My friend Julia and I landed late at night on 18th of August 2015. Our fourth five hours long flight was exactly that; long. It had taken us from LA and across the water over to the remote piece of land on which Hilo is located. Despite the final flight being one of the shortest, it felt the longest.
We had both been awake for more than 24 hours. The air condition was turned up a little bit too much so we were both shivering nonstop throughout the whole journey. The plane was small and uncomfortable, even more so due to the extreme exhaustion we both faced. Even so, neither one of us managed to sleep any more than just a few moments here and there. This, of course, just made it feel like time was passing even slower.
When we finally landed, I found the great humidity and pouring rain, in the pitch-black little town to be incredibly surprising. It was not what I had expected at all. But I think I hadn’t expected anything in particular, so anything would have been shocking at that point. Just the fact that I had just been on four different flights in the past day to cross the whole globe was shocking. (When younger, I was terrified of flying but as traveling always was one of my main dreams, I decided to just hop on a flight regardless.)
Once landed, we saw several young men with pick-up signs saying “UH Hilo”. We knew ahead of time that our school offered free pick-up when arriving the day before the introduction week was due to start. Interestingly, many of our to-be fellow students arrived at the same time as ourselves: there were people from Japan, from all over the US mainland, Korea, and then, like us, from Europe. I thought it was quite cool that we had been on the same flight as some of the people who ended up in the same van as us. Next thing they did, after having gathered us all, was filling a couple of vans with newly arrived students and all their luggage. There evidently was no structure in the whole process: the suitcases, of all colours and sizes, were lying all over the van. Some of them we held squeezed on our laps.
It was all rather surreal.
I had no clue of where I was going, I only knew I was staying off-campus, and I thought I had an address, or at least the name of the complex in which I was supposed to be living the next four months. Well, the driver, a third year student at UH Hilo, seemed to know where he was taking me. My accommodation was the first stop because apparently it was the one closest to the airport.
Five minutes later the van stopped and they shouted out a name I thought sounded familiar. It was my stop.“Already?” I thought to myself.. It can’t be right? Oh well, so they said.
I got out of the car and wondered where the heck I had been taken.. I got a weird, not necessarily good, vibe from the place. It felt dodgy even then already.
I looked around and saw big, green bushes, palm-tree looking like. That’s all I could tell at that point. And then there were white, long houses, three or four storeys. Not too tall like you’d imagine most houses in the States to be.
On the main door, there was a note with a phone number to the landlord. I asked the driver to call it for me, letting him know that Cecilia had arrived. I was too knackered to speak English, let alone being on the phone with a stranger.
An older man, Harry, came downstairs within minutes. Wow, that was fast. (I later found out that he lived right above the office so he was always within reach).
The van with the other students, including Julia, took off and Harry showed me to my room. I had booked a two-bedroom apartment and already had a roommate – a 22 years old Japanese girl who hardly knew any English. She had started school already, taking preparatory English classes.
She seemed nice, and gave me some of her vegetarian noodles to eat before I went to bed. I thought I’d go straight to bed when arriving in my new home but I was too hungry and too wind-up to be able to fall asleep just right after arrival. Instead, I stayed up another few hours, “chatting”, unpacking and getting settled.
I woke up in the middle of the night, from a weird, bird-like loud noise. It didn’t stop so I couldn’t go back to bed.
The next day when I was in school, I learned that it was my first time encountering the Coqui Frogs.
That’s when I started using the expression “Is this happening?” repeatedly.
To be continued.