to bottom) Learning vacation participants at Petty Harbour; dining in
a bunker at Cape Spear; enjoying a "time" with Jim Payne on
accordian; and viewing the archeological dig in Ferryland.
What do you think of when you think of Newfoundland?
Home, partridgeberries, ice, ocean, the pattern of the canvas flooring
in my grandmothers kitchen in Duntara thats what
I think of.
But you dont have to be from here or even visited the island to
have ideas about what represents Newfoundland. Representations of Newfoundland
are out there and these days theyre getting a fair bit of attention.
When Kevin Spacey comes to shoot a movie in Trinity Bay we can be pretty
sure people are watching. Weve got Michael Crummeys River
Thieves, the cast of This Hour Has 22 Minutes, and all those television
specials about passengers stranded after Sept. 11.
Weve also got The Globe and Mails Margaret Wente writing
that the Newfoundland seal hunt makes her ashamed to be Canadian, millionaire
John Risley calling us a welfare culture and certain members of the
Canadian Alliance singing similar sorry songs (ah but they cant
carry a tune like the boys of Great Big Sea).
Representation was the buzzword at Memorial Universitys first
ever weeklong learning vacation, Between a Rock and a Great
Place, which took place Aug. 11-17. The new venture, conceived by Dr.
Roberta Hammett and Dr. Alice Collins, is a unique concept. Joined by
Mike Coady, Bernadette Power, Dr. Clar Doyle and Dr. Andrea Rose, and
by corporate partner Maxxim Vacations, the group combined traditional
tourist pursuits such as whale-watching and dinner theatre with not
so traditional activities like lectures and presentations. As the fall
semester begins many students may wonder, who attends lectures on their
eight tourists three from the U.S., three from Ontario, one from
Italy and one new Newfoundlander did just that, and were joined
at various lectures and activities by curious floating participants
like me. And while some lectures involved lecture rooms and slide shows,
the group didnt do much sitting. There was a walking tour of St.
Johns, animated (and I do mean animated) by Dr. John Fitzgerald
who described the richness of St. Johns art and architecture with
such genuine passion and pride I wondered why anyone would live anywhere
else. There were art galleries and the Veiled Virgin, tea at the Crypt,
breakfast at Cape Spear (omelettes made to order and white linen tablecloths,
mind you), The Ocean Sciences Centre, the haunted hike, a harbour boat
ride on the Marine Institute research vessel, the Lauzier, a kitchen
party at The Big R, a pub crawl, a screech-in, and toutons followed
by a wonderful day in Brigus.
Lecturers included many a talented MUN prof talking about everything
from dialect (Dr. Lloyd Brown) to folklore (Dr. Phil Hiscock) to architecture
(Dr. Shane ODea), and flora (Dr. Wilf Nicholls). Artist Marlene
Creates gave a beautifully visual talk about the idea of place, we discussed
writing with Michael Crummey, shipwrecks with Michael McCarthy, and
sang with Jim Payne.
Sure there was homework, just a little journal writing and everyone
had to give a tiny presentation at the end, but this was a pedagogical
dream come true everyone learned and everyone had fun. In fact
the two were so intertwined it was hard to tell one from the other.
while the food was great and music was grand, the big hit seems to have
been an afternoon spent at the Fishermen's Co-op Building on the wharf
at Petty Harbour. Three men Richard Clements, a retired fish
plant worker, Cyril Whitten, a retired fisherman, and Bill Lee a fisherman
and vice-president of co-op discussed fishing in Newfoundland.
CBC reporter Chris ONeil moderated.
Meeting and speaking with fishermen was just a great opportunity
for us to get to hear peoples stories first-hand and ask questions,
said Linda Ward of Toronto. "We really know zero about the fisheries
except what we see on TV or in the newspapers so it was good for us.
It wasnt just seeing a news report and having to fill in
the blanks, they were there to put it in context for us. We got to hear
their personal perspectives and frustrations, how the community is impacted,
how the whole economy of the province is impacted. It was very casual,
sort of just being part of the debate.
Between the three of them they had different opinions about the
success or the failure of the moratorium and about the crab fishery,
whether or not it will be sustainable. You dont normally have
the opportunity to be part of that kind of discussion. That made this
a different sort of holiday.
The idea that this was a unique holiday experience was echoed throughout
I guess partly because this tour was associated with the university
we got into circles you dont have access to as a regular tourist;
things that we never would have exposure to on our own, meeting Michael
Crummey, talking to the fisherman. Its like we got into the right
club or something, laughed Pauline Turko, also of Toronto.
The organizers too were happy with how the week worked and particularly
with the interdisciplinary involvement.
I was pleased with the support of other MUN faculties and departments.
Were well aware of the expertise within the university to support
our venture, and well try to involve many others next year,
said Dr. Hammett. I think we may even have some return visitors
say that the week achieved our goals, added Dr. Collins, we
engaged fully in discussions of representations of place, particularly
Newfoundland and Labrador, and we were involved in public pedagogy which
moves education into the community in dynamic and creative ways.
Ask me what Newfoundland culture is, and although its my own and
Ive a learning vacation under my belt, Ill still
have no quick answer. We eat toutons and fish and chips but we also
eat omelettes. Yes were fishers, but were also artists and
musicians and historians and writers, and a whole bunch of stuff. Our
culture is anchored but its rolling, its got deep roots
but it keeps growing every which way.
But judging by the success of Between a Rock and a Great Place its
certainly something worth exploring no matter where youre from.
Danielle Devereaux is a student in the master of Womens Studies