Being the small community that it is, there are a few things that work a little differently on the island compared to other places. Today I would like to share a few stories and anomalies that I think are uniquely Salt Spring.
1. The Dinner Party
Several years ago, when I was probably in middle school, our next door neighbours invited my family and a few other neighbourhood families over for a potluck dinner party. On the day of the party we arrived with the other families to find that the house was locked and she wasn’t home from work yet. She is a doctor, so it is common for her to work longer than expected. We didn’t think anything of it. My parents had a spare key to her house, so we just unlocked the door and went in. We all started cooking and setting up and preparing things. When the host arrived home a little while later, she came home to a hot dinner and a party in full swing. And didn’t think anything of it.
2. Salt Spring Rules of the Road
Because there is relatively little traffic on Salt Spring, the rules of the road seem to work a little differently on the island. Pedestrians often jay-walk all over the place. But the weird part is drivers often stop to let people jay-walk. I guess nobody’s in a big rush! Drivers will also often stop in the middle of the road to chat with someone, either in a passing car, or a pedestrian on the side of the road. Hitchhiking is also very popular on the island. If people need to get somewhere, but don’t have a car, they just start walking and stick out their thumb to every passing car. Eventually someone always stops and gives them a ride.
3. The Market
Anybody who has ever visited Salt Spring has probably been to the market. This is a wonderful artisan market on Saturdays in the summertime. It has food, artists, jewelry, pottery, soap works, flowers, produce, textiles, food trucks and all sorts of island-made goods. It’s a great attraction and very popular. It is so popular in fact, that the only time islanders go to the market is if they are selling something, or if they have out of town visitors. Most locals that I know avoid the whole of Ganges on Saturdays in the summer because it is so busy.
4. Salt Spring Gossip
Being such a small, tight-knit community, news on Salt Spring travels very fast. Even before the popularity of social media, when something big happens, it spreads around the island surprisingly quickly. Doesn’t really matter what the news is. When I was in high school, if there was some drama or gossip that happened during the school day, your parents (or your friend’s parents) probably already knew about it by the time you got home. Still not sure how that worked.
5. High School Grad Streak
There are many grad tradition at the Salt Spring high school (GISS). The grade 12s play pranks throughout the year, the Monday after grad weekend is “Grad Skip Day”, they don’t wear caps and gowns to the ceremony, they wear fancy dresses and tuxedos. But perhaps the weirdest tradition is the Grad Streak. On the last day of classes before exams, the grads will meet in the art room in the afternoon, strip down to varying degrees of nakedness, cover themselves in paint and run through the halls of the school, screaming. The weirdest part is, the teachers and the administration just kind of let it happen. They know it’s going to happen, but they turn a blind eye and pretend they don’t know what’s going on and let the kids run wild. The students are always responsible and clean up the paint after the fact, so I guess they figure it’s better to just let it go.
6. The Trusting Nature
Salt Spring is a fairly safe town and there’s not a lot of crime there, so people are very trusting. Earlier this winter, I was on the island visiting my family and I decided to look at a couple potential wedding venues. One of them is a very popular community hall on Salt Spring. Is was there on the weekend and the manager of the hall was away. So, she gave me her address and told me to get the key to the hall out of her mailbox, go look at the hall, and lock up when I was finished, and return the key to the mailbox. This sort of thing is commonplace and I think it’s amazing that there are still places like this. They have no reason not to trust people, so everything is done on the honour system, and people respect that.
These little stories are quite indicative of life on Salt Spring: slow paced, but never boring, friendly and trusting, community-minded and…quirky.
*Photo by Ben Beaver, my fabulous fiancé*