January 16, 2008

Lloydminster: reflecting two years later

As I sit in my recently-renovated apartment with a Tim's coffee, I reflect upon my first two years in Alberta.

Two years ago today, I arrived in Lloydminster on a Greyhound bus. Due to my previous newspaper job in the Northwest Territories going seriously awry, I decided to come here for awhile to get my bearings back. It was a cold snowy day on January 16, 2006 as my cousin picked me up at the bus station downtown. A new adventure in the Border City beckoned me. For the most part, my Albertan hosts have treated me well.

For the most part.

Reading something recently that caused a bit of a fiery discussion, I sometimes wonder. I do hope that specialties such as this column and the East Coast Kitchen Party radio show on Lloyd FM are not resented by non-Newfoundlanders and is considered a regionalist threat. I can't really see why. The columns, the radio show and other events are put together for fun, and to give us a sense of grounding. I do hope that my columns aren't too maudlin. Not that we're lonely. We're not by any means. It's been my experience that Newfoundlanders naturally draw together, no matter where in the country or world you are. I've been to friends' places here in Lloydminster, and especially after the lovely renovation job to my apartment, I've had friends over. Whether you're from Carbonear, Red Head Cove, Northern Bay, Robert's Arm, or Heart's Desire, you always know someone. Is it because we're from a small island, and it's our instinct?

There's a lot of us here, there's no doubt about it. Are we helping to build a city - and ultimately a province - that will never know our names, our contributions? Never! My ugly mug and byline on this page you're reading directly contradicts that. Go to local big retailers here in Lloyd and many of the nametags on the employees are the names of Newfoundlanders. There's at least one liquor store in the city that is owned and operated by Newfoundlanders. We are here, our presence solid, helping the Albertan economy.

The fish are supposedly gone, and some of the fishers are now in the oil patch. I do know that the oil patch brings big money and long hours. With the big money comes the temptation of illegal drugs. Anyone, no matter where you're from, can fall into the grip of the addiction - which over time will destroy your friendships and ultimately, yourself.

Calling me a "Newfie" unsettles me. I've yet to be called a stupid Newfie, or a goofy Newfie - at least not to my face.
I'm aware that there are many Newfoundlanders who proudly call themselves "Newfies", and I'm fine with that. It has different meanings to different people. I personally prefer Newfoundlander. Newfie is mainly considered derogatory because the word is associated with "Newfie jokes", jokes told and retold all over Canada since the Dominion of Newfoundland government went bankrupt during the Great Depression. The jokes almost always depict Newfoundlanders as stupid, lazy or both. The "stereotypical Newfie" is known as chronically drunk, lazy, talks with a funny accent, sometimes wears a Sou'Wester. Any society has people like this (The Sou'Wester, of course, is a hat worn by fishermen made of flexible waterproof materials that repels water). In reality, Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have it in their blood to work hard. We're not Maritimers - that's what people from Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick are referred as. It's often confused.

I'm a Newfoundlander, and my recent Christmas trip home has reinforced my pride.

See you next month, b'ys.