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Charmed by the beauty of Newfoundland and the warmth of its locals, writer Elizabeth Nelson decides to move there and open a youth hostel. Read on as she shares her experiences in this unique province, including a close encounter with a codfish.
Text by: Elizabeth Nelson
Photography by: Dave Gerow
Country: Canada

he room is dark and packed with people. There is a smell of anticipation in the place mixed with another not-so-nice smell of fish. A lone man stands in the center of the room all dressed up in traditional Newfoundland fishing gear and every eye is watching him. He shouts, sings, rhymes, and teases; he is the Screecher and we are being “screeched in”.

Being “screeched in” is to be a part of a ceremony where you must speak in the rhyming slang of a Newfoundlander, eat some local meat, have a shot of screech (Jamaican rum) and, most importantly, when a smelly, big codfish is placed in front of you, you must give the codfish a kiss.

How did I come to find myself in this malodorous position?

I arrived in Newfoundland four months ago along with my boyfriend, my sister, and a friend. Once home to the Vikings, Newfoundland has a long trade history with England, Portugal, France and Spain. Before joining Canada, it was an independent dominion, a republic with its own flag and governing rules. It is now Canada’s easternmost and newest province, becoming a part of Canada in 1949.

Newfoundlanders are very proud of their heritage and their hospitality reflects this. They are always very welcoming to travelers from all over the world. Hitchhiking is a common form of transportation, and many travelers have stories of meeting a local while out on a walk and being invited back for a cup of tea or even “supper”, which is what a Newfoundlander will call dinner.

We moved here to open a youth hostel in the town of Trinity East. We bought an old, derelict house in a tiny community that has many expensive bed and breakfast accommodations but no cheap alternatives for backpackers and youth travelers. There are a number of famous hikes in the local area, the most famous being the Skerwink Trail. It is a five-kilometer trail that follows the cliff face around a beautiful peninsula. There are many whales, moose, dolphins, puffins and other Atlantic wildlife in the area.

We spent one month in the freezing cold renovating the house: painting, flooring, cleaning, polishing, and decorating. We collected furniture from local yard sales, flea markets, and we bought some from the locals. We live very close to the beach and often go for walks collecting beautiful rocks, shells and driftwood to decorate the house.

We had many of the locals drop by with homemade jams, breads, tea, and anything else they thought we needed. One lady seemed worried about our cooking skills when she turned up with a fire extinguisher and three smoke detectors “just in case!” The women all drop by offering their gifts and speaking in their melodious, rhyming accents. “G’morning m’love”, “How are you gettin’ on m’dear?”, and once, confusingly, “How are you my lover?” (I was not this old lady’s lover!).

The language of Newfoundland is different to the rest of Canada. Here, the accents are a mix of Irish and English so they sing when they speak; the tones rise up and down like the tide. The men all refer to each other as B’y, pronounced “Bye” and meaning boy. No matter what age they are, a 16-year-old could call a 40-year-old B’y and they’d respond the same. The song, “I’s the B’y”, meaning, ‘I am the boy’, is a typical Newfoundland song and is often heard at gatherings all over the island. It is a typical folk song that speaks of the way of life in the outports, the areas outside the city of St John’s.

In Newfoundland the term for a person who lives in the capital city, St John’s , is “Townie” and those that live in the outports are referred to as “Baymen”. It makes no difference whether you are a man or a woman; if you live in the outports of Newfoundland, you are a Bayman.

But it’s not just the Baymen who are generous: While in St John’s at a local bar, my friends and I mentioned to the bartender that we love Newfoundland jam and the generosity of the outports. Not to be outdone by a Bayman, our Townie bartender handed us two jars of jam freshly made by his mother. “Give this to the Baymen so they can try real jam!” he said with a smile and a laugh.

Our experience in Newfoundland has been exactly this: full of warmth and welcome. And on the night I am “screeched in”, as the big, icy cod comes round to me I take a deep breath and give the cod a big kiss, right on its nose. I stand up and am presented with a certificate stating that I am an honorary Newfoundlander. I smell like a fish, I’m a little drunk and excited, but most of all, I feel proud!


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Easy Summary

I arrived in Newfoundland to open a youth hostel in the town of Trinity East. There are many whales, moose, dolphins, puffins and other Atlantic wildlife in the area.

Newfoundland was once home to the Vikings and has a long trade history with England, Portugal, France and Spain. Before it became a part of Canada in 1949, it was an independent dominion with its own flag and governing rules. It is now Canada’s easternmost and newest province. .

Newfoundlanders are very proud of their heritage and their hospitality reflects this. They are always very welcoming to travelers from all over the world. Hitchhiking is a common form of transportation, and many travelers have stories of meeting a local while out on a walk and being invited back for a cup of tea or even “supper”, which is what a Newfoundlander will call dinner.

The language of Newfoundland is different to the rest of Canada. Here, the accents are a mix of Irish and English so they sing when they speak. The men all refer to each other as B’y. It is pronounced “Bye” and means boy.

In Newfoundland the term for a person who lives in the capital city, St John’s , is “Townie” and those that live in the outports are referred to as “Baymen”. It makes no difference whether you are a man or a woman; if you live in the outports of Newfoundland, you are a Bayman.

 

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The newst Bayman

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Elementary Relative Pronouns .

Advanced Simple Present for narrating a story.

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The newest baymen .

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