Nfld. & Labrador·Point of View

'Why did you move here?' A former mainlander ponders the most incredulous question

The question is always accompanied with the most incredulous tone, Martine Blue writes, as if I had moved to a fire anthill, or a hard labour prison camp.   

Martine Blue moved to N.L. 12 years ago, and hasn't looked back

Martine Blue made the trek to Newfoundland and Labrador in the middle of winter and moved into a house with no plumbing. (Martine Blue)

I'm sure you have had one, too — that burning question you've been asked more often than election promises are broken.  

In Ontario, the burning question referred to my visible tattoos. People wanted to know if they hurt and then they wanted to show me their ink. ALL their ink, along with detailed descriptions of the pain they suffered for each tat.  

I was exceedingly grateful to escape that bizarre Ontario over-sharing ritual when I moved to Newfoundland and Labrador 12 years ago.  

I've never been asked, "Did that hurt?" here, but another burning question — this one unique to Newfoundland — has taken its place: "But why did you move HERE?"

The question is always accompanied with the most incredulous tone, as if I had moved to a fire anthill, or a hard labour prison camp.   

The question suggests that the people posing it don't think here is a place fit for moving to, that it's a place people move away from and that maybe I should have my head examined.   

The price of real estate on the Burin Peninsula was the initial draw for Blue. (Martine Blue)

Affordable ocean waterfront property

Well, I did thoroughly examine my head and heart before relocating here, and both pointed me east — as far east as my rusty and loaded-down station wagon could drive to.

Since I don't live in town (St. John's), I think much of the incredulity has to do with choosing to live in rural N.L.  

A simple answer is the price of real estate.

Houses in rural areas here are affordable. Ocean waterfront is affordable.  

It's not only affordable, houses here are actually pay-offable! My husband and I looked into mortgages for houses in rural Ontario. Payments for the lowest-priced "fixer-uppers" would have continued well into retirement.  

The idea of being house-poor for the rest of our lives, unable to travel, and terrified of getting sick or laid off and missing a payment, was scarier than playing moose-car roulette at dusk.

Of course cheap homes, including waterfront, can be found in other Atlantic provinces, so my answer as to why here dives deeper into my affinity and longtime fascination with the culture.  

Twelve years later and rural N.L. has been great to us.

I've been a model of the phrase "fake it until you make it" all my life.

When I was 19,  I got a job bartending at the El Mocambo in Toronto. It was a busy, happening nightclub and I had no clue how to make anything more complicated than a Bloody Caesar.  

I studied cocktail ingredients but could not remember most of the recipes and didn't know how to build the more complicated drinks. 

I faked my way through each night, resulting in many returned drinks, which was exceedingly annoying to most of the waitresses. All but one. Diane, a Newfoundlander from a tiny outport community, actually had my back and instead of rolling her eyes, would whisper the ingredients to me.  

Her lack of judgment, kindness and generosity of spirit was so refreshing we became friends and I started dreaming of moving to Newfoundland. I imagined it as a utopia filled with kind-hearted, fun, vibrant people like Diane.  

Decades later a couple of friends moved to Burin, where they reported houses around "the bay" selling for less than an average Ontario mortgage payment. They spotted a deal we couldn't pass up and I bought a two-storey house on my credit card. Two years later we packed our lives into our rusty old station wagon and moved halfway across the country in the middle of winter to a house with no plumbing.

Blue and her dog, Finski, go for a ride on her ATV. (Martine Blue)

Neighbours who became family

Twelve years later and rural N.L. has been great to us. The province is actually filled with Dianes, people who have gone out of their way to make us feel welcome and at home, neighbours who have become family.  

I was even able to fake my way into a dream job, which likely wouldn't have been so accessible had we moved to town.

I was always interested in videojournalism and since I was a filmmaker with my own equipment, that type of work didn't seem such a stretch. Back in Ontario I looked into pursuing journalism but I was competing with laid-off seasoned pros.  

However, CBC didn't have anyone covering the Burin Peninsula at the time, so I got my chance.  

Faking it until you make it is way more daunting when the whole province is watching, but the undeniable point is that I don't believe I would have had the golden opportunity to realize my journalistic dreams if I was pursuing them in St. John's, where education and experience would likely trump an indie filmmaker with tattooed ears.

The sky is bigger here than anywhere I've ever been, which makes me feel light.

Another draw for me was the huge open space.

The sky is bigger here than anywhere I've ever been, which makes me feel light. I love living right on the ocean and knowing that I can hop in a boat and head to New York or Cuba, or Africa if I wanted to, and had a boat. 

Questions can tell you a lot about the person posing them. 

I find that people who travel and live in other provinces or countries have a deep appreciation of the rugged beauty, space, freedom, and unique way of life in rural N.L. 

It's folks who haven't ventured further afield who somehow overlook all those benefits, who perhaps have harder economic times embedded into their DNA, affecting their perspective.

Just a theory.  

I wish I had the superpower to offer a visual comparative for people, like in the instant they're asking why I want to live here. Other places don't have all these things.

With more appreciation for the place, the most incredulous question could become something like the one my friend Ken (who helped us buy our first house here), once heard from a wise Burin fish harvester: "When are you going to move here for the sensible life?"

Another draw for Blue was the huge open spaces this province offers. (Martine Blue)

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Martine Blue is a filmmaker and freelance writer who spins incredulous yarns from her saltbox castle in Epworth, N.L.

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