My nose and forehead was cold from being pressed up against the aircraft window as I was trying to catch a peak of what would be my home for the summer. I was 22 and held a freshly pressed diploma in my hand. And I had just landed my first real job, yanno, the full time job that was actually relevant to the letters on my diploma.
I wasn’t just excited to get a relevant job that quick, but at such an exotic location! I knew practically nothing about the place. I knew no one who had even been there. All I knew was that it was a Company town in the Arctic, and that they mined for coal. Sure I knew the dry facts, on how it was “No man’s land” or Treaty country – governed by Norway. I knew there were Norwegians and Russians and Polar bears. But I had no clue what I was in for, didn’t know anything about work and life in the northernmost town in the world, Longyearbyen. I thought I had been quite daring
I strained my eyes to see through the thick layer of clouds that surrounded the plane as we had started our descend to Svalbard Airport, Longyearbyen. Finally a strange landscape revealed itself to me as we broke through the clouds. It was indeed a barren land. An inhospitable facade. My nervousness increased as I asked myself, “What the hell is this place? How am I going to survive this cold, sterile, grey land?”
My new boss was chirping away about this mountain, and that fjord and coalmines and tourists and historic facts as we drove from the airport towards town. As we drove past the industrial area with rusty old rinky-dink containers and equipment lying about, my concern grew. What in the hell was this place? I remember thinking that I was a complete dingbat to accept a job up here without doing any research first. Surely this was information that I should have sought out on beforehand?
Boss lady was smiling and talking very enthusiastically as we approached town, giving me a guided tour. I felt my brain shutting down from the information overload provided by boss lady and all the visual impressions. I tried my damndest to respond to boss lady in a polite and positive manner, I really didn’t want to give her the impression that I was a complete nutter, however that was what I obviously was.
As I stepped out of the car and finally faced the view I had had my back against most of the way into town – or there had been stuff in the way blocking my view, that is when it hit me – and it hit me hard. I fell in love with Svalbard, with Longyearbyen. I finally understood boss lady’s enthusiasm. I got it. I really got it.