Notes from the Vermont Studio Center Residency - A series of unfortunate events
Remember last week when I described everything as off to a great start? Well, it seems the universe had other plans for me. As much as I wish it wasn’t the case, I feel like there’s always some level of drama every time I have to travel somewhere via airplane.
I don’t even think my brain has had time to fully comprehend everything that has happened during the two days I spent trying to get to Vermont (yes, you read correct, two days). So I will attempt to condense everything I can recall from a rather eventful start to my residency.
It didn’t start out bad in any way. In fact, my flights to Trinidad and Miami were both on time and without issue. What I wasn’t physically and/or mentally prepared for was the circus that awaited me when I got to Miami. Things were worsened by the fact that the shooting that occurred at Fort Lauderdale airport just two days before diverted the traffic to the Miami International Airport.
Nerves were frayed, everyone was frantic and the air was thick with vexation. I felt like I ran for miles up and down that airport, and I was not wearing running shoes. Every time they announced a gate change there was a mad dash to get there. I probably did that about three or four times. It was hard to keep track with the breathless panting and all. Even so, I ran confidently each time, sure that it meant that I would board the plane. And technically, I did board the plane (three times to be exact before being asked to disembark each time).
Why did I have to disembark, you ask? Well the first time they couldn’t find the pilot then they couldn’t find the crew. When it seemed like everyone was accounted for and after waiting for an hour on the plane, they announced that the flight was cancelled. Apparently,neither pilot nor crew was on the ground or even in the state for that matter. And so we ran again, this time to the rebooking line. It would be about five hours until I got to the head of the line and found a flight out of Miami the next morning.
You’d think I would’ve been upset, having to sleep in the airport. But honestly, I was just over the moon happy to know I was finally getting out of Miami. I was so traumatized by the experience that I would get the shivers and recoil in agony every time someone said that word, Miami. I “lucked out” and found a flight the next day while most persons were stuck there for two and three days. It seemed things were finally taking a turn for the better.
Morning came and I was brimming over with excitement, even did a little happy dance in the washroom while I “showered.” Time couldn’t move fast enough. When we finally got the call to board, I wanted to run through the airport screaming, “It’s over!” but I managed to contain myself. I could only describe what followed next as the universe’s way of reminding us just how cruel her sense of humour could be.
We boarded and sat for what felt like hours on the plane before the crew finally announced that the plane had no power and had to be charged. Strange, I thought to myself but still, just a minor delay. Nothing to worry about. At least we’d be on our way after that was done. Then a sinister thought popped in my head, “Suppose we had to disembark a fourth time?” I chuckled and disregarded that as fast as it entered my head. I was seated comfortably and there just was no way that was going to happen. After all, the plane had already started to move.
I’ve always heard persons say, “My heart sank” and until that very moment I don’t think I ever truly understood the weight of that saying. As the plane backed up, we heard two loud noises and it felt like the wheels rolled over something. At this point I think my eyes were probably wild with fright. Surely whatever just happened could be fixed in a jiffy and we’d be on our way. Maintenance eventually came to assess the damage and we were all chanting silent prayers that they’d clear us for flight. Then came the announcement, “Passengers are asked to disembark and proceed to Gate 38.”
I hadn’t lost complete hope yet since they assured us that we’d be put on another plane shortly. So we waited for half an hour only to hear that the flight was cancelled and there were no available flights out of Miami at that time. Instinct kicked in and everyone dashed across to the rebooking line once again. Three hours later I was able to find a flight out later that day. There was an additional stop along the way but at the point I would’ve taken anything. So my route that should’ve been Guyana to Trinidad to Miami to Philadelphia to Vermont was changed to Guyana to Trinidad to Miami to Orlando to Washington to Vermont.
When I finally made it to Vermont I was a broken person. The airline lost my luggage and all I had was the clothes on my back and a carryon filled with electronics. I had a total of two hours sleep in three days. I didn’t have a proper meal in too long and I endured the most uncomfortable shower “situations.” My eyes were already bloodshot red from lack of sleep so when the gusts of icy wind hit me, it was over. My vision was blurred and my sinuses were a mess. As fast as my nose ran the liquid froze on my upper lip before I even got the chance to wipe it off. My breathing was labored and my fingers were incredibly numb even with my “insulated winter gloves.” What sort of frozen hell was this?
My artist friends were right, winter here is no joke. There’s nothing that can prepare you for the second you step out of the airport and the wind Mike Tyson’s the air out of your lungs. Suddenly your coordination is completely out of sync and your brain is struggling to understand this new madness. Even the locals admitted that the wind chills were particularly intense that day. I didn’t stand a chance.
Eventually I got to the Red Mill (or the main office of VSC) sometime after 4am. The taxi dropped me off and peeled out of there so fast Usain would be proud. I couldn’t be mad at him though. He was waiting for me at the airport for two hours. Our scheduled 12:20am arrival time turned into 2:30am. We spent an hour trying to find my luggage and an additional hour driving to the center.
While looking through the contents of my arrival package, which was left for me in the lobby, I was sure that I’d be sleeping comfortably in no time. I found the map that highlighted the route to the house I’d be staying in. It seemed simple enough. So I steeled myself, went back out into the cold and proceeded up the road, carryon in tow. At this point my vision was still incredibly blurred, it was dark and I couldn’t find my house. I walked up and down the icy road asking myself, “Do they mean this corner or the next one? Should I continue walking all the way this road? I don’t wanna try opening a house that isn’t mine and have them think it’s a burglar or something.”
After a few minutes I gave up and decided to walk back to the Red Mill. I made my way back to the only place I was sure about, sat in the only wooden chair I saw and allowed myself to thaw off. “I’ll just stay here until someone finds me in the morning when they start out to work. Just a few more hours anyway.”
At some point I must’ve dozed off for a bit because suddenly the door flung open and a gust of wind blew in. I looked up and saw this person standing there, framed by the doorway and the darkness from outside.
Who was that mystery person? Did I spend the remainder of the morning sleeping upright in the chair in the lobby? Look out for next week’s article to find out what happens next in the miniseries that is my life!
In September of last year I was nominated for a Vermont Studio Center residency and sponsored by the Reed Foundation. Notes from the Vermont Studio Center Residency is intended to be a series of articles chronicling my experiences at the U.S. residency starting from the issuance of the fellowship award until the conclusion of the month-long program in February, 2017
This article was first published in the Pepperpot magazine of the Sunday Chronicle newspaper on January 15, 2017. Click on the link to be redirected to their website: