Sitting in my friend Greg’s room at the University of British Colombia I have successfully found my way back to the motherland; Gringolandia. Stepping off the airplane after two flights (Bogota to Toronto and Toronto to Vancouver), blurry eyed and glad to have not had any problems at customs. The first blast of the late November air was a welcome sensation. I had tried to mentally prepare for the shock from the window of the airplane, drifting silently over the vast deep green Pacific on our turn past and back to the airport for landing. There was a soft but vast sheet of clouds in the sky, breaking only for a ribbon of pink on the horizon past the snowy peaks on Vancouver Island. Trees without foliage, something I haven’t seen since last April in Anchorage, Alaska. The skytrain to 49th-Langara station was empty and expensive. The ticket worked for passage on the bus to the University of British Columbia where I disembarked at the north bay and walked to the nearest food joint to consume something that wasn’t microwaved in an airport. It ended up being a footlong sandwich from Subway with as many vegetables as I could convince the maker to cram onto it. 7 dollars and 59 cents, Canadian.
I had never imagined that I would soon be putting on a dry suit, mask, snorkel and fins and snorkeling around the sound behind Green College. It was a strange sensation, feeling impervious in the suit to an environment so much more harsh than anything I had experienced since my work in Alaska the past June. We kicked around in the turbid water, trying to find some life to look at with our dive lights. The city lights of North Vancouver were visible across the sound, the rest of the scene was dark. It was raining lightly, which produced a surreal effect when the beam of the flashlight left the water. I saw a small fish, Greg saw a few shrimp. Soon we went and got the equipment to do a plankton tow. Greg is in search of dinoflagellates, the focus of his studies as a doctorate student in the department of zoology at UBC. Greg swam out twenty or thirty kicks, then back to shore. Enough to clog the ultra-fine mesh of the filter with plankton. After we pulled our fins off and packed up the gear we climbed an unending flight of stairs and awkwardly wandered around Green College in our dry suits looking for a hose to rinse them with.
A new day today, much rested after a great night’s sleep on the couch. It feels like it stays dark here for a long time. Soon will be the real homecoming, which I will leave for tomorrow. More to come.