Monday, 9 September 2013

The Old With the New

Our field school started yesterday evening with an informal, introductory supper at the Inn of Olde. Though that was only a little over 24 hours ago, there is much to tell and many things we have already learned. We’ve received a lovely welcome from many of the local residents and have a lot to look forward to in the coming weeks. Thankfully you, our faithful readers, will get a daily update from two of us, because I must admit that as I’ve reflected on what to share in this post, it seems impossible to completely capture everything!

Last night was, in my mind, the perfect way for us to have been introduced to Quidi Vidi. Because we’re all still so new to one another, it was great to hang out and chat and enjoy a bowl of homemade chili/turkey soup/ seafood chowder from the very likeable and lively Linda Hennebury, owner of the Inn. After eating, we were treated to Linda showing us her paintings and completely capturing the crowd with her engaging stories about the eight male ghosts in her house. She is an entertaining storyteller because Linda is able to weave in and out of stories with ease while drawing in her audience and making connections. In one story about her granddaughter, for example, she tells us her granddaughter is just a young thing “like you,” pointing to me and allowing me to enter into the story, as though it could just as easily as happened to me. We all got quite a lot of enjoyment from all her proclamations of affection for our professor as well... :)

Linda Hennebury captivating us with her stories
Photo: Wang Xuan

We started out this morning bright and early at Quidi Vidi Plantation. We were fortunate to be joined by Dr. John Mannion, a retired Geography professor from MUN who is one of Canada’s leading cultural geographers and an expert on Newfoundland settlement. The first couple hours were spent learning about how Quidi Vidi was settled and what the village would have looked like during the migratory, bye-boat, and planter fisheries. We also looked at some photos from the DAI (Digital Archives Initiative), keeping in mind that many of the stages and flakes we were looking at were built as impermanent structures. Dr. Mannion then took us on a comprehensive tour around the village, from the North East side where we explored the Gut and harbour, the Landrock (and imagining structures such as the flake house), and finally west down to the village. Among the highlights was a walk through Mallard Cottage, which is in the final stages of transformation into a restaurant by owner Todd Perrin, a chat with carpenter Aiden Duff who is restoring an old Anglican church and who showed us around his shed, and ended back at the Plantation where we talked to the knowledgeable Eric Snow, known locally (and, as he explained, exclusively) as China.

Quidi Vidi Plantation- our "homebase" for the next three weeks
Dr. Mannion, Jerry and students chat about Mallard Cottage
Aiden Duff and Dr. Mannion talk about his restoration progress You need to take a boat to get to these stages- someone sign me up!

A recurring theme today was the juxtaposition of old and new in Quidi Vidi. Everywhere we went, there seemed to be remnants of the traditional mixed, and often right alongside, the new and modern. A great example of this is the “giant monster” house along the North side towards the Gut. It looms over all who walk by and is a very modern structure (even complete with plexiglass along the deck to compete with the wind). Right next to it, though, are several fishing stages that, although they are no longer used for the commercial fishery, are still traditional in structure.

The Old with the New
Our day ended a little early today, so Christine and I decided to walk around and orient ourselves as much as possible to the landscape. We were hoping to meet some local people (and work up the nerve to talk to them), and after a couple of failed attempts, we lucked into meeting some very nice and friendly people. Eric Snelgrove, who lives in the oldest standing structure in Quidi Vidi, the Hennebury House, was out trimming up his garden. He showed us his garden, shed, and around his cellar (which we will dig into a little deeper in the coming days). He also told us he’d take us out during the food fishery- an offer we’ll take him up on! On our walk back to the Plantation, we also met Johnny and Anne Barnes and chatted with them about life in Quidi Vidi and how it has changed in the years they’ve lived there. Both Johnny and Anne were filled with knowledge and kindness and we plan on heading back there to further pick their brains. One of the nice things about this field school is the opportunity to meet such fantastic people. I've never before had to challenge myself to talk to people in such an open way, so today was a good experience in learning how rewarding it can be just to simply ask someone how their day is going and what they've been up to.
Eric Snelgrove and his great-grandson Ethan pose for a snap
Johnny and Anne Barnes (and their sweet dog, Queen) showed us their shed and talked to us about their experience living in Quidi Vidi

Needless to say, it’s been a busy day!

Kayla Carroll

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