Although the weather is beautiful this morning, it’s been raining off and on all week. And I have to admit, I do love a rainy day. Too many and I get cabin fever and we do indeed get plenty of rainy days in the Maritimes. But the occasional rainy day is sublime when spent curled up on the couch with a good book, a sleeping kitty and a hot cup of tea. I love listening to nothing but the pattering of raindrops off every surface. And April showers are necessary to get those colourful blooms and the smell of freshly cut grass (remember that??). I hope everyone is safe and that flood waters are receding after all the rain we had this week.
We are very lucky in the Maritimes that we don’t have to deal with serious earthquakes like the one that devastated Nepal on Saturday and has claimed more than 2000 lives. We do have our hurricanes, and those can be very destructive, but a disaster on this scale is unimaginable to me. If you would like to help with the relief efforts, here are some suggestions:
It’s been quite a week. Thanks to everyone who shared and retweeted my SJ opinion post! In the week since I posted the piece, I’ve had close to 7000 views to my blog site from over 44 countries!! That’s bananas. It’s equally exhilarating and terrifying to know that so many people are reading something that you wrote. There is obviously a lot of pride in this city and it’s surrounding communities, and it has showed this week. With times being hard economically, sometimes we just need to remember why this city, this province and this region, is still an amazing place to live. I hope that you will follow along as I explore more of what the Maritimes has to offer. I’ve got some really fun stuff planned.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I ❤ you, SJ.
Those of us who call Saint John, NB home have heard them all: The Dirty John, The Big Flush, The Armpit of the Maritimes, etc. While perhaps these names may have been warranted at one time, if you still think these terms apply, you’re not looking deep enough. We may be a city of contrasts but we are a city of change as well. To borrow a term from our illustrious mayor, we are a Renaissance City. Here’s some reasons why:
1. Incredible Hiking/Green Space – we’ve got not one amazing park within city limits but two: Rockwood Park on the city’s north side is a place where you can feel like you’ve completely escaped from civilization, when in fact you are practically a stone’s throw from Costco. You can hike or bike in here for hours, sometimes without seeing anyone. The Irving Nature Park on the city’s west side is a wonderland of beaches, wooded trails, marshland and stunning coastal views.
2. Amazing Scenery – yeah, we’ve got our own Hollywood sign, and it doesn’t really matter whether you’re parked at the top of Fort Howe behind it in the evening summer light, watching the cruise ships drift lazily out of port or whether your standing on a cliff’s edge at Irving Nature Park, overlooking the Bay of Fundy. Or maybe you’re watching the sky turn pink over the sailboats at one of my favorite spots in the city, the Royal Kennebecasis Yacht Club (RKYC). I dare you to stand in front of one of these views and not be moved. And if you’re not moved then I’m sorry, but we can’t be friends.
3. Great Eats – Saint John’s restaurant scene is like, so hot right now. What are you in the mood for: Local/organic? Maritime fare? Sushi? Thai? Indian? Middle Eastern? Italian? I can name at least one fantastic restaurant in every one of these categories and more. And now I’m hungry.
4. Our Mayor is Cooler Than Your Mayor – he’s young, he’s hip, he’s social media savvy and he’s a total Star Wars geek. Mayor Norton for the win.
5. Beach Access/Water Fun – no matter where you are in Saint John and surrounding areas, you are never far from beach access. Whether bordering the mighty Bay of Fundy (enter at your own risk, it’s flippin’ cold!) or the stunning Kennebecasis River (marginally warmer), there’s always a place to cool off in the summer. Not to mention all the great boating/canoeing/kayaking opportunities there are.
6. Culture/History – Saint John is filled with history and beautiful architecture. It is Canada’s oldest incorporated city, after all. Just take a stroll around Uptown and you’ll see what I mean. Wanna take in some theatre? While we’re no Broadway, the Imperial Theatre at King’s Square is one of my absolute favourite places on Earth. An evening spent here is always a good bet.
7. Friendly People – I’ve lived in each of the Maritime provinces at one point or another in my life so I know that Maritimers are the friendliest people you’ll find anywhere. However, my husband is a native Saint Johner, so I might be a wee bit biased here. Saint Johners are so polite and friendly, in fact, that when the Harbour Bridge construction was under way for weeks on end and commuters were backed up for kilometers, there was not one chainsaw-wielding road rage incident, that I’m aware of. People calmly took turns and inched slowly homeward.
Despite all these wonderful reasons to love SJ, there are always drawbacks, no matter where you live. If you are going to call Saint John home, there are a few things you’re going to have to accept:
1. The Deer – make nice with them because they’re everywhere, even in the city centre. Accept that they are going to eat your flowers and shit on your lawn. It’s a little bit of country inside the city. And for the love of God, please don’t feed them.
2. The Fog – if you want to live Uptown (our Downtown, and yes, we do have Uptown Funk – thanks, Mark Ronson), you’re going to have to accept that it’s going to be about 8-10 degrees cooler in the summer than pretty much everywhere else. The upside? While everyone else in the Maritimes is sweating their butts off in August, you’ll be quite comfortable.
3. Industry – yes, we are an industry town. That means that the west side often smells like the Pulp and Paper Mill and the east side is dominated by the mini steel-city that is the Irving Oil Refinery. While these industries may not be some of our most beautiful features, they provide employment for many New Brunswickers and they do a lot for our city and the province. They really are an integral part of the fabric of this city. They have helped shape it’s form and will help shape it’s future. And that future is exciting, even if it is not without it’s challenges.
I was born and raised in rural Nova Scotia. In a tiny village you’d be hard pressed to find on any map. I went to one of those rural schoolhouses, the kind from a Lucy Maud Montgomery novel. The same one that both my maternal grandparents were taught in. The same one that some of their parents were taught in. Originally a one-room schoolhouse, a second room was later built, stacked on top of the first. Grades primary, 1, 2 and 3 were taught downstairs; grades 4, 5 and 6 were taught upstairs. We had two teachers for all seven grades and a music teacher who drove in from the next town a couple times a week to teach music class. There was a little playground outside, with two swing sets, monkey bars, a slide and a couple of teeter-totters. We had gym class outside when we could and when the weather was poor, we moved our desks to the side of the room so we could have gym inside.
The school was pretty busy at one time, but in my time there weren’t as many kids around. Enrollment was down. People weren’t having as many kids anymore and a lot of people were moving to larger towns and cities to find work. Until grade 3, I was the only member of my class (I won all the year-end awards!). After I graduated grade 4, they shut the school down to save money and bused us an hour into the next town to go to school. It was hard for me to adjust to such a “big” school and a new curriculum with so many kids I didn’t know. I struggled to find my place that school year.
Some of my favourite childhood memories are from my time at that little schoolhouse: epic King of the Mountain contests, making a lifelong friend with one trip around the schoolyard, reading challenges where each book represented a paper scoop on a paper cone on the wall, biking to and from school in the warm spring sun. There is something so pure and idyllic about being taught within your community, with other kids from that same community, by members of the community. I think it really fosters community spirit and pride, something that seems to be missing from the mega-schools so many of our kids are being educated in today.
It feels special to be a part of something that no longer exists. People seem genuinely surprised when I tell them I was taught in a two-room schoolhouse. As if I also used to ride unicorns across rainbows. Our school is now used to train local firefighters but I know so many stand unused, doting the countryside like abandoned sentinels of our youth. Someday ours may be gone, torn down because no one wants to pay for the upkeep of the building. I hope to never see that day.
If you have a story about a rural schoolhouse you attended, I’d love to hear about it!