Saturday, September 27, 2008

Cleaning the Plastic Forest

This morning I joined volunteers with the East Coast Trail Association for a clean-up of a section of the trail below the municipal landfill. Plastic bags, styrofoam, newspapers and anything else light has blown down from the dump and filled the forest below. It's been called the "plastic forest" in the media, and there's an article here about it.

Bags had entangled themselves in the branches, were entangled in tree roots buried in the ground, and were wrapped around the bases of tree trunks. I unwrapped some 40 bags from the base of one tree. Someone compared it to being able to tell the age of a tree by the number of rings, so I joked (in the loose sense of the word) that perhaps we could tell the age of the dump by the number of bag layers.

This photo shows a heap of bags that I pulled out of a little hole to the right of the heap. Some were buried as far down as a couple of feet. The woods just kept growing around these things, the roots wrapping all around some bags and all the trees were pretty healthy-looking. So for all those nae-sayers who think we will bring about the end of all the ecosystems on Earth, well I think we may hinder them some, but life is pretty tough and adaptable.

I spent some time with a small rake trying to pull bags out of the tree-tops which was really tricky in some cases like this tree where the bags have pretty much tied themselves on to the branches.

The mound of bags of garbage that we picked up. It was a bit odd to be picking up plastic bags to put them in large plastic bags that are going to go back up to the dump from where they came in the first place. However, the garbage at the dump is now being buried straight away, so at least most bags won't be able to blow down the hill any more.

A closer-up of Sugarloaf Mountain where the trail continues on to.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Hiking and screeching

On the weekend our student society held it's first event, which we called the CFA event, that standing for "Come From Aways" (people not from Newfoundland). We did a hike along the East Coast trail out to Cape Spear, the most easterly point in Canada. Here it is, with a line of secondary education students walking toward it (we had fabulous weather for it - clear skies, and a wind of course).
This is just some weathered wood I thought looked cool. Couldn't call it driftwood as it's on top of a very high cliff.

In the evening, we gathered again to go down to George Street for supper and then across the street to one of the bars for "screeching in" in which 17 of us participated (an initiation for non-Newfoundlanders I suppose you could call it). It entailed a performance of sorts by some fellow in a sou'wester, and we all had to eat Newfie steak (bologna), drink a shot of screech (we were warned not to let it come in contact with our skin), kiss a (frozen) cod, and in response to the question "Is you a screecher?" reply with: "Indeed I is me ol' cock and long may your big jib draw". And of course we were each presented with a certificate to commemorate the occasion:
I had no idea that man was acting on behalf of the Queen!

Friday, September 19, 2008

It's been a while there now

I've been in St. John's 19 days now and not written a word! How unlike me. Well, things were a bit hectic with the move since I had to find a new place to live at the last minute, but all worked out well and here I am settled into the life of a student again. My program (intermediate/secondary teaching) is pretty busy, so you probably shouldn't be expecting me to write as much as I did when travelling (and it would end up being stories of my research papers if I did). I will try to pop something up here when I do get out and see the province.

I arrived here to an evening and a day of fog, so it was that long before I could even see the place I was living in. Since then the weather's been pretty good though, lot's of sunny days and I've not had to walk to the university in the rain yet (it's rained mostly at night).

My first weekend here I was down around Signal Hill with some fellow students, and we walked along the paths and staircases and picked wild blueberries.

There are loads of wild blueberries around here; I've been out walking in the woods elsewhere since and am always finding some. Berry picking seems to be a provincial past-time. I'm certainly for it.

My first days here I was surprised to here girls calling other girls "b'y"; I'd always thought it was a term reserved for males. I wouldn't refer to a woman at home by "buddy" so I just figured it would be analogous, but I stand corrected.

I learned that the "fishing net" I found in the hall closet is for covering up the garbage when you put it out to be picked up - to keep the birds out of it. I had wondered why the sidewalks were covered in "fishing nets" on certain days.

Newfoundlanders out-do even Islanders for friendliness, so it hasn't been hard to get to know people. I've been meeting lots of people in my program as well, from Newfoundland and the "Come From Aways" (of which I'm now one, despite being Away currently). Been downtown a couple of times and for a hike on the East Coast Trail from Blackhead to Fort Amherst. I've gotten involved with our student society in planning events, joined intramurals and ran a road race for the first time in my life the other day - 3km and I came in 9th place in womens' with a time of around 12 minutes.

The Harbour from the Battery.

One of the hills in the downtown (I navigate back from the downtown by going up). I won't be rollerblading down there! It's not even one of the worst.Waves reflecting off the rocks below the East Coast Trail.
Gulls in queue.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Why I never made it to Newfoundland before moving here

Because the trip takes about 20 hours not including waiting-for-ferry time.

See this Google map of getting here from PEI.

Yes, that's right, there's no road through Newfoundland along the south shore. Up, over, and down again.