Sunday, April 5, 2015


[This story is an improved version from mini cassette recordings of Mekkar’s actual voice in 1990 while hiking and walking as a University student; Then, it was converted to a Windows Media Audio File and transcribed in 2011. Mekkar’s spoken English skills are nowhere near as polished as Saavo’s are.]

Early on Sirga would make Mekkar work in the family restaurant by serving customers and carrying out tasks behind the scenes. Mekkar would do as Sirga commanded to avoid any possible repercussions. Some travelers visiting the area made comments to staff members after seeing young children employed at local businesses. Those individuals didn’t realize that was the normal practice of the regional culture. If a person observed closely, they would notice that Mekkar was not alone in that regard.

Mekkar did a lot of odd jobs as he progressed along his employment path. It was fortunate that he benefitted from a varying hourly schedule in most of his positions up to that point. Thus, the youngster from the Arctic was able to travel, all around the globe, with his papa and mama. Mekkar’s papa gradually climbed the corporate ladder of a conglomerate from his teen years on. With each step, as Henrik advanced upward, the perks became better. Travel was more extensive to additional different locales on this spinning orb. Mekkar did not get a free ride when he went along with his papa; the boy had to carry out various tasks assigned by Henrik or his office secretary. His duties involved having Mekkar sort things like paperwork and figure out some simple issues through analysis. As Mekkar got older and better at testing the data, his papa would entrust even more responsibility to a smart boy like him.

First, would fulfill their business requirements and then have time to experience some fun activities afterwards. Mekkar, of course, preferred the latter. Mekkar thought it was so cool to observe and experience many things on these trips that many people only read about. When he returned back home, while being questioned by his friends, others began to identify a different mindset of haughtiness regarding the overseas travel. After some time had passed Mekkar took to another reindeer trek. A long one, similar in distance to the last journey alongside the animals. It was not the same route as the last major journey, but more to the south in a westwardly direction

The emerging lad also participated in common pursuits along with the other boys his age. The harsh winter season restricted many outdoor activities, yet they adjusted and came up with new ones to entertain themselves. Mekkar spent the majority of his free time alongside his best friend Lasse and that included causing mischief together as well. Not to discount the fact, it seemed relatives always seemed to show up frequently. Mekkar always wondered why his residence, despite not located in the middle of the village, buzzed with liveliness on a regular basis. Probably, he figured it was the attraction of their multiple enterprises such as the small restaurant.

One example arranged by his mama forced Mekkar to work in a travel agency assisting one of Sirga’s friends. He didn’t have a choice in this matter. In the period before personal computer usage in this particular office, Mekkar would constantly be on the phone. Sometimes, simultaneously one phone with the car rental company on the line and the second phone in his hand with the customer. If both sides actually knew how young the person on his end truly was, they might have expressed great anger. However, Mekkar quickly became adept in his assignments, which belied his age. He also went beyond and familiarized himself with supplementary helpful information. For instance, airline schedules through an extensive timetable catalog called the Official Airline Guide (OAG). The positive gained from working there was exposure to travel industry and airline business. Plus, previous travels were another resource that he could draw upon and this would be useful in later endeavors.

Southeast Asia was an odyssey utterly different from anything Mekkar had encountered before. The area could be dangerous due to the conflict raging in some of those nations. He went with his papa and the experience was eye opening to say the least. Due to his background, age, and origin of his passport it was much easier to move around freely than some others. The corporation that Henrik worked for never chose sides in any active war zone. It was perceived as an opportunity for profit and many times business was conducted with both sides in any struggle. Who was on the right or wrong side was considered of no consequence with regard to business. Mekkar’s papa was brought in to setup the lengthy process of negotiation before any physical construction would begin. Arrangements, interaction, and on occasion bribery, with the correct important people in the area were necessary to set the operation in motion. Before building anything one must overcome required building codes, etc. in most places. The standards and methods followed are very different around the world. Henrik’s employer had one overriding rule: Each of the projects must be constructed for the benefit of people in some manner. Those same ventures were never war related and designed to make them difficult to convert for armed conflict purposes. The structure could function as a pharmaceutical plant, hospital, manufacturing factory, as well as similar type businesses. Henrik laid the initial groundwork because he was excellent at doing so. When actual construction began, Mekkar’s papa would move onto another assignment. Sadly, some those projects later became casualties of war or misidentified collateral damage through bombing raids. 

Mekkar’s papa wanted to expose him to new things and expand his vision of the world around him. The goal was to increase his learning far from his native vision and upbringing alone. The idea was to increase Mekkar’s ability to adapt to changing circumstances. Reminding Mekkar the same level of tranquility doesn’t exist in other areas of the globe, as compared to back home in the village. Yet, Mekkar’s papa did not explain these reasons to him because Henrik felt his son was too young to grasp the concepts and reasoning. Henrik went on to quiz him about some events and things he saw previously on the past extensive reindeer trek. Specifically, about the downed helicopters, the damage done to them, and weapons that he might recognize. Mekkar told his papa that he overhead Ansetti told stories of past events and spoke about other connected subjects in the trek tent. Henrik inquired if he was okay with this because he might see worse there. His papa also asked him many questions to determine if he understood what items were used and each one’s purpose. Henrik would then fill in the blanks for his son. Henrik was blunt and described the true situations they might encounter where the trio was travelling to. Contrary to what information could be gathered through the news and reading books, Mekkar’s papa would expose the environments and living conditions in other locales, especially ones away from home. This was the majority of the conversations between them on the travel itinerary. The result was Mekkar’s young mind was overtaxed and flooded by all of the information he attempted to digest as his papa communicated with him.

After leaving home, the trip took them through parts of India and Singapore onto their destination in Vietnam. Mekkar saw a flurry of activity on the ground on their final approach. The boy’s conscious mind became overwhelmed and he only remembered a small amount of what he saw by the time they finally arrived. Fortunately for him, fear was almost non-existent due to the presence of his papa. Saigon or Ho Chi Minh City was the destination on the agenda. Mekkar had never been in this part of the world before and hence, it was a culture shock for him. The reality of being accompanied by his papa and the additional company representative on this trip saved Mekkar from total unsettlement. At the time, Mekkar could not identify this lady who went along with them. The youngster was only aware that she was a person who worked with his papa. Later on, Mekkar found out that she was related to both of them was there to keep a close eye of him, specifically.

There was an abundance of soldiers moving to and fro. The boy observed they were not dressed like the ones back home. Mekkar thought their military fatigues were in an irregular arrangement of design and colors. There was a mixture of black, brown, and the base was green. It was in contrast to the soldiers’ attire back at home during the wintertime which was all white. Mekkar discerned that these troops all over the city didn’t have skis’ with them because they probably didn’t know how. His previous geographical studies fostered the question, how much snow could a place like this have? These troops had much larger packs on their backs and were normally either on foot or in a mechanized vehicle of some sort. Mekkar surveyed the surrounding area and discovered no snow anywhere to be found. Brave and bold boy that he was, Mekkar approached one of the troops and asked him how he was able to ski with all of his gear on. The warrior just kind of peered at him strangely and pushed him away. Mekkar thought maybe there was a communication gap. He did try to choose a soldier that had the appearance and insignia of a European that could speak a common tongue with him, that is English. Truly, how hard could that be? Eva explained to Mekkar, “Perhaps, the gun toting individual felt he was as out of place here as you do? The main difference is he is much larger and has a weapon.”

In this case Henrik, Mekkar, and his attendant were still tourists in this land. Quite a few inhabitants appeared to be scrambling around them, while at the same time, columns were on the march. A lot of hustle and bustle was taking place among the people along with a scattering of a few very poor residents. The extent between the rich and the poor was extremely evident; there was no way to hide it. Mekkar detected this but he did not understand its meaning until after they had left. Questions ran through his limited mind, what is my papa doing? He sends me to this place, but I don’t understand why. Even though, Eva did her best to explain it partially to him, the comprehension of it all still didn’t make sense. Later that day his papa tried to answer any questions Mekkar had, but he sensed much of the message wasn’t sinking in.

If he just kept a watchful eye out, some answers would come to him, thought Mekkar. Despite a very high intelligence, Mekkar still needed interpretation and portrayal along with what he saw. Two aspects were conspiring against Mekkar’s situational understanding: One was his relative youth and inexperience and the second, was the cultural influence and background. Mekkar grew up in a place with a language and customs that were to the point and very blunt. Back in his village, everyone was straightforward with “no beating around the bush” in any circumstance or situation. Definitely, recognition or ability to look beyond one’s vision or “read between the lines” was absent in his young mind. That comes with maturity.

Anyway, they were only in that city for a couple of days. One of the nights there in Saigon, Mekkar thought he had explosions way out in the distance. At that particular time, Henrik had gone off somewhere for a meeting. Mekkar had no clue as to his papa’s whereabouts. He figured the other side didn’t want any children around to distract them.

One of the times Mekkar, with Eva his chaperon, went walking down one of the streets in the urban area. They approached an open market, which resembled a small flea market. One booth had hanging pots and that type of thing. It was fairly crowded which indicated a demand for the items being sold. Mekkar assumed that people needed these goods due to the ongoing military activity around them. The little Arctic Warrior based this opinion upon the visual images of military wreckage on the reindeer trek. Eva and Mekkar were among the throng that viewed the different wares and food offered by the street vendors there. One stand caught Mekkar’s eye. He was still a kid after all. He was fascinated by the intricate paper machete items that looked like dragons to him. Maybe, not exactly like the medieval creatures, but had similarities in design. Some of the objects were in the form of flying kites and other household ornaments. Eva mentioned to Mekkar about an upcoming celebration or a holiday time related to the inhabitants of this area. The boy thought it would be hard to for the people to rejoice with all of these soldiers here. Yet, they are selling kites! Mekkar even blurted out to Eva and said, “Somebody is going to shoot at one of these kites. What a silly thing to have here.” Mekkar was too immature to understand the concept of people trying to find meaning and normalcy in the midst of chaos. When an individual, family, or group lives in a war zone environment, they need to find or do anything they could to help them forget about it. In a matter of speaking, escape from where an individual is, as well as, not focus on the misery and destruction around you. The view is that any type of distraction is a good thing. If a person gains a little bit of pleasure and mental healing, at the same time, regardless of…

Well, Mekkar fixated at this and then shuffled on to the next booth which sold meat and other food items. Next to it was a cigarette and tobacco kiosk. A considerable number of soldiers were there purchasing those products. Top of the line smoking items were in great demand, while at the same time, there was little quality product available to the public in that area for purchase. Mekkar observed long lines to that booth. He stayed some distance away due to the smell and negative tobacco effects to his still developing body filtering system. The pair continued wandering slowly along the street with Mekkar intrigued by the activity. This was the most frantic exchange activity he had seen in such a small area. Mekkar thought he had observed a lot of indiscriminate movement in his previous travels. Places like India with his papa, a couple of times to Brazil, and a few other venues. Still the ambience and resulting commotion were at a higher level here.