Thursday, April 28, 2011

Where am I and what am I doing here?

Where am I?
Currently, I am in Gros Morne National Park (specifically Rocky Harbour, Newfoundland) for a healing retreat with Young Adult Cancer Canada.

LESSON: Newfoundland is a province in Canada. It was the last province to join Confederation in 1949 and is currently known as Newfoundland and Labrador.

Last night I arrived by plane to Deer Lake, Newfoundland. The time zone here is 1 1/2 hours ahead of Toronto's time.

Going through the airport after my radiation treatment, I was warned that I was bound to set off the alarm. (I expected some loud siren to go off with flashing lights and having a swat team lead me into some search room.) It totally wasn't like that. After walking through the scanner, a woman in uniform came up to me and told me I needed a secondary search. She said I could go through the machine or have a pat down. I'll take the machine (hell, yeah! As if I want some strange woman to give me a pat down.). So I walked into some futuristic looking clear machine and stood in this rotating scanning device similar to revolving doors. Then I was instructed to come out. The machine began to compute some data. "I have a medical note," I told the other woman in uniform. She did not respond. Then a human animated silhouette popped up on the screen. The figure was beige in colour but there was a red dot (in the ovarian/intestinal region). "Do you have a belt on?" she asked. "No," I said. Then she told me to go through. (That was so embarassing because I had to go to the bathroom and wondered if my "radioactive" waste was showing up on the screen.)

So as I was waiting for the plane to load, I told the staff member, "I had radioactive treatment. I'm safe to be with the public but I request not to sit beside any children or pregnant women." So after a long wait and being asked to step out of the line, I was seated IN THE EXECUTIVE SECTION. I went to my seat which was empty. No pregnant women, no children. Then I looked behind my seat and I saw woman with a baby on her lap. I told the stewardess that I could not sit there because I had radiation treatment. So she placed me in another seat beside a woman. I sat down beside this woman, looked at her stomach, and thought "no baby bump."

All of a sudden, a young pilot came up to me. "Did you have radiation?" he asked.
"Yes," I replied. (I was thinking that he was going to escort me off the plane.)
"When?" he asked.
"On Thursday," I said.
I nodded. "I have a note," I offered.
"Let me see," he replied. I gave him the note. "Did you receive 100?" He asked.
"Yes," I said.
He looked up and began to do calculations in his head. "How much do you weigh, if you don't mind me asking?" I told him. He looked up as if he was doing calculations in his head. "So you should be at about 20 now."
"Wow, you know more than my doctor," I said with a laugh.
"Well, i've seen it all," he said smuggly. I know he liked this challenge.
"I'm pregnant," the woman beside me said.


And with that, I quickly got up and apologized for not asking her. The pilot agreed that I would have to move. So did I. I don't want to harm a life.

So there I was, standing inside the plane, seatless.

About five long uncomfortable minutes passed before, the stewardess had asked another passenger to move so I could sit.

What the *&#$ am I doing here?
Executive class is really different. First, I was offered something to drink. Then, I tried to get "THE KING'S SPEECH" to work on my personalized screen. The touchscreen would not drag properly, finally with a lot of effort, it began to work. I was watching it while we waited for the connecting flights.

Finally, the plane began to move. The flight safety video came on and interrupted the movie. That was the end of that. As we sped down the runway and I started to lift off, tears rolled down my chin. (Oh God, not this again.) I was crying and couldn't stop. The emotional floodgates opened and I had no Kleenex. So I used my scarf. I thought about all of the actions that brought me to this moment, the miracles, and the love. There were so many reasons I shouldn't be on this plane but there was no turning back now. I had sponsors pay for me. I finally had my radiation behind me and I had a doctor who said I was safe to fly. I had folks praying for me. I was overwhelmed with gladness. I also remembered my late Aunt Hilma "Jenny" Walker, one of the first flight attendants for Air Jamaica. She would have totally done this adventure. I remember the postcard of the junks (Chinese boats) in Hong Kong when she visited. She was exuberant and had this beautiful zest for life. As we were airborne, they plane stabilized and so did my emotions. The attendant gave us hot steamed face towels. I wiped my face.

The guy sitting beside me was pleasantly chatty. He was middle aged and a returned Newfoundland native who had lived all over Canada and in other countries. I put down my book. We talked about cancer, visiting Jamaica, similarities between Jamaica and Newfoundland (cod fish and "screech" which is Jamaican rum) what to see in Newfoundland, factory farming,... It was a completely easygoing conversation. But just as easily as that conversation began, it ended just as abruptly as soon as the plane landed. He talked to his fellow Newfoundland passengers and he was gone. I said, "Bye!" but he didn't hear.

At the airport, I got my bag and got up my courage to ask another lone passenger if she was by any chance part of the Young Adult Cancer group. "Are you Nadia?" she asked. Yes and with that we decided to share a cab to the Driftwood Inn. (Only thing, it took us a while to get a cab. Unlike Toronto's busy Pearson International Airport, there were not loads of taxis waiting. There were probably one or two cabs. Also, within the half an hour while we waited, the airport was deserted. I guess there were only two cabbies servicing Deer Lake because that night. The driver returned for us after two trips with other passengers to and from the airport.)

"Are yous part of that cancer group?" he asked. Yes, we replied. "Yous twos never met before?" No, we replied. Were there others like us at the hotel?, I asked. "Well, I dropped off this coloured girl?" earlier on. Coloured girl? Do they still use that term out here?

"Well, she wasn't on our plane," I replied. (That was for sure. I did the count on the plane. I was the only Black person, aside from the mixed boy.)

When I finally arrived in my room, panic set in. "What was I doing here?" I started to get real anxious. What if all the people I meet are hicks? Why did I leave home? I miss my fiance and cats. I just got out of isolation, I didn't even get to spend much time with my fiance. I felt cold. It was four in the morning and I couldn't find the book I was reading. I realized I left my book on a seat on the plane. It was a library book. I began to freak out and search for it. I don't know any of these people on the trip. I will be trapped here for a week. I was feeling hungry (my appetite was just coming back) but the vending machine food did not appeal to me. Where was I? Outside it was too dark to see anything. And on top of all this, I didn't know what time it was. (My cell phone did not reset and the alarm clock in my room was blinking the wrong time.)

Eventually I calmed down enough to grab my big orange journal and I began to write. I wrote about my worries, each and every one and addressed them calmly. (No, maybe I shouldn't have been reading that book about work. Eat that bag of almonds that the passenger gave you. Put on something warm.)

And I fell asleep.

This morning, I hurriedly blogged and despite the brown water that ran from the taps (it eventually ran clear and the Driftwood Inn staff checked it out), a brunch of veggie stir fry at Jungle Jim's with the girl I met at the airport, and then we met the another girl and took a cab to the retreat.

The Driftwood Inn

Brown Newfoundland tap water

Bye bye, bedroom!

Outside my window at the Driftwood Inn

Jungle Jim's

When we arrived at the Deer Lake Hotel, there was a dining room full of participants and organizers full of smiles and positive energy. I knew what I was doing here. I was given a welcome package, we packed the big yellow school bus, and started the speedy two-hour trip to the Ocean View Hotel at Gros Morne National park. Only, our bus driver did it in 1 hour on slick, rainy, hilly roads.

The yellow rocket

Home for the next four days

Newfoundland. I'm ready for you!

My (and my roommate's) room with a beautiful view!

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