Boarding a flight with Air Canada in a Dash-8, I had just landed in Smithers from Vancouver. There would be no public transport to my new home for the next 4 months -Burns Lake. However, my new would-be colleague generously offered to pick me up in a few hours time. As I waited in the airport with all my material life neatly packed in 2 suitcases, I decided to pass the time by logging in to the airport wifi to get my daily dosage of the “internet”.
“There are no more flights today, so we will be closing down the airport”, said a friendly airport staff. I always think of airports as ephemeral places, not bounded by time or space, it's a fascinating place where many life journeys intersect. Knowing I had to wait at least a couple of hours before my colleague Diondi showed up, I had planned to set camp like Tom Hanks in The Terminal (a must-watch if you haven’t already). As passengers reunited with their loved ones, and some continued their journey, I was the only one left at the entire airport - no staff, crew, passenger or a even a security …… just me! Given the post-apocalyptic security protocols at airports these days, I must say it felt quite exhilarating to be in an airport all by myself. Having always lived in big cities, it was the first sign that I’m in a relatively different world now. Glancing at my watch, it was just shy of 11 a.m., I slowly made my way outside the airport and found myself a nice sunny bench overlooking the beautiful Hudson Bay Mountain, and that was the first time in my life an airport closed on me.
As a couple of hours went by, Diondi finally came to pick me in his black Dodge Ram like a knight in his shining armor. As we introduced each other and got talking, I was happy to know that he himself was a UBC alumnus. Strange thing human psychology, we innately feel a sense of connection and security when we meet people with shared experiences. In a day full of new experiences, Diondi asked me if I would volunteer to drive from Smithers to Burns Lake since he had badly hurt his foot playing soccer. Out to make a positive first impression, I willingly obliged knowing very well that I had rarely driven in Canada, and here I was driving a brand new 3-ton truck, bigger and meaner than everything I had ever driven before. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise as Diondi oriented me with the customs of driving on two-lane highways with cars and lorries zooming past you over 100km/h. That experience was a great orientation as over the next 4 months as I ended up driving more than 4000 kilometers!
As someone who usually drove in the gridlock traffic of Dhaka, the 150 kilometers drive from Smithers to Burns Lake was a pure bliss. Wide open fields surrounded by mountains, the sun beaming at its peak, and with a great companion/colleague/driving instructor by my side, it was a great start to my first Canadian summer. (to be continued...)