I look out the window of the 40 seat air plane. All I can see is rock and water when the clouds part. Sometimes all I see is white. Most of my time is spent looking down. When I do glance up the blue ordinary sky bores me. I am too preoccupied with the ground. I hated flying, but the past week has cured that. After three flights I am so close.
I can barely stay in my seat as the pilot signals our landing. I glance out the window again, below the clouds, all I see is rock. I move my tray into the upright position, check that my seat belt is still fastened, and begin to gather my things strewn about the empty seat beside me. My mind races with thoughts about the community I will call home for the year. What will my house look like? What will my class be like? Is there a pool? The plane bumps onto the tarmac and we begin to slow. I miss the stewardess explaining that we should stay in our seats and I excitedly stand up. She gives me a look and I sheepishly sit back down. I squeeze the arm rest, I want to bolt out of the plane when it finally stops, but I gather my things at a normal pace like the other three teachers getting off here. We share excited looks with each other and quick farewells with the teachers going on to further communities.
I breathe in fresh air as I step off the plane onto the tarmac. The four of us are like kids, running around, taking pictures of each other, shouting for joy. I can’t help but laugh. I finally notice the terminal, if you can call it that. The brown wooden building has a wall of windows facing us, and a set of metal stairs to a door that a colleague disappears into. This is the only building I can see, set against a backdrop of rocks. Just rocks, no trees, no bushes, no flowers, just rocks as far as I can see, yet it still doesn’t feel as isolated as they made it seem. I head up the stairs into the terminal.
A few yellow plastic chairs sit in rows across from the windows that I noticed outside. I stand across from another door and a counter. Including a bathroom and a back-room this is the entire terminal. I realize it’s about the size of my apartment back in Toronto.
Inside I wait a few minutes for my luggage, then head out the front door with the other bewildered teachers. I have yet to see one house, and I start to wonder where they all are. A black pick up truck is bumping down the road towards the airport. It stops in front of us and the driver introduces himself as Ron. His passenger is Henry, and he loads our bags in the back of the truck. Where will we sit? Do they expect us to walk? the thoughts barely cross my mind as one of my colleagues climbs up into the tailgate-less truck bed. I am the last to scramble up, and my heart is pounding as I settle into the safest, lowest point I can find. I clutch my luggage as we start to drive.
After a bumpy five or ten minutes we start to pass houses built up on stilts. Small little coloured buildings with big tanks attached to the side or front. At least seven stairs lead up to the door of each house. Without grass there aren’t many yards, and you can barely see where one property begins and another ends. No fences, it must not matter much to them. Kids run about playing in t-shirts, a few run after the truck waving and I let one hand go to wave back. I pull my jacket tighter around me with the same hand; the wind is cold. We stop at the first house. Amanda and Thomas get out and start lugging their bags up the stairs to their door. Ron checks his list and runs up to hand them the keys. We wave and shout promises to see each other again soon as the truck starts up again and we are off to the the next house.
We pull up next to a brown and red duplex, and Jamie is excited to find out her boxes are already here, and I start to feel hopeful that all the things I carefully packed and shipped might be here too. Fillip isn’t so lucky, and my hope drops a little. As we are about to leave again a tan truck pulls up. The principal introduces himself to us, Jerry. Allyson, the property manager says hi from the passenger seat. Jerry apologizes for not being at the airport when we got in, and double checks that I am going to the right house.
We set off again with one last destination, I am the last one. I realize now that I should have been paying attention to the streets as we drove so that I can find my way back to the co-op. I search back the way we came, but all the houses look the same to me. I can’t possibly get lost in a community of 600, can I? The pick up truck pulls to a stop. I know what that means and I twist my head around to see a big green house. I clamber out of the truck, my hands and legs stiff from the wind. I am excited by my new house, and the experience of riding in the back of a pickup truck. Ron unlocks the door for me and brings my suitcase up, then he sets the key on the table, and suddenly I am alone in a big empty house…
to be continued…