In Prince Edward Island, we made friends and gained experiences we will remember forever. And I fell in love with the island of the red sands.
As we walk towards the used book shops in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island (PEI), we spot a metal fish sculpture, and Dan tells a rare dad joke (it’s usually me telling these jokes in our house). He says, “How do you catch that fish?”
“With a magnet.”
We spend quite a bit of time in the Book Emporium, but I’m disappointed with the prices. I’ve been spoiled rotten with the finds in the libraries and thrift shops—including a 1946 printing of The Glass Menagerie for .25. So it was a bit of a shock to see a late-printing, used copy of Harry Potter for $39… when the cover price is clearly visible at $20. But the shop has a nice little area for the kids to play, so they play for a while and are satisfied.
I walk two doors down to The Bookman rare & used books store, which is a book collector’s dream. These books are priced according to collector’s value, so they’re not cheap books, but the prices make a little more sense than in the other store. They are rare books, after all. There are several of these on display, and they are well beyond my budget, but just looking at them makes my heart happy.
I like the way this store looks. It feels like walking into a book lover’s paradise, and it’s nice to see the owner at his desk, reading a book, and telling customers that he’s there if they need anything. I don’t end up buying any books at these shops, though going into them is still a nice experience. Instead, we go over to the public library, almost right across the street from the book shops.
The library is beautiful and well organized, and it’s obvious that a lot of time and thought has been put into the decoration and interactive displays for patrons. You can sign out a “mystery” book wrapped up in brown paper, where all you know is the genre. You can write the name of a character you’d love to have dinner with and place it on a post-it note on the side of one of the shelves. The kids (and kids-at-heart) can draw with crayons at the tables in the children’s area, or guess the outline of popular children’s books characters.
Our kids have fun looking through books and playing with the beautiful wooden toys and blocks. And Mama goes over to the Friends of the Library book sale, and picks out some very nice books for the children (at much more reasonable prices than at the stores).
After the library, we walk through Charlottetown back to the RV, and go on our way to Orwell Corner Historic Village. Another Charlottetown place full of history, Orwell Corner Historic Village offers a pleasant daytime excursion. They also offer free programs for grades 1 through 6, so if you’re a teacher or homeschooling parent in PEI, be sure to check that out.
Orwell Historic Village
In an 1895 one-room Canadian school house, there was no principal and no bathroom. And there were leather straps. In 1895, settlers farmed for their food and made most of their own clothing. And some people opened stores and sold the items they made, as well as other goods.
In Orwell Corner Historic Village, children can learn all this and more, in a small settlement that has been preserved as a museum for future generations to enjoy. The place is rich in history and firsthand experiences, which we (and we hope the kids) will remember for a long time.
The cows are eating corn stalks, and the goats are munching grass. One of the cows, a beautiful Highland, is none too happy when one of the goats tries to share her snack. She makes use of her large horns, and after a hurt “meeeeh,” the small goat learns his lesson and moves off.
After a while, the goats cross over to the other side of the field. They are putting their hooves on the trees and eating leaves—the exact same ones that are easily accessible on the ground. So we grab those leaves off the ground, and reach them to the goats, who munch them greedily. The children are delighted, and so are we. Perhaps the most fun experience on Orwell corner is feeding the goats, but receiving a handmade hook from the blacksmith was a close second.
We watch as the blacksmith plunges a piece of metal into the hot coal. The metal becomes malleable as it is heated, and the blacksmith begins flattening one end of it with a hammer. Every few strokes, he hits the hammer on the anvil, and the movement of the hammer on both the metal bar and the anvil creates a musical rhythm pleasing to the ears. Watching him work is fascinating.
After bending the bar into a hook shape, the blacksmith puts it in a clamp, and starts twisting the hot metal with a twisting wrench. This creates a beautiful spiral on the top of the hook. With the metal still hot, the blacksmith plunges it into beeswax to prevent rusting, and the smell of candles fills the room. Finally, he puts the very top of the hook, which is still straight, into a hand-powered drilling tool, and turns the crank tirelessly until a hole is punched at the top. With this, the hook is ready. And it is beautiful.
Both the kids and Dan and I are deeply thankful to the blacksmith for giving us the hook to take home. While we cannot use it in the RV, we will be taking it with us to Kingston, where it will be proudly displayed next year.
We lose track of time as we visit with chickens, roosters, goats, sheep, pigs and cows, observe farm cats going deep into the forest, and visit the one-room school house, church, and home and store. We learn about how farming took place in the late 1800s, and leave Orwell Corner with our minds full of history and our hearts full of wonder.
A Brazilian connection halfway around the world
Back when we were talking to the blacksmith, I mentioned I was born and raised in Brazil, and he said he knew a Brazilian guy who just moved to PEI from Nova Scotia. And this Brazilian guy is a 2nd degree black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, so we simply had to meet him. Daniel did Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in Kingston, and he was interested in meeting an expert fighter.
Our day ended with a delightful visit to Juliano’s home, where we had a nice conversation with him and his wife, and where we got to meet their adorable new baby. After a quick visit, we headed to Greenwich National Park to spend the night.
Friday, October 5th, 2018
The call of the singing sands has us going to a beautiful, white sandy beach on the Eastern tip of PEI. We didn’t know that you need to drag your feet to hear the distinctive noise the sand makes, so we don’t hear the sands singing. But we do enjoy a walk on a beautiful beach, taking in the gorgeous Atlantic, and even standing on an “island.”
We have fun writing in the sand and finding shells, and seeing the fish below the pier. We enjoy a windy but beautifully sunny day on Basin Head Beach. A pirate ship provides a cute play area, since the restaurant is closed. I’m sure if it were open, the kids wouldn’t be standing here… The ship is actually the outdoor sitting for one of the restaurants nearby.
After getting some more groceries, our day ends at the Cornwall, Prince Edward Island KOA Campground, where the kids are happy to end the day with a movie, while snuggling under Nana and Papa’s quilt.
Saturday, October 6th, 2018
In a small space, things get messy quickly. And on a house on wheels, things shift out of place frequently. We spend Saturday enjoying the campground, organizing the RV, and catching up on laundry.
K-girl is very hesitant at first, but finally makes fast friends with two girls staying at the campground. In the evening, all of the children roast marshmallows with their new friends, and we all call it a night after a lovely day at the Cornwall, PEI KOA. We spend one extra night at the campground, and head to church the next morning.
Sunday, October 7th, 2018
Each Sunday, we look for a church in the area in which we find ourselves. On this Sunday morning in Cornwall, Prince Edward Island, we find St. Francis of Assisi.
I’m immediately looking forward to it—St. Francis is one of my favourite saints, and his prayer carried me through some rough times in my life. Even though Francis is highly unlikely to have written it, I still associate this prayer with his life and with the examples he set of humility and love for all. As much as I was looking forward to Mass, there’s still something that (probably unreasonably) makes me nervous: how parishioners will react to three noisy children during the service.
In my own head, I’ve always thought, “Jesus said ‘let the children come to me.’ He didn’t say, ‘let the children come to me’ and make them be quiet.” But when met with disapproving looks, it’s sometimes hard to remember these words. So, often, when we visit a new church, I’ll pick an empty pew to sit with my family, just in case. But for some reason, on this particular Sunday, even though empty pews are available, something makes me decide to sit on one where one person is already sitting.
She has short hair and wears glasses, and immediately smiles at me and the children when we sit down. She tells me my children are beautiful. I respond, “Thank you… and hopefully they won’t be too noisy…” Her response immediately makes me feel at home: “And if they’re not, that’s OK.”
The Gospel is about Jesus welcoming the children, and the homily is about embracing the messes of life and welcoming those who need us, whether they are children or those who are marginalized. The homily speaks right to my heart, and the recessional hymn leaves me energized for the week ahead.
It’s a wonderful service, and at the end of it, I engage in some conversation with the lady who’s standing next to us. She mentions that her daughter, who lives in Nova Scotia, is unable to make it to Thanksgiving dinner, so why don’t we join her and her husband? Dan and I gladly accept the invitation, and K-girl is overjoyed that she’ll get a “real Thanksgiving dinner.” Cathy invites us to arrive at 5 p.m.
While we wait for dinner, we play at the playground just outside the church, then start driving towards Cathy’s home. On the way there, we notice a potato sorter, and K-girl begs to go see it. I feel odd staring at it from the RV, so I get out and ask the workers if the children can come watch. They say no problem, and so we all get out of the RV and go see the potatoes being carried through a belt to be deposited at a warehouse in the back.
As the potatoes come through the belt, workers pick out large lumps of dirt and some rocks, and throw it on the ground. While we watch, one worker brings the kids one potato each, to take home.
Then they take us back to the warehouse and show us what 3 million pounds of potatoes looks like. K-girl is flabbergasted. As are we.
After watching the potatoes being deposited in the warehouse, Dan mentions that he’s heard about people combing through potato fields after the harvest. The owner of the farm enthusiastically encourages us to do the same.
So, boots on feet and bags in hand, we drive to the farmer’s field, where we pick potatoes to our heart’s content. And the whole time, all I can think about is Splash ‘N Boots. “I love potatoes, is that a crime, I want to eat them all of the time, I think I’ll move to PEI, to give potato farming a try!” And yes, I also sang that loudly as I combed the field for potatoes.
We leave the farmer’s field with several bags of potatoes that the potato harvesting machine had missed. The distinctive PEI red sand is all over the potatoes and our boots, and is a reminder of the unique beauty of this wonderful island.
We’ve been in PEI for about a week, and leaving will be hard. After picking our potatoes, we head back into the RV and drive to Cathy’s home. We meet her husband, Basil, see pictures of their children and grandchildren, and share a delicious meal and delightful conversation.
Cathy and Basil have three children and seven grandchildren, and they are welcoming, loving, and understanding of kids and their uniqueness when it comes to food. But surprisingly, each child eats everything on their plates, and then asks to be excused to go play with the toys Cathy has brought out for them.
While the children play, the adults chat, and we discover that Cathy & Basil are from Cape Breton—the same island that my father-in-law grew up on. Daniel just has to find the DVD that Greg gifted us, and we spend some time looking at old photos of the MacDougalls/McDougalls together.
We chat about many things, and I learn a lot of history from Basil, who’s a former history teacher and education professor. We also have a delightful conversation about the Roots of Empathy program—Cathy is a Key Point Person, and Maya and I were part of the program when she was a baby. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s worth checking out.
After a lovely dinner, Cathy mentions they have two spare bedrooms—would we like to spend the night there so we have a little more room? Why, of course we would! We love our RV, but it’s also wonderful to have a little space to stretch out once in a while, especially in such a lovely and welcoming home. Within a few hours of being there, we feel like old friends. After a lovely evening, we are all off to bed.
Monday, October 8th, 2018
On Thanksgiving Monday, we’re off to New Brunswick to see Hopewell Rocks. But not before a delicious pancake breakfast with Cathy and Basil. They also purchase a copy of K-girl’s book and ask it to be signed. K-girl is ecstatic, and so are we.
Cathy and Basil see us off with gifts for the children, which they were hyper excited about, and for which Dan and I are deeply thankful. We are blessed to be making new friends everywhere we go, and the kindness that is consistently shown us will never be forgotten. We thank the Favaros from the bottom of our hearts for welcoming us into their home and treating us like family this Thanksgiving.
Realizing that we probably won’t be able to eat all the potatoes we collected before crossing the border in a few days, we left some of them for Cathy and Basil to take to the church food cupboard. We of course keep some for dinner, for making some potato fudge, and for other potato dishes before we head for the US.
After saying our goodbyes, we get back on Confederation Bridge towards New Brunswick. We arrive at Hopewell Rocks a little late, but still in time to walk on the ocean floor during low tide. What a wonderful experience. Dan and I were here 10 years ago, and we’re so thankful we were able to bring the kids to see it.
On this Thanksgiving Day, we’re deeply thankful for the friendships made and the hospitality extended to us on the Canadian East Coast. We have had experiences that we will remember for a lifetime, and we have made new friends whom we hope to stay in contact with for many years to come.
We are blessed and fortunate to be able to have this experience with our children, and we don’t take it for granted. I’m thankful to my clients and for work that I can take on the road. I’m thankful to my husband and partner of 18 years, without whom my life would look much different. I’m thankful for my beautiful, smart, wonderful kids. I’m thankful for delicious food on my plate, clean water in my cup, and a house I can take anywhere. I am thankful for so many things, it’d be hard to write every single one of them down. But I sure can try.
What are you thankful for?