People like Anggoro, Fairuz, Dini, or some other who have experienced North American fall/winter might have already understood that weird combination of bright sunshine and freezing-air-that-made-you-numb. But I still could not accept that the wind slapped me so hard that afternoon, just outside of Pierre-Truedeau International Airport while we were waiting for the bus. We were fully suited and tired of 16 hours long flight. Some people were just well prepared, they wore sweater underneath the coat, put on a scarf or had a big fluffy ear puffs in the middle of their red faces.
“I need to lay down for a while” as I obviously didn’t have a proper sleep, and those extra layer of clothing preparation besides a pair of leopard mitten that I borrowed from Reyska. As like it would help.
One bus with the first group just left before us. Another bus arrived and our group put our belongings in the trunk. The bus was too small for 11 people including the driver, but maybe it was just fine enough to be really close to each other and kept ourselves warm. And in just 15 minutes, the bus stopped at Best Western Hotel.
I was in the middle of most diva-ish situation when I had to stay overnight with 2 of the most brilliant musicians in the group. Noval and Azis better shared the bed as we only had 2 beds in the room, and diva didn’t share bed. But diva did get thirsty. We saw nothing but empty glasses on the table. This hotel didn’t provide water for the visitor.
I went to the reception and stupidly shocked of what the friendly lady said.
“You can get water from the tap. We all drink tap water here.” She said in a French accent
Not sure, I called Kak Asni and she said don’t worry because tap water was indeed drinkable there. I went back to the room and found Noval had a glass of tap water already.
“Anggoro told me.” He said.
Alright, so who cared? I drank and it tasted like I-won’t-get-diarrhea. Something that nobody would ever do anywhere in Indonesia, at least not before you boil it.
3 of us laid down had a very little sleep and get ready as we needed to be in the hall for an arrival briefing.
“Hi everyone, my name is Giselle from Canada World Youth” the curly-haired lady announced herself. I could tell that her first language was neither English nor French. She announced few basic things about tomorrow’s departure. Another flight, of course.
Later I figured, Giselle was originally from Brazil. It was interesting enough remembering the fact that she was representing Canada World Youth, the organization that gave a third-world-country youth like me opportunity to join such an amazing program.
I was sitting on a couch at one corner in the city of Montreal, listening to Gisele’s explanation of our next travel arrangement. My other Indonesian friends who had just traveled all the way from South East Asia with me were sitting around me as well.
Those names I previously mentioned at the beginning were some of few weirdos I had to deal with almost every day, around 4 years ago. We started our journey in our each 27 different places all over Indonesia, wanting to get an International experience and were finally recruited by Indonesian Ministry of Youth and Sport to represent the Indonesian Youth in a program that they partnered with Canada World Youth.
It was September 2011 and this exchange program was at its 38th year. We had 2 weeks full of pre-departure training with the alumni in Jakarta as they expected we would be ‘ready’ to face the bittersweet of the 6 months program. 27 of us were divided in 3 groups who would live in 3 different communities, with each person would be paired with another Canadian youth as our counterpart, and each group would also be facilitated by a pair of Indonesian-Canadian project supervisors.
I was in the same group with Laksmi, Azis, Nadia, Fairuz, Anggoro, Amelia, Noval, and Dwi. Kak Asni was our project supervisor, she joined this program earlier in 2006 and Indonesian supervisor always had to be an alumnus of the program, just like her. We were supposed to live in Charlottetown, the capital of Canada’s littlest and eastern most province Prince Edward Island with environmental-focused project and volunteering.
Other two groups were placed in Halifax and Truro, both in the province of Nova’s Scotia. The members of those groups might not really be that important to be mentioned, now. They will just naturally appear in the next posts through some incidents, if I feel like to.
Like Salam the member of Halifax group, right now. He just ran back from his room with a big bottle of chili sauce in his hand. “Can’t live without it!” he said.
Gisele had finished explaining about things I couldn’t even remember now. The short meeting was ended with an early dinner, at like 5 PM. Canadians had an interesting dinner time, I thought. Back in Pontianak, a city where I lived, I could just eat a bowl of noodle and would not call it as dinner and would eat a plate of rice and chicken 2 hours later, the meal that I would call as dinner. No wonder I weighted around 98kg.
Gisele distributed the dinner boxes. 2 big chicken breasts and french fries were in it. Without rice, of course, as this was unusual for the Indonesians to eat anything without rice and chili sauce. Some people were approaching Salam to get a bit of his chili sauce, I assumed that big bottle was his 3 months’ supply and decided not to ask for it. I did have my own in my luggage, but it was day 1 and that bitch Feby really loved challenge.
We finished eating and came back to our rooms as we had quite early flight the next day. But again, it was day 1. No matter how tired you were, you would not miss your very first North American night by sleeping. 10 of us were gathered in a room to discuss on what we called ‘group rules’, basically some bullshits of Do’s and Don’ts that we might not commit several weeks after.
I saw Wan Vina from Truro group changed her BBM profile picture at the downtown of Montreal, which was obviously the place where we should be at that very moment. We convinced Kak Asni that we should go around Montreal that night, as the very first group activity that we had never done before.
She agreed as we were all set and waited for the hotel’s shuttle to the bus station. And that’s how my group and I started to have our Canadian experience for the very first time.
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Next Series: CWY Series 2 – Montreal Drama