04 January 2007

Nova Scotia

I have to be honest with you, when my friend Susan told me she was from Nova Scotia, I had no idea where in the world she was talking about. Noting my confused expression, Susan kindly explained, "It's near Prince Edward Island."

The hamster in my brain woke up and retrieved the following information for me:

...this place must be near water
...Canada's water includes: Pacific Ocean, Atlantic Ocean, Great Lakes ... ???
...known provinces: BC, Alberta, Quebec
...conclusion: Nova Scotia is somewhere east of Alberta and is not Quebec
...End of transmission.

I was still clueless. Thanks to the internet, I discovered Nova Scotia hangs out just east of Maine. It's surrounded on three sides by water and cut with numerous coves and bays.

Surprisingly, the Atlantic is perhaps the least interesting water feature of Nova Scotia. The province features dozens of lakes ranging in size from backyard pond to you-better-hope-your-boat-doesn't-sink.

The province also borders the Minus Basin (part of the Bay of Fundy) which creates massive mudflats. I had no idea what a mudflat was, but it's pretty insane. Imagine an area twice the size of downtown Portland that's nothing but flat, frozen mud. Now imagine that within a few hours the whole area fills up with fifteen feet of ocean water.

Please see photo below of a gal in a red coat standing in the mudflats. What you're seeing is a very small fraction of the mudflat area which stretched for miles. Also keep in mind that a few hours after we left that whole area was underwater. As we drove around the cape we saw dozens of boats that looked like they'd run aground, on the way back, they bobbed happily next to the dock as though nothing had ever been amiss.

I spent the first two days of my trip viewing the lovely countryside by Camry. With temperatures hovering around –20 (C), the Toyota was as much a survival pod as transportation. It made me wonder how the First Peoples* had managed to settle there. At one point I said to Susan, "I think the fluid surrounding my eyeball has frozen."
*Canadian PC version of American Indian

Oh, and in case you're wondering, it cost about $50 (USD) to fill up the gas tank of the Toyota Camry.

So why Nova Scotia? My good friend Susan, who I work with in California, is from Halifax and for the last three years she's told me all about it. Nova Scotia sounded like my kinda place (aside from the weather) so I decided to visit while Susan was home for the holidays. Here are a few of the highlights:

Mandatory composting
In Nova Scotia, composting is mandatory - for everyone - this includes: McDonald's, Starbucks. every man woman and child. Just about everywhere you find a trash can, you'll also find a recycle bin and a compost bin.

It's a music town
Nova Scotia has an incredible musical heritage: a mix of sea shanties and Irish folk/ drinking songs. We saw a band called McGinty play at a basement pub called The Lower Deck. With the low ceilings, wood paneling, and bench-seating it felt a bit like being inside a boat. Before long, mugs of beer were hoisted high and swung in time to Barrett's Privateers.

God damn them all!
I was told we’d cruise the seas for American gold.
We’d fire no guns, shed no tears.
Now I’m a broken man on a Halifax Pier,
The last of Barrett’s Privateers.

Moreover, the various media outlets make a concious effort to keep the American entertainment gorilla at bay. Something like 25% of the radio content has to be local, and they feature Atlantic Canadian artists whenever possible. Can you imagine if we had the same effort in Portland?

Lovely Scenery
Besides the striking water features, the province is full of quaint European-looking villages, 300-year-old churches, and neato frozen things.

Drive Thru Cold Beer
(no explanation needed)

Nice people
Nova Scotians are the complete opposite of the grouchy malcontents who populate our north atlantic coast. Moreover, they're a progressive and accepting folk. Vegetarian restaurants abound, gay marriage is legal, and when people say "have a nice day" they say it . . . with feeling.

Yes, our neighbors to the north are quite remarkable. The funny thing is, they're losing a lot of their talented young people to "out west." The Oil Sands of Alberta, explosive growth in BC, and higher-paying jobs in the US have caused the province of Nova Scotia to launch an official program to recruit NS natives to come home.

So cheers to you, Nova Scotia and thanks for a great trip. May your recruitment campaign be successful, your drive thru beer be cold, and your Bay be Fundy.

MP3 of Barrett's Privateers (not performed by McGinty, and not as good without four dozen drunk Canadians singing along, but still worth a listen).


Anonymous said...

brilliant...as always. Your writing skills astound me and you always make me laugh!


LeahG said...

Well, I finally read your account of your trip. Sounds amazing...you definitely made me want to visit. I'm always amazed at how other countries can be so progressive and it is viewed as a necessity. But, here if we recycle cans we pat ourselves on the back.