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24 Oct 2011 by Guest Blogger in Culture
Region: Avalon

Lauren Suarez, a 17-year-old high school student from Greenwood Indiana, recently travelled to St. John's for the first time with her mom and her mom's best friend, Laura. They stayed with Laura’s relatives who made the experience so unforgettable that Lauren wrote to tell us how completely she fell in love with Newfoundland & Labrador and its people.

By Lauren Suarez

I have NEVER met any other people as nice as the people in Newfoundland. In Newfoundland, the people are accepting and friendly. They did not care what I looked like and they accepted me for who I was.

My flight to Newfoundland was on a Tuesday,  July 26, 2011. I woke up at five in the morning, and was extremely anxious for our five-hour flight. My dad drove my mom and me to the airport and so many thoughts were going through my head. "What if the plane crashes? What if these people I
am staying with don't like me? What if my luggage gets lost? What if I don't like it in Newfoundland and I just want to come home?" Before we left, my mom told me that it was going to be a long day ahead of us. Butterflies were fluttering in my stomach as we entered the gate to board the first leg of our flight to Newark, New Jersey. My mom and I found our seats and settled in while we waited for the plane to take off.

Once we arrived at the Newfoundland airport, the Menchinton and Mahoney family were waiting on us. I had never met these people so I did not really know what to do when I first saw them, so I just stood there while my mom and her best friend, Laura (who's family it was), hugged everyone. The person that reached out to me first and gave me a warm welcoming hug was Victoria. She's 19, and one of the sweetest girls I have ever met. Then after I hugged Victoria, I hugged her brother Jeremy who is 14, and I remember hearing his loud music coming from his iPod headphones.

The Menchinton family took us home so we could get some much needed rest for the big day ahead. My mom and I slept in the same room downstairs. We woke up the next morning and Victoria and Jeremy's mom, Marylynn, took us to a lovely place called Signal Hill. It was a dreary, chilly day but as I peered over the side of the cliff to witness the magnificent view of the clear blue ocean water, all I could think of was the fresh salty smell that was striking me right in the face. Seeing the huge cliffs and ocean ahead of me as I gazed off into the distance made me appreciate God's creation even more. Of all the sites I visited in Newfoundland, Signal Hill is the most memorable.

While the sites were incredible, the most impressive detail about Newfoundland was the people. The people are special. They are the unique element which captures the hearts of visitors whether they come for work or play. It's true that there is nobody quite like a Newfoundlander. A new arrival in this great old seaport can expect to be greeted with affection, laughed at without scorn, treated with respect, and even insulted with humor and gentility ... perhaps all at the same time!

As we were eating one of their famous homemade meals called a "Jiggs Dinner," I remember sitting at the table and listening to the many different family stories that were being told. As they would talk about the adventures they had as children, I would hear the loud boisterous laughs of everyone else in the room when something funny was being said. I felt like a little kid in a candy shop. As I listened to their accents, which sounded like Irish, I found myself longing to hear more of their memories. Although at the time I had only known these people for a week, I felt as if I had known them my whole life.

One night we had a get together that started at six o'clock. One of the people I stayed with named Les, did not show up till nine at night. I ended up calling him at seven asking him where he was and if he was still coming. He said he was still coming over, but he had to shower and eat first. I thought to myself, the get together started three hours ago and he still is not here.  It showed me that everyone was laid back, and no one cared about what time it was, or if they had to be somewhere at a certain hour. They all just went with the flow and did not let anything bother them.

Something I noticed that is different between America and Newfoundland is that when I would walk down the streets in downtown St. John's, everyone had a smile on their face and no one was in a hurry. If I were to ask a stranger for help or directions in Newfoundland they would gladly give them to me. No one  seemed rushed or as if helping a stranger was a hassle.

My life has been changed since I traveled to Newfoundland. The family I stayed with changed my life and they also changed the way I look at everyday life. They showed me not to take life so seriously, and to go with the flow. I am going back to Newfoundland next summer for my graduation gift, and I am counting down the days. I cannot wait. I daydream about Newfoundland every day, and when I see the Mahoney and Menchinton family at the airport next summer, I will go ballistic!

286 days and counting...