Many people ask me how I ended up here. I ask myself that too. Growing up on Vancouver Island, I only visited Tofino twice. I was in love with a place I could rarely go. Living in the Tofino area was a pipe dream. I had no inkling that it could ever be reality for me.
In 2014, during my last year of the B.Ed. program at UVic, I started looking for teaching jobs. The job market was difficult to get into at that point. Now, 4 years later, there is a massive province wide teacher shortage. But back then, it was difficult to even get on Teacher on Call lists, let alone find a full time job. Broadening my horizons, I began to look for postings at First Nations Schools on Reserves. These jobs have a high turnover rate for various reasons. For me, the location was the main draw. I wanted to be surrounded by Nature, and the chance to live in an Indigenous Community and experience the Culture first hand was not an opportunity to be passed up lightly!
I ended up applying and interviewing for two different schools – One in Kingcome Inlet and Ahousaht. My interview for Kingcome Inlet was on a conference call with several people on the other line. I completely bombed that one. It was really hard to read anyone’s responses without being able to see their facial expressions and body language. It was really good practice though because when I had my interview in person in Ahousaht, most of the questions were the same!
Obviously I was successful in my second interview. I received an email the next day asking if I would accept the grade 6 position! I was on a whale watching boat at the time in the Salish Sea where I worked as a photographer. Excitedly I turned and told our group of passengers my good news and elicited a round of cheers and applause. When we docked in Victoria after that trip, one lady passed me a note with books and resources she had found useful in her teaching career! Wow!
Moving day to Ahousaht was a big one. It was sunny, thankfully, but quite foggy when we had arrived in Tofino to load the boat. I had chartered the water taxi Rocky Pass for myself, my mom, aunt and then-boyfriend. The back deck was loaded and anything not waterproof was inside with us.
I remember my first time cutting through Catface Rocks – Wide eyed I watched in amazement as we flew past the rocky shoals with just feet to spare. No boat I had been on had ever driven like that! I soon came to relax when boats cut through this shortcut and now I can even drive our boat through it myself (However, I do slow down to about 15 knots when I am cutting through there. I have yet to do it at cruising speed of 23 knots).
Getting into Ahousaht, the skipper called a vehicle to meet us at the dock and help bring my stuff up to my teacherage apartment. In true Ahousaht fashion, despite the wedding being prepared for that particular weekend, a friend of the truck driver came down to help us bring everything up from the dock and deliver it to my door. They tried to refuse payment, but I insisted. I would soon learn this is just Ahousaht culture. Help where it is needed.
My favourite memory that night was picking blackberries and my mom making a fresh blackberry pie for our dessert. Or as I now call it – Chumas!
Little did I know how my life would change just a few months down the road when I fell in love with my neighbour up the road long after my then-boyfriend and I had realized that long distance just wasn’t working out for us and gone our separate ways.
New Home. New Beginnings. And so much to learn about life on the coast. Looking back now, I can’t believe how far I have come.