traveling

Oct. 9th, 2018 10:38 am
asakiyume: (autumn source)
For reasons that would make a good story, which I will tell any of you if I see you in person, but which I won't go into here, we made a journey to Canada yesterday.

That is a long trip for a day trip, may I just say, but anyway. We encountered some interesting people along the way.

The Leaf Lady

She was from England. We encountered her at a a rest stop and information center on the interstate in Vermont. She was here, apparently, for the foliage, which is looking pretty magnificent in northern Vermont right now, but my phone got itself in a tizzy trying to update operating systems, so NO PHOTOS.

Leaf Lady: Excuse me, where are the leaves?

Visitor Center Staff Person: There's a board out front that tracks the foliage. It's best in the Northeast Kingdom right now.

Leaf Lady: All right. How far is it to Kingdom?

VCSP: You're entering it now.

Leaf Lady: And so I'll see leaves?

VCSP: Well, it's overcast today, so it may not seem as impressive, but yes.

Us, mentally: THERE ARE BEAUTIFUL LEAVES LITERALLY ALL AROUND YOU.

We made up a story that one of her children, who likes mountain biking and free running and recaning old chairs and making cheese, came to the United States and married a Vermonter and wanted her to see this beautiful place, but the mom is very suburban and didn't really want to come and this is her passive-aggressive resistance.

That center had a school parent-teacher group raising money by offering fresh coffee and baked goods fro a donation. Excellent.

The anti-tourism border guard

We crossed into Canada at a very small crossing point. There were no other cars on the road, and only one border guard, a young woman in her twenties.

Border Guard: And what is the purpose of your trip to Canada today?

Thanks to Wakanomori's research, we had a good answer to this question.

Wakanomori: We're going to see the museum in Coaticook.

Or was it a good answer

Border Guard (incredulous): No one goes to see the museum in Coaticook!

Wakanomori (laughing): Uh, well, we are.

Me (piping up from the passenger's seat): It's a holiday in the United States.

Border Guard: It is here, too: Thanksgiving.

Me: Hmmm. I wonder if the museum will be open, then...

Border Guard: And where are you from again? Massachusetts? And you're coming up just to see the museum?

Wakanomori: It's a long story.

Border Guard: I have all day!

Wakanomori then told her the story of how he and the older kids had biked this route to Canada years ago, and how he'd noticed about the museum then, and....

Border Guard: I see--so you're retracing your steps! Well, enjoy yourself. Maybe you can get some honey or cheese!

Interestingly, we saw a place selling honey a little further along the road--so we could have!

The gas station attendants

These were boys who looked to me like maaaaybe they were 14 or so, but I guess they must have been older? They were full of life and smiles, and they were going to pump our gas! It wasn't a self-serve station. Going to Colombia has emboldened me in languages that I'm not fluent in, so I tried out my rusty, rusty French: "Avez vous une salle de bain?" And he answered me in French and pointed out where the bathroom was! 通じた!(This handy word means literally, it passed through and more accurately, I made myself understood. THE BEST FEELING)

The man at the museum
The museum had a definite shut vibe to it, though there were other people walking the grounds when we got there. We rang the doorbell, as requested by the sign. After a bit a man appeared and told us, politely and with a smile but at length, that he was desolé and that it was un dommage, but the museum was closed. We nodded and thanked him but he kept apologizing, and in that moment all I could think of for "we understand" was 分かりました and entendemos.

The fox spirit
On the grounds of the museum, the healing angel spied a fox. It ran under the museum porch, but then came out again and ran up some stone steps leading up a hill behind the museum. It was very tall for a fox, with long, graceful legs. It stood on the steps halfway up the hill and regarded us, very foxy. Then it ran the out of sight. It was a prince among foxes, a god, a spirit.

Annnd then we came on home, long drive back. Hope you all had a wonderful Indigenous People's Day/Thanksgiving/Monday.
asakiyume: (birds to watch over you)
We didn't set out with any plan do anything like a boat tour, and when we saw a brochure in a visitors' center somewhere, featuring a puffin wearing a captain's hat and a promise of seeing puffins, we thought it would be fun, but still it wasn't something we were actually planning on doing.



conversation, legends, and bird information under the cut )

My attempts at photographing puffins, razorsbills, bald eagles, black guillmonts ("white wing patches, and sexy red legs" was how Ian taught us to recognize them), and cormorants hanging their wings to drain and dry were hopeless, so I'll post a couple of the Van Schaiks' own photos:

puffins!


razorbills




... and share my sketch of some seals instead. The scribbled note says "Mark said, when I said that they have dog faces, that his dad said the males have dog faces and the females have horse faces."



1 I can't find any corroboration for this legend elsewhere, and I may have mangled it--but anyway, it makes a good story. (The closest thing I find is the remarks of John MacGregor, published in 1828, remarking about fishermen on the other side of Cape Breton, that they
are Acadian French, who live by pursuing cod, herring, and seal fisheries, together with wrecking; at which last occupation, in consequence of the frequent shipwrecks about the entrance of the Gulf during the spring and fall, for several years, they are as expert as the Bermudians, or the people of the Bahamas.
asakiyume: (far horizon)
While we waited on the Bay of Fundy for a ferry to take us to Nova Scotia, we walked around on a little patch of shore. There were lots of sea-smoothened pieces of shale there, perfect for skipping on the waves, or for decorating a piece of driftwood.

shale (and coal) on driftwood

You see the slightly sparkly stone, four from the right end? I have another piece like that. That's not shale. We thought it might be coal, but couldn't be sure.**

Later, we were staying in an old house in the coastal town of Port Hood. The house looked, from the exterior, like it ought to be haunted. We found out it had been built by someone who had made money in coal mining. Among the setbacks (disasters, more like) were that the mines sometimes flooded. Gradually, we realized that the mines had been . . . under the sea. As Wakanomori said: they would have found coal seams in the cliffs and then... worked their way down to under-the-water.

I mean, coal mining is always scary work, but PUTTING IT UNDER THE OCEAN makes it considerably more scary. As the housekeeper at the (potentially) haunted house put it, "I don't know how hungry I'd have to be to go down into that."

A cliff (not at the same place... but representative)

Cliff, St. Croix Cove

Then at one of the northernmost inhabited points on Cape Breton, we went on a little boat out to see puffins (and did see them! I hope I can do a whole post about that trip) and other pelagic birds, and the young captain (third-generation of tour-boat operators) was telling us more about erstwhile undersea mines, and meanwhile there were seals out on the rocks, watching us.... and swimming in the water and regarding us with just their heads peeking out...

More seals at Bird Island, Big Bras d'Or

... and now I think, there is a story out there about the dangers of the mines, and flooded mines, and selkies, and when I have it worked out, I'll share it with you.

**The day after the puffin tour, we found ourselves a town called Sydney Mines, a much-boarded-up town that no longer has any mines, but that does have a fossil museum and a room given over to artifacts from the mining days. There was some coal on display, and I was able to confirm that yes, the item I'd picked up on Nova Scotia's southern coast was indeed coal. Maybe if I sleep with it under my pillow, that selkie mining story will come to me faster.
asakiyume: (good time)






I'm just back from a truly wonderful visit to Nova Scotia. I have so much to catch up with from everyone here! I had absolutely no Internet whatsoever, so it'll take time, but in the meantime, I wanted to share--just as a start--photos of the good cheer evident in every town we visited. Today marks Canada's 150th birthday! There were flags and red-and-white balloons and streamers everywhere, as well as a special flag representing Canada's multicultural heritage. (And, although Canada, like the United States, has its share of shame for various cultural conflicts, what we saw everywhere were efforts to include and listen to everyone--so encouraging.)

We got so into it, we put flags on our dashboard for the drive back across the border.

Happy 150 Canada

Happy Birthday, Canada! Canadian friends, you have an excellent country.

Happy 150 Canada

Happy 150 Canada Happy 150 Canada Happy 150 Canada Happy 150 Canada


asakiyume: (feathers on the line)
On Saturday morning, we're heading out to Nova Scotia. We will have very limited Internet, so I will be scarce--but I'll see you all in July. In the words of my roommate, sophomore year of college, hang loose and stay real.
asakiyume: (nevermore)






Last night, late, I heard this story on the CBC: the tale of Christian Lyons, a lawyer in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, who noticed, as he took a shortcut home through the woods behind the local high school, that there were a number of foxes about. He saw five. And then...

Lyons waited for them to cross the path and carry on through the woods. They did, and he carried on his way.

"Lo and behold, as I came over a ridge, I saw that these, at least five foxes, had circled back and were back on the trail."

He began to feel disconcerted. The foxes weren't fleeing or trying to avoid him.

"It's almost like they looped back to come in front of me so I took stock of the situation. I'm not afraid of foxes. Who would be?"

The animals began to approach as a pack, loping towards him from about 10 metres away.

"I just kind of jogged backwards in retreat. Not in full-panic flight at this point."

Another five metres down the road, Lyons turned back.

"They were then closing the gap toward me with some intent," says Lyons.

At this point, he says, "it was unequivocal flight response. I just started to sprint away from these things."


Some kept up the chase even after he crossed a road, and one pursued him to the door of his house.

Christian Lyons


Was it because he himself has a ruddy, foxlike look? (Perhaps he has fox blood and doesn't know it?)

Your mission, should you choose to accept it1, is to spin a brief tale explaining the foxes' pursuit of Mr. Lyons.

An alternate mission is to mention other town names that are as cool as Yellowknife. I would love to be able to say I came from a place called Yellowknife.

1Coincidentally, Mr. Lyons had been returning from seeing Mission Impossible with friends.


asakiyume: (Kaya)
Language is an amazingly powerful thing--it's not for nothing that we conceive our deities as creating the world with language--or that we also imbue the spoken word with the power to summon, curse, and destroy. There's no more effective way to kill a culture (short of genocide--that works pretty well, too) than to destroy its language, whereas if you can preserve language, you preserve the possibility of access to all sorts of other aspects of culture.

All through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, there have been attempts to suppress and wipe out First Peoples' languages in North America. These days, there are also attempts to nurture, preserve, and support them. One, among the Akwesasne Mohawk (in their own language, Kanien'kehá:ka), is the Freedom School, a Mohawk language-emersion school in the Akwesasne community (population 24,000), which straddles the US-Canada border at New York State and the Province of Quebec.



Mushkeg Media, which describes itself as an Aboriginal media company, made a documentary about the school: Kanien’kehá:ka - Living the Language, which you can watch if you click on the link. [ETA: No longer--the link was dead so I unlinked it (2/25/2018)] Most of the video is in Mohawk, and subtitled. Beautiful to hear.

The school was founded in 1979, during a land dispute among a couple of Mohawk factions. A traditionalist faction set up an armed encampment, which the New York State government then laid siege to (I think I vaguely, vaguely remember this from my childhood). This situation went on for two years, and being afraid that outside authorities would swoop in out of concern for the children's education, they set up the Freedom school.

The curriculum is based on the Thanksgiving Address, a ceremonial address that's given at every Mohawk gathering. The Thanksgiving Address is recited at the beginning and end of each day.



They learn traditional activities as well as mainstream curriculum.



One of the faith keepers explained:

Many people don't know that if you don't show them the traditional way with the language, then the language becomes that much harder to learn

Here he prepares to show them how to cook muskrat:



Theresa Kenkiokóktha Fox talked about being the youngest of fourteen siblings, and how only she and her next-up sibling couldn't speak Mohawk, and how disappointed this made her father, who couldn't speak much English. Now, though, she sings in Mohawk.

Iohonwaá:wi Fox, now in college, summed up the importance of the Freedom School beautifully:

It made me more aware of who I was and made me have a strong foundation, and that helped me throughout high school, and even now, for university.

I wish that more people would have been able to go to the Freedom School ... because I think it's so important to have our language and our culture and out traditions strong, so that you know who you are. Because you have so many people who are lost, because they don't know who they are.



postscript One thing you'll notice if you watch the video is that the subtitles are very brief, seeming to say only a little, whereas people talk for quite a bit. Mohawk seems to be a language in which much gets lost in translation, as you can hear on this page, if you listen to the words for cool, frost, snowdrifts, winter coat, and mittens. "Frost" and "snowdrifts" are both seven syllables. They share a same first phoneme, io, with "cool," but what more are those syllables saying, that, in English, gets ignored?


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