Monday, April 7, 2014

ON THE TREK & ENVIRONMENT - PART 1 (B)

Later on, Mekkar thought his original analysis was correct as he listened to the main trek leaders speak with each other in the sauna tent. Frequently, he would pretend to be asleep or not appear like he was paying attention. Good thing for him that he kept his mouth shut and was absorbed by the discussion environment going on around him. The boy attempted to recall in his mind any similar past examples as what was broached in the sauna. Unfortunately, Mekkar was unable to find any comparisons. He resolved to ask questions about any concerns he had, the next time he had a chance. However, this was not right time.

Mekkar soon figured out that the leaders of the trek were not referring to this journey, but their own past adventures. Some had involved being in the nation’s military. There were no details whether it was related to required regular military service or militia duty, otherwise known as regional home guard. The youngster overheard one of them say the destroyed equipment along the ground over there was not one of theirs. Yet, the boy did not know where that equipment came from and the adults weren’t giving up more details. Many in the group wanted to drop the subject altogether as not alarm the others on the trek. A small number of the adults there appeared to have no interest in describing details of past horrors they had seen. They didn’t want to be reminded either. Why relive painful memories?

Previously in the village Mekkar has heard the air raid sirens, but he usually ignored them as false warnings and didn’t respond with any cautionary measures. Here before him was real evidence and live carnage. He had the realization that sometimes ignoring those alarms can have consequences. It was not pleasant to see and the eyesore of strewn out wreckage penetrating his mind. He detected that there was more than one flying apparatus that had been destroyed, he counted at least three maybe four. Arms, legs, other body parts, plastic, and metal pieces were visible too and the scene him ill with dread. Mekkar thought it looked worse than any trip to the butcher shop he had been to. He was definitely disgusted with the view around him. He had an awful feeling in the pit of his stomach. A sensation of distressful nausea was the result. With that, the group still continued on their way. Mekkar heard somebody make another related comment near him. He decided to seek out answers to calm the anxious state he was now in.

Antti approached Mekkar and replied to the boy feel better, “Yeah, I used to be a scout in a special military unit and these are not ones that we used. These helicopters are deployed for war. Someone else has shot them down. You can tell.” Mekkar was wondering why he had not heard any explosions or gunfire near them. Still, the boy did not grasp everything Antti was speaking about. Mekkar was aware, by Antti’s speech intonation, that devious intent was carried out through someone else’s actions. The young trekker understood those helicopters had been knocked out of the sky, but didn’t know why. Being the curious kid that he is Mekkar began to question anyone he could regarding how did it happen?

Those images would haunt and preoccupy Mekkar’s thinking for the next few days. The visions haunted Mekkar and kept him up most of each night. He was too worried to close his eyes and go back to sleep. This was not a good thing. Mekkar did not want to be distracted too much. Ansetti pointed out that Mekkar’s lack of extended rest could become a concern and possibly affect his performance. He was brought along on this expedition to learn needed skills to use for future treks. Mekkar was required to perform his normal duties like all the herders in the group. There was a codependency within the group that involved each member of the trekking party. Everyone depended on him as he did on them. In fact, due to his youth he relied on his leaders much more than the other way around.

The inexperienced young herder started to let his thoughts wander with fearful questions such as what if those people came back and saw the mess. How would they respond in retaliation? Revenge perhaps? The concerns flood the boy’s brain as he listened to Antti speak.  Mekkar had to calm himself and ask Antti, “When might they be back? Would they try to get us all? Why? We didn’t cause this.” The main worry firmly planted in his still developing mind was, why did this occur? The youngster was beyond understanding and comprehension of the situation at this point. He heard the words, but he did not understand. The lack of shuteye was making matters worse for him. Ansetti thought Mekkar was slightly delusional.

Ansetti was a large man, big and strong Mekkar thought to himself. The boy observed that Ansetti is almost as big as my papa. Mekkar always was of the opinion that Henrik was a much bigger than normal individual and was correct about this. Yet, Mekkar had a belief that the person with the most experience, which described Ansetti, had the most answers.

So, Mekkar attempted to ask the mighty Ansetti about these matters, but Ansetti was not in the mood to talk about it at this time. Even Ansetti looked somewhat perplexed and worried about this situation as well. A few of the others tried to unsuccessful hide their anxiety from the boy and Mekkar didn’t know what to make of it. It was further reinforced when Mekkar discerned the look on the chief of this trek’s face. This made him worry even more. An increase of additional stress Mekkar was already afflicted with and could do without right now.

It was odd that as he heard Antti repeated similar speech to others on the trek. He said that to the effect of surrounding nation’s own military aircraft and helicopters don’t normally fly in this area unless there is terribly, terribly wrong. So, there has to be a reason they were overhead recently. The band of herders saw other debris as they strode by. More items were scattered along the ground. It was estimated that the items were in the hundreds and that was what could not be identified. Mekkar was still alarmed and this feeling was increasing the more he saw. However, the overriding chore was keep the animals on task and calm as avoid any possibility of a frightened stampede.

Mekkar was now preoccupied with just getting to the town that was not far away now. He thought that would be the best answer and the safest habitat for the trekkers. Others in the group were of the opinion that some protection and cover was better than being out in the open. Mekkar agreed with that opinion. He also thought there might be more overhead activity to be anticipated soon. In either case, their path would bring the group into the town to get needed supplies and replenishment. It seemed to Mekkar that this last part of the trip, before they reached the town, became more difficult. Their arrival could not have come at a better time because they all could use the rest.

The lad’s thoughts in his head started flowing as he entered the community. He said to himself silently that there something peculiar about this place. Mekkar wondered if he had been here on a previous occasion. The faces look eerily similar, along with the clothing and its basic colors, and even the d├ęcor of the structures as compared to back home. Plus, other features as well. There were some differences also. The town was not only larger than Mekkar’s home village, but appeared to be more modern also. On this day, quite a few tourists from the continent were visiting. Mekkar village never has this many visitors at one time. He noticed there was less of an international flavor here, among the travelers, than back home. Animals, mostly reindeer, far exceeded the number of people staying in this place.

The adolescent still stayed on task and his group began to keep track of which reindeer were theirs and which were not. That way there would less hassle and confusion created through mixing of animals and afterward the hectic sorting out process. This is a tough assignment, but Mekkar along with others in his group felt they were up to it. It dawned on Mekkar as he remembered that each herder has their own distinctive branding mark, usually on the ear. No two are alike. This determines whose reindeer belongs to whom. It is extremely helpful, with identification, when moving larger herds.

It was an overwhelming sight to see the sheer numbers of reindeer herders and individual animals they saw in the valley on the other side of the town. There was a overflowing of people as opposed to the relatively small size of the town. At least, the boy thought so. Mekkar speculated after listening to his fellow trekkers that maybe all of these extra groups flocked there because of the situation in the skies up above. Outsiders outnumbered the locals by a great margin. It was a battle for everyone to pickup their supplies and find space to stopover here, due to all of the extra people. Mekkar walked with Antti, Ansetti, and a few of the trek leaders. Most felt that the town was not quite prepared for this onslaught. The trekkers finally found a location just outside of the town to set up the tents for a day or two. Then, they went on their way.

Sunshine was a bright break as the trekkers continued on. By noontime the clouds came rolling in. The mood of Mekkar and some of the others changed just as quickly as the weather. They knew they were about to encounter another fierce storm. This one appeared to be more vicious than the ones they had faced recently. This time it was damp, wet, soft snow that fell down from the sky in torrents and resembled a blizzard. Everyone’s ability to carry out their duties was hindered for awhile due to lack of visibility. Interaction by the herders was the least of the problems as the communication methods changed. It was done by only through calls, yells, and other sounds between them. Regular speech was ineffective and normally not loud enough to bridge the distance and the current elements. Unfortunately, this bad weather continued day after day. They bypassed another small town on their journey because there was no good area large enough for them to setup camp. They had plenty of food, yet everybody was weary from the harsh travel conditions.

Mekkar didn’t want to fall asleep because realized predators might notice and there would be a greater chance of an attack against him or his group. Speed of movement continued to get slower as the temperature dropped, but the tribe continued on. Even after rationing, this band of trekkers ate all of the food and used up most of the supplies. At that point they had to stop soon to re-energize and formulate a plan. Mekkar put on some clean clothes. Lucky for him he located a pair of high boots that fit him. The winter flakes easily reach a level up to his knees. The youngster overhead another adult saying it was odd and not right for the season to encounter such wet snow in this area.

Nobody anticipated or could have predicted this no one. Mekkar thought to himself, ever since he had seen the strewn out helicopter wreckage, that everything seemed out of order. Events had become very weird and peculiar in his inexperienced mind. Mekkar fired himself up with outward motivation and felt he was ready. His demeanor was if we are going to have to fight, then bring it on! This was Mekkar’s attitude; actually more of hostile characteristic exhibited by this situation. A temperament inherited from his mama, Sirga. Definitely, this disposition was not the best mindset necessary to survive in this Arctic environment. Any wrong mental outlook on a trek could kill you, if you are not careful.

Few outsiders know this area and its past history. Some are only aware as far back as the end of World War II. Mekkar was uninformed, but others in the party have known that foreign aircraft roam this area on a regular basis. They have been doing it since the last Great War under the guise of keeping the area free of invaders. Ansetti, Aslak, & the leaders thought that was a ruse to conduct additional not well known activities. In times gone by, other nation’s militaries invaded this region and spread far beyond the individual country originally targeted. During that time a few invaders were soundly defeated after quite a bit of damage was done to the territory and environment. Many things were completely obliterated and buildings were burned en masse.

The youthful Mekkar could sense the local’s cautious view when any military action was being conducted in this area. Battle exercises were treated with suspicion by those who live in this region as a result of past brutal atrocities. Juhani brought this subject up with Mekkar and asked the boy whether he would be extremely bothered if his home had been destroyed. How about the region decimated by foreigner armies as in the past. Only a handful of nations could relate to that type of carnage. For example, the residents of a couple of Japanese cities that were nuked near the end of World War Two could relate. How about the German metropolitan areas were fire-bombed unmercilessly from the air during the last world war and so on? They persevered on the trek. During the next few days they were exposed to more of the same destroyed objects in the snow. The blizzard could not completely hide them. Mekkar figured that maybe some of the storms must have played a part in the fragments he now witnessed.

Mekkar wondered where the time went as it they prepared the camp of animals and tribal members for the night nearby a different hamlet. This community was much smaller than the town they stopped at previously. Mekkar more accurately described it as a village, with about the same inhabitants as back home. The trekkers labored and at the beginning constructed the temporary sauna tent. It was like a teepee and many of them wanted to enjoy relaxation time in there, after completing their work. It is ironic and contradictory, warm and toasty in the sauna, yet freezing cold outside. There is an opening in the center of the teepee, but the chilliness doesn’t seep in because of the flame inside. Since heat rises it forced any smoke from the fire to escape through the cylinder hatch.   

Antti and rest of the trek leadership discussed and agreed on a strategy of staying put to outwait the repeating storms they expected to continue for some days. Outside the wind blew and blew. Nevertheless, due to the construction and study design of the native nomadic portable dwelling in use for many years, those inside were unaffected by the conditions around them. Anyway, Mekkar observed these things and listened at the news of Ansetti who said, “They (the group) could be in for a long stretch.” Blizzard after blizzard came upon them. There was no letting up. They could tell that some of the trekkers were wondering when a break in the atypical cycle would occur. The hope was for a nice return to normal for this time of year in this district.

A person’s natural dangerous tendency is to fall asleep, when outside, during these frosty conditions. It is a battle because that is the last thing you should do. An individual’s body might go into shutdown or shock mode the colder it gets. Drinking alcohol deceives the mind into thinking that one is warm and is fully functioning at the correct internal temperature. The reality of physical effects upon the body is still there and real damage cannot be ignored. Fortunately, even the young Mekkar was trained to notice this trend and fight his natural inclination during his guard watch time outdoors. The awful weather partially changed the schedule among the herders. Total neglect of duty was out of the question. Required functions still had to be done with modifications. Survival was always at stake as enemies could show up at any time and cause mayhem.

In spite of the best intentions of the leaders in riding out the storm waves, it was not to be. A new course of action was undertaken to now attempt to resume the trek and optimistically move away from the barrage of strong weather. As they trekked along, more snow accumulated. Snow can fun for some of those who do not see it very often, sort of a novelty. This was no illusion as the struggle on the path continued. Mekkar also went forward despite the bombardment of big flakes and thick snow descending out of the sky. The powder was deep and very soft as his boots planted deeply with each little step. At times, Mekkar felt like he might be swallowed up by all of the whiteness. The youngster himself was exhausted and annoyed by the lack of sunshine. He forgot about the positives aspects. Snow actually provides some brightness and light especially in dark areas and the dead of winter. Yet, this trip was not happening in full winter according to the calendar. The fact was the boy was weary and not enjoying himself as he yelled out loud, “Give us something else besides this!”

Older ones on the journey were used to these extreme changes as they had been on many treks. The problem was Mekkar is still quite young, inexperienced, and new to all of this. Antti told Mekkar that many of them felt the same way about the unpredictability when they were young like him. Now with more experience they are better adjusted to that way of thinking. Another in the group mentioned to Mekkar that familiarity in a way brings about an ignorance of bliss. Blocking out some of the negatives and just except them because they are there. A realization or discovery materializes that as an individual you are powerless to control certain aspects or unable change them.

Now in this region as one turns and travels further to the north toward the sea they are find themselves near the top of the mainland, the continental shelf. Normally, in this type of arctic area one can find winter huts, winter homes, and additional temporary shelters. Some of them are constructed in a way that is burrowed into the earth like a beavers’ residence or manmade caves built into the hillsides with plenty of space. However, in this particular area Mekkar did not notice any of those types of dwellings. This was in the flatland, not a mountainous expanse, what could be considered a valley in the Arctic. Basically, this was the equivalent of a desert and usually described as the tundra with sparse rolling plateaus.

Mekkar estimated after about five days of this same routine, they were approaching another reasonably sized township in the north-country. As they got within about ten kilometers (6.21 miles) away the landscape was sight to behold. The town was very high on the latitude scale and was much further north than some other places Mekkar could think of. Plus, the bad weather started to let up and the morale of the group improved.

Nevertheless, the military air intrusions had come back with a vengeance due to better visibility. Mekkar had heard that the residents here had encountered this for many years. Mekkar thought that they were sort of indifferent to this activity above them as a result of overexposure to this type of activity. As they reached closer to the town, Mekkar saw more debris. More military wreckage than he had ever seen before in his life, worse than earlier on this trek. The whole crew predicted there were more guns here. This information made Mekkar more afraid once again as he didn’t who the actual enemy was.  Clearly it was decided that weapons would not used here and have their group stuck right in the middle of a skirmish.

Later in the night, Mekkar would hear tales in the sauna about past history. What had happened to this whole region in the days of old. Mekkar didn’t think this still existed today. He was under the impression that it was just a myth or only occurred in the past. When Mekkar saw more of these remains, he was disturbed again like before. His belief system was altered and began to think these incidents still happen on a regular basis, even today. His mind refused to fully believe this and accept it, despite the evidence before him. If he admitted that these expeditions were really so frequent and not imaginary, then he would really be increasingly frightened. For practical reasons, Mekkar had to ignore it because paralysis from fear would affect his reindeer herding duties on the trek.