I can remember saying to myself and even to a couple of girls that were with me after stepping off the plane in “Host Nation” as we call it so the location is kept private and classified, "what the &^%$ am I doing here, why did I do this, and what the hell am I thinking", I think I said this many time in my six months. I was scared; nervous to even recite the speech that had been prepared for us for the passport control officer at the airport as to why I was there. I was scared I was going to screw it up. I couldn't have been more terrified of anything in my life then I was at that moment. Stepping into the terminal at “HN” was a sudden shock of reality that we had stepped into a whole other world.
Just thinking of all that was to come, all the possibilities, and surely what the next six months was to bring was beginning to become too overwhelming.
The two days in the "host nation", were just the beginning of our adventures, but it sure was some beginning. Walking down the main street already brought very obvious cultural differences when a man, who shall remain classified stopped me dead centre on the sidewalk and looked me up and down for what felt like forever. I was wearing what I deemed appropriate, my skin for the most part was covered, yet I was still dressed for the hot and humid weather that our host city employs. I wore short sleeves, capri pants, you know the pants that go to your knees, and flip flops, apparently not enough. I guess I was lucky when later a bird decided to leave his dinner on my pants, yes he flew by and pooped on me; apparently this in Newfoundland means that I will be lucky. I wonder for how long, and when does the luck run out?
I was finally seeing things from a different perspective then a typical Canadian. I was seeing a different part of the world that some people could only wish to see, and different parts that I didn’t care to see. I could now begin to relate to some of things that my husband spoke of so often after returning home. It was very different then what I was use to. Downtown was a big market, every street corner there was something different to see and buy, spices, jewellery and gold, blankets, trinkets, cookware. Can anyone say Prada, Gucci, Versace, Dolce and Gabbana, every corner you went to someone was trying to make a deal with you, calling you “my friend”, asking where you were from? Aside from the peddlers, the country in itself was quite interesting and even beautiful in a different way. The architecture was stunning and I got some great shots on the buildings, and downtown core. Aside from downtown, which like the rest of the country employs people from other nations trying to make a quick buck, the rest of the city was booming in infrastructure, creating new housing, tourist developments, and theme parks which were going up all over the place. When at the end of my six months I went back it was unrecognizable. It looked more like Canadian Mississauga then where we actually were.
Mirage itself was good for the first day. We signed in, got all our PPE and equipment that we’d need for the next six months. Our downtown experience was fun, we had our own personal tour guide and met a few new faces, ones I won’t remember next time we go through, and ones that probably won’t be there, but still an experience.
The food in Mirage was amazing. We were told in training that Mirage eats well, and did they ever. Fresh fruits of every kind, and not just typical oranges and apples and pears, every tropical fruit you can imagine; mangos, star fruit, and fruits I don’t even know the names of. They had Baskin Robbins ice cream, and the yogurt there, now there was something special about the yogurt, it was like none I had ever tasted before.
Mirage was only a one night stay on the way the first time, in total I stayed there four days. The camp itself was small, aside from their five star gym, and a basketball court there was nothing to do. There was nowhere to go if you needed to be alone, than again after six months in the sandbox, there weren’t many options there either. Everywhere you went someone knew you. You housed with 1-3 other ladies, so taking solace in the comfort of your room was out of the question, at least in KAF your space in the tent was yours, the blankets that hung around gave what little solace there was. Leaving the camp in CM was out of the question as there were strict curfews, and buses ran on a tight schedule throughout the day, in KAF you could take the KAF tour bus, but that went nowhere besides around the camp constantly.