Over two weeks I have been building a new life, in a new place. And it’s been a rollercoaster of thoughts and emotions and discoveries. It’s been great, and difficult, and intense.
I am at a bit of a loss on where to begin. So much has happened since I got here, and I’ve been writing like crazy, but my inability to access the internet for any length of time has hindered all updates to this blog. Which means now I’m struggling to try to figure out what to explain as important story foundation, and what to let slide.
During that two week period I was largely without either a phone and/or the internet for a good part of the time. Initially not having an internet connection was kind of awesome, as it forced me to don scarves and toques and mittens and trudge my way through the town of Banff to the Starbucks, which has far as I could tell, was the only place that a) had free wifi and b) could not care less how long you sat there, nursing a $1.87 cup of coffee while sucking up all the free internet you could handle. I’m sure in the town of Banff there are countless tiny cafes that have wifi, but I always feel a certain obligation in places like that. I find I end up feeling there is some twisted ratio of guilt-purchasing necessary, wherein every 30 minutes I must buy something else, to make up for my ass taking up real estate in their establishment. (My ass at which rate, which was sure to be twice the size it was when I arrived, what with all the cookies, pastries and caramel apple ciders that would inevitably be consumed if my home internet situation wasn’t soon rectified). As of Thursday, it finally was.
But I guess I really should start with my arrival…
I had bundled up before I got on the plane, both to be prepared for the bone chilling temperatures, as well as to give me that much needed space in my luggage to pack as many comforts of home that I might need over the next 6 months, as possible. By the time the plane touched down in Calgary I was sweating like a pig—what with the weather being a balmy 3 degrees—almost identical to that of Vancouver. The snow lay on the ground in huge drifts, but the sidewalks were almost completely bare. This fact was both disappointing and yet somewhat reassuring. Thanks for easing me in slowly, Alberta, I appreciate it.
Before I left Vancouver I had what some would call a bit of a (read: major) emotional meltdown. The mental preparation involved with moving to a new place is huge and stressful, but until that point, I was doing surprisingly well. Being that it’s my nature to be terrified of change, I found solace in the fact that once I got to Banff—although I would be sharing an apartment with someone else—I would have my own room, my own space… with a door that could close, with privacy. A few days before I was set to go, I got an email telling me that there were no single rooms available, and I would be sharing a room with someone else. A panic attack so immense hit me, it was hard to keep it in check. So, reasonably, I lost my shit. I could handle the thought of leaving a place I loved to move to a place I’d only heard of. I could handle the idea of leaving my family and everyone in the world I knew. I could however not handle the thought of immediately being thrust into the space of a stranger, with less than 3 feet of space between single beds. Oh god—had I made a huge mistake?? I probably never would have agreed to this scenario, had I known that was the rooming situation. And yet, my Vancouver apartment was almost empty, bags were packed, the ticket was booked. What could I do? Cry, that’s what. And cry I did. And then take deep breaths, regain composure. I would figure it out. I would make it work. I had no other choice.
Cut to: Arriving in Banff after a breathtaking 1 hour flight over the mountains and a 2 hour shuttle bus ride, I was sweltering under the weight of multiple coats and countless layers. I had informed the bus driver that I would be going to the Rocky Mountain Housing Co-op. He knew where it was, he assured me. I had made plans to meet up with the housing coordinator at 2:30pm, and she would check me in. If I got to the co-op, I was told, and she wasn’t there right away, just buzz 100 on the intercom and she would come and let me in. Easy enough.
We arrive at the building, and I struggled to get my two ENORMOUS suitcases, a backpack, a ridiculously packed gigantic purse, and the pile of clothing I had peeled off, over the snowdrifts onto the front sidewalk of the building. As I approached, a helpful girl held the door for me, so I squeaked “oh, thank you!” greatfully, and clumsily jammed myself through the front doors into the main foyer. I was early by 30 minutes. Thank god there were couches.
2:10pm, I’m passed numerous times by people coming in and out of the building. I’m not sure how to say this without sounding snobby, but the building was, uh… a bit shabby. The furniture in the foyer was old and mismatched, the carpets were stained, and it smelled kind of musty. [Deep breaths]. Each time someone walked through, I perked up, wondering if this was the housing coordinator. Then, each time, it wasn’t.
2:25pm I left my bags in the lobby and by jamming my foot in the front doorway, I managed to keep it propped open, knowing I’d be screwed if the door shut closed behind me, leaving all my stuff in the hall. Awkwardly leaning halfway out the door, and halfway in, I punched ’100′ on the intercom. The steady green display of “input suite number” flashed on the screen. Again. Nothing. Alright, no worries, I’ll just wait. It’s almost 2:30, she would be here any minute.
2:35 Still, nothing. The worry begins to set in—what would I do if she didn’t show up? I didn’t have a cell phone, and there was no way in hell I would be able to haul all this stuff back into town to try to find a pay phone, I could barely get it the 10 feet to the building. Not to mention I have zero sense of direction and couldn’t remember what road we took to get here, let alone where I would need to go to get back to it.
2:45pm Awesome—I’m now in Banff and will be forced to spend the weekend camped out in the foyer of my somewhat sketchy new apartment building, without actually owning an apartment. Anxious butterflies begin to flit around in my stomach; I feel a bit like I might throw up. Behind a potted plant. Because my apartment is nonexistent, as is the bathroom inside of it.
2:50 Finally, a guy walked by on his way outside to smoke, and I asked him “Excuse me, do you know where I might find Kim, the housing coordinator? I was supposed to meet her here at 2:30, but I can’t figure out how to work the intercom”. A head shaken, no.
3:00 OhshitOhshitOhshit. Ohgod, this was a mistake—and setting up to be a horrible start to my Banff experience. I mentally made a list of all the things I could sacrifice to someone stealing, if I had to leave it in the foyer and hike back into town. I had everything – two laptops, a camera, hard drives, sketchbooks, photos—all valuable, all important. Fuck.
3:10 More people walk by. Finally, in desperation, I say “EXCUSE ME, can you help me? I need help. I don’t know where I am, and where I’m supposed to be going, who I’m meeting, and apparently how to work simple technology. Can you please, please help me?”. Taking pity on me, a guy stops and tries to help me work the intercom.
“There is no option for 100 – are you sure it was 100?”.
“Yes, it’s in the email, 100″.
“I don’t know then—I’ve never heard of a Kim—are you sure it wasn’t Larry?”.
“No, definitely Kim. Is there any other buildings that are part of this complex? I’m starting work at the Banff Centre, and this is supposed to be for their housing”.
“Oh, the Banff Centre has people here now? Huh, they sure are expanding”.
[Blank stare from me] I look out the back window, point. “That building there, is that a part of this complex?”
“I’m not sure. I don’t think so”.
“Look, I don’t have a cell phone, I need to go and see if there is any possibility I’m in the wrong place. Can you please just watch my bags? I don’t want to try to lug them through the snow drifts if it’s not the right building”.
[He looked down at the unlit smoke in his hand, then back to my pitiful, desperate face, then back to the smoke again.]
Finally, “Uh… fine. Ok, sure”.
So, this stranger—this incredibly friendly, disheveled stranger, agreed to watch my stuff while I tromped through the snow to the back building. As I approached the door, a woman came to unlock it…
I hurried back to the first building, slightly relieved at the situation, totally annoyed at the bus driver, absolutely grateful to this stranger who helped without robbing me blind. I thanked that man no less than 50 times as he graciously assisted in carrying my stuff through the snow and parking lot to this other building—this much newer, cleaner, nicer, better building.
Kim sat me down, and checked me in. She explained the no drugs policy, took my $100 damage deposit, pointed out on a map where in town I could find everything—groceries, library, coffee shops. She handed me the keys and as we walked to the suite she explained that I was lucky, at the last minute a suite opened up, and it was completely empty. For the time being, I would have no roommates. I almost burst into tears right then and there. This was better than Christmas! Within 1 hour I went from thinking this was the worst decision I had ever made in my life, to feeling like I had just inexplicably won the lottery. Funny how life is like that sometimes.
I walked into the suite, dropped my bags, said goodbye to Kim and shut the door. The apartment itself was pretty plain, but tastefully decorated and not too bad at all (compared with sleeping in the foyer of building #1).
When I walked into the living room, through the window I saw this view:
And all at once, I was again reassured—absolutely—that this wasn’t a mistake after all, but was exactly where I needed to be.