Sometimes Islanders want to leave. But…they can’t afford the 43 dollars to drive the Confederation Bridge. For those of you who don’t know, a person pays nothing to come onto Prince Edward Island, but when making a departure or going for a job interview on the mainland, the toll has to be paid. Showing up to a different culture, even for just a little while, can reveal just how different things are in another person’s reality. Sometimes visitors’ eyes are opened to this reality.
I won’t be so arrogant as to judge the tourist who visits a place in order to sun bath, purchase gift shop tokens or dress up and dine on the local food. The parking lot in North Rustico has been filled every evening with cars, people who are out to enjoy an authentic lobster dinner, prepared by Islanders. The truth is, the people of Prince Edward Island rely on the tourist-dollar in order to sustain themselves through the brutal winter months…so, honestly, this blog is likely not supportive of the vision created by the government for the Island. Instead, it alludes to the poverty and struggle and violence of their reality.
It is a strange world we live in, where miles and distance separate us from the stories of others; haves or have-nots, we are in this thing together. No man is an island. Hmmm…
I won’t be the same when I leave tomorrow morning. I will carry with me, a big bucket of experiences, observations and even frustrations. I will eventually make my way back to the oil city I live in out west and I will be in a bit of a stupor as I absorb and adjust to the differences. As I’ve traveled ‘this great nation’ (sorry to be using one of Obama’s references) I have been able to see how, in each province there are challenges…but then, I can keep on driving. I can pay my toll.
I’ve heard a story or two on my pilgrimage, speaking to ‘ordinary’ people about the challenges of the year-round Islander and particularly, the citizen who comes ‘from away’. The stories are a huge contradiction of the publications we are so used to reading that feature the Island EXPERIENCE.
Referenced here…one couple’s actual Island EXPERIENCE…
An older couple lives in a remote part of the Island, having inherited the family farm, one that no longer produces or costs too much to produce. Ill health leaves the couple isolated. They can pick up a bag of food in the city, an offering chosen for them by the Salvation Army…the food pick-up does not coincide with the day when ‘the cheque’ comes in. There is a struggle deciding what to do about this each month, given the fuel cost to make two trips to the city, instead of one. The question of co-ordinating services comes up for me.
People here have a huge ability to laugh at themselves, whether they are ‘authentic’ Islanders who are born (and likely concieved) and at some point will be buried here OR are ‘from away’, having sold everything and settled here, exploring the notion of the ‘gentle island’ or the sense of community or the dream to retire with grace.
It isn’t an easy life for people here. Relative to the struggles of people in undeveloped countries the world wide, this likely seems remarkably pickayune, but for the folk who daily fight to feed their children ANYWHERE, it feels the same, I’m sure. Women need to be educated. Men need esteem. Children need to be fed.
Given that I can leave by way of Confederation Bridge tomorrow morning, I feel blessed with a life of prosperity, even as I remember my days of greatest struggle. While my life is simple, I have enough.