Saturday 28 September 2013

Putting it All Together: Quidi Vidi Field School Preparing for Presentation to Community

Happy Saturday, folks!

This morning we're all at Quidi Vidi Plantation and are busy preparing for our final presentation to the community tomorrow. There's no shortage of tea and snacks today as we discuss how best to condense our three week experience into a several minute video. We've been wrangling amongst ourselves about what absolutely needs to be included- not an easy feat, considering all seven of us have had many experiences in the time we've been here. Luckily we've become great friends and as of yet, I'm happy to report there have been no major disagreements- besides, of course, what music we should be playing in our tiny workspace.

Over the course of our time here, you've been given a daily glimpse into what we're up to. I guess with this final post, we really just wanted to collectively say thank you to everyone who has helped make this field school come together- in particular, the Department of Folklore, the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland, the City of St. John's, the Quidi Vidi Village Foundation, and of course, the wonderful residents of Quidi Vidi Village. Three weeks ago, I don't know that any of us could have imagined just how much we were going to have learned and we are excited to have the opportunity to share it with you.

Please join us tomorrow evening at 7pm at the Quidi Vidi Plantation where we will be presenting our research to the community. We look forward to seeing you there!

Quidi Vidi Field School 2013
Kayla Carroll
Christine Blythe
Adrian Morrison
Xuan Wang
Klara Nichter
Kari Sawden
John LaDuke

l-r Adrian Morrison, John LaDuke, Xuan Wang, Kayla Carroll, Christine Blythe, Klara Nichter and Kari Sawden 

Friday 27 September 2013

Forever Hometown

        From the day I set up from Beijing International Airport till now, time has passed one month precisely. However I felt that I have left my home over one year. Can’t imagine, field school nearly draws to the end. I felt so worried about it when I still in China. I know I do poor English writing, but I still have to express my feelings by it in blogger. I was nervous when I was in my home- I just cannot speak English well, what about interview and investigate local people- I ever thought that quidi vidi people had totally different ethnical language compared with English and we need translators!… So far, I have done well. That’s what I feel comfort to myself. That is because of my friendly and helpful classmates; that is because of conscientious and considerable teachers; that is because of lovely and self- giving quidi vidi people…

        I learned so much in this precious period, not including the field investigation experiences I have added. I drew first professional building draft in my life; I interviewed a totally foreigner for me in one hour; I talked with two Newfoundlanders over 4 hours… As well as joining a banquet in a heritage building nearly 200 years, dancing and drinking in a wholly Newfoundland style kitchen party, “screeching” in the Inn of Olde for becoming a honorary Newfoundlander… Maybe after screechin, I definitely became a Newfoundlander and had same sentiments with the people and understood them profoundly. I learned many fishing common sense and knowledge of stage. I let waves from Atlantic Ocean wet out my pants and shoes when I was bumped till left to right in Frank’s boat. Right in that moment, I thought the waves would capsize the boat!

        So many precious memories… let me begin with my first English interviewer Peggy Magnone. She is so kind that she speaks slowly and tries her best to understand me and response me. To this intelligent and generous old lady, I don’t know what to say in this moment. Her tears nearly dropped down when she talked about her hardship period when she was young. I can’t imagine that a lady so optimistic still owns memories about hardships. I completed my interview smoothly in the help of the considerate old lady. But she looked so sad to let us go. I remembered her hardy face when she said goodbye to us- she even did not dare to look straight to us. I felt her strong sentiments of sorrow and pity that she knew that we did not belong to her from beginning to the end. I felt sad these days when I remembered her words and face. She said that you can come to see me interview or not interview… You can call me whenever you want… People in quidi vidi are so sentimental that I can’t help laughing and crying altogether with them.

Peggy Magnone and I with little Comet- Photographer: John LaDuke

         I interviewed John and Anne the day before yesterday. I know that Johnny has always waited for someone to interview him- he is so enthusiastic to field school and he and Anne love us so much. Interview completed as I imagined same as Peggy, but beyond my imagination was that we chatted nearly 4 hours after interview… From family fairs to political events, we chatted like old friends. They were so frank that they ask my advice for their private fairs. And I put myself in their position to the best of my ability to comfort them. They are so kind people that when I think of them, tears nearly running down. They trust me rather than I trust them. The trust is what kind of a good feeling! Today, they gave me a postcard by the hand of Christine. I was shocked again. Blessing and sentiments are flowing and going on. They taught me be grateful and be kind to everyone everything.

Kind John with a smile similar with the meerkat standing in the flowerpot
John pretends to be annoyed to Anne's superstitious habit to angel 
John, Anne and I hold Queen together- Photographer: Christine Blythe
        I have to talk about the Mallard banquet yesterday. The owner of Mallard Cottage Todd treated all of us in the old heritage building nearly 200 years. When I stepped into the house, I smelt a familiar flavour of burning wood. Yes, they burned woods in the original fireplace to make an old atmosphere. The whole old cottage belonged to us in the 3 hours. It was a bounteous meal including wine, salad, dish and desserts in exquisite procedures. I can’t remember the name of main dish… which harbour cod fea? Forgive me. “fi” is a local term means meal. I was full but dessert came. I was full further but the second dessert came…… Desserts were composed by two kinds of bread poutine and cream and blueberry sauce. Totally wonderful experience for me. The cookers and servers as well as the owner treated us with the utmost cordiality. Thanks a lot! Mallard Restaurant will open in October. Booming business!

        We will return back to classroom from field next week. But the faces of local people and the scenes will be engraved in our mind forever.  I deeply felt the love from local people to their hometown- quidi vidi village. And quidi vidi will be our hometown forever.Thank you all again and again and again…

Elegant Lisa and Adrian who  poses a gentleman in Middle Ages
A corner of Mallard Cottage Banquet
Old fireplace put warmth and feelings to us
Delicate tableware with carved pattern
Cheers! Everyone!

(Above photos all were shot by Wang Xuan except the ones illustrated)

The Many Faces of Quidi Vidi

When we arrived in Quidi Vidi, our first two weeks were, for the most part, full of bright and warm weather. Since then, it has been getting steadily cooler and wetter outside as the rain carries on and keeps most people inside for the day. At first glance, venturing outside even just into thick fog rather than the rain seemed uninviting as I looked at the gray, quiet waters of the harbor from the comfort of the dry, cozy room inside the plantation building where we worked, mugs of tea or coffee in hand.

A view of the harbor from inside the plantation building. Photo by Klara Nichter.

When I did venture out later that afternoon, however, it turned out that Quidi Vidi was as inviting as ever despite the lack of activity in the harbor and the ever-thickening fog that day. The fog only added to the striking nature of the view as I wandered out to Landrock to have a look at the rough waters that led most people to stay in and save their fishing for another day. Having come from a landlocked part of the United States, I was awed by the dramatic sight of the waves and struck by the calm of the waters by the time they flowed into the village harbor.

Quidi Vidi stages shrouded in fog. Photo by Klara Nichter.

The view as I headed out towards Landrock. Photo by Klara Nichter.

Crossing the rocky beach towards Landrock. Photo by Klara Nichter.

The end of the trail. Photo by Klara Nichter.

A view of the rough sea from Landrock. Photo by Klara Nichter.

More views of the waves from Landrock. Photo by Klara Nichter.

Heading back to the calm waters of Quidi Vidi. Photo by Klara Nichter.

As I considered how inviting Quidi Vidi was even in seemingly bad weather, my thoughts turned from the scenic surroundings to all of the people and their buildings that we have gotten to know over these few weeks. We have gone from strangers in a seemingly alien place to friends in a familiar one, largely thanks to the kindness and generosity of so many people who have welcomed us into their homes and stages and shared their lives in the village with us. Rain or shine, it seems that whenever you go out exploring here, there will always be something new and wonderful to be discovered.

Thursday 26 September 2013

When words fail

Knowing that today would be my last blog post, I have been trying to come up with something profound to say, but words, as powerful as they can be, are sometimes not enough. There is no way to adequately express my thanks and gratitude to everyone involved in this project. I could not have asked for a better introduction to Newfoundland than what I found here. 

The harbour on a foggy day. Photo by Kari Sawden.
Quidi Vidi Brook. Photo by Kari Sawden.
Quidi Vidi is always beautiful - rain, fog, or shine. Photo by Kari Sawden.
There are a lot of horror stories out there about the graduate studies and programs, especially concerning the competitive nature of academics. I am delighted to report that this has not been my experience; my classmates amazed me daily with their support, creativity, and knowledge. I continue to marvel how each of us could look at the same building and find within it vastly different stories, and I am grateful that this course provided opportunities to explore our unique perspectives.

Creativity and a little fearlessness are definitely assets. Xuan and Ed try to maneuver a floating platform into a measuring position with the support of Christine, Kayla, and Jerry. Photo by Kari Sawden.

Teamwork in action. Ed, Xuan, and Christine work on measurements. Photo by Kari Sawden.
That we were able to arrive in this community three weeks ago and be in any way successful is due to everyone who was working on this project long before we entered the picture. I can only imagine the amount of work required to make such a course possible. And the quality of education that we received is remarkable, made even more so given the short time-frame within which we had to accomplish everything.

Only a few of our many classrooms:
A splitting table. Photo by Kari Sawden.
The Plantation. Photo by Kari Sawden.
Underneath a stage with John and Adrian. Photo by Kari Sawden.
I remain in awe of the generosity and kindness of the people of Quidi Vidi who entertained us for three weeks with open doors, stories, tea, and much patience as we worked to master new equipment and techniques. Through this community I learned so very much and fell more deeply in love with the study of folklore. It is impossible not to when you are surrounded by such as these.

Wednesday 25 September 2013

Memories of Quidi Vidi

Today is the hump day of the last week of the Quidi Vidi field school and this is my final blog entry. As such, I feel that it is only appropriate for me to reflect upon my time in the village. In the last three weeks I have been blessed with the opportunity to meet countless wonderful people. The fact that so many residents of this village have openly told us their stories and welcomed us (complete strangers!) into their homes, sheds, stages and boats, is amazing and heart warming. 
Peg Smith and her dog comet 
When I arrived in Quidi Vidi on the first day of classes I felt a bit like a black sheep. I was the only non-folklorist, in a group of folklore students, at a folklore field school. Nevertheless, I quickly felt welcomed by instructors, fellow students, and those within the community. While all of the people that I have met have been truly special, I would like to talk about some of my most memorable experiences.

In my first blog entry I wrote about meeting Randy, and how I couldn’t wait to hear more about his stories. Since then, I have had many conversations with Randy and his stories are better than I ever expected. His tale of breaking the 9:13 was gripping, and an anecdote about his father on the Irene B. Mellon was hilarious.

During the first week of the field school China came in to visit our class and share memories of his days fishing on the great Atlantic. The early fishery is one of my special research interests and I have read a fair bit about the subject. Hearing China talk about his personal experiences with the fishing industry truly made the topic come alive for me.

Mid way through our second week I met Peg on the road beside her home. From our first conversation I knew that she was a world traveler, and I was very lucky to experience her world class hospitably when she welcomed us into her home.

Ed Chappell explaining the ins and outs of architectural drawing.

I signed up for this field school because I was confident that I would learn skills that would help me in many ways throughout my academic career. I never imagined, however, that I would learn quite as much as I did. The expertise of John, Guha, Ed, Jerry, Lisa, and Dale has been absolutely inspiring.

John and Clara, my architectural drawing buddies.
Last but not least, I could not have experienced half of what I did without my wonderful classmates. They have helped me along the whole way.

To all those who I have met in the last three weeks, thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Much love,


"I feel like I've known you my whole life": the joys of fieldwork

Hey there lovely readers!

I held off on posting yesterday because I had planned on going out fishing today and hoped I would be able to write about what a great time I had. Unfortunately, the weather is not cooperating with us in Quidi Vidi (does it ever?) and Christine and I are not able to go out. The next couple of days aren’t looking good either. Just another reminder that we’re at the mercy of the weather here in St. John’s, I suppose.

Ever the optimist, I knew there would HAVE to be something interesting to write about today. And though it’s still mid-afternoon, I’m happy to say that today I’ve been reminded of how enjoyable fieldwork is when you’re able to make real connections with people. If you recall from my last post, Xuan and I have been drawing the floor plan of Mary and Claude Ring’s house- an experience, thankfully, I’ve grown to at the very least, tolerate. This morning, I dropped by to ask the Rings some questions about the house and was hoping they would have a couple of photos to lend me. When I arrived, Claude sent me upstairs with Mary, where we spent the next hour looking through old photo albums. Although I didn’t know anyone in the pictures, I got to experience Quidi Vidi in a completely new way: through pictures the Ring family took while their children were growing up. Mary let me ask her a million questions and pointed out details I probably wouldn’t have picked up on. And what I had planned on being a half an hour maximum conversation, turned into an hour, and then an hour and a half, and then just as I was putting my jacket on, Mary said, “would you like a sandwich or something?”

Mary and Claude Ring in their kitchen
The next thing I knew, Mary and I were laying out things for lunch and having a grand ol’ chat. She made us each a toasted ham sandwich, and we had a cup of tea, a fruit cup, and some chocolate cookies. A lot nicer than the crackers and cheese I had planned on eating! As we ate, Mary told me about her courting days with Claude, when he would walk from the village up to John Street in downtown St. John’s (“a long ol’ walk, b’y, I was cracked,” as he joked with me) and back again just to see her, and then about each of her seven children and what it was like raising them here. Mary stayed at home with her children until her youngest son turned 12, when she returned to work at the Department of Finance in Confederation Building. Though she has since retired, she still works today from September-December and from January-April, teaching tax courses and doing taxes for H&R Block. She even has an office upstairs in their home, she proudly told me. I was struck by her good nature and sense of humor and didn’t feel like I was “in the field”; honestly, I felt like I was visiting a friend and chatting about old times. I think she felt the same way, though. When I was getting ready to leave, she told me I’m going to have to come back and visit her after our time in Quidi Vidi is up. But she also said a somewhat cliché thing that before this field school, I wouldn’t have thought twice about: “I feel like I’ve known you my whole life.”

Lunch is served! Mary Ring pauses for a quick snap
When I began this field school, I knew that 1) I really wanted to end up in a boat, and 2) I really wanted to cozy up to some wood heat in someone’s shed. And I’ve done both of those things. But honestly, I really just wanted to meet people here that in three months or three years time, I’d be able to sit down and chat with and it wouldn’t feel forced or like it was a requirement for a course. Because that’s where I find joy in studying Folklore; it truly is a field dedicated to telling people's stories and capturing their way of life.

What a Wednesday it turned out to be afterall!

Kayla Carroll

Tuesday 24 September 2013

Lessons from Quidi Vidi

These past few weeks have gone by in the blink of an eye. Everyday has been a totally different experience. As our adventure comes to a close, it is a good time to reflect on some important lessons learned by our experiences here:

1. Do not come to Quidi Vidi with a full belly. Every resident and their dog will offer you a meal.
2. Do not walk through town if you're in a hurry. You'll get into more conversations than you can count.
3. Seagulls are perhaps the most vicious animal to walk the face of the earth. Throw a piece of fish into the water, and you'll swear they are piranha.
4. Bring every piece of clothing that you can think of. The weather goes through all five seasons in one day. It may be cold and clear one minute, then windy and hot the next. I half expect it to be raining frogs tomorrow. 
5. DO NOT call the villagers townies. While technically Quidi Vidi is part of the St. John's now, the village does not consider itself a part of it.
6. Always bring a camera. There is always something worth taking a picture of here, whether it be the scenery or the people.

A misty day in Quidi Vidi
These lessons were hard earned, and some took time to sink in (the first one especially). For anyone who plans to spend some time in Quidi Vidi, this list can go a long way in preventing some headaches. I'm sure there are more things to be learned in this small village, but I would need a lifetime to discover them.