I always get a kick out of bringing newbies up to Mount Washington, especially if they are from out of the country.
We are fortunate enough to be able to host people from around the world in our Comox Valley home on a regular basis, mostly through school exchange programs. Japanese, Chinese, Nigerian, German; many have never been to a ski hill before, and none of them have experienced the out-of-world beauty of Mount Washington and Vancouver Island.
We just had a kid who now goes to school in Osaka, Japan, which is the warped piping, steam, and refuse littered cityscape used to map the Dystopia of Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner. And as much fun as Osaka is for shoppers and urban futurists, I have to say it is about as far from the Comox Valley, Strathcona Park and these impossible surroundings as I can imagine. Narumi was a perfect candidate to put an ongoing experiment to the test on.
As somebody who has had the chance to travel quite a bit, Osaka included, I can remember times when a new found friend brought us to some place unprompted, Hakuba, the Kroller-Muller Museum, the Kitlope Valley. Your mind spins at the introductions and sites, but perhaps mostly at the kindness of others, the selflessness of some unwritten system of currency among travellers. For right now, from my spot here in paradise, I feel like I am paying into that system rather than cashing out (maybe it’s both) and I love to bring people to a few key places on the Island to watch their reaction. And perhaps a bit selfishly, it definitely helps me understand what type of person I am dealing with.
As a major component of this little ongoing experiment, and at key times on the way up to Mount Washington, I always try to steal a few opportunities to look as closely at the newbie’s face as I can without distracting them. Maybe at the S turn on the road up. Maybe on the patio at Raven’s lodge, the top of Eagle Chair, or as they spin round and round coming down the tube park. The fresh air, sunshine (or snow), combined with the peaks and glaciers of multiple mountain ranges, wraparound ocean views, and the realization that yes, this is actually real, is like some emotional supernova washing across even the most controlled person’s face. And if it’s not there to some degree at least, I pretty much know they won’t be on my growing Christmas email list when they leave.
Recently I drove my newest guest up to MoWash on a sunny Sunday with no more time to stop than for a few very Japanese photo ops. I am pretty sure that Narumi had very little idea what she was in for, not only because her level of language comprehension was low enough to make me doubt she understood the words ‘mountain’ or ‘skiing’, but because at just 19 years old she had very little experience travelling outside of her hometown and the very urban city she now goes to school in. And, sure enough, even with just a few minutes in Ravens and walking around the base of Eagle Chair, Boom! Supernova.
From that moment on I knew we had a winner on our hands. Narumi spent time with our kids, made fast friends with our parents despite multiple language barriers (the mix of Spanish, Dutch, Japanese, and English made for interesting cuisine, but often awkward diner dialogue) and travelled with us up and down the Island. She is somebody who, despite only a few short weeks together, we’ll all remember fondly. During one of our last meals together I asked her in mixed English and Japanese what she’ll remember most about the Comox Valley and not surprisingly Mount Washington was on the list. We just dropped her off at the airport, another traveller we may or may not meet again along life’s road. There are always the pangs of goodbye with the good ones but I know Narumi is sitting on the plane, staring down at the ocean and mountain ranges, on her way back to Osaka with a little currency to share.