22 Years and 2 Misses Later..

Life after OB

Haslinda Abriham, Cook 395 (1997), a student from Singapore shares her story of catching up with fellow watchmate Julius aka ‘Kid’ twenty-two years on from their course. 

It was 22 years ago that Cook Watch 395 was born. On 28 November 1997 - a team of 15 strangers from New Zealand, Australia, Malaysia and Singapore met at Anakiwa and together with our instructor John Rutherford, we began our journey in the OBNZ 22-day Summer Classic Challenge... 

Coming from a small island city of Singapore, OBNZ brought many exciting and first-time experiences for me. Being with nature was both humbling yet exciting; the intensity of the experience was further heightened simply by being around beautiful and diverse individuals, and forming new relationships while growing and learning from each other.

Our instructor John, was one such individual; reserved yet sharp, calm yet spontaneous. On many occasions, John had been there for me, as a Confidante and support, in his own quiet way. Sadly, while our memories of the days on Anakiwa remained in our hearts, many of these friendships ended right as we jumped off the Interislander ferry and went on back to our own lives. Maybe there were a couple of letters exchanged after the programme but that too ended before too long. 

One regret I had was not saying goodbye to a watchmate, Julius Heighway, or “Kid” as I used to call him. Kid and I…we got along pretty well – hanging out or talking during and after expeditions, and just spending time together – I guess somehow we bonded.

Kid was very comfortable in the outdoors and that comforted my anxieties of being in a foreign land, simply by watching him navigate around so freely. In turn, I had nothing much to offer but my friendship.  On our last day, as we were getting onto the ferry, everyone keeping to their own watch and filled with mixed emotions of leaving, I realised Kid was nowhere to be found.

Haslinda 5

Haslinda 6

Back to Singapore and life resumed. I graduated from uni and started working, travelled a bit for work and joined a couple more exchange programmes.

In July 2003, I was in New Zealand for my honeymoon. Still hoping to catch up with my watch mates, I tried emailing some and one did reply...a Julius Heighway popped up in my inbox!

Kid was living in Dunedin but he was determined to take that over 4-hour drive up to Christchurch to meet up on my last night there. We made plans to meet at my hotel and catch up over dinner. As the minutes ticked and snow started to fall, I began to wonder if we would get to meet at all…but Kid did not show up. 

It was finally in 2016 that we reconnected on Facebook. We caught up on lost time over the past 20 years on Messenger, including what happened on that fateful night in Christchurch. I also found out that Kid had relocated to Australia in the same period that I was working in Australia.

Again, another missed chance to reconnect. We continued to follow each other on social media and after many conversations on FB messenger, Kid decided to come over for a visit. After 22 years and 2 misses, we met again on 28 October 2019, this time in Singapore. 

Anticipating the reunion, I wondered if time would have created an awkwardness between us. Seems that our friendship defied the long period of separation and we naturally connected, as we had back in Anakiwa.

It’s a warm familiar feeling to be talking and hanging out together again, yet surreal, to meet again after so long…but I’m glad we did. It's not every day that you find someone from your past who can walk towards the future with you but I did.

Grateful and humbled by this journey that I may not have experienced had it not been for OBNZ…I say thank you. Maybe I’ll have a chance to return to Anakiwa some day.

Noor Haslinda Ibrahim

Cook 395

Haslinda 1

 

Haslinda 4

Appendix: What happened to Kid in Christchurch, 2003

So I waited at the hotel after Kid confirmed that he would come by that night, before my flight back home the next day. I knew that Kid had scribbled my hotel name on a piece of paper. The hours ticked by and the storm grew harsher. I was not sure if Kid would make it through the rough weather that night. Without mobile phones back then, we had no way of getting in touch with each other. 

Morning came and I headed to the airport...homeward bound. 

What I did not know, was that Kid had successfully driven through the storm and made his way to Christchurch that night. In his rush to leave the house, he had forgotten to bring along that piece of paper and consequently arrived in Christchurch totally clueless as to where I was! With no access to his email, he could not contact me to find out the name of my hotel. A total miss!