Saturday, June 9, 2012

Accidental Stalker

I didn't set out to be a stalker on our trip to Newfoundland. It just kind of turned out that way. And I'll blame small populations spread over a large area.

Let me explain. Last Saturday, we had driven down the length of the coast of the northern peninsula, back into spring sunshine. We had nearly run out of gas -- and then found a gas station. We had made better time than we had expected and the air was warm and soft as we turned off onto the secondary road into the mountains that would lead us to our final stop on the trip. We saw a sign to a scenic lookout and stopped to survey the beauty of the valley we would stay in that night.

As we got back into our car, we noticed a small portable sign advertising the local radio station. We tuned into VOBB -- Voice of Bonne Bay -- and as we drove into and along the curves of the sunlit bay, funky, mellow jazz music filled our car. I could not stop smiling. At the conclusion of the second song was a short commercial, advertising a French program hosted every Monday night by Sebastien and Cedric. They talked about how they had found each other, two ex-pats, and how they brought the music of France and Quebec to the people of Newfoundland once a week.

The next morning, we drove all the way around the bay -- a drive of an hour -- to the Tablelands, a flat bronzed monolith that stood directly across from where we had stayed. Our goal was to climb the mantle rock. We went into the vistors centre just before a bus of high school students from Nova Scotia arrived. We paid our admission and looked at exhibits while the students were given a crash course in geology. We had been offered a GPS unit as a tour guide: as we walked up the Tableland, it would offer us short videos or readings to tell us what we were seeing. Before we left the centre to drive to our hike, we went back to the counter to pick ours up.

We spoke with a different staff person this time, a young man with a French accent. I glanced at his nametag: it read Cedric. Quickly, I did the math: in a tiny community, how many francophone Cedrics could there be? To his surprise -- and Dave's -- I asked him whether he had a radio show.

"No," he said. "I mean, yes. Yes." He asked how I had heard of it.

When we saw him, an hour later, leading the students on the mantle, part of me wanted to explain that I wasn't a stalker -- just as I wanted to explain to the Viking chieftain at L'Anse aux Meadows that we weren't stalking him a few days before, when we took the shortcut to the cove where he lived. Our reason that time was that we had been told there were icebergs in the bay there -- and there was a massive monolith -- and that it was one of the prettiest bays (which it was). It was only when we were driving past its 50-odd houses that I recalled the story that had been told in the sod hut, that a couple of years before, a polar bear had actually wandered into that town, shredding two of the chieftain's sheep. I wondered aloud which house might be his, and Dave pointed out the only one that had livestock.

"You're a Viking stalker," he said.

And maybe I was.

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