Safe Travels

IMG_1933I’m just gonna mention someone that I met on the plane on the way home on Day five.  I’ll post about my activities on Day four and five in a future post.  But I think this one should be posted first.  I don’t usually meet people on the plane.  It’s just not something I’m used to, talking to strangers on the plane.  It could be part of the habits I’ve learned from work as well.  But he was a very pleasant fellow who greeted me as he took his seat by the window.  So I just asked if he was leaving home or going home.  And that’s when he told me was going to Kandahar.  I looked at him again.  I didn’t know what to say.  This guy sitting next to me could’ve been my uncle.  He looked to be about 60, maybe older.  So I started asking Merv a few questions.

Is it scary over there?  Is it getting better over there?  What do you do over there?  How long will you be there?  Is this your first time going?

Now, I didn’t badger him.  I wasn’t actually sure what to ask him. But he spoke quite freely.  I equate him to one of those people who likes to talk on planes.  And as he talked, questions popped into my head.  But it wasn’t all about his work.  This stranger managed to get me to talk about my work, which I never do.  That’s a good sign Merv.  You’ve made a friend.

Let me tell you a little about Merv.  He has 10 brothers and 1 sister.  His father was a commercial fisherman.  He died at the age of 59 from cancer.  His mom died from ovarian cancer.  One of his brothers died the same year as his dad and another brother has just told him that he has cancer in the esophagus.  Merv was born in Cape Spear, New Brunswick.  He has two sons, one who just graduated and is thinking of joining the military.  His other son has a degree in history and could go onwards into education but this son is also thinking of joining the military.  Merv has a 50 year old girlfriend in Thailand who is a registered massage therapist in Thailand.  He showed me her picture.  She looks much younger than 50.  He has been back and forth to Kandahar for the last 5 years now.  He actually retired from the service and decided to go back.  His work has something to do with fire protection when planes crash, etc, and how his team has to be out there within 2 minutes of a fire or crash or accident related to the planes.  Merv didn’t use the word scary, but he did say that there were risks over there and that basically they could not venture off the base.  He didn’t think things were getting better and now he is going back for another 90 day stint.  Basically, he is there for 90, sometimes 100 days and then he gets 30 days leave.  Wow!  And he’s been doing this for 5 years now.

Merv, you even got me to talk about my family and New Zealand.  Honestly, what has the Maritimes done to me?

I told Merv about climbing my mountain and he asked me if did a lot of hiking.  I told him I was just starting out because I was training to climb a mountain in New Zealand and then he told me about a mountain that he climbed in the states.  I think he said Maine.  It was apparently a mile high.  And at the top was a knife ridge which was about as wide as the plane we were on, and that’s not very wide since the plane sat a total of 4 across with an aisle down the middle.  And because they were so high up, every time there was a gust of wind they had to crouch down because at that height, a gust of wind would blow them off.  And literally it was a knife ridge because there was nothing but straight rock down!  Yikes.  He also mentioned that while they were up there, a small plane happened to fly by and it was so close, they could actually see into the cabin of the plane!  Cool, yet scary.  He said that they started up the mountain at 7am and made it back down by 7pm, stopping only for lunch at the top.

I told him about my sisters and how I was headed home to be on time for my nephew’s birthday party on Saturday and if not for that, I would’ve preferred to stay a little longer since it’s been years since I was last in the Maritimes.

He told me about the time adjustments that he would have to make once he reached his final destination.  My four hour time difference does not compare to what he has to go through.  We talked about places we have travelled to.  He told me about Thailand and I talked about Hong Kong.  He showed me pictures of Thailand, his girlfriend and one of his sons.  We talked about making our connections and how all of us were probably gonna have to hustle to make our connecting flights.  And then we even talked about nieces and how smart the kids are today.  After we landed 20 minutes late, he wished me a safe journey and I said the same.  And I mean it.  Be safe Merv Boyce.  I’ll be thinking of you.  Be Safe.

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