Published: April 2007
Chris Carroll

What was your best experience during this assignment?

You can't always work like an ant, right? One slow day in the village of La Poile, where I was covering a story on the decline of fishing in Newfoundland, I slapped on some deet and decided to take a long walk from the village. Setting out up the hill and past the cemetery, I continued beyond the trash incinerator and past an outhouse thoughtfully supplied for walkers. At the end of the path I found myself on a shelf of granite high above La Poile Bay, from which I could enjoy a dramatic change in weather. Fog that had hung about for days had lifted that morning, giving way to the summer sun. Wildflowers bloomed below on the slope that ran down to the rocky shore. Flies buzzed around but didn't bite. The cries of gulls were on the breeze. And a ferryboat growled in the distance as it left the harbor—the last boat out for two days. In many ways, I thought, the people here are cut off from the rest of us. But, at that moment, I was witness to a peace and serenity that's become sadly rare in most of our world.

What was your worst experience during this assignment?

It was cold out on the water, yet I poured sweat inside my rain gear as my fingertips were going numb. My head was spinning as each puff of diesel smoke fueled a growing nausea. I felt like I was in a rocking chair, rocking in every direction. From the back of the 35-foot (11 meters) fishing boat came the shouted advice of a fisherman: "Don't try to hold it in. It'll be worse if you do." I took his advice, feeling idiotic. I'd never been seasick before, so I didn't expect this. But then, I'd never been on a small boat in the process of setting a longline. To prevent tangles, it zigzagged to and fro over the waves while I thought longingly of the motion-sickness medicine sitting unused in my suitcase on shore.

What was the oddest experience you encountered during this assingment?

I never imagined needing an interpreter in Newfoundland, where people speak English. Then I arrived and started talking with the fishermen I was sent to write about. I could hardly understand a word. Their speech sounded a bit like the growling of wolves, a bit like the crashing of waves on rocks. Yet it impressed me as a very efficient means of communication on the deck of a rocking boat or for shouting instructions across a wharf. They call it "cramp," said Yvonne Organ, the La Poile postmaster—words are shortened and hardened, and "cramped" into a smaller space. Maybe, she said, the men were talking about something they didn't want me to hear, since they are perfectly capable of switching to standard English. Yep, wherever you go, people don't like being spied on.