Taking the midnight "Marine Atlantic" to destination Newfoundland, I had a full day waiting for the "naughty, naughty rain" to stop, as the tent tumbled in a cold drier. Stopping for a hearty local dinner at the Cedar House, I got traveling tips across the tables from a fellow sola female traveller.
A Kitchen Party in the
Following the exciting day on sea with the puffins, the campground rangers recommended I go to the kitchen party in Baddeck. Getting there involved turning back on the #105, driving south and then taking exit 9, less than half an hour drive. They suggested I took exit 10 on the way back. Most people do not understand the difficulty people like me have with orientation, especially in a place like this, where sea and land are so intermingled, but I made it.
Baddeck was a joy and a fun place to stroll around, window-shop and people-watch before the show. It was definitely an upgrade from Alma as a return to civilization. I think the appropriate adjectives are “quaint” and “lively”…
St. Michaels’ Parish Hall, where the party, called Ceilidh in Gaelic, was to take place, was at the back of St. Michael’s Church. The place was run by a bunch of retired ladies, very busy and important-looking. They advised me to buy the ticket and mark the chair, as places get taken fast. An older man sold tickets down the corridor. He smiled at everyone and they all smiled back, exchanging greetings, doing small talk. I sensed that nice local feel you get in small places, when everybody is comfortable living next to everybody else.
Back in Maine, I already heard superlatives about Canadian kitchen parties. Now I finally got to attend one, and was not disappointed. The show was advertised as Ceilidh, a gathering in Gaelic, and it brought me back to my days in Scotland. It was as if the ocean between the old and new lands did not exist.
Up to that moment I did not quite internalize that “Nova Scotia” was not just a name but an entity, a history and an identity. It only dawned on me now why there were New Glasgoes, Invernesses, Glendales and Glencoes strewn all over the place. Even in Maine there were a Belfast, Limerick and Banghor, reminiscent of the Old Countries. One can imagine the nostalgia those immigrants felt for their beautiful homelands.
The same Gaelic people I loved on the other side of the Big Pond, the ones kicked out after being so badly abused by the English, ended up settling here. They kept their music, spirit and sometimes even their language. That was a revelation, and this is what travelling is for. It brings dry facts home and makes them lively and real.
A Kitchen Party in the Dark
The concert was held in darkness, but that did not detract from its quality or atmosphere. Perhaps it even contributed to them, as the fortitude of the people came and shone through:
The party was mostly a concert. A spunky lady, Shelly, fiddled, accompanied on the piano by a guy named Tom. Five minutes into the show, electricity went out and we stayed in the dark until the end. Curiously, the very minute we exited the hall, the lights came back…
As darkness grew, the retired church ladies brought in candles in small china holders, distributing them around the hall. Everybody took it in good spirits. Nobody complained.
A lady of many talents, Shelly could talk Gaelic, sing and tell zesty ghost stories. In daily life, she makes her living as a school teacher, and is proud of it. Remembering Rachel and her enthusiasm for teaching, I was reminded again of the excellent conditions Canadian teachers have. Their starting salaries equal America’s ending salaries, and those, of course, are already on a different scale from the Israeli ones. Moreover, they get respect from society and backing from the system. I’ll never forget how my daughter’s teacher in New Mexico had to direct traffic in the parking lot after school…
The music included tapping on the wooden platform. Shelly explained that in Celtic music the fiddler, in that case herself, was the leader, and the others had to adjust. That was especially hard since there was no fixed order, but Tom managed admirably.
At one point, Shelly tried to mobilize people to do square dancing in the dark… Four couples eventually dared to try, two of them all-female, but in the end some guys joined (no difference between Canada and Israel, as far as gender and dancing go…). The old ladies taught them a dance that was very similar to Israeli folk dancing actually.
At one point we were asked for our origin. Shelly went through the Canadian provinces one by one. People from Alberta or Quebec raised their hands proudly and made jokes and comments. Then she moved on to Maine and other nearby U.S. states. For politeness’s sake went even further south to Mexico. Nobody was from Mexico. Following the generalized category of Europe and Australia (nobody from there either), I was the one and only from “the rest of the world”. She sent me a 1000 blessings in Gaelic and everybody got excited that I was from Jerusalem of all possible places…
The next day I learned all about wet tents and Atlantic rains before boarding the Marine Atlantic midnight ferry to Newfoundland!