Thursday, September 8, 2011

The West Side of Things

I've broken down some layers. Peeled away the skins of the onion, if you will.
I agreed to go cook on a boat in the Arctic Circle for 6 weeks of my life. At the end of a very long and diverse year out in the world, It turns out that I am not plenty of things, a sailor being one of them. Plus, cooking food in a moving kitchen is far from simple...easy... or enjoyable really (note: eating curry before sea sick- painful. Eating bananas- tolerable)
 Encouraging my body and mind to work just as a chef- learning the nautical ways, cleaning fish at all times of the night and day, and wearing a life vest to shop for food. My right shoulder is twice the size it was a month ago (really need to start learning how to be ambidextrous in the kitchen...) My knees ache (really need to stop cooking barefoot!)  And the grey color of my skin has finally started to find it's pink again. 16 and sometimes 19 hour days were spent in that galley. A 20 minute break here and there was found to sit on a freezing cold bridge deck and close my eyes in silence, shake my head in confusion, or throw a few punches at the side of the vessel.

But alas, I am home.

16 hours and 5 flights it took Zoe and I to find our way back to the sunshine state. Boarding a prop-job plane in the middle of Arctic-nowhere, Canada. We drug our belongings down a dirt path from the tender to the tiny airport. The town of 25 souls looks as if they are still sleeping at 9 am, and the layer of fog is thick. My bag, being the bigger of the two, as it is filled with a year's worth of goods and weather changing-options, is quickly cutting off the circulation to my hands.
An Inuit woman in her 60's appeared alongside me and offered to take my bag the extra 200 ft to the airport on the back of her quad (that's right... a quad). I took her shuttle service offer of Canadian hospitality.
We enter the airport trailer, and find ourselves face to face with the one and only airport representative. She took our passports, called another airport employee on the phone, and stared blankly into the computer screen which separated us.

"well...ah....I don't ah know..." She says with a strongly confused look.
"yeah... but ah there are just so many numbers on here" (referring to my passport.) This seems to be her first international passport processing ever.
She types a few lines on the computer.
I scan the room- instant coffee jar without a lid, powdered milk creamer spilt on the floor, 1 dirty mug, a filing cabinet, and a hand-written prayer to Jesus Christ taped to the wall next to the door.

30 minutes pass and my ticket finally prints out. The printer is now too hot and won't print Zoe's ticket. Fear that one of us may not make it out of the hell-hole settles in. I help fix the printer and a light at the end of the tunnel reappears. A pickup truck drives our bags the 400 ft to the plane. (in fact, I think it was driven by the same Inuit woman in her 60's...)

 Zoe and I have seats 5A and 5B- the last row in the plane. 3 other passengers join us on the 12-seater plane to Pangnirtung, Canada. The captain eases our fears during turbulance by directing our attention to the mountain range to the right which is famous from the 007 James Bond movie.
Yeah, whatever..... now back to acknowledging my final moments of life, as my imagination plots how to survive a plane crash in the Arctic....hhhmmm...

4 more flights like this later, and we arrive in a familiar place- LAX. It even smells good! I wore a pair of Italian leather sandals for my whole traveling day with the knowledge that the west coast life was closer and closer. I landed, hugged my mama for the first time in a year, watched LA taco stands feed lines of hungry Californians, felt my body thaw, and went to sleep without any plans of breakfast to be made in the morning.

My American battery will be recharging for 6 weeks or so before repacking that dang bag and returning to the endless queues of mass public transportation. Once again living in the open question and feeling alive in the unknown. But it is true that nothing and nowhere can make a Californian feel this good than to truly be on the West side of things, and to finally be "home."


  1. I envy you from the bottom of my heart:) Please do stay in touch and let us know everything:))

  2. Welcome home & can't wait to see you!!