Through the night—the passage to Halifax

The absurdly narrow corridors on this train seem to have been especially constructed for optimum comic effect. The clever over-engineering of every little nook and cranny in the berths themselves are what I imagine berths on the orbital space station might be like. I have fond memories of riding on trains with sleeper cars several times in my past. Before, they’ve always been rich with a quality of romance and film noir adventure. This time it seems a little more like a Marx Brothers movie. Hilarity ensues. We all tend to converge in the lounge area which, although it is the only car with wifi, has no electrical outlets. We rely on our laptop batteries while we are there and then retire to our rooms to recharge, both literally and figuratively. When I talk to Mia on the phone, she suggests that this annoyingly inconvenient design choice has likely been chosen deliberately to discourage passengers from taking up a seat in the lounge for the whole trip while glued to a laptop.

Shifra Cooper initiates an arts activity. On TofT luggage tags she writes the names of all the travelers in our group and passes them out to those of us in the lounge car. Our instructions are to write a personalized good morning message to the person whose name is on the card we are given. Sam delivers them by slipping them under our cabin doors in the wee hours of the morning. The luggage tag cards are waiting for us at the threshold when we wake. Here is more love and care built into the program,

The long train ride carries us through the night, including a meditative time in the observation car, all dark but for the stars above. Several of us are there until 3 or 4 am. Our hard working tour manager Sasha is looking out the window at the front of the car a few seats away from me. As I sit listening to her softly singing I am caught off guard. I had no idea that her singing voice was so lovely.

We cross from Quebec into New Brunswick on the second day. Among our new travellers today are members of Eliza’s family (mum, sister and kids) who meet us at one of the stops and will travel with us back to their home in Abegweit First Nation in PEI. Also joining us are Ann Pohl and Katrina Clair, as well as Katrina’s very bright and exceedingly adorable two year old daughter Jovina. Ann, who is non-Indigenous, has been a lifelong social justice and environmental activist. Katrina, who is Mi’kmaq and Navajo lives on Elsipogtog First Nation. Katrina is a high school teacher currently working on her masters of education degree. Ann and Katrina have been working together on a number of environmental, cultural and social justice issues. Ann refers wryly to New Brunswick as the “Pass Through Province” for all the people who think of it as terrain between La Belle Province and the Maritimes. I know of it as the heart of Acadian country. What I hadn’t known before was anything about the powerful Irving family and the grip that they hold over so much of the economy of the province. There have been hard fought, and hard won environmental and social justice initiatives here in recent years and they are facing more fights up ahead. I am reminded how much we need to be allies to our fellow and sister Canadians even as we fight to save our home provinces from those who would squeeze all good from the land and people to turn a profit.

This second day on the train is punctuated with art activities on board—quickly constructed performance pieces and installations in the various berths of our team members who are lucky enough to have gotten berths. I spend time talking with Ann. We cross into Nova Scotia and around five pm we pull into the station in Halifax. The circus is there to meet us.

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