, “St. John’s” is pronounced more like “St. Jaaaaahhhn’s”, and “I” becomes sort of a cross between “Oi” and “Aye”.   This also applies to people’s names; for example, it is “Jaaarge” not “George”.  Unless ....

7.  (Vowels, part 2) ... you’re saying the word “boy”, pronounced “bye” or “b’y”.  The vowel gets shortened, not drawn out.  Throw (“t’row”) in a few random “b’y” ’s at the end of your sentences and you’ll sound like a native.

8.  Speaking your mind:  If you want to swear, use a religious reference – “Jaysus, Mary ‘n’ Joseph”, or “Lord t’undering Jaysus”.  (They’re the Anglo equivalent of les Quebecois in this.)

9.  Speed:  Speak quickly and animatedly.  If “mainlanders” (people not from Newfoundland) can’t understand you, look at them pityingly and say, “You must be from away, eh?”  (“Away” denotes anywhere else.)

10.  Words and phrases:  Learn the vocabulary.  Some of my favourites:  “airsome” to denote “windy”, “where ya to?” instead of “where are you?”,  “tuckamore” for scrubby brush, and “all mops and brooms” for out-of-control hair (mine, usually).  And "some" or "right" instead of "very"; for example, you might say "What a beautiful view" in Ontarian, but in Newfoundlandish, you'd say something like "She's some pretty, b'y".

That’ll get you started, at least, although true mastery of the language -- enough to disguise the fact that you're "from away" -- may take years.  If going to the Rock, you may also wish to acquire a Newfoundland-to-English dictionary, to help you out.

Good luck and fair wedder (weather) to ya!

P.S. Forgot to add one important note:  how to prounounce the name of the island itself.  It is not "New-FOUND-land", as you may occasionally hear mainlanders referring to it.  Most correctly, it is "Newfun-LAND", although "NEWF-un-land" may also be permissable.

Blackflies and Buchaneers: a Visit to the "Holy Land"

(Yes, I know it's been a while.  If you've been checking here and not finding anything new, thanks for your patience!  And thanks for continuing to read -- good to know that there's someone out there in cyberspace.)

Hands up if you've ever been to Newfoundland.  Anyone?  Anyone at all? 

Okay, I'm betting there's a couple of Canadian hands in the air (in addition to my relatives), out of all those reading this, but that most of the Canucks have never been.  And of the foreigners, well, most of them are probably saying, "Newfoundland?  Where's that?"

Well, if you are one of those whose hands remain stubbornly down, then you’ve missed out.  I truly, madly, deeply adore Newfoundland, and it may just have to move higher on my “Places I Could Live Someday” list (see earlier post for the complete list).   I spent a while there this summer with my sister and brother-in-law, wandering around the province, and it really is one of the most beautiful spots on earth.  With some of the friendliest people you will meet anywhere – well, except for their tendency to scoff at Ontario.  (As I heard some of them say, in all seriousness:  “Living in Ontario?  Well, that’s not really living.”)

Part of the trip was nostalgia – my sisters and I spent our summers travelling the continent with our parents, and made it to Newfoundland many times.  (My father, in case you don`t know, is a genuine Newfy born-and-bred, hailing from the little town of Buchans in the middle of nowhere.  Literally – it`s at the end of a highway that doesn`t really go anywhere else, except to a couple of even smaller towns.)

But, although I’ve been there many times, the last time was probably 25 years ago.  And we travelled a little differently this time – still camping, as we did in childhood, but in tents instead of a trailer.  And safely ensconced in a comfy rental car, instead of riding un-seatbelted in the back of a station wagon.  (Hey, it was the 1970’s – no one worried about things like that.)

Some of it was all about family history: the lovely Codroy Valley in the southwest corner of the province, where my MacLellan grandfather was born, right near the ferry port of Port-aux-Basques; the former mining town of Buchans, where my dad was born in the days before Newfoundland was Canadian (the "Buchaneers" in the title isn't a typo -- that's what Buchans people call themselves); and the tiny Bellevue Beach, where my paternal grandmother’s family (the Hefferans, formerly Heffords) hail from.   Oh, and a stop in New Victoria, which isn’t in Newfoundland at all but on Cape Breton Island (yes, I’m part Newfy AND part Caper, possibly the two most-mocked breeds of Canadians – completely undeserved mockery, I hasten to add).

Some of the trip was exploring new territory – such as the gorgeous and otherworldly Gros Morne National Park, replete with moose and mountains and fjords to rival Scandinavia, and some of the oldest rock in the world.  (They don’t call Newfoundland “The Rock” for nothing.)  And, of course, visiting the oldest European settlement – the Vikings made it here 500 years before Columbus hit the West Indies, and you can still see the remains of their settlement at L’Anse-aux-Meadows in the far northwestern tip – and the oldest known burial site in the Americas, which, from about 7000 BC, predates the Incas and the Mayans further south by thousands of years.  The countless appealing little outpost villages are also worth a visit (although you may occasionally need a translator to understand the locals -- Newfy English is a different language altogther, once you get outside St. John`s).

Some of it was enjoying Newfy culture – the Cow Head Theatre Festival in Gros Morne (where we saw “Ed and Ed’s B&B” a locally-written comedy that could only come from Newfoundland); the gorgeous Norseman restaurant up near L’Anse-aux-Meadows, where you can enjoy gourmet cuisine with fresh local ingredients (the partridgeberry pie was to die for, as was the Newfoundland martini); or sampling local wines along the way (forget grapes – wines get much more creative here, being made from every variety of local berry you can imagine, and even rhubarb).  And the place names alone provide hours of entertainment – anyone up for a visit to Goobies, or Heart’s Content, or Dildo?

Oh, and I can’t forget the music – our personal soundtrack as we drove involved a lot of Great Big Sea and other Celtic music (I think Steve – my brother-in-law -- was very tired of fiddle music by the end of the trip, but he mostly got overruled).  And we heard some astonishingly talented musicians in St. John’s (yes, more fiddles) at some of the pubs on George Street – and if Patrick Moran, fiddler and singer extraordinaire (not to mention oh, so cute and with an adorable accent), ever makes it to Toronto, he’d better look me up.

We even had a little bit of Europe thrown into the mix, as we took a day trip to St. Pierre just off the south coast of the Burin Peninsula.  It’s the last remaining outpost of the once-mighty French empire in North America, and remains stubbornly French to this day.  My only problem visiting there was language – oh, I can speak enough French to get by, but every time I went to speak, I kept saying things in Spanish instead.  (Apparently that’s now become my default foreign language – my brain knew it wasn’t supposed to be using English, but it now goes to Spanish next instead of French.)

I went for many reasons, and I think I loved it all.  Even the two foggy, rainy days we had – yes, only two, which is remarkable for Newfoundland and Labrador – as the province just as hauntingly lovely in that weather (much the same way that Ireland and Scotland are).  Oh, wait, there is one thing I didn't enjoy -- those pesky, nearly-invisible little blackflies that will stealthily bite huge chunks out of your skin and leave you itching for days afterwards.  (Mosquitoes don't even begin to compare.)

I even think I could quite happily move to St. John`s.  It`s attractive and quirky and lively, and although it`s not a big place -- maybe 100,000 people -- it`s the only biggish city in the province (with Corner Brook a distant second at about 20,000) so it has just about everything I think I could want.  (The cute Newfy fiddlers in George Street pubs are a bonus.)

So, even with the blackflies, you need to go:  that’s the bottom line.  If you’ve already been ... well, then you know what I’m talking about.  And any time you want to go back and need a travelling companion, just let me know.  And if you haven’t been already, you’re missing out on somewhere very magical.  So book that plane or train, or hit the road in your car, and get yourself out east already.  You won`t regret it.

Oh ... and if you happen to run into Patrick in St. John`s, tell him I said “Hi”.