So this blog marks the two month anniversary since leaving Wales. I missed the first one because I’m not the most sentimental person, but I figured the second month-a-versary should get a mention. Before I left, people were commenting on how brave we are doing this. Any element of bravery has just not been necessary yet, and it’s been pretty easy because we’ve had each other. I’m sure without a doubt that coming back home and starting over again will be far more difficult than anything we’ll encounter on our travels.
Just before heading back onto the train, we were waiting in reception when we heard some voices that sounded very familiar. It turns out that they were Welsh people – the first that we’d met since leaving Wales ourselves! They were a couple from Port Talbot but had lived all over the world, working for global companies. You forget that some of your mannerisms and cultures are formed by the people around you and they’re not necessarily universal. Some of the smaller eccentricities of being Welsh is something that I wouldn’t have picked up on before we’d left. It was also interesting to get an insight into how Welsh people sound to the rest of the world. When we first came to Canada, both Canadian and American accents sounded pretty much the same, and you had to have a very strong Welsh accent for it to sound out of the ordinary to me. Now, I’m finding it easier to pick up on the subtle differences between American and Canadian, and Welsh sounds almost foreign!
You can only get to and from Churchill by plane or train, because the roads come to an end 100 miles or so below. According to the ticket officer, the people on nearby reserves need this train to commute to work, school, shops and even doctors. When there used to be three trains running weekly, there is now only one, so the locals have to pile in. Then night time rolls around and you have to play the game of trying to find a comfortable position to sleep in, like Tetris with your limbs. As far as washing is concerned, in economy you have to do the best you can with a sink as a shower is out of the question. You also lose any contact with the rest of the world, and have to make do with the people around you, while the tube of metal you’re all in makes it’s way through the wilderness. It presents a good opportunity to get to know the people travelling with you, but it doesn’t allow for much privacy.
The last ailment of this trip was the conductor was a complete asshole with a superiority complex, who forced everyone to cram into one carriage instead of opening a very available second. At one point, he was demanding that me and Dan sit with two people that we met on the train when there was no need whatsoever, just because he saw us talking to each other. Not fulfilled with us telling him that we were two separate parties, he began moving our neighbours things over to our area without asking him. I’ve enjoyed going on the train and I’m glad we did it, but it’s only fair to list the downsides that are all part of the package. We’ve now spent 10 nights on different trains, so the novelty of them are wearing off slightly and the downsides are becoming more prominent.
Both on the way up and the way back, we stopped at a place called Thompson. I didn’t know anything about this place before getting off the train, so my reactions to it were purely instinctive. The place felt a bit jarring if I’m honest. I want to portray all of the places we visit in as best a light as I can, but I don’t want to be dishonest about how I felt when I was there. When we went to the mall, the community board had several ‘Missing Person’ and ‘Crime Report’ cases, with pictures of young people who hadn’t been seen in weeks. A couple of people have told.me that Thompson is the “murder capital” of Canada. I’m not sure how true that is, but something seemed wrong.
Two people that were on this leg of the journey with us were called Doris and John. I’d already made some small talk with John in Churchill while out looking for bears, so I knew there would be someone interesting to talk to (apart from Dan). John was an actor, who had a 42 year career behind him and no intention of stopping. You know in Star Trek, when they say “beam me up Scotty?” – he was Scotty.
He had also done a few episodes on crime shows playing judges, and had a few roles in commercials. With all of this, and a business on the side, he still only earned just above the poverty line in the US.
Doris was a retired map-maker who also lived in the US. She was a big part of the Hillary campaign; not because she believed in Hillary, but because she found it to be her duty to stop Trump at any cost. She was adamant that people had to do something to stop the madness and accompanied everything she said with waving arms and wide eyes.
Any Trump supporters on the train would not have dared own up to it around her. One idea that she had was everyone in the US spending no money for one day. No clothes, no food, nothing and all as a means of protest. It seems like such a simple idea, yet I can see how that would cause chaos for the people at the top and it would get people the attention that they need. She told us all about her protesting in the 60’s and how she feels that people have forgotten how much power they have. It was inspiring to say the least to be reminded that, if we’re serious enough, we can make change happen. And like the museum made clear – if we are not happy about something, then doing nothing makes us guilty.
Doris did not seem it in the slightest, but she was an 87 year old woman. John was also in his late 60’s, and neither of them seemed ready to slow down. Both of them were agitated at having to sit on the train for so long and thought people who went on all inclusive holidays may as well be beached whales. John had a quieter approach to getting his point across, whereas Doris was enigmatic and loud, but they usually met in the middle with what they had to say. Doris also told one of the noisy children to either be quiet or she’d kill them – so her passion ran into the small things as well as the big.