Sunday, July 12, 2015

EXPANDING HIS VISION (B)

[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. Continued from the first PART (A) in April, 2015.]

Anyway, they were only in that city for a couple of days. On one of the nights there in Saigon, Mekkar commented that he had heard a few noises that made a boom sound in the distance. Those events continued to bother Mekkar as he stayed up most of the night while sitting by the open window as if he were on wolf watch on the trek. Added to his concern was that his papa, Henrik, had gone off somewhere unknown to Mekkar for a late night meeting.

The next day Mekkar and Eva, his chaperon, were walking down one of the streets not far from their hotel. They surveyed the open market to kill time and soak in the urban flavor. One booth had hanging pots and similar wares for sale. The stand was swamped with many customers, so the boy assumed the demand for those items was really high. By the crowd behavior he observed there, Mekkar believed that people greatly needed these goods because their homes were being destroyed by the ongoing warfare.

Eva and Mekkar strolled on and examined the different wares and food offered by the street vendors. Paper machete items caught Mekkar’s eye at one stand. In his mind, some of the featured articles appeared to be dragons and totally out of place here. Sure, maybe not exactly like the medieval creatures, but there were some similarities. There were plenty of objects that resembled monsters or displayed supernatural beings on them. Mekkar decided that he couldn’t leave until he purchased one that was made in the form of a flying kite. The Arctic boy figured the local people must be having a celebration or a holiday, just like back home. What seemed out of place to Mekkar was the number of soldiers here. Right then, he remembered his papa’s warning - that wherever there are troops, there is trouble and battles nearby. Mekkar even blurted out his thoughts to Eva and said, “Soldiers don’t buy kites. They shoot at things. I think those kites are going to be destroyed. What a silly thing to have here.” Mekkar was not grown up enough to understand the concept that often people use coping mechanisms to try to find meaning in the midst of chaos. For example, if a person lived in a war zone environment, one might attempt to find or do anything they could to forget about it. In a matter of speaking, escape from where an individual is and not focus on the hell and destruction around you. Any type of distraction could be a good thing for mental health. If that same individual is rewarded with a little bit of pleasure at the same time – that is an added bonus.

Well, Mekkar progressed onto the next booth that had meats and other food items available. Next to it was a cigarette and tobacco kiosk. Quite a few soldiers surrounded that particular stand and purchased those products. Smoking supplies were in great demand, while at the same time little product for purchase was available in that marketplace. Mekkar observed the continuing to grow long lines to that booth. The smell drove Mekkar to begin stepping away and attempt to stay some distance away due to the negative tobacco effects to his still developing body filtering system. Mekkar was intrigued by the increased frenzied activity as he and Eva wandered slowly along the street. The boy from the far north had never seen this much hustle and bustle in such a small area before. Mekkar had plenty of experience to compare it with and thought he had observed a lot of chaotic movement in his previous travels. Places like India with his papa, a couple of times to Brazil, a few places like that. However, those exhibited goods were far different from the novelties offered in this place. The Arctic youngster had traveled quite a bit in his young life, but had mostly spent the majority of his travel time on the same continent. So, this was a new region of the globe for him. Henrik was aware of this and wanted to expand his worldwide exposure to diverse places and people.

On one occasion in the outdoor bazaar, Mekkar and his chaperone Eva were stopped and questioned by the soldiers there. One of them asked him, “What are you doing here?” and went onto say, “You are too young, you don’t need to be in a place like this”. Mekkar didn’t fully comprehend the true meaning of that comment. Even though Mekkar was already learning the language and knew many of the words spoken to them, there was a lack of grasping the meaning behind the phrases. Mekkar was unable to distinguish the subtle messages as part of what was being said. The soldier’s real directive to him was get out of here before you get hurt or get killed. It appeared to Mekkar as though the infantryman looked at him with confusion. The serviceman assumed that Eva was a newspaper or media reporter instead of Mekkar’s guide. Anyone could easily see the young boy was out of his element and not a native. The other concern also expressed by the servicemen was why Eva would bring a child along with her to a war zone. Plus, expose the child to gruesome and dangerous visual images. Eva, on the other hand, nodded her head in the affirmative as Mekkar saw it. The boy believed she knew the purpose for both of them being here. In this situation, she acted demure as if she didn’t fully understand what the soldiers were saying or what was happening around her. However, Mekkar noticed the opposite was actually the case.

Anyway, both of them continued walking along down the street. All of a sudden, Mekkar and Eva heard some potshots. A couple of the gunfire rounds were fairly close too! Mekkar, crazy soul that he was, did not immediately duck behind cover. Instead, he just stood in the same spot on the sidewalk of the street they were previously strolling on and surveyed the surrounding area. He mistakenly figured since he was small enough that he would be hard to aim at and hit. Of course, it was not the smartest course of action and Eva told him so. Still, he did not seek protective cover for himself. He stayed right where he was while everyone else around him was scurrying to hide. Despite hearing the shots ring out Mekkar didn’t move. If he was an esteemed adult, it would have appeared as though he was posing in a majestic movie scene, but this was real. In this instance, other people sensed the boy was frozen, stiff, and scared. Soon, everyone’s attention was grabbed by the large flames shooting high into air. Then, a loud explosion happened with a resounding boom! Mekkar saw the flash and items flying, it seemed, everywhere. The soldier was right, some gruesome stuff. A collection of arms, hands, legs, an eyeball, and other debris were spread out along the ground. If it wasn’t the case before, Mekkar was in shock and definitely frozen in his tracks now.

Another couple of shots could be heard by the nearby corner. At that moment, a second explosion rang out. After this, Mekkar was absolutely unmoving as if he was frozen solid as ice. Mekkar was a brave boy, yet his mind was racing. He thought to himself, why can’t I move? It appeared the boy lost many of his senses and didn’t grasp the environment he was in. Mekkar was concerned that he might a target. Mekkar asked more questions in his mind whether he was next. His body still did not respond with any movement. Fight or flight syndrome had failed him.

Mekkar was made aware that the soldiers were powerless to protect him and Eva from harm. He had no idea which side the troops were on either. These were things that Mekkar’s papa had been speaking to him prior to this journey. Henrik wanted Mekkar to learn specific lessons. Henrik also wanted Mekkar to be able to use his mind and reason under duress. Very heady stuff for a young boy to experience in an unfamiliar environment. Instruction in life survival skills that would be necessary later on. The experience would be invaluable because everyone in the area Mekkar comes from has to fight for survival. Most definitely during the long winters. Not only that, they have to serve in their own country’s military for a time as well. There are not enough people for any healthy individual to get out of that type of service to their nation.

The authority’s even use physically challenged people in various tasks to fulfill their military obligations. They will find a person to meet a need or place them in tasks despite the disability. The idea is to maximize the abilities and blend them with the resources that are available. It is a necessary strategy because there are just not enough people to meet all the gaping holes in the region’s defense system, while still providing a perceived deterrent to any possible enemy. Women, along children that can stand up and walk, also have to serve in some capacity, even if is just to provide support to the soldiers.

Up to this point, Mekkar did not grasp what was materializing in front of him, although he saw it with his own eyes. Stupidly, Mekkar was fixated on the second explosion undeterred by flying objects from the wall of the affected building landing nearby. The burning building and spreading fire fully consumed all of his attention. People all around him were as if mad in a flurry of activity. Yet, he was still in a trance-like state. The Arctic boy wasn’t taking a step or going anywhere on his own. It was Eva’s responsibility to pull him away from danger. Mekkar gazed at the folks littering the street; they were like blurs at this point. He was mesmerized and distracted by the unwelcome sight that had unfolded before him. After what it seemed like forever, but actually was a short time, Eva grabbed him by the hand and they rushed for cover. This action finally snapped Mekkar out of the haze he was in. She told Mekkar, “There might be more to come. We have to protect ourselves just in case.” Mekkar was not feeling very brave anymore. Nonetheless, he tried to not show outwardly. Mekkar didn’t how to neither deal with nor react in this type of situation. The little Arctic Warrior started to think of how he could show more bravery in the face of another situation such as this. Trouble was, there might not be a next time.

Cautiously tracing their steps, Eva and Mekkar made it back to the hotel, which wasn’t far away from the damage zone. The day’s activities the young boy witnessed kept him frightened throughout the whole night and affected his sleep. The non-stop thoughts ran through his brain wondering if he was safe in defiance of the many soldiers currently patrolling this neighborhood. He remembered when there were a lot of troops in close proximity back at home, he felt much safer against harm. Mainly, Mekkar felt comfort in the fact the enemy that could be identified easily and early in the wide open Arctic region. Although opposing forces might be well above us dominating the air space, while at the same time, exposing home guard troops on the ground. These are concerns that northern hemisphere individuals, such as Mekkar, were not occupied with all that often. In contrast, these were daily worries that directly affected the local populations and mentality of many soldiers in Vietnam. If ignored, the alternative was to not adequately protect one’s self and ending up returning home in a body bag.

One of the soldiers told him and Eva, “We can’t have you walking around anywhere you want freely anymore because we fear for your safety. We are unable to guarantee your personal safety anymore”. The mood became tense, uptight, and restless. It seemed the explosions, accomplished their goal by creating a more restrictive and hostile environment for everyone in that area of the city. By this time, quite a few people had heard about the explosions and subsequent fire. Unfortunately, Mekkar got to see it with his own eyes. He had no idea regarding who did it or why. The little one from the far north was ignorant as to the combatants on each side and who opposed who in this conflict. He could only judge by his sight alone and attempt to mirror the locals who lived there as best as he could. This was still a large metropolis where most of the inhabitants were not dressed in military uniforms. The perceptive boy that Mekkar was, he decided that he would observe the city dwellers to determine when something was wrong. The indifferent conscripts appeared to keep any developments or news to themselves. In his mind, the troops only seemed to bark out warnings or orders in a heartless manner.

It is well to note, that Mekkar already had started playing sports by this time, so he was aware about being on the same team with other people. Working together toward a common goal was not foreign to him, despite the fact that the extremely stubborn Mekkar is not the most agreeable or cooperative individual. In the far north, Mekkar learned how to ski, skate, and walk all at the same time which provided early advantages for him and many in his age range.