"Friendship is a single soul dwelling in 2 bodies"
Anxiously I glanced down at the clock on my phone. 10:40 am it read. Where was she? Already a flood of passengers had come out of the arrival area of the Victoria Clipper but none of them were a tall brown haired girl from Kansas I had come to know and love over these past 3 yrs. On my way to clipper terminal to wait for Libby, my heart skipped a beat when I saw the clipper pulling in knowing that she was on that boat and I was just a few moments away from meeting her in person after 3 yrs of endless messaging via online and whatsapp.
But now my heart and my imagination were racing for another reason....why was she not out yet? My fears were well founded. You see, coming from the Westboro Baptist Church many of its members have been banned or flagged from crossing the Canadian border. One of her aunts have been banned from ever entering the UK. Some other of her cousins who had left the church and were scheduled to speak at a conference in Montreal had also been stopped at the border and not let through until they were able to give the proper proof to the immigration authorities that indeed they were no longer part of the church and we're only crossing through to do the conference. But would marriage and a new passport give Libby a new lease on life or would her past come back to haunt her?
As I waited at the terminal for Libby every possible scenario went through my head to why she wasn't out yet. I kept telling myself that the boat was huge there are lots of passengers and she was probably one of the later ones to leave. Yet I couldn't shake off the images flashing through my mind of Libby being interrogated at Canadian immigrations. I kept checking my phone to see if there was an emergency call from her to let me know that they had stopped her in there and she needs proof in order to be able to continue on. Finally in what seemed like an eternity that unmistakable face came through the arrival terminal with her beautiful family. We hugged and she greeted me in her midwestern drawl. And the words spilled from my lips that had been nearly bursting from within the walls of my heart for many months now.
"Welcome to Canada"
The next two days were pure indescribable bliss. For her and her husband it was their first trip to Canada and for her son it was his first ever international trip. As someone who grew up in Victoria, BC I took great pride and joy in skipping past tourist traps and showing them the hidden gems of the city. A rendezvous in Fan Tan alley in Chinatown, the smallest street in the world. A stroll by the ocean, a visit to the petting zoo and ice-cream at Beacon hill park. It was there that Libby demonstrated to me how Kansans dip french fries in ice cream. Later on I would get to give her a cross-cultural experience too as I took her to a vegan raw organic juice and smoothie bar that was quite typical of the west coast. And what visit to Victoria, BC would be complete without a visit to the empress hotel?
I cannot tell you what an utter joy, delight, and also hilarity it is to watch someone see another culture for the first time. Landing in a country where the signs says "washrooms" and with dollar bills that were different colors (like monopoly money), it became quite apparent that just like Dorothy in the land of Oz, Libby's not in Kansas anymore.......LITERALLY.
The next day would hold more surprises and delights for Libby and her family. She discovered the joy of cross-border shopping for the first time ever. And we all got whisked off on a magical adventure to the world famous attraction Minature World. Somewhere between charging up our credit cards and organic smoothies were the sounds of laughter that bounced of the walls everywhere we went together. Stories being exchanged over fine food and a deep rich sense of kinship.
3 yrs ago when I got in contact with Libby just to say "hi", nothing on earth could have prepared me for the roller coaster ride that this friendship would take us on. Making that one connection opened a door to a flood of experiences and adventures beyond my wildest imagination. Things like being there for her for support, encouragment, and advice when an influx of relatives made an exodus from the church. And she's also been there for me on multiple occasions. How different our lives would be if that connection would never have been made. An ex-cult member truly became my sister.
Even as I went to drop her off at the Clipper terminal on the last day to head back to the states, there wasn't a sad sense of goodbye. It was more like it was just a pause and we'll see each other again very soon. Meeting Libby in person was something I was able to cross off my bucket list. However having our worlds collide caused a new item to be added to the list of goals. In a quiet moment of reflection I silently scrawled a new addition to my bucket list.......
"Visit Libby in Kansas"