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When the Tide Brings in a Friend

I first met Sahr in October 2004 and by ‘met’ I mean he posted his first comment here on Latitude13.

After some time of establishing himself as an L13 regular, one day Sahr asked if I’d be interested in doing a package exchange with him. He was a merchant marine – a ‘shipper,’ he called it – and was often in parts of the world where he couldn’t get things he sometimes missed like Doritos chips. I was game and told him to just send back something from wherever he was.

We traded boxes over several years. In exchange for American snacks and an occasional men’s Speed Stick, I received happy surprises like a large wooden bowl from Vietnam, a box filled with cute pens from Korea, a beaded necklace from Peru. I didn’t hear from him often but it always made me smile when a message from him popped up because his life at sea sounded so exciting.

‘I’m in the Chukchi Sea over the Bering Sea chasing walruses. It has got to be one of the wildest gigs I was ever hired for,’ he wrote in one of his sporadic messages.

Sometime in the mid 2000s, Sahr took a break from shipping and went to teach English in Korea. In 2007, he came to Guam for a couple of days to sort out his work papers and we met in person for the first time. He came back to the island a few more times after that (always for something work related) and I met him for happy hour every time. The last I saw him was just before my birthday in 2014. He was passing through from Korea on his way to the states to get back in shipping.

Two nights ago a message from Sahr popped up. He was on island for a short while before his ship would sail for Sri Lanka so I invited him over to have dinner with me and The Frenchman and we had a fine time talking story as old friends do. I even persuaded him to record a short podcast with me. “Every time I come to Guam it feels a little more like a home,” he said. I’m not sure why but this made me feel proud.

This picture is of me and Sahr, nearly 15 years from the first time we met through my blog.

I’m so glad I started Latitude13 all those years ago because it connected me with people who became lasting friends. I’ll always be so thankful for that. The internet can often be a dark unhappy place but it doesn’t have to be. Wonderful things like friendship can come from a place that is welcoming, kind, and open-hearted.

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