The Balkan Uncles

Have you ever felt the warm feeling that you get from a family member with a stranger you have just met? You know that feeling when warmth, tingling and ecstatic creates inside you. Have you ever felt this with a stranger you’ve just met? I have felt this the first time I met my Balkan Uncles.

Part one: Uncle Milosh

The first time you move away from home, everything is foreign and slightly scary. This is how I felt the first time I boarded the Celebrity Solstice. Nostalgia settled inside of me and it felt like I might of puked my stomach out. It was very bizarre and I wanted to go home. However, I have just started my journey and I wasn’t going to give up.

My manager, Daisy, met up with me on the first day of my new job. She led me down a stairway which we called Area 51 for this was stairway 51. The cabins were tiny and the hallways that led to them were utterly maze-like. Right at the bottom of the stairs, there were two doorways. Through the right doorway, there was an empty court-like space. We called it the court-yard. Surrounding it, there were 5 cabins. The second one starting from the left, was Uncle Milos’. The door was wide open due to probably a hanger. He was sitting on his chair, but looked up to us when Daisy introduced me to him.
“Milos, this is Margot.” Daisy said.
Milos smiled brightly and I couldn’t help but do the same. Uncontrollably, the sides of my mouth went upwards and the feeling I was talking about earlier crept up inside of me by surprise like a tiny spider walking behind the fireplace in the basement. I felt trust and I felt warmth. It was so strange because Daisy was from Serbia, a country that I have only heard in high school in my geography class. It was very strange, but I loved the feeling. Am I crazy or just delusional to feel like Milos was like family? Or maybe the mind was creating this illusion to make me believe that this person is like family. It was so strange yet so soothing.

I have to admit that one of the reasons I must feel like that is due to nostalgia and loneliness. The first time I have landed in New Zealand, my cellphone and my computer’s battery died. I had the plugs with me, but no converter. Panic started to spread inside of me like venomous poison. That was the first time I understood what despair and true loneliness felt like. Tears came to my eyes, my mind and my heart started to race, my legs and hands were shaking and my throat tightened to an almost uncomfortable state. All of that to say that it was the first realization that my family was far away and I wasn’t going to see them for more than half-a-year.

Seeing Milos made me believe that he was a sort of replacement of my family. I felt like I could truly trust him. And I could.
However, Milos made me feel terrible every so often. He was very harsh and always said the truth, no matter how harsh it was. One time, he told me that at Christmas time the team wanted Laura (a larger-sized photographer) to be Santa Clause. Of course, she was livid. I would be too if I was in her place. She was kind and didn’t really deserve what Milos told her. He apparently told her the reason they wanted her to be Santa: because you’re fat. I couldn’t believe he would say such a thing, but that was him. He told you the truth how mean it was. So because I’m easily able to cry, he would make have tears in my eyes pretty often. It’s not because he was mean, but to my interpretation, he was teaching me how to be stronger mentally. And that was how he changed me to be a better person.
I will always be thankful for Uncle Milos to teach me how to be stronger, how to think logically and teaching me photography skills I would of never thought of before.
Thanks uncle Milos xo

Part two: Uncle Seven

After meeting Milos, Daisy led me to a room three doors down Milos’. This certain someone influenced me, taught me the ways of life and helped me understand how to live to the fullest.
“Margot, this is Seven. He’s the Deep Blue Studio Photographer.”

Seven? I must of heard wrong. However after a couple of times of hearing his name, I saw his name tag: Seven. Seven like the number Seven? It was strange alright, but I liked how unique it was.
I must admit that it is quite difficult for me to describe the feeling of first meeting the Croatian.
He was standing in his small room wearing a t-shirt of the French airforce and army-pattern cargo shorts. I couldn’t help but smile brightly. I must of looked like a stupid fan girl like a Crazy Justin Bieber fan. However, he smiled back and looked happy to have met me. What made him so intriguing to look at was his sideburns. They were so odd. They were in the shape of an L. Total hipster, right? And the worst part is that he probably had them before they began to be cool.
Little did I know, Seven would be the one and only person on the ship who would mean a lot to me. This is really hard to admit because every person on the ship taught me something and they all meant a great deal to me.
But Uncle Seven was something else. He was more than an uncle. He was my mentor, he was even the first person I have felt…true love. But it wasn’t the love you would feel towards a lover. It was the kind of love that you feel towards your parents…or even more. I can’t really explain it, but it felt like Uncle love. He was the first person to actually give a fully fuck about me for the exception of my parents. Which sounds pathetic, I know. Uncle Seven and I have only hung out three or four months on the cruise ship, but it felt like three or four years. And because of that I felt love towards him like a niece would with his uncle, like a best friend who fully trusts his best friend or like a sister can count on her brother.
However crazy or delusional or foolish I sound right now, I learnt the dirty and harsh truth of cruise ship relationships between people the hard way.
Uncle Seven taught me the biggest lesson of life: appreciation. I would always hang out in his room and we would listen to music while he told me stories about Croatia. One night, he told me that Uncle Milos and him were once living in the same country: Yugoslavia. He continued his story by saying that because of war, Serbia, Croatia and a whole lot of other countries were created therefor creating chaos and war. Uncle Seven and Uncle Milos were both in war. I learnt that night the reason why my Serbian uncle was so harsh and dry. It was because he was in the Serbian army.
This story made me feel like I had wasted my whole life complaining, being depressed, hating and being a b****. If you haven’t read my other post on open mind, then go right ahead with this link:
I felt terrible, but at the same time happiness and relief enveloped my mind. I realized that now that I know this, I can look at life with a different and more open mind. I was excited to go outside and experience this new lesson.
And this is why Uncle Seven will always be in my heart.
However, I didn’t always feel that way about him. I learnt the hard way that the love I felt for Seven was only maybe a complicated illusion.
The very last night Uncle Seven was on the Celebrity Solstice, he acted like a real jerk. Uncle Seven was sweet, but that night was horror. To this day, I’m still trying to figure out why he did this. I do have my theory though that helped sleep:
He may have done it because I was getting too attached to him. Maybe he wanted to leave without any pain. I do have to admit that it did work. I was so angry that I didn’t think of him for a long while.
On the eve of his departure, Uncle Seven and Chanel (or as Seven used to call her evil stepmom) were sitting in his room and drinking wine. I wanted to join them due to the fact that I was probably never going to see my uncle ever again. However, he booted me away. I felt betrayed right then. He really pissed me off. So I went back to my room and explained what had happened to my South African friends Aninke and Mart-Marie. Aninke, being so wonderful and good-hearted, stormed to Uncle Seven’s room. Now this is what I recall from what Aninke told me. He apparently told her that he didn’t give a shit about me. Those words penetrating my ears was like knives stabbing at my heart. I trusted him and I loved him as one of my closest friends. And then he says that he doesn’t give a shit about me? That, my dear readers, is blind love like I have never felt before. That was one of the most hurtful feelings in life. It was disappointment and betrayal. The fact that I had to experience this away from my family and friends was even worse.
However, after keeping my mind off of him with work, I stopped thinking of the pain and I saw life in a new eye.

Part three: Start of a cruise ship family

No one ones how this really started, but I think it started in French Polynesia. However, I have a theory that might be true. If I am not, I apologize in advance. I have an attention deficit therefor my memory isn’t as good as someone else.
To uncle Seven (who is probably reading this right now): I know, I know…saying you’re ADD is a poor excuse in life. 😛
Anyways how I remember it, Seven the Croatian, Milos the Serbian and I were talking and for some reason our ages were brought up. And I think they already knew how old I was, but I thought the Serbian was in his twenties. He wasn’t at all. He was in the beginning of his thirties. How crazy is that? I thought the Croatian was the eldest one.
“You know Margot, we could easily be your uncles.” Seven said.
And honestly, ever since then we started calling ourselves uncle and niece.
This really made me happy. The thing is, I was always the loner loser at school and just thinking of me being in a “family” with these guys made me ecstatic. The Balkan Uncles were tall (at least 6 foot tall); Milos looked rough and mean but he was really kind and thoughtful; honestly Seven looked like a casino shark you see in movies (though he really isn’t…I think…lol) and both of them just look tough. I felt so proud walking around with them. Like that one time when we went to the beach in Bora Bora. Or the time when Uncle Seven and I went to the mall of Kona island, Hawaii. We met Uncle Milos there and started calling him grandpa Milos because he had bought Hawaiian shirts.
We were a “family” and we didn’t care that people thought we were weird. We even convinced many people that we were related like Pete, the Av guy or TV guy or whatever he did. He thought for the longest time that we were actually blood related. It was so funny. And even when Uncle Seven left Celebrity Solstice, I convinced a whole bunch of people who knew him previously that we were related. It was fun.

Part four: gratitude

Now, you might think that this was maybe sad or a bad ending, especially with Uncle Seven, but it got brighter. After a couple of months, Uncle Seven and I started Facebook messaging each other. Also, peace was restored between us. However this time, I felt this new gratitude and respect for him. He taught me a lesson that I don’t think no one else could: to respect myself and to not get too attached to someone on the cruise ship.
So it took me a couple of times (with immature boys) to learn this, but I did learn it.

Thank you so much for everything Balkan Uncles! You took care of me and taught me so much! I will forever be in your debt.

Bora Bora, Balkan Uncles

I promise that next time I will write about New Zealand and Australia.
Until next time,

Margot xox

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