Tales of a 21st Century Gypsy

August 12, 2006.
Burin, the people

Well yipes, I don’t know who usurped my keyboard to write all that about fog, it couldn’t have been me. But whoever it was, I’ll let him have his say, I don’t mind.

Not only was Burin an amazingly pretty place when the fog went away, but ridiculously friendly. When I walked down to the end of that road, a man called out from his porch to ask if I was a visitor. Well obviously, who else would be ambling about in the fog with a camera, taking pictures of gray nothing? He’d passed me driving – in fact I remembered his license plate – so when he saw me again he figured I must be a tourist. He – John is his name – grew up in

Burin, but had long ago moved to Toronto. He never sold the family house, though, and now he and his wife have retired and spend summers in Newfoundland. I asked if he happened to know of a laundromat. He couldn’t think of one, but invited me to bring my laundry over and do it in their machine. We went inside to check with Linda, his wife, and she assured me that would be fine.

That's Nancy and her mom in the pictures.

Halfway back to my van, I passed a couple walking in the other direction. Seeing me, they asked if I wasn’t the person from Virginia, the one with the red van parked two coves down near their mother’s house. She – Nancy – grew up in Burin, was back visiting with her husband John and their kids for Burin Heritage Week, the festival I’d come to check out. We talked about Manitoba and Newfoundland, their home in Winnipeg, how everyone leaves Newfoundland because there are no jobs. She said they were all going to climb up to Cook’s Overlook, and invited me to join them and see the splendid view. I’d thought of doing it that morning, but there was no point in the fog. So she explained where her mother’s house is, and I agreed I’d find them later, after I did my laundry.

Back at John and Linda’s, I stayed for a long time, my clothes tumbling in the dryer. I joined them for lunch, and tea and cake, then chatted with Linda about Newfoundland foods while John and his brother-in-law retired to the living room for an animated discussion about heat pumps, and propane vs. fuel oil. They were both heating contractors before they retired, they had a lot to discuss.

Later that day, back in my van in a small public lot overlooking two coves and a lot of water, a boy came up to see who I was and what I was up to. A round-faced blonde boy, with a sweet smile and a twinkle in his eyes, Jarrod looked older than his nine years. He stayed and chatted for a long time. I showed him around the van, which he really liked. The sun came out from behind the clouds and I jumped up to take some photos. He was curious about the camera, so I showed him how it worked and he took a few pictures across the cove. He pointed out the small apartment building where he lives with his mom, the only child of a single mother who, as I heard later, has some problems and leaves him too much on his own. He wanted to see my photos of Burin, so I downloaded them and we looked through them together. Then we looked at pictures of the pyramids, and a photo of New York, which he thought must be St. John’s, because he’d never seen any other city.

Later, he reappeared on my little hill with two friends, so I directed my camera towards them. Cecil wouldn’t let me photograph him, but Daniel didn’t mind and Jarrod was clearly delighted. (That's Jarrod on top, flashing his smile at the camera while Daniel looks a bit dubious.) After which he invited his friends to see my van, and we all crowded in for a tour of the bunks, the kitchen, and all the nooks and crannies. Cecil, the 13-year-old son of another single mom, but one who I heard works very hard to take care of him, stretched out on the bunk, totally charmed. As it got dark, he and Daniel headed for home, but Jarrod stayed on, looking at pictures and talking.

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